The Escape Game [Overview]

The Escape Game is one of the easiest recommendations we make when people write in looking for games to play. It doesn’t matter which city. If there’s an Escape Game facility there, we know that their games and customer service are reliably good… which is not something that we can say for most escape room chains or franchises.

The visitor pushpin map from The Escape Game's lobby. It's covered in layers of pins and looks like a population density map of the USA.

Nashville is the original home of The Escape Game and they are seriously cleaning up in that market. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a busier escape room facility… and that goes for both of their Nashville locations.

Must Play

Gold Rush

This was our early favorite from The Escape Game. It is our go-to recommendation because of its many unusual features.

Mission Mars

We’ve sent a lot of folks to this game and they’ve all come back happy. Our review is tragically dated because we played it in beta. The Escape Game has made many improvements to it since then. Fun fact: after playing Mission Mars we decided to avoid beta testing altogether.

Worth Playing

Prison Break

This was one of The Escape Game’s most visually appealing escape rooms. The jail cells looked great and there’s a lot more than jail cells to the experience.

The Heist

This art heist pulled off the art gallery aesthetic. It was a challenging game with a ton of puzzle content and some nifty interactions.

Nashville

The Escape Game’s original room has experienced some serious upgrades since its humble beginnings. It played a bit old-school, but it still had something interesting to offer.

Skippable

Classified

We loved the aesthetic of the initial set in this escape room, but we were underwhelmed by the later portion. It was fine, but not on the level of everything else that The Escape Game had to offer. The Escape game is phasing out Classified and replacing it with a new game, Special Ops.

What We Haven’t Reviewed Yet

Playground

Playground is the new game replacing one of The Escape Game’s earlier rooms, Underground Playground. We haven’t played it yet, but we have heard great things about the remake. We’d hold off on playing Underground Playground in favor of the newer incarnation.

Special Ops

Special Ops is the up-and-coming replacement for Classified. We’re pretty eager to see this one, but don’t know anyone who’s played it yet, so we don’t have a report. Stay tuned, we’ll have one soon enough.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve had a strong admiration for The Escape Game because we’ve never had someone come back from them disappointed.

If you’re new to escape rooms, this is a phenomenal place to start.

If you’re a well-traveled mega player, I’d be surprised to learn that your absolute favorite escape room came from The Escape Game. However, I am certain that you’ll have a good time and walk away from their facilities recognizing their customer service, attention to detail, consistency, and respect for players.

The Escape Game Nashville's merchandise area with a variety of t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and other products.
Even their swag is nice.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to visit this facility and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Virgil A. Peach Travel and Adventure Co – Escape To Virginia Beach Popup [Mini Review]

A very limited free escape room promoting travel to Virginia Beach.

Location: Brooklyn, New York (Williamsburg)

Date Played: April 18, 2018

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 20 minutes of gameplay + post-game entertainment

Price: Free for one weekend only (April 21-22, 2018)

Ticketing: Public

What’s Going On?

The Virgil A. Peach Travel and Adventure Co is a popup storefront for a limited run escape room promoting Virginia Beach as a travel destination.

Virgil A Peach Travel and Adventure Co's hipster signage.

The storefront is set up as a travel agency with the staff representing the history of the last 50 years. The game itself was a 20-minute race through the past and present of Virginia Beach, highlighting and alluding to all of the various forms of entertainment available to visitors.

The travel agency's lobby with a woman dressed like she's from the 60s, a guy from the 70's, a woman from the 80s, and a guy from the 90s.

The escape room concluded in a speakeasy with food and alcoholic beverages that represented the region’s cuisine.

I attended a complementary media preview. The experience will be free to the public when it opens, but space will be incredibly limited. It will be only open on April 21 & 22, 2018.

REA Reaction

Escape To Virginia Beach pleasantly surprised me. You never know what you’re going to get from a popup promotional escape room.

In-game: An old office with a desk covered in papers an old gramophone.

The staff was on top of things. The set was large and the game played like an escape room. Moreover, it visually communicated about Virginia Beach without beating me over the head with messaging or a hard sell.

From a gameplay standpoint, Escape To Virginia Beach was a standard escape room with a lot of searching and observation and a few puzzles.

