Escape City Buffalo – Over the Falls [Review]

“You’re aboot to die, eh. Soorry.”

Location: Tonawanda, NY

Date Played: September 2, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Over the Falls took us on a trip down the Niagara River on an old cargo ship beset by nefarious Canadian pirates.

The ship setting was expansive, varied, and beautiful in a worn and weathered way. Over the Falls was brimming with fantastic effects and memorable events.

While the challenges varied, and leaned a bit too heavily on search, Escape City Buffalo crafted an incredible environment to house an adventure. Above all else, adventuring aboard this vessel felt grand.

If you’re anywhere near Buffalo, this is a must play.

In-game: a rusty and weathered sit of dials and gauges.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Tourists to Niagara Falls
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The phenomenal set
  • The water feature
  • Tactile solves

Story

We had been traveling across the Niagara River when those infamous Canadian pirates seized our cargo ship, stole the goods, and abandoned the ship, leaving us on course to go right over Niagara Falls. We needed to avoid this impending disaster.

In-game: steaming furnaces.

Setting

We began Over the Falls handcuffed to railings in the furnace compartment of an old cargo ship and worked our way to the bridge. The set was sprawling, magnificently detailed, and weathered. The bowels of this vessel felt lived in. It looked and smelled like a cargo ship.

Escape City Buffalo built some elaborate and impressive features into the later sets of Over the Falls.

In-game: A closeup of a rusty and weathered porthole.
Look at that detail.

Gameplay

Escape City Buffalo’s Over the Falls was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and making connections.

In-game: engine controls.

Analysis

+ The set was incredible. Escape City Buffalo’s attention to detail created a gamespace that instilled a sense of adventure in us. It was a wonderfully fun environment to explore. It was gorgeous.

In-game: heavily weathered and rusting ceiling.
This was from the ceiling.

Over the Falls was well player-proofed. Escape City Buffalo’s epoxy game was solid. In this way they build detailed environments without leaving red herrings in their wake.

In-game: a workshop and a set of gauges and valves.

+ The initial furnace room set was especially fun to explore. We enjoyed the effects. A discovery felt like treasure.

– Over the Falls started with the team split between two different sides of the furnace room. This start felt uneven. One group had a lot more that they could accomplish than the other did.

+ There were a lot of captivating effects and memorable events.

In-game: The entrance door.

– Over the Falls relied heavily on search challenge. We lost a lot of time retracing our steps, scouring for minute details. The most exciting gamespace asked us to search for small details with weak light.

+ Our favorite challenges required us to manipulate objects in the gamespace to achieve our goals. These were satisfying, tactile solves.

– It was difficult to understand the captain of our vessel when he spoke to us over the speakers. We pretty much never heard a word he said.

– Over the Falls lacked a finale. In the end, a door opened as we escaped the cargo ship. It didn’t make a ton of sense (Did we set the ship back on course? Did we find treasure?) and it didn’t punctuate the victory with any of the grand effects we’d seen earlier in the game.

+ The water feature. Wow.

Tips for Visiting

  • Wear clothing and shoes that can get a little damp.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escape City Buffalo’s Over the Falls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape City Buffalo provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Cyph3r Escape Experience – Starship Desolation [Review]

“Game over, man. Game over!” -Private Hudson, Aliens

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $36 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Starship Desolation was an Alien-inspired adventure aboard a spaceship.

The set looked lovely and we enjoyed the progressive discovery aboard the ship. From a puzzle and gameplay standpoint, it felt light on content and needed a few tweaks to clue structure.

If you’re nearby and seeking a solid space adventure, board Starship Desolation .

In-game: the bridge and command console.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sci-fi spaceship set
  • Feeling of adventure and discovery

Story

As members of the crew of Starship Desolation, we were exploring outer space, looking for new alien life forms… when things turned bad.

In-game: a reactor.

Setting

Starship Desolation looked compelling. The wall detailing, door shapes, and panel-driven design gave it a strong sci-fi, spaceship vibe.

