Escape My Room – Inventor’s Attic [Review]

Rube Goldberg’s bayou punk attic.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date played: October 7, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

With the DeLaporte annual ball scheduled to begin in an hour, and the estate’s electricity malfunctioning, it fell to us to explore the home and determine the cause of the outages. All wires led to eccentric Uncle Remy DeLaporte’s attic, where he claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine.

In-game: an antique rolltop desk filled with books and trinkets next to a small bed.

Inventor’s Attic was gorgeous and unusual. This room escape took Escape My Room’s eclectic, antique-collection-of-curiosities aesthetic and bumped it up quite a few notches. Uncle Remy’s makeshift inventions were strewn about the space, each one strange and worthy of exploration.

Puzzles

Inventor’s Attic had a lot of nifty gadgets… and of course, these were puzzles. They were interactive and exciting. Inventor’s Attic also required observation and correlation.

Standouts

Escape My Room’s DeLaporte Mansion has an aesthetic like no other. Inventor’s Attic started off with a similar vibrant look similar to Escape My Room’s other escape rooms, but morphed into a more focused look that maintained the feel of the mansion while setting the attic apart. It was beautifully designed.

In-game: A Rube Goldberg machine with slanted shelves with a number of contraptions affixed to it.

We loved the Rube Goldberg-esque theme that ran through Inventor’s Attic. From the first moment of play, we were intrigued by the interconnected oddities.

With Inventor’s Attic, Escape My Room enhanced their spatial reveals. Two moments in particular stood out, where the space changed in surprising and exciting ways.

A lot of the gadgets within the Inventor’s Attic were, to the best of my knowledge, unique among escape rooms. We enjoyed so many of the puzzles that were the meat of this experience. One in particular was almost mesmerizing to work through and a lot of fun.

For one puzzle, Escape My Room included a player-friendly reset switch, something we’ve rarely seen with this type of challenge.

As a matter of philosophy, Escape My Room wants their players to spend as close to a full hour as possible in each escape room. They present bonus puzzles to speedy teams who win with time to spare. The way they introduced this puzzle was so smart.

Shortcomings

Inventor’s Attic didn’t always give us enough feedback when we’d solved puzzles. We sometimes couldn’t figure out what we’d earned. Additional springs or lighting or audio clues would enhance these little reveals.

One of the more involved puzzles didn’t have adequate cluing. We loved the concept, and how it pulled together the inventor’s aesthetic with that of the overall DeLaporte Mansion, but the puzzle within needed work.

The puzzling at the heart of Inventor’s Attic was largely non-linear. While some will absolutely see this as a boon, we were a little disappointed because many of the puzzles couldn’t really support more than 1-2 players at a time. This meant that each of us completely missed at least one of the amazing interactions in this room escape.

Should I play Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic?

I can’t think of a more cohesive escape room company than Escape My Room. Their entryway, lobby, series of lobby puzzles, hallways, and each of their escape rooms have all been crafted with the same aesthetic and story in mind. Even their gamemasters present themselves in character at all times. Everything they have to offer is built around the DeLaporte family, their estate, and their odd history.

It’s damn impressive… and Inventor’s Attic is a jewel in this beautifully strange collection.

Inventor’s Attic is a must-play for experienced room escapers. Its uniqueness, beautiful design, surprising reveals, and brilliant interactions all combined to make an unforgettable and challenging yet fair experience.

Beginners will certainly be impressed by what Inventor’s Attic has to offer, but they will likely be a bit bewildered by it. I would highly recommend playing at least one or two other escape rooms before attempting Inventor’s Attic. That will make this escape room more approachable and let you more fully appreciate how joyous Escape My Room’s latest creation is.

Book your hour with Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape My Room comped our tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – November 19, 2017

This weekend we’re getting ready for the holidays!

REA Round Up logo with an up arrow atop the letter d.

Announcements

One January 2nd, we’ll announce our 2017 Golden Lock-In award winners. In the mean time, look back at the escape rooms that won in 2016 and 2015.

Featured escape rooms

We’ve started publishing reviews from our October trip to Louisiana:

Spellbound at RISE Escape Rooms in Tickfaw looked amazing, played smoothly, put smart twists on established puzzle types, and created a strong sense of adventure.

Through its imposing and detailed set, The Collector at 13th Gate Escape in Baton Rouge came to life in a way that most “murder basement”-style games do not achieve.

