Escapology – Arizona Shootout [Review]

Not-quite-Westworld.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

In the immediate aftermath of a shootout in front of a saloon in 1881, we found that some of the bad guys had been shot, but others were on the run. We needed to figure out which bad folk had gotten away and then escape from the saloon.

Arizona Shootout was sparsely themed as a saloon. The major setpieces all belonged, but they didn’t create an immersive environment. It was a cute set, but it didn’t feel like 1881.

In-game. An old piano with a beer and horse statue resting on it.

Puzzles

The puzzles weren’t particularly challenging. Arizona Shootout relied on searching, matching, and light indexing. It played out in a standard escape room style.

Standouts

We loved the family friendly portrayal of the dead outlaws. The adorable design brought what could have been less accessible theme to a general audience.

Arizona Shootout flowed smoothly.

Shortcomings

The saloon feel was strongest up front. As the game progressed, it felt increasingly like we could be in any building, anywhere, in any time.

One puzzle in particular required heavy searching and anachronistic technology. It didn’t feel like it belonged at all.

The gamemaster sent hints on the screen that displayed the game timer. When a hint appeared on top of the game timer graphic, it was challenging to read.

Should I play Escapology’s Arizona Shootout?

Escapology builds approachable, family-friendly entertainment.

Arizona Shootout would be a good entry point into escape rooms for new players who are unsure about this type of entertainment. The facility was welcoming. The game was solid and accessible.

For experienced players, Arizona Shootout would be an unremarkable game. Neither the setting nor the puzzles delivered excitement, intrigue, or innovation when compared with the broader market

That said, this could be a good choice for an experienced player who wants to solo, speedrun, or bring their multi-generational family and friends. .

Book your hour with Escapology’s Arizona Shootout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escapology provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Team vs Time – The Lost Book of Spells [Review]

The wicked witch of central Connecticut.

Location: Berlin, CT

Date played: December 12, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

The Lost Book of Spells cast us as adventuring thieves in the late 1600s during the Connecticut Witch Trials (the lesser-known prequel to the considerably more popular Salem Witch Trials). We had spent the better part of a decade tracking a suspected witch of great power. She left her home and we had a brief window of time to break into her home and attempt to steal her spellbook.

In-game, a glimpse into the witch's home through a window. It's dark, creepy, and lit red.

The set was impressive. It was dark, dramatic, and detailed. Much like Team vs Time’s Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells leaned heavily on beautiful set design to build a fiction. However, unlike the more subtle Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells was incredibly flashy.

The story was straightforward: break in and steal the book.

Puzzles

Similar to Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells was not a puzzle-centric game. There were puzzles and these were fun to solve, but they weren’t overwhelmingly challenging or exceptional. They were, however, fairly well-clued.

Standouts

The set was incredible. From the moment the game began through the very end, it felt like we were inhabiting another world. Highly fictionalized as it was, it felt surprisingly real.

In-game: A spherical chandelier with candle-like light bulbs.

The start of The Lost Book of Spells was exciting. We were led to the beginning of the experience as opposed to being ushered into the game, like in most room escapes. This was a surprisingly subtle, but impactful difference.

Shortcomings

The set was so striking that any props that didn’t quite fit really stood out. The modern combination locks and door locks in particular screamed, “I don’t belong here!” A few of the puzzle components themselves felt too modern and utterly out of place in the environment.

While the set imbued The Lost Book of Spells with a lot of life, it didn’t pack the same urgency and drama of Gangster’s Gamble.

Should I play Team vs Time’s The Lost Book of Spells?

The Lost Book of Spells was a powerful adventure. The set was so strong that it carried the experience on that alone.

The puzzling had its ups and downs, but the game kept moving along because the environment was so believable. Those elements that felt out of place could be easily improved upon. Rare is the game whose least believable components are the locks.

The Lost Book of Spells is spooky, but not scary. So long as you don’t bring nightmare-prone children, everyone should comfortably be able to deal with the intensity.

