Immersia – The Piccadilly Cabaret [Review]

A haunting performance.

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 25.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Piccadilly Cabaret was more than the sum of its parts.

The puzzles were completely forgettable, but the overall experience was so very memorable.

In-game: An old bar after closing time.
Image via Immersia

I have a longstanding fascination with simple things executed beautifully; The Piccadilly Cabaret really spoke to that.

With games like The Grand Immersia Hotel, Immersia has greatly advanced the complexity and intensity of their escape experience design. If you only have time for one game with Immersia, it probably should be The Grand Immersia Hotel. That said, their earlier lineup offered so much subtle beauty that I must recommend playing at least one or two of them. Immersia’s roots are strong and deserving of appreciation.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Phenomenal yet subtle atmospheric moments.
  • A brilliant approach to story and set design.

Story

It was the 1930 and we were devoted fans of the late diva Emma Albani. It was the anniversary of her death and the cabaret that she had made famous was scheduled for demolition. We’d decided to take a crack at sneaking into the old, condemned building to see if we could find her dressing room before everything was destroyed.

In-game: the piano and microphone on the stage of an old cabaret.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal yet effective. Everything in this game felt right, even when there wasn’t a lot of detail. This really speaks to how smart Immersia was when deciding upon the setting for The Piccadilly Cabaret.

Additionally, the most memorable moments of this game were born of Immersia’s set design.

In-game: Closeup of an old bar's cash register.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret was a standard escape room with an easier level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The story behind The Piccadilly Cabaret was original and clever.

➕ The set for The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal, but it felt right. It had enough details to sell the scene. The lighting was atmospheric and functional.

➕ Immersia created a character who doubled as a hinting and timekeeping mechanism. The set up made sense with the scenario. While not flashy, it was well-executed. It was also entertaining. Through our interactions with this character, Immersia could also deliver our team a more personalized experience, crafting the interactions to meet our needs.

➕ We enjoyed the transition from act 1 to act 2.

➕ In the second act, Immersia enhanced the atmosphere was a few well-timed interactions. These were subtle, but powerful moments.

➖ Many of the puzzles felt dated. These included multiple searching and counting puzzles that felt “set atop” rather than integrated into the experience.

➖ Although the gameplay worked, the puzzles were largely forgettable. This was in part because much of the cluing was paper-based, rather than a built into the set and props. The puzzles weren’t native to the gamespace.

➖ While The Piccadilly Cabaret didn’t require any outside knowledge, one key late game challenge would have been rough without it.

➕ The final sequence was illuminating.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • For the full experience, players must be able to climb up and over a small obstacle.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Laval Location.

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Trust Thresholds in Escape Room Play [Player Tip]

There is an art to taking hints that even experienced escape room players struggle to balance.

Lisa and I find that the art to taking hints is built around trust.

A sign with a person walking, a sign over its face reads, "Trust." The symbol is encircled in red.

How do you trust a game?

When we start playing an escape room, we don’t just solve the first few puzzles, we silently evaluate how cleanly they resolve. Was the solve fair?

Escape games can build trust quickly by presenting good “on-ramp puzzles.” Obvious, eye-catching challenges that solve quickly and cleanly establish how the room wants to be played.

Trust breaks easily when an escape room lacks an on-ramp and the players are unable to gain momentum. Trust also breaks if the players spin in circles for long stretches of time without a clear sense of direction.

We’re pretty good at escape rooms at this point, so we are capable of solving a fair number of puzzles that we don’t necessarily think are well crafted or fair. As we play, we are mindful of the flow of the gameplay.

Subconscious Evaluation

When we play an escape room, we usually just play. We don’t like to think as reviewers while we play. At the outset of a game we rarely begin writing in our heads or meta gaming. We prefer to simply exist in the moment and enjoy the game.

That said, for us, this mental state comes to an abrupt halt if the game breaks our trust.

When The Trust Breaks

If the gameplay seems to require leaps of logic, then this has a couple of effects on the way that we approach the escape game:

First, we try “bad ideas” more readily.

