60 Out – Da Vinci’s Secret [Review]

That’s one big cryptex.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: December 1, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: It’s complicated

REA Reaction

We enjoyed Da Vinci’s Secret’s interesting and inventive puzzles. We wished 60 Out had focused a little more on evening out the scale of the space and conveying adventure. That said, we puzzled through some neat devices, which felt appropriately Da Vinci.

Da Vinci’s Secret came highly recommended; it was a good escape room, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with a least some experience

Why play?

  • Inventive puzzles
  • Giant cryptex
  • Tongue-in-cheek tone

Story

Upon the death of Leonardo da Vinci, his final mystery was bequeathed to his favorite student, Salai: A room filled with unusual puzzles. Could we unravel the clues and learn the secrets left behind by the Renaissance master?

That's one big cryptex.

Setting

The setting of Da Vinci’s Secret was earthy in tone. It had an assortment of artwork from Leonardo and a gigantic cryptex-like device under a glowing stained glass window. Most other props were small, made from wood, and frequently laser cut with intricate patterns.

Gameplay

Da Vinci’s Secret ran 75 minutes and was entirely focused on puzzling. While there wasn’t much adventure or intensity to speak of, it did offer a wide range of puzzle types.

Standouts

Da Vinci’s Secret included some intriguing set pieces. There was the giant cryptex, of course, as well as a few other interesting pieces to manipulate or observe.

When we solved puzzles, Da Vinci’s Secret responded with fanfare. We enjoyed this playful feedback. We’ve played many Da Vinci-themed escape rooms, but never one as tongue-in-cheek as 60 Out’s.

60 Out created some challenging and satisfying puzzles that encouraged teamwork and cooperation.

We enjoyed the cohesive, laser-cut aesthetic of most of the props in Da Vinci’s Secret.

Shortcomings

The linear gameplay in Da Vinci’s Secret became frustrating because the escape room wasn’t appropriately gated. Many of the most interesting props were available for exploration long before we had the clues to solve them. New players, especially, will likely get hung up spending too much times on items they can’t yet solve.

The scale of this game felt off. The space was large, but the majority of the props were small. Especially when juxtaposed with something like a giant cryptex, the other props felt dwarfed by the largely unadorned gamespace. The set looked fine, but somehow it seem imbalanced.

Tips for Visiting

  • This 60 Out location has free parking around back.
  • There weren’t a lot of great food options in the neighborhood. Plan accordingly.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Da Vinci’s Secret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out provided media discounted tickets for this game.

The Unlockables – The Escape [Review]

Escape the crates.

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 3, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket, minimum purchase of 4 tickets

REA Reaction

This was an escape room for enthusiasts by an enthusiast. We had a ton of fun.

The Unlockables chose the right theme to build up their escape room knowhow: the homemade, hacked-together construction, combined with a dramatic opening, large gamespace, and puzzle-driven gameplay, fostered the adrenaline and urgency of a serial killer escape. While the gameplay in The Escape didn’t quite evolve enough to support the narrative shift, this didn’t dampen the energy or excitement of the experience.

Who is this for?

  • Players with a least some experience
  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Horror fans
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Players who are not claustrophobic

Why play?

  • Dramatic opening sequence
  • Intensity
  • Hacked-together serial killer vibe
  • Fun puzzles

Story

While attending a lavish Southern California party, we were invited to the VIP area. Tragically there was no VIP area. We were kidnapped, blindfolded, handcuffed, and locked in a grim place.

In-game: A massive blood covered maze and a gory circular sawblade.

Setting

The Escape felt like a serial killer’s warehouse. The space was unadorned, hacked-together, foreboding, and just a bit creepy. As we opened up more of the gamespace, it felt more homey, but not comfortably cozy.

Gameplay

Incorporating both solo and collaborative puzzling through non-linear gameplay across a large gamespace, The Escape hinged on successful communication.

The Unlockables built some puzzles into the physical gamespace and they’ve worked to convert their more paper-based, layered puzzles into larger, more interactive challenges. The effort showed and was well worth it.

In-game: A series of red, orange, and blue switches with strange letter/number codes beneath.

Standouts

From the first moments, The Escape built up adrenaline. We don’t see many escape rooms where blindfolds make sense. In The Escape they were both necessary and handled well. The blindfolds added intensity to the opening puzzle sequence and set the tone for this kidnapping escape.

