My Escape Club – Judgment Day [Review]

“Come with me if you want to live.”

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 6, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €22-40 per person depending upon team size

Story & setting

It was 2029 and humanity was losing a war to the machines. We were sent back in time about 10 years to end the threat before it was born.

Staged as a covert raid of a military complex, Judgment Day felt like a bunker. With all the concrete and metal, the set was plenty convincing.

In game: A metal and concrete bunker with a large computer terminal.

Puzzles

Judgment Day was a cinematic mission; all of the interactions told its story. As a byproduct, the room escape wasn’t particularly puzzley. We used deduction to determine next steps, which took effort, but there weren’t pure puzzles.

Standouts

My Escape Club made great use of the set throughout the escape room. The set created some fun and surprising moments.

There were some excellent big moments.

Judgment Day carried a consistent and cohesive narrative from start to finish.

There were a few interactions that were well designed to encourage teamwork between 2 or 3 people.

Shortcomings

Parts of Judgment Day bottlenecked, as there were interactions that only a couple of players could take on.

Judgment Day had a slow and subdued start.

Judgment Day was light on puzzles.

Should I play My Escape Club’s Judgment Day?

If you like your escape rooms to make you feel like the hero of your own movie, then this is exactly what The Governator ordered. Judgment Day was pure adventure with some deduction and lateral thinking.

If you’re looking for a puzzle-driven room escape, this is not the droid you’re looking for.

Regardless of experience level, if this type of adventure sounds appealing to you, then you should suit up to take down the machines.

Book your hour with My Escape Club’s Judgment Day, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Rad Kwikset Key Blanks

An interesting key can make opening a mundane lock into something special. These three keys made by jeweler Erica Weiner are pretty damn nifty.

Three gold keys, one that looks like a middle finger, an all seeing eye, and a crescent moon.
These could also make for super creepy Airbnb door keys.

All three fit Kwikset (KW1) locks, which are probably the second most common door lock in the United States next to Schlage. These blanks could easily be cut by your local hardware store.

(via BoingBoing)

Komnata Quest – Heir To The Throne [Review]

When you play a game of thrones you win or you run out of time and mope.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Date played: June 19, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket on evenings and weekends, $28 per ticket on weekdays

Story & setting

Our great house had fallen to invaders and we found ourselves chained up in our own dungeon. We had to escape… and set things right.

In-game: A metal and brick dungeon wall.

Designed in clear homage to Game of Thrones, parts of Heir To The Throne pulled directly on George RR Martin’s fantasy world and most of it alluded to the source material. Komnata Quest sent us on a journey through a surprisingly expansive and generally compelling castle dungeon adventure.

Puzzles

As with many of Komnata Quest’s escape rooms, Heir To The Throne was an adventure experience. It was, however, decidedly more puzzley than most of their escape rooms.

The puzzles required more physicality than those in most escape rooms.

Standouts

The large set just kept going. We’ve gotten out of a lot of Komnata Quest’s room escapes pretty quickly and this one had three moments when we thought we were finished.

While some segments looked better than others, the set generally looked good, and some portions looked fantastic.

There were plenty of fun and unexpected interactions.

Shortcomings

For a portion of the game, our team was chained together. The restraints were cumbersome and uncomfortable with no safety releases. The mechanism that was used to release the restraints was equal parts interesting and cheesey… which is a strange statement that you’ll only understand after experiencing it.

Heir To The Throne had some questionable props and interactions from a safety standpoint.

I was expecting a more dramatic climax to the narrative.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Heir To The Throne?

Komnata Quest lives on the edge and Heir To The Throne is a prime example of their style of game design. It was an intense, unusual, adventure that was at times uncomfortable and a little unsafe.

If you struggle with mobility or do not feel comfortable being restrained, then you should skip Heir To The Throne.

If you’re a newbie or experienced escape room player looking to feel like you’re escaping from the dungeon of Winterfell, you’re probably going to have a pretty good time.

