Casa Loma Escape Series by Secret City Adventures – The Dragon’s Song [Review]

A Song of Puzzle & Dragons

Location: Toronto, Ontario Canada

Date Played: May 1, 2022

Team Size: 6-12; we recommend 6

Duration: 60 minutes, plus a 15-minute intro and 15-minute outro

Price: Wed/Thurs/Sun: $42 CAD per player; Fri/Sat: $50 CAD per player

Ticketing: Public

Accessibility Consideration:  Several narrow, spiral staircases were part of gameplay; players must also climb stairs to get to the game

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dragon’s Song took our team to new heights in a highly immersive, larger-than-life setting accompanied by a simple yet satisfying plot line. Held in the Scottish Tower of historic Casa Loma, this escape room is a must-play experience for history buffs, scenery snobs, and fans of immersive entertainment. The splendor was counterbalanced by some moments where the The Dragon’s Song leaned into its more mundane and repetitive elements rather than further amplifying its unique and spectacular assets, including some puzzles that stalled gameplay momentum. Despite these points, this escape room ultimately offers an experience you can’t get anywhere else, with something for both seasoned and newer players.

Closeup of a massive dragon's head.
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Green Light Escape Room – Brewery Heist [Review]

Indiana Jones and the Last Call

Location:  Wilmington, NC

Date Played: September 26, 2021

Team Size: 3; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: some ducking and crawling required of at least one player

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A modern-day prohibition had dried up our beer supply, and it was up to our intrepid team to break into the last remaining beer reserve and save ourselves from this horrific, beer-free existence. On this premise, the game delivered strongly, right from the beginning. The set offered immersive bar vibes with large, carefully crafted wooden set pieces that made me feel I was at an unpretentious local watering hole. The puzzles in the first part of the game contributed to this immersion, including one very satisfying solve about halfway through gameplay. The narrative gets a bit muddier, even confusing, as the story continues, but nonetheless continues to build immersion in the world it creates.

Overall, this game could benefit from some polish to the set and the decor, and refinement to a few puzzles, but in sum did deliver both fun and value for our group.

5 beer barrels stacked, each with their own wooden label identifying them.
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Expedition Escape – The List [Review]

Christmas in June

Location:  Montgomeryville, PA

Date Played: June 13, 2021

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It’s never too early to revel in some Christmas cheer. If you’re eagerly looking toward December and have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, The List is a good room for you.

Elf workshop with the back of a train caboose.

I would describe The List as a room that has a lot of potential, delivering a few cool moments while falling short in others. Minor refinements to the scenery and gameplay could go a long way to improving the overall experience. For those who haven’t played many (or any) games since early 2020, The List would be a great way to ease back in and brush up on your escape room skills.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas fans
  • Players with some experience
  • Strong searchers
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The Official SAW Escape [Review]

I played a game.

Location:  Las Vegas, NV

Date Played: October 24, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5 (both for practical reasons and so you can call yourselves the Fatal Five)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $49.99 per player for a public ticket; private VIP tickets available at other prices

Ticketing: Public, with private VIP ticketing available

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When I started playing room escapes nearly six years ago, non-players would ask “Oh, like the SAW movies?” (uh, no). To finally play an escape room that actually was inspired by SAW was surreal.

The Official SAW Escape Las Vegas logo depicting Jigsaw.
Image via Official SAW Escape

The Official SAW Escape bills itself as an immersive experience that “brings to life twisted games inspired by the blockbuster SAW film franchise.” It seriously delivered. Stepping inside felt like crossing over into Jigsaw’s depraved world.

The Official SAW Escape was a horror-themed escape room featuring traps and puzzles. Players must overcome these obstacles to advance to the next stage of gameplay. The wow factor of life-size props and gamespaces (several pulled directly from the SAW movies) made up for some of the clunky and frustrating puzzle interactions. 

If horror is your thing and you want to feel like you’ve walked onto a movie set, this is one you won’t want to miss. 

In-game: A person crawling through a crawlspace.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Who is this for?

  • Fans of the SAW Franchise
  • Horror game aficionados
  • Players who want to feel like they’re in a movie
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle or interaction
  • Players who aren’t disturbed by horror-themed effects
  • Players who don’t mind actors in the game space

Why play?

  • Impressive set design
  • Large-scale interactions
  • Life-size props and traps that you can interact with (many directly from the SAW movies)
  • The excitement
  • The tension

Story

We thought we were taking an exclusive, after-hours tour of the historic Egan & Co. meat packing plant, only to discover that we were actually pawns in one of Jigsaw’s elaborate games. We had to work together to navigate an abandoned factory full of traps before the clock ran out and we faced our demise.