The Escape balanced individual thinking with collaborative puzzling. The time and space allotted to these different types of challenges were deliberate and logical throughout.

The puzzles in The Escape flowed well.

In-game: A wooden wall lit with a light bulb. The wall has a bloody handprint.

The Unlockables created a space that continually instilled an urgency of escape. As it became familiar, it never felt fully discovered or comfortable.

The Unlockables had complete control over the technology in The Escape. When one interaction malfunctioned during our playthough, they manually overrode their system and triggered it to occur differently. We never knew they’d had a problem.

Shortcomings

The Escape had a hacked together feel. While this unpolished look generally worked for the scenario, it didn’t function seamlessly. The Escape suffered from wear on their less sturdy construction.

The Escape included a number of paper-style puzzles. While The Unlockables had made strides to remove paper or better integrate their puzzles into the set, they still had a ways to go. Particularly for this adventure-style escape room, we’d love to seem them continue to shift toward more physically interactive challenges.

One puzzle suffered from reliance on color perception in low lighting.

When the straightforward narrative shifted dramatically later in the escape room, it felt forced. The Escape couldn’t support its narrative arc. To achieve this, The Unlockables would have to shift the late-game aesthetic and gameplay from what had come before.

Tips for Visiting

  • The opening sequence varied considerably for each player on the team. Some players will have more challenging beginnings than others.
  • Note that The Escape involved some crawling, small spaces, low lighting, and color perception. The Unlockables made this abundantly clear on their website. Contact them if you have any concerns about booking.
  • The Unlockables is located upstairs, in a plaza with plenty of parking.
  • There are plenty of dining options nearby; we enjoyed the Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon.

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

Disclosure: The Unlockables provided media discounted tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – January 14, 2017

Greetings from the MIT Mystery Hunt in Boston!

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

Featured Escape Rooms

San Diego: Steal and Escape lovingly crafted Mysterious Stranger to surprise and delight players of all experience levels. It drew on well established, successful gameplay tactics and combined these with original concepts. While it was search-heavy, search solves were unusually rewarding.

Something Different

Why would you ever offer a refund? We explored how selective refunds could grow your business.

Featured Products

The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland delivered interactive fiction to our home. It would be great for anyone looking to sink their teeth into a mystery, in episodic installments over a period of time. If you’re looking for more focused puzzling and gameplay, this won’t be for you.

REA Classic of the Week

November 19, 2014:  The Couple Trap. Remind new teammates to avoid this hazard.

From the Community

New Englanders: While the good folks from Boxaroo are still closed, on February 3rd they’ll be running a puzzle event, The Perfect Heist Part 1: The Plan. I wish we could make it to this one.

A few weeks ago we reviewed (and loved) Gorogoa. If you enjoyed it, this long read on its design process is a must read.

Finally, this is kind of insane:

Growing Your Escape Room Through Selective Refunds

No one likes to give a refund.

Why should anyone get to partake in the experience and keep their money?

When a refund is really credit

Every room escape company regularly encounters the “guy whose grandma just died” and cannot make it to his booking. The odds are really good that this guy is just a flake and his grandma has passed away a few dozen times since grade school.

However, all of his friends just showed up and they would really appreciate it if you could refund their friend.

This is a great opportunity for a room escape company. You have a nearly full room (minus one flake) and the chance to create goodwill. Grant this guy credit for his ticket. His friends will feel great about your company before they even start their game and he will feel relieved that he isn’t out his money

An escape room is team game. He will likely have to round up a bunch more friends to use the credit. You’ll earn new customers out of this gesture.

If Mr. Flakey doesn’t use his credit, his cash never left your pocket anyway.

Nothing lost and quite a bit gained.

Stylized black and white image of a lock with a wad of $20 bills in its shackle. The lock's key protrudes from the other end.

When things go horribly wrong

In live action entertainment, sometimes things fall apart, literally or figuratively.

If you have a major prop, set-piece, or puzzle fail on a team, be ready with some offer of compensation.

Refund half or all of their money or offer them their next game on the house. Don’t make your players ask.

While it’s no fun to lose some of your ticket revenue, consider your customers’ perspective: They only get to experience your game once. They didn’t get what they paid for and there isn’t any do-over.

Actively protect your players from bad experiences

Some of the worst player experiences are completely foreseeable and avoidable. Train your staff to recognize them and stop them before they happen.

