A cryptic café
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Date Played: November 12, 2021
Team Size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5
Duration: 75 minutes
Price: $50 per player for 2 players to $40 per player for 6 players
Accessibility Consideration: Crawling (for at least 1 player)
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Omescape Sunnyvale’s Undercooked served up a veritable feast of scrumptious puzzling. If I could award Michelin stars for escape rooms, Undercooked would earn three.
Undercooked was innovative in many areas. Set in a spacious restaurant kitchen, I was delighted by the commitment to this unconventional escape room theme. With just a few exceptions, everything felt like it belonged in a kitchen: a bounty of food items, culinary implements, and restaurant decor. Furthermore, the majority of puzzle interactions were cleverly based around how one would actually engage in a kitchen.
The gameplay was structured around earning points, not escaping. With a wide range of puzzle types and more content than most teams (including mine) could fully complete in the given time, this felt more like a live-action video game than a traditional escape room. This formula also made Undercooked adaptable to any team size or experience level.
Omescape Sunnyvale has firmly established themselves as a mega-destination for premium escape rooms. With Undercooked, they now have 6 rooms available, with more on their way soon. All but one of the rooms are over 60 minutes long, and the sets are especially large and of high production value for the Northern CA escape room scene. They also run the virtual-only Pursuit of the Assassin Artist out of this location!
A team could easily play a full day of consistently stellar escape experiences at Omescape Sunnyvale, and this venue should be on the list of any escape room enthusiasts visiting the Bay Area. It’s well worth the trek.
Who is this for?
- Puzzle lovers
- Scenery snobs
- Any experience level
- Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
We made our way to the Undercooked restaurant, excited for an evening of fine dining. But upon our arrival, Chef Ramses II informed us that the kitchen staff had all skipped their shifts — and a famous food critic was visiting later that night! With no time to waste, we made our way into the kitchen to help complete as many orders as possible in a last-ditch attempt to get a positive review from the critic.
Undercooked took place in a cheerful restaurant kitchen. Adjacent to a large central food preparation area were various ingredient cabinets, a pantry, a pizza oven, and even an organic produce garden.
Omescape Sunnyvale’s Undercooked was a nonstandard puzzle room with a variable level of difficulty.
The objective was to earn as many dollars as possible by solving puzzles that yielded recipes. The game was designed such that most teams won’t get through all the puzzles.
Each puzzle yielded the names of 3 food ingredients. Each ingredient had a 3-digit identifier, though not all ingredients were available from the start of the game. By inputting the identifiers for the 3 ingredients of a recipe on a central digital console, we were able to complete that recipe and earn money.
Overcooked was a puzzle-heavy game, but most individual puzzles were of fairly low difficulty. The overall moderate difficulty of the game came from the communication and coordination required to keep up a brisk, steady solve rate through a substantial amount of content.
Hints were unlimited and automatically available from the console, like in a video game. Taking a hint on a recipe deducted a few dollars from the value of that recipe.
➕ Undercooked nailed parallel gameplay. Dozens of puzzles were available from the start, yet they were structured and designed such that the game felt frantic in an exciting rather than overwhelming way. For smaller teams, this also made the room replayable while minimizing FOMO. Each puzzle was clearly marked with a thematic icon that helped significantly with information association. And we inputted all the recipes on a central digital console, which consolidated “lock” mapping and served as a clear progress tracker.
❓The large amount of content in Undercooked allows for potential replayability for some teams, though the game is not explicitly designed around being replayable. Small teams (2-3 players) who only see up to half the puzzle content might enjoy a return visit. Larger teams (4-6 players) who see more than half the content likely will have experienced most of this room’s highlights in a single session, even if they didn’t see everything.
➖ Some small UI tweaks could have made the recipe entry console smoother to use. Especially later in the game, my team found it a bit tedious to repeatedly scroll through a long list of recipes to find the few that we hadn’t yet solved.
➕ A wide variety of puzzles occupied every team member the entire game. Some were opportunities for teamwork; others were short solo solves. Everyone experienced a rapid sequence of satisfying wins. If any player got stuck on or bored of a puzzle, it was easy and consequence-free to switch over to something else.
➕ There was a high density of wondrous diegetic interactions that were meaningfully themed around food and restaurants. Whether chopping, cleaning, freezing, nuking, or grinding, this style of gameplay reinforced our sense of being chefs in a kitchen. It also added a dimension of magic to how one would normally behave in a restaurant environment.
➖ A few non-diegetic puzzles in Undercooked didn’t match the elevated style of the rest of the room. While they were still loosely related to food and were fine puzzles in and of themselves, they were closer to traditional escape room puzzles than the rest of the gameplay.
➕ I really dug an amusing interaction that gave The Martian a run for its money.
➖/➕ For a well-organized kitchen and pantry, a search puzzle with components randomly scattered throughout the room felt out of place. That said, the interaction that used these components was fantastic and made for a particularly accessible onboarding puzzle.
➖ The distinction between multiple states of a certain ingredient felt underclued in context. I found the intended interaction to be quite clever and thematic, but the initial state of the ingredient wasn’t visually clear enough for this interaction to be intuitive on its own.
➕ Full marks for a climactic and entertaining ending! A fast-paced sequence of reveals capped off the experience on a positive note for all teams, regardless of culinary aptitude up to that point.
Tips For Visiting
- There is a parking lot.
- Undercooked at Omescape Sunnyvale was adapted from a room of the same name at Square Room Escape in Irvine, CA. We were told that the version in Sunnyvale upgraded the set and modified or added around 40% of the puzzles.
Book your session with Omescape Sunnyvale’s Undercooked, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Omescape Sunnyvale provided media discounted tickets for this game.