The Secret Chambers – Arlington – The Area 51 Adventure [Review]

I’m not saying it was aliens, but…

Location:  Arlington, TX

Date Played: March 29, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player (you must pay for a minimum of 4 even if fewer play)

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players must climb 2-3 stairs. One player must climb more extensively.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As a company, The Secret Chambers consistently offers spectacular, immersive environments and dynamic set pieces. The Area 51 Adventure met these expectations and then kept going, with abundant sci-fi references, various surprises, and one jaw-dropping reveal that made me giddy.

A glowing, futuristic periodic table of the elements in a sci-fi room with a barrel leaking green material. A door reads, "Anti-matter bomb chamber."

Beyond the set, this room offered an impressive puzzle game. A handful of puzzles were familiar, but most were fresh and challenging, usually relying on fun and thematic props. Although many of these puzzles had an extended execution phase, we were generally excited every time we realized what we needed to do. These tasks ranged from lighthearted and joyful to precise and pressure-filled, leading to a wide range of emotions throughout the experience.

Several of these puzzles also relied on an array of dexterity skills that added novelty and intensity, though these might “alienate” players who prefer more mental exercises. These elements made the room feel more interactive than many while requiring participation from multiple team members. Indeed, communication and collaboration were hallmarks of this room, truly testing our teamwork capacity.

We consider The Secret Chambers to be a regional must-visit company, and The Area 51 Adventure is one of its stand-out experiences.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Expert communicators
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Abundant sci-fi Easter eggs
  • Extensive communication and collaboration puzzles
  • High level of intensity
  • Utterly delightful sets, props, and activities

Story

As dedicated conspiracy theorists, we entered Area 51 in an earnest attempt to find the Truth. Alas, by the simple act of arriving, we activated a security alarm, triggering the countdown of an anti-matter bomb. We should probably do something about that. No pressure.

With the help of our remotely-connected “nerd-in-a-garage” Illusion (a.k.a. the gamemaster), we needed to explore Area 51, disarm the bomb, and navigate the consequences.

A large red futuristic bomb with a. 60 minute countdown timer.

Setting

Area 51 struck us more as an elaborate spacecraft than as a secretive government warehouse, but really, what do we know about secretive government warehouses? Regardless, it succeeded in communicating an alien theme through multi-sensory ambiance and several sci-fi references. We particularly enjoyed the varied, tangible, and downright fun props we used for several puzzles.

An unusual object hanging from the ceiling in a futuristic setting.

Gameplay

The Secret Chamber’s The Area 51 Adventure was a standard escape room with a moderate-to-high level of difficulty.

Its puzzles leaned heavily on communication, collaboration, dexterity, and patience under pressure, in addition to the more common requirements of observation and making connections.

Analysis

➖ The prelude to the room included an abnormally long list of dos and don’ts for gameplay. This inhibited our comfort with exploring a couple of necessary set interactions.

➕ The set was rich with not only visual interest but also sound cues, a familiar soundtrack, and other narratively relevant developments.

➖ Dim lighting was dim. It contributed to the ambiance, but not without frustration. We were glad for the segments that had more lighting.

➕ As with all of the rooms at The Secret Chambers, the gamemaster had a thematic role to play in our experience. Here, the concept of uplinking with our “nerdy friend in a garage” felt like both an immersive and generic description of the gamemaster’s job – someone working on our behalf to help us succeed. By positioning the gamemaster as an explicit partner in our efforts, the Secret Chambers made us more likely to engage as needed.

➕ The gamemaster naturally and actively facilitated the progression of the story, explaining their observations from their remote standpoint. This was a notable improvement from some other rooms from The Secret Chambers, where written notes and instructions move the game along. Here, we were given the same narrative developments but in an immersive way. Furthermore, we had more responsibility for figuring out what to do with that information.

➕ The story was compelling (anti-matter bomb!!!) and dynamic. It kept us on our toes.

➕ Communication and coordination components were designed into many of the puzzles. Escape rooms often bill themselves as excellent teamwork and communication opportunities, but this room was the real deal.

➕ One puzzle was a world in its own right. We appreciated the effort involved in creating this feature. It was impressive.

➕ Many puzzles had physical execution elements that were both enticing and challenging. This added an appropriate intensity to the situation, making us feel like active participants in our fate and rewarding calm under pressure.

➖ Previous experience with certain kinds of dexterity tasks helped disproportionately in this room. These skills might be hard to master on the spot. Bring your patience.

➕/➖ One puzzle mechanic malfunctioned. However, The Secret Chambers had proactively designed ways to mitigate this potential sticking point, preserving the integrity of the puzzle.

➖ One puzzle lacked a clear thematic connection to the environment. We wondered if there might be a way to reskin it to make more sense in this world. We wouldn’t want its gameplay to change, though; it was a playful and engaging activity.

➕ The room progressed from tension to delight. The final act was especially wonderful.

➕ So many Easter eggs. Look, listen, enjoy.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is plenty of parking at this location.

Book your hour with The Secret Chambers’s The Area 51 Adventure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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