North Valley Escape Room – Escape From Alcatraz [Review]

What are you in for?

Location:  Anthem, AZ

Date Played: March 10, 2022

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: $29.95 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape From Alcatraz was a large game that felt like a couple of different escape rooms merged into one.

The first half had a more traditional prison escape room aesthetic, but a novel approach to gameplay that was elevated by the presence of a performer.

Interior of a prison, bars are visible on two floors, the wall is labeled, "Block B."

The second half of the game stylistically changed to a more traditional escape room feel, and the puzzle design loosened the deeper we progressed.

I haven’t been shy about my general dislike of prison escape games, but there was quite a bit to enjoy here. That said, the last half undermined the overall experience. It felt like the second half either needed to be refined… or some of it could be cut down. Either would be a viable solution.

North Valley Escape Room is a strong escape room company, and I’m glad we visited them. In its current state, Escape From Alcatraz had a lot to offer, but our team greatly preferred Big Top Circus. We expect with some editing, Escape From Alcatraz could be one of the rare standout prison escape games. If you’re in visiting Phoenix, I recommend seeing if you can fit North Valley Escape Room into your trip.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Prison break fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The prison set was cool and dramatically lit
  • Solid actor interaction
  • It was a whole lot of game

Story

Our crime had landed us life sentences in Alcatraz… which meant that we had 75 minutes to life to contemplate and enact our escape plan.

View of a the sign for Alcatraz viewed through rusting bars.

Setting

North Valley Escape Room seemed heavily inspired by The Shawshank Redemption, taking us to a number of different settings within the world of Escape From Alcatraz. They produced a remarkably large escape game that honestly felt like two games in one.

The sets were lovingly built and offered a lot of variety, with each space having a distinct aesthetic.

Interior of a prison cell viewed through the bars. A single light illuminates white and green walls, and benches, bolted to the floor around the perimeter.

Gameplay

North Valley Escape Room’s Escape From Alcatraz was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The difficulty stemmed from the volume of content. There was a lot more game here then we were expecting.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, exploring, and puzzling.

Analysis

βž• Like any good prison game, we needed a bit of dexterity, communication, and coordination. This all came together well, culminating in a nifty unlocking of our cells.

βž• The initial set was impressive. Once we were free from the bars, we could appreciate the full scope of the decor. It was a strong prison set. As we opened up more of the experience, each space felt distinct. Overall, the set worked.

βž– Although the initial sequence avoided red herrings, when the space opened up, it became hard to parse decor from cluing.

βž• The character enhanced the opening scene of Escape From Alcatraz. They walked the fine line between adversarial and helpful. It was a lot of fun.

βž– One interaction left a player rather uncomfortable for a lengthy part of the first act with zero payoff. Interactions like these can be fun if the reward justifies the discomfort… it was a loose end that needed to be tied off. In this case, it just made one player extremely annoyed with the game.

βž• The early set and interactions produced a number of satisfying ahas as we discovered the world.

βž–Β The second half felt like we’d switched escape games without any warning. This segment was a lot less interesting.

βž– Escape From Alcatraz relied too heavily on laminated paper. We’d like to see more clue structure integrated into the experience.

βž– In one instance, a prop (mildly) injured one of our teammates. North Valley Escape Room should be mindful that when a game teaches you to explore every prop, as this one does, everything will be poked and prodded, even props meant only for ambiance.

βž•/βž–  There was a lot of content in Escape From Alcatraz. It offered tons of gameplay for your money. That said, not all content was of the same quality. It dipped substantially later in the game.

βž• The final puzzle was a lot of fun, ending the experience on a high note.

Tips For Visiting

  • The is parking lot.

Book your session with North Valley Escape Room’s Escape From Alcatraz, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: North Valley Escape Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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