The Lost Book of Spells is a solid choice for all skill-level. It’s approachable, fun, and intense. Experienced players should sail through most of the puzzles, but there’s plenty of nuance to enjoy throughout.

Book your hour with Team vs Time’s The Lost Book of Spells, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Team vs Time provided media discounted tickets for this game.

5 Wits West Nyack, NY [Overview Review]

The cream.

Location: West Nyack, NY

Date played: November 20, 2016

Team size: 2-15; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 30 minutes per game

Price: $17.99 per ticket for one adventure, discounted if you play multiple adventures

What’s 5 Wits?

Founded in 2004, 5 Wits has offered incredible immersive puzzle adventures with Disney-level production value since long before escape rooms popped up in Budapest and Tokyo.

We reviewed four of their games in 2015 and loved them. They weren’t quite escape rooms, and the folks from 5 Wits would be the first to tell you that, but the core concept of puzzling through a timed adventure absolutely overlapped.

Game reviews

Located in the Palisades Mall, the West Nyack 5 Wits facility has three of the four games offered at their Syracuse location. We reviewed all of these  in 2015 and we’re standing behind those reviews (even though they are in our older style), while adding a few additional notes specific to the experiences we had in West Nyack.

Tomb

5 Wits Syracuse – Tomb

The Tomb in West Nyack had an updated middle section. That segment of the game had a completely different set of challenges from the ones offered in Syracuse. As great as the Syracuse game was, the new one was leaps and bounds better.

5 Wits Syracuse Tomb Photo 3

Deep Space

5 Wits Syracuse – Deep Space

When we played Deep Space in Syracuse, it had just opened and we encountered some bugs in the gameplay. None of those bugs was present during our playthrough in West Nyack. It was an impressive sci-fi adventure oozing with pop culture references and a few honest challenges.

Deep Space had a puzzle in it that was a riff on a classic video game. When we played Deep Space in Syracuse, we were a group of adults. This time, however, we brought friends and their pre-teen daughters. During this playthrough, we noticed that while that particular interaction design was intuitive to adults, the girls were baffled by that portion of the game.

Drago’s Castle

5 Wits Syracuse –Drago’s Castle

Drago’s Castle remained our favorite of the 5 Wits games; I may have liked it even more on the second playthrough. To the best of my memory, it was identical to the game we played in Syracuse and I cannot possibly recommend it more highly.

5Wits Drago's Castle Story Book

Should I visit 5 Wits in West Nyack, NY?

Whether you’re visiting Syracuse, West Nyack, or Albany (the games in Albany were produced in tandem with those in West Nyack), 5 Wits is worth a few hours’ visit.

Each game offered an immersive experience with beautiful set design, compelling puzzles, and mind-boggling automation.

If you have adventurous kids about 8-12 years old, it’s a must visit.

If you’re an escape room enthusiast who loves brilliant tech and scenery, it’s a must visit.

If you’re an escape room owner or potential owner, you need to visit 5 Wits. You’ll feel like you’re looking at the future. Then you’ll realize that they have been doing this for years.

Book your sessions with 5 Wits and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 5 Wits comped our tickets for these games.

President Obama Escapes: Interview with Breakout Waikiki

President Obama and his family escaped a room at Breakout Waikiki during their winter vacation to Hawaii. We recently interviewed MacGregor Greenlee, General Manager of Hawaiian Operations at Breakout Waikiki about his experience hosting the Obamas.

Manoa Market in game image of the game played by the Obama's.

Room Escape Artist: When did you first find out that President Obama and his family were coming to play one of your room escapes?

Greenlee: We didn’t find out about the impending visit from POTUS until about an hour before he arrived. Initially it was only the Secret Service who showed up to sweep the place, do background checks on the employees, and open every single door, drawer, nook and cranny within all of our escape rooms to make sure it was safe. As you can imagine, that part took the longest.

How did the Obamas’ visit come about? What’s the backstory?

