Escape the Estate – The Gamble [Review]

Our night was on the house.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: January 20, 2017

Team size: up to 10-12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23 per ticket

Story & setting

We arrived at Hotel Whitmore and stepped into the 1920s. Our bellhop led us to the manager’s private gaming parlor where we needed to escape with evidence of the sinister behavior taking place there.

Escape the Estate repurposed a former Petco in the Shoppingtown mall into its Hotel Whitmore attractions. Guests were greeted at reception and escorted back to the gaming parlor or any of the hotel’s other attractions.

The Hotel Whitmore’s gaming parlor brought us back in time with its wallpapered walls, framed artwork, and old furniture. While The Gamble’s staging – including walls reaching almost to the ceiling – did not quite remove us from 2017, the props and puzzles were captivating enough that we could suspend our disbelief for the hour of gameplay.

In-game: A scrabble board sitting on an animal pelt table cloth. A bellhop stands beside the mantle in the background, hands folded in front of him.

Puzzles

The Gamble offered a lot to puzzle through. These included words, numbers, ciphers, and perspectives, among other challenges.

While most puzzles led to a lock, some also included more tech-driven interactions.

Standouts

Our experience in the Hotel Whitmore began even before our time did.

Our bellhop greeted us in character and remained in character throughout our experience. When we rang for their services, the bellhop would appear and deliver appropriate hints without ever intruding on our game. The bellhop character was a wonderful and intriguing part of The Gamble.

These gangsters had no shortage of secret hiding places. These were surprising and fit in the Prohibition-era setting.

Escape the Estate got their start in haunted houses. While The Gamble wasn’t scary, the designers found ways to lean on their haunt skills to add depth to the room escape without derailing the experience. It worked well.

There were some great puzzles and a memorable moment or two in The Gamble.

Shortcomings

Some of the puzzles overstayed their welcome.

There were too many boxes – even if most were luggage – and it quickly got old to check multiple possible inputs with similar digit structures each time we derived a solution. Furthermore, we would have loved to see more antique keys rather than modern combination locks.

One puzzle seemed riddled with red herrings. We spent a long time working through it, only to have the solution become clear immediately upon a late game reveal.

The ending didn’t live up to the drama of earlier parts of the experience.

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Gamble?

The Gamble was Escape the Estate’s first room. They played to their strengths in experience design to build the world of The Hotel Whitmore that extended beyond the timer for any one game. The delightful and unobtrusive gamemaster navigated the intersection of theater, immersive experience, and puzzles.

The Gamble was a puzzler’s room escape, but an approachable one. There was a lot to unpack, but it flowed smoothly. Both new players and experienced players should find the puzzling enjoyable.

While much of this room escape was by the books, Escape the Estate brought their own point of view and charm to the overall experience. Check in to Hotel Whitmore and…

Book your hour with Escape the Estate’s The Gamble, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

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