An extreme example (that we’ve seen more than once): if we derived the code “1234” and for no good reason we needed to input it in reverse as “4321,” then we’re going to encourage our team to try all manner of silly bullshit ideas. We do this because the game has broken our trust. All bets are off.

We would never do this in a game where the puzzles had clean, elegant, and clued solutions.

Second, and more important, we’ll take hints more quickly if we don’t trust the game.

This method isn’t foolproof. We’ve seen a bullshit puzzle show up in a game made by someone who had otherwise designed a great escape room. It happens.

If you’re aware and keeping a mental trend line of fair/ unfair puzzles, this will help you and your team adjust your approach.

Trust is like a shower.

A stylized image of a showerhead spraying water.

When the water is the right temperature, you’re simply immersed. If the temperature spikes or plummets momentarily, it’s annoying, but fine. If the temperature starts shifting up and down haphazardly, it not only yanks you out of the moment, but it changes your entire approach to even touching the water.

Free Online Tour of the Winchester Mystery House

Because of COVID-19, the bizarre Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is presently closed. They have published a 40-minute video tour of the mansion.

Exterior of the Winchester Mystery House mansion decorated for Halloween.

Firearms heiress Sarah Winchester designed and built this baffling home. She allegedly built it to escape the spirits of those killed by the weapons that financially fueled her.

The sprawling home has staircases and doorways to nowhere… and serves as a prime example of how there’s no crazy quite like wealthy crazy.

Watch the tour, while you can.

One of these days, I’d like to see the Winchester Mystery House in real life. I expect that many escape room fans would as well.

David on The NoPro Podcast Talking Quarantine Games & Industry Impact

On Thursday night I hopped into the HERE Discord and recorded an episode of the No Proscenium Podcast with an interesting rotating cast of characters.

No Proscenium's purple "NP" logo.

We talked about immersive entertainment in the era of quarantine. There was a discussion about porn-tech, which apparently required some homework that I hadn’t completed. We got a little heavy talking about the long-term impact of enforced social distancing on the immersive entertainment industries.

NoPro Podcast Episode 241: The One Where The Gang Tries Discord

How To Spell Any 4-Letter Word in a Word Lock

“So, I’m a gamemaster and I made a bet with my boss that I could find a 4-letter word lock that we could spell ‘SWAN’ with. I’m struggling!!! Any chance you could help me out? I’ll buy multiple locks and trade the gears if needed. Thank you!!”

Anonymous Gamemaster (who is winning a bet)

This is a fun little problem that you have.

There isn’t a lock on the market that can solve this problem for you, but as you alluded to in your question, there are two locks that can combine to solve the problem.

The Problem

So the issue is that “W” is a rare second letter in English and therefore not included in the second disk on the various word locks with fixed disks.

A 5 disk alphanumeric combination lock.

This leaves you with the customizable Master Lock 1534D 5-digit letter lock… but that’s a problem because it has 5 disks, not 4. Master Lock doesn’t sell a 4-disk letter lock variant.

The Solution

The good news is that there is a solution.

A 4 digit number lock.

The Master Lock 1523D 4-digit number lock uses disks that are functionally identical to the letter disks of the aforementioned Master Lock 1534D 5-digit letter lock.

If you purchase both locks, and swap the disks, you can put in any 4-letter disks you want, in any order, onto the smaller lock. There you have a 4-digit word lock with the combination “SWAN.”

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escape Rooms in the Era of Pandemic & Quarantine

We aren’t escaping our home anytime soon.

Last week we began publishing content embracing self-isolation. For the foreseeable future, our publishing schedule will continue to put a greater emphasis on play-at-home games and experiences. We’re doing this because we think that it’s best for as many of us as possible to shift our mindset.

We resisted the powerful urge to suggest anything to owners or players about how to handle this crisis because it felt irresponsible to add to the cacophony. With the clarity of this week, we have a lucid message.

A lone person standing on a island in the middle of the water holding a flighlight in the darkness.

Please Stay In

We aren’t encouraging players to visit escape rooms, even though we’d love to play, and we know how badly COVID-19 is hurting escape room businesses (more on that later). The best path forward for all of us is to temporarily change our lifestyle in order to keep this outbreak from spiraling out of control.

