A debonair room that should enjoy a shot of moonshine, and loosen up a bit.
Location: New York, New York
Date played: August 13, 2015
Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-8
Price: $29 per ticket
Theme & story
You are visiting a speakeasy and the police are on their way. Quick – make your exit through the back door. This is a believable-ish fiction. Escaping this room makes sense (if the police are super slow).
The puzzles are generally on theme, or at least within the context of the period design. And while Escape Entertainment uses some homework-style puzzle elements, they integrate them more seamlessly into the physical room than some others who use this technique (mostly because it doesn’t rely on pen and paper puzzles).
The puzzles don’t progress the fiction. It remains as was stated at the beginning: find the back door and get out. There is a missed opportunity to build puzzles into a story and elevate to a climactic, dramatic moment.
As a company, Escape Entertainment is bringing it.
The waiting room is like a spacious, comfortable hotel lobby. It is a shockingly large for a space in Manhattan. We admired the art on the walls and enjoyed the tavern puzzles before our game began.
When we entered Prohibition Pandemonium, we entered a specific fiction crafted in the same artfully designed manner. The speakeasy setting included period-esque set pieces and purposeful lighting.
Escape Entertainment made a deliberate decision to make many of the set pieces, props, artwork, and clues immovable. This is a different approach to room design.
In an initial room turnover, we usually pile artwork in corners, stack drawers on the floor, and move clues to a central location. We couldn’t do that here.
On the plus side, the static nature of the room forces increased teamwork.
On the other hand, it dramatically decreases the tactile nature of the game. There are fewer variables and fewer options for play. It’s a different mindset to think “Does this move?” before trying to pick it up.
As a business decision, this style also works to Escape Entertainment’s advantage: Fewer variables probably means less breakage. The staff can easily and rapidly reset the room for the next team. This begs the question: Is the room optimized for the players’ experience or the company and its employees?
This room suffers from an extreme reliance on five digit combination locks. Some are numbers; most are letters, and it’s repetitive.
To its credit, Escape Entertainment provides clues that make it clear which derived answer solves which lock. Once players realize this, the room avoids many of the problems we regularly see with a lock-heavy room, where one player shouts a code and multiple other players try it in five or ten different places in the room.
Whereas variability would make the game more exciting, the locks don’t stop the players from experiencing little moments of victory.
For the most part, the puzzles are all designed for a specific type of thinking. They lack the variety that makes players appreciate the brilliance of their teammates.
We walked away with dramatically different opinions of the this room. This is because some players killed it, solving element after element, and others felt that they barely contributed. Most of these puzzles work for one specific intelligence type.
The gamemaster told us to expect red herrings. They are expertly included to remain on theme and steal a little of your time before you realize what’s going on. While we are not generally fond of red herrings, these were crafted more artfully than most, in a way that we appreciated as clever.
Early on in the game, our gamemaster fed us hints at her own discretion. At least once, she fed us a hint to a puzzle element we’d already determined, on our way to solving that puzzle. Another time, she helped us make a logic leap that sped up the game.
I’m confident we would have made that logic leap anyway; we were already on our way to that. We escaped with about 16 minutes to spare and we would have preferred to win (or lose) with hints at our own discretion.
Our game concluded without a walkthrough.
As a 10-player room, designed in a style where puzzles don’t move to a central location, this game could benefit from a wrap-up that shows players how the elements they missed were resolved.
Escape Entertainment has a great staff; I think a post game walk-through should be folded into their responsibilities.
Back door juxtaposition
The physical structure of this final puzzle is ingenious. The puzzle itself is not.
Although the backdoor puzzle departs from the room’s reliance on combination locks, unfortunately, it also introduces technology that is overtly not of the period. A beeping digital number pad illuminated with bright blue LEDs really doesn’t fit.
Additionally, the door puzzle is a letdown. We ultimately hacked the answer, and I’m not sure if there was a smart way to derive the it (a walk-though would have helped clear that up).
That said, the backdoor is created in a particular way that is quite sneaky, in a brilliant, speakeasy-esque way. It’s awesome.
Should I play Escape Entertainment’s Prohibition Pandemonium?
If you like scavenging, over turning rooms, and generally wreaking havoc as you solve puzzles, this probably isn’t the game for you. The same is true if you prefer more tactile game elements.
We’re not sold on this glued-down escape room style of design, because it makes the game feel more like a still life, and that in some ways defeats the purpose of an escape room.
However this game also packs a high level of ambiance; this on its own makes it a must-play.
This is one of two rooms that Escape Entertainment had on opening day, and in that regard, it is a wonderful first room. We’re excited to play their other room, and really look forward to seeing where they go from here.