Bad experiences are more likely in public ticketed escape rooms. Consider the following two examples:

Drunks in ticketed games

Drunk or high players will likely cause problems, especially in public ticket games.

Sometimes (frequently in later bookings on weekends) players show up under the influence. These players are more likely to damage your property. They are also more likely to wreck the experience for other players who had the bad luck to buy tickets for the same escape room.

Be mindful that your players only get to experience your game once. Eject the offending players. Your ticket purchasing page should clearly state that, “players are to show up sober.” Enforce the rule. Protect your good customers and protect your property.

As for the ejected players, I’d recommend handling credit on a case-by-case basis.

Children in ticketed games

Mixing families with children in with strangers may cause problems.

Kids can be a ton of fun to escape a room with, but it should be by choice.

A group of adults who may have hired babysitters to look after their own kids so that they can enjoy an escape room should not be randomly forced into a room with someone else’s kids. This can lead to a subpar experience for all involved.

Sell adult and kids tickets. If someone wants to buy kids tickets, then that room should be made into a private game. Don’t risk it.

Sore losing

Occasionally you’re going to encounter some crybabies. These tend to be entitled players who overestimated their abilities and are angry that they lost.

These people get nothing except a smile and an invitation to come back and try again. There’s no crying in room escaping.

Escape rooms are challenging; that’s half the fun. How many experiences are out there where it’s even possible to fail? Don’t intellectually rubberize your room. Don’t reward the whiners. Make it clear up front during the booking process that failure is possible or even probable. This won’t stop the sore losers from doing their thing, but it will make it easier to politely shut them down.

Create enthusiasts

Every room escape company needs to create passionate repeat players. The room escape industry needs lots of repeat players if it’s going to be a viable, longterm form of entertainment.

Screw ups happen. If you make your customers pay for problems outside of their own control, they will be less likely to ever return to any escape room, let alone yours.

Refunds and other forms of compensation are a matter of customer service. You want your customers to have a good time so that they become repeat customers. You want them to have such a good time that they seek out more experiences like those you offer, until you design more for them to come back and enjoy.

Cultivate a love of these games and you will profit.

Sometimes returning money today leads to a more profitable tomorrow.

Time of Mysteries – No Trespassing [Review]

Polish title: Wstęp wzbroniony

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 złoty per group (approximately $34)

Story & setting

While hiking through the woods we wandered onto the property of some angry hunters. They locked us in their cabin for trespassing. We had to escape before they decided what to do with us.

In-game: Animal skills and pelts mounted to the wooden walls of a cabin.

No Trespassing was staged in a menacing hunting cabin. The wood-and-earth-tone aesthetic was instantly recognizable and identical to what a North American would expect of a hunting cabin.

Gameplay

No Trespassing was a puzzle game from start to finish. A couple of the puzzles were surprisingly challenging.

Standouts

The aesthetics of the first room captured the evil hunting cabin look.

No Trespassing was a solid puzzle game. There was one especially challenging puzzle that resolved with a good aha moment. We really had to earn it.

The English translations worked well. The story didn’t read perfectly, but it conveyed the information and puzzles well. Everything was translated into English except for the final message, which did not matter as we knew we’d won.

Shortcomings

In one instance, Time of Mysteries relied on color as a critical indicator, but it was far too difficult to differentiate. It became a guessing game.

Aesthetically No Trespassing’s quality dropped later in the escape room.

The story, much like the set, didn’t go anywhere.

There was no finale or memorable late-game moment.

Should I play Time of Mysteries’s No Trespassing?

No Trespassing was an entertaining puzzle game, albeit uneven. I enjoyed myself even while feeling like some aspects of this escape room could be refined into something considerably more special.

No Trespassing is playable by players of all skill levels. There were a few puzzles scattered throughout the escape room that anyone might struggle with, regardless of experience. If you put in the effort and can’t make progress there’s no shame in taking a hint.

If you are up to the challenge, go trespassing.

Book your hour with Time of Mysteries’s No Trespassing, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Cycloptic Media – The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland [Review]

“Let’s keep opening packages until it makes sense.”

Location: at home

Date Played: December 19, 2017

Team size: we recommend 1-4

Duration: at least a few hours and up to several weeks

Price: $56.50 for the full version; $47.50 the abridged version

REA Reaction

The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland delivered interactive fiction to our home. It would be great for anyone looking to sink their teeth into a mystery, in episodic installments over a period of time. If you’re looking for more focused puzzling and gameplay, this won’t be for you.

