Escape Room 101

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15 things to know before playing an escape room

Tips for players

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RECON – The Reality Escape Convention

Our online escape room con for industry professionals & players

RECON 21 phoenix insignia.

RECON gives you:

  • featured talks from industry leaders covering a broad variety of topics
  • the opportunity to play limited-availability games
  • connections with likeminded folks from all over the world

Login from home, admission is pay what you want – that includes free

Learn more at RealityEscapeCon.com

Clue Chase – Scarab’s Curse [Hivemind Review]

Scarab’s Curse is a web-based puzzle game created by Clue Chase in New York City.

A panoramic view of art and hieroglyphics in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on-demand
  • Web-based puzzle game

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper, mobile device

One puzzle requires you to call a US phone number.

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: 1-2 hours

Price: $20 per team

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This game takes place on a website where you get a bit of the plot, solve a puzzle, enter the solution and then get to the next page (and the process repeats). Sometimes you find clues for later puzzles that you need to write down because you can’t return to a page once you left it. It does have a hint system, but no gamemaster. Be prepared to read a lot in this game.

A video crew filming in an Egyptian tomb reads, Congratulations, for finding the murderer!

Hivemind Review Scale

Ravensburger – The Temple Grounds Escape Puzzle [Review]

Wandering through the jungle

Location:  at home

Date Played: May 2020

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: about $33 (as of review)

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Ravensburger’s The Temple Grounds Escape Puzzle hasn’t had an official release in the United States, but it is available on Amazon for a few dollars over retail price, and our copy was sent to us by Tammy McLeod, REA Hivemind Reviewer, and jigsaw puzzle Guinness World Record holder.

After spending a couple of days solving The Temple Grounds, I’d wager a guess as to why it hasn’t been republished in the United States: it’s a damn hard jigsaw puzzle. It’s the most difficult of the series thus far, in our opinion. It’s overwhelmingly green and brown, with low contrast.

Ravensburger Temple Grounds Escape puzzle box art.
The box art has much higher contrast than the actual puzzle. Was this a printing error?

Difficulty does not make this a bad jigsaw puzzle; it’s more than solvable. There are textures and patterns to work with… but they are harder to identify and more nuanced than what we’ve seen from the rest of the Escape Puzzle series.

The escape puzzles within the finished picture solved cleanly, although one of these puzzles really suffered from the dark shades of brown and muddy contrast.

The other struggle with this puzzle was the edge (which is always a bit strange in Escape Puzzles). There were edge pieces that we could not rationally fit into the puzzle. This was by far the weakest element of the product.

Overall, The Temple Grounds is the Ravensburger Escape Puzzles on hard mode. Don’t play this as an introduction to the Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle format. If you’re new to Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series, try out the Space Observatory or Witch’s Kitchen for a fantastic starting place. The Temple Grounds is for skilled jigsaw puzzle solvers who like a puzzle that requires a higher level of skill or a willingness to grind through the challenge.

While I am happy that I solved it, I also think it’s fine if this one isn’t re-released more broadly.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Story

While exploring the ruins of an ancient temple, we’d stepped in the wrong place and slipped down a steep slope into the ruins. With the sun going down, we needed to find our way out.

Skulls in a swamp-like environment.

Analysis

❓/➖ The puzzle art felt optimized around difficulty. There was a lot to look at, but it wasn’t fun to view. There was a ton of visual noise.

➕ The puzzles solved cleanly.

➖ While one low contrast puzzle was solvable, the details were so challenging to see that my fellow solvers struggled to see the key clues even when I was pointing right at them.

➖ There were edge pieces that seemed to have no real home within the puzzle. The Escape Puzzle’s edge pieces are an essential part of the concluding metapuzzle, so there is always a bit of oddness with these, but this took it to a far stranger place. It felt like the edge was doctored after the fact to make the puzzle work, but no one took the time to make any of the adjustments feel even remotely organic.

➖ The metapuzzle was cute, but no where near entertaining enough to justify how botched the puzzle’s edge design was. This also made it fairly easy to backsolve the puzzles within the picture. It was sloppy.