Not every decision made in Heir To The Throne was 100% sound, but that’s life in Westeros.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Heir To The Throne, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Questomatica – Wake Up!

I didn’t hit snooze for a change.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 7, 2017

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €85-120 per team depending upon size

Questomatica was formerly known as Claustrophobia in Amsterdam. 

Story & setting

We had to traverse the dreams of a young girl to help her wake up.

Set within the dream rendition of Matilda’s (not the famed character) bedroom, we had to puzzle through the strange challenges that her young mind could throw at us.

The set was compelling and cleanly constructed with an eye for the most minute of details.

In game: the bed and nightstand of a girl named "Matilda." Her name appears on the wall above her bed.

Puzzles

Tech-driven, with some of the finest implementations that I have encountered to date, the wear, seams, and sensors were shockingly well hidden.

There was a good variety of puzzles. They all made great use of the set, creating fun dream-like scenes that worked well within the game’s loose narrative.

Standouts

In tech-driven rooms, I frequently solve at least some of the puzzles by looking for wear, wiring, seams, or other flaws in construction. That was simply impossible in Wake Up! The construction was immaculate.

The dream narrative of the room escape was reinforced by many of the interactions throughout Wake Up!.

The lighting was well executed.

The final puzzle was substantial enough to engage our full team.

Shortcomings

There was a lack of feedback from some of the puzzles. In one instance we solved something and didn’t know that we had. Many of us kept returning to it to try and make it work. Stronger action / reaction for each individual puzzle would improve the experience.

The music got a bit repetitive and clashed with one of the puzzles.

Wake Up! had dramatic moments, but it lacked adventure.

Should I play Questomatica’s Wake Up!?

It’s rare to encounter an escape room that is so perfectly constructed and maintained. It’s so rare that this is literally the first time I’ve seen execution on this level in over 300 escape rooms. That in and of itself is a massive accomplishment.

Questomatica also did a wonderful job of telling an abstract story through the room’s interactions.

Wake Upis a great and approachable game for players of all skill levels, so long as you have the ability to crawl from time to time.

It’s not the most intense, adventurous, or puzzley game, but it more than makes up for that with wonderful technology and the cleanest execution that I have seen to date.

Book your hour with Questomatica’s Wake Up!, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Questomatica provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Adventures WNY – Escape from The Raven’s Room [Review]

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Location: North Tonawanda, NY

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22.50 per ticket

Story & setting

It was 1849 and Edgar Allan Poe had just passed away. We snuck into his home to pay our respects and found ourselves locked in his office. Could we escape his final project and puzzle our way to freedom, or remain trapped forever more?

Staged within Poe’s office, the set was simple yet elegant.

In-game; A writing desk set in front of a fireplace.

Puzzles

The puzzling was a series of ciphers and literary references-turned-puzzles, all of which were more than at home in a Poe-themed room escape.

Standouts

Escape Room Adventures WNY did a beautiful job of translating a number of Poe references into puzzles. One early interaction was exceptionally inventive.

The ending was similarly brilliant.

Shortcomings

There was a run of tedious puzzles in the middle of Escape from The Raven’s Room that did not live up to the excitement and innovation of the early- and late-game interactions.

There were too many locks with similar digit structures. This made it occasionally difficult to tell which answers went where.

Should I play Escape Room Adventures WNY’s Escape from The Raven’s Room?

Escape from The Raven’s Room had some of the most elegant literary references-turned-puzzles that I’ve seen to date. There were some brilliant moments within this escape room that I absolutely loved.

That said, Escape from The Raven’s Room also felt incomplete. It left me wanting more of the magnificent literature-inspired puzzling that I know Escape Room Adventures WNY is capable of creating.

If you like Poe’s work, it’s absolutely worth giving Escape from The Raven’s Room a playthrough, regardless of your skill level.

If you aren’t familiar with Poe, you’ll still be able to appreciate some of Escape Room Adventures WNY’s design decisions, but you will miss things.

If Escape Room WNY were to bring the middle section of Escape from The Raven’s Room up to the level of the opening and closing, it would be a truly magnificent experience. I hope that they do it.

