QUEST ROOM – Bloody Elbow [Review]

“It’s the Inquisition, what a show!”

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: December 1, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4 (see below)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $99 for 2 players, $129 for 3, $159 for 4, $179 for 5, $199 for 6

REA Reaction

Bloody Elbow was a fun adventure. We recommend it for experienced players.

It looked fantastic. However, a communicative audio track combined with a set lean on feedback made portions of the game difficult to follow. QUEST ROOM played a little looser with force and safety than we’d prefer… but through this Bloody Elbow instilled an urgency of escape.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Immersive set design
  • Thematic interactions
  • Intensity

Story

Locked up as a heretic in the 14th Century, we awaited slow, gory, and creative deaths at the hand of a sadistic executioner who went by the name, “Bloody Elbow.”

In-game: A dark dungeon environment with a bloody torture table.

Setting

We began our game isolated and restrained in the inquisitor’s dungeon. This was not a happy place. It was dark, bloody, and filled with torture devices. QUEST ROOM built a fairly detailed set.

Gameplay

Bloody Elbow was driven by set interaction and player resourcefulness.

Isolation and restraint played a critical role in the early game.

The puzzling was built around manipulating the objects that we found, in one instance by exerting a lot more force than one would typically expect in an escape room. Our gamemaster did warn us in advance, but the required action still surprised us.

Standouts

QUEST ROOM constructed a medieval torture chamber as the set for Bloody Elbow. It was intense, interactive, and exciting to explore.

Bloody Elbow felt like an adventure. As the escape room progressed and we discovered new interactions, we had to act resourcefully. This was especially satisfying and felt realistic.

QUEST ROOM integrated the hinting system with the experience. It felt clandestine and contributed to the adventure vibe.

In order to escape Bloody Elbow we had to manipulate the set and props in some unexpected ways. One invigorating interaction required force.

Shortcomings

This one more forceful interaction had a few drawbacks: It appeared so early that it could teach players to disrespect QUEST ROOM’s beautiful set. We were hung up on it for quite a while because we didn’t believe we should apply the level of force that it required. Additionally, the prop involved could cause serious injury to a player who mishandles it. This could be improved by having an interaction that “eats” the prop after its used.

While we liked the hint mechanism, it competed with the audio soundtrack. We found this frustrating.

Bloody Elbow had a light touch with interaction feedback. We didn’t always know what we’d triggered or revealed.

It’s hard to recommend a team size for Bloody Elbow. Too many players means that some folks will spend quite a bit of time waiting on their teammates without any way to contribute. Too few players will create red herrings.

Tips for Visiting

  • QUEST ROOM doesn’t have traditional signage, but they do have a massive mural on their facade. We Instagramed it. By the way, we’re on Instagram.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to this escape room.
  • QUEST ROOM’s first two games were very different from one another: While Bloody Elbow was an intense adventure with some puzzles, Da Vinci’s Challenge was a puzzle game with some adventure. Choose wisely.

Book your hour with QUEST ROOM’s Bloody Elbow, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: QUEST ROOM comped our tickets for this game.

Boss-Play Escape Rooms – The Chocolate Factory [Review]

Let’s rob Wonka!

Location: Oceanside, CA

Date played: December 3, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket public booking, $34 per ticket private booking

REA Reaction

Boss-Play Escape Rooms’ homage to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was an awesome, family-friendly puzzle game.

The Chocolate Factory had a whimsical set and interactive puzzles referencing key moments of the film. While homemade and at times messy, it turned one of my favorite movies into a charming and playfully escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Willy Wonka fans
  • Sugar addicts
  • Oompa Loompas
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Nostalgia
  • Movie call-backs
  • Interactive puzzles
  • A bright and playful environment

Story

With coveted golden tickets in our hands, we approached the mysterious factory of a hermitic candy maker. Prior to our entry, a rival candyman had offered us a reward to steal a secret recipe while touring the famous facility.