I can’t speak with any certainty how they came to visit us, but it may have something to do with a one year old tweet that was sent from the Breakout account. A year prior to President Obama’s actual visit, I found out that he and his family were coming to Hawaii for Christmas and I quickly wrote up a tweet and sent it out, assuming nothing would come of it. At the time, nothing did come of it, no response, no retweet, nothing. But fast forward a year and President Obama walks in our door to do an escape room at our facility. Whether he saw the tweet or his vacation planner did, something caught their eye and drew them to Breakout. Of course, I think it goes without saying that the Breakout ownership has set up a top class business which is reflected in our reviews online. I’m happy to think that some of our customers’ experiences helped inform the President’s decision to drop by.

What was it like interacting with the Secret Service? Did they make you change anything about your operations or your game?

The Secret Service were all about taking care of business just like you would imagine, but they were also very patient and understanding with the employees at Breakout who were no doubt shaking at the thought of running a room for the President. It wasn’t clear which room President Obama was going to do because they had a party of about 30 people who split into four different rooms. His daughters chose our Mission Manoa room which is based on a room at our original location (Breakout Kansas City) and features a hand cuffing component. As you can imagine, the Secret Service was not going to allow anyone in the room to be handcuffed, especially the President!

Was everything else business as usual? Were there other paying customers visiting that day?

There were paying customers that day and everything was running normally up until about 2:30pm. That’s when the secret service came in and started their sweep which definitely alerted the other customers to something going on. We unfortunately couldn’t tell them, for security reasons, so we had to do our best to explain in vague terms that we needed to escort them out after their game was done.

Which game did the Obamas play? Is that the game you would have recommended for them?

The Obamas, specifically President Obama and his two daughters as well as some other family, played Mission Manoa. This was one of our original games at Breakout Kansas City, one of my personal favorites and a perfect one for them to take on. It’s a challenging room, currently with an 18% success rate, that mixes a variety of different puzzle types and incorporates among the most locks in any game we offer.

What was it like to tell the President the rules of your game?

I didn’t run the room personally, but having heard first hand from our employee Janelle who operated the room for them, she was more than a little stressed out. Every room has its stresses, but put the experience of the President in with everything else definitely takes it to a new level. Full credit to her for keeping her cool and taking care of them as she would with any other group. Her and the rest of the staff did an exemplary job under extremely high pressure.

We hear that the Obamas escaped with only 12 seconds to spare. How intense were those last few minutes? Were you nervous that they weren’t going to make it out?

The tension could not have been higher in those last few moments! We knew we had to let them set their own pace and attack the puzzles as they saw them, which was very hard because with a high profile guest it’s hard to resist the urge to take control. However, as anyone who has done an escape room knows, you have to experience for yourself or it’s just not very fun. Fortunately in the end, they had what it took to escape the room just before time expired. They did use all three clues, but they used them wisely and that can always make the difference!

How aggressive were they (or you?) with the hints?

They were fairly average in the way they took clues, never waiting too long to request a hint or asking too early before they were stuck. As with most groups, there were some things they understood immediately and others that they struggled with before overcoming.

Who was the all-star?

Word is that Malia was key to their breakout, doing most of the heavy lifting when it came to solving the larger puzzles!

Did they take a post-game photo with their time?

They did, but we weren’t allowed to take it with our own camera. Instead their Photographer took the photo but it’s licensed for personal use only.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Everything went about as close to perfectly as you can hope. Three of the groups broke out, one did not, everyone had a great time and there were no major issues. All in all, near perfect!

How has business been since their visit? Any notable uptick in escape room players?

We have absolutely experienced a bump in business since the President dropped by. Starting with the night he came in, we had quite a few groups book the same room he did just so they could give it a shot. Since then we have continued to enjoy a little bit of buzz that has carried over.

Do you expect a visit from President-Elect Trump?

Time will only tell, but we are certainly ready to have him drop by! If President-Elect Trump is up for the challenge, he is more than welcome to drop by and take on the Obama’s time whenever he would like to.