Something different

We hosted a successful event in New York City earlier this month. Read our follow-up thoughts.

Featured products

‘Tis the season. Check out our escape room lovers 2017 holiday buyer’s guide.

From the community

Try Darren Miller’s Thanksgiving puzzle!

The Escape Room Divas recently interviewed cryptex creator Justin Nevins. His cryptex was the clear winner of our Cryptex Review Extravaganza.

Room Escape Lover’s 2017 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

Now US-, Canada- & UK-friendly!

REA logo wearing a Santa hat.

‘Tis the season for gift giving… and stressing over finding great gifts. We’re here to help you find the perfect gift for your escape-rooming, puzzle-loving friends and family.

We’re not repeating anything from last year, so check out our first 2016 Holiday Buyer’s Guide for additional inspiration. 

Tabletop escape games

Let’s start with the obvious…

Escape-Room-Photo

Escape Room in a Box

(Amazon US)

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment was the first tabletop escape room we played… and gun to our heads, probably still our favorite. It was just as much fun when we revisited it this year when the Kickstarter shipped. A new version is now available for purchase just in time for the holidays!

Unlock Box Art

Unlock!

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Unlock! Escape Adventure is a card-based at-home escape game series with 3 games currently available. In terms of dollars for gameplay, these are a great deal… Plus, you won’t destroy them at all while playing the game! Read our full review.

In-game: A mess of cards, the decoder wheel, images of the cabin's rooms, and a book that reads,

Exit: The Game

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Exit: The Game is series of tabletop escape games with 3 games currently available in English (more in German). Again, in terms entertainment value for your money, these are a great deal… But go in knowing that you’re going to destroy this game while playing it. Read our full review.

Journal29 1

Journal 29

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Journal 29 is an intriguing puzzle book with a narrative experienced entirely through puzzles and illustration. It is deeper, more challenging, and more entertaining than your average puzzle book… but it ain’t a cakewalk. This thing will fight you. It’s a wonderful companion for a flight delay. Trust me, I know. Read our full review.

Many of the game's props and components staged. There are ciphers, grids, flags, maps, and photos.

Subscription – Escape The Crate

Among the current selection of at-home subscription games, we recommend Escape the Crate. In each episode, we chase the villain through time to stop him from altering history. Escape the Crate games are not polished (they look like prototypes); however they make up for it with innovative mechanics and consistent quality of gameplay.Read our reviews of Chapter 1 and then Chapters 2 and 3.

Home

A strange clock made of many gears and bicycle chains.

Needlessly Complex Clocks

Lisa and I don’t own one of these, but oh my, do we want the Dual Chain Planetary. If you’d like to spend lavishly on us this holiday season, this is at the top of our “we absolutely don’t need it, but we want it” list.

A while ceramic cup with black 1s and 0s imprinted all over.

inaeent ceramics

This Etsy shop has dozens of beautiful, strange, and unique bowls, plates, and cups. I love the Binary Wine or Tea Cup.

A chain standing upright, magically floating a bottle of wine.

Magic chain wine bottle holder

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

This simple illusion proudly floats a wine bottle in our dining room. It’s amusing. Note that it doesn’t like wide-mouthed bottles. 

Tabletop games

These are a few collaborative games that escape room players will love:

Pandemic Legacy Seasons 1 / Season 2

(Season 1 – Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

(Season 2 – Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Pandemic is one of the great collaborative tabletop games. Pandemic Legacy turns it into an ongoing, episodic experience that permanently evolves, damages, and changes the board with each successive episode. It’s gaming with consequences.

Mysterium box art.

Mysterium

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

This social game of deduction has one player facilitating as a ghost giving signs and the rest of the group playing as psychic detectives. It’s like Clue and Dixit had a much prettier and considerably more fun baby.

Arkham Horror the Card Game box art.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

This Lovecraftian horror game is intense. It plays out over multiple campaigns and it’s shockingly challenging. If your character dies, they are gone for good. I grew so attached to my character that when he nearly perished at the end of an episode, I couldn’t sit still.

This game also has a boatload of expansions with more on the way. I’ve played them all and I love them.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB box art.
This box is far smaller than it appears.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

This last one isn’t collaborative, but it’s a fantastic, inexpensive, compact, and quick 2-player head-to-head game that has both players vying for political dominance in a surprisingly well-researched and thought-out card game.

I love small games that don’t require long rule readings. This is a great casual game that anyone can learn.