Book your hour with Escape Room Adventures WNY’s Escape from The Raven’s Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Adventures WNY comped our tickets for this game.

 

In & Of Itself [Review]

Profound magic.

Location: New York City, New York

Date played: April 20, 2017

Team size: Book individually, it’s theater

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: $53-148 per ticket, depending on seats

Story & setup

Over the course of 75 minutes, closeup magician Derek DelGaudio used storytelling and magical performance to take us on a journey exploring the nature of identity: his as well as our own.

The show was produced by Neil Patrick Harris (yes, that one) and directed by Frank Oz (as in Yoda, Frank Oz). While it was absolutely a magic performance, In & Of Itself was about our collective attempt at building identity and finding meaning in life.

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

Interaction

While this was largely a magic and storytelling performance where the audience sat in the seats and the performer resided on stage, every audience member made at least two decisions that affected the show. A few people played far more in-depth roles in the performance.

Standouts

Derek DelGaudio’s performance was calmly magnificent.

The storytelling and idea exploration ran cohesively through the entirety of In & Of Itself.

DelGaudio used magic not for its own sake or for spectacle; he used it to make points, advance his story, and instill feelings into his audience.

Shortcomings

A few audience volunteers play critical roles in each performance of In & Of Itself. Your mileage will vary depending upon the chance encounters of who ends up on stage. In our show, these audience participants were not particularly engaging. Under different circumstances, however, I could easily imagine these show segments being among the most moving moments of the performance.

Should I visit In & Of Itself?

I love magical performance, but I rarely enjoy it for its own sake. Magic is a powerful tool for telling stories, underscoring points, and engaging an audience in dynamic ways. Derek DelGaudio did this so beautifully. His performance was refined and executed perfectly. It moved us.

As we walked out of the theater and onto the streets of New York City, we wandered with purpose, contemplating what we had seen and seeking to satisfy a curiosity that DelGaudio had instilled in us… He didn’t let us down. We’re still reflecting on what we saw and we’re thrilled that we had the opportunity.

In & Of Itself has been extended through September 3, 2017 and you should seize the opportunity to see it before it vanishes.

Book your showing of In & Of Itself, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Escape the Estate – The Playwright [Review]

Something’s missing.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: April 29, 2017

Team size: up to 8-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23-28 per ticket

Story & setting

Opening night had arrived, but the script was missing. We needed to search the playwright’s room in order to find the script and alleviate the superstitions of the show’s cast.

The Playwright had an old-timey, lived-in hotel room vibe. More than any other room escape at Escape the Estate, The Playwright felt at home within the backdrop of the Hotel Whitmore.

In-game: An old typewriter atop a desk in an old hotel room.

Puzzles

The Playwright was puzzle-driven. Some of the puzzles felt brilliant and refined. Others didn’t seem quite finished.

Standouts

The Playwright had a number of wonderful mechanical interactions that surprised and delighted us.

Susan, our gamemaster, was a wonderful and unobtrusive in-game actor. I was particularly fond of the quirky and subtle way that she would indicate when we were on the right track for any puzzles where we were a bit unsure of what the room escape wanted from us.

Shortcomings

Segments of The Playwright’s set had strange gaps and clear construction flaws. They didn’t seem like they should have been there, as they were neither part of the puzzling, nor the ambiance.

Some of the puzzles were missing clue structure and required logic leaps, or in one instance, unapologetic trial and error.

The Playwright lacked drama.

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Playwright?

The Playwright was a puzzley escape room with some great mechanical moments, but it needed more drama written into it.

I never really felt any stakes in this experience. At one point, I found myself wondering why: “If this is opening night, why doesn’t everyone have a copy of the script?” Or, “It’s opening night, why doesn’t everyone know their lines?”

This lack of drama was systemic throughout the gameplay, which didn’t build towards anything.

Beginners will likely find The Playwright a strong challenge, as we were able to make a few of the logic leaps by virtue of understanding how escape rooms work.