In-game: 4 vials of multi-color chemicals.

Gameplay

Cyph3r Escape Experience’s Starship Desolation was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

In-game: the futuristic doorway to Lab 03.

Analysis

Starship Desolation opened dramatically. Its design walked a fine line between exciting and irritating and Cyph3r Escape Experience pulled it off.

-While the sets were generally high-quality, a few places in the set felt unfinished and messy. Additionally, props didn’t always fit properly into their mountings.

+ The transitions worked especially well.

+ We enjoyed one clue structure delivery mechanism that added more depth to the experience and plugged us into the story.

In-game: the doorway to the bridge.

– It was easy to miss important clue structure if you weren’t paying attention when it triggered or weren’t in the right part of the ship at the appropriate moment. There was no do-over.

– We would have liked more of the clue structure to have been worked into the gamespace rather than delivered through paper or other media.

– Starship Desolation was light on puzzle content.

– Although the final set was nifty, the culminating sequence felt anticlimactic. Throughout the experience we never felt the presence of important stakes.

+ Starship Desolation looked convincingly starship-y. It was a fun environment to explore through puzzles.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking to the back of the lot next to their building.

Book your hour with Cyph3r Escape Experience’s Starship Desolation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Cyph3r Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

Lock Jams, Vol. 1: Escape Room Playlist

Come on brah… do you even puzzle? Lock Jams contains some of the all-time greatest escape anthems. When these tunes play: puzzles solve themselves, hidden objects appear, and blacklights never, ever flicker.

Also available on Apple Music thanks to Ben Rosner

Backstory

Earlier this year we spent some time hanging out in the magnificent lobby of Escape Room Netherlands listening to Queen’s I Want To Break Free. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to put together an escape room-inspired playlist.

Stylized image of a mixtape.

When the manager of Carragher’s Pub asked me if I had a playlist for our New York City Escape Room Fan Shindig, I felt like I had a deadline to meet.

I hope you enjoy. 

Thanks

This playlist was made with a little help from our friends: Ben Rosner, Stephen Matarese, and Lindsay Froelich.

60 Out – Flight of the Pandorus Revisited [Review]

Our first ever re-review.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from starting at $40 per ticket for 2 players, to starting at $26.66 per ticket for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

We weren’t planning to replay Pandorus. After hearing that it was essentially a different game within the same set that we knew and loved, however, we decided to give it another shot… and we were glad that we did. The new Pandorus was a significant improvement over its predecessor.

The basic information for this game exists in our previous review. In this re-review, we address the improvements, as well as some new areas to potentially refine.

The bottom-line: Pandorus went from a good game to one of the strongest games that we’ve seen in 60 Out’s substantial collection of games in Los Angeles.

In-game: the cockpit of the ship with green and red glowing lights and a countdown timer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A brilliant sci-fi set cobbled together from unlikely and recycled components
  • Humor
  • Memorable sci-fi interactions

Analysis

+ We still loved the unique aesthetic of Pandorus. This time around, the game had been modified such that we always knew what was set dressing and what was an active set piece.

+ Gone were the repetitious activities from the previous game. There was one larger process puzzle, but it was brilliantly designed and didn’t stick around long enough to grow old.

In-game: a strange contraption with tubes running to it.

+ We had been a little perturbed last go around when we had unwittingly made a moral decision. 60 Out had cleared that up. Now we clearly understood our options.

– We encountered muddy audio. The various aspects of the soundscape clashed. This was particularly challenging when we received hints.

In-game: a small robot.

+ The tiny hint robot was adorable and strangely compelling.

– The diminutive droid’s scale was off for the room; it was easy to forget about him. This was a problem because talking with the robot was integral to both the gameplay and the humor of Pandorus.

In-game: green lasers emerging from the ship.

