If you lose, The Architect does something truly villainous.
Location: Red Bank, New Jersey
Date played: December 6, 2015
Team size: up to 10; we recommend 6-8
Price: $35 per ticket
Story & theme
As a team of special agents, we were sent into the lair of a criminal who goes by the moniker “The Architect.” The objective was to find a MacGuffin left behind by agents who failed their mission, and use the item to finish the job.
The Architect was basically a Jigsaw-like character and the game itself was set inside of a booby-trapped murder house. While distinctive, Escape The Architect had many seemingly deliberate parallels to the Saw movie franchise.
That being said, the game itself wasn’t particularly scary; that was a good thing. If you’re jittery, you might find the setting a bit intimidating. However, Escape The Architect didn’t come close to crossing the threshold into horror.
The game itself takes place in a two-story building and it spans both floors. It’s a large game (especially by northeastern US standards) and each room in the game has a distinctive feel, purpose, and objective. With the notable exception of one room that had what amounted to a diorama and a green screen, it all came together really well. The diorama-like setup was out of place and confusing.
A game with character
The folks from Trapdoor have a background in video production. They previously made online puzzle adventures that involved real-life actors. This experience carried over into Escape The Architect in the form of video and auditory interactions with The Architect, who took pleasure in taunting us over the PA system.
The “presence” of The Architect gave the game a comic-booky feel that worked for me. It felt a little like we were squaring off against a bonkers Riddler-like villain who kind of wanted to get caught. Given the Batman sticker that I saw on a laptop in Trapdoor’s reception area, I’m thinking that was all by design.
Nearly every puzzle in Escape The Architect had a level of physical involvement that I found refreshing. On top of that, no two puzzles were even remotely alike.
There was a lot to do in Escape The Architect and it managed to keep every person on our team engaged throughout the entire game. Even when we stalled out on a puzzle we all remained busy. That’s a rare feat.
Dropping multiple locks on a door or a chest is a generally monotonous practice. From the player perspective, it makes the little victories I experience from solving puzzles feel hollow because there is no payoff.
In this situation, a failure to solve one lock brings the game to a total halt. That happened to us in a major way. If it weren’t for how quickly we worked through most of the early puzzles, the slowdown could have been catastrophic.
Respawning, for a second play?
Trapdoor offers teams who do not win a “medpack,” or a coupon to return at a 50% discount during the week to reattempt the game. They do not offer walkthroughs to teams who fail. They hold to this policy regardless of how much game is remaining.
We lost near the end of the game. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
I asked our gamemaster at the end if he was serious about not providing a walkthrough and he affirmed that he was dead serious.
I don’t know how the final puzzle concludes, but I have a very strong hunch.
I traveled over an hour to get to Red Bank, New Jersey to play Escape The Architect and I had to visit on a weekend. There is no chance I will be returning during the week. Even if returning during the week were an option, if I were to replay this game, I could get to the place where our game ended within 10-15 minutes… And if my hunch about the final puzzle is correct, I’d be out very shortly after that.
The notion that I would pay 50% and drive a two hour round trip for a few minutes of gameplay where I can still remember all of the lock combinations is insulting.
If we hadn’t made it past the halfway mark, then I think that a second chance would sound pretty enticing. Hell, if we lived nearby and we hadn’t made it past the three quarter mark, I think I’d consider another attempt. However, I’ve seen most of this game and I live way too far from Red Bank to even consider this offer.
When a team is as close to the end as we were, tell us the damn answer… Especially when we traveled a long way to play the game. Don’t ask for more money and tell us to come back another time to experience 4% more game.
Should I play Trapdoor’s Escape The Architect?
Escape The Architect is large, fun, and physical without requiring athleticism.
The fiction that Trapdoor has worked to build isn’t necessarily compelling, but it is entertaining, and that’s more than enough to push the story forward.
The manner in which they set up this villain to literally and figuratively antagonize us as we worked our way through his house of puzzles and traps added a dimension to the game that added tension, and laughs.
However, I cannot endorse Trapdoor’s handling of the post game. Their expectation that I would return and pay them 50% the price of admission so that I could replay they same game and take another swing at one puzzle is laughable and only served to sour what was otherwise a positive experience.
There’s no hard feelings. After the game, we had a ton of fun together shooting an episode of Trapdoor UNLOCKED… You should check it out because it’s hilarious (and contains a scene that my parents can never unsee).
Bring the best team you can, because Trapdoor has no mercy.
Book your hour with Trapdoor’s Escape The Architect, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.