Puzzle Break – The Grimm Escape [Hivemind Review]

The Grimm Escape is a digital adaptation of a real-life escape game created by Puzzle Break in Seattle, WA.

Room Escape Artist has a review of The Grimm Escape in its original real-life format from July 2016. This is a review of the digital adaptation of the same game.

A Zoom call with a shared screen that explains, "Show/tell your answers to your fairy godparent."

Format

Style of Play: light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, recommended equipment includes pen and paper and maybe a printer.

The game had some printable materials, but could easily be played without a printer.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player with a $75 game minimum

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

In this digital form, The Grimm Escape was a light puzzle hunt: a collection of puzzles that culminated in a meta puzzle. It was presented as a digital book with a gamemaster there to keep the game on the rails.

The book/ PDF setup.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

I’m angry with Puzzle Break… angry and disappointed.

The Grimm Escape was a sad and mediocre gaming experience. Puzzle Break took one of their earliest games and boiled it down to a haphazardly designed puzzle book, turned it into a PDF, and tossed it into an embedded application to make it look sort of like a book on a webpage.

The interface was super clunky… and the puzzles simply weren’t good. There was no way to self-validate most of these solutions, so we had a gamemaster babysitter on Zoom to keep things on the rails, provide hints, and verify correct solutions. (We only needed our gamemaster for the validation, but I was glad to have that external approval because the puzzle design wasn’t clean enough.)

There was no set, audio, video, or any attempt to build a world. It was just a weak puzzle book that couldn’t even stand alone as a puzzle book.

To cap it all off, we had to pay per person, not per connection. When Lisa was sitting next to me and thinking about playing we were told that we needed to call a #$%^&* phone number to pay for an extra player. She just sat it out. I’m glad we saved the money. Who does that? And to be very clear, none of this was the gamemaster’s fault.

But none of this is the really disappointing part. Bad games and bad customer service happen.

Ad Nausea

The thing that has me so bothered by The Grimm Escape is how aggressively and disingenuously Puzzle Break has advertised it.

Puzzle Break Instagram ad reads: "THE ONLY QUARANTINE FRIENDLY ESCAPE ROOM."

This is an outright lie… here’s a catalog of reviews of “QUARANTINE-FRIENDLY ESCAPE ROOMS”

This screenshot is from my Instagram feed. We’ve been asked about The Grimm Escape from a lot of non-escape-room-playing friends and family who heard about this game through advertisements.

I’m not one of the people who hates Puzzle Break. I can really enjoy their puzzle-dense style of gameplay. However, as one of the original escape room companies in the United States, and one of the highest profile companies in our community, this feels like a very public failure that is harming the escape room industry.

If you have the budget to flood social media with ads, you have the money to make the game worth playing.

Diane Kobrynowicz’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

In spite of a friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic gamemaster, The Grimm Escape was a disappointment. There were multiple information sources to juggle — 2 websites and a pdf. The game plays differently on different devices, so building in a bit of an on-ramp would have made this process easier.

Once we got started, the information at the beginning was an uninteresting way to start and not used until the end. It was confusing and uninviting as a player. The first real puzzle was tedious. I was able to play without having to print the pdf, but, in fact, the whole game could have been played as a pdf rather than live online.

Luckily the experience improved over time. The art was lovely. The idea was fun. But the gamemaster said only 1 in 10 groups escape. It’s unfortunate that a fairytale story ended up being so unmagical.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.
  • + Artwork is elegant
  • + Gamemaster was friendly and provided confirmation when we had done interim steps correctly
  • – Gamemaster confirmation was necessary because many puzzles lacked self-confirming structures
  • – Initial puzzle was a lengthy logic puzzle that was more a grind than fun, and was a poor on-ramp
  • – Puzzles were presented in a virtual book form that several of our group found confusing at the start. A plain web page would be better.
  • – The entire game seemed to have been designed for print-and-play. The live gamemaster was only used for intro, confirmation, and hints.
  • +/- Final meta-puzzle was mostly entertaining, but needed better cluing. A few extra framing steps could have made it more satisfying.
A Zoom screen share of a countdown clock with 8:50 remaining.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

The Grimm Escape is a fun light puzzle hunt played with a live gamemaster. The puzzles were on the easier side and the online website, artwork, and materials worked and looked great.

I know this is how it works in a real escape room, but I felt a little awkward working on puzzles and communicating with my remote teammates while the gamemaster just sat silently on the Zoom call, waiting for us to ask for a hint or to give him an answer to a puzzle.

The upside to having a live gamemaster was that he was able to give us very specific nudges and hints because he knew exactly what we were doing and saying. However, the website was constructed well enough that I think it could have provided hints and accepted answers. This would have eliminated the need for the gamemaster and the specific time slot booking.

I recommend playing The Grimm Escape during a time of quarantine if you are in the mood for a nice puzzle hunt, but I feel the game could provide better value for players by eliminating the live host and lowering the price point accordingly.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This game is basically the escape room version of “This meeting could have been an email.”

The Grimm Escape is a fun puzzle hunt with great graphics. However, I don’t think this is a game that required a live gamemaster. In fact, I’m not really sure why we had to pay so much money for a live gamemaster to just sit in the game and occasionally give us a nod in the right direction. The puzzles were in a webpage, and there wasn’t ever a point when we had to interact with the gamemaster for anything significant. Maybe this would be good for groups that have never done these types of puzzles before and need a bit of hand holding, but if you are experienced at escape rooms and puzzle hunts, I think you will find the puzzles quite easy, and the gamemaster to be totally unnecessary.

I think The Grimm Escape would be better served as an online puzzle hunt or print-and-play with an online hint system. I would also maybe recommend it for play during quarantine if it was at a much lower price point, perhaps $10-20 for the entire game online without a live gamemaster. At $25 per person, it’s just not worth it.

7 thoughts on “Puzzle Break – The Grimm Escape [Hivemind Review]

  1. David, Why don’t you tell us how you really feel? 🙂 My family did it as well (the location in Rego Park, Queens) and felt exactly the same. Luckily, your site turned us on to the amazing one in Tampa, Ready Mayor One, to show us not only it was possible but how it could be incredible.

  2. Not trying to distract from what seems like a truly terrible experience but why the hate at paying “per person” rather than “per connection”? It feels a valid choice (or at least, they feel equally valid choices – in practice, the cost is pretty much the same per game regardless of the number of players/connections).

    1. This is a really good question.

      If Lisa and I go to a physical escape room, we are both two individuals with our own agency within the space. We both have our own experiences in the room.

      When we play on the same computer, at best, one person is driving the other is watching. We are having a completely shared experience. Only one of us has agency at a time.

      At $25 per person for a mediocre digital experience that has been eclipsed by better games at a fraction of the price, charging per head instead of per machine is egregious.

      That said, if we were talking $5 or even $10 per person… or this game was amazing, I might not have had a problem with it.

  3. Such a shame – we live in Seattle, and Puzzle Break was our first escape room. Though we’ve since played rooms we enjoy more, Puzzle Break rooms are always well put together with intriguing puzzles. It’s disappointing that their foray into virtual escape rooms sounds so half-hearted. Thanks for the review!

    1. Yeah, I’m with you Paul. I have so many fond memories with the early escape room companies, I really want to see them grow, adapt, and lead.

  4. We feel the same way. We enjoyed the puzzle-focused gameplay of our first Puzzle Break game many years ago and we were really hoping their virtual escape room would deliver.

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