Komnata Quest – Doctor Frankenstein [Review]

The steampunk room that ran out of steam.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: November 6, 2016

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28-$45 per ticket depending on day of the week, time of day, and team size

Story & setting

In Doctor Frankenstein we had to revive Frankenstein’s monster, since the doctor himself had somehow landed in another plane or timeline from messing with electricity. The story was pretty nonsensical.

The room had a steampunk, mystical science vibe. The decor made frequent nods to astronomy and physiology.

A steampunk-ish gear box with a crank. A chain leads out of it.

The monster himself, behind glass but clearly in view, was the primary set piece. He looked a little too cartoonish and Halloween-y for the set.


Doctor Frankenstein was Komnata Quest’s take on a more traditional, puzzle-centric escape room. Until the introduction of this game, Komnata Quest’s New York games have leaned heavily into more extreme themed adventures.

The puzzles were hit or miss. A few made use of interesting props while others were wholly unexciting.

The puzzles generally connected to the theme, disjointed as it was.


Komnata Quest relied on some tech driven props that delivered, enhancing the experience.

Doctor Frankenstein had a dramatic and exciting introduction.


Doctor Frankenstein lost momentum as the game progressed. The latter half of the game felt like a throwaway. There wasn’t enough there.

One of the late-game puzzles was as cliche as it gets. It would have still been a cliche had it been the first puzzle, but its late game position felt especially underwhelming.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Doctor Frankenstein?

Komnata Quest is not known for puzzles, but with this game, they attempted to deliver an approachable room escape in the puzzling style of the majority of the New York market.

There were some great puzzles here, especially through the use of technology, but there was also too much filler and not enough content. In the absence of an extreme situation, Komnata Quest lost a lot of what made their earlier offerings remarkable.

This wasn’t a bad game. When we interacted with elements that captured the steampunk vibe, it was a fun time. Despite what we considered filler, there will be a lot for new players to enjoy.

It’s also worth noting that the variable pricing can make Doctor Frankenstein an expensive game if you play with a small group on a weekend. Choose your bookings carefully as $45 per ticket on the high end is way too much.

Ultimately, for the seasoned player, Doctor Frankenstein probably won’t hold the intrigue of Komnata Quest’s other games. Visit them for their extreme adventure games; it’s an exciting lineup.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Doctor Frankenstein, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Maze Rooms – Lunar Mission [Review]

What happens when the ship breaks down?

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 – $49.50 per ticket, depending on team size

Story & setting

We started Lunar Mission split as the rescue team and the trapped members aboard a lunar station in disrepair. We needed to get the rescue team aboard the station, and once reunited, repair the station in order to survive.

Throughout the course of the game, we explored the expansive space station. It was a visually appealing, sturdy space for exploration.

Lunar Mission’s narrative was linear: Repair and proceed forward to the next repair.

In-game: A steel floor of a ship with safety restraints on the walls.
Image via Maze Rooms.


Most of the puzzles in Lunar Mission were pretty straightforward, once we had figured out what was expected of us.

Some were clear; some were bafflingly opaque. In our game, a number of things broke.

All stages of the game rewarded detailed observation above all else.


The set looked pretty great.

In-game, a non-repeating pattern appears illuminated in blue in the background, a cube with a joystick is illumminated in red in the foreground.
Image via Maze Rooms.

Lunar Mission incorporated some major set pieces into truly interactive puzzles.

Some of these interactions triggered physical responses from the repaired space station.


Our experience in Lunar Mission included two major technical malfunctions. These broke the final act of the game such that our gamemaster had to come into the game to investigate and finally trigger the conclusion herself. This would have been an awesome game moment if it had worked. Instead it was a major letdown.

Some of the puzzles were poorly clued and thus pretty baffling. Due to the poor cluing in the early portion of the game, we didn’t realize how broken the latter section was. We thought we just weren’t getting it. Nevertheless we still solved the final puzzle through a clever brute-force approach.