❓ This was a hard puzzle. Whether that’s good or bad is in the eyes of the solver.

An iguana looking at a puzzle.

➕ The hints were detailed and clear (even if a small, inconsequential segment wasn’t fully translated into English).

Buy It Now

Pickup your copy of Ravensburger’s The Temple Grounds Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Stitch Media – Flow Weaver [Hivemind Review]

Flow Weaver is VR narrative-driven adventure game in with puzzles, created by Stitch Media.

Flow Weaver title art, set in a 3D rendered VR world.

Format

Style of Play:

  • VR
  • Play on demand

Required Equipment: VR headset – It’s only available to be played on Oculus headsets (Rift, Quest).

Recommended Team Size: 1

Play Time: about 3 hours

Price: $19.99

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Flow Weaver is narrative-driven adventure game with puzzles. This is a seated VR game (not actual walking around the space.) You can pick up objects, examine objects, place objects to solve puzzles, teleport, observe environment, and watch cut scenes.

Hivemind Review Scale

Twizzlers Twists, Mystery Flavor [Review]

The Twist You Can’t Deduce

Location:  at home

Date Played: May 31, 2021

Team size: a 16oz bag is a lot of Twizzlers, trust me

REA Reaction

Let’s get this out of the way: classic Twizzlers are allegedly “strawberry” flavored. I like classic Twizzlers, but if you were to put an unlabeled classic Twizzler in my mouth and ask me to guess what the “according to Hershey” flavor is, “strawberry” is not what I’d guess.

Rendering of Twizzlers Twists Mystery Flavor packaging, and product surrounded by question marks.

The classic Twizzler tastes like “red.” Classic Twizzlers resemble the taste of strawberry in the same way that mozzarella tastes like bacon.

All of this is to say that actually identifying the flavor of any Twizzlers product is a bit like playing a game of “guess what number I’m thinking?” You’re not going to get it right, and if you did, it’s because you got lucky.

The positive news is that these Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists taste pretty good. Also, I respect the overall execution by Hershey: no crazy contests, no forms, and no insane legalese… just a classic “guess the flavor” product that has a pleasant enough taste, if you like Twizzlers.

I have a few guesses as to the flavor, and you can find them below… but I think the flavor matters less than the friends we made along the way. Seriously, the first time I went to a friend’s house post-quarantine I found myself eating these. How sad is that?

A brownish mystery flavor Twizzler beside a classic Twizzler.

Who is this for?

  • Twizzlers fans
  • Mystery food junkies

Why play?

  • If you like Twizzlers, they taste pretty good

Gameplay

There’s nothing complex here. You eat them… and then speculate blindly as to what they are.

I recommend having the Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists side-by-side with classic Twizzlers for maximum flavor confusion. I mean seriously… I know that I’ve already said this in a few different ways, but are classic Twizzlers twigs that wished upon a star to be real strawberries?

Back of a Twizzlers Twists Mystery Flavor package opened up.

Analysis

Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists taste good enough. I prefer the originals, but in the Mystery Flavor Game, any product that I can eat more than one of without questioning the life choices that lead to me eating this food is a big win. This more than comfortably cleared that bar.

➖ I have no clue what I ate… and it’s sort of difficult to make a game out of something that seems so far away from actual flavors that occur in nature. That said, here are a few guesses:

Spoiler: What did it taste like?

Maybe grape, raspberry, or blackberry??? Honestly, I have no idea. The scent was strongly grape. The coloration made my brain lean towards blackberry (color is usually a lie in the Mystery Flavor Game), and the taste was… aspiring towards fruit. I don’t know. You’re not here for real answers… you’re here for snarky entertainment.

[collapse]
A magnifying glass with a question mark, surrounded by the text, "can you guess the mystery flavor"

➕/➖ The packaging looked good, if a little cliché. It was decidedly Twizzlers, with a mystery flair. You know there’s a mystery afoot because there are lots of question marks and a magnifying glass.

➕ I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I’m glad there wasn’t some insane contest where the lawyer who drafted the terms and conditions made more money than the winner of the prize payout. Simplicity of execution is my preference.

