Hidden Donkey – Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand [Review]

✨ Magic spell checker ✨

Location:  Irvine, CA

Date Played: December 17, 2021

Team Size: 2-9; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player on weekdays, $37 per player on weekends, minimum booking of 3 players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Hidden Donkey’s Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand was an enchanting experience.

This was a wizard-themed escape room that will absolutely delight wizard and fantasy fans. The set was transportive, with high ceilings, stone walls, and old portraits. The gameplay was filled with iconic wizard-y interactions, including spell casting and potion mixing, and some fun multi-step puzzles.

A stone archway, portraits, and stained glass in a magic school.

Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand facilitated many magical moments, but I sometimes found that the game took itself a bit too seriously. Some small moments of whimsy or humor could have been further expanded to add even more personality to the space. The experience was generally sequential and on rails, though there were enough moments of creative problem solving that the gameplay would appeal to novices and enthusiasts alike.

Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand was easily one of the top wizard-themed escape rooms in southern California, and if you are in the area, this room is a must-play.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Wizardry & fantasy fans
  • Any experience level

Story

As students at the Irvine School of Wizardry, we faced a range of magical challenges along our quest to find the mythical Dragon Wand.

Setting

The Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand took place at a wizarding academy. The set was spacious and intricately decorated in a style generally reminiscent of Hogwarts.

A house banner beside a brook hanging against a stone wall in a magic school.

Gameplay

Hidden Donkey’s Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around solving puzzles and casting magical spells. Each player received a wooden wand at the start of the game, and by all pointing at a specific object and chanting a spell, we were able to have magical effects on our surroundings.

Analysis

➕ Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand‘s set was beautiful. With tall halls, textured walls, well fabricated props, and intricate decor, this room looked and felt thoroughly like a wizard academy.

➕ Fans of a particular fictional wizarding world will love this room — and yet it managed to feel like its own distinct magical universe rather than a Hogwarts knockoff.

➖ The first area of the set, while visually very attractive, seemed a bit narratively muddled, seemingly serving both as an astronomy classroom and a sort of entrance hall. This didn’t actively interfere with the gameplay, but it led to some initial confusion as we were getting situated in the game world.

Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand was packed with creative gameplay that diegetically fit the story, involved numerous satisfying tactile interactions, and provided many moments of magic.

➕ I loved Hidden Donkey’s approach to spell casting. A hefty, beautifully produced spell book provided us with a range of spell names and their effects. There was a feeling of magical agency as we puzzled our way through determining which spells we could cast in our current environment. From the action of casting a spell together as a group to the immediate visual effects of each spell, this spell-casting mechanic imbued the room with a deep magic.

➖ Other physical uses of our wands were creative, but felt mundane compared to the spell casting. Some small effect around these wand applications could have made them feel more consistently magical.

➕ I loved Hidden Donkey’s approach to potion mixing. In most magic-themed escape rooms, potion mixing tends to be just symbolic. In Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand, it was the real deal, and gosh it was pretty.

➕ The paper elements in Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand were beautiful printed fabric. They looked and felt great, and recipe and spell books avoided feeling at all like runbooks.

➕/➖ Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand was consistently immersive in the game, but I wished this immersion had extended just a bit further. For me, our experience began the moment we selected our wands in the lobby. I longed for some intro narrative around the wand selection process and a justification for why we walked out of the lobby, around to the sketchy back of the building, and into an unmarked door; this could have elevated this initial transition from unremarkable to something special.

Tips For Visiting

  • There was free street parking nearby.

Book your hour with Hidden Donkey’s Irvine School of Wizardry and the Dragon Wand, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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