NorCal Escape Co – CONDEMNED2: The Box [Review]

Condemned2: The BoxΒ is one of the best games in Sacramento, CA. Here are our other recommendations forΒ great escape rooms in Sacramento.

Think inside The Box.

Location:  Yuba City, CA

Date Played: November 14, 2021

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: from $200 for 4 players to $350 for 10 players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Moderate physical activity and crawling

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

NorCal Escape Co’s CONDEMNED2: The Box was intense, exhilarating, and moderately terrifying. While Southern California is full of horror escape rooms, Northern California overall is quite horror averse, and as such, CONDEMNED2: The Box especially stands out as a top horror experience within the regional escape room scene.

Rather than relying on in-room actors or major jump scares, CONDEMNED2: The Box incited fear through a persistent intensity of the environment and gameplay meant to taunt the player. Lighting and sound had us increasingly on edge, and some puzzles had us spinning in circles. Through all this, the game managed a reasonable balance of frightening and fair.

Yet certain gameplay mechanics intentionally designed to frustrate players toed the line between diegetically justified and somewhat annoying. Especially in the final stages of the game, player-friendly affordances could have been taken to lessen the tedium or “gotcha” moments of a few puzzles without diminishing the intensity of the game.

Located nearly an hour outside Sacramento, NorCal Escape Co is in a bit of an escape room desert. If you’re in the Sacramento area, however, I highly recommend going out of your way for a visit. CONDEMNED2: The Box is a unique choice for medium-to-large teams with at least some experience, and Fox Tail Saloon and Escape Truck are also both well worth a play if you have time.

One piece of parting advice: don’t hesitate to take hints in this game when needed. The environment was intense and exhausting, and if you don’t take a few hints when you need them earlier on, you may end up regretting it by the ending “The Box” sequence. We sure did.

Closeup of an array of black, eyeless masks.
Image via NorCal Escape Co

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Horror fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Story

Picking up where the story of NorCal Escape Co’s original CONDEMNED experience left off, a serial killer had been imprisoned, but some of his past victims had formed a sort of weird cult centered around continuing the serial killer’s torturous tendencies. In CONDEMNED2: The Box, this cult had abducted us and placed us in an abandoned warehouse. If we were to escape our impending demise, we had to prove ourselves worthy by making our way through a sequence of terrifying challenges.

Oh, and just to make things extra fun, these cult members had split our team in two and placed each group in a different wing of the warehouse.

Setting

CONDEMNED2: The Box took place in a warehouse owned and operated by the cult following of a serial killer. If you think that sounds scary and intense, you are correct. The set was expansive and meticulously grungy in appearance (but not actually dirty).

View through a cage door of a room covered in framed photos.
Image via NorCal Escape Co

Gameplay

NorCal Escape Co’s CONDEMNED2: The Box was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, making connections, and communication.

Players were split into two sub-teams for a large portion of the experience, and each side got completely different puzzles. We weren’t able to communicate with or assist our other teammates until both sides completed their separate sequences and reached a shared central area. So, make sure there’s a balance of strong players on both sides!

Analysis

βž• The set of CONDEMNED2: The Box was massive and full of creepy objects, strongly channeling the feeling of a serial killer collective’s creepy warehouse. In this challenges-designed-by-mentally-unstable-murderers style, there was a fairly high level of detail and intentionality in the set design.

βž• The first puzzle of CONDEMNED2: The Box was simple in concept, yet required an immediate attention to detail and creative communication. It also quickly established the aesthetic and style of gameplay of the overall experience.

βž•/βž– Certain puzzles were intentionally frustrating in ways that made sense for the narrative. While I found myself repeatedly cursing the game as I was playing it, that was sort of the point. It got players in the right mindset for an experience where we’d been kidnapped by some serial killers who were mockingly testing our intelligence.

βž– A few puzzles pushed the limits of what’s a satisfying “aha” versus a less-than-satisfying design choice meant solely to frustrate or mess with players.

πŸ“¦ The ending sequence of the game β€” “The Box” β€” was a challenging optional add-on. Before entering this final segment, teams are given a choice of whether or not they want to continue. I’d recommend working on “The Box” only if you have at least 10 minutes, and realistically at least 15 minutes, left on the clock. These final puzzles were a sharp ramp-up in difficulty and density, requiring calm, clear communication at what’s naturally already the most stressful section of the game. This innovative gameplay structure, originally just a seasonal modification that was permanently added to CONDEMNED2 when it proved to be popular, was cleverly designed to turn up the heat right when it mattered most.

❓ While each side had completely different puzzles, there was enough overlap at the end that CONDEMNED2: The Box wouldn’t be replayable for most players.

Tips For Visiting

  • There was a parking lot.
  • A note on the evolution of this game: CONDEMNED was NorCal Escape Co’s first room, in a different location that is now permanently closed. CONDEMNED2 was the sequel to CONDEMNED β€” a continuation of the narrative with completely new gameplay. CONDEMNED2: The Box is a version of CONDEMNED2 with an added ending sequence, but otherwise nearly identical to CONDEMNED2.

Book your 90 minutes with NorCal Escape Co’s CONDEMNED2: The Box, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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