Locked Amsterdam – The Liebermann Conspiracy [Review]

One fine art break-in.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: ranging from €23 per ticket to €41.50 per ticket depending on team size and weekday or evening/weekend

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

In The Liebermann Conspiracy we set out on a heist, explored elaborate technological interactions, and navigated through a diverse collection of elegant sets. We saw a lot of things we hadn’t seen before, and had a lot of fun, even when we more or less lost the narrative at the end of the game.

I’m glad that we played this one because we almost didn’t (read on to learn more about that). If you’re in Amsterdam and willing to take a short taxi ride, Locked Amsterdam is a really interesting place to play.

In game: a storage area with a ladder going up to the next floor.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Neat gadgets
  • The break-in moments

Story

Journalist Hugo Laanen was hiding after his encounter with the Russian secret service in Locked Amsterdam’s first escape room, The Submarine. While Laanen was maintaining a low profile, he learned of a global conspiracy by the Liebermann Group. Since he was in hiding, he had reached out to us to investigate on his behalf.

In game: a closeup of a server rack.

Setting

The Liebermann Conspiracy’s sets were especially diverse, each space looking nothing like the previous ones. We began in a raw, yet realistic storage area, and progressed from there.

Gameplay

Locked Amsterdam’s The Liebermann Conspiracy was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In game: a storage area with shelving covered in computer and cleaning equipment.

Analysis

+ We brought our tools with us to break in. And break in we did. These small details made for an exciting opening and supported the narrative.

+ The gamespace was composed of custom construction. This was impressive.

+ We were mesmerized by an in-game gadget and how Locked Amsterdam worked it into this escape room.

+ Locked Amsterdam turned a spatial constraint into an intense in-game moment.

+ We enjoyed many of the puzzles in this escape room.

– A flaw in a technological implementation allowed an observant player on our team to circumvent a major puzzle.

+/- We found three possible solutions to one puzzle. Locked Amsterdam didn’t mind that we hacked together something unintended – and we liked our other solutions better than the intended one – but we wished the intended solution had been less clunky.

– While it started out narratively strong, our sense of world broke down late in the game. The Liebermann Conspiracy evolved into an escape room with puzzles for puzzles’ sake, rather than a puzzle-driven adventure.

+ We traversed multiple sets. Each felt so different from the last. We especially loved one artistic late-game set. It was unexpected, but felt legit.

– The final gamespace felt plain and empty. This contributed to the scene feeling forced and out of place.

– The Liebermann Conspiracy lacked a climatic moment. Its best moments were early on and it didn’t build to a finale.

The Liebermann Conspiracy is a 90-minute escape room. While we did spend time waiting for various in-game tech in predominantly linear parts of the game, we didn’t have to feel time pressure because of this.

? Ok… Now for an uncomfortable subject. If we hadn’t enjoyed The Submarine on our last trip to Amsterdam, we would never have booked The Liebermann Conspiracy; we probably would have skipped Locked Amsterdam entirely. In our minds, the name seemed to imply a game related to an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. Rest assured that this escape room was not anti-Semitic. This was just a name with no stated deeper meaning. Your reaction to the name will likely vary based on whether or not you live in an area where you meet enough Jews to recognize Jewish names. All of that being said, a name change wouldn’t be the worst idea, because I am glad that we played this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • You’ll have to taxi or Uber from the city center.
  • At least one player needs to be able to climb a ladder and move swiftly.

Book your hour with Locked Amsterdam’s The Liebermann Conspiracy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Komnata Quest – Joker’s Cafe [Review]

“Hey kids! Joker here…”

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: June 18, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket on weekdays, $40 per ticket on evenings, $45 per ticket on weekends/holidays

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Joker’s Cafe was a creepy, but approachable escape room. Although neither the beginning nor the ending hit the mark, the majority of the gameplay was entertaining. The puzzles combined with set design, technology, and effects to deliver energetic solves.

In-game: The checkout counter at Jokers Cafe.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A lot of square footage for New York
  • Some strong puzzle moments and effects

Story

The Joker had been luring children into his cafe and using them for his experiments. Since “The Bat” was busy saving other people, our team of GCPD officers had been dispatched to the scene.

In-game: a small painting of a Joker labeled "J."

Setting

We started on a street corner outside the Joker’s Cafe looking to break into the bubblegum pink candy shop. This bright and eerily friendly setting evolved into someplace more sinister.

In-game: The cash register in Joker's Cafe.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest’s Joker’s Cafe was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large amount of popcorn.

Analysis

Jokers Cafe had a large footprint, especially when compared with most other New York City games.

– Komnata Quest had repurposed their former one-person lobby game, Mousetrap, as the opening sequence for Joker’s Cafe. Because this early puzzle structure didn’t engage a larger group, Joker’s Cafe had a lackluster beginning.