A Quick History of Escape Rooms

“Where did escape rooms come from?”

This is a common question that isn’t particularly easy to answer. Escape rooms didn’t simply emerge as a concept; they are part of an evolutionary chain.

Painting of an ancient lockbox with a very old and large padlock.

This is a quick, US-centric, reverse history of escape rooms.

Late 2016 – Heavy proliferation

We are aware of approximately 1,500 escape room facilities in the United States and countless more worldwide. New escape room businesses are opening on a daily basis.

July 2015 – MarketWatch article

MarketWatch pushes an article titled, The unbelievably lucrative business of escape rooms, in which they take a lot of good information and paint an erroneous picture of endless profits for every escape room business.

Suddenly many people believe that opening an escape room business will bring them riches.

Late 2013 – US expansion begins

Puzzle Break & Escape the Room NYC opened their doors, initiating the first wave of US expansion.

Co-founder of Puzzle Break Nate Martin calls his organization “the first contemporary American escape room company.” You can debate the subject with him if you’d like.

2012 – SCRAP opened in the United States

SCRAP, also known as Real Escape Game, also known as REG, opened up in San Francisco, California. This was decidedly the first company in the Americas calling itself an “escape room.”

2007 – SCRAP opened in Japan

SCRAP opened the first documented “escape room” in Kyoto, Japan.

This was the escape room world’s origin moment, its radioactive spider bite, if you will.

Budapest, Hungary is also frequently cited as the birthplace of escape rooms, but I cannot find anything solid to back up that claim. However, it cannot be disputed that Hungary was an early hotbed of escape room proliferation and innovation.

2004 – 5 Wits opened in Massachusetts

Inspired by Indiana Jones, 5 Wits became the early purveyor of real life puzzle adventure. It never branded itself an “escape room” and still doesn’t. Despite this labeling choice, there are a number of striking similarities.

Early 2000s – Escape the room video games

The “escape the room” genre was given a style and name in the early 2000s in the form of Flash point-and-click puzzle games. MOTAS (2001) and Crimson Room (2004), among many others, have kept players pixel hunting for well over a decade.

There are still tons of free Flash-based escape the room games of variable quality being released on a regular basis. Both players and producers of these games fear the inevitable death of Flash.

Early 1990s – Adventure puzzle video games

Some of the earliest hit 3D video games were escape room-esque puzzle games.

Myst (1993) & The 7th Guest (1993) remain classic games and key moments in the progression towards real life escape games (and my childhood).

1980s & 1990s – UK game shows

In the 1980s and 1990s, television stations in the UK ran The Adventure Game (1980) and The Crystal Maze (1990). These shows offered challenges that looked a lot like escape rooms.

The Crystal Maze has since been reborn as an actual, open-to-the-public escape game.

Other branches

Escape rooms have close evolutionary ties to interactive theater, haunted houses, live-action roleplaying, puzzle hunts, scavenger hunts, and a variety of television shows, books, video games, and movies.

The history of this form of entertainment is inseparable from most other forms of entertainment.

For more information

The history of escape rooms is convoluted and not particularly well documented.

If you’d like to learn more, Scott Nicholson’s 2015 paper Peeking Behind the Locked Door: A Survey of Escape Room Facilities offers a more detailed look into the historical origins of escape rooms.

Thank you to Errol of the Room Escape Divas Podcast for lending his eyes and brain to this post.

Panic Room – A Broken Mind: Psych 102 [Review]

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Location: Norwalk, CT

Date played: December 3, 2016

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Our intrepid team had to venture into the mind of the evil psychiatrist Dr. Elesdy. Elesdy was a madman who set a plan for world domination in motion before he ended up in a coma. We had to infiltrate his psyche and pull him out of the coma.

There was a lot of story up front and it was somewhat present throughout the game, but ultimately too convoluted to matter.

The team was split into two rooms: Elesdy’s well-lit office and his dark mind.

In-game: A cabinet in a dark room illuminated by UV light with fluorescent bottles. An orange sign reads, "Biohazard."

