Escape 101 – Jet Set [Review]

I need a vacation.

Location: Danbury, CT

Date played: December 3, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.95 per ticket on weekends, $24.95 per ticket on weekday, child pricing available

Story & setting

“You’ve won a trip to a mystery destination. The catch? You’ve only got an hour before take off. Finish your ‘to-do’ list, pack your bags, and you’ll be on your way. But don’t forget your boarding pass- after all, you’ll need it to escape!”

Jet Set was an old-school escape room packed with used furniture, cheap props, and lots of locks. Against all odds, Jet Set’s gameplay was less exciting than completing a pre-vacation to-do list.

A padlock securing a string atop a beatup desk. A few books and a mug rest in the background.

Puzzles

The puzzles covered a broad range:

On one end of the spectrum, most of Jet Set offered the simplest, most forgettable puzzles possible.

On the other end, it got pretty obtuse, and in one baffling puzzle, we had to do something that the game explicitly told us we should not do.

In the middle, there was one puzzle worth solving.

Standouts

There really was one very clever puzzle. The execution was cheesy, but dammit, the puzzle was smart.

Our gamemaster was lovely and Escape 101’s facility seemed well-staffed.

Shortcomings

Jet Set generally derived its difficulty from subterfuge and silly gotchas. Most of the game was comically obvious, except when it dropped obtuse hint burners.

Jet Set looked thrown together and felt cheap.

A trunk sits on the floor with a laminated world map in the background. The room looks bland and boring.

There came a point early on when a clue explicitly told us that we weren’t supposed to take a specific approach to problem solving. Then later in the game, we had to do the exact thing that we were told not to do.

Should I play Escape 101’s Jet Set?

Jet Set was a categorically weak game, but it was a bit stronger than the unmitigated disaster that was The Widow’s Room.

I cannot recommend this game or this company to anyone.

I hope that the folks from Escape 101 will take a few days and play some of the Northeast’s many great rooms. There is a lot they can learn and it’s a tax write-off for them.

Full disclosure: Escape 101 provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Team vs Time – The Lost Book of Spells [Review]

The wicked witch of central Connecticut.

Location: Berlin, CT

Date played: December 12, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

The Lost Book of Spells cast us as adventuring thieves in the late 1600s during the Connecticut Witch Trials (the lesser-known prequel to the considerably more popular Salem Witch Trials). We had spent the better part of a decade tracking a suspected witch of great power. She left her home and we had a brief window of time to break into her home and attempt to steal her spellbook.

In-game, a glimpse into the witch's home through a window. It's dark, creepy, and lit red.

The set was impressive. It was dark, dramatic, and detailed. Much like Team vs Time’s Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells leaned heavily on beautiful set design to build a fiction. However, unlike the more subtle Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells was incredibly flashy.

The story was straightforward: break in and steal the book.

Puzzles

Similar to Gangster’s Gamble, The Lost Book of Spells was not a puzzle-centric game. There were puzzles and these were fun to solve, but they weren’t overwhelmingly challenging or exceptional. They were, however, fairly well clued.

Standouts

The set was incredible. From the moment the game began through the very end, it felt like we were inhabiting another world. Highly fictionalized as it was, it felt surprisingly real.

In-game: A spherical chandelier with candle-like light bulbs.

The start of The Lost Book of Spells was exciting. We were led to the beginning of the experience as opposed to being ushered into the game, as in most room escapes. This was a surprisingly subtle but impactful difference.

Shortcomings

The set was so striking that any props that didn’t quite fit really stood out. The modern combination locks and door locks in particular screamed, “I don’t belong here!” A few of the puzzle components themselves felt too modern and utterly out of place in the environment.

While the set imbued The Lost Book of Spells with a lot of life, it didn’t pack the same urgency and drama of Gangster’s Gamble.

Should I play Team vs Time’s The Lost Book of Spells?

The Lost Book of Spells was a powerful adventure. The set was so strong that it carried the experience on that alone.

The puzzling had its ups and downs, but the game kept moving along because the environment was so believable. Those elements that felt out of place could be easily improved upon. Rare is the game whose least believable components are the locks.

