Escape New Haven’s The Workshop is an unusual, spartan escape game that will mess with your exceptions.
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Date played: April 5, 2015
Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-4
Price: $26 per ticket
“You find yourself trapped in a madman’s workshop. Can you figure out how to use his tools and inventions against him to escape in 60 minutes?”
The world is small; crazy small.
One of the owners of Escape New Haven is friends with Lisa’s sister Amy; they went to school together. Amy also joined us for this escape.
There is a personal connection here; even if it’s distant and random. Regardless, there will be no mercy.
The lighting of this game was one of my favorite parts. It’s not black-out like Escape the Darkest Hour, but because you don’t have control over the low lighting, it effectively escalates the level of difficulty in the game while also adding ambiance.
It’s a beautiful thing when elements like light and sound contribute to the escape experience.
The lighting notwithstanding, this room is lean on decor, theme, and aesthetics in general. It’s supposed to be basementy, and it is… But there isn’t a lot of depth to the look and feel of this game.
I liken it to the experience we had with The Swiss Original. It’s more of a series of puzzles within a room than an escape experience that is trying to convey a story, or make you feel like you’re on an adventure.
Unique & duplicitous
This room is strange in some very good ways. Many of the puzzles are unusual, yet fair. There’s a lot going on in here that I haven’t encountered before.
This room is also incredibly deceitful… Also in a very good way (this might be the first time that I’ve used the word “deceitful” as a compliment). We like the trickery.
Got a whole lotta locks
This room has locks on top of locks on top of locks. It’s surprisingly not that annoying.
Sometimes excessive lock volume creates a unwieldy situation where you’re just shouting combinations across the room for an hour. In spite of all of the locks, this didn’t happen here.
The trouble is that much of this game is so unique that the locks occasionally feel like a letdown; even when they still work well. I want more of the interesting elements that this room offers.
The Workshop lacks a cohesive narrative from a story standpoint, but it’s also missing that structure from a design standpoint. It can compensate for this lack of story, but not the missing design. There isn’t a climactic moment in this game that makes you feel like a badass who is doing something incredible to escape the madman who locked you in a maze.
There are a lot of unique puzzles in this game, but the lack of a wow factor also means that we won’t talking about how cool they were in a year.
Escape New Haven has one of the best hint systems we’ve ever seen. They leave hint envelopes next to their harder puzzles. If you open one, you’re no longer eligible for a spot on their leaderboard (we now have the second fastest time).
Each envelope contains a hint in the form of a letter that advances the plot. We didn’t know what was in the envelopes until after the game, but I like that
- hints are standardized
- you have to consciously decide to take the hint
- they advance the story
- using a hint has a consequence
The downside to this hint system is that it seems like the hints substantially carry the plot, and we didn’t get to experience the story because we didn’t reach for the hints.
The Workshop has about a 20% escape rate with hints, and approximately a 10% escape rate without hints.
Escape New Haven’s facilities are exceptionally easy to get to. They are about a minute off of the highway, and have on-site parking.
This is a very smart move for a company that is based in a city that isn’t exactly a tourist destination.
Should I Play Escape New Haven’s The Workshop
The Workshop has some rough edges. The theming leaves a lot to be desired, and the volume of locks is excessive.
What is lacks in decor it makes up in cunning. This shouldn’t be your first escape game, but if you’re looking for a different kind of game that presents a serious, yet fair challenge, I highly recommend it.
Escape New Haven has something different to offer, and I am looking forward to playing their other games.
Book your hour in Escape New Haven: The Workshop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Interesting hint system with envelopes right next to the harder puzzles. This mechanism would explain the low breakout rate if no other hints are provided besides these envelopes. For the sake of entertaining people of a wide spectrum of puzzle solving abilities, I still feel that the computer monitor hint system is the best.
I think there’s room for more innovation hint systems. The more a hint system can facilitate gameplay without breaking the fiction of the game, the better.
By my observation, computer monitor based hint systems *usually* break that fiction.