Cross Roads Escape Games – The Hex Room [Review]

The Breakfast Club meets in a murder house!

Location: Anaheim, CA

Date played: October 14, 2016

Team size: 5-10; we recommend 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

The Hex Room was a horror movie experience for six characters: Prom Queen, Jock, Virgin, Nerd, Rebel, and Detective. Cast as these film archetypes, we had to solve our way out of six individual but interconnected rooms and together escape the game.

As an added twist, in order to survive, we each had to open our own hex box, a self-contained bonus puzzle for each character.

Upon our arrival at Cross Roads, we each filled out a survey to determine our character assignments. Roles required different skills and some were more or less integral to the game.

The Hex Room was a horror game with frightening moments, but it wasn’t a terrifying game. The set, ambiance, and isolation built fear through anticipation more than any in-game frights.

In-game image of an open door looking into a room filled with trinkets.
Image via Cross Roads Escape Games

The story was basic: escape the horror movie to survive. The set was anything but simple. Cross Roads handcrafted intricate, unsettling environments for each character. These were gritty and enhanced the individual character’s experience.

Puzzles

As individual characters, we solved a series of puzzles to escape our isolated entrapment.

These puzzles were not overly challenging. The isolated uncomfortable environments and hampered communication provided the difficulty.

The Detective inhabited the central room. She alone could communicate with each trapped character through windows in the doors of each other player’s room. Ideas or items passed through the Detective. This game mechanism made otherwise straightforward puzzles far more challenging.

In-game, a hallway with a coatrack holding a fedora, and trenchcoat. Clearly the detective's room.
Image via Cross Roads Escape Games

The individual hex boxes added temptation. They yielded a survivor’s medal, but wouldn’t help the team escape. They also differed dramatically in level of challenge.

Standouts

The Hex Room was a game like no other.

The best game interactions in The Hex Room played off of the character archetypes and poked fun at them. This was creative, clever, and comical.

The game was designed to force some characters to come together, while allowing another to choose not to.

The Hex Room was a horror game with a broader appeal. By simultaneously conforming to the stereotypes of the genre and making fun of them, it offered both heart-racing anticipation and a sense of ordinary playability.

Shortcomings

Cross Roads designed The Hex Room as a replayable game; we could return to play as different characters. While it’s true that I didn’t solve the individual puzzles in the other rooms, I can’t un-know the general game mechanics or character and object relationships. The Hex Room was exciting not because of the isolated puzzles; it was about the experience we had as a team, surviving our horror film. I couldn’t justify paying full price to unlock a different set of puzzles, while trying to hold back the knowledge I already have about the game.

The individual adventures were more exciting than the culminating story. Once our team came together, the game wasn’t able to do anything with the anticipation or build to a satisfying climax.*

If the characters are assigned incorrectly, the team will struggle. While the puzzles seemed more or less even, the settings were not. For example, one role was more claustrophobic and another included more grotesque props. If even one teammate is too uncomfortable in their assignment or can’t hold their own with the puzzles, the team will have problems.

Most importantly, if you have the wrong person as the Detective, the game will fall apart.

Should I play Cross Roads Escape Games’ The Hex Room?

The Hex Room was not inherently intellectually challenging. Instead, the puzzles were rendered difficult through atmosphere, isolation, and limited communication.

Players who like to focus in on complex, challenging puzzles won’t necessarily love this game. It was designed to be unsettling and force you to puzzle in an uncomfortable environment. We loved this. Not everyone on our team did.

Players who enjoy horror movies or horror experiences will thoroughly enjoy the game that Cross Roads lovingly created.

The Hex Room achieved the incredibly challenging feat of creating a game that brings individual plots together. It did this while staying true to the horror movie theme. Seasoned players will appreciate the subtleties in the game’s design.

This is a game for a team of six people who can rely on themselves as much as each other. Make sure everyone feels comfortable puzzling and operating locks. Cross Roads will modify the game so that as few as five or as many as ten people can play, but bringing any more or fewer than six people would be a mistake.

Book your hour with Cross Roads Escape Games’ The Hex Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

*Note that we played the second version of Cross Roads’ The Hex Room. The original game had an extremely different ending, among other differences. As always, we’ve reviewed the game we played and we cannot speak to the earlier version.

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