A large room that felt hollow.
Location: New York, NY
Date played: June 20, 2016
Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-3 (all games are private)
Duration: 66 minutes
Price: $25 per ticket
Story & setting
Set in the massive basement of an old church in New York’s Gramercy Park, The Room had us attempting to earn acceptance into a secret society.
The story was barely present; this was a puzzle-centric experience.
In terms of square footage, I don’t think there’s a larger escape room in Manhattan. In general, few room escapes are this massive.
The game consisted of a series of portable stations, set up around the room. The church uses its basement regularly, so the game was optimized for regular storage and setup. Consequently, the aesthetic of the room suffered.
The Room’s gameplay was built around a large volume of puzzles, one puzzle per station. There was a pair of linear paths to follow.
Once we got rolling, we always knew what we needed to do next. This was partly due to the design of the room and partially due to our level of experience. Our new-player teammate was a bit bewildered by the volume of puzzles and the rate at which we were solving them.
All games are private games; this is basically unheard of in Manhattan.
Our gamemaster was excellent. Her description of the story and rules was effective and delivered in a hilarious deadpan.
The size of the space was impressive and it was strangely satisfying to traverse the large room solving puzzles.
Once we got moving, we always knew where to input solutions. Game elements were well-clued and locks were well-labeled. There was a good flow to the game.
The look, feel, and story were seriously lacking. The puzzles didn’t facilitate a story and some felt so random that they were funny. There just wasn’t much of anything to get invested in.
While the puzzles worked well, they weren’t particularly exciting.
Should I play The Room’s The Game?
The Room suffered from a problem of purpose.
The puzzles felt like they were designed for beginners and the rest of game was stripped down. There wasn’t a substantial story, nor a serious aesthetic. There wasn’t a lot to get excited about.
Sometimes we see stripped-down games that offer challenging puzzles and these rooms can be good for experienced players who just love puzzles.
We frequently see easier rooms that lean into aesthetic and story. These are generally great for beginners and players who love immersion.
The Room is a beginner game without the excitement that ropes in beginner players. That’s a problem. The creators of The Room have a wonderful understanding of puzzle flow and player dynamics, but those are elements of game design that cannot stand on their own.
This is a game that needs to find something to make it special. I truly hope that the folks from The Room create a version 2, as I have a lot of respect for so much of what they are doing and wish that it all came together into a more compelling experience.
Full disclosure: The Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.