The Lost Book of Spells is spooky, but not scary. So long as you don’t bring nightmare-prone children, everyone should comfortably be able to deal with the intensity.

The Lost Book of Spells is a solid choice for all skill-levels. It’s approachable, fun, and intense. Experienced players should sail through most of the puzzles, but there’s plenty of nuance to enjoy throughout.

Book your hour with Team vs Time’s The Lost Book of Spells, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Team vs Time provided media discounted tickets for this game.

5 Wits West Nyack, NY [Overview Review]

The cream.

Location: West Nyack, NY

Date played: November 20, 2016

Team size: 2-15; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 30 minutes per game

Price: $17.99 per ticket for one adventure, discounted if you play multiple adventures

What’s 5 Wits?

Founded in 2004, 5 Wits has offered incredible immersive puzzle adventures with Disney-level production value since long before escape rooms popped up in Budapest and Tokyo.

We reviewed four of their games in 2015 and loved them. They weren’t quite escape rooms, and the folks from 5 Wits would be the first to tell you that, but the core concept of puzzling through a timed adventure absolutely overlapped.

Game reviews

Located in the Palisades Mall, the West Nyack 5 Wits facility has three of the four games offered at their Syracuse location. We reviewed all of these  in 2015 and we’re standing behind those reviews (even though they are in our older style), while adding a few additional notes specific to the experiences we had in West Nyack.

Tomb

5 Wits Syracuse – Tomb

The Tomb in West Nyack had an updated middle section. That segment of the game had a completely different set of challenges from the ones offered in Syracuse. As great as the Syracuse game was, the new one was leaps and bounds better.

5 Wits Syracuse Tomb Photo 3

Deep Space

5 Wits Syracuse – Deep Space

When we played Deep Space in Syracuse, it had just opened and we encountered some bugs in the gameplay. None of those bugs was present during our playthrough in West Nyack. It was an impressive sci-fi adventure oozing with pop culture references and a few honest challenges.

Deep Space had a puzzle in it that was a riff on a classic video game. When we played Deep Space in Syracuse, we were a group of adults. This time, however, we brought friends and their pre-teen daughters. During this playthrough, we noticed that while that particular interaction design was intuitive to adults, the girls were baffled by that portion of the game.

Drago’s Castle

5 Wits Syracuse –Drago’s Castle

Drago’s Castle remained our favorite of the 5 Wits games; I may have liked it even more on the second playthrough. To the best of my memory, it was identical to the game we played in Syracuse and I cannot possibly recommend it more highly.

5Wits Drago's Castle Story Book

Should I visit 5 Wits in West Nyack, NY?

Whether you’re visiting Syracuse, West Nyack, or Albany (the games in Albany were produced in tandem with those in West Nyack), 5 Wits is worth a few hours’ visit.

Each game offered an immersive experience with beautiful set design, compelling puzzles, and mind-boggling automation.

If you have adventurous kids about 8-12 years old, it’s a must visit.

If you’re an escape room enthusiast who loves brilliant tech and scenery, it’s a must visit.

If you’re an escape room owner or potential owner, you need to visit 5 Wits. You’ll feel like you’re looking at the future. Then you’ll realize that they have been doing this for years.

Book your sessions with 5 Wits and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 5 Wits comped our tickets for these games.

A Quick History of Escape Rooms

“Where did escape rooms come from?”

This is a common question that isn’t particularly easy to answer. Escape rooms didn’t simply emerge as a concept; they are part of an evolutionary chain.

Painting of an ancient lockbox with a very old and large padlock.

This is a quick, US-centric, reverse history of escape rooms.

Late 2016 – Heavy proliferation

We are aware of approximately 1,500 escape room facilities in the United States and countless more worldwide. New escape room businesses are opening on a daily basis.

July 2015 – MarketWatch article

MarketWatch pushes an article titled, The unbelievably lucrative business of escape rooms, in which they take a lot of good information and paint an erroneous picture of endless profits for every escape room business.

Suddenly many people believe that opening an escape room business will bring them riches.

Late 2013 – US expansion begins

Puzzle Break & Escape the Room NYC opened their doors, initiating the first wave of US expansion.

