Hoodwinked Escape – Spirit of Harlem [Review]

“Hoodwinked” is a damn good name for an escape company.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: February 20, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Price: $28 per ticket

Theme & story

In Spirit of Harlem, Hoodwinked Escape created a puzzle gallery highlighting a small variety of the literary, musical, political, and performance figures from the historic Manhattan neighborhood.

Spirit of Harlem is light on story, but dripping with theme. Every single object and puzzle in the room communicated one thing: Harlem isn’t just a place where people live, it’s a community where they create.

Red wall with a violin, trombone, and saxophone painted on it.

An on-ramp for escape rooms

Spirit of Harlem wasn’t a particularly challenging game, but it’s a way in for those new to escape rooms.

The game was linear. There were a variety of puzzles and they all conformed to more standard escape room puzzle patterns.

The puzzles in Spirit of Harlem would be far more difficult for a team that hasn’t played many escape rooms, as the game derived much of its challenge from the locks and mechanisms used to build the game.

If you aren’t familiar with common escape game contraptions, then there is a lot to explore in the Spirit of Harlem.

Additionally, the gamemaster started us off with a clue as to how to get started, which is a nice touch for new players.

Poker table depicting a hand of cards that is a full house, and a pile of multi-colored chips.

8 people?

There’s nothing wrong with linear escape games. Linear games offer the opportunity for all players to see how each step of the game is completed. Some of the best games out there are incredibly linear.

The trouble is that linear games are best played by smaller groups and tend to cap out around four to six people. More than that and a lot of players will be stuck standing around with very little to do for far too much of the game.

We had seven people and it was too many for Spirit of Harlem.

Disabled puzzles

There were two set pieces in the room that felt like they used to be part of a puzzle that had since been disabled.

The two objects were some of the more eye-catching items in the room. We were disappointed when we escaped the room and realized that we never even had to touch them.

Misclued puzzle

Later in the game we encountered a puzzle that was arguably the most challenging that the room had to offer. It spanned multiple components and felt like the boldest, most original puzzle in the game.

We worked through it quickly, but we either missed a clue in the room to tell us how to make a rather large logic leap, or the clue wasn’t there. The solution that got the job done seemed to contradict some of what we saw in the room.

Regardless, a post game walkthrough would have been appreciated and would have cleared up our confusion.

Warm gamemasters

The gamemasters at Hoodwinked Escape were among the friendliest and warmest we’ve seen in the escape room world.

They went out of their way to be friendly, and offered a warmth and hospitality seldom displayed by escape room businesses.

They also gave a themed introduction to the game, which was fun.

Coolest clock ever

Spirit of Harlem had the coolest one hour countdown clock I’ve ever seen.

Depicts the Time Timer countdown clock. A one hour analog clock that has an orange overlay that ticks down over the hour.

It made me inordinately happy.

Should I play Hoodwinked Escape’s Spirit of Harlem?

Over at Room Escape Artist HQ, we’re consistently baffled by how infrequently we encounter games that celebrate local culture and history. Most cities have cultures, histories, myths, and legends that would make for a great escape room. It was wonderful to see Hoodwinked Escape shine a light on their community’s history.

The game itself was a friendly entry into the escape room world. It is worth playing if you’ve never played an escape or you’re reasonably new to the idea of paying people to lock you in a giant puzzle. The wonderful staff also makes this a great place to warm to the concept.

If you’re an experienced player, too much of Spirit of Harlem conforms to established escape room patterns to provide enough challenge to leave you fully satisfied. However, if you’re looking to attempt a speedrun, this could be your venue.

Book your hour with Hoodwinked Escape’s Spirit of Harlem, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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