Open the Door – Kitchen Battle [Review]

Knives out

Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Date Played: May 16, 2022

Team Size: 6-14; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 100 NIS per player for 6-7 players, 100 NIS per player for 8-14 players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Kitchen Battle presented a simple and elegant formula for an effective large-team escape room: tons of puzzles available in parallel, clear mapping between puzzles and inputs, and an engaging yet relatively unobtrusive game mechanic for persistent interactions between the two sides in this team-vs-team game.

The setting for this puzzle royale was plainly decorated, yet clearly recognizable as a kitchen. But this is not a room you should play for set design, story, or adventure. What made Kitchen Battle shine was its humbly thoughtful puzzle design. While never overtly novel, nearly every puzzle was well themed and satisfying to solve, with a generous sprinkling of ahas garnishing all stages of the game.

Cubbies with various cooking utensils and restaurant tools.

Kitchen Battle is one of the top escape room offerings for large teams in Israel. For enthusiasts, it is possible to play with a smaller team (minimum 2 vs 2) though be prepared to stay very busy the full hour. For most teams, expect to solve only a portion of the puzzles — this game is not designed with full completion in mind.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Players who like friendly competition
  • Large teams

Why play?

  • Plentiful puzzles that are well-suited for large teams
  • Lighthearted food theming

Story

We were employees of the two top gourmet restaurants in Israel. When we learned that one Michelin star was up for grabs, we went head-to-head to determine who was the better restaurant.

Setting

Kitchen Battle took place in a minimalist kitchen environment, with a central food prep area, food storage cabinets, a stove, a sink, and a small pantry. A grid of labeled cabinets filled one wall of the room.

Two symmetrically mirrored copies of this room were directly adjacent to each other.

A kitchen with a wall covered in black locked boxes.

Gameplay

Open the Door’s Kitchen Battle was a team-versus-team escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

There were two identical copies of the room directly adjacent to each other, with a shared wall full of locked cabinets that opened up into both rooms.

Core gameplay revolved around solving puzzles to earn various food ingredients. For some ingredients, there was a locked compartment in each room. But for the ingredients in the wall of cabinets, it was winner takes all: the first team to solve the puzzle was able to earn that ingredient.

There was also an infestation of (fake) rodents in both kitchens. Upon finding them, teams could toss them through pipes in the wall into their opponent’s kitchen.

The team with the most ingredients, best plated dish, and fewest rodents at the end of the game was the winner.

Analysis

➕ Kitchen Battle was packed with puzzles. They were well designed for large teams, incorporating a wide variety of puzzle mechanics and difficulty levels and often encouraging communication and cooperation. The puzzles were also nicely themed around food ingredients and kitchen tools.

➕ The set aesthetic was clean and fairly simple. With minimal tech only where it was really needed, this set got the job done for a largely puzzle-centric game.

➖ One interaction was a literal time suck. While fitting for the theme, it wasn’t fun, even after figuring out what to do.

➖ One puzzle unexpectedly required a bit of outside knowledge and had a particularly finicky input.

➕/❓ Kitchen Battle included some fascinating gameplay mechanics, with a mix of direct and indirect competition. I could see the implementation of the direct competition — the winner-takes-all ingredient cabinets — frustrating some players. For our team, though, the meta-strategy around which puzzles to focus on first, relative to which we anticipated our opponents solving first, became its own sort of puzzle. And each time we opened a new shared cabinet, there was a moment of anticipation around whether we’d still earn a food ingredient or whether our opponents had already nabbed it.

➖ A light and sound effect that played when the opposing team solved certain puzzles was disorienting and lacked the clarity needed to effectively build energy or competitive tension.

➕ A sort of “puzzle menu” enumerated available puzzles and how to get started with them. With a ton of content available in parallel, this extra signposting helped to keep order amongst the chaos. More experienced teams could just choose not to look at this sheet if they wanted an extra challenge (or in the case of my team, to only look at the sheet in the last few minutes to double check that we hadn’t missed any puzzles.)

🐁 The optional tossing of mice between sides provided a cute bonus physical challenge for players looking for something to do or wanting a break from puzzles — or who just like chucking rodents into holes.

Tips For Visiting

  • English playability: The game was fully translated into English, other than a few small bits of flavor that weren’t necessary for puzzles.

Book your hour with Open the Door’s Kitchen Battle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Update November 15, 2022: To hear more from designer Gai Bosco, check out this interview on The Reality Escape Pod.

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