Get on Board: Charlotte Holmes Adventure Box

Is it a board game, a film or a theatre show? An exciting new young female detective is here to help you find out

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Not every game has to be restricted to a board, a deck of cards or a computer screen – some use all available options. Northern theatre production company the Big Tiny, has used all its know-how and imagination to produce an interactive, multimedia story that has a plethora of puzzles and objectives to keep you and your kids entertained right through to the very end of this mystery adventure.

The game comes packaged in a simple brown cardboard box that acts as the protagonist Charlotte Holmes’s luggage as she is transported to Batley Hall in Yorkshire as an evacuee during the Second World War. Upon opening up the box you’ll find all the contents are either numbered or marked as exhibits. With each item you receive various contents that flesh out the story and link you to short online videos. Online you meet Charlotte, niece of the famous Sherlock. At the end of the clip you are told to open exhibit A, which is then used to progress the narrative.

Along the way new characters provide back story, clues and commands that help build up the scenario and place you as a budding detective. After some videos, questions are asked that require cross-examination of the box’s contents. Getting an answer correct means you can progress through the game and discover more about dodgy doings at Batley Hall. The plot thickens.

Charlotte Holmes is a lovely concept that really gets children involved from the start. With a shortage of live theatre on offer, it’s designed as an interactive theatre experience and is a collaboration between the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and the Dukes in Lancaster.

The video performances reflect that with convincing actors and well-produced videos. The contents of the box itself are good quality and have been produced with great attention to detail. Some exhibits act as a clue and can be used externally out of the game. One item, for example, is a deck of cards that also comes with a video of Charlotte Holmes teaching you how to play Patience and Aces Up. These extras reflect the thought and care that’s gone into the game.

Originally designed with the summer holidays in mind it is suggested you open an envelope a day over the course of a week. Some fluidity is lost in this and now that most children are back at school, you could easily kill a few hours on a rainy Sunday instead. Some envelopes don’t contain any clues, so you might be left staring at a newspaper article wondering what the enigma is when there isn’t one – you are better off moving straight on to the next envelope.

What the Big Tiny has created is a thoroughly enjoyable, immersive experience for the family that provides great entertainment. There is even an accompanying storybook to be bought separately that continues Charlotte Holmes’s adventures at Batley Hall. It’s pretty unique in board game terms, comparable perhaps to the at-home escape room experience but with multiple added dimensions. It’s timely too. With the release of Netflix’s Enola Holmes film, there’s an appetite for a female equivalent to the famous detective.

At £30 and with no replay value it may seem pricey, but as the equivalent of a live theatre trip or a family day out when many of us a facing long days indoors, Charlotte Holmes Adventure Box really is value for money. It’s an inventive way of supporting the performing arts at the moment too, and with the prospects of the industry looking increasingly gloomy, activities like this one could become more commonplace. There’s at least one more on the horizon at least, with the Big Tiny promising a new original adventure box, Balthazar Snapdragon, ready for release this Christmas 2020.

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