None of us can do this individually, but collectively we can make a difference. By staying home… and in our case, puzzling.

Maybe you already agree with me or maybe you think that I’m gullible, wimpy, or dumb. For those that think less of me, let’s do a thought experiment.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Let’s look at a pair of possible scenarios.

Nothing Happens

COVID-19 is a total bust. “It’s Y2K.” “It’s a bad flu.” “Nothing happens.”

Everyone who isn’t involved in keeping the basic mechanisms of society running has shut themselves indoors for few weeks. Everyone’s really bored, the economy takes a hit from the diminished production, and a lot of people suffer from the loss of work, but in the end “it’s not that big of a deal.”

At the end of a couple of weeks life goes on. In 20 years we will all get to laugh at it when VH1 makes I Love 2020 and some washed up comedian that no one remembers cracks jokes about it.

The Threat is Real

What if it’s a legitimate threat?

What if we’re literally 2 weeks behind Italy’s trajectory?

What if we’re all staring at a historic turning point and we make the wrong decision to go get some dinner and play some games?

What if we don’t force that exponential outbreak curve to plateau?

We’re all escape room players here. We all understand limited resources. If more people need hospital beds and ventilators than we have available, people will needlessly die.

If we don’t slow that exponential growth curve, then the timeline of the crisis will spiral out of control. It will run longer. Quarantines will extend. Business shutdowns will extend. Everyone will suffer more.

If you’re still thinking that this is “just a bad flu,” let’s not forget that the Spanish Flu of 1918 killed more people than World War I. The Great War. “The war to end all wars.” “Just a bad flu.”

If you’re thinking that “this is like Y2K… and that was a total joke,” please remember that the only reason that Y2K wasn’t a calamity was that countless people worked long hard hours to manually update code and prevent the problem. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent to keep Y2K from breaking the world, and it worked. Was it really “nothing” if it required that much effort to prevent?

Moreover, even in the COVID-19 scenario where “nothing happens,” tens of thousands of people have still died.

We must embrace quarantine.

Escape Room Owner Problems

I’ve been speaking with owners for the past few weeks about how they are going to weather this crisis and no one has a solution to match the problem.

Escape room owners are drowning in operating expenses, even though they cannot actually operate. Rent and insurance alone are profound costs.

Escape room owners with employees are bearing the burden of making painful decisions. Who can they pay? Who can’t they pay? Do they pay themselves? Will their valued, skilled, and trained employees even be around when this crisis ends, or will they have been forced by circumstance to move on? When we come out on the other side, how much spending money will the nation at large have for entertainment?

The problems are grim, the options are bleak, and every single problem will be amplified with each day that passes. The longer this crisis extends into the unknown future, the worse it becomes. We must embrace quarantine.

These problems aren’t limited to the escape room world. They touch so many small businesses.

Small Businesses

I’ve owned multiple small businesses for over 15 years. Politicians from both sides of the aisle love to speak of the value of small businesses to the American economy.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a politician utter the phrase, “small businesses are the backbone of the American economy,” I would have a lot more than government has ever done for my small businesses.

Everything that’s being done right now helps giant companies, banks, and investors. And look, in times like these, everyone needs help. But small businesses shouldn’t be forgotten as they always are. They shouldn’t be left out to languish as bills pile up. No one asked for this. No one made some foolish decision that led to this.

Landlords and insurers have two options right now. They can be parasitic in the face of a crisis or they can realize that everyone hurting means that they have to hurt as well. They can take this pain now or take it later when they strangle their tenants and customers to death and are left wondering where their revenue will come from in a strained, post-pandemic economy.

Government has similar choices. Let landlords and insurers strangle small businesses or stand around in 2021 wondering where the hell all of their tax revenue went. This isn’t just an escape room problem.

Embrace The Quarantine

COVID-19 is not going away without all of us doing our part. Some generations have been called upon to fight wars. We don’t have to take up arms. No one is asking us to give up our lives. We just have to sit at home and play games, solve puzzles, read, and watch Netflix.

Lisa and I started our self-imposed quarantine a week and a half ago when we returned home from our trip to Europe. We were obsessively careful while traveling, but upon returning home we decided for the sake of our friends, colleagues, and strangers that we would act as though we were carrying the virus.