Should I play Maze Rooms’ Lunar Mission?

In Lunar Mission, we experienced a beautiful set and some great interactions.

Maze Rooms relied heavily on technology to produce these moments. When key things broke, it ruined the experience. We’ve never seen a game breakdown on quite this scale. It may well have been a fluke, but it was the experience that we had, and we didn’t leave happy.

Lunar Mission was not a particularly puzzley game. It was about observation, discovery, and manipulating the set, which was at times opaque. It was an interesting challenge in a fun environment. It would be more challenging for newer players, but approachable and fun for a variety of experience levels.

Due to the amount of breakage that occurred in our game, it’s tough to give this a wholehearted recommendation, but there is something interesting to see in Lunar Mission. Go in knowing that it doesn’t fail gracefully.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Lunar Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Maze Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Haunted Recording Studio [Review]

The hoarder’s recording studio.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: range from $30 – $45 per ticket

Story & setting

Before we entered the Haunted Recording Studio, our gamemaster told us a detailed backstory set about 100 years earlier, including a love triangle and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from within the studio. The story was long, winding, difficult to follow, and could have been simplified to:

“A record producer lusted for a beautiful singer. She rejected his advances so he took her life in this very studio. She’s been haunting the place ever since.”

The set was an actual recording studio with decor that looked like it had been last updated in the 1970s. This didn’t make a lot of sense, given the century-old backstory, but it was fun location.

In-game, a bloody handprint on glass, behind it is a recording room with a keyboard and other equipment.

As the game was set in a space that was formerly a recording studio, with the notable exception of the time period, the set was on-point. The carpeted walls and much of the recording equipment remained in the space. Frankly, it reminded me of my composer grandfather’s studio.

The Haunted Recording Studio also transformed this space into a dark, creepy, and haunted set. It wasn’t particularly scary, but it was at times dramatic and captured a specific vibe.

There was a lot of space and a lot of stuff, most of it junk leftover from the facility’s previous life.


While space was plentiful in the Haunted Recording Studio, puzzles were not.

The game was linear; as we traversed the space, we’d find and solve the next puzzle.

The puzzles weren’t challenging, but some required pure guess work; they weren’t clued at all.

Much of the challenge also came from searching for puzzle components – through a lot of stuff – without much light.

The best puzzles manipulated the equipment from the recording studio.


The game provided some memorable moments, even if we had to dig to find them.

We were spooked. We laughed. We screamed. (We were a large group of women and David.)

The Haunted Recording Studio excelled at ambiance. It did spooky – not horror – well.

An old CRT TV displaying static. A mess of wires rests underneath it.
If you enjoy tangled wires, then this is your Mecca.

As a linear game set in a dark and creepy space, the game itself fostered a cooperative, team dynamic.

It was actually set in an old recording studio. That, in itself, was unusual and appealing.


In multiple instances, the game design required us to guess at the solution to puzzles.

We experienced some frustrating prop breakage: we spent 5 minutes trying to open a door with a damaged lock.

This game relied on excessive scavenging through boxes of red herring junk.

The story was a mess. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but it set the tone for the experience. However, it didn’t factor into the game. Upon winning, we hadn’t resolved anything in the story. We learned less from playing the game than we learned from our game master’s introduction. The recording studio was still haunted, but we escaped from it.

Should I play the Haunted Recording Studio?

We mentioned to a friend that we were playing The Haunted Recording Studio. Upon hearing this, he said to us:

“It looks like a recording studio that was owned by a hoarder, and then was haunted. It’s a giant mess and it’s weird. If you go in accepting all of that, you’ll have a lot of fun.”

I can’t wrap up the Haunted Recording Studio any better than that. It’s many miles from perfect, but if you know what you’re getting into, and bring the right amount of people, it’s a strange, flawed, and fun time.

Book your hour with the Haunted Recording Studio, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code REA to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: The Haunted Recording Studio comped our tickets for this game.