Both the office and the mind settings were typical, run-of-the-mill escape room sets. They contained old furniture, lots of locks, and a random assortment of props that more or less fit the theme. That said, the office looked particularly uninspired.

In-game: A bookcase with many volumes of an encyclopedia. A door in the background has a multi-color image of the human brain.

Puzzles

In A Broken Mind: Psych 102, Panic Room’s puzzle game was considerably more interesting and dynamic than the story or physical space.

The variety and ingenuity was there. The puzzles felt homemade, and sometimes leaned too heavily on cliches, but the better puzzles and interactions were a lot of fun.

Standouts

There were a few genuinely fun puzzles.

The split room design forced collaboration.

Shortcomings

The play experience was uneven. Those of us who played in the dark room had far more interesting puzzles and interactions than those who played in the office.

There was one puzzle that didn’t measure up and felt pretty silly once we figured out how to solve it.

There were way too many 4-digit number and 4-digit letter locks. Every time we found a new combination, we had to try it all over the place, on both rooms of the game. That grew old immediately.

The story was needlessly complicated.

The set was too rough and mundane for a journey through the mind and headquarters of a globe threatening villain.

Should I play Panic Room’s A Broken Mind: Psych 102?

Panic Room got a lot right in A Broken Mind: Psych 102. The game offered fair, solid puzzling and everything worked. Too many similar locks notwithstanding, the game flowed pretty smoothly. That’s the basics right there.

A Broken Mind: Psych 102 didn’t look like much and the story was tough to follow or care about. Additionally, the unevenness between the dark and light rooms was fairly pronounced… so there’s plenty of room for growth.

Nevertheless, A Broken Mind: Psych 102 was a reasonably solid small-market game. If you’re in the area, and looking for an escape, this isn’t a bad option.

Go in knowing that the teammates who end up in the light room will likely have less fun than those who play the dark side.

Book your hour with Panic Room’s A Broken Mind: Psych 102, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Panic Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escapology – Cuban Crisis [Review]

I thought it would be warmer in Cuba.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

We found ourselves in Fidel Castro’s office in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We needed to discover who ordered the Cuban military to shoot down an American U-2 spy plane.

An old desk with drawers locked shut. Atop the desk are an old fan, typewriter, and rotary phone.

Cuban Crisis took place in a generic office setting, with light decor that nodded to the era. I don’t know what Castro’s office looked like, but this wasn’t what came to mind when I tried to imagine it. This was a lightly themed, approachable game space.

Puzzles

The puzzles were not particularly challenging or memorable. They relied on searching and observation, along with other typical escape room puzzle skills.

Standouts

Cuban Crisis was a solid, standard escape room. Everything worked as designed and flowed logically.

Shortcomings

Despite the intensity of the Cuban Crisis’ historical subject matter, the game never managed to build emotional intensity. Neither the space nor the information we uncovered were any more exciting than the office gamespace.

A bookcase with a smile pile of books and a

There was a larger setpiece that required a little bit of strength to interact with. We recognized what it was and were certain that this was going to trigger open via some kind of automagical mechanism. This isn’t to say that you should be forceful in this game. Rather, an additional clue might help those who approach game pieces respectfully.

Should I play Escapology’s Cuban Crisis?

Cuban Crisis was an approachable, family-friendly escape room. The game flowed logically and everything worked, but it never managed to build any drama or excitement.

For new players interested in dipping a toe in the room escape waters, Cuban Crisis could be a good place to start. Escapology was a professional, welcoming facility and the game wasn’t scary, intense, or too difficult.

For more experienced players, there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable or intriguing in Cuban Crisis. It would be a fun solve, but without some of the challenge, ambiance, or exhilaration that exist in the wider market.

That said, this could be a good choice for an experienced player who wants to try a solo or speedrun.

