A room that remembered to bring the challenge, but forgot to pack some polish.
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Date played: July 19, 2015
Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-5
Price: $26 per ticket
You have infiltrated the private study of a wealthy family. The family is hiding a secret… What is it? You have 60 minutes to figure it out and escape before the family returns home.
I was unusually uneasy about playing a room escape called “The Library.”
Books are the one thing that I just don’t want to touch when I walk into an escape room. I’m not talking a few books; a few books never ruined my hour. What drives me up the wall are shelves worth of books.
True to its name, The Library had no shortage of bound paper.
Without getting spoilery, for a player with a finite amount of time, the books weren’t handled gracefully. There were a number of clues that suggested the player look for a particular book that wasn’t there… And the way the player needs to go about using the books was inelegant.
A tale of two rooms
Parts of this game felt very refined, well-designed, and well-built. Then there were parts that felt haphazardly thrown together like they were a proof of concept for some better puzzle that Escape New Haven had on the bench of their workshop.
Generally speaking, the earlier puzzles seemed stronger, and the later puzzles seemed weaker. This gives the feeling of a school paper done at the last minute; it starts off strong and the quality trails off as the writer increases the page count.
The inconsistency was jarring.
When it’s good
At its best, this escape room has some wonderfully fun puzzles that are unique and have clever counter-brute-force mechanisms baked in.
The chess puzzle (visible as soon as you enter the room, and also featured on Escape New Haven’s website) is particularly noteworthy.
When it’s bad
At its worst, this game goes out of its way to create a feeling of stasis. There are times where a player cranks out puzzles and feels as if absolutely nothing is accomplished.
There are also elements of this game that are so dirty and hacked together that I wasn’t sure whether they were intentional. We played with Lisa’s parents and at the end of our game her mother explained to Max (one of the owners) that he needed to do a better job cleaning up… And she was right.
This game has a story, and saying it was bolted-on would imply that it the story and the game were connected at all. The story served as a distraction for us. There were times when we thought that the story was relevant to the gameplay, but it never was.
I don’t think this would have bothered us much, but it also wasn’t compelling. In the end, it was a time-eater with no payoff.
Should I play Escape New Haven’s The Library?
There are elements of The Library that are smart, fun, and original. We legitimately had to think in this one, and it’s worth noting that this is the first room that defeated us this calendar year. In that regard, our hats are off to the team at Escape New Haven.
However this game also suffers from some of the same problems as Escape New Haven’s facilities. The place is a bit chaotic and has a college dorm feel to it. The lobby is cramped, cluttered, and unfinished. Walking to the bathroom involves passing by paint cans and scrap lumber. When we played with them the first time, we chalked this up to them being new… Almost four months later it feels like a habit. This all was underscored by the slipshod state of The Library.
We are big fans of the Escape New Haven team (and have a roundabout personal connection to them that we explained in our last review). At their best they bring an interesting approach to puzzle design that is unlike any other company we’ve encountered. However, from a company that pushes boundaries and does interesting things, we expect to see a higher level of refinement.
We didn’t lose because this game was unfair. If you’re looking to play a game that presents a solid challenge but could use a lot more polish, then you should reserve your spot in The Library. If you are in New Haven and want to play a game that’s more put together, then I recommend The Workshop.
We have high expectations of Escape New Haven and look forward to playing their next game. We hope that it comes with the polish that we’ve come to expect from top escape game companies.
Book your hour with Escape New Haven’s The Library, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.