50% Off “Escape Room, The Game” Today

Escape Room The Game box contents. Depicts an array of puzzles and puzzle-items.

We’ve played through two of the four scenarios in the at-home Escape Room, The Game.

While this is in no way a review of it, I can tell you that at nearly half off it’s absolutely worth purchasing at the low price of $23.99.

Get it now on Amazon while the sale is going on.

A full review will come soon.

If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.

Boards & Bytes Podcast Appearance

We met the folks from Ironmark Games about a year ago when we played and reviewed their first megagame, Contact Light.

Ironmark Games logo

This fall we reconnected in a different format: the podcast.

In the Excitement & Escape Rooms episode of Ironmark Games’ podcast Boards & Bytes, we chat with hosts Stefan Slava Cruz and Elise Silvester about escape rooms.

A quick overview

Our conversation about game flow and our experiences as players winds through Puzzle Break’s The Grimm Escape, Komnata Quest’s Boxed Up, and Get the F Out’s The Virus.

Halfway through the conversation, we focus in on special genre of escape rooms, the ones that come in a box for at-home play. We tell you a bit more about Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment, Think Fun’s Mystery at Stargazer’s Manor, and Heist Escape Party’s Grand Theft Antimatter.

And we teased Holiday Buyer’s Guide, although it published before the podcast published.

Upcoming Ironmark megagame

Or skip the podcast and check out Ironmark’s newest American Revolution-themed megagame, The World Turned Upside Down.

Escapedom – The Den of the Occult [Review]


Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Story & setting

In a world where the bad guys possess the powerful Crystal of Death, our mission was to steal back this well-protected relic from The Den of the Occult before it unleashed its evil into the world.

Escapedom created an intricate backstory for this magical heist. Before the game began, our gamemaster set the scene through a hilarious PowerPoint. The combination of an intensely serious story, delivered through Harry Potter jokes and a healthy dose of straight-up nerd humor, established the perfect balance of levity with a bit of gravity. It was established as Harry Potter parody.

In game, Den of the Occult felt more like a light Harry Potter adventure. It was mystical with spells and relics of the utmost importance.

In-game, an old recordplayer, a statue of the Budda, and a tappestry.

The pregame introduction had more gravitas than the actual gamespace. While generally themed, the set itself wasn’t particularly special.


The puzzles in Den of the Occult were mostly on-theme, clued through magic and mysticism-related items. However, they didn’t convey story. In this regard they sometimes felt bolted on.

Early in the game, there were a few more “paper puzzles” – those that could be solved on a tabletop surface anywhere – than we would have expected from a cult protecting a powerful object.

As the game progressed, the puzzles became more integrated into the set, providing some  exciting moments.


Our gamemaster told the story of this game brilliantly, with the perfect blend of seriousness and nerd humor. His tone and delivery were spot on; he engaged us completely in the fiction.

Escapedom integrated one delicate and beautiful prop in such a way that we actually manipulated it to work through a puzzle. It was well-designed and a lot of fun.

Through technology, Escapedom built some exciting moments.


David solved one laborious, tedious, and poorly clued paper-based puzzle. Needless to say, he enjoyed his experience less than the rest of us.

For all the detailed and amusing story details we learned at the onset of the game, the in-game experience didn’t forward the fiction. Neither the puzzles nor the set called back to the introduction or forwarded any plot.

We experienced one technical failure as the game approached its dramatic conclusion that disrupted the magic of the moment.

For experienced players, the major set pieces telegraphed their magic. There were some outstanding, technically driven interactions, but we could see the magic coming a mile away.

Should I play Escapedom’s The Den of the Occult?

Escapedom built a solid game in a magical world. As the game progressed, the magic escalated, producing that in-game wow moment that every game should have. While Den of the Occult telegraphed its coolest moments, they were fun nonetheless.

