Esc4pe – The Minimalist [Review]

I’ve been training a long time for this moment.

Location: Burlington, Vermont

Date played: August 5, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket, $10 per child under 10

Story & setting

As agents of P.I.T.O.N., the clandestine services group at the center of Esc4pe’s games, we were investigating a missing agent codenamed Glitch. We had to break into his workshop and bypass his mechanical puzzles, logic traps, and hidden codes to determine why he disappeared.

In-game: A strange room with a blue glowing light and latticework.
Confused? This is where you start. It was both strange and cool.

The set of The Minimalist varied enormously. Some portions of the set were fantastic; others were typically office-y. We began our mission in an intriguing and strange space… It was one of the most challenging spaces I’ve captured in a photograph.

Puzzles

While the room escape was built around a hacker narrative, The Minimalist was a series of tangible, physical interactions. Esc4pe cast us as secret agents, so they made us break into things. (Newbies, please understand that I don’t mean physically break.)

The Minimalist required us to pick a lock. Normally I wouldn’t discuss an exciting moment that occurred late-game, but Esc4pe highlighted this in The Minimalist’s description and provided a pregame crash course in lockpicking basics. They also sold an inexpensive pickset for those who are interested in further exploring locksport. (If that sounds interesting to you, I have a detailed post on the subject).

Standouts

The opening moments of The Minimalist were strange, memorable, and fun.

The tangible puzzling in The Minimalist was fantastic; it made us feel like we were hacking the physical space.

“Hacker”-themed escape rooms usually portray a Hollywood depiction of hacking. The folks from Esc4pe used some of the cliches, but generally depicted something a lot more realistic than the norm.

Lockpicking is a puzzle. I really enjoyed that Esc4pe made it a viable component of this escape room.

Shortcomings

Lockpicking takes practice. Escape room players with no lockpicking background and only minimal instruction destroy picks. As a result, Esc4pe cycles through tension bars and picks, using whatever they have from the pick kits that they purchase. Our game provided the wrong tensioner and a less than optimal pick. These worked, but I had to use the tensioner incorrectly to succeed.

So much of The Minimalist was built around unusual tangible interactions that when Esc4pe leaned on the more common escape room tropes, the room didn’t convey the same sense of adventure.

The end was anti-climactic, especially when juxtaposed with the opening.

Should I play Esc4pe’s The Minimalist?

The Minimalist was a bold escape room. Esc4pe stuck with a design decision that others have either abandoned or failed… and they made it work. They put their own twist on common tropes and produced an escape room that felt fresh.

Esc4pe are in a fantastic neighborhood in downtown Burlington, surrounded by amazing restaurants (Monarch & the Milkweed… is wow) and a block away from a bar/ arcade called The Archive… we had a wonderfully tasty, puzzley, and video-gamey afternoon.

The Minimalist was newbie friendly, and included more than a few interesting interactions to entertain experienced players. Puzzling aside, the lockpicking challenge will likely be a difficult for anyone who hasn’t done it before, but it is doable. If you’d like to learn some lockpicking basics before you visit, watch this video:

Book your hour with Esc4pe’s The Minimalist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Esc4pe comped our tickets for this game.

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