It was legitimately challenging due to the size of the gamespace and a fair amount of red herrings. It also had a lot of content for a 20-minute experience. Finally, for the true escape room nerds, there was one impressive piece of tech that was so brilliantly executed that I had to ask how it worked.

If you’ve been around the escape room block a bunch, you won’t see a lot that will blow your mind, but you will find a solid traditional escape room.

All in all, this was a fun game, at a price that can’t be beat. If you’re in the area and this sounds intriguing, go play. It was a good time.

Note that you have to be over 21 to book.

Book your session with Virgil A. Peach Travel and Adventure Co’s Escape To Virginia Beach, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Key Quest – The Cellar [Review]

Murder?

Location: Nashville, TN

Date Played: February 11, 2018

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $15 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Cellar exceeded our expectations. Based on everything we’d heard about Key Quest – the escape room extension of Laser Quest’s laser tag facilities around the country – we were prepared for disaster. The Cellar was a search-centric, reading-heavy escape game in the dark, but when we uncovered the puzzle components, it was solvable.

We’re confused who The Cellar is for: It seemed too dark – physically and metaphorically – for Laser Quest’s typical clientele. However, escape room players will find it looks and plays like these games did a few years ago. It’s not on par with the market.

 

Who is this for?

  • We’re not really sure, especially given Laser Quest’s clientele.

Why play?

  • Affordability
  • You came for laser tag and want to tack on an escape room.

Story

A serial killer had abducted and locked our group in a dark cellar. We had to solve his clues to escape or join his lengthy list of victims.

In-game: a dark room with a table lit red and a locked toolbox on top of it.

Setting

The Cellar was a dark room with minimal red lighting, a few tables, some shelves, and an assortment of locked containers and props. The major visual focal points looked like Halloween party store props.

In-game: A creepy party-store clown hanging from the wall by a string holding a large knife.

Gameplay

The Cellar was a search-based escape room in low light. The puzzles were generally straightforward once we found all relevant components.

In-game: a large red lit table with a small sage, a skull, and a locked ammo box.

Standouts

Key Quest crammed a lot of content into this 45-minute escape room.

We enjoyed the active solves, where we used the props in the room to move The Cellar forward.

The introduction was unexpectedly humorous, especially for adults.

The staff and gamemaster were lovely and professional.

Shortcomings

Given Key Quest’s location within Laser Quest, and the target audience (families, birthday parties, youth groups, and school groups) that visits their facilities, much of The Cellar felt off the mark. It was horror-esque and dark, both physically and metaphorically.

Much of the challenge in The Cellar came from the low lighting, which persisted throughout the experience. Given that the main game mechanics were searching, lock inputting, and reading, the low lighting was the main obstacle… and not a particularly fun one.

The props felt cheap.

We accidentally shut off the in-game audio. We came across a remote control while searching the room and only realized what the button did after we’d killed the sound. We were equipped with a walky-talky, but it ran out of battery early in our experience, so we couldn’t ask our gamemaster about the audio issue.

While there was plenty to do in The Cellar, it lacked excitement and intrigue.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: If you aren’t parking at Music City Center for a conference, we recommend the lot under the Metro Courthouse (accessible from Gay Street and from James Robertson Parkway) or the Nashville Public Library Garage (on Church Street between 6th and 7th Avenues).
  • Food: Demo’s Restaurant and Puckett’s
  • Accessibility: The content is horror-esque.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Lasers in Escape Room Design

Lasers are a pretty common trope in escape room design. They tend to appear in lab-themed escape rooms because lasers are sciencey. They are also a fairly common trope in Egyptian tombs.

“Lasers in Egypt”

There’s a portion of the escape room-loving population that gets really annoyed about lasers in Egyptian tomb-themed escape rooms.

While I get that they are out of place, I have never been bothered by this trope. I fully recognize this as an homage to Legend of Zelda Mirror Shield puzzles:

Legend of Zelda Mirror Shield Gif
Lasers are easier to manipulate than beams of light.

Or, more likely, they are an homage to the iconic Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc map room illumination:

Indiana Jones holding the staff in the Egyptian map room and illuminating the location of the Arc of the Covenant.
That really looks like a laser.

Regardless of the inspiration, lasers can be an effective way to create a memorable interaction and there are iconic cultural references that justify this.