In-game: A Wonka-esque factory with green grass, brick walls, and lollypops growing from the ground.

Setting

We entered a candy land… with oversized lollypops as landscaping in front of a chocolate river. Brightly colored pipes  traversed the set to give the place a factory vibe.

Gameplay

The Chocolate Factory was created in the image of the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The puzzles, set and gameplay all pulled from the classic film.

The puzzles traversed the larger props and set pieces, requiring us to touch, position, and manipulate these items. The puzzling was hands-on and interactive.

In-game: A wall of fudge made to look like a chocolate waterfall flowing into a river of chocolate.

Standouts

Knowledge of the source material made The Chocolate Factory both predictable and unexpected.

Boss-Play Escape Rooms’ take on that familiar but imaginary space was seriously entertaining. We especially enjoyed the final puzzle sequence and the resulting recreated “magical” effect. Half of the fun was seeing how they would achieve something that we knew was coming.

Boss-Play Escape Rooms surprised us with an innovative transition that threw us for a loop.

The mechanical puzzles in The Chocolate Factory were entertaining to play with and satisfying to solve.

Boss-Play Escape Rooms focused on the details that delivered the magical and playful aesthetic. This especially came through in the larger, deliberately designed and handmade set pieces.

Shortcomings

At times the handmade aesthetic looked too unpolished. That river of chocolate… Let’s just say that it looked more like Augustus Gloop had already digested it.

Boss-Play Escape Rooms could cut some paper from the escape room and better integrate instructions into the set itself.

One set key piece was needlessly messy and distracting to rummage through.

One sour note was a puzzle clued such that we misinterpreted the task as far more challenging than it really was. Not realizing we’d already solved it, we continued to spend an inordinate amount of time on it.

Gameplay stopped at a crucial transition for an experiential interlude. This was an uncomfortable and slow part of the game and the movie it was riffing off of. (Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.) We felt this whole sequence needed substantial editing as we stood there feeling the time tick off of the clock.

Tips for Visiting

  • Boss-Play Escape Rooms is located upstairs, in a plaza with plenty of parking.
  • There are plenty of dining options near Boss-Play Escape Rooms.
  • We did not have to consume any candy in this escape room, but candy was available and appreciated.
  • For peanut allergy sufferers, this escape room was nut-free.

Book your hour with Boss-Play Escape Rooms’ The Chocolate Factory, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Boss-Play Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – January 21, 2018

We love travel, but it’s good to be home for a little bit.

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

Announcements

We’re hosting a NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig. We hope you can make it!

Facebook Newsfeed changes will affect you.

Featured Escape Rooms

San Diego: The Unlockables’ The Escape was an escape room for enthusiasts by an enthusiast. We had a ton of fun.

San Diego: Quicksand Escape Games’ The Diner would be a solid entry into escape rooms. We appreciated its retro charm and puzzle flow.

Something Different

Immersive Theater: Club Drosselmeyer brought together swing dancing, a fantastic band, magic, acrobatics, puzzles, intrigue, a beautiful setting, and lots of interaction.

Featured Products

The two Deckscape games, Test Time & The Fate of London, were fun, portable, and repackable. Plus, it’s tough to argue with the price.

REA Classic of the Week

December 1, 2014: Second Room Stupor. A full 3 years later and this is still a thing we mess up.

From the Community

Meow Wolf, Santa Fe’s immersive artists’ collective experience extravaganza, has announced that they will be opening up in both Denver, Colorado, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The duo behind 2017 Golden Lock-In winning Strange Bird Immersive appeared on the Room Escape Divas podcast and talked about story in escape rooms. This was my favorite episode of their show to date.

Finally, web comic Alarmingly Bad killed it with an escape room comic:

New Record comic: The Kool Aid man being arrested in front of an escape room with a large hole in the wall.

March 7: NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig

We’ve met a lot of wonderful people who love escape rooms, puzzles, and other immersive entertainment. We’d love to get many of the locals (and anyone who happens to be in town) in the same room… just to hang out.

