Lots of interesting ideas. No finesse.
Location: New York, New York
Date played: June 19, 2015
Price: $28 per ticket
“Several members of the FBI checking in to flight MH270 are being assigned an important mission to get sealed documents from Nigeria to the Egypt. An explosion occurred out of the blue surrounding the tail of the plane before it was able to take off. The fire gradually spread to the front of the cabin while the captain and all the crew members went missing. You’ll have exactly one hour to find the sealed documents and escape the plane before you become “Lost in Air”.”
Updated shortly after publication
Somehow I missed that Go Escape decided to name their fictional plane after the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 (shifting one digit).
It goes without saying that this is obscenely crass, insensitive, unnecessary.
If this room was exceptionally well-designed, then one could argue that it’s artistic expression, but as you read on you’ll find that this room is anything but artful.
A spy in our midst
Before the game begins your puzzle-master has each member of the team secretly draw cards. One player receives a card telling them that they are a Nigerian spy, while the other players will pull cards instructing that they are FBI agents.
Everyone is trying to escape the plane. The FBI agents want to find some documents before getting out, while the spy is trying to stop players from retrieving said documents.
The cooperative game with a defector is a common mechanic in modern board games. Games like Dead of Winter, Shadows Over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica make brilliant use of this mechanic to add depth of strategy and story to the experience.
While I think the concept is ripe for use in escape games, Go Escape failed to breathe life into the mechanic. Our team didn’t find the documents because we solved the door puzzle before we solved the puzzle that would have revealed the documents.
I loved the concept, and our Aussie teammate-turned-spy Corrina did a great job of keeping her identity a secret, but I wish there was more to it.
A couple shades of grey
After drawing FBI/spy cards our puzzle-master asked for two volunteers to be chained together.
She shackled their hands, sat them in two chairs, then left the room. Thus the game began.
Why are two FBI agents chained together in a burning airplane? Who knows? But they were bound with TSA friendly combination locks… So at least it made sense that those locks were on the airplane.
Many escape games have questionably tacked-on stories; Lost in Air’s story was downright laughable.
At one point in the game we weren’t accomplishing much as a team, and I found my mind wandering… Asking questions such as:
Why are five FBI agents and a Nigerian spy flying commercial through North Africa?
Why are we the only people who survived this explosion?
If we’re at the airport, why aren’t there any local responders?
If we were transporting these documents, why aren’t they in our possession to begin with?
Did anyone bother to scan the documents before we left?
Isn’t international espionage a job for the CIA?
Why is the game called “Lost in Air” if the plane never left the ground?
This wasn’t my favorite game.
The single most common escape game cliché is a room filled with an inordinate volume of combination and key locks. Lost in Air defies this by having a variety of custom mechanical/electrical contraptions controlling their locks.
On the one hand, it’s great to see a company go out of their way to avoid traditional escape game locking mechanisms.
On the other hand, it would have been a far better experience if everything worked properly.
There was one puzzle that took us about 10 minutes, even though we knew the solution immediately. It took us many tries to input the answer successfully.
Rule one of escape game design: Everything in the room needs to work.
This game was designed with no attention to detail.
The introduction and many of the written puzzles are littered with comical grammar.
The room is supposed to be an airliner, but the layout, furnishing, and puzzles are strangely abstract (wood dining chairs?).
The execution was so weak that at no point in the game did I feel like an FBI agent or buy into the fiction.
Should I play Go Escape NYC’s Lost in Air?
There are a ton of great ideas in this room. Go Escape has a few unique puzzles, but they derive their difficulty from being tedious, abstract, and functionally temperamental.
I am the president of the “Escape Games Should Have More Mechanical & Electronic Puzzles Association,” but they need to work.
I love the idea of assigning players different win conditions, but that requires careful design that allows the players to act on their differing motivations in tangible ways.
An escape game in a burning airplane is a great idea, but the set design and fabrication must be perfect to make it believable.
Most mediocre escape rooms are weak because the designers lack the technical competence to build something interesting, or the wisdom to hire someone who can help them do so. Go Escape can build interesting mechanical puzzles, but they need to provide an experience that is fun, functional, and believable.