Something was missing from the gallery.
Location: Washington, DC
Date played: October 31, 2015
Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-5
Price: $20 per ticket, but it can vary
When we entered Escape Artist DC, we were greeted by a small gallery. The walls of the reception area displayed the work of a local artist. We really liked what we saw on display during our visit and we absolutely love the idea of an escape game using the lobby as a small art gallery.
Given that the company name, Escape Artist DC, includes the word “artist,” the decor was appropriate. As was a game themed on a gallery heist.
Unfortunately, this staging also set us up for disappointment: The quality of art downstairs far exceeded that in the game gallery upstairs.
The Gallery Heist was set in a replica of an art gallery, but it felt especially like a game knowing there was genuinely interesting local art a flight of stairs away.
The proprietor of Escape Artist DC delivered a detailed story arc before we entered the room. It boiled down to: Find the stolen painting, figure out who stole it, and find your way back out of the gallery.
Escape Artist DC put a lot of thought into this story, including crafting an “escape” into a game built around a different win condition. However, the escape component felt forced.
Additionally, the briefing time was extensive. We love a good setup, but editing the introductory speech down to a concise sixty seconds is generally advisable.
Locks & puzzles
In this game Escape Artist DC relied heavily on locks and some off-theme clues … kind of like the thief was looking to get caught?
An art gallery is a setting where more modern security technology would fit right in. It seemed like a missed opportunity to make use of more elaborate security.
Determining the culprit
There was a series of puzzles that didn’t unlock a single thing, but did help us determine who committed the crime.
This was the Gallery Heist’s high point. It was a fun element. Escape Artist DC should continue to explore this interesting concept.
Cost and timing
Escape Artist DC gave us complementary tickets to this game. They charged our teammates their regular large party rate of $18 per player, which is significantly below the US industry standard.
The games at Escape Artist DC are only 45 minutes, and we escaped in less than half that time (shattering their record).
Thus our fairly inexperienced teammates each paid approximately one dollar per minute. That was a tough pill to swallow, even when it was being washed down by a new record.
Should I play Escape Artist DC’s Gallery Heist?
This game felt like a game. While Escape Artist DC attempted to make us detectives in their gallery heist story, we never felt like the characters they wanted us to be. We felt like we were solving puzzles in a game. They need to dial up the production value to keep on par with the competition (and their lobby).
There were some fun elements and the suspect deduction portion of the game was clever. That being said, the interesting ideas and fun mechanics need more work.
If Escape Artist DC zeros in on what makes this room special, I am confident that there’s a really interesting and compelling game in The Gallery Heist, but this painting needs to go back on the easel.
Full disclosure: Escape Artist DC comped our tickets for this game.