Insomnia Escape – The Alchemist [Review]

A magical experience

Location: Washington, DC

Date played: May 28, 2016

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

2016 Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story & setting

The Order of the Alchemists has created the mythic and powerful Philosopher’s stone. We had to steal this stone from the library of the Master of the Order before the Order could use it to take over the world.

The library staging was both believable and fantastical. Despite the wealth of objects in the room, it wasn’t cluttered. Through the furniture and props, Insomnia Escape achieved an ornate and mythical ambiance that was dead-on.

The setup was a heist, which was as plausible as the fantastical could be.

In-game photo of a wizard statue, an intricately engraved human skull, and a stainglass window in the background.


The puzzles in The Alchemist worked their way through the objects in the room. The game cleverly zeroed in on the important items so we didn’t feel trapped in a room of red herrings, even though there were more than a few items that weren’t incorporated into puzzles.

In part, this stemmed from a linear game flow. The escape room set clear intermediary goals and the puzzles marched forward pretty directly.

Additionally, The Alchemist told its story through the puzzles. It used a variety of interactions to continually escalate dramatic intrigue.


The library of the Master of the Order was an intricate, beautiful, and fun environment to explore for an hour.

Double wood doors with runs painted on them, beset by a pair of black lion door knockers.
Quite the knockers.

The technology in The Alchemist was well hidden and seamlessly revealed additional information as the game unfolded. It was elegant.

In this escape room, Insomnia Escape flawlessly executed their own take on some typical escape room standards. Nothing felt cliche.

This library included quite a bit of reading material. However, we weren’t bogged down by the amount of text.


We felt a lack of supervision. We were supposed to speak to the camera to receive a hint, but the gamemasters weren’t very responsive. We know that it can be difficult to communicate through these surveillance systems, but even so, this was excessive. It may have worked in our favor, given that twice we ended up not needing a hint after we’d asked for one and not received it. (We never actually used a hint.) Regardless, we had asked and it didn’t come. This would likely be more frustrating for less experienced players, or players neck and neck with their clock.

Team victory photo taken in the Alchemist's study.

In a few instances, once we’d solved a puzzle and knew how to proceed, it became tedious to execute the solution.

Should I play Insomnia Escape’s The Alchemist?

If you like artful design, story, and beautifully hidden technology, then yes, this is your game.

The Alchemist was mystical and magical. It transported us into a solidly constructed, carefully crafted alternate universe. Furthermore, our mission was clear and we felt like characters in an unfolding fantasy heist.

This is not an ideal game for new players because they will likely have trouble finding and following the thread of gameplay. We recommend that players get a few games under their proverbial belts before taking on The Alchemist, as they will find it far more enjoyable if they have a firm grasp of escape room mechanics, tactics, and flow.

Book your hour with Insomnia Escape’s The Alchemist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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