There is opportunity for Escapedom to enhance the narrative experience and more closely intertwine the puzzles, story, and introduction. That isn’t to diminish what they’ve built; there’s a great game here. We were so excited to play the game that they described in the introduction, however, that we felt letdown upon realizing that the game and the introduction were only tangentially related.

If you’re seeking a magical mystery escape room, this is well worth a playthrough. It’s your own Harry Potter-esque adventure.

This game will be approachable for newer players and incredibly exciting for those less versed in the magic of today’s escape room technology. Still, Den of the Occult has a lot to offer experienced escape room enthusiasts as well.

Book your hour with Escapedom’s The Den of the Occult, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escapedom comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Games Worcester – Conspiracy [Review]

Interchangeable history.

Location: Worcester, MA

Date played: October 23, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26.50 per ticket

Story & setting

Conspiracy took place in Marilyn Monroe’s dressing room in the “1950s or 1960s.” We were supposedly investigating her death… and in doing so stumbled upon a conspiracy that raised the stakes of our investigation.

The “50s/60s” time frame was curiously vague and was the first indicator of a larger issue: an utter disregard for the most basic historical facts.

The gamespace was themed as a dressing room conglomeration of eras past. The background music was from the 1930s. It felt hacked together.

Image of the dressing room. The mirror and vanity in the distance. Antique glassware rests on a wooden table in the foreground.


Conspiracy was a game of connections.

There was a variety of moderately challenging puzzles.

The hardest part was finding and connecting relevant items to derive the intended meaning. We struggled not over the puzzles, but with losing the thread of gameplay amidst the items.

Image of a large, old, wooden radio.


At its best, Conspiracy merged props and technology into puzzles. The dressing room transformed some cool and historically authentic items into interesting game components.

Conspiracy built interactions into some unexpected things.


While Escape Games Worcester designed solid technical interactions, their haphazard construction telegraphed the game. Exposed wires announced what otherwise could have been surprising moments.

The room escape incorporated props that were needlessly ugly and a few were downright unappealing to interact with.

One part of the game was left totally raw and unfinished. It appeared that Escape Games Worcester neither attempted to design this section, nor worked the lack of aesthetic aspects into a story arc.

The history and storytelling were bad.

Should I play Escape Games Worcester’s Conspiracy?

Conspiracy had a lot of good ideas with spotty execution. From the older props to the newer technology, this game included solid elements. It just didn’t come together as a polished product.

Our team was well versed in history and grew frustrated by the anachronisms in the kind-of-sort-of story.

For newer players, there’s still a lot to experience here. There is a set, a wealth of logic connections, and some cool interactions.

Experienced players will find that Conspiracy doesn’t approach the set and story design, puzzle challenge, or polished execution they have come to experience in major markets. That said, Worcester is a considerable distance from those places.

After we played Conspiracy, we poked our heads into their newest game, still under construction at the time. While we can’t speak to the gameplay or puzzles, it looked like Escape Games Worcester will be raising the bar on scenery and minding the details in their next outing.

We look forward to a return trip, as we think they have a lot of potential.

Book your hour with Escape Games Worcester’s Conspiracy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Countdown – Krampus [Review]

‘Greetings from the Krampus!’

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 18, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We were investigating the festive yet morbid apartment of the Krampus killer, which as Countdown’s description implies, was actually the demon-goat monster of Alpine folk-lore.

Krampus, the yang to Saint Nicholas’ yin, brings punishment (and in this case, murder) to naughty children come Christmas time.


The set of Krampus was magnificently creepy. It was a dark and twisted home that was intricately decorated for a horrible Christmas. It looked great in a gross and foreboding sort of way.


While the haunted house-esque set was the clear star of Krampus, it had some solid puzzling.

Much of the challenge came from the difficulties of navigating a dark and morbid set, but once we made it past those hurdles, there were sound logic and observational puzzles to work out.

Krampus contained a bonus puzzle that will likely eat up the remaining time of fast-solving teams.


