EXIT: Advent Calendar – The Hunt for The Golden Book [Review]

24 puzzling days ’til Christmas

Location:  At home

Date Played:  November, 2022

Team size: 1+; we recommend 1-2

Duration: Average 10 minutes per day for 24 days

Price: about $49.95

REA Reaction

When I first heard that Exit: The Game was coming out with a new advent calendar this holiday season, I immediately called my local gaming store to find out the release date. Having played their Mystery of the Ice Cave last year, I knew to expect fun, think-outside-of-the-box puzzles with those special aha moments found in their standalone games. An Exit: The Game puzzle each day for 24 days until Christmas? Yes, please!

Lifting the lid of the rather large box-shaped calendar, I noticed the detailed artwork depicting a snow-covered village under a large, glowing moon. 24 sealed doors, each with a lock icon and 3 mysterious symbols covered the lower half of the scene. I couldn’t wait to find out what puzzles lay behind those doors. I also couldn’t help but check out the rest of the box, wondering what, if anything, might be part of a puzzle!

Large EXIT: The Game Advent Calendar box depicts a book opening to a beautiful and spooky European city lit by moonlight.

Solving Exit: The Game-style puzzles takes creative thinking and looking beyond the obvious. The puzzles ranged from simple to tricky. We solved most within 10 minutes, including the time to read each day’s story page. The simple mechanic of discovering which door to open next worked really well and ensured we didn’t open the wrong one by mistake. We also enjoyed a few unexpected references to well-known holiday movies and real-life people. Though there were a few puzzles that were confusing or overly complicated, and one that referenced information more common in the UK, most were delightful and fun to solve. 

The Hunt for the Golden Book is a fun, family-friendly experience, appropriate for kids 10 and older. Fans of the Exit: The Game series will find a lot to like as well. It’s those unexpected discoveries and seeing puzzle components in a completely new way that keep me coming back for more. 

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TERPECA Voting Time Is Here!

It’s that special time of year again. People all over the world are making their lists and checking them twice. It’s finally that time again when escape room players have their chance to vote in the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards.

TERPECA brings the international escape room player community together to recognize the very best escape rooms. I can’t overstate just how valuable this project has become to me as both a traveling enthusiast and as someone who recommends games to friends near and far. 

TERPECA 2022 logo.
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Great Escape of Central Texas – Back to the Fourth Grade [Review]

It’s elementary…and that’s okay!

Location:  Killeen, TX

Date Played: August 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As a former elementary school teacher, Back to the Fourth Grade felt like a homecoming of sorts. I recognized the floor tiles, the desks, the posters… heck, I probably even bought some of those posters once in my life. In both its decor and activities, the room captured the core essence of a classroom. It successfully made a school-day fun.

This was also the sparsest of the three rooms we played at Great Escape of Central Texas and showed a bit more wear than the others. Here, the minimalism hid some clever mechanics in plain sight, making their discovery that much more exciting. However, players looking for a richer environment should play Mobfather or Lost Tomb of Anubis.

Puzzle-wise, the room offered a good balance between straightforward activities for younger or newer players and a few trickier challenges. One puzzle suggested more patience than it ultimately deserved, but otherwise everything was well-clued and fair. Experienced players will likely fly through much of this experience but may still enjoy the nostalgic interactions here. I did.

After lamenting the scarcity of good family games in the Austin area, I brought my kids (ages 6 and 9) back to play this room with a couple of their friends. They loooooved it. They were able to make most of the puzzle connections without too much help, and they were delighted by the set interactions and surprises. I had already enjoyed this room with my enthusiast crew, but seeing it from my kids’ perspective made me appreciate its extra charm for fresh eyes.

Back to the Fourth Grade was an endearing room that is highly approachable for families, including a couple of clever ahas to delight enthusiast chaperones. Families in the Austin or Killeen area should definitely check it out.

Wide view of a 4th grade classroom.
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Israel: Escape Room Recommendations

Latest update: November 24, 2022

Israel has a burgeoning escape room scene filled with highly creative, family-friendly games.

Most top escape rooms in Israel are within a short drive of Tel Aviv. We also heard about a handful of standout rooms in the northern part of the country, which we didn’t have the opportunity to visit on our trip.

You can read more of our observations about the Israeli escape room market in our Field Report.

And you can learn more about Gai Bosco, designer of many of these escape rooms, on this episode of The Reality Escape Pod:

Reads: "Israel Escape Room Guide." Depicts the Tel Aviv coastline.

Market Standouts

  1. The Intervention, Escape Center
  2. Kami Temple, Escape Center
  3. Robin Hood, Action Game
  4. Hollywood 117, Hype Escape
  5. The Sting, The Maze
  6. The Vikings, Escape Sign
  7. Kofiko, Amazon Escape
  8. Cube, The Maze
  9. Action!, The Maze
  10. Mega Burger, Panica (only available in Hebrew)

Set & Scenery Driven

Puzzle-Centric

Large Team

Something Different

PanIQ Room – Wizard Trials [Review]

Where there’s a wand there’s a way

Location: Austin, Texas

Date Played: August 28, 2022

Team Size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39/player for public game, $45/player for private game

Ticketing: Both Public and private options are available

Accessibility Consideration:  At least one player must use a step.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical

REA Reaction

Wizard Trials was an average puzzle game wrapped in an impressive set but marred by some peripheral design issues. Puzzle-focused enthusiasts likely won’t find enough substance here for the price, but newer players might be justifiably delighted. I’m actively considering bringing my kids back to play this.

The game offered an enticing thematic package: a convincing set, voice-acted hints and nudges, a fair amount of tech-driven “magic,” and a satisfying payoff to the story. Wands also played a persistent role in the room, an interaction that I’d been waiting to see come to Austin. This cohesive and fanciful ambiance was the main draw for the game.

The puzzles were straightforward, with the wand mechanic adding whimsy to otherwise common designs. Although the puzzles were generally approachable for a broad audience, a couple had questionable discoverability for newer players. Also, some set wear made another puzzle more enigmatic than likely intended.

The game’s most pervasive flaw centered around its imprecise use of sounds for cuing, cluing, and confirming. Bells, whistles, and wizardly advice were common throughout the experience, but it was hard to distinguish whether these things were focusing our attention, nudging us in a different direction, or just letting us know we did something right. This was more distracting than harmful.

If viewed as a starter game for newer players, Wizard Trials had a lot to offer. It would be a fine choice for local families (ages 8+) looking for an opportunity to puzzle together.

A wizard's study with a large desk surrounded by books
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