Last Minute Escape – The Submarine [Review]

It might have been a bit of a dive, but much was hidden in its depths.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date played: February 27, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $100 per team during the week with additional costs for larger teams & $30.50 per person on weekends

Story & setting

It was 194-blah in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our submarine was under attack and all of the personnel who actually knew how to operate the critical systems were incapacitated. It was up to our ragtag group of know-nothings to figure out how to operate the boat, sink a Japanese ship, and save our crewmen. The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but Last Minute Escape didn’t take the story too seriously either.

In-game: A submarine door with a radiation warning. Through the porthole is a depth controller.

The set design had its up and downs. Everything was handmade and a little hacked together. Many individual interactions looked good, but the rooms themselves didn’t always feel cohesive or part of a submarine. A lot of it was clever… even when it wasn’t convincing.

The Submarine had a great logo.

The Submarine logo has the name in a heavy font with the silhouette of a submarine.

Puzzles

Last Minute Escape truly shined in the puzzling . They assembled a challenging collection of team-oriented escape room puzzles.

Some puzzles were analog while others were tech-driven. Nearly every puzzle demanded multiple people to solve. This is a difficult to achieve and too often overlooked facet of escape room design that Last Minute Escape nailed.

Standouts

The Submarine was built for collaborative puzzling and it truly achieved that.

The puzzles were satisfying, challenging, and fun. Everyone on our team had at least one moment of triumph.

While the room escape didn’t always look amazing or make a ton of sense, Last Minute Escape used what they had to create some honestly triumphant moments.

In-game: The depth controller, a door, with a car steering wheel painted silver.

Epiphany in puzzle design is a tough thing to create, especially in the escape room format. However, I found that The Submarine repeatedly achieved it. Early in the room escape we found so many things that simply didn’t make sense that I actually started off a little frustrated. As the game progressed, however, we started to make the connections. It felt so rewarding to solve these little mysteries that had originally made no sense whatsoever and then in a flash became incredibly clear.

Shortcomings

The Submarine’s soundtrack was loud enough that it interfered with the gameplay.

There were tons of details in The Submarine and managing them relied heavily on labeling, which wasn’t always clear; in one instance it simply wasn’t there.

We encountered a little bit of prop failure, which added a fair amount of confusion into the late-game experience.

In once section of the room escape, we needed to derive a series of answers and administer them all at once. Frequently, there was no way to verify them, short of the gamemaster hinting which one was incorrect. This didn’t present an issue for us, but I can easily imagine a number of scenarios where it could seriously hamper gameplay.

The story didn’t make much sense and there was no attempt to ground the game in any historical reality. The room escape was set on a nuclear sub (which didn’t exist in WWII) and the props were a hodgepodge of anachronistic naval/military items.

Should I play Last Minute Escape’s The Submarine?

The Submarine was fun, weird, and challenging. It was an energizing game for our experienced players. It offered a level of puzzling that we don’t often encounter and that puzzling was implemented with nuance and finesse.

For these same reasons, I do not recommend The Submarine for newbies. The emphasis on challenging puzzles that require careful observation and clever connections could lead to an especially frustrating experience for those who aren’t at least a little comfortable in an escape room environment. Additionally, the lack of focus on story and environmental design would make it more difficult for newbies to even see the brilliance of The Submarine, and there was a lot of brilliance.

Escape room enthusiasts: If you’re in it for the puzzling, I highly recommend you pay Last Minute Escape a visit and see how deep you can dive.

Book your hour with Last Minute Escape’s The Submarine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Last Minute Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

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