Please join us for our first NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig.

T-rex taxidermy in big green sunglasses and a bowtie.

When

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

7pm – 10pm

Where

Paulaner on Bowery, 265 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

RSVP

Please RSVP. We need to provide a headcount to the venue.

RSVP on Facebook or via Email (roomescapeartist@gmail.com)

Anticipated Questions

What does this event cost?

It is free to attend. We ask that you please purchase food and/or drinks from the venue, Paulaner on Bowery.

If we have more than 40 people in attendance, we’ll have a minimum spend at the restaurant. We’ll deal with that if we have to.

Do I need to RSVP?

Yes. Please RSVP (and don’t flake) so that we can give a headcount to the venue and make sure we have enough space reserved for the group.

Will there be an escape room?

Nope. This is about community. Adding an escape room would make this not free, artificially cap the numbers, and add a lot of logistics.

Will you be giving a talk?

Nope. There will be no talk and no agenda. This is simply a gathering of people who love being locked in giant puzzle adventures and want to meet other people who also wish that their arch-nemesis was The Riddler.

Is there a minimum age requirement?

Nope. If you’re under 21 you simply can’t drink alcohol. Children are welcome if accompanied by adults.

I’m an owner. Can I come?

Absolutely. We’d love to have you. Just be cool and don’t show up hard selling.

Will there be food?

We’ll be in a restaurant. If you buy it, you can eat it.

Will there be alcohol?

If the bartender will sell you booze, it’s all yours. Please drink responsibly. If you’re younger than 21, no shenanigans please.

My name is Bill and I’ve designed a nifty new puzzle. Can I bring it for people to beta test?Yup. This is also fine if your name is not Bill.

Facebook’s Newsfeed Changes & Escape Rooms

I’m not the guy who complains about every little change that every tech platform makes. I’ve been designing complex software for years and I get the complexity.

When I say that the latest Facebook Newsfeed updates are terrible, I mean it.

They are a disaster for small businesses like escape rooms.

Painting of a man holding an iPhone to his head like a gun, and social media icons shooting out the other side like blood, bone and brains.
I saw this hanging in Berlin, Germany’s Final Escape.

What’s Going On?

Mark Zuckerberg did his 50 states tour and decided that Facebook needed to focus on creating “meaningful interaction.”

He said, “We want to make sure that our products are not just fun, but are good for people.”

As a result, the newsfeed now supposedly emphasizes “friends and family” (NYTimes).

In practicality, this means:

  • Content posted by your family should appear more readily in your feed.
  • Content from Facebook Pages of companies that you’ve liked will appear less frequently.
  • News content will appear more often… so long as it’s been posted by a friend.
  • Content from Facebook groups you’ve joined will show up all over your feed.

For me personally, this means that my Facebook feed consists of humorless political postings from the people that I know, discussions from the various escape room-related Facebook groups that I’m a member of… and lots and lots and lots and lots of escape room post-game photos.

This means that I’m looking at Facebook a whole lot less. So maybe this is a good thing?

Back to the point.

What Does This Mean For Escape Rooms & Players?

Organic Reach

The organic reach of Facebook pages has been slashed.

This means that the Facebook content posted by businesses will surface naturally at a much lower rate.

Facebook wants businesses to pay to have their content surfaced. This isn’t new. While they’ve been operating this way for years, they’ve kept the organic numbers at least reasonable while regularly pummeling the page-owner with notifications about the treasures that will come if and only if they give Facebook some money to promote their content.

To me, these notifications always read like Nigerian Prince emails without the charm.

Update 11:45AM – This is a high performing post! Facebook wants money to make more people see it.

An email from the Facebook ads team suggesting that this post is high performing and that we should pay to boost its presence in Facebook.
This is not a joke.

The Effect

The Facebook user clicks “like” on pages of interest. The user is literally asking for the content. Facebook, however, algorithmically withholds it because it’s an easy chokepoint to generate revenue.

