YouEscape – Electromagnetic Fields [Review]

Magnets, how do they work?

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: April 4, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $30 per team (regardless of player count)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We enjoyed YouEscape games even before we could only play puzzle games from home. YouEscape games were puzzley and creative. Their delivery was rudimentary, but charming.

In the middle of a pandemic, these games are a delight.

In-game: The table setup for Electro Magnetic Fields. There's a strange assortment of objects on a table.

Electromagnetic Fields had the charm of previous YouEscape games and some unusual interactions that we’d never see in a real-life escape room.

I’d still love to see YouEscape refine the props further. Additionally, Electromagnetic Fields had a rough final puzzle that felt like it was floating in the strange gap between puzzle and outside knowledge… but it still managed to work.

Overall, YouEscape remains a charming want to play games with friends that you can’t physically see. YouEscape has no shortage of competition at the moment, but while many of these remote games will disappear when escape rooms can reopen, we expect that Nick will continue streaming from his table.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles that you wouldn’t see anywhere else
  • The always charming delivery of Nick, YouEscape’s creator

Story

Everyone had said that we couldn’t build our own submarine… but we’d done it anyway.

Unfortunately while on a voyage, our compass had broken. If we didn’t get it fixed, that little problem would prove our detractors right by killing us. We couldn’t have that now, could we?

Continue reading “YouEscape – Electromagnetic Fields [Review]”

Lockhill – The Sanatorium [Review]

Hell-o Nurse

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 1, 2020

Team size: 1-5; we recommend 4

Duration: 2.5 hours for Midnight Mode (reviewed here), 1.5 hours for Night Mode or Day Mode

Price: from €64 per player for teams of 1 to €30 per player for teams of 5 in Midnight Mode (reviewed here)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Sanatorium was the best kind of bonkers. It was big, beautiful, menacing, and loaded with surprising sequences.

In-lobby: A building's entrance lit by lantern light.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

The actors (and I’m not sure how many there were) were scary, yet smart. They quickly zeroed in on the players who were willing to engage with them, and eased up on those that were overtly afraid.

Traversing the environment and interacting with the actors felt like living a video game.

As a community we talk about escape rooms being “immersive experiences” and “feeling like real-life video games…” but few of them honestly achieve deep immersion or feel like real-life video games. The Sanatorium did these things, and sustained the immersion for 2.5 hours… which flew by.

If it’s not clear, The Sanatorium was a must-play. However, I think that if you aren’t playing Midnight Mode (full horror & full puzzle), you’re doing yourself and this experience a disservice. If you’re scared, find teammates with the nerve to help you through The Sanatorium.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Heart-pounding gameplay
  • Intense actor interactions
  • An incredible set
  • It was a truly immersive experience

Story

Professor Nathan Jones had asked us to investigate the abandoned sanatorium. The word was that the facility maintained an inhumane standard of living for their patients… and that’s why it had been shut down. But recently, there had been multiple reports of screams coming from inside.

In-lobby: A stone wall covered in orange leaves beside an old door.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby
Continue reading “Lockhill – The Sanatorium [Review]”

Virtually Tour: Chernobyl’s Ruins

Chernobyl disturbs me like few things do. The mixture of hubris, human error, and authoritarian stupidity that led to that disaster has long been a source of fascination for me.

A massive, rusted radiation sign mounted outside of a ruined building in Chernobyl.

While the Paris Catacombs might be the living embodiment of macabre, I don’t find them disturbing. Maybe it’s the age… maybe it’s the fact that it was deliberately created… or maybe it’s that the Paris Catacombs are so over the top that they feel less real.

On the other hand, Chernobyl was recent, accidental, and haphazard… all of which is on frightening display. There’s nothing graphically disturbing here, but viewing these ruins hit me in a way that few things do.

These videos are captured in 360-degree VR. While they are playing, you can look around within them.

Via Dread Central

Thank you to Mark from Walnut Creek, CA for sharing this virtual tour.

Approaches For Reopening Escape Rooms in a Pandemic

Update: The following sections were added, or added to, a few hours after publication: Masks, Smarter Cancellation Policies, Gameplay Adaptations

As different regions slowly attempt to reopen, I’ve been putting together a collection of guidelines to help escape room owners think through their reopening strategies.

I honestly believe that escape rooms are well positioned as premium entertainment in this pre-vaccine era. Movie theaters, theaters, bowling, skating rinks, amusement parks, bars, and restaurants generally require large crowds to turn a profit. Escape rooms are intimate, small-group entertainment.

If our industry establishes a strong reputation for safety, fun, and low headcounts, I truly believe that we will bounce back faster and reemerge stronger than before.

I have done my very best to approach this apolitically.

My overarching advice to you is to pay attention to your community and its shifting needs as this pandemic continues to evolve. Smart escape room companies will ratchet up or down the intensity of their policies to meet their regional needs, which will likely change over time.

A mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer on a wooden table.

Adhere to Local Laws

Before we dive in, I want to make it clear that I am not a lawyer or epidemiologist. I’m not claiming that I am.

Before opening, consult with your lawyer and insurance provider. Make sure that you’re following whatever regulations your business is subject to.

Whom Are You Protecting?

When thinking about safety in this pre-vaccine era, there are two groups of people that escape room owners must consider:

  • Employees
  • Customers

Many of the measures that we will discuss apply to both. However, employees may face additional challenges and risks that your customers should not encounter.

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PostCurious – Emerald Flame [Review]

💚🔥

Location:  at home

Date Played: Spring 2020

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

Duration: 2-3 hours per chapter with 3 chapters

Price: back on Kickstarter at $69 or more to receive a copy of the game

REA Reaction

Emerald Flame is in a class of its own, from its art direction to its gameplay. Its three chapters had tight, creative puzzles. They varied in complexity, while feeling fair and innovative.

Emerald Flame felt like a successor to Post Curious’ first product Tale of Ord… but tighter and more refined in virtually every way.

An assortment of puzzle content and components with beautiful art.

Emerald Flame’s story was less ambitious than its predecessor’s but was still well structured and conveyed quite a bit of nuance. There was less content, and there were fewer tangible props than in Tale of Ord, but the overall level of quality was much higher… and at a far lower price point.

In short: Emerald Flame smoked Tale of Ord. It wasn’t even close.

The gorgeous gold and green stained glass box art of The Emerald Flame.

The art was beautiful, like, “I feel kind of bad writing on this” beautiful… and “I want a poster-sized version of the box art to frame on my wall,” beautiful.

Emerald Flame just went up on Kickstarter, so if you want to play this, head over there and back it. We played a nearly final prototype. There will be differences in the production version, so I cannot speak to the exact quality of what will be shipped. That said, I can assure you that the game exists, it’s incredibly refined, and it’s comfortably Lisa and my favorite tabletop puzzle game to date. For what I look for in a play-at-home puzzle game, it has no peers.

Who is this for?

  • Art lovers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Approachable yet deep and beautifully designed puzzles
  • The best hint system in the business
  • The art, the art, the art

Story

Our assistance had been enlisted in the study of alchemy. We needed to retrace the work of a medieval alchemist from Prague in order to solve the mysteries of his work and how they related to an unusual celestial event.

All Emerald Flame packages laid out. They seem to have been mailed from Prague.
Continue reading “PostCurious – Emerald Flame [Review]”