+/- Through detailed set design and misdirection, Komnata Quest created a few surprising opens. While we appreciated the concepts, we wished it telegraphed these less.

+ Joker’s Cafe successfully transitioned between different tones. It offered a peek ahead such that more jumpy players could become comfortable with the creepiness to come.

– Joker’s Cafe wasn’t particularly inspiring as a Batman or Joker game. It felt like Komnata Quest could have done a lot more with the theme.

+ Periodically, we’d see interesting puzzle design. One mid-game puzzle had elements that were interesting to combine.

+ Komnata Quest integrated an unusual device into the narrative as a puzzle. This came together soundly.

– In one segment, we searched through quite a bit of unnecessary material. It felt like maybe a puzzle thread had been removed from the game, because these props felt like unresolved puzzles, which led us off the path of gameplay.

Joker’s Cafe ended anticlimactically. There was a delay before a correct input registered, which left us wondering for just a bit too long whether we’d correctly solved the final puzzle.

– Komnata Quest has become really expensive. Joker’s Cafe was a really good game, but was it $40-$45 per player on evenings, weekends, and holidays good? I’m on the fence about that. New York has a lot of quality games for less money. These prices elevate expectations to heights that Komnata Quest hasn’t delivered.

Tips for Visiting

  • Accessible by the G subway and the East River ferry. Street parking only.
  • We recommend Paulie Gee’s for pizza and Ovenly for desserts.
  • Players need to be able to step over a relatively high barrier.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Joker’s Cafe, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Get Out of Here – The Diamond Heist [Review]

Tune up.

Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 7, 2018

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: ranging from €109 per group to €119 per group depending on team size and weekday or evening/weekend

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Diamond Heist’s design aesthetic and construction quality were world class. I’m struggling to think of another escape game that hid technology quite as well as The Diamond Heist. Additionally, Get Out of Here’s comic-booky, noir-esque voiceover narration delivered humor and story with incredible efficiency. The catch: cluing and gameflow were shaky at best and left a lot of room for guesswork and approximation.

The Diamond Heist is almost top tier, and with some game design iteration, I have no doubt that Get Out of Here could achieve true greatness.

If you’re in Utrecht, check this one out.

The escape room briefing area.

 

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A unique setting
  • Expertly hidden tech
  • Beautiful set design
  • Neat gadgets
  • Surprising reveals

Story

Big Harry and Little Charlie — brothers, business partners, and master thieves — had worked together for years without drama. Charlie, however, had grown to resent that his brother called all of the shots. Their last heist had scored the legendary Ephemeral Diamond and Harry wouldn’t even let Charlie see it… so Charlie had hired us to burglarize it from his big brother.

A clothing rack with hunter green jumpsuits.

Setting

Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist was set in an automotive garage. The large, detailed space was beautifully designed. It looked and felt real with all of the escape roomy puzzles, interactions, and technology hidden shockingly well.

In preparation for the mission, we were given jumpsuits.

Gameplay

Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections, a little physical activity, and puzzling.

Get Out of Here has two copies of this game, so it is possible to race through these games competitively.

Analysis

+ Get Out of Here’s custom construction was high quality. They built interesting set pieces into their large gamespace.

+ Much of The Diamond Heist was tech-driven. The tech build was high quality and seamlessly hidden. This contributed to our amazement at one particular reveal.

The Diamond Heist delivered a few badass reveals. These were incredible moments.

– The Diamond Heist lacked clue structure. Much of the gameplay was presented as interactions rather than puzzles. It became increasingly frustrating to interact with the space and to trigger the dramatic moments.

– At times, we felt like digging for clue structure was akin to pixel hunting. The puzzles and their components felt too small for the large gamespace.

+ We enjoyed one thematically appropriate puzzle that combined information from disparate sources into a substantial and satisfying team puzzle.

– One puzzle required highly precise color perception.

+ The comic book-esque voiceover felt like our inner monologue. The adventure narration delivered narrative progression. This was different and fun.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • At least a few players need some basic agility.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Don’t wear skirts or dresses as they will make it difficult to put on your jumpsuit.

Book your hour with Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Get out of Here comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room Zandvoort – The Gold Mine [Review]

Cave in.

Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €59 per group of 2 players to €119 per group of 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Gold Mine was at its best when we solved collaborative puzzles through interesting and tangible interactions. While we were frustrated by the lighting dynamic that persisted throughout the experience, we generally enjoyed the puzzles in this underground workspace.

If you are in Zandvoort, it’s worth stopping in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo of the team beside mining carts. David and Lisa are peaking out from behind a post.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who are comfortable in dim lighting

Why play?

  • Collaborative puzzles
  • Exciting conclusion
  • The post-game photos

Story

Almost 200 years ago, this Amazonian gold mine had collapsed. Now, however, a persistent archeologist had succeeded in reopening the mine. He believed there would be gold sitting undiscovered in its depths. Despite local superstitions warning us that the mine might not be safe, we ventured in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo with the team riding a mining cart like it's a rollercoaster.