For players this means that when your favorite local escape room business announces that it has a new room, you won’t see this unless the escape room pays enough money that Facebook chooses to grace your eyeballs with the announcement.

It means that if you follow Room Escape Artist or other blogs through Facebook, you will see our content less frequently.

More importantly, it means that your local escape room businesses will likely have to spend a lot more money with Facebook to get the results that they need to operate. This will dramatically favor larger businesses who can more easily absorb the added cost.

What Can I Do About It?

You – as a player, a fan of escape rooms, and a reader of this site – have a few options to limit the damage that this shift will create:

  • Use your web browser as a browser and favorite your local escape room companies and Room Escape Artist.  Click over to them from time to time. Visit on your own terms, not because an algorithm selected the content for you.
  • Subscribe to emails. A good portion of our readership subscribes to receive emails when we publish content. Just about every escape room company out there sends out promotions and information via email.
  • If you can’t kick the Facebook habit, and believe me, I get that too… click “like,” leave a comment, or share content that you support. Boosting the signal helps.
  • Another option for those committed to Facebook is to use their oddly buried subscription feature to make sure that content is served up:

When you like a page’s content, go to the page and next to the “Like” button you’ll find the “Following” button. Click that and update your setting to “See First.”

Facebook's following dropdown, set to "Default" with "See First" highlighted.

Advice For Owners

So far, we haven’t seen a significant dip in traffic as a result of this because we’ve never put a heavy emphasis on Facebook as a distribution platform. Our feeling is that we distribute to all sensible channels and let our readers decide how they will interact with us. Facebook happens to be one channel.

Our site is built on open source technology. We distribute easily to RSS and our email subscription is simple. Our preference is that people use the website as a website because that’s the only thing we can control.

We’ve taken this approach because we don’t trust Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, and others to put our interests first. We’ll use them, but we won’t count on them.

Advertising and marketing is a lot of work. Make a conscious strategy. Don’t rely on one platform. Measure your results and refocus on the things that work. Don’t let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security with a single platform.

If one thing is certain about tech companies, it’s the promise of endless change… which may or may not be in your favor.

HURRY UP – Jumanji [Review]

Polish title: Jumanji

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 130 złoty per group (approximately $37)

Jumanji is only available in Polish. Critical puzzles require fluent Polish.

Story & setting

Inspired by the 90’s film, Jumanji sent us on an adventure whether we wanted it or not. If we didn’t win the game, the game would destroy us.

In-game: A close up of the message window on a Jumanji board. It reads, "Jumanji."

We began Jumanji in a living room, where a lovely recreation of the movie prop took center stage. From there, the adventure took us on a puzzling journey. The set was fine, but not the primary focus of this experience.

Gameplay

Jumanji was puzzle-focused with minimal technology and set dressing. The escape room was at its best when those puzzles were tactile.

Standouts

The Jumanji board was compelling. I found myself wishing that we could do more with it.

There were quite a few solid puzzles in Jumanji. I enjoyed the tactile puzzles most.

Shortcomings

I found the set underwhelming. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t inspiring either. I never felt like I was sucked into a grand adventure.

Similarly, most of the puzzles didn’t make me feel like I was on an adventure.

Should I play HURRY UP’s Jumanji?

Jumanji was a puzzly escape room, but not one of my favorites in Wroclaw. I’ll say this: my Polish-speaking teammates seemed to think it was quite good. It’s possible that the Polish-language puzzles added a lot more enjoyment… but I was left underwhelmed.

Jumanji was family-friendly and beginner-friendly. It could be approached by players of all skill levels, so long as at least one teammates can handle puzzling in Polish.

Book your hour with HURRY UP’s Jumanji, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Deckscape – Test Time & The Fate of London [Product Review]

Flip this card.