❓ 16 ounces of Twizzlers is a lot. I mean… maybe when I was younger I’d have felt differently, but at this point in my life, polishing off a full bag of Twizzlers feels about as doable as climbing K2.

Tips For Playing

  • Twizzlers Twists, Mystery Flavor are available on Amazon
  • Do this with friends; 16 ounces of Twizzlers is a lot.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REPOD Season 2 Episode 1: The Curious Mind of Neil Patrick Harris, Creator of Box One

In episode 1 of season 2, we talk to acclaimed actor, producer, writer, and tabletop immersive experience designer Neil Patrick Harris. He’s a performer known for his iconic roles on stage and screen, but our community knows him as a champion of escape rooms and immersive gaming, as well as the creator of the brilliant tabletop puzzle experience Box One

Neil walks us through the path that led him to his love of escape rooms and other immersive games (including Survivor), explaining that it all stems from his fascination with structure and figuring out the mechanisms of how something works. He explains that escape rooms and immersive theatre were able to combine his two loves, magic and theatre, into a spectacle of an experience. 

We spend a lot of time dissecting Box One, with quite a lot of spoilers. Make sure you play the game before listening to this segment! Neil explains some of the more controversial design elements and talks to us about his game design philosophy. 

After chatting with Neil, it became clear that the driving force behind many of his immersive endeavors was an intense curiosity about the mechanics of a puzzle or trick, along with a profuse appreciation for creativity and authenticity. His unbridled joy when discussing different immersive experiences was a pleasure to behold. We are thrilled to have someone like him championing this industry.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season, SEO ORB and Buzzshot. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

