“If I weren’t insane: I couldn’t be so brilliant!”
– The Joker, Dreadful Birthday Dear Joker
Location: Long Island City, NY
Date played: July 17, 2016
Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4
Price: $25 per ticket
Story & setting
Two patients have gone missing and their doctor has sent you a letter asking for your help tracking down these individuals, who are a danger to themselves and society.
Pulling from Batman-esque depictions of insane asylums, I Survived The Room’s Sanatorium feels like Gotham City’s famed Arkham Asylum. (It never made a direct reference to Batman, but the spirit was absolutely present.) Sanatorium’s design and decor were dark, gritty, creepy, and at times deliberately gross.
I would classify Sanatorium as a creepy thriller. It wasn’t a horror experience, but it ran right up against the horror threshold.
Sanatorium’s puzzles were based in the story. At its best, the puzzles propelled the narrative of the game. At times the link between the puzzles and the story became tenuous and abstract.
Early in the game, the actors split the team into different rooms, forcing communication between the players. This was the omnipresent hurdle in the game. It turned fairly easy puzzles into challenging obstacles.
Sanatorium employs live actors, and they were exceptional. Their roles were fully incorporated into the experience and their commitment made it truly special.
Their use of practical effects, sound, and lighting weren’t fancy, but were brilliantly done. They managed to use little details to great effect.
One of the most critical puzzles was creative, intense, and really blew minds.
Sanatorium had more than a few tight spaces and then became tighter around the key set pieces.
Our team of 4 was the perfect size: more would have been too cramped, but with fewer we would have been short on time.
Sanatorium’s methods of enforcing communication also created a few imbalances in the player experience because the team’s success hinged on absolutely everyone playing well and communicating thoroughly.
We were handcuffed at the start of the game, which didn’t add anything beyond discomfort and minor hassle.
While deliberate, the design was a bit too gross for me. Upon returning home, my clothes went into the wash, and I took a shower.
Should I play I Survived The Room’s The Sanatorium?
We were incredibly skeptical of I Survived The Room prior to playing. They are part of a large indoor paintball company a couple of subway stops outside of Manhattan. Their release forms weren’t written for the escape room; they were all about paintball. At first and second glance, I Survived The Room looked like a cash grab from an entertainment company that had extra unused space in their facility. That assessment was dead wrong.
Sanatorium was a ton of fun. It was immersive, intense, and the actors were excellent. It also had a few of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced in an escape room to date.
On the other hand, it was grimy and gross, and its puzzles derived a bit too much of their challenge from discovery and communication.
Our team was 50% new players. I can confidently say that Sanatorium was not a game for newbies. Our newbie friends are both brilliant people, but without any prior understanding of escape rooms, this game would be bewildering without guidance from experienced players (or heavy use of hints).
This is an actor-driven room escape. If you aren’t ready and willing to completely engage with the actors, then you should spare yourself (and them). Here are a few tips for playing games with actors.
If you’re an experienced player who loves immersive gameplay and isn’t afraid of a nerve-wracking set, intense actors, or a deliberately gross environment, then this is absolutely your game. Go book it, and don’t wear anything fancy.
Book your hour with I Survived the Room’s The Sanatorium, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: I Survived the Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.