Who is this for?

  • Crime drama fans
  • Mystery readers
  • The interactive fiction curious
  • People who want to sink their teeth into a story
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • It’s more than just reading/watching a story unfold.
  • The puzzles have context and purpose.
  • The ending.

Story

A mysterious stranger had contacted us about the disappearance of Julie Harrison, a high school student in Moore County, Vermont. We needed to uncover the circumstances and truth behind this event.

In-game: An assortment of newspaper clippings, cards, pamphlets, and photos from the game.

Setting

There were two options for The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland:

  • The full experience included 18 to 20 letters and packages received by mail over two months.
  • The abridged version included 18 letters and packages mailed in one box.

We received the abridged version.

An assortment of Decoder Ring packages. There are all types of packages all individually numbered.

The letters and packages contained mostly paper and a few more tangible objects. Some contents directed us to various websites as well. The printed materials were cleanly designed and more polished than many play-at-home experiences. That said, the design choices didn’t help convey story.

Gameplay

We opened each sealed envelope/package one at a time, in numerical order. We thoroughly investigated the contents of each one before opening another. Sometimes the packages contained puzzles or parts of puzzles. Sometimes they directed us to other interactive content. Other times they filled in more of the story.

Generally the puzzles built over multiple packages.

Standouts

The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland was interactive fiction. It presented a mystery for us to solve. It was both a story and a puzzle… but it gave a lot more story than it did puzzles.

The tangible elements were most fun to explore. We especially enjoyed solving one item based on the knowledge we’d accrued about the character it had belonged to. It was a satisfying puzzle sequence.

We loved the opening puzzle. It was by far the most puzzle-y moment of the experience.

We enjoyed solving puzzles that unlocked bits of the story. These gave us feedback, so we knew we’d completed a gameplay/narrative thread.

The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland told a cohesive story. The tidbits we received piecemeal all came together in the end.

The conclusion of the narrative was amusing.

Shortcomings

While the puzzles resolved to closure, the individual packages did not. Sometimes we’d explore a new package thoroughly and learn bits of story, but not take any actions. In those instances we never knew whether we should move ahead. Had we found all there was to find?

The episodic reveals could also be frustrating in terms of gating. Sometimes we’d be waiting on a particular item that we knew was coming so that we could solve a puzzle that had already been set up. It was anticlimactic to receive an item that we knew we needed 10 packages after we’d figured out that we needed it.

A web-based interaction was delayed. We received a response more than a week after submitting answers. At that point, we were no longer engaged with that part of the story. For the abridged version, this was particularly problematic because we could choose to move ahead to other content.

The materials were middle-of-the-road, in terms of production value. They could have been more detailed. Generally speaking, the physical materials added little to the narrative or feel of the experience.

While the story came together in the end, we had to work hard to follow it through the different packages. There were too many characters to keep track of, especially since they all developed at different times, in different ways. Even when we solved plot threads, we never felt we had a handle on the overarching story. This was especially strange in light of the ending reveal.

Tips for Purchasing

  • There are two versions: The Full Experience and The Abridged Version. The Full Experience includes an extra unlockable mailing that is delivered digitally in the Abridged version. In the Full Experience, one mailing is timed based on when a certain plot thread is solved. Additionally, the Full Experience includes some personalization that the Abridged Version lacks. When deciding which version to purchase, consider these differences as well as whether you’d rather receive the content over time or in one fell swoop.
  • If you play by the rules, you will not be able to solve this game in one night.

Purchase Cycloptic Media’s The Decoder Ring Organization Season One: Roland, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Cycloptic Media comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escapism – Gallery 3919 [Review]

A colorful mission.

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 4, 2017

Team size: 1-12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket, purchasing 8 tickets makes the game private

REA Reaction

Gallery 3919 would be a fun and exciting entry point into escape rooms.

Gallery 3919 overlaid standard escape room gameplay with some exciting twists. Considering how long Escapism has been running this game, it was ahead of its time. While it sometimes tripped up on puzzle flow, puzzling through it was generally a lot of fun.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Families
  • Best for beginners

Why play?

  • Original art turned into puzzles
  • Fun twists

Story

We were summoned to an art gallery by a clandestine organization and given a training mission to either initiate or expel us.

