Escape My Room – Smugglers Den [Review]

A case of wine before a blackout.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date Played: June 21, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Escape My Room reliably provides unusual escape room experiences; Smugglers Den was no exception. It began in as a fairly typical escape room and then transitioned us into darkness, where we spent the rest of the game puzzling by touch.

Smugglers Den was a game of extreme tradeoffs. We lost the beautiful Escape My Room aesthetic and the DeLaporte family narrative. We gained a private, small-team experience with a different approach to puzzling and a variety of new sensory inputs.

If puzzling in pure darkness sounds like a welcome adventure and challenge, this is one fine example of the niche pitch-black genre. If you’re thinking, “darkness is a big nope” then you should trust that instinct, but do so knowing that this was a safe, horror-free escape room.

In-game: A brick wine cellar with wooden crates and old photos.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A great opening puzzle sequence
  • The challenge and intrigue of a dark escape room
  • An unusual final puzzle

Story

The DeLaporte family was in financial dire straits and facing the reality that they might have to sell their estate. As a last-ditch effort to raise funding they had hired our team to investigate their old wine cellar for any valuables left behind by Silver Dollar Sam, a notorious smuggler who, according to family legend, had used the cellar for running his illicit goods.

In-game: A corner of the brick wine cellar with a few photos, a bottle of wine, and an old radio.

Setting

Smugglers Den was an unusual game in Escape My Room’s universe. We began in the DeLaportes’ wine cellar, which felt right at home in… their home. It was a beautiful, detailed, and weathered space filled with appropriate props.

After solving our way through the wine cellar, we entered a dark space for the remaining two-thirds of the game.

In-game: A pitch dark room.
In game photo: We’re just gonna keep making this joke until we stop snickering at it.

Gameplay

Escape My Room’s Smugglers Den was an escape room played largely in darkness, with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, building understanding of the dark space, making connections, and communicating.

In-game: Close-up of a money back and large silver dollars.

In addition to escaping, we were playing for a score. There were a number of over sized silver dollars hidden throughout the gamespace. (We found all but one of them.)

Analysis

+ The wine cellar moved from on-ramp to complex puzzling. It gave us a glass of the kind of experience that Escape My Room typically presents… but not a full bottle.

+ There were a lot of nifty boxes to unlock… which doesn’t mean what you think it means.

+ The puzzles set in darkness forced us to adapt our methods of exploration and communication. This was among the finest dark rooms that we’ve encountered.

– Light bled through the edge of a door. While exits and signage are important, as our eyes adjusted this light bleed eventually let us sort of see each other, diminishing the effect of the darkness.

+/- Smugglers Den felt light dark on content. That said, it had a lot of puzzles for a dark escape room. Perspective played a big role in puzzle satisfaction.

? The search for coins forced us to explore the dark space thoroughly. The puzzles, however, asked us to do the same. We were torn on how much the coins added to the experience beyond the justification of the narrative.

– Escape My Room is the DeLaporte Estate, a beautiful, unusual, designed world. Smugglers Den didn’t fully belong to this world. The detailing and character of Escape My Room’s work comes in large part from the visuals that were essentially absent in this game. We missed the magic of the Escape My Room aesthetic.

– When the game ended, the lights came back on and we saw the unthemed puzzle room that we had been locked within. It really shattered the magic. We wished we would have exited back into the world of the DeLaportes and let the darkness of Smugglers Den remain a mystery.

– At 45 minutes and with a much smaller gamespace and far less set design, Smugglers Den was priced the same as Escape My Room’s longer and more detailed games. This presented a problem that’s not easily solvable. If they were to lower the price, this game for more advanced players would attract more newbies, but as fun as it was, it didn’t feel like the same value as the much more grand Inventor’s Attic.

+ The final puzzle came together unexpectedly. This was absolutely one of the high points of Smugglers Den.

Smugglers Den was a ton of fun. It was dark, but not at all scary. It was playful, strange, and exciting.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is so much amazing cuisine in the neighborhood. We highly recommend Mother’s and Cochon.
  • All players must be comfortable in darkness and able to crawl a short distance.

Book your hour with Escape My Room’s Smugglers Den, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape My Room comped our tickets for this game.

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