THE BASEMENT – The Courtyard [Review]

Release the hounds.

Location: Sylmar, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Courtyard took us outside the home of serial killer Edward Tandy to play a murderous game in his fenced-in courtyard. THE BASEMENT built a spectacular outdoor environment, combining nature with decrepit structures to deliver a sense of continual discovery tinged with foreboding. The set was a work of art.

While aspects of the story detracted from the rest of THE BASEMENT’s overall experience, the sets, lighting, sound, and actor delivered an intense and exciting escape room. Additionally, The Courtyard delivered a brilliant midgame puzzle sequence that we will never forget.

If you’re planning to play one game at THE BASEMENT, make it The Elevator Shaft. If you’re looking to play two (and you should), The Courtyard should be your next choice. They’re both unique and intense.

If you’re anywhere nearby and interested in horror, intensity, actor-driven gameplay, and immersive sets, you should visit The Courtyard.

In-game: heavy wooden doors chained shut.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Detailed set design
  • Outstanding actor
  • Intensity of the experience

Story

The Basement’s fourth chapter continued with us having escaped from The Study and fleeing into Edward Tandy’s mudroom. Freedom seemed so close. Unfortunately beyond the mudroom was a walled courtyard and another series of sadistic games and death traps.

Setting

We started The Courtyard in a small, dimly lit, ominous mudroom with the porch and courtyard of Tandy’s house visible in the distance.

In-game: Coats hanging in a dim, creepy mud room.

Within their facility, THE BASEMENT had constructed an outdoor space for the The Courtyard. We were walled in by the Tandy house on one side and tall fences on the others. Lily Tandy’s trailer stood prominently in the gamespace along with a few smaller structures.

In-game: an aged porch with a rocking chair.

The Courtyard’s largely outdoor set was detailed and weathered. It felt genuine. The Courtyard was dim and foreboding with the threat of hounds ever present.

In-game: a small kitchenette and table in a quaint trailer.

Gameplay

THE BASEMENT’s The Courtyard was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty in an intense environment.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and interacting with the actor.

In-game: a large top-loading freezer in a decrepid mud room.

Analysis

+/- The Courtyard began with a video introduction… followed by a video introduction. It built up tension, stifled that tension, built it up again… it just droned on and on. This was unfortunate because it the intro was well acted.

+ There was a lot of depth to The Courtyard’s set. THE BASEMENT built indoor and outdoor spaces. These were detailed and convincing, instilling in us an unsettling apprehension, as intended. In-game: the heavily weathered side of Tandy's home. Window with shudders flows brightly.

+ THE BASEMENT used lighting and sound to further escalate the tension in their serial killer’s game environment.

+ This escape room was designed so that most players will spend the majority of their time in the more intriguing portion of the set. If players don’t access it one way, at a set time interval, THE BASEMENT triggers a different sequence to move the team forward. We appreciated this commitment to keeping players engaged and pushing them into the more exciting parts of The Courtyard.

– One of these early sequences left a brutal red herring in its wake. We didn’t use a certain game element early on and its presence was an evergreen element of confusion that ruined some moments. This could be remedied with relative ease.

+ The actor was a pivotal part of experience. He reacted to our words, body language, and in-game interactions. He was outstanding.

In-game: an electrical device mounted to a wall.

+ The actor-player interaction design was insightful. The set kept the actor separate from the players, such that it supported the narrative premise and kept both parties safe from each other.

– The Courtyard required a substantial amount of reading in low light.

+/- The Courtyard delivered many of the longer passages both as written text and audio voiceover. This technique made the story and clue structure more accessible to larger teams. That said, there was a heavy reliance on long passages of exposition.

+ The hint mechanism made sense in the context of the experience. It fit seamlessly into the game. Because of this, however, the hint mechanism was only accessible up until a point. Once we’d solved a substantial portion of the escape room, we could not receive any hint to late-game puzzles. Some may dislike this; we found it interesting.

The Courtyard had some of the strongest puzzles offered by THE BASEMENT. There was a mid-game sequence that was especially inspired, pulling together all of the core elements of the game into a uniquely smart and screwed-up challenge.

+ We especially enjoyed another puzzle sequence that triggered a heart-pounding situation, until we puzzled our way through it.

– The final puzzle sequence took the story in an unexpected direction that made it lose credibility. It didn’t seem to belong in the world of Edward Tandy as it wasn’t grounded in reality. THE BASEMENT missed an opportunity here.

– As with The Elevator Shaft, losing teams will experience a more dramatic ending than we did when we won. Once again, I kind of wish that we had lost.

The Courtyard instilled in us a sense of discovery. The gamespace was genuine enough that we didn’t feel like anything was entirely “used.” It was ominous enough that we remained on edge. This balance kept us engaged throughout the escape room.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with THE BASEMENT’s The Courtyard, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: THE BASEMENT provided media discounted tickets for this game.

All images via THE BASEMENT.

3 thoughts on “THE BASEMENT – The Courtyard [Review]

    1. While it is still a horror experience, I think the Elevator Shaft is less scary than the other three games at THE BASEMENT. If you’re able to do it, it’s seriously worth fighting through the fear for these two games.

  1. Good to know. I’m such a chicken! The last (and only) scary game I played I was basically in a corner the whole time afraid things would pop out at me. I couldn’t think at all.

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