Doors of Divergence – Madness: 1917 (Replayed) [Reaction]

Madness is Multitudes

Location:  Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: August 27, 2023

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: From $225 per group for a group of 3 to $500 per group for a group of 8

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration:  At least one player needs to be comfortable separating from the group.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The real test of Madness: 1917 was our return visit. Replayability is a bold claim, and it would take a second visit to fully understand the scope of this experience. We can now say with confidence that it passed. In doing so, it is defining a new genre of escape rooms.

looking through bars at two characters sharing a scene
Image via Doors of Divergence

In our review of Madness: 1917, based on our original playthrough, we commented on the numerous ways in which it excelled, and for that, we awarded it a 2023 Golden Lock Award. With a second playthrough (and in David’s case, a third and a fourth as well), we can now say that each path through this game is entirely different, and worthy in its own right.

Each of 4 possible endings of Heresy: 1987 sets up a different version of Madness. In our second playthrough, we arrived in the same space as if in a different timeline, with different characters and a different goal. Although the place was familiar, the ambiance was different. This was a different Madness.

The following were constant: the physical partitions in the space, the props and set pieces that form the backbone of the puzzles, and the presence of 2 characters, 1 male and 1 female.

a nurse stands in a study in front of a table with stapler guns set upon ita woman in a study, standing in front of a table where a goblet sits aflame
Different choices spawn different universes

We were less excited by our second Madness, as story, but more excited about the overall creation. In our second Madness the characters had a different relationship to each other, and to us, one that didn’t beget the same chaotic evil we’d experienced previously. The foundational scenes didn’t quite reach the heights of intensity we’d loved in our first playthrough.

However, in this playthrough I was able to appreciate additional nuances that I’d missed before. The bartenders of Paradox Bar (the overworld of Doors of Divergence) do a magnificent job priming players for the exact version of the show that they will enter. That early priming helped us in the climactic scene.

In Madness, the puzzles were a mechanic of the storytelling. They gave us, the players, agency and purpose. They were gates to the narrative arc. At first glance, they felt a little messy… but when we saw the same cluing repurposed into different puzzles, it was impressive how clean each puzzle path was. We added a few of our own red herrings, memories of a different timeline, but as soon as we shed those thoughts, the puzzle flow worked well.

a nurse looks through the bars into an asylum cell
Image via Doors of Divergence

From a puzzle standpoint, David’s third and fourth playthroughs were a complete retread of previous gameplay. Narratively, however, each presented a shockingly different set of circumstances. In one instance, his team triggered a finale that had literally never been seen before.

As a player, on an individual playthrough of Madness, you have to make choices. You can’t intuit the repercussions of your choices. You can’t flip ahead in the choose your own adventure book before you commit. Impressively, a whole world exists for every choice. As a player, the agency is exhilarating. You can’t see everything, at least not at once. There isn’t a bad Madness, but there are more dynamic ones. Or, as we think about it at Room Escape Artist, different escape rooms Maddnessi will click more with different people. The real question to ask yourself is not whether to visit, but whether to ask past players for advice, or simply allow yourself free choice.

a women looks through the bars of a jail cell
Image via Doors of Divergence

Book your hour with Doors of Divergence Madness: 1917, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doors of Divergence comped our tickets for this game.

Doors of Divergence will close its doors on October 28, 2023, until they can secure a new venue.

For a deeper dive into game design, check out Escape Room Replayability at Doors Of Divergence by Richard Burns.

If you enjoy Madness: 1917, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creators Christian Vernon and Zac MacKrell on The Reality Escape Pod.

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