Update February 11, 2023 from Matthew Stein:
Nearly 7 years after this review was first published, Shelter R has held up impressively well. This game was moved to Brooklyn Escape Room’s second location, in Industry City. (Pro tip: ground-level signage was lacking and it took us a while to find the correct entrance to the second floor, so arrive a bit early.)
Even by 2023 standards, Shelter R included a fantastic range of tactile interactions that will especially delight newer players. The set looked and felt great throughout, with some satisfyingly hefty props.
In addition to the critiques of the original review, we also encountered a few new issues. One item was barely hidden, and a cool tool was unlocked too late to be useful, leading to a confusing sequence break. The sign-posting at one point could have been made more clearly in-world.
All in all, Shelter R is still worth a play, especially as Brooklyn Escape Room has indicated that new rooms will soon be arriving at this location.
Original Review from 2016:
[At the time of the review, Brooklyn Escape Room was called Claustrophobia and this escape room was called Vault 13.]
The nuclear Fallout bunker.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Date played: October 9, 2016
Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $30 per ticket weekdays, $35 per ticket weekends
Story & setting
We had spent a generation living in a vault beneath the earth, the product of nuclear holocaust. The life support systems had begun to fail and we had 60 minutes to escape.
Vault 13 was the escape room version of the video game series Fallout; it was loaded with references.
On a barely related note, my longtime guitar teacher Billy Roues had a song featured in Fallout: New Vegas and also played our wedding (with very different music).
Vault 13 looked superb. Aesthetically speaking, it was one of the most impressively designed and constructed gamespaces we’ve encountered in New York City. It was filled with solid, beautiful, post-apocalyptically setpieces. Nearly all of it was custom construction.
It’s also important to note that while the company is named “Claustrophobia” their gamespace was not even remotely claustrophobic.
The two games we have played from Claustrophobia leaned heavily on immersive adventure and were decidedly less puzzley than those from most other companies. Every task and puzzle in Vault 13 advanced the narrative.
This ultimately lead to a game that was more about observing, scavenging, and making connections than it was about solving puzzles. That said, making those connections was a generally fun experience and it wasn’t always easy.
Vault 13 contained one of the most badass, video-gamey escape room interactions I have ever seen. After we did it, I wanted to do it again. (Sadly, that wasn’t an option.)
It also had one of the most brilliant applications of a reasonably common escape room interaction that I have seen to date. It was elegant and clever.
Vault 13’s custom constructed scenery and props were a blast. They allowed – and occasionally encouraged – a bit of destructive behavior, and these setpieces could take a beating.
Because the set was so sturdy, we were told that there weren’t any special rules and we could pretty much go nuts in the room. That was largely true, until our gamemaster pointed out a section that we had to be careful with. That one delicate section was also Vault 13‘s most confusing and unrefined segment. It would benefit from more polish.
There were some painfully sharp edges in one of the doorways. A little bit of Sugru would soften those edges and protect players.
At times, lighting was kind of a pain in the ass. We had one handheld flashlight between the four of us.
A few of the props were shockingly heavy. While they were awesome, I can easily imagine them being too unwieldy for some groups.
Should I play Claustrophobia’s Vault 13?
Vault 13 is among the most impressive immersive room escapes in the New York City boroughs. It was beautiful, solidly constructed, and a ton of fun to occupy for an hour.
While Vault 13 was open for business when we played, it was still under active iteration. We usually wait until a game has been operating for at least a month before we play it. We didn’t do that this time because we were going to be in the neighborhood. In retrospect, I wish we waited a little while longer because I get the impression that this game will be even better in a month or two.
As long as you aren’t expecting intense puzzles, Vault 13 will deliver a great experience.
Book your hour with Claustrophobia’s Vault 13, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Claustrophobia comped our tickets for this game.
WOW! This room sounds and looks amazing! I actually found myself getting excited and trying to figure out how I can get to Brooklyn to play this one and I’m quite disappointed that I live 3000 miles away. Love the concept and the immersion of this game. Definitely putting this on my list of rooms to hit if I’m ever in the Brooklyn area. Thanks for the review!