EscapeWorks – Beyond the Flower Shop [Review]

Prune and fertilize

Location:  Denver, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It gives me no joy to tell you that we didn’t enjoy Beyond the Flower Shop. If I had to encapsulate the experience in one word, it would be “lifeless.”

The set had potential. Much of it looked good, but it had no spark of life… which is not how a speakeasy ought to feel.

In-game: A bar with beers, a mixed drink, and an ashtray laying atop it.

The gameplay felt utterly flat and was mostly a mixture of searching and the kind of static puzzles that show up in my Facebook feed. There was no intrigue, no mystique.

All of this was burdened by weak gating and hints that were only released at the gamemaster’s discretion… long after the death of the little momentum that we’d managed to build.

EscapeWorks was recently under new management when we visited, so I’m not writing them off yet. I think that there is potential in both this game and this company. I hope that it will be fully realized.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Completionists

Why play?

  • You’re looking for a Prohibition-themed scavenger hunt

Story

It was 1926, Prohibition was in full swing, and we had gone off in search of a good time. A friend had told us about an establishment that was hidden behind a local flower shop.

In-game: shelves of flowers.

Setting

Beyond The Flower Shop was initially set in a flower shop before moving us into a speakeasy.

The flower shop portion did the bare minimum to set the stage as a flower store. The set was sparse and dominated by stark white walls.

In-game: an antique cash register on a tabletop.

The speakeasy portion was considerably better looking. I wouldn’t have minded having a drink at the bar. That said, it still felt empty and lifeless.

Gameplay

EscapeWorks’ Beyond the Flower Shop was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a small tabletop on a barrel with a drink and lantern atop it.

Analysis

➕ Our gamemaster gave a strong introduction.

➕/➖ EscapeWorks put effort into this set. The brickwork looked brick-y and the music gave it a speakeasy vibe. That said, the space felt empty. It seemed like it was designed without a creative direction beyond generic speakeasy.

➕ One late game open was a fun reveal that brought us somewhere unexpected.

➖ Most of the gameplay resolved around search, observe, and connect. The only puzzle in the space was of the static “gotcha” variety that acquaintances post on Facebook.

➖ Beyond the Flower Shop struggled with gating issues. We spent a lot of time working on puzzles that weren’t fully available to us.

➖ We wasted a lot of time because of a tech-fail. When the obvious solution failed to trigger, we tried absolutely everything else in the space… and then tried to solve things that weren’t open to us yet.

➖ Many of these problems were complicated by the fact that hints were delivered entirely at our gamemaster’s discretion. The effect was that we spent much of our time frustrated and waiting for a hint that we knew we needed and would have asked for far earlier.

➖ The story logic was confusing. If we were looking for a good time. Why were we repairing the boiler? Everything in the space solved according to escape room logic.

➕ EscapeWorks staff was outstanding. Our game intro was especially well presented. 

Tips For Visiting

  • There is nearby street parking and public parking lots.

Book your hour with EscapeWorks’ Beyond the Flower Shop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: EscapeWorks comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Professor Puzzle – Escape from the Grand Hotel [Review]

A beautiful hotel with spotty service.

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 27, 2019

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

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $24.99

REA Reaction

Escape from the Grand Hotel was Professor Puzzle’s first foray into tabletop escape games… and they got a lot right.

The printed materials and package design were beautiful.

The ornate and gilded box art for Escape From The Grand Hotel.

The gameplay took some clear inspiration from the ThinkFun tabletop escape games, using location envelopes and paper components to tell a puzzle-driven narrative. Their approach to answer verification was clever.

Professor Puzzle stumbled with hinting and editing. Bluntly, this game felt under playtested. There were too many little problems that were easily fixable. The hint system was innovative, but insufficient.

There are some interesting ideas and a lot of great execution in Escape from the Grand Hotel. If you really enjoy tabletop escape games, this one had a lot to offer. However, there were too many little flaws and gaps that got amplified by the limited hint system for me to comfortably recommend this to a tabletop escape game newbie.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful game materials
  • The structure and gameflow
  • The answer mechanic
  • The opportunity to make an evening of a tabletop puzzle game

Story

The storied Grand Hotel was once the place for the rich and famous to visit. After decades of disrepair, the mysterious and wealthy Blossom family had restored the hotel to its former glory. We were invited to its grand reopening.