Just Don’t:

  • give me a handheld laser pointer, especially in Egypt
  • use a green laser when you’re trying to emulate the Sun
  • make your laser puzzle boring or unmemorable
  • feel like every single Egyptian tomb requires a laser interaction; it’s fine, but it’s still a cliche

Laser Safety Concerns

While lasers may seem like narrow flashlights, they aren’t. They come with the potential for hazard. I will highlight a few key lessons about laser safety, but do know that there’s a ton of research and material out on this subject. When in doubt, do more research.

Laser Color

There are substantial differences between lasers of different colors.

Lonestar & Dark Helmet squaring off in a Schwartz lightsaber fight.

For example, blue lasers must be high power in order to make them visible… and at higher power levels, they are also remarkably good at burning things. For the love of puzzles, do not put a blue laser into an escape room or any other type of amusement.

Red and green lasers are more realistic options to choose from. Green lasers will usually be brighter. They also tend to have higher power output.

Laser Power & the Law.

In the United States, lasers pointers are required to have power output labeling and cannot exceed 5 milliwatts (<5 mW). If you’re buying a laser that isn’t housed in a pointer, then they could be considerably more potent.

These regulations change from country to country. For example, in the United Kingdom, laser pointers exceeding 1 mW are illegal. Check the national or local laws governing lasers before using them in an escape room.

One problem that plagues the laser market is the mislabeling of lasers. In 2014, “National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers tested 122 laser pointers and found that nearly 90 percent of green pointers and about 44 percent of red pointers tested were out of compliance with federal safety regulations” (NIST). This means that the labels understated the power output of the lasers, increasing the health risks associated with them.

This video can walk you through how to test your laser’s output (and it’s pretty cool):

Magnifying Glasses & Lenses

The above video also demonstrates how well lasers and magnifying lenses can team up to start fires.

If you’re going to include a laser in an escape room, please don’t also include a magnifying glass or prescription lens as it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a inquisitive or destructive player might use these together.

Keep Lasers Away From Eyeballs

If you’re designing laser-based interactions where the laser passes through the gamespace, try to avoid having the laser pass through eye level (knowing that height is always a variable).

A few best practices:

  • Don’t have lasers turn on in the direction of the players.
  • Design reflection puzzles to avoid eye level.
  • Use low power lasers when there is a chance that they may be at eye level.
  • Know the power output of your laser; don’t put unsafe or questionable lasers near eyeballs.

Health Risks Associated with Lasers

If a laser is <5 mW, the risk of permanent damage from brief exposure for an adult is incredibly low (JAMA 2004, JAMA 2005).

Brief exposure has been known to cause temporary afterimages, flash blindness, and glare (Princeton University).

The risk of permanently harming a person with a <5 mW laser is low, but it is worth paying a little extra attention to power output as well as laser placement to ensure that no harm comes to players.

I have caught a laser to the eye in an escape room. While I wasn’t hurt, it wasn’t a pleasant sensation… and I would have had more fun without it.

Extreme Escape Games – Mad Scientist [Review]

Trapped in a room with a mad scientist.

Location: Franklin, TN

Date Played: February 10, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket

REA Reaction

Mad Scientist was Extreme Escape Games’ take on Trapped in a Room with a Zombie. If you’ve played that escape room, you’ll know exactly how to play this one. Mad Scientist improved upon that concept: from puzzles to scenery, to prop/build quality, it was more polished. While not everything made sense in the gamespace, this was a lively and playful escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who want to play
  • People who want to move around
  • Families

Why play?

  • The mad scientist
  • The humorous, playful vibe
  • Physically active

Story

A scientist accidentally exposed himself to an agent that drove him insane. He realized what was happening and chained himself up in his lab so that he couldn’t harm anyone while he worked on a cure for himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish in time.

We entered his office infecting ourselves with the hope of finishing his cure and saving his life and ours.

In-game: a portrait of a mad scientist framed with an oxidizing metal frame.

Setting

Mad Scientist trapped us in the rundown lab of a rabid mad scientist. The floor was padded so that the infected doctor could crawl at us with comfort. The walls and props were weathered and detailed such that nearly everything felt like it belonged in the set… even when the props should have felt a bit random.

