The Conundrum Box – Sleight of Hand [Review]

Is this your card?

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 8, 2020

Team size: 1-¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 90+ minutes

Price: individually $44.99 for this box (currently sold out); a monthly subscription is $29.99

REA Reaction

On account of RECON, it had been a long while since we sat down and played a proper boxed escape game. The Conundrum Box’s Sleight of Hand was a lovely way to get back onto the old puzzling bicycle.

Closeup ov Professor Conundrum's poster and wand.

This was the second game that we’ve played from The Conundrum Box. (Earlier we reviewed their Christmas Seasonal Escape Room Box, and we have quite a few more Conundrum Boxes on the shelf.) We were quite content playing this game. It was puzzle-centric with a lot of narrative prose. As a monthly subscription service, it met or beat all of our expectations in terms of puzzle quality, materials, and design.

There wasn’t anything that blew our minds, but that’s not what we expect from subscription games. That kind of gameplay comes from one-offs that usually take over a year to develop. A company like The Conundrum Box will crank out a dozen games in that time, and we respect their approach just as much. If you’re looking for a regular puzzle fix delivered right to your door, check them out.

This particular game is no longer available from The Conundrum Box, but we chose to review it to begin exploring this series.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid puzzle play and hint system for a subscription service
  • There was a lot of content crammed into the game
  • Clean execution: the materials weren’t fancy, but they didn’t feel especially homemade

Story

Sleight of Hand explored the tragic death of famed magician Professor Conundrum in 1922. He’d left a series of encoded instructions to unravel and follow in the event of his death. Our goal: communicate with the spirit of the passed magician. We’d been hired by his widow to do just that.

Box art for Sleight of Hand, depicting an empty magician's cape with a floating hat, wand, and cards as if an invisible spirit were holding them.
Continue reading “The Conundrum Box – Sleight of Hand [Review]”

A New Guinness World Record! The Most Escape Rooms in 24 Hours is now 25 [Interview]

On October 4, 2020, the Belgian team of Rob Van Esser, Liese Luijten, Pieterjan Uytterhoeven, and Kobe Heleven broke the Guinness World Record for “Most Escape Rooms Played in 24 Hours.” They set this record in their home country visiting games in Ghent, Aalst, and Dendermonde.

We interviewed them about their world record experience.

For more details about the record, requirements, and the team, read our pre-attempt interview.

Before we dive in, I want to point out that we have corrected the pre-attempt interview, which we published with a fundamental misunderstanding about one rule from Guinness (that we’d misunderstood for 2 years). The escape room companies can open up at special times for the record attempting team. The misconception has its own story for another day.

Post-Record Interview

REA: Did you break the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms played in one day?

Yes, we planned on just breaking the record of 22 rooms by playing 23, but we managed to make it to 25 escape rooms played in 24 hours!

The team surroundd by confetti,  celebrating their record breaking game.

REA: What was your win/ loss rate?

100% – we escaped all the rooms. Some were a bit close, but we still escaped. 😂

REA: Which 25 games did you play and what were your times in each?

1De Kelder – Escape Room De Kelder59 min 44 sec
2Red Alert – Lockdown Gent36 min 0 sec
3Room 7 – Lockdown Gent35 min 4 sec
4Secret Chocolate Factory – Puzzle Gent47 min 19 sec
5Escape the Freakshow – Cube Zero Gent21 min 0 sec
6Escape the Asylum – Cube Zero Gent50 min 0 sec
7Find the Alterpiece – Cube Zero Gent24min 57 sec
8Nuclear Meltdown  – Cube Zero Gent28 min 38 sec
9Escape Wonderland – Cube Zero Gent47 min 43 sec
10Maria’s Little Secret – Opslot Gent49 min 40 sec
11Alcatraz – Exit Games Gent40 min 25 sec
12The Great Detectives – Exit Games Gent 53 min 2 sec
13The Lab – Exit Games Gent37 min 5 sec
14Chicken Run – Chicken run37 min 0 sec
15Klopjacht Op Jan De Lichte – Puzzle Aalst37 min 23 sec
16Speakeasy – The Grand Escape Aalst43 min 43 sec
17The Road of the Damned – Cube Ten Aalst32 min 56 sec
18The Alchemyst – Cube Ten Aalst53 min 07 sec
19The Hidden Gallery – Cube Ten Aalst30 min 39 sec
20Secret Agent – Hintlabyrinth Dendermonde55 min 33 sec
21Mad Scientist – Hintlabyrinth Dendermonde55 min 41 sec
22Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Hintlabyrinth Dendermonde44 min 02 sec
23De Legende Van Het Ros Beiaard – Hintlabyrinth Dendermonde35 min 21 sec
24Game of Stones – Hintlabyrinth Dendermonde58 min 51 sec
25In Flanders Fields – Atrium Mortis Escape Room Lebbeke57 min 7 sec

REA: What were your team or individual high points?

