“Down here it’s just winners and losers.”
-Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City
Location: Linwood, NJ
Date played: August 6, 2016
Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $26 per ticket
Story & setting
We were detectives investigating a crime in Atlantic City. We were presented with an array of suspects and had to rule them out in an escape room version of Guess Who.
Our investigation took place in an office, which could have been located just about anywhere. It included regular office-y furniture.
Even as we narrowed down the suspects, the story, while present, never became compelling. It simply required detective work.
Private Eye relied on standard escape room puzzles. Within this, there was variety in puzzle type.
At times the puzzles – whether simple searching or complex indexing – were not particularly well-clued.
There was a well-designed visual effect puzzle that we particularly enjoyed.
The game included a fun interaction with the world outside the office.
Private Eye included a lot of reading material. The long passages culminated in an overarching, paper-based indexing puzzle. In the end, we were solving for both a suspect and an accomplice, which made the reading material and indexing that much more confusing and tedious.
The set had nothing special going on.
The gamemaster had trouble delivering appropriate hints, based on how we struggled with the in-game clues.
When we visited, Unlock had been open only one month, but Private Eye was already showing signs of heavy wear and poor maintenance. Unlocked allowed us to write on certain game materials with dry erase marker. We discovered marker residue from past players through the game. Clue elements were worn away and one lock was in such rough shape that even the gamemaster struggled to open it.
Should I play Unlock Escape Rooms’ Private Eye?
This was a basic, detective-themed room escape.
We were excited that the game was set in local Atlantic City. Unfortunately, nothing about the office setting or the clues brought this aspect of Private Eye to life. This felt like a missed opportunity.
Unfortunately, the tedious puzzles, poor cluing, and poor maintenance quickly diminished our fun. We also made some gameplay mistakes, but the staff didn’t help us turn around the experience when we asked for hints.
When we finished, they practically pushed us out the door.
There aren’t a lot of escape games in this area of New Jersey yet, but we can’t recommend this as an introduction to the genre.
Skip this game, hop in the car, throw on some Springsteen and drive farther north in New Jersey or south to Philadelphia to find something better.
Full disclosure: Unlock Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.