+/- 60 Out kept the best puzzle from the earlier version. We were thrilled to hang back and watch our teammates solve this one. Watching with another year’s worth of experience, however, we realized that this puzzle could have benefitted from some visual feedback.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you’ve already played Pandorus in an earlier version, it is now different enough that you can play it again. Bring some teammates who haven’t played the earlier iteration so that they can solve the 2 or 3 puzzles that reappear.
  • There is a parking lot around back.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Flight of the Pandorus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

LA Dragon Studios – Knights of the Round Table [Review]

The Sword in the Puzzle

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $90 for teams of 2 to $280 for teams of 8, 15% discount for Monday – Thursday bookings

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Knights of the Round Table was a family-friendly adventure. Although the gameplay and the set design were uneven, the more tangible interactions delivered fun solves.

If you’re looking for a solid, traditional, family-friendly puzzle game near Los Angeles, check out Knights of the Round Table.

In-game: the entrance to Camelot.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Family-friendly adventure
  • The final interaction

Story

A darkness had fallen over Camelot. We took on the roles of Knights of the Round Table to save the kingdom.

In-game: a bridge over a moat.

Setting

We started our quest outside the castle: a facade crafted to look like the exterior wall of a medieval fortress. There were stone walls, a wooden door, and a drawbridge over a glowing moat. On the other side was the forest, largely represented by wallpaper, some cut wood, and fake hay.

Inside the castle, the sets looked less dramatic as we explored the rooms.

In-game: a sword, axe, shield, and wood.

Gameplay

LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The intro video to Knights of the Round Table foreshadowed some of the more exciting set pieces in the experience. Because it was filmed in the gamespace, the video added intrigue before we entered the escape room. We were excited when we encountered these set pieces in the experience.

– The beginning sequence didn’t instill energy in the group. Although we enjoyed exploring the initial set, the gameplay was too slow paced, especially as an opening.

+ LA Dragon Studios crafted some more hefty, tangible interactions that felt satisfying to engage with.

– The set design was uneven. LA Dragon Studios made some enticing details, but left other areas of the gamespace underdesigned.

– While some decor was simply decor, much of it functioned as red herrings. It was frequently hard to differentiate set dressing from puzzle components.

+ We enjoyed finding a path through one substantial, late-game puzzle. It was challenging and fun.

– Two of the main puzzles in Knights of the Round Table were brute-forceable. It was too easy to bypass much of the gameplay, either on purpose or accidentally.

– Knights of the Round Table would benefit from additional clue structure and tighter puzzle design.

Knights of the Round Table delivered a satisfying finale. It was an entertaining culminating action, even if it was primarily enjoyed by one player.

+ LA Dragon Studios markets Knights of the Round Table as a family-friendly adventure. From the props, to the interactions, to reveals, it delivered on that marketing. Families will find a lot to enjoy here.

+ Yes, Knights of the Round Table made some of the Monty Python jokes you’d expect.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot behind the building.
  • LA Dragon Studios is in a medical facility. So don’t be baffled by that… you’re in the right place.
  • LA Dragon Studios also has a small arcade with some classic cabinets.

Book your hour with LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: LA Dragon Studios comped our tickets for this game.

The Guinness World Record for Most Escape Rooms in 24 Hours is set at 22 [Interview]

On October 3, 2018, in Moscow, Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms attended in one day. In the days following the record, we asked them to reflect on those insane 24 hours. Here are their thoughts.

For more details about the record requirements, read our “before” interview.

Room Escape Artist: Did you set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms played in one day?

[AH] We did!

Guinness World Record certificate for most escape rooms in one day.

What was your final count of escape rooms?

[AH] 22. We fit in all 22!

Game 1 post-game photo in Rise of the Machines.

What was your win/ loss rate?

[AH] We only lost 1 game! It was just too dense and procedural for us to tackle with just 4 tired people.

We thought we’d lost 3 games. One was a story choice that was one of those final trick question things. In the other, we thought we had lost as we were re-doing the last step of the final puzzle, but it turned out we had triggered the door and it hadn’t swung open. The game masters had been waiting in the hallway wondering why we weren’t coming out!

