This factory manufactures befuddlement.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date played: February 6, 2016
Team size: 4-10; we recommend 6-10
Price: $28 per ticket
Theme & story
The setup was: “You and up to 9 other people are locked inside an abandoned break room. You have 60 minutes to figure out the clues and escape.”
The Factory looked a bit like an abandoned industrial facility and a long forgotten basement had a baby. The room had a compelling grit about it, an aesthetic born of the many years of haunted house design experience brought by the folks from Trapped PHL.
The room wasn’t scary, but it had an intimidating presence.
There was theme, but there wasn’t story.
Blindfolds & handcuffs
Prior to entering The Factory, we were blindfolded, carefully led into the room one at a time, and handcuffed by one hand to different points along the walls of the room.
The Trapped PHL staff had this process down and were funny while they shackled everyone up. Once everyone was affixed to the wall, the game clock began and we were allowed to remove our blindfolds.
This was the most professional and comfortable blindfold and handcuffing I’ve seen from an escape room. Even the blindfolds didn’t gross me out.
When companies elect to begin their games this way, it is generally intense, but it isn’t always comfortable from a trust or hygiene standpoint. The Trapped PHL staff brought an admirable level of care.
Puzzles & stuff
The Factory was packed with puzzles and a nutty assortment of stuff. The room managed to keep our experienced 8 person team busy for the duration of the hour.
There were a lot of puzzles and a lot of red herrings. The puzzles were generally eclectic. A few of the puzzles were wonderfully physically involved and bore no resemblance to anything we’d previously encountered.
“I heard you like locks”
There were a lot of locks, which wasn’t inherently problematic… but far too many of them were 4 digit number locks, which created the irritating situation whereby we needed to test every possible solution in a ton of locks.
A tiny speck of outside knowledge
There was one puzzle that required a little bit of outside knowledge.
Ironically, we all possessed the knowledge, but we were trying to solve the riddle with only information found in the room. We burned a silly amount of time on this before calling for a hint.
Hints & choices
In The Factory, Trapped PHL uses an unusual hinting system:
Our team had to pose specific questions to our gamemaster and overlord Jim. In practice, this meant that if we worded our question poorly, or asked about something that wasn’t important, we could burn one of our three hints and receive little to no reward.
In the case of the aforementioned outside knowledge puzzle, when we opened the lock associated with the puzzle we received pieces that helped us solve something that we had already cracked. We killed a lot of time on the puzzle, burned a hint, and received nearly nothing for all of the effort.
This system put a lot of pressure on the hint request process. At times we came to a halt just to debate what question to ask. Unfortunately, sometimes we needed a push in the right direction because we didn’t know which direction was correct. However, the system forced us to choose a direction. This didn’t always yield positive results.
The discard bucket
There was a small bucket for depositing used items. This bucket was clearly there to make life easier for the gamemasters during their eventual reset.
Unfortunately, teammates dropped active items into the bucket because they thought these were used and that fostered dysfunction. I think this would have been less of a problem had there been no discard bucket at all.
Should I play Trapped PHL‘s The Factory?
The first escape room created by a new company is always an interesting beast. These games bear first-timer flaws. The Factory was far from perfect, but it had a charm and an atypical feel to it that made it both challenging and well worth playing.
At times The Factory was deeply frustrating, but no one ever said escape rooms need to make their players feel smart.
The Factory isn’t horror, and it isn’t scary, but it is gritty, a bit dirty, and more edgy than your average escape room. It’s probably not the best game for young children or those looking to experience something bright and friendly.
The staff at Trapped PHL, the look of the game space, and an assortment of wonderful puzzles made the experience worthy of our time and money.
If you’re already visiting Trapped PHL, you should also consider signing up to play their second game, The Attic. It’s a svelte 30-minute game that packs a level of refinement and demonstrates just how much the Trapped PHL crew learned from their first game.
Book your hour with Trapped PHL’s The Factory, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Trapped PHL charged us half price for this game.