“Life’s a bowl of cherries and this is the pits.” – The Joker, Batman: The Killing Joke
Location: Markham, Ontario
Date played: April 28, 2016
Team size: 5-10; we recommend 5-6
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $20 CAD per ticket
Story & setting
Joker’s Asylum desperately wants to be a Batman story:
“The Joker was once the pride of his circus, but after troubles started, he left and locked himself away in a mysterious asylum created by him and his doctor. It became his paradise, slowly magnifying his insanity. One day, The Joker decided to leave the asylum to plan his revenge. Before his doctor could leave a diary with the Joker’s secrets, he vanished. Now you are tasked with unraveling the mystery before The Joker finds you.”
Our team began split between two rooms: the “control room” and the “game room.”
The control room was basically a closet that contained a lot of information. The game room was a large space with locks and puzzles. The group in the control room had to verbally guide those of us in the game room to complete the tasks. Eventually we all reunited.
It remained a mystery how we all ended up split between these spaces while investigating The Joker.
The setting had a dark, creepy, vaguely carnival feel to it.
Communication and observation were the twin keys to this escape room.
All escape rooms require communication; Joker’s Asylum required more than most.
All escape rooms require observation; Joker’s Asylum severely punished small oversights.
Nothing in the game was particularly challenging if you found all of the pieces and communicated them… but finding all of the pieces and communicating them was a big challenge.
Structurally, Joker’s Asylum was a truly different experience. It was a unique challenge to have two players effectively locked away with little to do other than attempt to puppet-master the game, while the rest of the team played at being semi-autonomous puppets.
We appreciated that this experimentation offered a variation on escape rooms.
Those players locked away in the control room had few puzzles to solve and mostly had to communicate what they could see in their space. Lisa was in the control room; for the first time since we’ve started writing reviews, she felt like she could not accurately describe the experience because her view into the game was so limited. If you’re volunteering for the control room, you’re volunteering for an incredibly limited experience.
The game room was frustrating because there were so many unknowns. If we hit a wall, it was painfully difficult for us to determine whether we were missing a detail or whether our teammates in the control room had failed to communicate something to us.
Additionally, the final puzzle offered far too little feedback. Without hints, there was no way to know if we were even on the right track.
Should I play OMEscape’s Joker’s Asylum?
The Joker forgot to bring the fun.
The setup was interesting and the setting had ambiance, but it didn’t come together in a satisfying way.
Joker’s Asylum required too much cooperation, which is an unusual statement about an escape room. The team locked away in the control room had too little to do and too much to communicate. The team in the game room had too much to do and too few things to solve.
I appreciate OMEscape’s experiment in Joker’s Asylum, but not every experiment works.
If you’re an experienced player looking to explore an unusual escape room that offers a different set of challenges than most, give this a go. Everyone else should consider exploring some of the other options that OMEscape has to offer.
Book your hour with OMEscape’s Joker’s Asylum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
[comments based on the London, UK version of the game]
You mention that it involved too much cooperation. Do you think it was that, more than the lopsidedness of the cooperation. I wondered if it would have worked better had they split the “controls” for each puzzle between the rooms. I didn’t have a problem with their being so much communication, but I did find it frustrating being in the room where we were metaphorically in the dark.
I’d love to play more rooms that take the bold approach that Joker’s Asylum did to find out if it’s a fundamental problem, or one that can be worked round. The only other split room game I’ve played reunited us after a few minutes with only two fairly poor puzzles keeping us apart.
I completely agree. I don’t think the concept was the problem. I think it was an execution problem. We’ve played plenty of split rooms that were tons of fun, but I do think they introduce a lot of additional design complexity to account for.
This escape room is stupid hard and we didn’t even get through half of the room because we didn’t know how to open the number lock. The hints were useless and not helpful. The clues written on the walls were very difficult to piece together and pretty random and arbitrary. Not recommended, didn’t enjoy the experience at all.
Honestly, I’m surprised that it is still open.