The set was intense.

In-game image of a dramatically lit Christmas tree in a dark and creepy home.

The game kept our team on edge from beginning to end.

There was a moment mid-game that was incredible; I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it mimicked by other companies in future games.


A little too much of the Krampus’ challenge was derived from the dark setting. There were more than a few things to read, and at times it was easy to make a mistake simply because lighting was barely present.

The bonus puzzle wasn’t particularly enticing. It involved a lot of reading and we decided to finish with a fast time instead of puzzling through it.

Should I play Countdown’s Krampus?

Krampus was a great horror escape room.

It was intense, creepy, and memorable. Watching one of our teammates (not Lisa) cling to a wooden stick for half of the game will remain a treasured memory. I don’t frighten easily and Krampus made me jump. It was a good time.

Krampus has some good puzzling, but I wouldn’t recommend it to players who are seeking a puzzle-focused experience.

This was a game for people who are open to feeling some fear, and don’t struggle with seeing and reading in low light. If that sounds right for you, then I highly recommend paying Krampus a visit.

Book your hour with Countdown’s Krampus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Countdown comped our tickets for this game.

Room Escape Artist 2016 Holiday Buyer’s Guide


The holidays are around the corner, so we figured we’d make your gift giving experience a bit easier with some creative gifts for your room escaping loved ones.




Puzzle Locks

Multi-staged, strange, and layered physical interactions are required to unlock and relock these nutty things.

Two of my favorites have been this ugly bastard, and this beautifully intricate one.

Note that we do not recommend these for use in room escapes. These are for fun puzzling outside of the game.



Yellow to Red Gradient Jigsaw Puzzle

Are you looking to terminate a friendship this holiday season? Nothing says “you deserve to suffer” quite like a 500 piece gradient jigsaw puzzle.


Laser cut wooden jigsaw puzzles

Got a jigsaw puzzler in your life who you truly care about? Give them a Liberty or Artifact puzzle.

These beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles are laser cut into intricate and unusual interlocking patterns.

Brace yourself, they are challenging, but rewarding. A 300 piece Liberty Puzzle is far more challenging than most common 600 piece jigsaw puzzles.

While we have less experience with Artifact Puzzles, they are also awesome and have their own charm.

Tabletop games

Mystery at Stargazer's Manor contents.

ThinkFun’s Escape the Rooms

There are a number of wonderful at home escape room games, but at the moment the two most approachable, affordable, and available ones are produced by ThinkFun.

We’ve reviewed both Stargazer’s Manor and Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.



Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Lovingly reviewed by Shut Up and Sit Down, Consulting Detective is an intellectually heavy tabletop puzzling experience.



Lock Picks

I’ve been picking locks since high school. It’s fun and challenging. There’s always something new to learn. Occasionally it’s also useful.

A small set of lock picks would make a great gift for a responsible and ethical loved one. Don’t go too crazy and buy a massive pick set, beginners only need a few basic picks, rakes, and tensioners to get started.


iFixit Toolkit

iFixit, the website behind all manner of product teardowns and repair instructions, sells their own toolkits.

I’ve kept this one on hand for years. It has helped me open every strange screw that I’ve ever attempted to remove.

iFixit has a ton of different kits available for every manner of tinkerer.


Makerspace Membership

Makerspaces are magical places where creators of all sorts of stuff and skill levels gather to share knowledge, tools, and ideas.

From robotics and rocketry to sewing and knitting, most makerspaces welcome all makers. In my experience, most teach classes, have 3D printers, and woodshops.

Each one is a little different in terms of equipment and culture, so find the ones nearest you. I would recommend stopping by a few times before committing to a membership. Find the right fit.

Video games



Nintendo 3DS XL

Nintendo’s handheld system is a great platform for puzzle gaming.

Decades of exceptional Zelda games are available:

The Zero Escape games are also available:

There’s plenty more puzzling on the 3DS.