Which 22 games did you play?

[RB] We played 22 games at Claustrophobia in Moscow. Here is a peek at our log book:

Time Event Event Type Time Room Count Room Notes
10/2/2018 8:17:35 AM Rise of the Machines Room 0:58:37 Room #1
10/2/2018 9:17:28 AM Breaking Bad Room 0:43:43 Room #2 Russian
10/2/2018 10:04:14 AM Terra Incognita Room 0:35:03 Room #3 Russian
10/2/2018 10:49:43 AM travel to next location by taxi Travel 0:18:04
10/2/2018 11:09:20 AM lunch break Meal 0:11:54
10/2/2018 11:21:14 AM Baker Street, 221B Room 0:28:21 Room #4
10/2/2018 11:56:30 AM Alien Room 0:40:15 Room #5
10/2/2018 12:40:02 PM Frodo Room 0:37:01 Room #6
10/2/2018 1:23:48 PM travel to next location by foot Travel 0:22:33
10/2/2018 1:51:05 PM Dungeon Prisoners Room 0:46:00 Room #7
10/2/2018 2:42:29 PM Purgatory Room 0:35:28 Room #8
10/2/2018 3:22:17 PM travel to next location by foot Travel 0:13:27
10/2/2018 3:37:06 PM memory card swap Memory Card Swap 0:12:27
10/2/2018 3:51:18 PM Deadly Vacancy Room 0:39:28 Room #9 Russian
10/2/2018 4:36:50 PM A Deal with the Devil Room 1:00:00 Room #10 (Loss) Russian
10/2/2018 5:38:06 PM snack break Meal 0:10:04
10/2/2018 5:48:50 PM Arctic Bunker Room 0:52:16 Room #11 Russian
10/2/2018 7:02:18 PM travel to next location by metro Travel 0:34:12
10/2/2018 7:38:16 PM dinner break Meal 0:35:49
10/2/2018 8:17:00 PM Medieval Mysteries Room 0:33:54 Room #12 Russian
10/2/2018 9:02:55 PM Mexican Heist Room 0:33:00 Room #13 Russian
10/2/2018 9:47:44 PM Curse of Ramses Room 0:59:21 Room #14 Russian
10/2/2018 11:00:17 PM travel to next location by foot Travel 0:16:58
10/2/2018 11:21:14 PM memory card swap Memory Card Swap 0:10:59
10/2/2018 11:36:11 PM Houdini’s Academy Room 0:57:09 Room #15
10/3/2018 12:40:39 AM travel to next location by metro Travel 0:22:15
10/3/2018 1:07:05 AM Mystery Man Without a Face Room 0:43:55 Room #16
10/3/2018 1:55:28 AM Iron Man Room 0:34:57 Room #17
10/3/2018 2:41:15 AM Philosopher’s Stone Room 0:29:44 Room #18
10/3/2018 3:27:11 AM travel to next location by foot Travel 0:11:35
10/3/2018 3:39:24 AM Stir in Springfield Room 0:44:55 Room #19
10/3/2018 4:34:44 AM memory card swap Memory Card Swap 0:08:48
10/3/2018 4:34:58 AM Leonardo’s Last Mystery Room 0:59:35 Room #20
10/3/2018 5:51:56 AM Steampunk: The Airship Room 1:00:10 Room #21 Russian, 75 Minute Clock
10/3/2018 6:58:59 AM Alice in Nightmareland Room 0:54:12 Room #22 Russian, 75 Minute Clock
10/3/2018 7:54:15 AM end, no time to start a new game

Our best escape time was 0:28:21. Our average escape time was 0:44:52.

Here is how we spent the hours of the day:

Pie chart breaking down the time usage for the team's 24 hour record setting attempt.

