Escapedom – The Den of the Occult [Review]

Alohomora!

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Story & setting

In a world where the bad guys possess the powerful Crystal of Death, our mission was to steal back this well-protected relic from The Den of the Occult before it unleashed its evil into the world.

Escapedom created an intricate backstory for this magical heist. Before the game began, our gamemaster set the scene through a hilarious PowerPoint. The combination of an intensely serious story, delivered through Harry Potter jokes and a healthy dose of straight-up nerd humor, established the perfect balance of levity with a bit of gravity. It was established as Harry Potter parody.

In game, Den of the Occult felt more like a light Harry Potter adventure. It was mystical with spells and relics of the utmost importance.

In-game, an old recordplayer, a statue of the Budda, and a tappestry.

The pregame introduction had more gravitas than the actual gamespace. While generally themed, the set itself wasn’t particularly special.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Den of the Occult were mostly on-theme, clued through magic and mysticism-related items. However, they didn’t convey story. In this regard they sometimes felt bolted on.

Early in the game, there were a few more “paper puzzles” – those that could be solved on a tabletop surface anywhere – than we would have expected from a cult protecting a powerful object.

As the game progressed, the puzzles became more integrated into the set, providing some  exciting moments.

Standouts

Our gamemaster told the story of this game brilliantly, with the perfect blend of seriousness and nerd humor. His tone and delivery were spot on; he engaged us completely in the fiction.

Escapedom integrated one delicate and beautiful prop in such a way that we actually manipulated it to work through a puzzle. It was well-designed and a lot of fun.

Through technology, Escapedom built some exciting moments.

Shortcomings

David solved one laborious, tedious, and poorly clued paper-based puzzle. Needless to say, he enjoyed his experience less than the rest of us.

For all the detailed and amusing story details we learned at the onset of the game, the in-game experience didn’t forward the fiction. Neither the puzzles nor the set called back to the introduction or forwarded any plot.

We experienced one technical failure as the game approached its dramatic conclusion that disrupted the magic of the moment.

For experienced players, the major set pieces telegraphed their magic. There were some outstanding, technically driven interactions, but we could see the magic coming a mile away.

Should I play Escapedom’s The Den of the Occult?

Escapedom built a solid game in a magical world. As the game progressed, the magic escalated, producing that in-game wow moment that every game should have. While Den of the Occult telegraphed its coolest moments, they were fun nonetheless.

There is opportunity for Escapedom to enhance the narrative experience and more closely intertwine the puzzles, story, and introduction. That isn’t to diminish what they’ve built; there’s a great game here. We were so excited to play the game that they described in the introduction, however, that we felt letdown upon realizing that the game and the introduction were only tangentially related.

If you’re seeking a magical mystery escape room, this is well worth a playthrough. It’s your own Harry Potter-esque adventure.

This game will be approachable for newer players and incredibly exciting for those less versed in the magic of today’s escape room technology. Still, Den of the Occult has a lot to offer experienced escape room enthusiasts as well.

Book your hour with Escapedom’s The Den of the Occult, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escapedom comped our tickets for this game.

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