After decades of failures it looks like it may finally be virtual reality’s time. While we’ve dabbled with three of the big platforms, we’re not picking sides… yet.

We’ll keep an eye on the space and let everyone know which is best for adventure puzzling.

If you have a computer powerful enough to power it (or plan to buy one), the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift both have solid libraries of games available.

PS4 with Playstation VR is less established, but it is easier to setup and use.



Design of Everyday Things

If you only ever read one book about design, it should be this one. It’s approachable and dead-on. Its lessons apply to literally everything. (Paperback) (Kindle)


Atlas Obscura

A traveler’s guide to the world’s oddest stuff. This guide to Earth’s curiosities is worth reading even if you never travel to see the strange things it reveals. (Hardcover) (Kindle)


Path Puzzles

Simple to learn and difficult to master, these puzzles are a ton of fun.

We have an in-depth review of the book.


The Code Book

A brilliant and approachable walk through the history of code/cipher making and breaking. I am in the middle of reading this one and I learn new and exciting things each time I turn the page. (Paperback) (Kindle)


Do people still gift movies in the age of streaming? If you do…


Tim’s Vermeer

If you know someone who loves the overlap of art and technology, Tim’s Vermeer is a strangely moving documentary about Tim Jenison’s mission to recreate Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s photo-realistic painting “The Music Lesson.” Produced by Penn & Teller, the documentary follows Jenison, a Texas-based tech entrepreneur who had never lifted a paintbrush in his life through his discoveries, triumphs, and failures as he seeks to uncover a 350 year-old secret.

I may have shed a tear or two while watching. (DVD) (Blu-ray) (Stream)

Stocking stuffers


Zelda Boss Key Keychain

The only door it opens is a door called “nostalgia.”

A small comination lock used as a keychain.

Master Lock 4688D

This TSA-friendly lock is a joke of a lock… but it’s a convenient keychain.

Room Escape Gear


The Original Cryptex®

Cryptex are a common locking mechanism in room escapes, but most use the junkie Da Vinci Code replicas (and yes, both are junk, even the more expensive version).

Justin Nevins, the creator of the first Cryptex, handcrafts this insanely solid Cryptex. They start at $300 for the normal version and become increasingly expensive for exquisite versions inlayed with wood and marble.

They are the perfect escape room prop, conversation piece, or proposal puzzle device. (I considered using this when plotting out my wedding proposal.)

That dog looks so guilty.


The obligatory blacklight.


If you’re feeling charitable, these two organizations do wonderful work creating opportunities for children who desperately need to play.


Able Gamers Foundation

These folks help make video games accessible for people with disabilities that would otherwise prevent them from playing.


Child’s Play

This charity works to get games and toys into the hands of children who are in hospitals and domestic abuse shelters. You can send the gift directly to the hospital or shelter.

Thank you!

If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.


No Proscenium Podcast Appearance: a Conversation about Paradiso

No Proscenium is a guide to immersive entertainment, serving LA, NYC, SF, Chicago, and the West Coast.

The newsletter subscribers regularly receive a curated list of immersive shows broken out by region.

We’ve been subscribers of the No Proscenium newsletter for a while now and they’ve directed us to some pretty awesome entertainment.

Logo reads,


They also have a podcast that gets more into the weeds about the immersive events that they cover.

On Episode 073 of the No Proscenium podcast, we talk with host Zay Amsbury about room escapes. In particular, we talk about Paradiso.

Paradiso deliberately tried to bridge the gap between theater and escape room. Was it successful? Zay knows immersive theater and we know room escapes. Listen to our conversation.

Spoiler warning

Zay gives you ample warning to stop listening before we spoil Paradiso. But know that halfway through this conversation, we talk candidly about specific moments in the show, spoilers and all. This is the most spoiler-laden public escape room conversation we’ve ever had. Anyway, here is your extra warning.


Hear our conversation and sign up to check out their offerings.