The island puzzle orgy.
Location: Seattle, WA
Date played: September 2, 2016
Team size: 3-10; we recommend 8-10
Price: $30 per ticket
We played Vault of the Volcano God’s first two chapters, Break of Day & Burning Noontime, back to back. Unless otherwise noted, everything written in this review applies to both games.
Story & setting
Epic Team Adventures provided one of the most accurate descriptions of their own game that I have yet to see… and it was a good thing because this game was very different.
“The Vault of the Volcano God is an action-packed series of ten standalone adventures. Each adventure offers new areas to explore, thematic puzzles and activities, additional quests and missions, shifting demands from the Volcano God, and more details about the island mythology that can have game-changing impact. This series is not a traditional escape room game; it is similar to a puzzle hunt adventure. Instead of escaping at the first opportunity, your team will complete as many challenges as possible, and to figure out the best final sacrifice that will appease the Volcano God. Don’t think that there will be time to relax by finishing early. Tiki spirits will offer more quests than any team can complete. Only highly functioning teams that work together can succeed in unlocking the mystery of the island and fulfilling the mercurial demands of the volcano god.”
I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve heard, “this room isn’t like a ‘normal room escape,’ ours is totally different,” and then played the game and it was just like a normal room escape. Vault of the Volcano God really was unusual.
We were put inside of a tropical ruin-themed setting that looked a bit Legends of the Hidden Temple-y. We were tasked with solving a ton of puzzles. Then we had to solve an overarching puzzle to determine how to best appease the Volcano God.
The staging looked pretty good, but it never tried to be an immersive set. The drop ceiling was still present and the trees and animals were made from flat painted wood.
The only change I would have made to their description are the words “action-packed.”
There was very little action in the Vault of the Volcano God, but oh my were there puzzles.
The game was literally filled with puzzle dispensers that popped out “coconuts” (or brown tubes) of puzzles.
Each dispenser contained a different type of puzzle. There was a dispenser for every skill set.
These puzzles were generally generic. They ranged from loosely tied to the game’s theme to not at all related.
Our goal, as mentioned, wasn’t to escape; it was to achieve the best score that we could.
The puzzles in Chapter 2 were largely identical to those in Chapter 1, but they ramped up the difficulty. Interestingly, the Chapter 2 puzzles weren’t always harder because our experience solving the Chapter 1 version improved our skills with the puzzle type.
It’s worth noting that the final puzzles in each version were structurally similar, but different in practice.
The puzzle vending machines were awesome. I kind of want to own one.
There were so many puzzles. We never ran out of stuff to do… we came close, but never solved everything.
The overarching final puzzle – in both games – was incredibly clever.
If we encountered a puzzle that we didn’t want to solve, couldn’t solve, or thought would take too much time, we could just cast it aside and solve something else. No penalty, no problem. Note, the exception to this was that big end-game puzzle
This was a functional replayable game.
Playing the second chapter immediately after playing the first allowed us to come together as a team, perfect our approach, and kick ass.
The puzzles were largely divorced from the theme.
We had a recurring tech failure that cramped the completion of a series of puzzles that we otherwise had under control. We also encountered another technical malfunction that occasionally prevented us from receiving our rewards for solving puzzles; this was a more intermittent problem.
There was a key piece of tech that was needed to solve about a quarter of the puzzles. This became an aggressive bottleneck and resulted in a lot of waiting around.
Each player had to put effort into keeping solved and unsolved puzzles organized. A single player’s failure to keep things organized could cost a lot of time or create confusion, especially late in the game.
The puzzles were largely paper-based.
The tubes that contained the puzzles caused some of them to curve in ways that made them far more challenging to solve than they should have been.
Vault of the Volcano God was not particularly friendly to players under about 5’11. Most of the surfaces for people to puzzle on were elevated too high.
Should I play Epic Team Adventure’s Vault of the Volcano God: The Break of Day & Burning Noontime?
The Vault of the Volcano God is a puzzler’s paradise. I’m anticipating that it will grow into one of the more polarizing games out there because those more focused on adventure, scenery, and story aren’t going get it.
The key with Vault of the Volcano God is getting the right team into the room. If you love puzzles and have a bunch of friends who love puzzles, but have different puzzling skills, you’re going to have a blast in this room. We truly did, and we were playing late at night with some heavy jetlag.
This was a fairly new game and Epic Team Adventures was clearly debugging some of the tech and sorting out some of the intricacies of the game. Based on how they seem to be running their operation, I expect that some of the shortcomings I listed won’t be relevant in a few months.
The multi-chapter reuse of the set and reset with different puzzles worked well under these circumstances. While chapters 1 & 2 were fairly similar, Epic Team Adventures has different plans for the subsequent 8 chapters.
The next time I visit Seattle, I plan to play chapter 3.
Book your hour with Epic Team Adventure’s Vault of the Volcano God: The Break of Day & Burning Noontime, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Epic Team Adventures comped our tickets for this game.