Book your hour with Escapology’s Cuban Crisis, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escapology provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

The Escape Game Orlando – Gold Rush [Review]

There’s gold in dem der hills.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 11, 2016

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket

Story & setting

In this modern story of the California Gold Rush, a successful gold prospector has gone missing and we wanted to uncover his stashed gold before anyone else did. The backstory felt unnecessary, but it was charming. In short, this room escape was a mission to find gold.

Gold Rush started in the cheesiest presentation of northern California woods, but it became rapidly more compelling as the scenery changed.

In-game: A odd looking artificial birch tree beside a log gabin with wilderness painted along the walls.

Puzzles

As Gold Rush progressed, so did the puzzles. They started off easy and relatively uninteresting, but by the final section of the game, we were puzzling against a challenging and interesting opponent.

Throughout the game, the puzzles rewarded the observant player.

The best of the interactions defied our expectations.

Standouts

One exhilarating segment of Gold Rush would never fly in the NYC. It was thrilling to watch David crush this; I would have struggled enormously.

The Escape Game Orlando beautifully crafted the gamespace to allow for the fun and surprising moments. It was a thoughtful, perceptive design. Parts of this set were magnificent.

At its best, Gold Rush executed simple things brilliantly.

Shortcomings

Early on the set was pretty silly.

Not only were the early puzzles easy, some of them were simply annoying.

We experienced a technical failure on a crucial puzzle that really diminished our experience. Our gamemaster was quick to respond, but this failure deflated what otherwise would likely have been the Gold Rush‘s finest moment.

Should I play The Escape Game Orlando’s Gold Rush?

The Escape Game Orlando minds the details. While at times the set was cheesy, it was also deliberately designed and crafted for the experience the company intended. The rough edges were purposeful; the rest was polished.

The game flow of Gold Rush would be an excellent on-ramp for new players. It led us from easy to hard. Both the scenery and puzzling escalated as the game progressed. While we would have loved to see a stronger start, more often than not, escape rooms fizzle as they progress. We’d rather start low and build up than the reverse.

Gold Rush is great family-friendly fun. While it does require a fair bit of mobility and the handling of a heavier object, most of the game offers a less intense path for those who need it.

For escape room veterans, by mid-game, there will be delightful surprises that continue on until you find the gold. And if you’re not from a more left-leaning region, well, you’re in for a treat.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Orlando’s Gold Rush, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Orlando comped our tickets for this game.

 

America’s Escape Game – Faceoff [Review]

LET’S GET READY TO PUZZLE!

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

Faceoff was a head-to-head competitive room escape game. America’s Escape Game elected to forgo any kind of story or pretense in favor of a red-team-versus-blue-team competition.

The room’s aesthetic had kind of a 1980s TV competition feel to it. Pretty much everything on the red side was painted a slightly washed out red, and nearly everything on the blue side was painted a washed out blue. In the middle there were a number of different ways to interact with the other team.

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we were moving too quickly to care.

Two head-to-head faces. The red one is on fire. The blue one is radiating electricity.
Faceoff’s exterior wall painting. There was nothing worth photographing inside of the game that didn’t spoil something.

Puzzles

There were a number of different pattern recognition puzzles as well as physically involved dexterity challenges.

America’s Escape Game also mixed in an element of negotiation, which was unusual and interesting.

We split into teams as women versus men: Lisa teamed up with Amanda Harris (to my knowledge, the most experienced escape room player in the English-speaking world). I teamed up with Amanda’s boyfriend Drew Nelson (probably the second most experienced player).

It was intense and we were neck and neck for most of the game… until we were outclassed by their pattern recognition skills. In the closing moments of the game, they pulled off a spectacular win with partial information.

Standouts

Leaving story out of Faceoff was a good decision. The game was us versus them. That was all the motivation that we needed.

The head-to-head competition was good fun. In our particular case, the evenly matched teams heightened the experience and made the stakes feel much larger than in most escape rooms.

The negotiation component added complexity to the competition.

The design of the space created some interesting opportunities for interplay between the two teams.