Puzzles

A silver metal loop made of two interlocking pieces.

Cast Loop

(Puzzle Master US/UK/CA)

This puzzle isn’t a killer, but the trick is clever. No matter how many times I solve it, I love the feel of it. Note that this puzzle is best presented in two pieces. It’s trivial to solve if someone hands it to you completed. 

A cast metal diamond of silver and black materials. They snugly fit together.

Cast Diamond

(Puzzle Master US/UK/CA)

The Cast Diamond is another puzzle that won’t break your brain. It’s just a joy to solve and feels so satisfying. Note that this puzzle is best presented in two pieces. It’s trivial to solve if someone hands it to you completed. 

A bronze cast metal layer cake puzzle.

Cast Cake

(Puzzle Master US/UK/CA)

You want something hard? Try separating this layer cake into 4 pieces. I’ll wait.

This thing took me forever to figure out and I’m not ashamed to say so. It’s tough.

Rubik's Triamid assembled but color jumbled.

Rubik’s Triamid

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

I wrote a full review of this long forgotten puzzle that captured my imagination as a child.

A multi colored ball made of up of tiny gears.

Gear Ball

(Puzzle Master US/UK/CA)

I am terrible at Rubik’s Cube-type puzzles and have zero chance of solving this thing. Ever. However, this crazy ball of gears is so psychologically satisfying to manipulate that it doesn’t matter.

It’s absolutely purchasable as the thinking person’s fidget spinner.

The art for the Harry Potter Flying keys 1000 piece puzzle.

New York Puzzle Company – Harry Potter Flying Keys

(Amazon US, Amazon UK)

At 1,000 pieces, Harry Potter Flying Keys (and yes, it’s licensed) is the perfect jigsaw puzzle for escape room lovers. It’s beautiful. The New York Puzzle Company produces high quality puzzles (we reviewed a different one earlier this year).

They have many more puzzles to choose from if you’re looking for something different.

I am Lion, Wolf, Panda, & Horse

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

These animal head jigsaw puzzles are beasts to solve. They have irregular edges, large swaths of repeating patterns, consistent coloration, and unusual piece shapes. They range from 550-700 pieces.

“I am” is a pun because if you want to have a prayer of solving these, begin with the animal’s eyes.

If you love difficult jigsaw puzzles, this is a must-buy… but know that you’re playing on hard mode.

Tools

Sugru

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

It molds like silly putty and hardens into rubber. It’s insulated against electricity and it’s heat- and cold- resistant. This was one of the first things that we published about on Room Escape Artist over 3 years ago… so like 5 people have seen that post. I use it all of the time to repair and customize things around our home.

Fun fact: I once brought Sugru to a humanitarian crisis and fixed a whole bunch of things around a UN field office with it.

3M SandBlaster ultra flexible sanding sheets logo.

Sandblaster Ultra Flexible Sanding Sheets

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Hey escape room owners! I sure hate picking up splinters while playing escape rooms. This especially flexible sandpaper is fantastic for smoothing over all sorts of nooks and crannies. I am a big fan… and no, I’m not kidding… I think sandpaper is fantastic.

Video Games

Nintendo Switch+ The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

(Nintendo Switch – Amazon US, Amazon UK)

(Zelda– Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Breath of the Wild is a modern masterpiece and a brilliant display of adventure puzzle game design. Hopefully Nintendo makes enough Switches available this holiday season. If you can get your hands on one, you will not regret the time you spend exploring Hyrule.

A hand holding the tiny Super Nintendo Classic in the palm of a hand.

Super Nintendo Classic

My brother procured an SNES Classic for me and ever since our Escape Room Tour of NYC ended, I’ve been enjoying some of my all-time favorite video games once again. Mega Man X, Super Mario World, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are three of the finest examples of game design out there.

There is so much to learn from and enjoy about these games.

The catch: These things are maddeningly hard to acquire at the moment, but if you get one, you win Christmas. I’m pretty sure that’s how this works. 

Books

The three installments of the End Game series. The gold covered first volume is on top of the pile.

Endgame Series

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Endgame is The Hunger Games for puzzle lovers. For anyone who enjoys dystopian teenager fiction and puzzles, this trilogy offers both. The first person to solve the puzzle in the first book Endgame: The Calling won $500k in gold. It’s a crazy hard puzzle.

Break Out book cover features an Apple II with Oregon Trail's load screen.

