Stream “In & Of Itself” It’s A Masterpiece

Hello friends, this is a time traveling message.

I’ve written this on November 18, 2020 and scheduled it for this specific date, because as of today, Hulu is streaming the movie version of In & Of Itself… and you must watch it.

A wall that says, "In & Of Itself" covered in individual cards that read "IAM" and have a variety of labels.

Some Background

Back in April of 2017, Lisa and I attended a live performance of In & Of Itself. It was magnificent. At the time, I remember thinking it was a masterpiece of storytelling.

I wrote a review of it. That was the review that made us define the line that we use to decide if an experience provides enough agency to a participant that we would write about it on Room Escape Artist. In & Of Itself was right on the line, and even today, I’m not sure which side of the line it actually sits on, but I didn’t care. I needed to tell as many people about it as I could.

And I still don’t care. I need you to know about it.

Flash-Forward to Today November 2020

Last night we watched the early release of the In & Of Itself movie and it was just as powerful as I remembered it… maybe even more powerful than I’d recalled.

I can’t tell you if it was the knowledge of where the show was headed that revealed extra layers of meaning, or if the closeups of Derek DelGaudio’s expressive face added details that I hadn’t been able to see from my near back-row seat. Maybe it was the stellar editing of the audience-driven portions. Whatever it was, for 90 minutes I was back in that theater, and it felt so damn good.

I don’t think that I’d fully appreciated how much I needed an experience like In & Of Itself.

A Closing Thought

I often talk and write about my deeply held belief that the future of escape rooms and immersive gaming is in storytelling. In & Of Itself shows why.

Various magic acts have been around since before recorded history, but without the emotional through-line, they are just illusions. Any sufficiently talented stage magician can perform most any magical act… only Derek DelGaudio can perform In & Of Itself.

Professor Puzzle – Escape from the Casino of Chaos [Review]

Ocean’s 1-4

Location:  at home

Date Played: December 20, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-2

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: about $13

REA Reaction

Escape from the Casino of Chaos was our favorite of the Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms.

Thematically, it was a casino heist, which is pretty typical escape room fare.

Escape From the Casino of Chaos red box art with a hand tossing dice.

A few of the puzzles stood out. They looked and felt like they belonged in the narrative environment and were generally amusing to solve.

While Escape from the Mall was the most straightforward installment, Escape from the Casino of Chaos was the most interesting. Since all of these games are fairly easy, I’d recommend the more interesting one. To be clear, this won’t blow your mind by any means; it’s just a solid, quick-play puzzle game. I think that it’s worth trying out because we don’t have a ton of low-commitment, quick-hit tabletop puzzle games… and I do think that it’s an interesting and worthy product category.

Continue reading “Professor Puzzle – Escape from the Casino of Chaos [Review]”

Professor Puzzle – Quick-Fire Escape Room [Overview]

4 Puzzles & A Meta

Location:  at home

Date Played: December 20, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-2

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $13

REA Reaction

The Quick-Fire Escape Room series from Professor Puzzle is new and a little different.

First of all, it was a much stronger product than Professor Puzzle’s first foray into tabletop escape games, Escape From the Grand Hotel.

These games are a lower commitment than just about any other tabletop escape room we have encountered. They’re listed as 45-minute games. As a duo we casually played through them in about 25 minutes each. The puzzles were generally solid, with some presented better than others. The hint system was lacking.

These games can be played competitively as a race, but we just ignored that structure because we like to solve puzzles together.

Of the available Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms, without hesitation, we rank them in the following order from strongest to weakest:

  1. Escape from the Casino of Chaos (review coming soon)
  2. Escape from the Mall (review coming soon)
  3. Escape from Dead Town (review coming soon)

If you’re a value shopper, these games are quick, cheap, and sort of repackagable. (Each game has one puzzle that uses up some material unless you go out of your way to avoid this.) Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms won’t blow your mind. This is a quick, low-commitment, competent product line. They are the fast food of tabletop escape games. Honestly, it really felt good to sit down, play something, and have it end before it overstayed its welcome.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Can be played collaboratively or competitively
  • Solid production value for a completely paper- and cardstock-based series
  • Quick, low-commitment puzzling
Continue reading “Professor Puzzle – Quick-Fire Escape Room [Overview]”

Trolli Sour Brite Mystery Night Crawlers [Review]

Wiggly, wormy, tasty mystery

Location:  at home

Date Played: December 10, 2020

Team size: Do you want to share?

Price: about $6

REA Reaction

This is how I like my mystery flavor products:

  • A variety of flavors
  • Most of them good
  • No BS contests with pages of legalese and crazy entry processes
Packaging torn open, worms pouring out.

Trolli Sour Brite Mystery Night Crawlers were a fun collection of flavors that really highlighted how much artificial coloring and flavoring go hand in hand in normal sugary treats. When you bite into 3 different white treats and they each return different flavors that are typically associated with other colors, it’s a surprisingly weird sensation.

If you’re looking to play the Mystery Flavor Game, this is a fantastic option. Frequently mystery flavor products make me feel like I am being punished for past sins, but I can comfortably say that Trolli Sour Brite Mystery Night Crawlers came regret-free.

Who is this for?

  • Sweet & sour gummy fans
  • Mystery food junkies

Why play?

  • They’re tart
  • They taste pretty good
  • Mysteries are fun
Continue reading “Trolli Sour Brite Mystery Night Crawlers [Review]”

Farewell Flash Escape Rooms

Today Adobe Flash is officially dead, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to celebrate what Flash meant in the history of escape games.

As a community, we often recognize the television shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple and The Crystal Maze as well as the early 1990s video games such as Myst, The 7th Guest, or the catalogue of material put out by companies like LucasArts and Sierra Entertainment, that paved the way for escape rooms. However, there was a massive chapter in between all of those and what we came to recognize as real-life escape games.

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A Little History

In the pre-iPhone days, Adobe Flash was the go-to toolkit for amateur game designers. It was easy to learn, well supported, and you could make everything from animations to actual games.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Flash was the beating heart of the indie game scene (not that I can recall anyone calling it that). Flash became this weird behemoth of a platform that was serving enterprise needs and independent creators. It was resource intensive, but it was what we had.

One game genre that was relatively easy to get started in was the point-and-click adventure genre. Images and animations were generally static, and the interactions were straightforward. Creators told all sorts of stories, but over time one sub-genre that emerged was known as “escape the room,” a term that originated with Mystery Of Time And Space (MOTAS).

Before escape rooms were escape rooms, they were Flash video games.

A Fond Farewell

Flash had a ton of problems ranging from its dependence on Adobe, to performance issues, accessibility, and most importantly, security… but it was easy. While I had been guiding my design clients away from it since the pre-iPhone days, I still don’t believe that anything has emerged to fully take its place.

Flash has been on life support for a long time. Steve Jobs effectively killed it when he disallowed it on the iPhone, but by that point it was on borrowed time. Honestly, it borrowed a lot more time than I ever expected it would.

Flash had a good run. I wish that Adobe would have open-sourced it back in 2011. Maybe it would have had a fighting chance if a community that understood it could have improved upon it.

Tragically, with Flash dying out, we lose a lot of escape the room games. Most of them might not have been special, but some truly were, and they are all part of the history escape rooms. A history that will be largely forgotten.

If you have a favorite, please share it in the comments, or better yet, a video of a playthrough if you can find it.