13th Gate Escape – Cutthroat Cavern [Review]

“Goonies never say die!”

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date Played: June 23, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern brought to life the joyous Goonies fantasy that I’ve harbored since childhood. It was filled with massive interactions in an epic set with every detail and surface lovingly handcrafted.

Since opening a few months ago, we’ve received a steady stream of messages along the lines of, “Cutthroat Cavern is my new favorite escape room!” It only takes a few minutes of playing it to see why… and then a few more minutes to really understand.

I will never forget the world of Cutthroat Cavern; there’s a part of me that will always long to return. It is worth traveling to visit this escape room.

In-game: a large stone wall with a massive skull carved into it. The skull's eyes glow with fire.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Goonies

Why play?

Cutthroat Cavern was an incredible adventure-driven game from the set, to the events, to the effects, to the overwhelming scale. If you’re physically capable of playing it, you should.

Story

While hiking, we had come across caves known as the Cutthroat Caverns. Our guide explained that they had been used to perform human sacrifices by the Mayans. Furthermore, legend told of a pirate who had used the caves as his secret hideout.

We had asked about descending down into the caves and the guide had refused to go, but had told us how to get there… with a warning: “Around dusk the high tide would flood the caves… and if we were still inside, we wouldn’t survive.” We had ignored the warnings and had hiked towards the caves. Then the ground had given way beneath our feet and we had tumbled into an ancient chamber.

In-game: three skulls resting on a pedestal inside of Mayan ruins.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Setting

Cutthroat Cavern was built as a cave with a series of chambers. We began in a compact and focused area. From there the set expanded dramatically.

I can’t bring myself to explain the space in any level of detail as discovery is the most impactful part of this experience.

Suffice to say, it was grand on a scale that – to the best of my knowledge – is unrivaled in the escape room world. It even topped Tomb of Anubis in the jaw-dropping reveals department.

Finally, while the Cutthroat Cavern may be massive, 13th Gate Escape minded the tiniest of details.

In-game: Wooden ship wheel with a skeletal hand pointing at the top of the wheel.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Gameplay

13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern was an escape room of epic scale with a higher level of difficulty. It played like a traditional room, but I hesitate to call it standard because so much of it was so unusual.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and embracing the adventure. If you don’t stop to smell the roses a bit, you’re doing it wrong.

Analysis

+ Cutthroat Cavern was as gigantic as it was epic. It inspired a sense of adventure. This experience was about as close to living in The Goonies as I suspect I’ll get for some time.

In-game: The carved wooden figurehead of a winged woman on the bow of bow of an old ship.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

+ Considering its size, 13th Gate Escape did a smart job of creating a straightforward and intimate on-ramp. They slowly rolled out access to the environment, preventing the escape room from feeling too overwhelming.

+ The aesthetic formula at play in Cutthroat Cavern is: micro + macro = real. 13th Gate Escape used overwhelming scale along with fine detail to produce a jaw-dropping gamespace.

+ Cutthroat Cavern had one of the coolest interactions that I’ve ever seen in an escape game. It was the kind of thing that if 99% of escape room companies built it, they would design a full game around the mechanic and continuously loop through it in creative ways (and that would probably make for a cool game). 13th Gate used this for a single puzzle.

+ The puzzles and flow were generally strong. They presented fair challenges that fit comfortably within the environment and story. Most of the puzzles weren’t revolutionary, but they worked fantastically within the fiction… and then there was the one puzzle that was really revolutionary.

– One puzzle was particularly finicky and required strong visual acuity paired with a precise touch. Another puzzle was particularly difficult to find.

+ There was a lot of sand in Cutthroat Cavern. This isn’t a spoiler, as 13th Gate Escape told us upfront that there would come a point where we should remove our shoes. I wasn’t convinced that this would be great… but it was. We ran around barefoot like giddy children.

+ Cutthroat Cavern had fantastic cutscene-like physical events that really highlighted the beauty and grandeur of the set. We stopped gameplay and turned our attention to these sequences. It was worth it.

– It was possible, and occasionally easy, to completely miss some of the crazy interactions in Cutthroat Cavern.

+ Our biggest knock against 13th Gate Escape’s past games was the use of Escape Room Boss to manage the game clock and hinting. While Escape Room Boss was still the system managing those aspects of the game, it was completely invisible to the players. 13th Gate Escape created an innovative approach to remove the burden of Escape Room Boss from the players. I wouldn’t have thought of this solution and my hat is off to them for thinking it up. In its place, they designed a conceptually integrated hint system for Cutthroat Cavern.

– In practice, the hint system was far too difficult to understand. Whenever our team received a hint, each player had their own interpretation of what they’d heard — not what the hint meant, but the words that had been spoken. We respect in-game realism, but recommend scaling back just a bit to improve usability and dramatically reduce player frustration.

+ Win or lose, Cutthroat Cavern delivered a proper conclusion to the story (although it sounded like the loss conclusion was more badass.)

– Many of us didn’t realize that we had won the game. We had to confirm that the game clock had stopped before we could fully devote our attention to the finale.

+ This was the most visually-arresting, over-the-top adventure escape room that I’ve seen to date.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: 13th Gate Escape has ample parking in a lot across the street.
  • Food: Head to downtown Baton Rouge (close by) for a great meal.
  • Accessibility: To fully enjoy this game, you need to have mobility on sand. This escape room also requires at least one player who is good on their feet and moderately fit.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “13th Gate Escape – Cutthroat Cavern [Review]

  1. Finally! A Goonies themed room! Never really thought I’d want to go to Louisiana, but now it would seem I must!

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