Break Out – How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

If you’re interested in the history of game design, the early PC gaming era is a treasure trove of stories and learning. Break Out chronicles the creation of many classic Apple II games. I loved the Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego chapters.

The cover art for the first volume of The Puzzling World of Winston Breen.

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Winston Breen is a puzzle-loving teenager. In this story, Lisa puzzled along with Winston as he got swept up in a treasure hunt. The book presents puzzles within an entertaining narrative. (Full review forthcoming.)

Movie

Movie cover for Raiders! depicts the 3 main characters dressed in their costumes.

Raiders! : The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

(Amazon US)

This documentary tells the insane story of a group of teens in the 1980s who decided to recreate Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot. It took them years and thus their ages change from shot to shot. They almost killed themselves creating this. It’s a hell of a story.

The intensity and ingenuity demonstrated in this film reminds me of some of the most interesting escape room companies that I’ve encountered. It’s also streaming on Netflix at the moment.

Stocking stuffers

3 in 1 flip book cover

Flip book!

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Ok, I was skeptical too, but this thing is mesmerizing, beautiful, and so damn cool.

Packaging for 4 different gear ties. Art illustrates the flexibility and versatility of the product.

Nite Ize Reusable Rubber Twist Tie

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

We’re always on the move, electronics in tow. These reusable rubber twist ties are perfect for securing the cords for our phones and earbuds.

A quirky PowerCurl neatly wrapping a MacBook power cable.

Quirky PowerCurl

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

For our laptops, we swear by the Quirky PowerCurl for taming our Macbook power cables. Be sure to get the right size for your power cable. 

Escape room

Escape Again logo stylized.

This one might seem obvious… but you can give the gift of an escape room.

I recommend, however, that you plan out the entire excursion instead of buying a gift certificate. It’s better to provide the full experience rather than a gift card that’s likely to get lost.

Kids

Cover art. Young Pedro standing in front of a castle made of puzzles.

Pedro and the Puzzle Palace

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

I found Pedro and the Puzzle Palace in a local bookstore earlier this year, on a shelf promoting local authors. In this adorable picture book Pedro learns core values through puzzles. This is for real, little ones.

Spy Code Games

(Break FreeAmazon USAmazon CA)

(Operation Escape RoomAmazon US, Amazon CA)

(Safe BreakerAmazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

Spy Code offers 3 games for children: Break Free, Operation Escape Room, and Safe Breaker (reviewed individually). Each game teaches different puzzling skills through brightly colored plastic props, with some remarkably satisfying and fun interactions.

Box art and traffic jam puzzling components of Rush Hour Jr.

Rush Hour Jr.

(Puzzle Master US/UK/CA)

Rush Hour Jr. is a fun spatial puzzle for kids as young as 6. If this one seems a little too basic, try the version for adults instead.

Book cover for Top Secret, looks like a brown folder being held by a pair of black gloved hands.

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing

(Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA)

This fantastic book is perfect for helping kids learn the basics of cryptography… as well as the roots of so many escape room puzzles. It’s also a great read if you design escape rooms (full review).

Charity

Child's Play logo

Child’s Play

Ok, I lied. I’m repeating one thing from last year: supporting Child’s Play.

I’ve written about this a few times because I love this organization. They allow you to buy and send toys directly to children’s hospitals. There are plenty of good causes to give to, but since we’re focused on fun and games, I can’t think of a better way to give back than to provide some fun for kids who desperately need an escape.

Thank you!

If you purchase via our Amazon, Etsy, or Puzzle Master links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.

Please share this buyer’s guide far and wide.

We truly appreciate your support.

Thoughts following the REA Exclusive Event – Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017

We did it! And it worked! And everyone enjoyed themselves (a claim supported by data)!

Escape room enthusiasts descended upon New York City recently for Escape, Immerse, Explore.

Escape Immerse Explore 2017 Chart logo

Attendees traveled from Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Upstate New York… with one brave individual making the journey across the East River from Brooklyn.

Some were owners. All were players.

Community

This is our community.

From our first conversations on Friday, we knew we were spending the weekend with like-minded people. We were still enjoying each other’s company after midnight, long after booked events had ended.

By Sunday morning, it was like a camp reunion. Folks were looking for the people they’d played with on Saturday morning to ask how their afternoon escapes had gone. When the event wrapped up midday, people went off with new friends to escape more rooms.

