Amaze Escape – Art of the Heist [Review]

“9-1-1 this better be good.” -Chief Wiggum

Location:  Arlington, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 15, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

The Art of the Heist was a competent escape game with solid puzzle flow, good humor, integrated history, and a compelling, authentic setting.

Amaze Escape’s creation was held back by two frustrations: an overabundance of interesting red herrings and a painfully underdeveloped late-game sequence. These were serious momentum-killers, but are quite fixable.

Art of the Heist was a strong game that I wanted to enjoy more than I did. It just needed a bit more polish.

If you’re in the area and looking for a solid escape game in a unique and authentic setting, Art of the Heist would be a good choice.

In-game: The police station, featuring an American & Massachusetts flags, a coat hanger with a uniform and a desk with a computer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A genuine setting
  • Solid gameflow
  • An interesting final puzzle

Story

We were members of a syndicate of thieves tasked with stealing the world’s most valuable suitcase. Allegedly the suitcase had found its way into police custody in the town of Farlington, Massachusetts.

The syndicate had created a diversion, giving us an hour to break into the police evidence locker and retrieve our prize.

In-game: Close up of the electronic surveillance system box.

Setting

Amaze Escape was located in a building that formerly housed a municipal justice center. Their earlier game made use of the building’s authentic jail cell. Their latest game was set within the police station.

The concrete walls and generally drab setting was livened by a number of Simpsons references and other jokes. The setting was pretty perfect and was one of those instances where the real thing doesn’t necessarily look like TV or the movies, but feels like the genuine artifact.

In-game: the word "Taxachusetts" painted boldly on the wall.

Gameplay

Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Amaze Escape was located in a former municipal building that housed the court, jail, and police. They stuck to their roots again in their second game, The Art of the Heist, set it in a police station. It was believable.

➕ The puzzles flowed pretty smoothly. The gameplay generally worked well.

➖ We encountered one frustrating section. Ambiguous cluing, lack of necessary light sources, and choice of input mechanism came together aimlessly.

➖ Amaze Escape included substantial red herrings in The Art of the Heist. We kept looking for ways to interact with these significant props, only to find that they were simply ambiance. This was unfortunate because these red herrings were among the most interesting items in the game.

➕ We enjoyed one nifty late-game tech-driven solve. It was an intriguing design and amusingly precise.

➖ While we enjoyed the setup, we didn’t feel the narrative pressure of the heist scenario. The Art of the Heist lacked a moment of intensity and excitement that made our hearts race.

➕ I loved how Amaze Escape worked other bits of Boston heist history into their game, including the infamous Gardner Heist, which I had originally learned about from my favorite podcast, The Futility Closet.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking nearby. Pay the meter.

Book your hour with Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Amaze Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

4 thoughts on “Amaze Escape – Art of the Heist [Review]

  1. The issue of Red Herrings comes up a lot and seems to be a polarizing element. I LOVE decor and ambiance and all the interesting things/items that make up an intriguing room. Some of my regular teammates however, do not want anything in the room that is not in “play”.

    I think there is consensus on deliberate Red Herring Pathways that end lamely and are undeniably time wasters without “benefit”. However, some can be clever and enjoyable unless the player is solely focused on the destination and cares not a whit about the journey.

    I find that the rooms completely devoid of Red Herrings (as defined by some of my regular teammates) often tend to be spartan and unrealistic. Perhaps another explanation is possible. Could we (the escape enthusiast community) be over-using the term “Red Herring” to include items that don’t have to be used to escape/win but are interesting nonetheless?

    1. I’ve always viewed something as a “red herring” if it’s intention is to waste time or distract players.

      For example if a room happens to have books in it and it turns out they were just for decoration that’s alright with me.

      However if those book have pages marked, or words highlighted just to throw players off that’s a true “red herring”.

  2. I have always felt to truly be a “red herrang” it needs to be an intentional wast of time or distraction.

    For example if a room happens to have books in it as decoration that’s fine. But if those a book have pages marked, or words highlighted in order to mislead players that’s a red herrang.

  3. Personally, I don’t think that a red herring is defined by intent so much as effect.

    The example of red herrings pathways as David L was referencing are clearly red herrings… but that’s a rather extreme example, and at least in my experience fairly rare.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that detailed set design or the presence of props for ambiance are a problem at all. Without that stuff, many rooms look and feel bland and unrealistic.

    The most common red herring problems, in my opinion, and when the coolest or most eye-catching props in the room are useless yet enticing. This kind of thing, regardless of intent creates two problems:
    1. It sends players down a bad path.
    2. Players end up disappointed because they wanted the really cool thing to have meaning and purpose.

    I’ve been meaning to write a more extensive piece of red herrings for a while… and I’m going to do that soon.

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