seo orb logo. cartoon man wearing pink sunglasses holding 2 puzzle cubes

SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

logo for telescape, a tower antenna on a greenish blue and orange square

Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Neil mentions that he loves Survivor, and that he’s friends with Jeff Probst, who has invited him to Fiji to be on the Dream Team. [1:29]
  • Peih-Gee explains that the Dream Team is part of the Survivor crew. They test all the challenges on location and help film some of the overhead scenes. [2:07]
  • Neil says he’d love to do celebrity Survivor, but not a “quasi-hybrid version.” [2:43]
  • Peih-Gee muses that perhaps the reason they haven’t had a celebrity version of Survivor is because Jeff Probst doesn’t want it to be a watered-down version of Survivor. [3:22]
  • Neil says he thinks “outwit, outplay, outlast” is very synonymous with life in many ways. [4:30]
  • Neil says his two tenets in life are authenticity and creativity. He goes on to explain why most reality TV seems fraudulent and inauthentic, but Survivor seems to also embrace authenticity and creativity in both its portrayals and format. [4:46]
  • Peih-Gee talks about not eating for the first four days when she was on Survivor China, and says the show is entirely authentic, with no secret food or hidden bathrooms. [6:06]
  • Neil walks us through the path that led him to his love of escape rooms and other immersive games, explaining that it all stems from his fascination with structure and figuring out the mechanisms of how something works. [6:40]
  • Neil says that as a child, his interest started with the state fair, and curiosity about how rides and the sideshow attractions worked. [7:13]
  • As he got older, Neil became entranced with theatre and shows like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which has multiple outcomes chosen by the audience, and Sleep No More, a show with multiple immersive experiences all happening simultaneously. [8:50]
  • Neil says that he fell in love with escape rooms because they combine his love of figuring out the magic trick while immersed in an experience. [10:38]
  • Neil talks about Accomplice New York, an immersive experience that takes you on an adventure through the streets of New York, billed as “adventure theatre.” He ended up co-producing Accomplice Los Angeles. [11:17]
  • (Neil lists several other immersive experiences that have inspired him. Please see Resources below for links.) 
  • Neil talks about The Tension Experience by Darren Bousman and how a scripted “choose your own adventure” experience worked. [20:01]
  • Neil muses that with immersive theatre, he always worries that he’s somehow doing it “wrong” but at the end of the day, there’s a lesson to be learned in just letting go and enjoying your own experience of the event. [21:02]
  • David discusses the rise of escape rooms. He mentions how they seem to have started off copying one another in the beginning and that’s why they seemed so homogenous in the early days. [23:03]
  • David talks about the artistry of escape rooms versus escape room owners that only see it as a business model. [24:51]
  • Neil says that for him, one of the distinguishing features of a truly amazing magical performance is when someone has a knowledge of the craft and has figured out how to individualize it in a way that is fun for both laymen and magicians alike. [26:53]
  • Neil discusses aspects of magic as a profession that he dislikes, including mediocrity and how bizarre it is that magic is a profession you can buy. [28:11]
  • Neil talks about his tenure as president of The Magic Castle in Los Angeles—how he ended up in that position, some of the problems they were going through at the time, and why he was so passionate about effecting change there. [29:13]
  • Neil says that his biggest change was “shifting the focus from being revenue-driven to member experience-driven.” They improved the guest experience from the quality of cocktails and friendliness of servers, to increasing auxiliary performances so guests could feel like they were being entertained all night, even when waiting in line for a show. [32:11]
  • We discuss Neil’s game Box One. This is a tabletop puzzle trivia adventure designed for one player, and we are going to get a little spoiler-y. I strongly urge you to stop reading the show notes and play Box One first, if you haven’t played it yet. Or you can jump ahead to timestamp 1:04:40. [ 36:20]
  • Neil talks about meeting Jonathan Bayme, the CEO of Theory 11 and how they became friends. He talks about the first game they created together called Amazed. [37:58]
  • Neil says that Box One originally started with a single idea: What if there was a single-player party game? [41:48]
  • Neil talks about playing The Werewolf Experiment by the Wild Optimists, who were guests on Season 1, Episode 3 of this podcast. [43:07]
  • Neil mentions that he specifically didn’t want for Box One to be a timed experience. Rather, he wanted players to savor the production value of his game. [43:48]
  • David discusses the difficulties in creating an escape room tabletop game that will appeal to both the mass-market and escape room enthusiasts alike, including how to gatekeep wow moments and puzzles. [46:05]
  • Neil says that they purposefully slowed down the beginning of the game, and that was the intention behind creating a shoe for the deck of cards, requiring you to only focus on the top card in the deck. [47:16]
  • Neil talks about doing interviews in-character as evil NPH from the game narrative. [48:35]
  • We discuss the character of evil NPH from Box One [52:04]
  • David explains that his style of reviewing games is to convey how the reader can best optimize their experience. [53:04]
  • David discusses how experienced escape room players will do themselves a disservice if they try to anticipate the surprises in the box, and advises them to just play the game linearly as instructed. [54:31]
  • Neil talks about some of the difficulties in manufacturing Box One. [56:44]
  • Neil tells us that he put a forcible stop in the middle of the game because he wanted people to take their time with the game, to stop and think about it. He also wanted to boost the illusion that you were chatting with a real person. [58:37]
  • Peih-Gee mentions that her only criticism is wanting more of a diegetic reason for the 24-hour stop. [1:01:27]
  • Neil talks about using his platform to direct attention to the games, escape rooms, and immersive experiences that he loves, like Mysterious Package Company and Crack a Nut Mysteries. [1:05:19]
  • David mentions Angela Lawson Scott, from Crack a Nut, who spent much of last year visiting multiple Targets to buy Box One and ship them to friends in Europe. [1:06:55]
  • David mentions how grateful he is for Neil’s support of Room Escape Artist, and Neil mentions how difficult it can be to find resources for small, bespoke experiences. [1:08:15]
  • Neil mentions that playtesting with different audiences is the most important lesson he learned from creating Box One. [1:11:23]
  • He discusses the possibility of Box Two, but talks about the difficulties in finding a different angle to surprise people who are now primed to some of the tricks after playing Box One. [1:11:50]
  • Neil talks about how much he loves Escape This Podcast, an audio escape room podcast that both Peih-Gee and David have been guests on as well. [1:13:46]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Follow Neil Patrick Harris

Instagram @NPH
Twitter @actuallyNPH

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between table top roleplaying and escape room puzzles.
https://www.consumethismedia.com/escape-this-podcast

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.