Claustrophobia has a difficulty scale from 1-5 on their website. 1 is the easiest and 5 is the most difficult. Here is the breakdown of how many games we played in each difficulty level:

Difficulty Level Game Count
1 1
2 2
3 9
4 6
5 4

What were your individual high points?

[AH] Our team magic elevated me to places I rarely get to be. I swooped in to save a rhythm-based puzzle and a blind manipulation puzzle, which are both usually outside of my skill set!

[DE] I loved finding things that would absolutely never happen in escape rooms anywhere else I’ve been.

[RB] It was a thrill to finish a couple of the games as the clock was nearing expiration. I also got a pretty good feeling during the ceremony with the Guinness representative as he handed us the award.

Game 2 post-game photo in a fried chicken restaurant

What were your individual low points?

[AH] Around 2 AM we hit a pocket of themes that weren’t my style. I was also cranky because my feet were wet from puddles and sore from all the walking. I took a back seat and tried to play a support role until we hit another game that I was excited about.

[DE] Yeah, that stretch was pretty rough. Losing – or thinking we’d lost – a game killed momentum… and we didn’t even have time to get a proper walk through!

[RB] We played 6 consecutive rooms in Russian in the middle, which hit us pretty hard. As we neared the end, I was so physically exhausted that I would sit on the ground to work on a puzzle and not want to get up once I’d solved it.

Game 12 post-game photo on the Iron Throne

What were your favorite games?

[AU] We loved Alice in Nightmareland. It had a wonderful set and really good, tight puzzles. Other standouts were Houdini’s Academy, for its mechanical puzzle elements, and Rise of the Machines, for some unique game mechanics we hadn’t seen before.

[RB] I also enjoyed Breaking Bad and Deal with the Devil, even though we lost the latter. Deadly Vacancy was especially memorable for a moment that scared me more than any of the horror games that we played later in the week did.

Were there any particularly interesting or unusual games that you found especially different, even if you didn’t necessarily love them?

[AH] Houdini’s Academy, Rise of the Machines, Breaking Bad, Deadly Vacancy, Stir in Springfield, Terra Incognita, Alien, Arctic Bunker, and Alice in Nightmareland each had unique elements that I would recommend for a certain subset of players.

[RB] That list of games demonstrates the variety that Claustrophobia has to offer. All were at top notch production value.

Game 17 post-game photo surrounded by Iron Man suits

Who was the MVP?

[GROUP] If it weren’t for Rich’s idea to attempt this in the first place, and handling all the set up with Guinness and Claustrophobia, this wouldn’t have happened at all, so he’s for sure the MVPest. Without all that work, there’s no way we could’ve pulled this off. He was also a persistence MVP. He sat with some of the tougher puzzles for a lot longer than the rest of us would have had patience for!

Ana was the person who couldn’t have been replaced with another top escape room player. We would have been completely lost without her ability to navigate everything in Russian. Even the rooms that had been translated to English still sometimes benefited from knowledge of Russian. Ana also consistently pushed us to think out loud. Sometimes after you’ve been playing with the same team for hours and you’re all getting tired, you stop sharing your ideas and making connections between inputs and outputs. Ana kept us talking, listening, and acknowledging each other.

Dan didn’t hesitate to do some crazy <spoilers redacted> stuff because it seemed like the right thing to do (and it was!). At many points, we’d round a corner and see Dan diving into something headfirst, trotting off to investigate something, or trying a harebrained idea that we had tried to talk ourselves out of, but turned out to work. Dan also consistently provided key insights and leadership.

Amanda showed her escape room magic on so many occasions by solving things the rest of us couldn’t seem to manipulate or figure out. The moment that stands out is when Amanda solved a rhythm puzzle on the first try that the rest of us had been trying unsuccessfully to execute for a while.

Claustrophobia is an honorary MVP for putting together such an amazing team to help us all day and all night! They admitted to us that they had not had high hopes that this attempt would be successful and that they thought it would be kind of boring. Instead, they had a lot of fun watching us. They built excitement with us as we got closer and closer.

Game 19 post-game photo in an animated home

What was the unplanned or unexpected drama?

[AH] We had plenty of drama in the days leading up to the record with last-minute arrangements for our judge, last-minute t-shirt making, and all of us being on the road in separate cities. During the record, however, everything went more smoothly than we could ever have anticipated.

[RB] Our wire transfer to pay for the rooms never made it to Claustrophobia’s account, so I had to spend some time on the phone with my bank during our attempt (mostly during the travel segments) to sort that out.

We were also so far ahead of schedule for the first half of the day that we ran into a location that couldn’t let us start for about 40 minutes from when we arrived because there were other bookings already in progress. Fortunately that was also where we were planning our dinner break, so it worked out ok.

[AH] As personal drama, I had brought a fake bear rug mascot, but we kept rushing into taking pictures, so he didn’t make it into any of them. I was planning to at least include him in the photo for my 900th room, which would be our official record minimum room (room 20), but I forgot all about him. Thank goodness for Photoshop.

What was it like playing with those GoPro cameras strapped to you?

[RB] I didn’t notice it at all except on some rare occasions when I’d need to squeeze through a small space and the camera would snag. I got so used to it, I didn’t even think about it during bathroom breaks!

Is there any chance that we can edit together a blooper or highlight reel from this footage?

[AH] The judge took our SD cards, so we don’t have access to that video anymore. We had to sign some papers for Claustrophobia that said we wouldn’t use any of that video for any other purposes, anyway.

Game 22 post-game photo on a steampunk airship

How did you feel at the end of the attempt?

[AH] Surprisingly, not all that tired… too much adrenaline! I felt really proud of us as a team, and really warm and grateful for everyone who had been helping us. Help included planning, on-site logistics, and sending Facebook and Slack encouragement!

[AU] I felt tired, happy that we did it, and happy that it was over!

Do you still like escape rooms?

[RB] Yes! We were still able to enjoy the rest of the rooms we played in Moscow that week!

Do you still like each other?

[AU] We do! We stayed encouraging and positive throughout, which is perhaps our biggest accomplishment.

[RB] This was never a worry for me; my teammates are all awesome people.

What advice do you have for anyone else thinking about setting a world record in escape rooms?

[RB] Pick the right company (or companies) to work with. Our choice to do this all with Claustrophobia, who handled so much of the logistical load both before and during the event, was probably the single biggest factor that made this work as well as it did for us. Be sure to have the ability to adjust your plans in the middle if you’re going faster or slower than you planned.

Also, don’t underestimate the physical toll this will take on your body. Eat and hydrate.

[AU] Remember to have fun! We went in with an attitude that we were going to do our best for the record, but also that it would not be the end of the world if something went wrong. A focus on fun helped us stay positive and productive.

[AH] Find a team of people that you absolutely love and could never get tired of!

Game 22 post-game photo features the Guinness judge presenting their certificate.

Closing Thoughts

We are so proud of Amanda, Ana, Dan, and Rich!

However long their record stands, we’ll always be in awe of their tenacity, planning, endurance, and the boldness it took to set a record in a foreign country while playing games in a language that only one of them spoke… and it was her second language.

Meet us in New York City this Wednesday!

This Wednesday we are hosting another Escape Room Fan Shindig!

We welcome all escape room players, creators, owners, operators, bloggers… and anyone who is just a bit escape room curious. We also welcome fans of other forms of immersive entertainment.

We’ll be giving a brief talk to lead into an evening of conversation.

Stylized image of an old steel microphone.

Details

  • Wednesday, October 17
  • Carragher’s 228 W 39th St between 7th and 8th (we’ll be on the 2nd floor)
  • Starting at 7pm; talk at 7:30pm
  • Please RSVP on Facebook on by contacting us.

For more information, read the NYC Escape Room Fan Shindig announcement.

Please make sure to find us and introduce yourself. We’re looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones!

Legends of the Hidden Temple Shirts (or Halloween Costume Idea)

Depending upon your age… and whether or not you had cable in the mid ’90s, this is either amazing or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . I happened upon a collection of t-shirts from the various teams that competed on the Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, one of the forerunners to escape games.

T-shirts!

You can choose from all of the teams: (Clearly the Blue Barracudas are the right choice.)

Go Full Halloween Costume

Halloween is right around the corner. If you’re looking for an easy couple or group costume, all you have to do is toss in a gold helmet, elbow/ kneepads, and a Legends of the Hidden Temple nametag… and you have a nostalgic, fun, and easy Halloween costume.

The Laboratory [Review]

So puzzle. Much solve.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-8*

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket Tuesday – Thursday, $32 per ticket Friday – Sunday

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Laboratory was an unusual escape room, especially in Los Angeles. It was entirely puzzle solving from start to finish. Its unusual structure of multiple, linear puzzle tracks delivered a lot of puzzle content and a largely individual experience as part of a larger group effort. The Laboratory sacrificed environment, narrative, and adventure in favor of puzzle content, much of which was tangible, varied, and interesting.

Puzzles comprised the entirety of the gameplay. If you’re looking for puzzles, play The Laboratory; you’ll be thrilled. If you want adventure, narrative, or really anything else… your princess is in another castle.

In-game: a sealed box filled with glowing green material and mounted gloves.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle focused players
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Pure puzzle play
  • Puzzle progression

Story

This was a puzzle-filled laboratory with a ticking time bomb in the middle. We had 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles and disarm the bomb.

In-game: a sealed bomb beside some puzzles in a green walled room.

Setting

The Laboratory was a largely plain, two-room set. We had complete access to both rooms from the opening moments of the game. Tables and shelves held various puzzle props, most of which were handcrafted.

A board on one wall laid out the puzzle progression to follow including each individual puzzle, its components, and where to input its solution.

In-game: closeup of a bomb with clipped wires.

Gameplay

The Laboratory was an atypical escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

The Laboratory presented multiple, clearly-defined linear puzzle paths that all converged at the final puzzle.

*The number of puzzle paths – and thus the volume of puzzle content – will be based on team size and experience level. We recommend you bring enough players to play a game with at least 4 puzzle tracks. This will ensure that you have access to the most interesting puzzles.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

In-game: 4 human skulls beside a metal device.

Analysis

+The Laboratory was an entertaining puzzle orgy.

– The Laboratory didn’t have a set beyond a standard office space and some quirky props. The gamespace didn’t add anything to the experience. (It didn’t really detract either. It just existed to hold puzzles.)

+ We could see the puzzle paths laid out on a board, delineating our progress through the escape room. This board gave us a feeling of control. We always knew what to work on next. We could also track our progress against the gameclock. This mechanism ensured that we never had to trial-and-error our solutions in different locks.

– Many of the lock codes were guessable even without deriving all the information. It would be easy to shortcut these puzzles to pop the locks.

The Laboratory was customizable by group size and puzzle experience. They can add or remove puzzle tracks to give each team a fair puzzle opponent for a 60-minute game clock.

? If you aren’t playing at least 4 puzzle tracks, you’re missing out on some of the more interesting content.

+ One of our favorite puzzles hooked us with some nifty tech.

– One puzzle path was primarily paper-based. This didn’t make use of the physical space at all.

+ We enjoyed how as each puzzle path moved forward, it built on a concept. Props we picked up along the way frequently stayed relevant as the puzzle path progressed.

– Most of the puzzles could be solved individually. The Laboratory felt collaborative only in so far as the entire team was working and of all the puzzles got solved. Most of us felt like we were puzzling solo. The puzzles didn’t facilitate natural collaboration.

+ The puzzle tracks converged on the final puzzle: bomb disarmament. Although we’d each solved the other puzzles individually or sometimes in small groups, we came together for the final sequence.

Tips for Visiting

  • Bring a large enough team to play with at least 4 puzzle tracks. The 4th track was great.
  • There is street parking.
  • We enjoyed Earth Bean Coffee.

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

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

Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express [Review]

“My name is Achilles Pussot and I am probably the second greatest detective in the world.”

Location: at home

Date Played: September 13, 2018

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: $15 per box

REA Reaction

As a fan of the Exit: The Game series, Dead Man on the Orient Express has been one of my favorite installments. I enjoyed the puzzles and the way the difficulty mounted to an especially challenging final puzzle. This game deviated from some of the predictability of the past games.

At the same time, Dead Man on the Orient Express will not change anyone’s opinions on the series… and I’m hoping the creators will break more significantly from their patterns.

If you’re a fan of Exit: The Game, this is a must-buy. It’s one of their stronger installments. If you don’t like the series already, take a pass. If you’ve never played, I’d suggest getting started on one of their earlier games, as this one is tough.

Game box for Dead Man on the Orient Express, depicts a spilled wine glass in a fancy train compartment.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Logic puzzlers
  • Players with at least some experience with the Exit: The Game series

Why play?

  • Some of the cleverest puzzles we’ve seen from Exit: The Game
  • A fair difficulty curve
  • A higher level of difficulty

Story

Based not so loosely on the Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient ExpressDead Man on the Orient Express cast us in the role of world-famous detective, Achilles Pussot. A man had been killed on the train and there were eight suspects. We needed to identify the killer before the train reached its destination in Constantinople.

The riddle cards, answer cards, and help cards decks.

Setup

Dead Man on the Orient Express was structurally identical to all of the previous Exit: The Game installments that we have reviewed.

This was a paper-based game with a booklet, a few decks of cards, a solution wheel, and a pair of card stock “strange items.”

Exit: The Game installments are destructible. I’m sure it would be possible to preserve the game for replay by other players, but I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

For a more in-depth explanation of the game mechanics of the Exit: The Game series, give our original review a read:

Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb [Review]

Gameplay

Exit: The Game’s Dead Man on the Orient Express was a typical play-at-home escape game with a murder mystery twist.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, detailed observation, deduction, and puzzling.

The notebook of Achilles Pussot, an answer wheel, and three train compartment components.

Analysis

+ The puzzles in Dead Man on the Orient Express were generally satisfying. They had a comfortable difficulty curve and became pretty challenging.

+ This game captured the Agatha Christie murder mystery vibe while keeping the gameplay firmly in puzzle-game territory. We were puzzlers, not detectives.

– Because so much of the game was in a booklet, the gameplay bottlenecked. The cabin cards and puzzle cards helped to distribute the gameplay, but the booklet still boxed players out of the fun. (Teams of 1 or 2 people won’t have this issue.)

? The final logic puzzle was especially challenging. We were impressed with the twist on traditional logic puzzling cluing. This puzzle also required an attention to detail that exceeded the level of commitment that we were mentally prepared for. If you haven’t paid attention throughout the entire gameplay, this will be brutal. In our opinion, this was the most complicated puzzle that we’ve seen from the series. Whether this is great or terrible is up to you.

– The final puzzle hinged on some details that were a little too difficult to perceive with confidence. This was on-theme for the material, but also felt a little unfair.

+ The art and style of Dead Man on the Orient Express was consistent and elegant.

– Speaking as a fan of the Exit: The Game series, I respect that they deviate slightly from their formula in each game. With 9 installments in-market, however, I find myself wishing that they would change things up a lot more.

+ The hint system was useful and predictable. I would like a bit more granularity, but Exit: The Game’s hint system is still the most comprehensive of the multi-installment series released by large game publishers.

Tips for Playing

  • You have to destroy the components to play this game. Embrace it.
  • The train cabin components are double sided. Be aware of that.
  • The final puzzle was, in our opinion, the toughest puzzle in the Exit: The Game series. Take that one seriously.

Pickup your copy of Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Thames & Kosmos provided a sample for review.

(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.)