Experienced players will likely find some of aspects of The Playwright underwhelming or simply wish for more polish.

There were great moments within this room escape, but this show was well past opening night and the script felt unfinished.

Book your hour with Escape the Estate’s The Playwright, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

 

Scout Expedition Co. – The Nest [Review]

So many feels.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

Team size: 1-2; we recommend 1-2 (see below)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $65 per ticket

Story & setting

As the next of kin for a recently deceased relative that we’ve never met, we were given access to her long-lost storage unit.

Staged within a beautiful and dark storage unit, we explored the life of this stranger. We got to know her through her personal effects and her audio recordings on cassette tapes that narrated most important moments of her life.

In-game: A close up of an old portable cassette player with a tape that is labeled in a child's handwriting: "My 12th Birthday"

Puzzles

The Nest used a variation of the escape room format to tell an intimate and moving story. There were puzzles within this experience, but it was not a puzzle game.

The puzzles were easy obstacles that served as gates between chapters of the story. The puzzles weren’t the point of The Nest.

A row of lockers. The closest locker has the words "Goodby Josie" painted on it and is sealed with a combination lock.

Standouts

The story was painfully moving.

The set was gorgeous and brilliantly designed.

In-game: a closeup of a flashlight illuminating a crumpled piece of paper that appear to be notes from a journalism class.

The puzzles served as clever gates that also made sense within the narrative.

The voice acting on the cassette tapes was magnificent.

Shortcomings

The darkness added to the atmosphere, but necessitated carrying around a handheld flashlight along with the cassette player. This was clunky and distracting.

The flashlight was in bad shape and frequently flickered out on us.

Should I visit Scout Expedition Co.’s The Nest?

Lisa and I emerged from The Nest and couldn’t bring ourselves to speak about what we heard, saw, and felt for hours. The Nest wasn’t a puzzle game and it wasn’t an adventure: it was a journey through another person’s tragedy.

It was powerful and beautiful.

If you approach The Nest as a game to win, you will completely miss the point. Don’t look for clues or meaning in the props as you would in an escape room. The puzzling simply leads you through the experience. You aren’t at risk of losing.

The Nest is incredible, but it’s not for everyone. The content is mature, not in a violent or sexual way, but because it’s emotionally heavy. It’s also an experience that requires some crawling, so if you aren’t up to that, don’t buy a ticket.

Additionally, when you buy a ticket you can choose to go alone or with another person. Both options are viable, but will profoundly change the experience. I have to imagine that a solo experience would be haunting and intense and maybe a little cumbersome when dealing with the flashlight and cassette player. I was happy to experience The Nest with Lisa, but she is the only person that I know with whom I would have wanted to feel those feels.

The Nest left me feeling exposed and I am so happy that I was there. Tickets are limited, but if you can get your hands on one, take as much out of it as you can.

The next wave of tickets go on sale on June 18th at 12pm Pacific.

Book your visit to Scout Expedition Co.’s The Nest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Escape Room Netherlands – Girl’s Room

Brace yourself for this one…

Location: Bunschoten-Spakenburg, The Netherlands

Date played: May 8, 2017

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €119 per team depending upon size

Story & setting

Not for the faint of heart, Girl’s Room was a magnificent horror / thriller escape room. Aesthetically, the set was nearly flawless in a dark, twisted, and dirty sort of way.

You should probably just watch the video:

Puzzles

The puzzles in Girl’s Room were tech-driven and tied to the narrative (sometimes directly, other times in more abstract ways).

There was plenty to puzzle through. It felt like the game delighted in initially making things seem tantalizingly attainable, only to throw a wrench into the gameplay with evil twists in the puzzle mechanics.

Standouts

Girl’s Room contained some of the most memorable moments that I’ve had in a room escape.

In-game: The Girl's Room with a bed, a baby carriage, a dollhouse, a magnificent chandelier, and a cage.

The set. The level of detail in Girl’s Room was insane. There was a gigantic set piece in the middle of this game that really didn’t need to be there at all, but they put it there and integrated it into the experience. It was amazing.