In-game: A detailed and rundown lab with a desk in a covered topped with a large geared contraption.

Gameplay

Mad Scientist had two core goals for us to achieve:

First, don’t get tagged by the chained up doctor. Getting tagged would banish a player to an X on the floor along the periphery of the gamespace. Tagged players could speak and interact with items within their reach, but they couldn’t move. At the onset of the game it was easy to avoid the doctor as he had limited mobility, but as the game progressed, this became increasingly challenging.

Second, solve the escape room. With the exception of the chained up doctor, Mad Scientist played like a fun, early escape room with lots of searching, a wide variety of puzzles (many unthemed), and lots of locks to pop.

This room escape format is inherently chaotic. This is neither a strength, nor weakness. It is, however, a matter of preference.

In-game: A detailed, weathered lab device.

Standouts

The actors in Mad Scientist were outstanding. Our infected doctor was entertaining. The scientist’s assistant was observant and involved. Both actors engaged the entire group – in their different roles – in this silly adventure, upping the energy level of the group.

Mad Scientist was silly. It never pretended to be realistic. Whether players focused on the infected doctor or the puzzles, there were a lot of laughs.

In the trapped in a room with a zombie (in this case, mad scientist) structure, the actor can control the difficulty level, and thus the game clock. Our actor did just that, ensuring that we didn’t escape before the final minutes, and in doing so, building our adrenaline.

Extreme Escape Games built a compelling set for this adventure. It was office-esque, but designed, and grungy without being dirty.

Shortcomings

Many of the most interesting props had do-not-touch stickers affixed to them. This felt like a tease. Maybe they should have been worked into the gameplay.

The puzzles in Mad Scientist were pretty random. While some late game puzzles were thematic, most of the puzzles were just… puzzles.

Mad Scientist included a few standard paper and tavern puzzles. We recommend that Extreme Escape Games substitute these for more situationally-based puzzles that cannot be easily solved at home.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Extreme Escape Games’ Mad Scientist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

 

Escape Room Owners Facebook Group Admission Process Update

Back in January we did a piece on the Escape Room Owners group, looking into complaints about people not being approved for admission, and explaining how to gain entry to the group.

You can find that original piece here.

Since then, the process has changed just a bit. It’s better now.

Current Application Statuses

The admins listened to the complaints and cleared the queue. All applications have either been confirmed and approved, or investigated and rejected.

Comic book-ified Members Only jacket
Members Only

After clearing the queue, Brian Warner & Nate Shane stepped down as admins. Erick Gyrion remained and brought on Megan Mouton of Clue Carré.

(Side note: Megan owns of one of the four companies featured on our Escape Room Tour of New Orleans, which has just grown in size. Tickets are now available through April 22. Contact us for details.)

We know Megan and we can attest that she’s on top of things. She reached out to inform us of the updated application process.

Updated Owners Group Admission Process

Quickest way to get approved:

  1. Have your Facebook profile read “Owner at _____________ Escape Game.”
  2. Apply to join the Escape Room Owners Group
  3. Follow the instructions when you apply which read: “Are you an escape room owner? Is your business open and accepting bookings? If so, please message Erick James Gyrion or Megan Lucy Mouton with proof. Thank you!”

If everything checks out, then you’ll be approved promptly. It seems that 75% of applicants ignore step 3 and it slows down their application.

When I emailed with Megan yesterday, they had only 4 requests in the hopper. She says they get between 10 and 20 applicants per day… so they’re on top of this. If you don’t follow the instructions listed above, Megan will reach out to you through Facebook Messenger (which is an unnecessary kindness).

If Megan reaches out:

  • She will send you a private Facebook message asking:
    • What escape room company do you own?
    • Are you open and selling tickets?
    • Can you provide proof that you are currently operating?
  • If you fail to reply within a few days, she will decline your request.

Willy Wonka yelling, "You get NOTHING! You LOSE! GOOD DAY, SIR!"

Who is allowed and who isn’t?

This is one of few exclusive Facebook groups. It is specifically a resource for owners. Managers, employees, and yours truly are not going to be approved.

Recommended Alternative Facebook Groups

Escape Room Start Up for more business-focused discussion.