For my part, this isn’t coming from a place of ignorance. I spent years designing software for use in humanitarian crises. I’ve been deployed by the United Nations into the field. I’ve seen things that shook me to my core. I’ll never claim that I am a humanitarian myself, but I understand that world and how to interpret the data.

We need to embrace quarantine. Flattening the curve is the only weapon that we have available to us… and it takes all of us to make it work.

We need to quarantine because for all of the policy decisions that could be made to help small businesses, none of us can donate enough money to get enough leaders to listen. To help.

We need to quarantine because the shorter this lasts, the better everyone’s chances of living and thriving are.

REA in the Era of Pandemic & Quarantine

At Room Escape Artist, we’re going to continue to publish daily content for the escape room industry. Our audience includes players, creators, owners, and the escape room curious. Regardless of your place in the escape room economy, your normalcy is temporarily upended.

On this website, we’re operating under the assumption that the era of pandemic and quarantine will be temporary. This is what we need to do now to enable our industry (and many other industries) for the future. We’ll continue to publish a lot of our normal content, which will be of value again when we emerge on the other side.

We know that many in our community are severely hurting right now. We know that you have to make hard decisions and that every day will be challenging. We will publish content for you too, but only when we have well researched, rational words to share.

In the meantime, we’re adding an emphasis on play-at-home content, as noted at the top of this post. For the most part, we’re planning to keep our content lighthearted, not out of disrespect for the severity of the situation, but as an escape.

An Escape Room Players Guide To Self-Quarantine

As more of us are working from home and self-isolating, we figured that we’d put together a little entertainment guide to help keep everyone’s minds occupied.

A lone person looking out a window in a dark room. Labeled, "Escape Room Player's Isolation Guide."

Community

If you’re looking for some company, may I suggest the “Escape Room ‘Secret Slack.'”

It’s filled with lovely escape room folk, and we wrote a guide to it a while back.

Cryptex Hunt

The Cryptex Hunt ended last week, but the puzzles will be available for all to enjoy (depending upon your definition of enjoyment) until the end of March 2020.

We have a guide for that too.

Tabletop Game

Call it catharsis, or call it macabre, but I know we aren’t alone in wanting to play some Pandemic. With all of this chaos, it’s kind of nice to feel like you can exercise some control.

Base Pandemic is a great time. If you haven’t played Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Season 2, these games are an incredible way to spend a large amount of hours. Be sure to play them in order.

Tabletop Escape Rooms

There are tons of great tabletop escape games, and most of our favorites are currently available on our Amazon Store.

Discount Codes

Enigma Emporium (Carte Rouge, Wish You Were Here, and other games) is running a 30% off sale with the code “StaySafeStayCurious”.

The Conundrum Box (Christmas Seasonal Escape Room Box Review & others on our to play list) is having a 20% off sale with the code “SPRING”.

If you notice other discount codes are introduced or expired, please contact us and we’ll update this section.

Mobile Games

On mobile, there are tons of great escape room-y puzzle games:

YouEscape

YouEscape is an online escape game played through Google Hangouts. We’ve played and reviewed a few of the YouEscape games. They’re especially fun to play with people that you can’t see in real life… and depending upon your particular set of circumstances, that might be everyone.

Wizard’s Escape

The MIT Mystery Hunt had an incredible audio escape room puzzle. It’s hard relative to escape room puzzle difficulty, but so worth it. We have a whole post on it.

Podcasts

Speaking of audio and escape rooms, there are tons of episodes of Escape This Podcast & The Room Escape Divas to catch up on. A handful of these episodes feature us… if that’s a selling feature.

Escape This Podcast

In these episodes we try to solve an audio escape room scenario, complete with a set, characters, and puzzles:

If you’re into Escape This Podcast, down in the comments, Scott Weiss has offered to run one of his games inspired by the ETP format. We have a review of that as well.

Room Escape Divas

In these episodes we chat with the Room Escape Divas about the escape room industry:

Escape Rooms Gift Cards

There’s a good chance that your friendly neighborhood escape room business is hurting right now.

