[At the time of this review, Last Minute Escape was called Exit Strategy.]
With a new location, Exit Strategy’s sophomore effort is a massive improvement that isn’t without its faults.
Location: Wayne, New Jersey
Date played: August 22, 2015
Team size: up to 8; we recommend 6-8
Theme & story
Within this speakeasy you must find evidence against an infamous crime boss. You have one hour to escape with the evidence to incriminate him.
This game is properly staged in a speakeasy, complete with all manner of typical drinking and gambling paraphernalia and decor. (It’s not all of the Prohibition era, but you’ll get the point).
The puzzles generally make use of these themed elements, some more cleverly than others. However, the puzzles themselves don’t elevate the players’ experience of the story, nor do they move a narrative forward.
Use of space
Exit Strategy has a lot of space to work with in their new location in Wayne, NJ and they use it well.
The game opened in what is designed to be the speakeasy entry way. After we unlocked the first door, we found ourselves in a multiple room saloon environment. Early in the game, we unlocked these other rooms, which gave us more puzzles and more clues. The game cleverly forces players to to move fluidly between the various rooms throughout the game.
It’s always fun to play a game that makes proper use of space.
All roads lead to a lock, but many of those roads have some interesting, more physically involved puzzles along the way.
One puzzle in particular takes a half-baked concept from Exit’s Strategy’s first room, The Senator’s Manor, and greatly improves upon it.
Our gamemaster began feeding us hints on a screen almost as soon as we entered the main room of the speakeasy. In the first instance, we received a hint on a puzzle that had stumped a few people, but others hadn’t even looked at yet.
At no time in this game did our team slow down, spend a substantial amount of time without making any progress in the game, or actually request a hint. Yet we continued to receive hints. Our gamemaster may only have had video of us, but if there had been audio, it would have been very clear we wanted the hints to cease. David actually yelled “stop giving us hints” more than once.
We escaped with 15 minutes to spare, which was almost record time.
The accidental brute-force
David not-so-secretly loves to circumvent puzzles, but this game was the first time that he did it by accident.
One puzzle has a solution that is easy to derive in the wrong way. Unfortunately, the path designed to derive this solution is arguably the most interesting part of the game. It’s a fixable flaw, but a flaw nonetheless.
We found the door key about 20 minutes into the game. The lock to the final puzzle was left open.
It took us a little while to realize it was the door key because we weren’t expecting to have found it while we still had a significant portion of the room left to solve. After confirming for ourselves (by unlocking that door) that it was, in fact, the key to our escape, and that we were already holding the “evidence” we needed to escape with, we proceeded to finish the game the right way, because we paid to be there and wanted the full experience.
Should I play Exit Strategy’s The Speakeasy?
This is Exit Strategy’s second game and it’s much stronger than their first.
In this game, they’ve elevated the design, set pieces, and overall theming.
They smartly brought back the best elements of their first game: physically fun puzzles and high video production quality.
This room far outshines their first game; they’ve made incredible strides in quality across the board. Don’t play The Senator’s Manor; do play The Speakeasy.
This is a good room for beginners; the staff will hold your hand. And it’s still a fun game for experienced players.
All of that being said, there is no excuse for a bad setup. Players get one shot at these games, and they deserve to have it set up correctly. Quality control is a must.
Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to Exit Strategy’s next move.
Book your hour with Exit Strategy’s The Speakeasy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.