Location: at home

Date Played: December 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 – 90 minutes

Price: $16 per game

REA Reaction

The two Deckscape games were fun, portable, and repackable. Plus, it’s tough to argue with the price. The two games were also too similar and shouldn’t be played in close proximity to one another. If you’re only going to play one, make it Test Time, if only because it has a more interesting and engaging final puzzle.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop gamers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Lots of puzzles
  • Multiple paths for parallel puzzling
  • Test Time’s incredibly inventive final puzzle
  • Low price

Story

Deckscape is currently available in two flavors:

Deckscape Test Time & The Fate of London boxes.

Test Time

In Test Time we assisted a delightfully mad scientist in regaining control of a time machine.

The Fate of London 

In The Fate of London we tracked down bombs that had been planted in the Palace of Westminster in London.

Setup

Deckscape’s structure was straightforward. We opened the box, found a deck of slightly oversized cards, and puzzled through them sequentially until the game instructed us to split the deck into multiple piles.

4 colored curtains each representing a parallel track for puzzling.

Once the decks split, we could parallel puzzle through the different decks, as long as we maintained the card sequence within each individual pile.

Gameplay

Deckscape delivered puzzles. Given the presentation through cards, they were heavily visual.

Deckscape Caution! introduction card explaining that cards should not be flipped unless they say so, and they should not be reorded.

Some cards were puzzles; others were puzzle components to set aside and use in conjunction with other cards.

A color mixture introduction puzzle.
Relax, this is the super simple demo puzzle.

To solve a puzzle card, we’d announce our answer and flip over the card. We kept a tally of incorrect answers. At the end of the game, incorrect answers factored into a score that dictated which ending we received. (There were a few endings for each game.)

The Deckscape score sheet with time remaining and penalties.

The hint system consisted of two cards with hints printed backwards on them. Each puzzle and component card was numbered. We could simply look up the puzzle number and then read the backwards hint.

The backside of the clue cards for Deckscape.

Standouts

The low price.

It was easy to pick up the game and start playing. The first few cards in the deck walked through the basic rules and got us puzzling. Deckscape didn’t involve any prep work or software.

Deckscape The Test Time Laboratory card, and an introduction from the Doctor.

The card art was cohesive and fun. The oversizing of the cards added some heft… They just felt good.

The hint system was simple and straightforward.

Many of the puzzles were engaging and entertaining.

While the gameplay felt linear, Deckscape split the puzzles into multiple paths. This was easy to follow and kept everyone engaged.

While it was not replayable, the game could be easily reset for other people to enjoy.

The final puzzle of Test Time was fantastic and innovative.

Shortcomings

Deckscape relied too heavy on a few types of puzzles. This repetition – both within a game and between the two – grew old quickly. We played the two games in the same week and this repetition really wore on us during the second game.

Each game contained a few puzzles that were seriously obtuse. Even when we solved them, we found ourselves rolling our eyes. It almost seemed as if the game designers knew that these puzzles were cheap because they accounted for it with a late-game mechanic. If you want to know more, read the spoiler section.

Minor Game Scoring Spoiler

At the end of each Deckscape game, we tallied up the number of incorrect answers submitted, which factored into a final score that determined which ending we’d receive. In both games, the score calculation process allowed us to disregard a certain number of incorrect answers, effectively cancelling them from the score. The allowed cancellation numbers were different between the two games. In our opinion, the number that we canceled directly correlated to the number of cheap puzzles contained within each box. These puzzles should have been improved, rather than negated in a late-game twist.

[collapse]

The final puzzle in The Fate of London fizzled hard. Only one person could work on it at a time. This design was both frustrating and anticlimactic.

The Deckscape tagline oversells the game: “In a Deck of cards, all of the thrills of a real Escape Room!” We found it fun, especially for the price, but temper your expectations to increase your enjoyment.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you only buy one Deckscape, make it Test Time.
  • If you buy both, I’d recommend letting some time pass before playing the second one. I think this is good advice for any of the boxed escape room series.
  • You can easily repack these games and share them with friends.

Buy your copies of Deckscape’s Test Time & The Fate of London.

(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.)

