Escape Key – Senator Payne [Review]

“Grr… Argh!”

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: March 19, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Price: $120 per room in less popular timeslots, $140 per room in moderately popular timeslots, $160 per room in highly popular timeslots

Theme & story

A senator hired us to infiltrate the office of a rival to steal the language of a bill and prevent it passing. We were the second team that had been dispatched to retrieve the text: no one knew what had happened to the first team.

The game began in an incredibly mundane senator’s office and the mystery unfolded from there.

An escape room designed to look like a senator's office, complete with George Washington portrait, American flag, desk, leaver chairs, and grandfather clock.


Senator Payne’s plot unfolded like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you aren’t familiar with Buffy, that’s a fantastic thing.

Buffy is notorious for taking a mundane premise, putting a slightly horror spin on it, making the viewer think they know what’s happening, and then just as the plot is about to take a trip to cliche town, making a sharp turn and going in a completely different direction.

That’s what Escape Key did with Senator Payne.

A bit of horror

Senator Payne can get a bit horrory and intense, but not overwhelmingly scary. (Lisa remained fully functional throughout the game, which has not always been the case when we’ve played more intense horror games.)


“Escalation” was Senator Payne in a single word.

It started off comically mundane and then blasted off. Each puzzle was more interesting than the previous one. There were more than a few “I can’t believe that just happened” moments throughout the game.


Each puzzle offered a dramatically different, tactile challenge.

The puzzles were well-clued with the exception of one early puzzle that felt like it was missing something and required a logic leap. That, when mixed with the solution mechanism, didn’t feel fair.

That is not to say that the game was too difficult. We were supposed to play with three other people, but they flaked on us at the last minute. Fortunately, we comfortably completed the game just the two of us and it never felt like were were at a disadvantage.

Incredible ending

Senator Payne’s final puzzle, and the conclusion of the game, has become my new favorite escape room ending.

It was badass. That’s all I’m saying about.

Victory photo. Lisa holds the "bill," while David holds a heart." Both look comically horrified.

Should I play Escape Key’s Senator Payne?

Absolutely… so long as you aren’t too jittery or bringing young children.

Senator Payne packed so many magical moments, a fun story, and some of the most entertaining interactions that Team Room Escape Artist has ever experienced.

The staff at Escape Key was warm and welcoming and the game was topnotch.

If you’re a Buffy / Angel fan, then this is a must play.

The people who flaked missed something special.

Book your hour with Escape Key’s Senator Payne, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Key provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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