Brain Xcape – The Old Prison [Review]

Punch-drunk prison.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: February 20, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $31-60 per ticket depending on team size and day of the week

Story & setting

Shut inside an old, grim, and foreboding prison, we had to work through its dark mysteries and find our way out. From the walls to the larger props, Brain Xcape crafted an intense and detailed prison set.

In-game: A weathered concrete and brick wall with a gross old toilet and sink.
Possibly the first prison escape game that doesn’t involve shoving your hand down a toilet!

The setup was simple. There wasn’t a complex narrative or backstory explanation prior to beginning the puzzling.

Puzzles

The puzzle types varied, but within typical and expected escape room tropes.

Early on, many of the puzzles in The Old Prison lacked sufficient cluing. As the game progressed, the logic flow improved.

Standouts

Our adventure in the Old Prison began rather unusually. We welcomed this deviation from the norm.

In-game: A weathered metal prison door with an alarm bell mounted to the concrete wall beside it.

Brain Xcape focused on immersive set design and it showed. This was one of the most intense and captivating prison sets we’ve experienced. Brain Xcape hired Punchdrunk, the team behind Sleep No More, to work on this set, to great effect. We appreciated stepping out of a Manhattan building into another world.

Shortcomings

On their website, Brain Xcape claims to be “NYC’s Most Immersive Escape Room Experience.” While the set was captivating, it lacked support in the form of action – the searching, puzzling, and reveals – to be a truly heart-racing, blood-pumping immersive prison experience.

The weakest puzzles centered around props that did not wear well. The puzzling, sloppily forced onto them, was poorly clued and difficult to uncover. One early puzzle of this type was as frustrating as it was unsatisfying.

A 4 digit Masterlock 178 padlock with a text bubble that reads, "Don't forget to push!"

The later portion of the escape room, in particular, was riddled with identical Masterlock 178 padlocks. While a few of them wouldn’t have been out of place in a prison, the sheer volume broke our rhythm at every turn. We had to continually try every possible combination absolutely everywhere until we found a pattern to the gameflow.

Should I play Brain Xcape’s The Old Prison?

If you’re most interested in set design, The Old Prison would be an excellent choice. You will find that you step into another place and time.

Brain Xcape’s commitment to set design is truly impressive. There are other sets that are on par with theirs, but you won’t find objectively better sets in NYC.

In-game: A weathered wall with some tally marks on it.

That said, while Brain Xcape has mastered one aspect of escape room design, to build a complete immersive experience they have a ways to go on other fronts.

If you’re more interested in narrative, puzzle design, or technology, The Old Prison won’t be your idea of a good time. It was old-school escape room gameplay in an outstanding set.

We believe that Brain Xcape is interested in beefing up these other areas to deliver a more complete escape room experience. If they can commit to puzzles and gameflow as thoughtfully as they’ve committed to set design, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Book your hour with Brain Xcape’s The Old Prison, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Brain Xcape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

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