 

Club Drosselmeyer 1940 [Event Review]

The cat’s meow.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Date Played: December 17, 2017

Team size: we recommend 2-6 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: about 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer brought together swing dancing, a fantastic band, magic, acrobatics, puzzles, intrigue, a beautiful setting, and lots of interaction. The 2017 show fixed or dramatically improved the gameplay issues that I discussed last year.

If you didn’t get to attend the limited run in December 2017, and if they run a sequel, find a way to get to Boston for this in December 2018. Hopefully they’ll run a 1941 event.

The red and gold Club Drosselmeyer stage with a 7 piece jazz band playing.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jazz lovers
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatic, and magical performances
  • Music
  • 1940-themed party
  • LARPing
  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles

Story

One year after Club Drosselmeyer 1939, we again found ourselves in our dancing shoes stopping another Nazi techo-conspiracy in a reimagining of The Nutcracker.

Last year, when we learned that Drosselmeyer Industries was creating fighting robots to support the war effort, we prevented the plans for these bots from falling into German hands.

This year we found ourselves in between two factions: Drosselmeyer Industries and King Technologies. Both fighting robot manufacturers wanted to earn a military contract with the US Government.

To determine who would win the contract, a robot from each maker would battle at the end of the night. It was up to us, the attendees, to help the companies upgrade their bots for battle.

Lisa and David dressed up and swing dancing on the Club Drosselmeyer floor.
Yours truly tearing it up on the dance floor.

Setting

Club Drosselmeyer 1940’s setting was identical to last year’s production, near as I could tell. The only additions were upgrade boxes for each robot, and an intimate back-stage set for winning teams to encounter.

We returned to the OBERON Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the stage was decked out with signage and bandstands to remind you that this was Club Drosselmeyer. The staging was decadent and beautiful.

The actors were decked out like it was a Christmas party in the 40s. As attendees, we dressed the part as well. (Those who didn’t dress for the occasion did it wrong.)

The evening included intermittent stage performances ranging from magic by Herr Drosselmeyer himself, to Lindy hop and waltz, and even an aerial silk act.

Gameplay

In keeping with last year, we had our pick of swing dancing, puzzling, interacting with characters, drinking, and watching the show unfold. Any attendee could do any combination of these activities.

Dancing was always an option, unless the performers were on stage.

Fantastic night at Club Drosselmeyer. #puzzlehunt #swingdancing #immersivetheatre

A post shared by Lisa & David 🔑 (@roomescapeartist) on

The puzzles were delivered puzzle-hunt style, as mostly paper-based challenges. There were 5 different missions, each consisting of a series of puzzles. The missions culminated in a single meta-puzzle. Each mission was assigned by a specific character in the show who provided both the challenge and the context for it.

Upon completing a mission, we were given punch cards for different robot features. We could drop them into one of two boxes to upgrade the robot of our choosing. This was essentially a voting feature. As players solved puzzles, they gained the opportunity to support either the good or the evil robot.

An anecdote: I was eavesdropping on a team debating which robot to support. One guy persuaded his friends to upgrade the evil bot arguing (and I’m paraphrasing), “It isn’t really clear if he is bad. He just seems like a stronger, more fierce bot.”  Many folks upgraded the Nazi-bot that evening. To me it was abundantly clear that this was a battle of obvious good and evil. It was interesting to observe. 

Standouts

Everything that was great about last year’s Club Drosselmeyer still applied to the sequel, without exception. I’m not going to rehash them. There were also some critical improvements this time around:

The evening’s introduction clarified our role, as attendees, in the evening’s festivities. It gave direction as to whom to approach and how to start playing.

Lisa's father in a fedora and suite sitting at a small table looking at puzzles with Lisa.
Lisa and her father looking mighty mysterious.

The characters were able and eager to provide direction if we were confused. Additionally, there were extra Club staff floating around who would help out for a flirt or a bribe. (Fake money was casually dropped and hidden throughout the Club.)

