Cheap thrills at premium prices.
Location: Brooklyn (Red Hook), New York
Date played: September 9, 2017
Team size: 8
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $95 per ticket Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday / $110 per ticket Friday & Saturday
Story & setting
Kidnapped and locked up in an abandoned warehouse, we had to confront our captor and work with other actors to free ourselves.
This Is Real took place in a dark, rundown murder basement that was clearly striving for the Saw vibe and largely achieved it in a gritty and dirty sort of way.
This Is Real was not a puzzle game and our hosts were quick to tell us that the game was not an escape room. It did, however, have a lot in common with escape rooms.
The game was built around searching, occasionally interacting with actors, and task-based set interactions that drove the game forward.
The interactions in This Is Real were where the experience suffered.
The deliberately quirky intro to This Is Real set an intense tone for the experience.
The set achieved the Saw-esque aesthetic that it was striving for. It also delivered a few fun moments.
Although we were physically restrained and locked in cages, it would have been easy to free ourselves in an emergency. That said, doing so would have eliminated the freed player from the game.
Players were given a full body jumpsuit. This protected our clothing from the fake blood, gross water, and debris all over the set.
This Is Real was not all that frightening and did not deliver on the buildup. The scariest part of the experience was our own teammate whose erratic behavior made us jump more than anything designed into the game.
The story was hard to follow and ultimately undermined itself.
The game design of This Is Real was shockingly weak. If I had to venture a guess, the designers probably had a few characters and game moments in mind and then shoehorned the interactions to advance the story around those elements.
A key interaction was so high up that a number of our shorter teammates couldn’t have reached it if they’d tried. Conversely, there were a lot of tight spaces that many of us taller folk couldn’t fit in.
This Is Real was built around a 3-life system, like a video game. Screw up 3 times and you’d be out of the game. This flawed design undermined the immersion, fun, and premium price-tag of the experience.
The 3-life system slaughtered immersion because every time any player lost a life, the actor playing the killer would scream “DEAD” which trigged the game to stop and a host to walk in, tack a Velcro lost life indicator to that player’s jump suit, and then give the player a hint about how they’d died or what they should do next.
This Is Real played like an old-school Nintendo game, but not a good one. Players frequently died for offenses that they didn’t understand. Some of the explanations kind of made sense, but only served to underscore how you had to listen to the actors with the ears of a lawyer. We had one player lose all of her lives within the first 10 minutes of gameplay. Fortunately they let her back in, but it was straight up silly.
Most of us ended up dead right before the finale, which was incredibly stupid. There was no reason to remove so many people from play prior to the conclusion.
The jumpsuits were hot as hell.
I always distinguish between dirty sets and dirty-looking sets. This Is Real was straight up dirty.
We paid a stupid amount of money for a single hour of mediocre gameplay… and most of us didn’t even get to play through the end of the damn experience.
Should I play This Is Real?
My friends and I spend a lot of time and money on escape rooms and other immersive entertainment. I do not remember any other experience in which every teammate regretted having purchased the tickets. This was the case with This Is Real.
$110 per ticket puts this experience within spitting distance of top tier experiences like Sleep No More or Then She Fell. It simply did not measure up.
I wanted This Is Real to be amazing. While I’ve never proclaimed myself a horror guy, some of my favorite immersive experiences of the past few years have been rooted in horror simply because fear can instill feeling and purpose into an experience. I was hoping to find something like Zoe, The Unknown, The Girl’s Room, or Sanatorium in Red Hook. Instead I found expensive disappointment.
Save your money. Save your time. Here are a bunch of other things to do in New York City this fall.