Preferences

This event showcased the many different styles of escape rooms in New York City. These ranged from puzzle-focused to adventure-based. Some included context and story. Others presented more straightforward puzzle solving.

One person’s favorite was another person’s not-so-favorite.

Our selections only scratched the surface of what this city has to offer in terms of escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came out for this. Thank you for the wonderful conversations, perspectives, questions, and ideas.

We learned as much from you as you learned from us and from each other.

Next time?

Based on the incredibly strong post-event feedback, we’re going to have to do this again.

We might run Escape, Immerse, Explore again in New York. Or, we might bring this to another city. Maybe both. We’ll just have to see what the future brings.

If you missed this one, but you’d like to come to the next one, please let us know.

 

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Trials of Bahamut [Review]

Moogles and cactuars and tonberries, oh my!

Location: New York, NY

Date played: October 20, 2017

Team size: 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket early, $41 per ticket regular, $46 per ticket at the door if available

Story & setting

Based on the events of the video game Final Fantasy XIV, the primal dragon Bahamut, long thought dead, was reviving. We needed to gather the tools and knowhow to assemble a battle plan that would defeat this almighty beast. Failure would mean the end of the world.

In-game: The faux stone cavern set walls. There are ropes to guide lines and a sign that reads "Cactuar Cavern."

Trials of Bahamut was a mass escape event put on by Real Escape Games by SCRAP, the creators of many other large-scale events that we’ve reviewed such as a Legend of Zelda game. In typical SCRAP fashion, Trials of Bahamut took place in a sparsely decorated event space. The center of room was full of tables, one for each team of 6. Around the perimeter of the room, various sets represented different locations, each guarded by characters, played by actors.

Puzzles

As is typical from SCRAP mass events, much of the puzzling took place as a team around our table with pencils and paper.

As Trials of Bahamut progressed, there were opportunities to solve puzzles with the characters along the perimeter. These were more interesting and dynamic puzzles that also granted more compelling rewards.

Standouts

Each player was assigned a character class (thief, paladin, bard, ranger, black mage, white mage). Each character came with individual powers that only they could execute at specific points throughout the game. Some of these powers were the keys to individual paper puzzles; others required creatively interacting with actors. The roles kept everyone involved throughout the event and added an intriguing dynamic to the gameplay.

Post-game photo features our team holding up the signs of the character classes that each person played.

Trials of Bahamut was the most interactive SCRAP event that we’ve played (running around a stadium notwithstanding). In the past we’ve spent almost all of our time around a table, solving puzzles that could just as easily have appeared in a puzzle book. That was not the case in SCRAP’s Final Fantasy game.

Trials of Bahamut was more approachable than the previous SCRAP events that we’ve attended. Don’t get me wrong: most of the teams lost, but more than a few won or almost won.

In-game: The initial table setup. There's a book sealed shut with a padlock, a Moogle doll, and an assortment of paper puzzle components.
That Moogle was so damn adorable. He was also the team MVP.

The final puzzle sequence was smart. Our most common criticism of SCRAP events has been painfully obtuse final puzzles. While this challenging last puzzle sequence still required us to think exactly like the puzzle designer, at Trials of Bahamut, since we had been paying close attention, the steps were clear and deducible without logic leaps. This was a huge improvement on previous SCRAP mass event finales.

Most of our teammates had little or no experience with Final Fantasy and we still found Trials of Bahamut enjoyable.

There was a hilarious and morbid moment that anyone who has ever played a Final Fantasy game could appreciate.

Some of the actors really went for it.

The stuffed Moogle on our team was freaking adorable. You should get one. 

Shortcomings

Trials of Bahamut suffered from long lines to meet with characters. Luckily our team got out to a quick lead and never relinquished it, so we didn’t wait on too many lines, but these really backed up. This is a common event problem. With linear progression, individual characters become bottlenecks.

Some of the characters classes assigned to us were more interesting and essential than others.

While Trials of Bahamut was less paper puzzley than previous SCRAP events, it still relied heavily on them… and some of them were pretty silly.

Trials of Bahamut began and ended with a lengthy, cringeworthy video.

SCRAP hires most of their actors and staff in each city that the game visits. We played the first instance of Trials of Bahamut in NYC and at each juncture our team was the first to approach the actors with solutions. Far too often our correct answers were rejected because the staff wasn’t quite up to speed. A little more training would go a long way.