In-game: The front gates of the experience. a brick wall with an imposing black metal gate.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Setting

The gamespace closely mirrored several spaces Jigsaw and his successors used in the Saw movies to conduct their mischief and mayhem. It was large, ominous, detailed and impressive.

The gamespace toned down the horror of the films by not employing restraints or locked doors/ spaces at any point in gameplay.

In-game: Two people looking into a caged area and some strange artifacts.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Gameplay

The Official SAW Escape was a highly immersive escape room with a moderate level of difficulty, exacerbated by the distractions of standard horror-themed special effects.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing details, making connections and interacting with large props. It was built in a railroad style. Teams moved through the rooms at timed intervals, whether or not they had solved all the puzzles. For fans of the Saw franchise, the flow will likely bring to mind one movie in particular.

In-game: A person in a cage bathed in green light grasping one of the bars.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Analysis

➕ The Official SAW Experience offered an interesting backstory and compelling first sequence of gameplay. These elements set a tone of confusion, frustration and eeriness that laid the foundation for the remainder of the experience.

➖ The puzzling was frustrating at times. It was sometimes challenging to find the thread of gameplay when entering a new room. On a couple of occasions, The Official SAW Escape could have benefited from stronger cluing instead of relying heavily on our team searching.

➕ The transition from the first stage of gameplay to the second stage was startling and well executed. I rarely use the word giddy, but the sequence made me giddy, and it was one of those moments I wish I could play again for the first time.

➖ There were moments where the gameplay seemed unfair. Some puzzles relied on remembering information from previous rooms, yet that information was no longer accessible after leaving those rooms. (The website did warn this was the case.)

➕ The gamespace was large, detailed and highly immersive. It felt like wandering onto one of the Saw movie sets. Many of the traps, props and gamespaces were the same as or similar to ones used in the movies, adding to the immersion.

➖ The gamespace expanded and contracted significantly at points, which created inconsistency in the number of players needed to be successful. Some rooms required a larger group; other rooms bottlenecked.

➕/➖ The experience can be solidly classified as horror; however, it didn’t capture the outright terror of the movies. Depending on personal preference, this may be a positive or a negative.

➖ While the game started strongly, it lost momentum in the middle. The ending managed to inject some of the fear back and created a sense of urgency, but didn’t match the thrill of the opening.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: There is a parking lot. Pay close attention to the street address.
  • ID: Valid identification is required to enter the room escape.
  • Age: The experience isn’t recommended for anyone under the age of 16, and parental supervision may be required. Check before you book if you have minors in your party.
  • Food: The Official SAW Escape is in a highly industrial area; Uber is your best bet for getting to the closest restaurants.
  • Nearby Major Casinos: Circus Circus is a three-minute drive, Stratosphere is a four-minute drive, and Sahara is a five-minute drive.

Book your hour with The Official SAW Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code ESCAPEARTIST to receive $10 off each ticket.

Exodus Escape Room – Sherlock’s Study [Review]

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

-Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Location: Anaheim, California

Date played: June 4, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Sherlock Holmes was kidnapped in the midst of an investigation and it was up to us to find him.

We played in a study/office setting that resembled many other escape rooms with similar themes. The room wasn’t the most exciting, but it was well constructed and hid a surprise or two.

In-game: A large wooden bookcase beside a red wall.

Puzzles

Sherlock’s Study included typical room escape-style puzzles, executed at varying degrees of difficulty but geared toward a beginner audience. Observation and searching skills were key. Puzzle flow was basic but solid, with some notable areas in need of refinement.

Standouts

There was one puzzle sequence that made excellent use of the set, leading to an unexpected reveal.

Another puzzle featured a small, easily-overlooked clue that those with keen eyes will find satisfying to solve.

Shortcomings

The puzzles in Sherlock’s Study relied heavily on paper props with lots of “whodunit” information printed on them. We became frustrated with multiple team members crowded around all these documents.

The study was predictably filled with books, which necessitated a lot of divide-and- conquer scavenging. One tedious puzzle could have benefited from clearer cluing.

One visually appealing clue lacked a clear connection to anything else. By the time we made the connection, we had already solved the puzzle, which negated the cool factor.

At one point, the use of space was a letdown after a grand reveal.

Should I play Exodus Escape Room’s Sherlock’s Study?

Sherlock’s Study was unapologetically a room for a beginner’s market; the folks at Exodus Escape Rooms were clear on this point.

Beginner players will encounter a solid experience with good puzzle flow that accurately represents room escapes. Experienced players will find exciting moments, but shouldn’t expect to be blown away at any point; Sherlock’s Study was decidedly for newer players.

Book your hour with Exodus Escape Room’s Sherlock’s Study, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.