Rob was very good at searching in the rooms. He also tried to make the entire room logical by telling us ahead of time what he thought would be needed for what in the room.

PJ was very good at puzzle solving and also with long texts. He kept the overview, which made him a very good team player.

Liese was always the one who kept the overview with the goal and the theme of the rooms. She helped us to remember the exact meaning of objects in the rooms, which made her a very valuable player when everyone would lose a bit of context while playing.

Lastly, Kobe was very fast with solving logical and mathematical puzzles, which made him also contribute a decent part to the team. He also delegated the team to solve puzzles.

The team in front of a banner with their sponsor's logos.

REA: What were your team or individual low points?

We worked so well as a team that day. There were very few low points both as a team and individually. Everyone got a bit tired and angry during the night, but that’s more than normal when playing 25 escape rooms in one day. 🙂

REA: Who was the MVP?

In our team there was no most valuable player. We each contributed complementary qualities, which made us strong, leading to a top team! If we ever play a world record again, it would be with the same team! 😉

But if we have to pick one MVP, it would be Michiel De Foer, our time manager. He played an enormous role in making this record happen and taking care of everything else while we were playing in the rooms.

REA: What were your favorite games?

We played so many games, each with its charms and qualities. If we each had to choose one individually, Game of Stones, De Klopjacht op Jan De Lichte, In Flanders Fields, and Nuclear Meltdown were very nice and original rooms.

REA: Were there any particularly interesting or unusual games that you found especially different, even if you didn’t necessarily love them?

I think Chicken Run was a very original theme. It also surprised us with the amount of extras included in the room while playing. Also Red Alert was a room full of original puzzles just as Maria’s Little Secret was a very appropriate room because it was a student house room, which made it very likely for some of us! Also Exit Games Gent had games with goals other than escaping, which was also special!

REA: What was the unplanned or unexpected drama?

Making sure all GoPro’s were charged, filming, and ready for the next room was a bigger challenge than we’d expected. It is definitely a big task to make sure everything was working as planned! For the rest, everything went very well as planned, logistically.

REA: What was it like playing with those GoPro cameras strapped to you?

It was a bit weird because we used to never film in escape rooms. Also toilet stops were a bit awkward, but it was a funny experience.

REA: Is there any chance that we can edit together a blooper or highlight reel from this footage?

Yes, we can send the videos we made if you want to make something!

REA: How did you feel at the end of the attempt?

Very satisfied. It was an honor to put together this event with this decent organizing and playing team and we’re very happy with the record!

REA: Do you still like escape rooms?

How dare you ask 😉

OF COURSE!

REA: Do you still like each other?

Even more now.

REA: What advice do you have for anyone else thinking about setting a world record in escape rooms?

Be prepared, don’t worry, and enjoy each moment!

Tomorrow’s Escape Room World Record: An Interview with the Belgian Challengers

It has been 2 years since the Guinness World Record for “Most Escape Rooms Played in 24 Hours” was set. Tomorrow a new team will challenge that record.

We’ll start with a little background on this record. Then we’ll share our interview with the challengers who are attempting to break the record in their home country of Belgium.

A Little History

In October 2018, Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris set the current world record for most escape rooms played in 24 hours while on a trip to Moscow, Russia. Their number to beat is 22 games played!

You can read our pre & post interviews with them from 2018.

This was the first escape room record of any sort set with Guinness. Bragg, Egnor, Ulin, and Harris never expected this record to last forever, and are rooting for the Belgians this weekend.

Guinness’ Most Escape Rooms Played in 24 Hours Requirements:

  • Each game needs a game clock of at least 30 minutes.
  • The team needs to earn at least a 50% success rate.
  • All team members must be active for the full duration of all games, or until the team escapes.
  • Body cam footage and independent witnesses are required for the entire 24 hours (including while taking breaks, going to the bathroom, and traveling between venues.)
  • Travel is only permitted on foot, by public transport, or by taxi. Private cars are forbidden.

An Interview With the Challengers

With the background out of the way, let’s introduce you to Kobe Heleven, speaking on behalf of his team:

REA: Who is the team? Please introduce yourselves as escape room players.

Heleven: Our team consists of 4 extreme escape room fanatics: Rob Van Esser, Liese Luijten, Pieterjan Uytterhoeven, and myself, Kobe Heleven.

We started all playing escape rooms around 2016-2017 when they were introduced in Belgium. It started as a hobby, but things got out of hand pretty quickly. In 2018, Liese, Pieterjan, and I started working as gamemasters in an escape room in Leuven. That’s also where we met. We quickly became friends and enjoyed working, but also playing escape rooms together. In 2019, I co-organized and invented the first Belgian Escape Room Championship where Liese and Pieterjan came to play.