In-game: A key covered hour glass sculpture in the middle of an art gallery. Massive colorful paintings hang in the background.

Setting

Gallery 3919 was a typically white gallery with colorful, original art on the walls. The staging also included a variety of unadorned pedestals displaying sculpture.

The large space was neither busy or bare.

Gameplay

Gallery 3919 was a traditional escape room.

Much of the puzzling was hidden within the art. We needed to make connections between artwork, unlocked items, and the locked spaces.

Standouts

The art in Gallery 3919 was original. We didn’t know the pieces or what secrets they might be hiding.

Escapism set up the experience such that their unassuming set would change. Escapism employed techniques that delivered the effects dramatically. This was an older game and in choosing these methods, Escapism was ahead of the curve.

Escapism assigned a few roles before we entered The Gallery. While their selection method felt random, it gave them a bit of control over key interactions for extra safety precaution.

The Gallery followed a narrative arc.

Shortcomings

While Escapism created overarching narrative, we didn’t experience it through the puzzles. The puzzles were disconnected from the purpose of our adventure. In general, The Gallery struggled against escape room logic where solutions only made sense in the context of a room of puzzles.

Most puzzle solutions led to a lock. There were a lot of locks, some of which were not clearly connected to their partner puzzles. It could be challenging to ascertain exactly where to input a solution.

One interaction required a substantial amount of force. More experienced players who tend to be delicate with props and sets will likely be tripped up here. We lost a lot of time despite having the right idea.

One of the coolest interactions would benefit from a locking mechanism to hold it in place after it has been used. In its current state, it could move unexpectedly as players move through the gamespace.

Tips for Visiting

  • Prepare for street parking; bring quarters.
  • There are lots of restaurants in the vicinity. The burgers and shakes at Burger Lounge were yummy.

Book your hour with Escapism’s Gallery 3919, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapism comped our tickets for this game.

Red Lantern Escape Rooms – Midnight on the Bayou [Review]

Strange stuff happens at high school reunions.

Location: Brea, CA

Date played: December 3, 2017

Team size: 4-12; we recommend 5-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket weekdays, $35 per ticket weekends

REA Reaction

The majestic and whimsical set surprised and captivated us.

Red Lantern Escape Rooms created a challenging multithreaded puzzle through an intimate story in a region where we haven’t seen many non-linear, puzzle-centric escape rooms.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Story seekers
  • People who skipped their high school reunion due to a lack of puzzles
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A surprisingly expansive open set that felt festive
  • A well-told story
  • Non-linear gameplay

Story

We arrived at our high school reunion (Go Possums!). The reunion committee strangely decided to host the carnival-themed event swamp-side on the Boudreau’s property, the site of a barn fire that had claimed the lives of five of our classmates. What could possibly go wrong?

In-game: A duck hunt and ring toss carnival game on a boardwalk lit festively at night.

Setting

Red Lantern Escape Rooms built a sprawling party space and boardwalk for Midnight on the Bayou. Upon walking in, the large open space caught us all off guard with its high ceilings and cohesive yet varied design. The space felt just a bit majestic.

Gameplay

In keeping with its large-scale design, Midnight on the Bayou was a non-linear escape room with multiple paths of puzzles to solve. There was a lot to discover about this game.

The event’s bartender, the in-room gamemaster, facilitated the festivities. He largely stayed out of our way and let us enjoy the reunion, only stepping in when he recognized a need.

Standouts

We were immediately struck by the expansive set of Midnight on the Bayou. It was whimsical and beautiful.

Our reunion bartender introduced the staging elegantly. He directed our attention to specific details. He delivered a backstory that was serious, but playful.

In Midnight on the Bayou, we puzzled through the stories of our high school classmates. Their characters developed through the puzzling and the puzzles supported their characters. This mechanic of separate puzzle paths worked well.

We enjoyed the culmination of one character’s puzzle, which really captured high school memories.

The hint system made sense in the setting. The excellent voice acting provided fun nudges, while further developing the various characters.

Shortcomings

Red Lantern Escape Room created puzzling paths where elements connected one to the next and searching was directed. In one instance, we found the searching too vaguely clued. We never would have found – or, given the play structure, even have searched for – that important item without heavy-handed hinting.

One puzzle really bugged us. None of our teammates was able to decode the solution even though we determined the exact solve method immediately. We eventually hacked it with puzzling experience.

