Quandary – Son of the Zodiac [Review]

Quandary owes us $100,000. We’ll wait for it.

Location: Wallingford, Connecticut

Date played: July 8, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket on weekdays, $27 per ticket on weekends

Story & setting

In the late 60s and early 70s, “The Zodiac Killer” terrorized the San Francisco Bay area murdering somewhere between 5 and 28 people. He celebrated his slayings by sending 4 enciphered messages to authorities. He was never identified or caught and only 1 of the cryptograms has been solved.

Decades later in Connecticut, a Zodiac Killer copycat had started taking lives and a $100,000 reward had been offered for information leading to his capture. As a group of college students taking an investigative journalism class at a local university, we’d decided to look into the killings… and we’d tracked a suspect back to his home. What could possibly go wrong?

In-game: A creepy apartment living space with green walls. A sofa, and television sit in the background. A set kitchen table in the foreground.

The “serial killer” escape room genre generally comes in three flavors:

  • Horror murder house
  • Children’s haunted house of party store props
  • Creepy house of slightly intimidating death iconography

Son of the Zodiac firmly fell in the third category. The set was essentially the killer’s creepy living room puzzle confessional. It more than adequately staged Quandary’s puzzles, but didn’t contribute any dramatic flair.

Puzzles

Son of the Zodiac shined in the puzzle department. A few of the puzzles were pretty damn brilliant. Quandary did a good job of embedding their puzzles into the set and providing challenges with more than one layer of complexity.

Standouts

Quandary’s story was detailed and established the set, as well as our reason for being there. Through a smart game design element, they managed to keep the narrative alive throughout the entire game right up to the conclusion. This is a rare feat in an escape room.

When we asked each teammate their favorite part of the Son of the Zodiac, damn near every puzzle was listed individually by at least one person. The puzzling was varied, complex, fair, and satisfying.

Shortcomings

Two big puzzles were set up for parallel solving, but were mounted to the set in a way that resulted in a lot of crosstalk. The two groups that had split to tackle these challenges ended up tripping over each other both verbally and physically. This added tension to the escape room… but not the desirable kind.

The set didn’t look great. It was clearly put together with love and care, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

Should I play Quandary’s Son of the Zodiac?

Son of the Zodiac’s creepy-not-scary, horror-lite gameplay was fairly clearly stated on their website: “While the theme of this room is menacing, there are no “scares”: no one jumps out at you, no strobe lights, no loud noise.” They also made it clear that Son of the Zodiac would be more challenging than your average room.

This was not a room escape for people who get really into the scary, set-driven aspects of some serial killer games. It wasn’t frightening and in its climactic moments it only flirted with intensity.

While not an overwhelmingly difficult escape room, I’d recommend having played a room or two before taking on Son of the Zodiac. It’s not for total newbies, but it’s approachable with a bit of experience. You’ll want to know your way around an escape room before you go in because the puzzles in Son of the Zodiac were killer.

Book your hour with Quandary’s Son of the Zodiac, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Quandary comped our tickets for this game.

 

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