Co-founder of Puzzle Break Nate Martin calls his organization “the first contemporary American escape room company.” You can debate the subject with him if you’d like.

2012 – SCRAP opened in the United States

SCRAP, also known as Real Escape Game, also known as REG, opened up in San Francisco, California. This was decidedly the first company in the Americas calling itself an “escape room.”

2007 – SCRAP opened in Japan

SCRAP opened the first documented “escape room” in Kyoto, Japan.

This was the escape room world’s origin moment, its radioactive spider bite, if you will.

Budapest, Hungary is also frequently cited as the birthplace of escape rooms, but I cannot find anything solid to back up that claim. However, it cannot be disputed that Hungary was an early hotbed of escape room proliferation and innovation.

2004 – 5 Wits opened in Massachusetts

Inspired by Indiana Jones, 5 Wits became the early purveyor of real life puzzle adventure. It never branded itself an “escape room” and still doesn’t. Despite this labeling choice, there are a number of striking similarities.

Early 2000s – Escape the room video games

The “escape the room” genre was given a style and name in the early 2000s in the form of Flash point-and-click puzzle games. MOTAS (2001) and Crimson Room (2004), among many others, have kept players pixel hunting for well over a decade.

There are still tons of free Flash-based escape the room games of variable quality being released on a regular basis. Both players and producers of these games fear the inevitable death of Flash.

Early 1990s – Adventure puzzle video games

Some of the earliest hit 3D video games were escape room-esque puzzle games.

Myst (1993) & The 7th Guest (1993) remain classic games and key moments in the progression towards real life escape games (and my childhood).

1980s & 1990s – UK game shows

In the 1980s and 1990s, television stations in the UK ran The Adventure Game (1980) and The Crystal Maze (1990). These shows offered challenges that looked a lot like escape rooms.

The Crystal Maze has since been reborn as an actual, open-to-the-public escape game.

Other branches

Escape rooms have close evolutionary ties to interactive theater, haunted houses, live-action roleplaying, puzzle hunts, scavenger hunts, and a variety of television shows, books, video games, and movies.

The history of this form of entertainment is inseparable from most other forms of entertainment.

For more information

The history of escape rooms is convoluted and not particularly well documented.

If you’d like to learn more, Scott Nicholson’s 2015 paper Peeking Behind the Locked Door: A Survey of Escape Room Facilities offers a more detailed look into the historical origins of escape rooms.

Thank you to Errol of the Room Escape Divas Podcast for lending his eyes and brain to this post.

Panic Room – A Broken Mind: Psych 102 [Review]

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Location: Norwalk, CT

Date played: December 3, 2016

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Our intrepid team had to venture into the mind of the evil psychiatrist Dr. Elesdy. Elesdy was a madman who set a plan for world domination in motion before he ended up in a coma. We had to infiltrate his psyche and pull him out of the coma.

There was a lot of story up front and it was somewhat present throughout the game, but ultimately too convoluted to matter.

The team was split into two rooms: Elesdy’s well-lit office and his dark mind.

In-game: A cabinet in a dark room illuminated by UV light with fluorescent bottles. An orange sign reads, "Biohazard."

Both the office and the mind settings were typical, run-of-the-mill escape room sets. They contained old furniture, lots of locks, and a random assortment of props that more or less fit the theme. That said, the office looked particularly uninspired.

In-game: A bookcase with many volumes of an encyclopedia. A door in the background has a multi-color image of the human brain.

Puzzles

In A Broken Mind: Psych 102, Panic Room’s puzzle game was considerably more interesting and dynamic than the story or physical space.

The variety and ingenuity was there. The puzzles felt homemade, and sometimes leaned too heavily on cliches, but the better puzzles and interactions were a lot of fun.

Standouts

There were a few genuinely fun puzzles.

The split room design forced collaboration.

Shortcomings

The play experience was uneven. Those of us who played in the dark room had far more interesting puzzles and interactions than those who played in the office.

There was one puzzle that didn’t measure up and felt pretty silly once we figured out how to solve it.