Escape Room Enthusiast for more player-focused discussion (that sometimes turns business-y). Please be kind to the enthusiast community. These are your customers.

Everything Immersive for a broad mixture of business, news, and player/ participant discussion about all sorts of immersive entertainment.

Trapped Escape Game Nashville – Capone [Review]

Puzzle with Scarface.

Location: Nashville, TN

Date Played: February 11, 2018

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26.99 per ticket for adults, $20.99 per ticket for children

REA Reaction

Capone was a typical search-and-puzzle escape room. It worked, but it didn’t wow.

Who is this for?

  • Two-bit gangsters
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The cozy staging
  • The transition

Story

Al Capone believes we narced on him to the FBI. We’ve been locked up in his apartment and he’s coming back in an hour to deal with us if we can’t find our way our first.

In-game: An old secretary's desk open beside a large comfortable chair in a wood floor and walled room.

Setting

Capone’s elegant apartment set felt lived in. Nearly everything within the game looked and felt like it belonged there. It was a charming environment.

Gameplay

Capone was a standard search-and-puzzle escape room that leaned more towards puzzling.

Standouts

The set was elegant. It evoked the bygone era and felt homey.

The gameplay largely worked.

There was a fun transition sequence. It was unexpected, humorous, and interactive.

Shortcomings

Much of the gameplay involved reading laminated texts and applying these to props. The gameplay felt uninspired, requiring different versions of the same connection on multiple occasions.

Capone was flat. With the exception of one transition, it didn’t deliver energetic or memorable moments; it never evolved in complexity or intrigue. There wasn’t much of a climax or finale.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: There is parking outside the escape room.

Book your hour with Trapped Escape Game Nashville’s Capone, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Everything Immersive NYC Meetup

We haven’t made a lot of noise about it, but last year we teamed up with our friends over at No Proscenium to create a friendly, organized, and well-moderated community of folks who love all sorts of immersive entertainment, be it immersive theater, VR, or escape rooms.

That community is Everything Immersive. If you aren’t a member, you should join.

One of the members of the community, Lisa Cohen, proposed that we host a NYC Everything Immersive Meetup, so that’s exactly what we’re doing.

A group of period dressed me and women in a speakeasy.

Everything Immersive Community Meetup (NYC)

When: Wednesday, April 25 at 6:30 PM – 9 PM

Where: TBD, somewhere in lower Manhattan

Who’s this for?

This event is for those interested, passionate, or working Everything Immersive in NYC: creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, designers, performers, authors, event planners, producers, etc.

If you want to meet other passionate souls, exchange ideas on immersive theatre, VR/AR, site-specific, experiential art & tech, and the future of entertainment and storytelling, this is the event for you.

The emphasis for this event is on creators and people who are somehow involved in the industry. That being said, we won’t turn down passionate fans either.

Escape rooms are just one type of immersive entertainment. We’d like to bring people from different backgrounds together to connect with and learn from each other.

We hope to see you there. RSVP today.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 3

Commit Sudoku.

Location: at home

Date Played: March 5, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run, Box 3 followed in the style of On the Run, Box 2. It was a narrative-driven, puzzle-focused game. Compared to the previous boxes, we liked a few of the puzzles a lot less, and we enjoyed other puzzles a whole lot more. The box was a mixed bag.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The puzzles are tied to the narrative.
  • You can play at home.

Story

Box 3 continued Dispatch’s On the Run Box narrative, taking us to Japan to continue our investigation into the murder of our best friend’s wife. While this chapter provided some additional clues to our main narrative, we found ourselves focusing most of our energy on a fire in a local hotel.

An assortment of documents and items from Dispatch Box 3.

Setup

Box 3 looked similar to Box 2.

We were given an assortment of largely paper-based items that were printed on various types of paper stock and in a wide variety of styles. These paper components were augmented by a couple of more tangible props.

Gameplay

In addition to looking similar to the Box 2, Box 3 also played similarly. The gameplay was derived from exploring documents, websites, and props, identifying the thematically relevant puzzles, and working through them.

Box 3 concluded with a video that both indicated the end of the box’s puzzles and recapped everything that we were supposed to have uncovered.

Standouts

Box 3 contained the rarely seen thematically- and narratively-appropriate Sudoku puzzle, and Dispatch put a fun twist on this.