The devastatingly long lines that we contended with last year were virtually gone. The longest that I waited to meet with any character was about 3 minutes. Because the lines were eliminated, there weren’t the same crowding problems that we had previously encountered.

The acting was a whole lot better. It also put greater emphasis on dancing and farce, which played much better to the strengths of the cast.

The teams that completed the main game got some nifty bonus interactions. The first team to complete the game (which was us, at the first performance) also made a decision that impacted the finale.

Shortcomings

Even with the gameplay improvements, it was still difficult to figure out how to approach gameplay. Were we teammates with our table mates? (Only if we wanted to be.) Could we team up with others? (Yup.) Did you need a team? (No, but you wouldn’t finish the game on your own.)

We uncovered a lot of fake money, but we weren’t clear how to use it. It also lacked value because it was overly abundant.

Much of the stage acting, while improved, was still a little forced.

While the finale played to the strengths of the performers, it got a little bonkers. This was amplified because some characters and plot threads were serious and others were farcical. It was a bit challenging to keep up with the tonal leaps.

Tips for Visiting

If they run it again next year:

  • Dress up. Even if you don’t go full 1940s period accurate, put on a suit or a dress or something. You’re going to feel silly if you show up in jeans.
  • They don’t open the doors early. Bring warm layers. They have a coat check.
  • Be open to all that Club Drosselmeyer has to offer.

Club Drosselmeyer took place in December 2017 and is not currently running.

 

Quicksand Escape Games – The Diner [Review]

“Come on, Yolanda, what’s Fonzie like!?”

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 4, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per ticket for 2 players, $33 for 3-4, $30 for 5-6, $28 for 7-8

REA Reaction

The Diner would be a solid entry into escape rooms. We appreciated its retro charm and puzzle flow.

The Diner combined pretty standard gameplay with puzzle depth and a few more unexpected interactions, all as part of an adorable 1950s restaurant set. While we would have preferred a more dynamic final puzzle, we appreciated how the gameplay moved the narrative.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • 50s diner aesthetic
  • Themed puzzles
  • Being the bad guy

Story

We thought that we had escaped our lives of crime, but an accidental run-in with our former mob employers dragged us back in. The job: rob a diner. We weren’t sure why were hitting a diner, but we were told that if we could get away with it, we’d be free from our commitments to the Family.

In-game: A 1950's diner with red and white furniture an old jukebox, and records on a sky blue wall.

Setting

From the bright walls with celebrity photos to the checkered floor and vinyl seating, Quicksand Escape Games captured the classic diner look.

Gameplay

The Diner was a straightforward, cleanly executed, low tech escape room.

We puzzled through the various diner props and decor. These were primarily layered puzzles that led to locks. The Diner included a few exciting and less straightforward interactions.

Standouts

The Diner looked and felt the part. From the vinyl to the wall decorations, the set was on point. Even the menu pricing was era appropriate… inflation is crazy.

Quicksand Escape Games worked the most exciting diner props into the puzzles. We felt resourceful using one diner prop to puzzle advantageously.

One sweet moment involved a small prop that clearly clued a well-hidden and exciting interaction.

At the onset of the escape room, the story seemed downright silly. It all came together, however, as we shifted the narrative by solving the puzzles. It worked well.

The puzzles flowed well and achieved opens. While most solutions led to a lock, it never felt like there were too many locks.

Shortcomings

While locks and puzzles generally connected well, we still solved for a lot of 4-digit numbers. The gameplay would have been more intriguing with more variation of solution types.

The later act of The Diner consisted primarily of a process puzzle. Once we knew how to attack this, working it killed a lot of that scene’s drama.

Although The Diner built towards a dramatic conclusion, the excitement petered out. The final puzzle was anticlimactic.

Tips for Visiting

  • Quicksand Escape Games was located in a neighborhood that looked exactly how I had always imagined San Diego.
  • Bring quarters for street parking.
  • There were plenty of restaurants and other shops around Quicksand Escape Games.

Book your hour with Quicksand Escape Games’ The Diner, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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 time 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.