An invitation to the reopening of the Grand Hotel.

Setup

Escape from the Grand Hotel had an interesting structure.

The opened box reveals stacks of invitations and a map of the hotel.

Each player received an invitation. This included character information and encouraged costuming. (We didn’t really use any of this because we didn’t realize it was an option until we already had our friends over and the box open.)

The ornate white doorway card for our room.

Once we began, we unfolded the beautifully printed cardstock hotel settings. We could observe what was in each space. In many, we also found additional paper items (puzzle pieces).

Our room opened up, reveals an image of a luxurious white bathroom. There is a note and a portion of a photo.

If we solved a puzzle, it would resolve to a clue to the next location within the hotel for us to visit. Sometimes this meant that we derived a room number. Other times we uncovered a more cryptic clue like the color of one of the doors or some other descriptor.

9 different folded doorways. Each with a unique aesthetic.
The various doorways to open.

If we needed a hint, we could unfold one from the location. Interestingly, the hints were usually puzzles in and of themselves… puzzles without their own hints.

At the bottom of our room is a folded segment labeled "clue inside are you sure you choose to seek help?"

Gameplay

Professor Puzzle’s Escape from the Grand Hotel was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate to high level of difficulty. If you’re comfortable with tabletop escape room puzzles, this was moderately difficult. If you aren’t comfortable with the format, the limited hinting could make this game quite challenging.

Professor Puzzle also encouraged making the game into an event by providing character roles.

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

The instructions for the game revealed upon moving a stack of invitations.
The instructions were buried under the invitations… which really was the wrong order.

Analysis

➕ We enjoyed the structure of Escape from the Grand Hotel. Each puzzle led us to another room in the hotel. It was fun to explore the hotel in this way.

➕ The first puzzle worked well for onboarding players. It wasn’t too challenging. Through it we understood how Escape from the Grand Hotel wanted us to play it.

➕ The solution mechanism was fantastic. The idea that the puzzle solutions alluded to the next area of the game was a smart twist on the tabletop escape game format. This approach allowed Professor Puzzle to strip out artificial answer checking mechanisms and keep things in-world.

➖ We encountered some taxonomy inconsistencies within the in-game instructions. The way that it referred to things sometimes shifted. This got confusing.

➕ Professor Puzzle designed a beautiful product with high-quality printed materials. From the box to the game components it looked and felt great. We especially enjoyed the illustrations of the rooms in the hotel. We really loved the box.

An envelope labeled "Puzzle Solutions for emergencies only"

➖ Although the artwork was beautiful, it included a visual variance that factored into the gameplay. Cluing needed to match the artwork, or vice versa.

➕ Escape from the Grand Hotel included a variety of puzzles of different types and difficulties.

➖ In some instances, the puzzles needed additional cluing.

➖ In one instance, ambiguous wording turned the final stages of a complex puzzle into trial and error. This got old quickly.

➕ Professor Puzzle provided duplicate copies of one of the more tedious puzzles so that more players could participate.

➖ The hint for each puzzle was concealed in a pocket in each “room” we entered. Although we liked this presentation of hints, Professor Puzzle included only one hint per puzzle, which was insufficient. The hint system needed far more granularity. In some instances, the hints themselves were puzzles and they didn’t have hints for themselves.

➕ The story was hokey, but it came together well enough in the end. It worked for the game and made us smile in the end.

➕ Professor Puzzle encourages players to make an evening of Escape from the Grand Hotel. They included invitations to mail to guests, who can come in character and in costume. This would be a fun way to make a play-at-home puzzle game into a bigger event.

➖ While character roles were fun, they were not relevant to the gameplay.

➖ It wasn’t clear that those character invitations were even an option until we had started the game.

➖ Although the game can be played without destroying any of the components, it didn’t provide reset instructions. We were able to pack it up correctly by referencing the solutions guide, but without instructions, we had to repack one puzzle in the solved state. 

Escape from the Grand Hotel required only the materials in the box. It did not require an app download or internet connection.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pen and paper
  • To make a larger event around this game, mail out the enclosed invitations and have your guests arrive in character and in costume. Note, the character roles are entirely for fun and are not relevant to the gameplay.

