Palace Games – The Attraction [Review]

The Attraction is one of the best games in San Francisco. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in San Francisco.

Time is flying, never to return.

Location:  San Francisco, CA

Date Played: November 13, 2021

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: ~120 minutes

Price: $410 per team

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push to Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Attraction thoroughly blew my mind, distorted my sense of reality, and set a new and invigoratingly high bar for the future of escape rooms as an experiential art form. This was a world-class escapist experience worth traveling any distance to play.

An ornate bronze door with an eye. Copper pipes emanate from the door.

The Attraction felt like a waking dream. Impressive feats of engineering and Meow Wolf-level immersive artistry converged into something utterly magical. The Attraction perfectly executed certain physical and psychological mechanics that I’ve been eagerly waiting to see an escape room attempt. An impressively diverse range of innovative gameplay and aesthetics yielded a wondrous journey of otherworldly play.

As far as I’m concerned, The Attraction is in strong contention for the best escape room in the world. Palace Games has created something truly breathtaking, and I applaud them for the mountains of creativity, labor, artistry, technical expertise, profound knowledge of the escape room industry, and love that went into creating this experience.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Tech gurus
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Story

Palace Games had discovered a secret inner sanctum in the Palace of Fine Arts containing an “attraction” which had appeared at the 1915 World’s Fair but was shut down shortly thereafter. They’d restored this mysterious marvel, and our team was sent in to discover its purpose.

A wall painted with a red, black, and gold eye, bold letters read, "The Attraction." The painting is framed by red and gold curtains.

Setting

The Attraction had a most unconventional setting. Circus-like red curtains of the waiting area gave way to a steampunk-meets-art deco-esque antechamber. As escape was not our objective, the door into this room was clearly marked in both the entrance and exit directions.

What lay beyond that point can’t be captured in words.

Closeup of a stained glass wall sconce.

Gameplay

Palace Games’ The Attraction was a notably non-standard escape room from start to finish with a moderate level of difficulty.

Little can be written about The Attraction’s gameplay without spoiling it, but suffice to say, this room innovated a unique take on puzzle-centric interaction design which diverged significantly from the object gathering, searching, and object-based connection making found in most traditional escape rooms.

Analysis

βž• The core navigational mechanic of The Attraction had my head spinning. Through the combination of masterful engineering, a hefty subwoofer, bold misdirection, and psychological manipulation, the transitions between spaces were the most impressive and effective I’ve seen in any escape room to date.

βž• The puzzles in The Attraction were a brilliant maturation of the style demonstrated in Palace Games’ The Edison Room. Showing strong puzzle hunt and video game influences, all puzzle interactions were perfectly integrated in the physical environment and narrative. They prompted shared discovery, communication, and teamwork. They were varied, incredibly fun, and gave solvers of different abilities moments to shine. Furthermore, they seamlessly utilized an impressive level of tech without ever feeling overindulgent or like a tech demo.

βž• The Attraction is blocked off as a 2-hour experience, but there was explicitly no countdown timer in the game. Teams are allowed and encouraged to take the time they need to savor and complete the full experience. There was no narrative reason to have an arbitrary time cutoff, and I have mad respect for Palace Games’ decision to forgo this structural relic of the traditional escape room model.

βž• The Attraction took us to a myriad of vivid worlds. The set design in each was astounding, and I was especially impressed by the range of textural contrast within the game. Moreover, each environment felt markedly different from anything I’ve experienced elsewhere.

βž• While the entire set was stunning, one area in particular elicited from me a feeling of deeply reverent awe. I’m not usually the most distractible puzzle solver, yet I spent the first few minutes in this space ignoring the task at hand and just wandering aimlessly, mouth agape, soaking in the magic. This feeling blossomed even further as the space transformed before our eyes.

βž•/❓ A sort of pop culture montage throughout the game might be described as nostalgic, deeply human, or even meme-y. For me, the ways in which these elements were presented were a strong positive and infused the experience with a distinctively idiosyncratic character. However, I could see this resonating less strongly with some players.

βž• The Attraction was a strongly narrative-driven experience. Our actions and our role in the story were consistently justified, and even puzzles that were “just puzzles” ultimately had a “why” behind them. A meta-narrative arc was particularly topical and thought-provoking for enthusiasts of the escapist inclination.

βž– We encountered one very brief and very minor technical glitch with an input mechanism. While this was not a big deal whatsoever, it felt mildly immersion-breaking in the moment, in sharp contrast to the level of deep immersion consistently maintained throughout the entirety of the game. With the intricacy and scale of the tech in this room, I hope tech reliability is maintained or improved going forward, as every moment of the game outside those few minutes was sublime.

βž• The ending. Just wow. Like a magic trick where you don’t know how it’s done in the moment and don’t really want to find out after the fact, the final sequence propelled us back into the “real world” in a state of pure ecstasy.

Tips For Visiting

  • Drive to the back of The Palace of Fine Arts. There is parking.

Book your session with Palace Games’ The Attraction, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

2 thoughts on “Palace Games – The Attraction [Review]

  1. Matthew, how would you say this compares to the other Palace Games’ rooms?
    Great review, by the way.

    1. Thank you!!

      Roosevelt and Edison still very much hold up as top-tier premium experiences. I actually had the pleasure of partially replaying Edison right before The Attraction, which was a great refresher and direct comparison.

      With that high bar set, in my opinion The Attraction is yet another major step up. It utilized a similar vocabulary of innovative and refined tech and puzzle design to Roosevelt and Edison, but unlike either of those rooms, it also had a VERY strong narrative and deep layers of meaning, beyond what I’ve seen in almost any other escape room. The perfect balance of all these elements has kept me dreaming about this experience in the weeks since I’ve played.

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