Escape Room NJ – Awaken [Review]

Update 2022: Please see the comments section for notes from recent players. It seems the quality of this escape room has deteriorated since this review from 2018.


Location: Pompton Lakes, NJ

Date Played: April 30, 2018

Team size: 1-18; we recommend 4-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket for public bookings, scaled rates based on team size for private bookings

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

Awaken grabbed our attention with a captivating grayscale set and a large quantity of interesting puzzles. It was hard to connect with the narrative, however, and the concluding sequence didn’t quite stick the landing. With just a bit more tweaking to the later half, Escape Room NJ could transform this strong escape room into something truly brilliant.

If you’re anywhere near Pompton Lakes, NJ, this one is worth checking out.

In-game: The front of a greyscale home with a clothes line running towards it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Creative gray scale set
  • Strong puzzle game
  • A lot of content


In the year 2059, professor Paul Carpentier, the creator of a psychic surgical technique, required his own treatment. As his students, we were given the responsibility of saving his life by administering that treatment: diving into his dream state to find and preserve his pillar memories.

Our mentor’s life was in our hands.

In-game: The front of a greyscale home with a telescope on the porch and a light on in the window.


The entirety of Awaken existed in the dreams and memories of our mentor. In keeping with the fiction, Awaken was presented entirely in grayscale. The few colored items corresponded to the pillar memories needed to restore Carpentier’s mind.

The setting itself carried us through key memories, all centered on his home. The exterior looked especially phenomenal.

In-game: A glowing street lamp with an apple hanging in front of it by a fishing line.


Escape Room NJ’s Awaken was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and making connections.


+ I loved the grayscale aesthetic of the set. It effectively communicated that we were in a dream.

– The story didn’t come through very strongly. We knew that we were mucking about in a man’s memories, but we never became emotionally invested in him as a human being.

+/- The additional concept of colored items representing pillar memories was brilliant. However, the colored items lacked vibrancy, diminishing the effect of this smart design choice.

Awaken had a good mix of lock- and technology-based gameplay that allowed for the unexpected to occur.

– A critical interaction was entirely too worn. In being gentle with it, we failed to use it properly.

+ There were a lot of puzzles to chew on and they were generally quality challenges. There was a lot of content; we were always puzzling.

– 18 people in this game? lol

+ There came a point where we accidentally broke the sequence of puzzles by solving a puzzle with partial information and concluding that this was part of the puzzle’s design. Our gamemaster was brilliantly attentive and intervened to prevent confusion.

– Much of the content in this escape room could be intentionally or accidentally bypassed.

+ The endgame had some nifty things going on.

– The final puzzle involved guesswork. It was missing a metapuzzle to pull the experience together.

+ The home’s exterior was a wonderful place to start the game and puzzle. There were moments that I found myself returning to it simply because I found it an enjoyable place.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot behind Escape Room NJ.
  • We recommend Thatcher McGhees for a convenient post-game meal.

Book your hour with Escape Room NJ’s Awaken, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room NJ provided media discounted tickets for this game.


  1. Warning: While this review was true in 2018, it’s no longer accurate in 2022. The game is now completely unplayable.

    Many items are broken, including scenery, necessary interactive elements, and even the LIGHTS. We were given a small pen light that you get from the dollar store that you press together with your fingers (and get no light)

    Puzzles are no longer clued in. There were *7* directional locks in the room, and some of them had letters written on them (in order to spell out 5 letter words). Why a word lock wasn’t used, I don’t understand.

    Necessary unlocking mechanisms didn’t work, and weren’t unlocked by the gamemaster (who was a different problem altogether).

    I don’t know if ownership changed, but this been cemented as one of the worst escape experiences I have ever done, and I am over 200 in.

    It was an absolute train wreck. Find someplace else.

  2. My husband, Darren, and I played Awaken on December 27, 2022 and have to agree with Lee’s assessment. Both the area when you get to their location where you go into what seems to be a storage area for their rage room and the room that Awaken is in is not very welcoming at all.

    Many of the items/locks that you needed to be able to read were illegible. Other items had seen a lot of wear and tear and one of the laminated sheets that we needed to write on, still had writing ono the back from previous players. We also encountered broken tech.

    The storyline that we read on their website was completely different from what small storyline we were told by the GM. The REA storyline in the review was also completely different but it was most accurate to the puzzles we actually encountered.

    We also wondered if they had changed ownership.

    Based on this game, we wouldn’t recommend this location. We haven’t been to their other locations, so they could be better.

  3. Thank you, Lee and Melissa, for your updates. I’ve added a note at the top of the review suggesting that readers reference you comments.

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