Buy your copy of Professor Puzzle’s Escape from the Grand Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Professor Puzzle 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. We appreciate the support.)

Detroit Michigan: Room Escape Recommendations

Latest update: November 16, 2019

We really enjoyed the escape rooms in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.

When we visited in August of 2019 we found a market on the rise… and it was truly exciting to behold. We’re looking forward to seeing where Detroit is heading.

Stylized image of the Detroit skyline.

Market Standouts

  1. The Aurora Society, Decode Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti
  2. Infirmary, Michigan Escape Room, Clinton Township
  3. The Houdini Trap, The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms, Ferndale
  4. The Minerva Project, Decode Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor

Games we haven’t played but wish we had:

  • Comic Excape, Excape Games, Livonia
  • Minerva’s Escape, Decode Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor
  • Michigan Escape Room – in general – we wish we’d had time to play more with them

Set & Scenery Driven

Puzzle Centric

Tech Heavy

Newbie Friendly

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

Made You Think Escapes – Area 51 [Review]

.–. .-.. . .- … . / .-.. — — -.- / .- – / – …. . / .-.. .. –. …. –

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We did it, guys! We stormed Area 51!

In-game: 2 aliens presrved and mounted to the wall.

What we found within the most secretive of facilities was a baffling duality. Everything within Area 51 was extreme. Made You Think Escapes’ hits were bullseyes… and their misses landed in a different zip code.

Half of the set was incredible and half was drab (frequently olive).

Some of the puzzles and challenges were great, while others were confusing or, in one lengthy instance, aggressively frustrating. I cannot recall a puzzle that made me feel this frustrated with teammates that I love.

I’ll add that the game introduction and lobby were categorically fantastic.

Area 51 was a strange game to review. When I think back, the stuff that I liked I loved, and the things that I disliked I hated. It’s difficult for me to understand the disparity on display in this escape game.

There were some really interesting things going on in Area 51. If you’re in Colorado Springs and can take the bad with the good, then there would be something worth playing here. Just don’t hold that first puzzle or two against your teammates.

Who is this for?

  • Communicative players
  • Scenery snobs (the early game notwithstanding)
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The lobby
  • The late-game set design

Story

Due to increased extraterrestrial activity, the governments of the world had been forced to admit the existence of alien life. The US government had decided to open up Area 51 for tours to help us better understand the peaceful beings that had contacted us.

While we were visiting, a sudden attack had commenced on the facility because the aliens had learned that some of our scientists had been experimenting on their brethren.

Caught between both sides, we had to find shelter.

The entryway to Area 51 S-4. The walls are metal, and there is radio active material off to the side.

Setting

Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51 had a confounding set. The two halves felt like they were built by completely different companies.

The lobby and final room were gorgeous, detailed, and unique.

The first actual room looked like the most basic of escape rooms from a few years back. The range of build quality was striking.

In-game: A pair of camo jackets beside an american flag.

Gameplay

Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51 was a standard escape room with a split beginning and a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around communication, observation, searching, and puzzling.

In-game: Closeup of a communications panel with multiple lights and a big red button.

Analysis

➕ Made You Think Escapes had a large, open lobby from which players could enter any of their games. Each game had a different aesthetic, clearly demonstrated by its door. These doorways were enticing and exciting. We loved how this space was set up.

➕ The intro video for Area 51 was hilarious. It was thematically appropriate and had us engaged in understanding the rules.

➕ Area 51 escalated well. The early sets weren’t much to behold, but it opened up into something otherworldly.

➖ Area 51 had a brutally hard first challenge. There was practically no on-ramp. This was especially challenging considering the split-team beginning. The net effect was that right out of the gate, Area 51 felt like a frustrating slog. (It did recover later.)

➖ Made You Think Escapes gave us tools, and there were so many things we could have taken apart that weren’t supposed to be fiddled with. If you give me a Phillips-head screwdriver, the only Phillips in the experience should be intended for removal.

➖/➕ The set design was decidedly uneven. The beginning of the game was completely uninspired, but the late game looked incredible. It was difficult to fathom how such a significant disparity existed within the same escape game.

➖ There wasn’t a lot to do in Area 51. There were a few puzzley puzzles and one of these had unnecessarily confusing wording, which diminished the fun of an otherwise good puzzle.

➕ We enjoyed one cleverly clued search.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Made You Think Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

We’re Launching RECON 2020 Boston!

Room Escape Artist is excited to announce the first Reality Escape Convention.

RECON - Reality Escape Convention logo features a penrose triangle and and a blue eye.

About RECON

RECON 2020 is a conversation for the escape room industry. With core tenets of knowledge, connection, and immersion, RECON opens dialogues.

By attending RECON you will gain new insights and a broader community. RECON supports a sustainable escape room industry now and in the future.

Event Details

  • Dates: August 23rd & 24th, 2020
  • Location: Boston Marriott Cambridge

Help Launch RECON

Share RECON with your escape room network.

13th Hour Escape Rooms – The Trophy Room [Review]

“What a lovely room of death.”

Location:  Wharton, NJ

Date Played: October 27, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

13th Hour Escape Rooms has become northern New Jersey’s most consistently high quality escape room company. We’ve played and enjoyed 7 games from this company and awarded them with 2 Golden Lock-In Awards (2017 & 2018).

It’s going to come as no surprise that The Trophy Room was a fun game. This was 13th Hour’s 6th escape room set in the Hayden Family’s farm of torture, murder, and cannibalism. The facility itself was fully themed against this backdrop.

As usual, this was a challenging, puzzley game in a grimly beautiful environment.

In-game: A skeleton mounted from the ceiling, a light above its head.

We played during October, so we had the Hayden Family haunt actors doing their Tim Burton-esque, whimsically creepy antics to distract, entertain, and hint us.

The Trophy Room lacked a truly arresting moment like some of their other games have had. It’s an all-around great game. We just wanted to see something that really blew our minds.

If you’re in New Jersey, 13th Hour Escape Rooms is a must-visit company. We’d easily put The Trophy Room in the top 3 games that they have on the premises. So long as you can handle a bit of creepiness, I highly recommend taking a gander at The Trophy Room.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle play
  • Amusing interactions
  • A great creepy set

Story

John Hayden has a special room on his farm where he keeps trophies of his victims. The old murder farmer continues his search for the ultimate trophy. Would he find that individual in our group?

In-game: A plant that includes the shrunken head of a clown.

Setting

All of 13th Hour Escape Rooms’ games were part of a unified setting. The Trophy Room extended the aesthetic of the Hayden farm into new areas of the “house.”

The Trophy Room was visually striking from the opening moments, as we took in the space, surrounded by tastefully mounted human skeletons. It looked great; 13th Hour Escape Rooms’ craftsmanship always does.

In-game: Two skeletons mounted to beams on the wall.

13th Hour Escape Rooms struck a creepy and intense vibe without turning full horror. Additionally, while their games all look dirty and gritty, they are kept quite clean. (This isn’t always the case in escape rooms.)

Gameplay

13th Hour Escape Rooms’ The Trophy Room was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: The gritty, furniture of The Trophy Room.

Analysis

➕ The scenery looked outstanding. 13th Hour Escape Rooms built a large, rugged, weathered set. It established the mood of the experience and was fun to explore.

➕ Although we started among John Hayden’s trophies, as we played The Trophy Room we explored other areas of the Hayden farm. These unexpected sets added charm to the Hayden mystique. We enjoyed the variety within the experience.

❓ 13th Hour generally builds more around escape room logic than narrative. That is part of their charm. They’ve successfully merged thematic with escape room norms, crafting their own style in both aesthetics and gameplay. They make it work. If you’re looking for serious storytelling, however, that’s not present in their games.

➖ Although The Trophy Room had a reveal – and this was enhanced by the actors who roamed the games in October – it wasn’t on the same scale that we’ve seen from this company in the past.

➕ 13th Hour reskinned a traditional escape room puzzle for the theme of The Trophy Room. It worked well.

➖ 13th Hour Escape Rooms steered clear of a laundry list of tropes, but one that they did use should be hung up and retired.

➕/➖ The Trophy Room had many strong tech-driven reveals, but a few of them made odd use of keypads. It was difficult to map individual puzzles to their inputs.

The Trophy Room was a more intimate game than those we’ve seen most recently from 13th Hour Escape Rooms. That isn’t to say it was small, but rather that the gameplay was more accessible for a smaller group size. That said, it lacked the grandeur that impressed us in The Grand Parlor and The Great Room.

➕ Many of the puzzles in the The Trophy Room worked best with teamwork. They made use of the space and the details within it.

➕ The ending might be the final nail in the coffin for some scaredy cats. (Although 13th Hour Escape Rooms’ games aren’t scary, they are creepy enough to put some folks on edge.) We loved this conclusion. In our October playthrough, the ending was personal and playful.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking available.
  • If you visit during a weekend in October, the actors roam the Hayden Family Farm, the set for all the 13th Hour Escape Rooms. They are more creepy and playful then scary. They are a fun addition to the games, if that’s your thing.

Book your hour with 13th Hour Escape Rooms’ The Trophy Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 13th Hour Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Escaped in Time – Sweet Dreams [Review]

The world’s turned upside down

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [B] Emergency Key

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sweet Dreams was an adorable game with a great twist: everything was inverted.

In-game: A girl's dresser and oversized teddy bear all upside down.

Escaped in Time produced a straight forward, traditional escape room with smooth gameplay and a pair of memorable moments.

I would have loved to see a little more depth to the narrative and the interactions to truly round out this experience.

Overall, Sweet Dreams was a solid escape game in Colorado Springs. If you’re in the area and want something lighthearted and fun, check out Escaped in Time.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The room was upside down!
  • Adorable and whimsical

Story

KC, a typical 5 year old girl with a love of kittens, ponies, and unicorns, had an active imagination. Sometimes it got the better of her.

Our job was to lovingly help her through her dreams and prevent the bad thoughts from disrupting her sleep.

In-game: An upside down girl's bedroom with a bed, toys, and a dollhouse.

Setting

These photos weren’t flipped; Sweet Dreams was built entirely upside down. The room looked like it belonged to a little girl. The toys, clothes, and decorations all looked the part.

As the game progressed, the additional effects reinforced the dream like nature of the experience.

If it had been right-side up, it wouldn’t have looked even remotely special. The inversion, however, made Sweet Dreams delightful.

In-game: An upside down shelf with a pair of unicorns and a flower.

Gameplay

Escaped in Time’s Sweet Dreams was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The set was adorable. Escaped in Time created a little girl’s bedroom and perfectly inverted it. It was familiar, but also entirely discoverable.

➕ Escaped in Time committed to their flip. We’ve seen upside down rooms before. While they usually fall victim to inconsistency, Sweet Dreams was entirely upended.

➕ We found unexpected enjoyment in typical escape room tasks such as searching and placing objects “on” other objects. These felt fresh again.

➖ A few of the puzzles felt like key for key puzzles, although perhaps lock for lock would be a more accurate term. These moments felt hollow. There was opportunity to do something more interesting.

➖ Although we thought one puzzle caught the story beautifully, it bottlenecked. Due to a conflation of puzzle type, room layout, tools, and gameflow, too many people ended up waiting around.

➕ Despite foreshadowing some of its best moments, we were still surprised when these dropped. Sweet Dreams had a stellar reveal.

➖ The last interaction seemed tacked on to an escape room that would have been complete without it. This interaction didn’t make sense in the context of anything that came before it. Our story had already ended.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escaped in Time’s Sweet Dreams, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaped in Time comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Puzzah! – The Curse [Review]

Puzzah Express

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-Family

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Curse felt like a miniature 5 Wits.

This Puzzah! location was in a mall, right by the food court. The Curse was a compact, tech-driven, family-friendly puzzle game. It was bright, colorful, and approachable.

In-game: wide angle view of the Mayan tomb, a pyramid in the middle of hte room, an large wall mounted puzzle beyond it.

The Curse looked good. It played well. It was not deep. This was a game made for a general audience; for that audience, it was great.

If you’re a diehard escape room player, play The Curse to experience something a bit different. This game had solid automation and adaptive difficulty, which was lovely to see, even if the game was not designed for me and my team.

Bring the kids and convince grandma to come too. This one is for the whole family.

Who is this for?

  • Newbies
  • Children
  • Families
  • Technophiles

Why play?

  • A vibrant family-friendly environment
  • Interesting automation and technology
  • Puzzle play that will engage a family

Story

We descended into an ancient Central American temple on contract with industrialist Victor Maragana. Our mission was to reason our way past the temple’s traps and obtain a long-lost coin.

In-game: A sun etched in the wall of the ruins.

Setting

The Curse was a compact, bright, colorful, and tech-driven Central American temple for families.

Calling it kiddie evokes a cheesiness and cheapness that wasn’t accurate. This was a solidly-constructed space that seemed designed to feel like an adventure without sending anyone home with a nightmare.

The adaptive technology was a smart touch to keep things fair and flowing for players of all ages and skills.

In-game: A large cube resting atop a pyramid in inside of bright ruins.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s The Curse was a family-friendly escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a radio and a blacklight.

Analysis

➕ The Curse was designed for families, new players, and casual players stopping by while strolling through the mall. This 30-minute escape room was the right level of not-too-challenging for its intended audience.

➕ Aesthetically, The Curse was “ancient Aztec meets grade-school classroom.” It was thematically a Central American tomb, but it had bright colors for kids to follow to solve the puzzles. It was a bit strange, but it worked well in this context. It felt deliberately designed and looked polished.

➕ The Curse had a gentle on-ramp. It taught players how to interact with the space.

➕ The puzzles were solid. They were fun, team-based challenges. Puzzah! would present additional complexity as teams built mastery.  

➕ /➖ Puzzah! built a lot of puzzles into a small space. On the one hand, we appreciated the different ways they used the same props and input mechanisms. On the other hand, by the end of the game, the use of the same items was feeling redundant and we wanted more to interact with… or even just interplay between different props.

The Curse encouraged teamwork and sharing by design. When puzzles could only be solved by one person at a time, it even told the group that the next person should step up and take their turn at this trial. I can see this working wonders on sibling nonsense.

➖ The Curse lacked a boss fight. We wanted that final puzzle to be a more challenging, epic battle that necessitated teamwork. Also, we couldn’t actually hold the coin. When we won, we left the room empty handed. This seemed like a missed opportunity.

Tips For Visiting

  • Puzzah! Broomfield is located in the FlatIron Crossing Mall. Puzzah! Broomfield is at the South Entrance just beside Old Navy, right next to the food court.

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

Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

When To Slow Down & Savor an Escape Room [Player Tip]

I moderated a panel of international escape room owners at ERIC 2019.

The panel consisted of 6 creators from many of Europe’s most renowned escape room companies (and some of my personal favorites):

  • Chris Lattner (The Room/ Berlin, Germany)
  • Dmitri Varelas (Paradox Project/ Athens, Greece)
  • Lukas Rauscher (Crime Runners/ Vienna, Austria)
  • Sheena Patel (Time Run & Sherlock: The Game is Now/ London, UK)
  • Tomáš Kučva (The Chamber/ Prague, Czech Republic)
  • Victor van Doorn (Sherlocked/ Amsterdam, Netherlands)
The International Owner's panel moderated by David at ERIC 2019.
Image via Stefan of Two Bears Life.

In the middle of the mostly unplanned conversation, a question popped into my mind:

“Raise your hand if you think record-setting teams have more fun in your games?”

None of them raised their hands.

Savoring The Moment

There is a type of escape game that I really believe is best savored.

We mentioned this recently in our review of Rabbit Hole’s Mystic Temple. After realizing what we were playing, we slowed down quite a bit for Rabbit Hole’s second game, Paradox. Sometimes a game has so much detail that the optimal experience is to slow down and take it all in.

This can be a tough transition because we’re encouraged to move quickly by timers and escape room tradition.

I’m not going to tell you how to play your games. If you want to blaze through things, by all means, do it.

That said, I’ve been on many record-setting teams and I find that there’s a hollowness to it when the game was truly special. I can’t help but look back and wish that I had made more of the time rather than put up a good time.

I think that we’re going to start noting this in our “reaction” section.

For An Overview of ERIC

Our friend Stefan from the escape room blog Two Bears Life wrote up a lovely overview of ERIC 2019. I recommend checking it out.