Box 3 continued the trajectory established by Box 2 and provided an even more interesting series of puzzles that fit the story and setting of the game.

This was a good team game, as there were ample opportunities to parallel puzzle.

Shortcomings

There was another lengthy and tedious process puzzle that dramatically overstayed its welcome. It was complicated by ambiguous cluing and functionality. We were counting the minutes until we could end this task. Plus, we’re pretty sure that there was a typo that confused the conclusion of this puzzle.

We struggled to fully connect the events of this box back to the overall narrative.

Between the typo and struggling to get started with the aforementioned process puzzle, we found ourselves wishing that Dispatch had a better self-service hint system. They have Slack channels where players can discuss the puzzles, but it was a clumsy tool and once there, it was filled with spoilers that we couldn’t avoid or unsee.

Tips for Playing

  • Box 2 items were required for resolving Box 3.
  • Box 3 ramped up the difficulty.

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complementary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Mystery Room NYC – Chapter 5: Secluded Vault [Review]

Who gave Uncle Scrooge a vat of lacquer?

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: March 19, 2018

Team size: 6-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

Despite the uneven clue structure and set construction, we enjoyed many of the puzzles and nifty mechanisms in Secluded Vault. If Mystery Room NYC can remove debris from former puzzles and put a bit more attention into upkeep and cluing, Secluded Vault will deliver a more satisfying experience.

All in all, the fifth installment from Mystery Room NYC was a big step up from chapter 4.

In-game: a collection of gold coins lacquered to a silver table. The lacquer is clearly pooled around the coins.

Who is this for?

  • Observant players
  • Players who enjoy mechanical interactions
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Unusual interactions

Story

Our pursuit of Edwards, the recurring villain at Mystery Room NYC, had led us to a vault. We needed to solve our way past the security to steal a journal from within.

Although this was Chapter 5 of the Mystery Room NYC saga, it didn’t rely on any knowledge of previous chapters. It was only connected to those other chapters in so far as there was a recurring character as the backdrop for the escape.

Those of us who didn’t know the story going in had no idea that there was a story.

In-game: A bookcase with books a plant, and some coins all behind acrylic plasic shielding.

Setting

The set was an escape room-style office with a few bank-esque nods. A few desks, shelves, and bookcases-turned-display cases were set against barely adorned white walls.

Any decor not behind glass was lacquered down. The entire set felt like a giant still life.

In-game: A digital keypad against a silver table.

Gameplay

Secluded Vault was an observe-and-puzzle escape room. If we could move or manipulate it, we were going to have figure out how to use it by connecting it to something we could observe.

The clue structure varied enormously. Sometimes Mystery Room NYC told us exactly what to do and sometimes we had to grasp at connections.

Standouts

Secluded Vault included a few unusual mechanical interactions. We enjoyed these moments as many of them were particularly cool.

Mystery Room NYC thwarted our expectations with one prop that wasn’t used as we’ve come to expect. We thought we had this case cracked, but we were wrong, in a good way.

The reliance on observation of a larger gamespace facilitated teamwork.

Shortcomings

Since opening Secluded Vault, Mystery Escape Room had removed some of the puzzles, but left disabled set pieces or props. This created needless red herrings that persisted throughout the experience. It was also a disappointment because some of those props seemed like they should have done something cool.

In-game: A beat up contraption with odd symbols on it.

The set and props lacked polish and showed signs of wear. Some of this wear made the game look beat up; other instances obscured the in-game clues.

There were audio clues that were so garbled that we couldn’t understand them.

Secluded Vault suffered from inconsistent clue structure. At times, it was too direct. Other times, we were presented with unfamiliar objects and expected to intuit connections without any cluing.

Mystery Room NYC remains heavily committed to their ongoing narrative, but it is so loose that it’s irrelevant, missable, and forgettable.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Room NYC’s downtown location is accessible by subway. Take the B/D/F/M to Broadway-Lafayette or the 4/6 to Bleecker or the R/W to Prince. There is also street parking.
  • For nearby food, we recommend Burger and Barrel (try the Bash Burger). There are lots of options around.

Book your hour with Mystery Room NYC’s Chapter 5: Secluded Vault, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.