A game served with a twist.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Date played: April 2, 2017
Team size: up to 14; we recommend 6-8? (more on this below)
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $28 per ticket
Story & setting
Set in a Chicago speakeasy in 1929, we were on the hunt for evidence to put Al Capone behind bars.
The set was awesome. It looked like we had stepped into a bar. I would have happily sat on one of the stools and enjoyed a drink.
Not only was the set compelling, but there was an in-game actor playing the role of the bartender. He delivered clues, hints, props, plot points, triggered events, and generally bantered with us.
Time to Escape’s promo video for the game accurately depicts the set, as well as the actor’s delivery (although we had a different actor).
In addition, each player was given a secret and unique role to play within the room. The roles impacted each player’s game in 3 different ways:
- Each player had a one-time use power within the game.
- Each player had a secret win condition that, if achieved, would guarantee that they won (regardless of whether the team succeeded or failed the overall mission).
- The actor would interact with each character in a completely different manner based on who they were.
This was one of the most ambitious games we’ve ever seen.
The puzzling was mixed throughout the game. While most of the puzzling components were available from the start, many of them required an additional component or piece of information that was triggered by the actor.
These trigger points frequently felt like cinematic cut scenes in a video game. The gameplay would stop and we would watch or interact with the actor. Upon the conclusion we’d have what we needed to make the next progression.
Time to Escape crafted a beautiful, detailed, and spacious speakeasy for this adventure.
The puzzling came in all forms including interpersonal interaction, audio, visual, and more hands-on experiences. We had to think in many different ways.
The bartender was engaged and engaging. He was both a character and the gamemaster. When a swing tune came on the radio, Lisa and I started swing dancing in the middle of the room and he rolled right along with it.
We too were characters with our own influence and motivation.
Al Capone’s Speakeasy was trying to be a lot of different things all at once. While it did a lot well, not everything played well together. We weren’t always sure how we should be spending our time – in puzzles or in more of a theatrical experience.
It wasn’t always clear when we had enough information to even bother solving a puzzle. Looking back, we burned a silly amount of time focusing on things at the wrong time.
Even the objective was confusing. We each had our own side quests, some of which seemed to give incomplete information. We didn’t entirely understand how they fit into the overall mission or narrative.
These side quests were not even, in terms of intrigue or difficulty. One player can end up solving one of the most challenging puzzles practically alone. Others quests barely involved actions. The fact that solving the side quest triggered an early win for a player regardless of the team’s overall performance created the opportunity for hollow victories.
Should I play Time to Escape’s Al Capone’s Speakeasy?
Al Capone’s Speakeasy was a complex experience that had a lot more going on than most escape rooms.
In so many ways, it was a truly wonderful escape room. The set, actor, roleplay, and puzzles (to a lesser extent) were great game components. The challenging aspect was that these often collided with one another in awkward ways. This is the nature of ambitious games. Incredible concepts create new problems.
- The character roles need more balancing.
- The individual win conditions should only be applied if the team wins.
- The puzzling needs a mechanism to help players determine what is in play when.
If Time to Escape can crack these nuts, then this will be a breathtaking room escape.
In its current state, it’s still pretty damn impressive.
Al Capone’s Speakeasy won’t be fun for everyone. For some people, this will feel more like theater than puzzling. Furthermore, it’s theater that you have to participate in. You must embrace interacting and role playing to enjoy it.
If a combination of roleplay, theatrics, environment, and puzzling sounds appealing, then I think you should speak the password to Al Capone’s Speakeasy.
Book your hour with Time to Escape’s Al Capone’s Speakeasy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Time to Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.