Pursue the Clue – McWhirley’s Mystery [Review]

Come on down to McWhirley’s Toy Emporium. If it isn’t a McWhirley’s, it probably deserves a swirly.

Location: Albany, NY

Date Played: March 11, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-6*

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

REA Reaction

McWhirley’s Mystery was an unconventional escape game. Pursue the Clue didn’t present the puzzles in the way escape room players have come to expect. Much of the challenge was uncovering the puzzles and then their solutions. While the set wasn’t much to behold, the space was filled with amusing little toys to clue, distract, or surprise you. McWhirley’s Mystery required curiosity, thoroughness, persistence, patience, and an open mind as to what an escape room is.

We left Pursue the Clue torn about this interesting and inconsistent game. While we didn’t enjoy some of atypical design decisions, we loved the intention behind the game as well as some of its gameplay.

In-game: a cabinet of old wooden toys including a cup and ball and a yo-yo.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Observant players
  • Antique toy aficionados
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t want their puzzles handed to them
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Adorable premise that supports the homemade feel
  • To uncover the mystery and the puzzles hidden within the accessible space

Story

Beloved toymaker Mr. McWhirley had disappeared. We hoped his office would give us clues as to where had gone and why he had disappeared.

In-game: a wooden toy with marbles in it in a room with wallpaper from the 70s.

Setting

Mr. McWhirley’s office was filled with toys. These were adorable, somewhat dainty wooden oddities from a bygone era.

The office itself was beige and brown, wallpapered, and furnished with a few basic wooden pieces. It had some wall hangings, some deliberately mounted and others shoddily affixed.

In-game: a bird on a wire toy beside a useless box.

Gameplay

We weren’t told much going in; we had to uncover the gameplay in McWhirley’s Mystery. 

With few exceptions, it wasn’t immediately apparent that set pieces, props, or decor were clues or puzzles. For the most part, the space wasn’t locked up; it was ours to explore. There were barely any locks in this escape game. McWhirley’s Mystery didn’t look, feel, or play much like a typical escape room.

Once uncovered, the puzzles varied in style and complexity. Some lent themselves to individual solvers; others could be group activities.

We were told that essentially everyone escapes, albeit with vastly different numbers of hints pushed to the players.

*Because of this unorthodox gameplay, it’s hard to recommend a group size. It depends what type of involvement the players want. Smaller groups will likely require more hints.

Standouts

The premise was adorable.

The gameplay in McWhirley’s Mystery felt fairly believable, given the context of a missing toymaker. Pursue the Clue avoided the padlock-laden aesthetic typical of most low-tech escape rooms. The clues and puzzles were well concealed.

Pursue the Clue beautifully hid a surprising reveal.

The toymaker’s office belonged to the character. It was filled with all sorts of fun knickknacks to play with. Some of these gave us a good laugh… and we kept returning to a few of them for funsies.

Shortcomings

Although the toys fit the space, it was challenging to know which were important to the gameplay and which were purely ambiance and amusement. We got bogged down with red herrings.

The set didn’t look like much. It was an office with minimal decor of varying quality.

Due to the layout of the building, Pursue the Clue had difficult design constraints in their gamespace. Instead of using this to their advantage and incorporating the oddity into their spatial design, they attempted to hide it. Their solution looked messy and felt forced.

McWhirley’s Mystery included many puzzles that didn’t lend themselves to group solves in a timed environment. While these worked narratively, they were challenging to solve, share, and hint. They could easily cause frustration and bottlenecking, especially considering their volume.

McWhirley’s Mystery lacked clue structure. It was challenging to separate clue from story. In one instance, a deliberate clue seemed ambiguous. Pursue the Clue also relied on hints as clue structure. We recommend that they integrate some of their most common hints as in-game clues and continue to refine the cluing.

The second act fell flat. It didn’t include any of the components that gave the first act character. The ending fizzled where it could have shined.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is free parking out front.
  • There are plenty of restaurants nearby.
  • Players need to be able to crouch down or crawl to enjoy the full experience.

Book your hour with Pursue the Clue’s McWhirley’s Mystery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Pursue the Clue comped our tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “Pursue the Clue – McWhirley’s Mystery [Review]

  1. Thanks for the nice review! We are already making some tweaks to the room based on your comments. Our horror-themed room, Zoe’s Torment, is also very different from typical escape rooms, but yet much different from McWhirley’s. Hopefully you’ll come try it out and/or one of our upcoming spaceship themed rooms!

  2. You’re welcome! We’re glad to hear the comments are welcome and helpful. We look forward to visiting again next time we’re in the area!

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