We misinterpreted one clue as implying that certain puzzle components would be solved in a specific order, which tripped us up for a while. It turned out that we went through a whole song and dance for nothing. Minor rewording could smooth this over.

Given the parallel puzzle structure of Midnight on the Bayou, it would be possible to achieve a terribly anticlimactic ending… which would be a bummer.

Midnight on the Bayou contained one large set piece that was just a set piece. While Red Lantern Escape Room does have future plans for this construction, in its current form it’s a large and disappointing red herring.

Tips for Visiting

  • They have ample free parking.
  • For a sweet reward, check out the lobby puzzle.

Book your hour with Red Lantern Escape Rooms’ Midnight on the Bayou, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Red Lantern Escape Rooms provided comped tickets for this game.

Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN: Room Escape Recommendations

Escape rooms are a fantastic indoor activity to avoid the cold winters of Minnesota. They are also a great activity if you’re finding the beautiful summers just a little too perfect.

Here are our favorite escape rooms in the Twin Cities. They are split into categories because we <3 nuance.

1st Building

Market standouts

If you only have time for a few games, play these:

  1. Utopia, Riddle Room
  2. The Vault, PuzzleWorks
  3. Gold Rush, The Escape Game (played and reviewed in Orlando)
  4. Very Potter Escape, Trapped Puzzle Rooms
  5. Ruin Raiders, Missing Pieces Escape Games
  6. Professor Jones’ Office, Lock and Key Escape Rooms

Set & scenery-driven adventures

Puzzle-centric

Tech-heavy

Newbie-friendly

You are always welcome to contact us if this recommendation list doesn’t answer your specific questions.

Steal and Escape – Mysterious Stranger [Review]

I thought my neighbors were difficult.

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 4, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket, minimum purchase of 3 tickets

REA Reaction

Mysterious Stranger was an intimate escape room.

Steal and Escape lovingly crafted Mysterious Stranger to surprise and delight players of all experience levels. It drew on well-established, successful gameplay tactics and combined these with original concepts. While it was search-heavy, search solves were unusually rewarding.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Inventive puzzles
  • Surprises
  • Great execution
  • An amazing lobby puzzle (not kidding)

Story

Our quiet night was disrupted when we received a phone call from Government agents. They had detained our neighbor and believed that he was in possession of a device that would destroy America before they got there to stop it. They demanded that we break into his home and steal the weapon before it could turn the Cold War hot.

Setting

Mysterious Stranger was a break-in game. We began outside of our neighbor’s home, and had to find our way inside.

In-game: A front yard at night. A locked red toolbox sits in front of an ivy covered white picket fence.

Once within, we found ourselves exploring a home from roughly the 1970s, complete with the color pallet that has been the butt of many a joke.

Gameplay

Mysterious Stranger was a puzzle-driven escape room with a lot of interactions built into the set. One key difference: instead of escaping a room, we were breaking into one.

Mysterious Stranger also involved a lot of searching, but it was a lot more clever than in most escape rooms. When we found things we felt accomplished.

Standouts

The unexpected opening set up a sense of adventure. This was complemented by exceptional voiceovers.

Steal and Escape hid secrets well. Much of the intrigue was in uncovering oddities. While this may be an older, search-heavy style of gameplay, it was executed in a such a way that it was interesting and entertaining even for seasoned players.

The puzzling also relied substantially on mechanical and physical interactions. When Steal and Escape needed paper-style cluing, they found tangible ways to connect them to the environment.

In-game: A desk with a typewriter.

Our favorite puzzle sequence traversed set pieces that had initially seemed unrelated, and resulted in an unexpected open.

Mysterious Stranger required us to make a choice with consequences.

The lobby puzzle that is available before this game was fantastic.

Shortcomings

Mysterious Stranger could feel cramped. While there was a lot to puzzle through, the layout of the space made it hard to involve too many people.

Mysterious Stranger looked aged. While this was stylistic and deliberated, at times the game also showed signs of wear.

We didn’t internalize enough context from playing through the story to make an informed decision. Thus the choice wasn’t as impactful as it should have been.

Tips for Visiting

  • Steal and Escape had a fantastic mini game in a room off lobby. Get there early and play it.
  • Steal and Escape had ample free parking and plenty of dining options in the area.

Book your hour with Steal and Escape’s Mysterious Stranger, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Steal and Escape comped our tickets for this game.