In David’s original review of Mystery Gates, he wrote that Escape Warehouse planned to “make significant changes” to the game. By my visit in March 2023 (4 months later), they’d already followed through on this: much of the original gameplay had been modified or replaced, the narrative — especially in the second half — was rewritten, parts of the set had been upgraded, and the name was changed from Mystery Gates to Unidentified.
Overall, these changes were improvements.
Through continued iteration, Escape Warehouse had reached a level of narrative coherence that was somewhat lacking in the original Mystery Gates. Now, we were cast as FBI agents sent to investigate a murder at the Mystery Gates theme park. Supported by some light costuming of FBI hats and jackets, our objectives were clear: get in, gather evidence, and identify the killer.
When you’re in Louisiana, Hide & Seek remains a game worth going out of your way to visit, and Unidentified is not to be missed while you’re at Escape Warehouse. In both games, Escape Warehouse has continued to iterate and respond to feedback, and I’m excited for some of the future additions they described to us. This is a company to watch.
Unidentified featured some thoughtful improvements to the gameplay and set design. In particular, the “pixel hunting” final puzzle mentioned in the previous review had been removed, replaced by a meta puzzle that provided us a clear visual format though which to report the findings of our murder investigation, tying together the various threads we’d revealed up to that point.
This area of the set had also been expanded in size, setting up a nice balance of light searching and deductive reasoning. While this puzzle functioned well in the narrative, in retrospect we weren’t convinced that it physically belonged in the game world as presented.
Generally speaking, though, the puzzles in this new version fit the world, made sense, and flowed well. We especially enjoyed the narrative logic behind certain puzzle solutions that put us in the shoes of park visitors and employees.
Oh, and the “anti-fun waiver” had been replaced by a typical escape room waiver.
Whimsy & Murder
This all was a big step in the right direction, but I’m not convinced that Unidentified has yet found a flow and tone that match the high bar set by Hide & Seek.
Unidentified‘s greatest strength is in its duality of themes: the lighthearted and the murderous. Players who like whimsical games will love the first half and not find anything too scary in the second half. True crime fans will have that itch scratched in the second half and still enjoy playing fun games in the first half. It’s rare for an escape room to work for both these audiences.
The upgraded story more strongly tied together the two contrasting halves of the game, yet the moments of delight were so front-loaded that even a cool set area near the end wasn’t able to fully bring the energy back up.
I suspect one final hands-on mini-game integrated into the final act could have created more of a tonal balance and tied the two very different gameplay styles together. As is, the more whimsical elements of the game compete with players’ purported character roles as FBI agents. How much would actual FBI agents take the time to play games at an amusement park, even if they were requisite for the investigation at hand?
We also found a newly added element — a final piece of evidence — to be well positioned within the story, but a particular sound effect was somewhat tasteless and could have left more to the imagination. We appreciated an environmental callback yet wished there’d been a more believable reinforcement of how FBI agents would call in their findings, especially in our final moments.
I also question the name change. To me, Unidentified ignores the lighthearted elements that are still the backbone of the gameplay, and it sounds more generic than is warranted for such a unique experience.
Disclosure: Escape Warehouse provided media discounted tickets for this game.