There were way too many 4-digit number and 4-digit letter locks. Every time we found a new combination, we had to try it all over the place, on both rooms of the game. That grew old immediately.

The story was needlessly complicated.

The set was too rough and mundane for a journey through the mind and headquarters of a globe threatening villain.

Should I play Panic Room’s A Broken Mind: Psych 102?

Panic Room got a lot right in A Broken Mind: Psych 102. The game offered fair, solid puzzling and everything worked. Too many similar locks notwithstanding, the game flowed pretty smoothly. That’s the basics right there.

A Broken Mind: Psych 102 didn’t look like much and the story was tough to follow or care about. Additionally, the unevenness between the dark and light rooms was fairly pronounced… so there’s plenty of room for growth.

Nevertheless, A Broken Mind: Psych 102 was a reasonably solid small-market game. If you’re in the area, and looking for an escape, this isn’t a bad option.

Go in knowing that the teammates who end up in the light room will likely have less fun than those who play the dark side.

Book your hour with Panic Room’s A Broken Mind: Psych 102, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Panic Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

America’s Escape Game – Faceoff [Review]

LET’S GET READY TO PUZZLE!

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

Faceoff was a head-to-head competitive room escape game. America’s Escape Game elected to forgo any kind of story or pretense in favor of a red-team-versus-blue-team competition.

The room’s aesthetic had kind of a 1980s TV competition feel to it. Pretty much everything on the red side was painted a slightly washed out red, and nearly everything on the blue side was painted a washed out blue. In the middle there were a number of different ways to interact with the other team.

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we were moving too quickly to care.

Two head-to-head faces. The red one is on fire. The blue one is radiating electricity.
Faceoff’s exterior wall painting. There was nothing worth photographing inside of the game that didn’t spoil something.

Puzzles

There were a number of different pattern recognition puzzles as well as physically involved dexterity challenges.

America’s Escape Game also mixed in an element of negotiation, which was unusual and interesting.

We split into teams as women versus men: Lisa teamed up with Amanda Harris (to my knowledge, the most experienced escape room player in the English-speaking world). I teamed up with Amanda’s boyfriend Drew Nelson (probably the second most experienced player).

It was intense and we were neck and neck for most of the game… until we were outclassed by their pattern recognition skills. In the closing moments of the game, they pulled off a spectacular win with partial information.

Standouts

Leaving story out of Faceoff was a good decision. The game was us versus them. That was all the motivation that we needed.

The head-to-head competition was good fun. In our particular case, the evenly matched teams heightened the experience and made the stakes feel much larger than in most escape rooms.

The negotiation component added complexity to the competition.

The design of the space created some interesting opportunities for interplay between the two teams.

Shortcomings

One of the more physical challenges was awkwardly constructed and forced most involved to contort into strange positions. Lisa left with a large bruise on her arm from the environment.

That same physical challenge had almost no tolerance for error. This made it shockingly difficult and ultimately anticlimactic. That my team was able to do it at all meant that we won that challenge. It didn’t feel fair.

There were too many locks with the same digit structures. In a game where every second counted, it was annoying to repeatedly try the same combinations all over the room.

The puzzling was a little uneven and greatly favored some puzzling skills over others. Those with strong pattern recognition can power through the puzzles with limited information, which was exactly what Lisa and Amanda did. They didn’t need to negotiate with us because they were that damn good.

Faceoff lacked feedback for when the one team did something that affected the other.

Should I play America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff?

There aren’t a ton of competitive room escapes out there, and this is only the second one that we’ve encountered.

The added intensity of competition was a ton of fun for all involved, even those of us who lost.

I can’t recommend Faceoff for new players. Basic experience and an understanding of how room escapes flow will allow you to focus on the game itself rather than trip up over how to puzzle or how the locks work.

Bring some collaborative teammates and worthy opponents… and you might want to leave the sore winners and losers back home. This could get intense.

Book your session with America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: America’s Escape Game comped our tickets for this game.

6 Questions Every Escape Room Employee Should Be Able To Answer

We call or email nearly every company we book with. Some are helpful; others make booking challenging.