The ending was anticlimactic. We had prepared to battle a dragon… but we only needed to submit a dragon-fighting battle plan. The conclusion had all of the drama of turning in a pop quiz.

Should I play Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Trials of Bahamut?

I’m really glad that I went to play Trials of Bahamut. This experience has given me hope that SCRAP is evolving their events, that they aren’t a one-trick pony, and that they can do something different with this rarely explored escape game format.

I was ready to write off SCRAP’s events. Bluntly, I didn’t want to attend Trials of Bahamut. I’ve played Final Fantasy III and X, but I can’t claim that I’m a fan of the series. We attended because a friend bought the tickets, planned the evening, and invited us.

Trials of Bahamut was an engaging, intriguing, and entertaining event. We left excited that we had conquered a fair and interesting challenge. SCRAP’s escape events still have plenty of room to grow, but the next time they bring one to New York City, I will not drag my feet on booking a ticket.

We would recommend Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Trials of Bahamut, but New York City was the final stop on its tour. If it ever experiences a revival, you should check it out.

(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.)

 

Winchendon Escape Room – Secret Society [Review]

Be sure to ask about the tea party.

Location: Winchendon, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

As hopeful members of the mysterious The Moonlight Club secret society, we were up to our final test. We had to solve the Club’s test to learn the names of its members and leader in order to prove our worth.

In-game: A beautifully set breakfast table beside a massive window and a grandfather clock.

Winchendon Escape Room is part of Winchendon Historical Society and stages escape rooms within their beautiful grounds. Secret Society was set in the lounge of a beautiful mansion. (The rest of the building is preserved as a museum that we were free to wander after the game.) It had real stained glass windows and was largely composed of antiques. It didn’t look authentic… It was authentic.

Puzzles

Winchendon Escape Room captured textbook escape room puzzling in Secret Society. It included a mix of well-designed beginner-friendly puzzles with plenty to explore and discover.

Standouts

Winchendon Escape Room was an amazing value: $25 per ticket for 2 to 6 players to explore a game for 90 minutes… plus we could explore a beautiful estate staged as a museum.

In-game: A loung in an old mansion. There's a beautiful fireplace, and a cabinet filled with locked boxes.

Winchendon Escape Room staged Secret Society in a beautiful room full of interesting props.

Secret Society was well-designed and beginner-friendly, but still offered a challenge. As experienced players, we didn’t need the 90-minute game clock (we escaped in about 40 minutes moving at a comfortable pace), but that extra time allows beginners to work through puzzles rather than get dragged via hints.

The final puzzle was really smart.

All of the proceeds from Winchendon Escape Room go back to the Winchendon Historical Society.

Shortcomings

There was a lot to search for and look at early on in Secret Society. It was a little cumbersome to find a good starting place. Over the course of the game, puzzle flow became linear with a crystal clear progression. I think that if Winchendon Escape Room were to instead start with a funnel that opened into the rest of the room, the game would flow beautifully. It would ramp up the challenge later in the game, after players had become more comfortable with the escape room.

Having no concept of local history, I left a little confused whether the story and characters were entirely made up or based on something real. It would be amazing if the game conveyed a little local history through play.

While the final puzzle was great, there wasn’t much of a climax. Secret Society didn’t built any tension.

Should I play Winchendon Escape Room’s Secret Society?

Winchendon Escape Room was really surprising. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting a great experience from a $25 per person, 90-minute escape room, set up on the grounds of a local historical society. I worried that we would find a well-intentioned, low quality, amateur-designed game. I was dead wrong.

The price and game clock were deliberate. Winchendon Escape Room wants to offer a lot of value to their local audience while giving them the time to really work through the puzzles and learn how an escape room works.

Secret Society played well. It was a solid escape room.

Furthermore, Secret Society was lovingly staged in a gorgeous manor. We play a lot of games that attempt to capture that manor aesthetic, but I can tell you: there’s nothing like the real thing.

Winchendon Escape Room is among the best deals in escape rooms that I know of and one the finest places to start playing escape rooms. If you’re a beginner who’s on the fence about this “locked-in-a-puzzle-room” thing, know that Winchendon Escape Room won’t lock you in, and playing their games will help you build the core skills necessary to enjoy puzzling adventures all over. Massachusetts has a ton of fantastic escape rooms and this is a phenomenal place to get started.

Book your hour with Winchendon Escape Room’s Secret Society, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Winchendon Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Curious Escape Rooms – Escape The Video Store [Review]

Rewind.

