Out with the serial killer super villain and in with the zombie hoard.
Location: Red Bank, NJ
Date played: August 7, 2016
Team size: 6-12; we recommend 6-8
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $35 per ticket
Story & setting
Trap Door’s Cure Z was a zombie thriller in the spirit of Resident Evil. An evil pharmaceutical company produced a drug, which produced a zombie outbreak, which produced a dystopia.
The game was staged in Trap Door’s massive two-story gamespace. It occupied the exact same area as their previous escape room, but they had completely refactored the layout and flow of the space. The serial killer murder home vibe was replaced with a dark, gritty, creepy, and rundown zombie research facility.
Each room in the facility served a different purpose; some were more visually impressive than others. Most of the game felt a little bit empty just by virtue of how much space Trap Door had on their hands. Where their first game had a generally linear progression, Cure Z was more of an open world experience as most of the gamespace was available for exploration early on.
As with their previous game, Trap Door offered a reasonable degree of difficulty in Cure Z. While challenging, the puzzles felt uneven. There weren’t a lot of puzzles and props to interact with, but some of these puzzles required a lot of time and effort.
Structurally, this created situations where a few players puzzled while many others watched or listened. Participation was possible, but far more difficult for those who weren’t already in the fray.
I have to give Trap Door credit. Going in, I knew the layout of the space and expected a similar feel and flow in their second outing. They immediately shattered that expectation by creating a new door as the point of entry. Nothing about this game felt rehashed from The Architect.
When Trap Door created a great set piece, it was pretty damn great. At their best, they have the ability to merge video, physical fabrication, and a little bit of technology to create truly interesting things from simple components.
Trap Door used their environment to create an ominous and threatening vibe without pushing too deeply into horror.
By opening up the whole space early, they eliminated the fear that they so wonderfully created; the unknown is a powerful force.
When their staging was on, it was on. Unfortunately, the staging was uneven. Some sections of the game felt barren and boring when juxtaposed against the more interesting rooms.
The physical space of the game was too large for its contents. There wasn’t enough game to fill such a large location. This spacing issue also made for one of the most irritating blacklight goose chases I’ve been on in a while. And when I found what needed fluorescing, it wasn’t vibrant enough.
While I didn’t dislike the puzzles, some of them overstayed their welcome. There was too much to parse. In the end, the bulk of Cure Z happened in a couple of massive puzzles.
Trap Door had a long list of specific rules. The nuance of their wording mattered a great deal and a slight misinterpretation could burn a lot of time. This puts extra pressure on teams that really try to obey the rules… and even more pressure on a certain pair of escape room enthusiasts who play so many games that they can’t always keep the rules straight from company to company. This problem wasn’t unique to Trap Door; it is more common in suburban games that cater to families. That said, it was an issue that surfaced strongly in this game.
Should I play Trap Door’s Cure Z?
I haven’t been shy about being bored with zombies (both in pop culture and escape rooms), but I enjoyed Trap Door’s take on the genre. They kept it playful while still making it dark. They didn’t go for gross or over-the-top horror. They cleverly made the zombies characters in their game.
Cure Z’s puzzling felt uneven with some that solved rapidly and others that took the bulk of the game. The set was massive, but there wasn’t a lot going on in much of it. This ultimately hampered the flow of a game that otherwise should have felt gigantic and intense.
Last go around, I really let Trap Door have it for withholding a walkthrough when we failed on the final puzzle. A fair amount of their audience returns to play after having lost, but they now give players the option of a walkthrough if they pass the 50% mark.
Trap Door produces unique games. We have never played another company that feels like theirs, which is both unusual and admirable. It’s clear that they are working hard to produce interesting and unusual games. Thus some will love them and others won’t. We love the Trap Door gang and have a ton of fun with them… but we didn’t love Cure Z.
That said, if you’re near Red Bank, NJ, can climb stairs, and are open to a gritty looking game, you should go check them out and decide for yourself. Their game is interesting and unusual enough to warrant a visit.
Book your hour with Trap Door’s Cure Z, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Trap Door comped our tickets for this game.