Shortcomings

One of the more physical challenges was awkwardly constructed and forced most involved to contort into strange positions. Lisa left with a large bruise on her arm from the environment.

That same physical challenge had almost no tolerance for error. This made it shockingly difficult and ultimately anticlimactic. That my team was able to do it at all meant that we won that challenge. It didn’t feel fair.

There were too many locks with the same digit structures. In a game where every second counted, it was annoying to repeatedly try the same combinations all over the room.

The puzzling was a little uneven and greatly favored some puzzling skills over others. Those with strong pattern recognition can power through the puzzles with limited information, which was exactly what Lisa and Amanda did. They didn’t need to negotiate with us because they were that damn good.

Faceoff lacked feedback for when the one team did something that affected the other.

Should I play America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff?

There aren’t a ton of competitive room escapes out there, and this is only the second one that we’ve encountered.

The added intensity of competition was a ton of fun for all involved, even those of us who lost.

I can’t recommend Faceoff for new players. Basic experience and an understanding of how room escapes flow will allow you to focus on the game itself rather than trip up over how to puzzle or how the locks work.

Bring some collaborative teammates and worthy opponents… and you might want to leave the sore winners and losers back home. This could get intense.

Book your session with America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: America’s Escape Game comped our tickets for this game.

6 Questions Every Escape Room Employee Should Be Able To Answer

We call or email nearly every company we book with. Some are helpful; others make booking challenging.

We don’t generally mention customer service in our reviews unless it is extremely impressive or disastrous because we aren’t normal customers and we know it.

Surprisingly, we regularly encounter employees, and occasionally owners, who cannot answer some of the most basic questions about their games.

Stylized black, white, and red photo of a rotary phone.

Everyone who works in a customer-facing capacity in an escape room facility should be able to answer the following questions:

1: What are the names of your games?

I know that some of you are thinking that this is a stupid thing to include on the list and it should go without saying… but it doesn’t. It needs saying.

It’s fairly common for employees to refer to the game by a slight variation of the game’s official title as posted on the website, which can be confusing to potential players.

2: Which of your games would you recommend?

“They’re all great!” & “That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child” aren’t sufficient answers from a customer service standpoint.

Ideally you should be able to say something like, “X is best if you’ve never played a room escape before; Y is a lot of fun, but it’s a little intense; Z is a more challenging game that’s great for players who have more experience.”

Vary your answer according to your games. Probe a little to determine who is asking and what they need in a game.

3: What is the minimum number of players that I need to play the game?

Many games have puzzles that cannot be completed without a certain number of bodies. That is the true minimum. Unless you allow sub-minimum teams to call in the gamemaster as a puppet.

4: What is the maximum number of players that I can bring?

Every company posts a ticket maximum, but some customers will want to bring more players anyway.

Maybe the ticket sales cap at 10 but the room can fit 2 more people comfortably, even if that means that some people won’t get to do much. Or maybe your posted capacity is your actual capacity.

Regardless, you should have the answer at your fingertips.

5: What is the ideal number of players to enjoy the experience?

We ask this question of nearly every company that we book with.

“Uhh… the room fits 10 people,” is a bad answer.

Again, this is a question where a little nuance can go a long way. “If you’ve never played a room before, I think that 7 or 8 people is probably a good team size. If you’re a group of enthusiasts, 4 to 6 should be more than enough for you to enjoy the game.”

6: What should I know about getting to your facility?

It’s a cliche that the first puzzle is finding the place. You should be able to tell your players how to get in, especially if your facility is located in an unusual place that isn’t visible from the street.

You should also be ready to offer up parking information if that isn’t obvious.

Bonus reader suggestion: Are you wheelchair accessible?

Can someone enter your facility in a wheelchair? For each game you should be able to communicate whether it is (a) not wheelchair accessible, (b) entirely wheelchair accessible, or (c) accessible as long as at least one or two players are fully mobile.

Be responsive

Remember that you should readily respond to phone, email, and social media inquiries.

A large part of customer service is simply responding.