Location: Fitchburg, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket, student discounts available

Story & setting

We stepped back in time to the year 1999 to investigate strange happenings at a local video rental store. Could we dig up the evidence we needed to figure out what was going down in this relic of the not-so-distant past?

In-game: The comedy section of a video rental store. Murder By Death and My Cousin Vinny are clearly staged.

From the cash register to the racks of VHS tapes, Escape The Video Store tossed us back a couple of decades and into a fixture of every American community: the independent video rental store. The set was loaded with nostalgia and pop culture (not references).

Puzzles

When we played Curious Escape Rooms’ first game, The Dollhouse, we sped through it. Escape The Video Store was a considerably more challenging game with layers of complexity, team-based puzzles, and a lot to accomplish.

In-game: A cash register at the checkout station of the video rental. There is a big cardboard pop up for Pinocchio.

Standouts

Curious Escape Rooms outfitted Escape The Video Store with authentic props. I’m hard-pressed to think of things in the escape room – aside from hidden mechanisms and electronics – that were not born of the 1990s.

In-game: A shot of the the TV on VHS section. The Doctor Who videos are most clearly visible, along with a poster for Twin Peaks.

The puzzling in Escape The Video Store was challenging and fair… and there was a lot of it.

While the set was busy and searching was a core component of this escape room, we weren’t bogged down with endless searching drudgery. Whenever we were searching, we had well-defined targets, and we knew when we had found them. In a set that could have housed endless red herrings, the game flowed well.

Shortcomings

Curious Escape Rooms could dramatically improve Escape The Video Store with cleaner, more precise construction and execution. If they were to hide housed technology, make cuts, and finish materials with a little more care, their set design could start to shine.

Escape The Video Store relied heavily on paper. Although well presented, this escape room could be so much more if the puzzling were more deeply embedded into the set and interactions.

Should I play Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store?

Anyone who has ever said to us “I don’t have a massive budget so I can’t make good games” has heard about Curious Escape Rooms. They have been our go-to example for a small team, operating on a low budget, in a small town, that produces interesting and worthy escape rooms by steering into their strengths. Escape The Video Store was another example of this type of design and a surprisingly different experience from the previous escape room we played with them.

In Escape The Video Store, Curious Escape Rooms built a nostalgia-fueled challenging puzzle game that I absolutely recommend for experienced players.

Newbies could take on the video store, but I think that they would enjoy it more if they weren’t learning escape room basics at the same time. I’d recommend picking up a little experience before stepping into this time warp.

If you were born after 2000… prepare to experience bewilderment at what passed for technology in the not-so-distant past.

Book your hour with Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Curious Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

 

13th Gate Escape – The Collector [Review]

“Ooooh that smell…”

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We slowly came to our senses in the bottom of a deep, dark well. The last thing that we remembered was attempting to help a stranded stranger struggling with engine trouble when someone struck us in the backs of our heads. It was life or death. Could we escape?

The Collector was a horror game produced by a haunt company. We started at the bottom of a massive well. I’m not sure what the vertical height was, but this was a tall game. Tall, and detailed, and grim.

In-game: A room lit red with bodies wrapped up and hanging from the ceiling.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

13th Gate Escape used appropriate and not necessarily pleasant odors to add depth to the experience.

Puzzles

The Collector combined search and observation with more sustained, hands-on puzzling. It included challenges designed for both individuals and teammates.

The Collector was at its very best when it was tactile.

Standouts

The gamespace was magnificent. It was unnecessarily expansive and thus all the more foreboding. By incorporating lighting, sounds, and smells, along with the set construction, 13th Gate created an unforgettable stage and just enough story for The Collector.

The breadth of the set enabled an exciting and memorable mid-game transition. We loved this.

One early puzzle was just tricky enough to be humorous, and also challenging.

We enjoyed a number of late-game puzzles that required us to interact with the eerie set and props. There were multiple satisfying puzzle moments.

The villain in The Collector was injected via audio, and his dialogue was amusing.

Shortcomings

The Collector got off to a slow start, in part because of a lack of gating. We spent considerable time on puzzles before they were truly open to us.

At times, the puzzles in The Collector lacked clue structure. This was more pronounced for less narrative-driven puzzling.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector?

The Collector was imposing. I can’t think of another escape room company that has used vertical height and overwhelming scale like 13th Gate Escape. When mixed with the level of detail applied to every nook of the set, this experience came to life in a way that most “murder basement”-style games do not achieve.