We don’t generally mention customer service in our reviews unless it is extremely impressive or disastrous because we aren’t normal customers and we know it.

Surprisingly, we regularly encounter employees, and occasionally owners, who cannot answer some of the most basic questions about their games.

Stylized black, white, and red photo of a rotary phone.

Everyone who works in a customer-facing capacity in an escape room facility should be able to answer the following questions:

1: What are the names of your games?

I know that some of you are thinking that this is a stupid thing to include on the list and it should go without saying… but it doesn’t. It needs saying.

It’s fairly common for employees to refer to the game by a slight variation of the game’s official title as posted on the website, which can be confusing to potential players.

2: Which of your games would you recommend?

“They’re all great!” & “That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child” aren’t sufficient answers from a customer service standpoint.

Ideally you should be able to say something like, “X is best if you’ve never played a room escape before; Y is a lot of fun, but it’s a little intense; Z is a more challenging game that’s great for players who have more experience.”

Vary your answer according to your games. Probe a little to determine who is asking and what they need in a game.

3: What is the minimum number of players that I need to play the game?

Many games have puzzles that cannot be completed without a certain number of bodies. That is the true minimum. Unless you allow sub-minimum teams to call in the gamemaster as a puppet.

4: What is the maximum number of players that I can bring?

Every company posts a ticket maximum, but some customers will want to bring more players anyway.

Maybe the ticket sales cap at 10 but the room can fit 2 more people comfortably, even if that means that some people won’t get to do much. Or maybe your posted capacity is your actual capacity.

Regardless, you should have the answer at your fingertips.

5: What is the ideal number of players to enjoy the experience?

We ask this question of nearly every company that we book with.

“Uhh… the room fits 10 people,” is a bad answer.

Again, this is a question where a little nuance can go a long way. “If you’ve never played a room before, I think that 7 or 8 people is probably a good team size. If you’re a group of enthusiasts, 4 to 6 should be more than enough for you to enjoy the game.”

6: What should I know about getting to your facility?

It’s a cliche that the first puzzle is finding the place. You should be able to tell your players how to get in, especially if your facility is located in an unusual place that isn’t visible from the street.

You should also be ready to offer up parking information if that isn’t obvious.

Bonus reader suggestion: Are you wheelchair accessible?

Can someone enter your facility in a wheelchair? For each game you should be able to communicate whether it is (a) not wheelchair accessible, (b) entirely wheelchair accessible, or (c) accessible as long as at least one or two players are fully mobile.

Be responsive

Remember that you should readily respond to phone, email, and social media inquiries.

A large part of customer service is simply responding.

Room Escapers Wanted For Hunted Season 2

This is a little strange and it is not a sponsored piece.

This is a casting call

CBS is premiering their new reality series, Hunted on Sunday, January 22. The premise:

“Hunted follows nine teams of two in a real-life manhunt as they attempt the nearly impossible task of disappearing in today’s vast digital world as highly skilled investigators combine state-of-the-art tracking methods with traditional tactics to pursue and catch them.”

Basically its The Fugitive where you are Harrison Ford and if Tommy Lee Jones catches you, you lose… instead of going to jail for a murder you didn’t commit.

Season 1 has a room escape designer

The season that is about to air has Lee Wilson of Jackson Escape Rooms as one of the fugitives (contestants).

Casting call for season 2

We won’t find out how Wilson did until season 1 airs, but he must have put on a good show because CBS is looking for more room escapers for season 2.

Casting call for Hunted season 2

Personally, this is the kind of thing that I would love to try without the prize money or television cameras… which is also how I feel about Survivor.

They are looking for teams of 2 who know each other well (spouses, significant others, close family, best friends), have the skills to succeed, and present a compelling backstory that will work well for television.

If this interests you at all, you should absolutely apply. We’ll root for you.

Submit your applications & videos to HUNTEDCASTING.com by February 5, 2017.

A Look Back, A Glance Forward

2016 has been a horrible year for iconic celebrities, but it has been an incredible year for escape room players in the United States.

There are over 1,500 individual companies in the United States; many of them are creating interesting, intense, and innovative experiences for players to enjoy.

Yesterday we honored 13 of those games with our Golden Lock-In Award. That recognition is only a small part of the story.

Painting of a lock. The background is pink, purple, and black. A large old lock holds teh door shut.

Rapid innovation

In our earliest review we made a commitment to ourselves and our then non-existent readership to forgo a “star rating” or scaled system because we knew even back then that the rate of change was going to greatly exceed the lifecycle of an individual escape room.

We had a hunch that anything we rated a 5 out of 5 in 2013 would not be a 5 out of 5 in 2014 and there would be no way for us to objectively reevaluate.

In 2016 escape room designers truly proved us correct in this regard.

Looking back at our 2015 Golden Lock-In Award recipients, only 3 of the 10 winners would have even been in the running in 2016. The competition, innovation, and rate of change has been exceptional. (I won’t name the three, however, because we awarded those winners for 2015, and that stands.)

Superlatives

There were a few games that we visited in 2016 that didn’t win a Golden Lock-In, but still deserve recognition.

Listed chronologically in the order in which we played them.

Boda Borg

This was basically an escape room amusement park. There was something for everyone at Boda Borg, but particularly for the physically fit and highly coordinated puzzle thrill seekers. Mentally and physically, it was a wonderful workout.

Komnata Quest – 7 Sinful Pleasures & Boxed Up

Komnata Quest’s brand of love-them-or-hate-them games pushed boundaries and deliberately made players uncomfortable by creating some seriously strange situations.

Casa Loma – Escape From the Tower

Built in a real castle of historic importance, Escape From the Tower incorporated the building’s history to tell a story that spanned four floors through puzzles and actors.

I Survived The Room – Sanatorium

Believable actors and a foreboding environment made this Joker / Harley Quinn inspired game intense. The killer ending was one of the most unforgettable escape room interactions of the year.

Escape Artistry – The Railcar

Made almost entirely from recycled and reclaimed materials, The Railcar was beautiful, unusual, and political without ever ramming its message down your throat.

Palace Games – Houdini Room

The Houdini Room combined some of the best puzzling I’ve seen in an escape room with impressive technology.

Unfortunately it couldn’t be considered for a Golden Lock-In because Lisa wasn’t able to play it.

Epic Team Adventures – Vault of the Volcano God

A half-dozen puzzle dispensers spewed a seemingly endless stream of puzzles. Epic Team Adventures created an episodic series of puzzle hunt-hybrid room escapes for those of us who love a challenge.

Out in 60 – The Pyramid

The ultimate DIY game, Out in 60 made just about everything in The Pyramid themselves and 3D printed almost all of the props and set dressing.

The Basement – The Boiler Room

Small and intense, there was no waste in The Boiler Room.

Unfortunately it couldn’t be considered for a Golden Lock-In because Lisa wasn’t able to play it.

It’s A Trap – The Legend of the Cea Sisters

While they are closed as of 2017 because life can be cruel, It’s A Trap created so many innovations in their game design, from replayable / reversible rooms to a brilliant approach to in-game actors.

Curious Escape Rooms – The Dollhouse

The Dollhouse had some brilliant use of video. Curious Escapes Rooms proved what we’ve said over and over again: small companies in tiny towns on thin budgets can make memorable, innovative, and unusual games when they steer into their own strengths.

Room Escapers – Naughty or Nice?

In this temporary, seasonal game, Room Escapers went out of their way to rethink a game element that most designers take for granted: how the game begins.

Looking forward

If the advances of the past year are any indication of the coming year, we are so hopeful for the escape room industry.

We’re often asked, “are escape rooms a fad?” Our answer is, sure, the hodgepodge of furniture and basic puzzles is probably a fad. I can’t imagine that people will buy tickets to them in five years… but there’s a larger concept here and it’s constantly evolving. The excitement is in where we are going and the incredible things that are being created so regularly in our community.

With the quality of innovation and the ever-expanding variety of experiences offered by escape room companies, I certainly do not think we’re looking at a fad. This is not a one-dimensional form of entertainment.

Thank you

Lisa and I started writing about escape rooms when damn near no one in the US had even heard about them and just about every conversation began with an explanation of the concept followed by a defense. “No! It’s not like Saw!”

We wrote about these experiences purely out of passion, when pretty much no one was reading. We’re still shocked that our readership for a single day today is roughly the same as our first 3 months in total. We have been blown away by the intelligence and kindness of our readers. While we would still be writing about escape rooms even if you weren’t reading, having you here makes this journey so much more fun.

We’d also like to extend a special thank you to everyone who has ever done anything at all to support us: from the eagle-eyed readers who point out our typos, to those of you who help keep our map current, and those of you who supported us by buying a t-shirt.

In alphabetical order, we’d like to thank the folks who have gone so far above and beyond that we have been humbled by their support:

Adam, Amanda, Brett, Chris, Clara, Dan, Darren, Drew, Essa, Eva, Jessica, Lindsay, Mason, Melissa, Noam, Noelle, Pá, Patrick, Paula, Rex, Tommy, Trapspringer and we’d be remiss if we left out the Room Escape Divas gang.

2016 Golden Lock-In Awards

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.

We played and reviewed 152 room escapes in 2016.

These 13 rooms are the games that we wish we could play again.

There is no such thing as the perfect escape room, but these are the ones that still make us smile long after we escaped.

That isn’t to say the 139 other games we played were bad; many of them were great too.

In the end we considered 20 games for the award and these 13 rose to the top.

Rules

  1. We only considered games that we both personally played in 2016.
  2. We both had to agree to award the room the Golden Lock-In. (We did not consider either The Basement or Palace Games because only one of us visited these companies.)
  3. We established no arbitrary minimum or maximum number of rooms that could appear on the list.
  4. A company could only win once for the year.

2016 Golden Lock-In Winners

Listed chronologically in the order in which we played them.

Escape the 1980s

Steel Owl Room Adventures – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The bubblegum pop of escape games, Escape the 1980s felt like a living museum. It was brimming with joy, nostalgia, and VHS tapes.

Senator Payne

60 Out Escape Rooms – Los Angeles, California

With a killer ending that remains one of our favorite escape room moments, Senator Payne felt like living an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In Memoriam

The Enigma Room – Sydney, Australia

The only tender escape room we’ve ever come across, In Memoriam was full of feels and femininity in this largely masculine genre.

The Vanishing Act

Locurio – Seattle, Washington

Intrigue, magic, and superb puzzles: Locurio’s homegrown yet polished mystery started simple and escalated to a dramatic conclusion.

Firefighter Rescue

Escape From The 6 – Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Created by an actual firefighter, Firefighter Rescue managed to entertain, haze, and teach us a thing or two in this massive two-story adventure.

Crossroads

Escape Games Canada – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Beautifully designed and constructed, Escape Games Canada’s foreboding technological marvel was a psychological thriller with choice and consequence.

The Alchemist

Insomnia Escape  – Washington, DC

This mystical heist elegantly wove puzzles throughout an intricate environment without losing the thread of gameplay. Clever technology and game design showed us a memorable adventure.

The Experiment

Escape Games NYC – New York, New York

Far more than a blank white room, The Experiment hid all manner of cleverness in its seemingly simple design.

Mystery of the Magician’s Study

Boxaroo – Boston, Massachusetts

Tricksy and theatrical, Boxaroo adapted stage magic principles to toy with our senses as we solved their mystery.

Vault 13

Brooklyn Escape Room – Brooklyn, New York

This video game-inspired, post-apocalyptic adventure was light on puzzles, but heavy on atmosphere and badass moments.

The Hex Room

Cross Roads Escape Games – Anaheim, California

The Hex Room cast six players as different horror film archetypes. Cross Roads innovatively blurred the line between team and solo gameplay by adding a heavily individualized element.

Krampus

Countdown – Los Angeles, California

Countdown married elements of horror with escape room-style puzzling to create something that will satisfy both thrill-seekers and adventure puzzlers.

Gangster’s Gamble

Team vs Time – Berlin, Connecticut

It wasn’t just the room that felt like it was lifted from 1952; the experience that Team vs Time built around the game truly sold the drama.

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Lock-In Winners!