At the end of 2019, Rob and I started our own company, Loconsilio Game Design. We think out concepts for escape rooms. These concepts consist of ready-made rooms, directly placeable in an escape room location, and also concepts for pop-up rooms for events or occasions. We also create online games and custom escape rooms made according to the wishes of the customer.

Liese and Pieterjan started their own company, called PiliPili Games. Pilipili Games is a young start-up from Leuven that enters the field of gamification and game-based learning with offline and online games. Learning by playing and learning something while playing has a groundbreaking and threshold-lowering effect.

In this way, we’re all active in the recreational as well as business part of escape rooms.

The team at Cube Zero

REA: Prior to this record attempt, have you played lots of escape room marathons together?

Heleven: Yes, we organized several training sessions to test ourselves as a team and to mentally prepare ourselves for the world record. These training sessions took place in Brussels, where we played several escape rooms in a row. In this way we could get used to the long serial of escape rooms in the marathon for the world record. Also here we tracked our average time of 44:30 per escape room, which was a good indication for our time-management on ‘D-day’.

You can play many rooms in one day to get prepared, but in the end, you just have to give everything of yourselves on that one day, the day of the world record attempt. That’s also why we didn’t plan too many rooms in a row to train, but focused more on getting in tune with each other.

REA: Prior to this record attempt, what’s the most escape rooms you’ve played in one day?

Heleven: Before this world record attempt, we’ve played 4-5 escape rooms in a single day. After these serials, we were still okay in our heads and hearts, as well as we’d started to prepare ourselves for the long serial of escape rooms on the day of the attempt for the world record. One thing we know for sure: it will be a tough day both physically and mentally, but we’re ready!

REA: It’s exciting to see a new team attempt to break the current record of 22 games in 24 hours. How many are you striving to play?

Heleven: We arranged 24 rooms, just to be sure, but believe me when I say we’re just trying to break the record of 22 rooms. I think that will be a big challenge already. We optimized our time schedule and route for the 23 rooms. Any additional rooms are nice to have, but the goal will definitely be to play 23 rooms.

REA: When the first record was set, the requirements were very stringent (and a little strange.) Has Guinness changed any of the restrictions from the previous record?

Heleven: None of the rules have changed. Each rule might seem a bit strange, but they all serve to make every attempt, and thus any possible new record, as honest and fair as possible. We will follow all the guidelines in our quest to obtain the official title of Guinness World Record.

Each of the rooms we will play is 60 minutes. Body cam footage is arranged. We will follow the restrictions for how to travel from public escape room to public escape room.

And yes, we are lucky that the escape room owners of the rooms we will play at night are just as crazy about escape rooms as we are.

REA: When will you be making your record attempt?

Heleven: We will start on Saturday October 3 at 7:00 AM local time (1:00 AM for anyone following from New York), and play until 7:00 AM the following day, Sunday, October 4. This 24-hour trip will be a tough one, but definitely worth it!

REA: You have booked 24 games at 11 companies in 3 Belgian cities: Gent, Aalst, and Dendermonde. Why have you selected this region and these companies? 

Heleven: This is because everything comes down to time management. These rooms were all close to each other in this neighborhood. (Escape room density was the highest here.) The selection of the rooms and locations also included the time of the rooms and number of rooms per location.

Of note, Alcatraz 1 & 2 is only one game. The name is just written like this. That’s why we chose to note it on our schedule as we did, to avoid misinterpretations.

The team at Escape Hunt

REA: Based on our rough Google Maps research, your journey spans a little more than 50km (31 miles) and will require approximately an hour in transit by car. How are you planning to get from company to company?

Heleven: We will travel by foot, bike and taxi.

REA: Do you have any strategy in mind for how to approach individual games or the entire endeavor?

Heleven: We will play and have fun like we always do. In short: stay focused, sleep well in the days before the attempt, stay calm, and most importantly, enjoy the entire day!

REA: What are you most nervous about?

Heleven: In the last few days leading up to the event, we are very nervous just arranging all the last things to make everything work smoothly. Keeping everyone up to date is a task at least as big as the day itself. 

REA: What are you most excited about?

Heleven: We’re very excited just about the rooms that we will play. They are all rooms we’re really looking forward to. This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we’ve looked forward to it for months! Also after our video call with the current record holders where we exchanged lots of thoughts and they shared experiences and tips, we’re even more excited!

World Record attempt logo.

REA: How can we and excited Room Escape Artist readers follow your progress?

Heleven: Everything about our journey will be updated by a live-feed on our Instagram and Facebook! Before and after each room we play, updates will be posted on these social media channels.

You can reach us here:

To The People Who Enable All This Madness

Room Escape Artist has a long and distinguished history of being bad at business. We have always been slow to ask for money or charge for much of anything… but almost two years ago we launched a Patreon because enough of our readers told us we that were silly for not having done so already. And we are so thankful to you for persuading us.