If you like or are even ok with horror experiences, The Collector is worth experiencing simply because there’s nothing else like it. It’s beginner friendly with approachable puzzles, and novel in a way that will appeal to even the most jaded of escape room players.

Note that mobility is a factor in The Collector. At least one or two players will need to crawl, and there are some stairs to climb.

See if you can claw your way out of the well.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

RISE Escape Rooms – Spellbound [Review]

Like True Blood, but with more puzzles and less sex.

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 6-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Recurring dreams and visions drew us to this rundown and abandoned witches’ den. The High Priestess had summoned us to a forlorn home where we had to gain entry, decipher spells, and discover all that we needed to end the Vampire Patriarch before he arose from his 200-year slumber and reignited his war against the witches.

In-game: An old, dramatically lit house on the bayou. A locked truck sits in the center of the room with a glowing fireplace and lit candles in the background.
Image via RISE Escape Rooms

Spellbound was dark and grim. It never turned into a horror experience, but it also showcased some of RISE Escape Room’s roots in the haunt industry.

The set was beautifully weathered and detailed with tons of nooks to explore. The set design was top-tier.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Spellbound felt magical. When we interacted with the set and props, the escape room responded.

The earlier puzzles were generally self-contained. Spellbound built to multiple complex, layered puzzles.

Standouts

Spellbound was gorgeous. From the eerie outdoor porch, to the mystical inner space, Spellbound was a beautiful, engaging, and immersive space.

The locking mechanisms contributed to the feel of the space. Both the old-timey key locks and the magical tech-driven opens made each interaction – and all forward progress – a part of the world of Spellbound.

RISE Escape Rooms took a common escape room puzzle and put their own dark twist on it, transforming it into something far more compelling. This example demonstrated how it can be beneficial to take an old concept and cast a new light upon it.

Spellbound also used another common escape room trope, but augmented it such that it still presented a challenge even if you thought you knew how to do it at first contact.

RISE Escape Rooms manipulated space such that seemingly normal transitions would then yield exciting reveals and transitions later in the escape room.

Spellbound built to a badass conclusion.

Shortcomings

At times, Spellbound suffered from symbol overload.

In the dim light of Spellbound, it wasn’t always clear when we’d solved something. RISE Escape Rooms could add more feedback, through light and sound, or maybe through more magical effects, which would help keep the puzzling on track and contribute to the ambiance.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound?

Yes… if you have some prior escape room experience.

Spellbound was masterfully designed by a team who really gets escape rooms. It looked amazing, played smoothly, put smart twists on established puzzle types, and created a strong sense of adventure.

The catch here: if you don’t have any prior experience, you’ll get lost and miss everything that’s special about Spellbound. RISE Escape Rooms’ website flat out says, “DO NOT BOOK THIS GAME IF IT IS YOUR FIRST ESCAPE EXPERIENCE.” They are right and I respect their willingness to make this point clear to their customers.

If you’re an experienced player visiting New Orleans or Baton Rouge, it is worth finding a car or some means of transportation to Tickfaw, Louisiana. RISE Escape Rooms will not let you down.

If you’re a newbie, go play a few room escapes and level up so that you can explore the world of Spellbound. RISE Escape Room has two other fantastic games that would be perfect games for building up your skills (reviews to come).

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – November 12, 2017

We didn’t get to play too many local rooms in October with running our Tour of NYC and  trips to Boston, Louisiana, and Poland. We are looking forward to playing new local rooms this month!

REA Round Up logo with an up arrow atop the letter d.

Announcements

We will release our 2017 Holiday Buyer’s Guide soon. Get ahead of the holidays by revisiting last year’s gift recommendations.

Read David’s thoughts on WroEscape, the Polish escape room conference.

Featured escape rooms

In Houston, we visited Strange Bird Immersive’s The Man from Beyond. It stands out among escape rooms. It stands out among immersive theater. It is a masterful combination of the two genres.

On his brief stopover in London, David played Time Run’s The Celestial ChainThe pacing, intensity, and beauty of this game was remarkable.

Featured products

Looking for a shortcut to running your escape games? Escape Room Boss will frustrate your players to no end.

From the community

Darren Miller made a Halloween puzzle that we’re posting a bit late. It’s fun and you should try to solve it.

The honey badger is a room escape master: