Location: New York, New York
Date played: December 14, 2014
Team size: up to 12; we recommend 5-8
Price: $28 per ticket
“Prepare to be locked in a room with up to 11 other people and a Zombie that is chained to the wall! Hidden in the room is a key that will unlock the door to your freedom. To find the key you must locate numerous clues and solve riddles. Every five minutes the hungry Zombie’s chain will be released another foot. Within an hour, the Zombie will be able to reach you. You have 60 minutes to the find clues, solve the puzzles, unlock the door and escape the room without getting eaten!”
Regardless of where you live, you probably don’t live too far from this game. Room Escape Adventures is far and away the most prolific room escape company in the United States. They have more than a dozen locations all offering the same game. They are slowly rolling out a second zombie themed game starting in Chicago.
We experienced one of the two New York City locations, but the puzzles are the same regardless of where you play.
The zombie is the big differentiator in this game.
Played by an actor in full costume and makeup. The zombie is a massive obstacle. I mistakenly assumed that the zombie would be easily avoidable.
Our zombie, played by a talented actor named Jesse, was a formidable and funny opponent. After the game we were told that every actor plays the part differently; I enjoyed ours quite a bit.
When I tell you that the zombie thew us off our game, I can’t understate that enough. Our seasoned room escape team buckled hard on this one. We never really got it together.
This game has solid puzzles. Each one offering a unique challenge, and it’s not all keys and combos.
Two that stand out to me involve:
- a notorious toy from the 1980’s that my brother and I used to play with
- a replication of a famous movie puzzle
Both were good fun.
There aren’t many puzzles that are especially challenging, however the zombie is a massive complicating factor that makes otherwise easy puzzles vastly more difficult.
Another huge boon to this game was the host (Matt, in our case). Our host introduced us to the game; gave us the rules; and then silently observed from the corner as we played. Occasionally he scribbled something down on his clipboard.
From time to time, he would communicate hints to us through intense stares, or gestures.
His true reason for being in the room was to offer protection to the chained up zombie (it seems that some lesser lifeforms actually do attack chained-up actors), and to prevent players from brute-forcing puzzles.
One of the standout aspects of this game was the recap our host gave at the end. He highlighted entertaining moments and how each player contributed. I haven’t seen other companies do this, and I think more of them should.
One of the less-than-stellar aspects of this game was the theming… Which was non-existent.
Our host told us we were entering the lab of Dr. Oxy; who tragically turned all sorts of undead. Upon entering the game we found ourselves standing in what looked like a beat-up living room. It bore no resemblance to a lab, and none of the puzzles had a lab or sciencey vibe to them. They could have, but they didn’t.
As a child a friend of my father’s came to visit us on Christmas Eve dressed as Santa. When he left, my brother looked out the front window and saw Santa get into an old, beat up sedan, and shouted, “He doesn’t have reindeer… Santa drives a stinking car!” That’s how this rooms design made me feel.
Too Many Tickets, Too Little Space
This room is billed as a 12 person room. That’s a joke. We had 10 people, and we were tripping over each other (I actually fell).
Maybe locations outside of New York City are larger; I don’t know. This location realistically fits 8 people.
When players are touched by the zombie, they are dead, and have to stand on an orange “X” (dead players can speak, but they can’t physically interact with things). I had contemplated sacrificing myself to make more room, but the Xs are smack in the middle of the best places to stand to avoid the zombie. It’s kind of a cruel joke that your “dead players” end up consuming your safe space.
One of the worst trends in the room escape business is overfilling rooms. It’s pretty crappy to do when there isn’t a zombie chasing you around. In this game it was too much.
Should I play this game?
You absolutely should. The puzzles are by-the-numbers, but the zombie makes it awesome.
We had some incredibly cool moments with our zombie that are not ever going to happen in a more typical room escape experience.
Go with 6 to 8 people. It’s up to you to decide if you want to buy up all of the rest of the tickets, or leave them and hope that you don’t end up with extra strangers.
I don’t recommend playing this with more than 8 people. Room Escape Adventures should contemplate a “buy the whole room” flat rate that is reduced. It would be a kinder way to make a buck.
Book your tickets with Room Escape Adventures, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.