This month we triggered the $1,000 per month goal that we had created (and then forgot about) when we formed the Patreon:

“When we reach our goal of $1,000 per month, we will share the names of all our backers in at least one blog post a month to thank you publicly for your generous support.”

REA $1,000 Per Month Goal
Lisa & David dressed for a night out, in front of Zoom.
(The only time we dressed up nicely in 2020)

Lisa and I were so pleasantly surprised to hit this goal, especially in the current economy. We’ve had a lot of supporters have to withdraw because their finances couldn’t justify it this year, and we totally understand that. And at the same time, we’ve been amazed that we have picked up much more support than we lost.

Each and every supporter means so much to us. I’ve long wanted to make REA my job, and these folks are helping me inch my way there, step by step by step. We do this because we love it. But, in truth, the folks who help us financially do so much to take the pressure off – whether it is directly through Patreon, by attending our Escape Immerse Explore Tours (both 2020 tours were postponed to 2021 – details will be available soon) or Virtual Escape Jams (the RECON Virtual Escape Jam was a success and we have another one coming soon!), or by supporting indirectly by clicking into Amazon through any of the links on REA.

We’re working on a dream here, and we have so much appreciation for the people who are helping us make that a reality:

Adwords Blackhat
Amanda Harris
Andrew Sturridge
Anne Lukeman
Anonymous
Ben Rosner
Bill Chang
Breakout Games
Brett Kuehner
Brian Resler
C.J. Smith
Cara Mandel
Chris Cannon
Chris M. Dickson
Chris White
Crystal Farr
Daniel Egnor
Darren Miller
David Longley
Derek Tam
Drew Nelson
Elaine
Eric Mittler
Game On
Greg Marinelli
Greg Schneider
Jim of PARADOXsquared
John Wardrope
Jon Kaufthal
Joseph Allen
Joseph Friesen
Joseph Messteri
Josh Kendrick
Justin Nevins
Kathryn
Kevin
Lee-Fay Low
Lonnie
Marisa Capobianco
Mark Blume
Mark Denine
Matt Keyser
Michael Wolman
Mihir Kedia
Nathan Walton
Neda Delavarpour
Negina Kolesar
Nick Moran
Nick Rose
No Proscenium
Omer Aru
Patrick McLean
Patrick McNamara
Paul Tashima
Paula Swann
Philip Ho
Rebecca Horste
Rene Sorette
Rex Miller
Rich Bragg
Richard Burns
Rob Tsuk
Ryan Brady
Ryan Hart
S T Cameron
Samantha Koehler
Sara Reed
Scott Olson
Sean McBride
Seth Wolfson
Stephanie McNeill
Steven Valdez
Stuart Bogaty
Stuart Nafey
Tahlia Kirk
Tammy McLeod
Terry Pettigrew-Rolapp
The Wild Optimists
Theresa Piazza
Theresa Wagner
Tiffany Schaefer
Todd
Todd McClary
Tommy
Victor van Doorn
Vivien Ripoll
YouEscape

Thank you!

ThinkFun – Escape The Room: The Cursed Dollhouse [Review]

Come play with us…

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 15, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 2-3 hours

Price: about $43

REA Reaction

We’ve heard whispers for years about Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta’s followup to their original two Escape The Room games published by ThinkFun (Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor & Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat). We had heard tales of a dollhouse built from the game box, creating the feeling of an actual escape room on your table.

Those rumors were true.

Closeup of the assembled dollhouse.

Playing Escape The Room: The Cursed Dollhouse felt a lot like playing an escape room on our table. We did a proper turn-down search in each room of the dollhouse – the first time we’ve searched like that since the beginning of March… and that felt damn good.

The puzzles in The Cursed Dollhouse played well. They were approachable, but noticeably more challenging than in ThinkFun’s previous two games. We enjoyed playing through almost all of this game, with the exception of a late-game segment that felt like a bit of a grind.

Overall, this was a premium product. It delivered the kind of experience we would have expected from a high-end boutique tabletop puzzle game company, not a mass market product, buyable off of a store shelf or Amazon. Thinking about it… it’s crazy that this product was manufactured with this level of care, and for that, our hats are off to the folks at ThinkFun.

We recommend you buy this thing. It’s novel, fun, and feels like an actual escape room in a box.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Prop collectors
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Strong and crafty puzzle content
  • You build a dollhouse out of the game’s packaging

Story

Everyone in the neighborhood remembered Old Man Garrity being a good guy, but ever since his daughter disappeared, he had withdrawn from the community.

Recently people had been hearing strange noises coming from the shed in Garrity’s backyard. We decided to break in… and found a dollhouse?

The Cursed Dollhouse box art depicting a creepy doll peering through the cracked wall of a dollhouse.
Continue reading “ThinkFun – Escape The Room: The Cursed Dollhouse [Review]”