Many escape room companies have shifted to private bookings, so if you’re going with people that you would otherwise remain confined with at home, it’s certainly safer than going to a movie theater.

If you’re not looking to play now, it’s a kindness to pre-purchase your eventual games. A lot of escape room companies could really use the cash flow.

Holiday Buyer’s Guides

We have a few years’ worth of Holiday Buyer’s Guides. We put a year’s worth of research into each holiday buyer’s guide, something that we didn’t have time to do this week. You should check them out, and seriously consider purchasing a Hobbit Hole. It will complete you.

What’s On Our Quarantine Play List?

For the next few weeks we are shifting a lot more of our attention to reviewing play-at-home games and puzzles. We think that’s a healthier focus for the time being.

Come back tomorrow when we’ll share the list of things that we’ll be playing for the next few weeks. (Update: Check out Our Quarantine Tabletop Escape Room To Play List here.)

We will be welcoming your suggestions too!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Codex – The Reflection of Madness [Review]

Tentacle Time

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28,99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Codex’s approach to designing a Lovecraftian horror adventure in The Reflection of Madness was poetic. With a few pieces of Lovecraft’s deep lore and unusual aesthetic, they built an exciting and surprising world.

The escape game was fairly large, with delightful puzzles that felt at home in this strange universe.

In-game: A portal splitting open reality, a tenticle is vaguely visible beyond the gap.
Image via Codex

Codex built a cohesive experience through neat puzzle artifacts, which we adored. While we enjoyed The Reflection of Madness immensely, there were a few details that felt unfinished, including the conclusion.

Codex is one of Montreal’s must-play companies, and in our opinion, The Reflection of Madness is their premier game. Go play it. The horror isn’t overly intense, so long as you’re ok with the idea of battling evil elder gods from the deep.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Lovecraft fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Fantastic flow and progression
  • Wonderful set design and art direction
  • Incredible, thematic interactions

Story

Our team had been dispatched to a magical dimension. An occultist professor’s work had ripped a breach into the fabric of reality and it threatened to consume not only that dimension, but all others.

In-game: A large tenticle coming from the ceiling of a study.
Image via Codex

Setting

Codex used a large amount of space to create The Reflection of Madness. They were also clever in how they used it.

What began as a fairly mundane, study-like environment spiraled out into wonderful Lovecraftian madness.

In-game: Wide view of a study.
Image via Codex

Gameplay

Codex’s The Reflection of Madness was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: closeup of a globe in a study.
Image via Codex

Analysis

➕ Whereas at first glance The Reflection of Madness looked competent but banal, as the escape game progressed, revealing Codex’s vision, the intentionality became clear. Each set was decorated completely, from floor to ceiling. As we transitioned through the game, we moved into increasingly chaotic sets that added intrigue and punctuated the story. The final set was especially outrageous.

➕ The gameplay in The Reflection of Madness can be summed up by the phrase “neat puzzle artifacts.” In each act, the gameplay revolved around unique props that we manipulated to unusual ends. These were fascinating, fun, and tactile. The solves were immensely satisfying.

➖ There was room to optimize a few of the puzzles with small tweaks. One process puzzle – built into a neat puzzle artifact – needed additional intermittent feedback. We almost abandoned the correct idea before seeing it through to the solve. Another neat puzzle artifact was located such that it was challenging for the entire team to engage with it. Since it had appeal even to onlookers, it would have been even more exciting if everyone could have been on the same wavelength.

➖ The game’s biggest reveal needed to better mask the technology that was doing the heavy lifting.

➕ Momentum built throughout The Reflection of Madness. From the major reveal, on through the next discovery and the scenic twists, the energy level only intensified as we played.

➖ We wanted more from the conclusion. There was so much tension and it begged for a stronger resolution.

➕ The set and gameplay together supported the story of The Reflection of Madness. Players will appreciate the narrative arc whether or not they know the Lovecraftian lore of Cthulhu. Codex crafted this escape room with a level of cohesion that few can rival.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking in the back of the building near the entrance to the escape rooms.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Codex’s The Reflection of Madness, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codex comped our tickets for this game.