Escape Room New Jersey – The Other Side [Review]

Chaotic and kooky, yet curiously captivating.


Location: Hackensack, New Jersey

Date played: December 14, 2015

Team size: 2 – 16; we recommend 6-8

Price: $30 per ticket

Horror or Detective mode

The Other Side has two slightly different modes of play for the same game.

The horror mode adds a few small, but significant, features and effects.

The detective mode includes the same series of puzzles as the horror game without the extra dramatic flair.

So long as you aren’t overwhelmingly fearful of horror experiences, the horror game is vastly superior, if only for one moment that was both surprising and very entertaining.

Theme & story

In the horror incarnation that we played, The Other Side was kinda sorta based very loosely on the movie The Ring… I think it had one subtle reference and one not-so-subtle reference to the movie. If there were more, I missed them.

Beyond that, the room was barely themed. The Other Side had a collection of puzzles and some interesting art on the walls, but it lacked a cohesively themed experience.

Wall art

Immediately upon entering The Other Side, its standout feature was obvious: the hand airbrushed walls were beautiful.

The art did more to set the mood of the game than everything else in the room combined.

©Sean J. Rhinehart For more of me:
A mirrored glimpse of the wall art.

Dry erase walls

In addition to the striking wall art, it was also coated in dry erase paint. I can’t overstate how great that was.

Our gamemaster, the game’s designer, explained that he hated when games involved pen and paper because teammates couldn’t easily see what other players jotted down… So he made the walls into giant dry erase boards.

He designed a simple and elegant solution to a common escape room problem.

Overwhelming beginning

After taking in the beautiful wall art, our team rummaged through the room and then stalled.

The game was incredibly difficult to start. It relied heavily on scavenging even when we had the right pieces. It was challenging to determine just which pieces went with which locks (there were a lot of 4 and 5 digit locks).

As the game progressed, we started to find patterns and get into a groove. As the quantity of locks diminished, it became easier to find the right place to plug in a solution.

Hints (and hints)

The Other Side provides 3 free hints, then each individual hint costs the team 5 minutes of time.

Our attentive gamemaster also piped up with unsolicited guidance. Unfortunately, this was necessary at times because some puzzle mechanisms didn’t work as planned and others weren’t nearly intuitive enough.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by…”

There are two ways to derive the answer to nearly every puzzle in The Other Side. This mechanic operated as a fail-safe for some of the more inconsistent puzzle mechanics, but it felt more like a necessary evil than a boon to gameplay.

There was always the awesome, physical way, and the less interesting, secondary way.

Consequently, we solved some puzzles through the secondary system, completely bypassing more interesting game mechanics. This led to the game’s big letdown: we accidentally bypassed the coolest part of the game.

Some of the puzzles in this game were perfectly skippable, but there were a few that should have been mandatory.

No finale

As confusing as the beginning of the game was, the end was equally befuddling.

We still had many unsolved puzzles in the room when we derived a code. With no other viable options for its input, I applied it to the door. Thus we escaped.

Some of the puzzles were left unsolved because we didn’t need to finish them all. Others were left a mystery because we bypassed them with the secondary system. During the postgame walkthrough, we learned about all of the puzzles we had skipped.

A couple days later, I cannot remember what puzzle gave us the exit code.  There was no finale. My whole team was still working on the remaining puzzles when I opened the door.

The ending was abrupt.


Should I play Escape Room New Jersey’s The Other Side?

The Other Side is an interesting game because it got a lot very right and quite a bit very wrong. However, it stood out because it was ineffably fun.

It kept every single one of our seven person team busy throughout every moment of the game. Everyone continued working on puzzles after we had won.

While the game was unfocused, largely unthemed, and at times baffling, it was always entertaining. And that’s really the point of a room escape game. It’s easy to get caught up in build quality, theme execution, and cohesiveness. Setting aside these intricacies, the core question is: Was it fun? The Other Side was incredibly fun.

The airbrushed wall art was beautiful and the whiteboard walls were a welcome bit of ingenuity.

The Other Side would likely be very difficult for first time players, but I bet it would still be fun. And I am truly excited to play Escape Room New Jersey’s next room.

When you go play, ask them to take you on a tour of the rest of their facilities… It’s a massive – and bonkers – party / indoor airsoft space. Everything in this place was delightfully nuts.

Book your hour with Escape Room New Jersey’s The Other Side, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room New Jersey comped our tickets for this game.

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