The tech was well embedded and used to powerful effect.

The story, horror, and thriller elements were incredibly well executed. When the game wanted us on edge, we were on edge.

Escape Room Netherlands’ lobby was awesome.

Shortcomings

Some of the jump scares were really effective, but as Girl’s Room progressed, many of the late-game scares felt annoying and unnecessary. (Find more information on jump scares in room escapes).

I think that the final puzzle may have been a little buggy. It was still solvable, but it got tedious.

The hinting wasn’t tailored to a team’s specific experience. This was a major issue for Lisa’s team (who played after my team). When they were stuck on an early puzzle that maybe should have had more clear cluing, the hints only delivered information they already knew, apparently unaware of the team’s actual misinterpretation of the puzzle. For Lisa’s team, this soured what was an otherwise brilliant room escape.

Should I play Escape Room Netherlands’ Girl’s Room?

Girl’s Room was exceptional. It was frightening, well built and brilliantly designed. It still managed to include a strong puzzling component.

It’s not an escape room for people who struggle with mobility or are averse to horror.

I also do not recommend that brand new escape room players take on Girl’s Room. It’s a profoundly special game, but it is also intense and difficult. So many of the things that make it incredible will be completely lost on a newbie.

Located about 50km outside of Amsterdam, Escape Room Netherlands is challenging to get to. If you’re seeking a truly special thrill, however, it is absolutely worth the trip.

Book your hour with Escape Room Netherlands’ Girl’s Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Logic Locks – Eliza’s Heart [Review]

Blurred reality.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 7, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 63 minutes

Price: €19,50 – 39,50 per person depending upon team size

Story & setting

The descendants of Elizabeth van Leeuwenhart, the renowned 19th century Dutch world adventurer, have opened her private study up to the public for 63 minutes at a time. Could we be the first to find her unimaginably valuable gold necklace, the “Lionheart?”

Logic Locks created a creepy atmosphere that felt strangely believable. From the character of Elizabeth van Leeuwenhart, to the Willy Wonka-esque gamemaster, to the set itself, the scenario felt bizarrely real.

In game: A room corner with a large leather chair, a globe, and artifacts from around the world.

Puzzles

Puzzle-driven, Eliza’s Heart felt like a traditional escape room. What made these puzzles stand out was Logic Locks’ prop selection. Everything felt like it belonged in this strange escape room.

Standouts

Logic Locks went to great lengths to make their character and story feel real. Going in, I knew that the experience was fiction, but I could feel my brain desperately wanting to accept everything I saw as truth.

The puzzling in Eliza’s Heart was strong and satisfying.

Logic Locks made brilliant use of Amsterdam’s most abundant resource: used bicycle chains.

Our creepy Willy Wonka-esque gamemaster took his time and sold the fiction. It was tough to tell if he was acting or was truly this strange individual.

Shortcomings

Some of the antique furniture and props were heavily worn. In one instance, we spent a long time failing to open an antique lock with the correct key because the mechanism was in rough shape.

While the puzzles were enjoyable, Eliza’s Heart would have been all the more impressive if each and every puzzle carried a little more narrative.

There was a puzzle that required outside knowledge. It left us wondering whether the knowledge that we needed to apply was from the current era or Elizabeth van Leeuwenhart’s era.

Should I play Logic Locks’ Eliza’s Heart?

Eliza’s Heart was a beautiful execution of the traditional escape room format. It was an analog puzzle game in an elegant set. The story was so compelling that I wanted to believe that it was true, even when I knew that it was fiction.

If you discovered escape rooms because you love adventure puzzling, then you will likely love Eliza’s Heart.

Beginners can play Eliza’s Heart, but they are going to have to communicate well, as this was not the most simple of escape rooms.

Experienced players will likely enjoy all of the detail, love, and careful attention to experience that Logic Locks poured into Eliza’s Heart.

Book your hour with Logic Locks’ Eliza’s Heart, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Logic Locks comped our tickets for this game.