Setting

The Gold Mine was dark and gritty. It felt like an underground workspace, complete with tight spaces and low doorways. We were glad to have helmets.

Gameplay

Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Post game green screen photo of the team in a mine about to detonate dynamite.

Analysis

+ As we solved the puzzles, we furthered our mission in the mine. We appreciated how the puzzles moved the narrative forward.

– Before we entered the mine, the “team leader” received a special helmet-mounted UV light. The rest of us entered with flashlights. While we never enjoy searching an entire space for UV cluing, we were particularly put off by the team dynamic created by the tool imbalance and the room lighting. David, who’d volunteered to lead our expedition, felt like he was constantly asking us all to turn off our lights, or shine them in a different direction. The rest of us felt we couldn’t play freely because we kept having to step aside for the UV searching.

+ The Gold Mine had a great transition.

– We didn’t always know when we’d solved a puzzle. The Gold Mine would benefit from spring-loaded releases or pointed lighting to signal opens.

+ There wasn’t a ton of light in this mine, but sometimes it gave us an interesting perspective.

+ We enjoyed the collaborative nature of the late-game puzzles.

– By the time we escaped, we’d had enough of the looping soundtrack.

+ Escape Room Zandvoort took fantastic postgame photos set against their green screen.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • There are adorable restaurants along the beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the escape room.
  • Do not wear nice clothing. You will get a bit dusty in this mine.
  • The helmets were necessary. Beware of the low doorway.

Book your hour with Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Zandvoort provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Real Life Gaming – Prison Escape (Exclusive English Edition) [Review]

80 actors, 170 players, 1 actual prison.

Location: Breda, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 10, 2018

Team size: up to 400 players; we recommend ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 3 hours

Price: €79.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Very public

REA Reaction

Prison Escape was no escape room; it was a massive and intense roleplaying game with 80 talented actors and a gigantic cast of players. Prison Escape was a living, breathing entity, an organism with systems that impacted one another. A disruption here trickled down to there.

From their extensive prison intake introduction, to the various escape conspiracies, Prison Escape was a factory that produced individual moments for its players to experience. Some of those moments were epic; others were dull snippets of prison life. They all came together to form a story arc for each player.

The planning, coordination, and care that went into Prison Escape was mind-boggling. When we stop to think about what they have achieved, it’s impossible to be anything but impressed.Lisa's Prison Escape mugshot in an orange jump suit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • LARPers or people who are willing to be social
  • Players who are comfortable knowing that they will not experience most of the things that this game has to offer

Why play?

  • Fairly open-ended gameplay where with some luck, you’ll get out of it what you put into it
  • Playing a prison escape game in an actual prison
  • The actors were phenomenal.
  • Prison Escape was truly massive in scope.

Story

We were all new convicts serving 10-year sentences in the Breda Prison Dome. We could either find a way to make a new life behind bars or attempt to escape.

The crowd of 180 players gathered outside of the Breda Prison Dome.

Setting

Prison Escape was played in and around the Breda Prison Dome, the retired prison that also hosted Up The Game. While some key components like prison locks had been removed from the structure, this was an otherwise authentic setting. It would have been impossible to ask more of the set.

The Prison Dome was massive, imposing, and strangely beautiful. While we had just spent two days in this building for the conference, it felt a lot less friendly under these circumstances, devoid of stage lighting, booths, and conference infrastructure.

David's Prison Escape mugshot in an grey jump suit.

Gameplay

Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape was not an escape room at all. Prison Escape was something between a real life game and an immersive theater.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, conversation, and a willingness to take action.

Exterior of the Breda Prison Dome with barred windows and barbed wire.

Analysis

This is an ever-evolving production so these points may not be relevant. If you’re planning to play Prison Escape, I strongly encourage you to skip the spoiler boxes below as the information contained therein may impact the way you choose to play the game.

Have your own experience first. Then return to read the rest of this review. You’ve been warned. 

+ The Breda Prison Dome was a phenomenal venue. This setting that had felt friendly days before was suddenly foreboding. It was an incredible transformation back to its natural state.

Prison Escape had an imposing introduction. It established the game world. It put us in character and costume. The prison warden delivered a badass welcome to hell speech.

Introduction - Discussion

+ The costumes – both ours and the actors’ – further solidified our characters in this experience. The prison guards had a clever technique for efficiently getting each prisoner into a prison jumpsuit that fit them perfectly, without ever disrupting the intense introductory sequence or breaking the fiction.

– The introduction took a long time. We spent a good portion of the first third of Prison Escape standing at attention. The novelty wore off quickly and discomfort set in.

– The grand introduction didn’t matter all that much. Prison Escape shattered that world just as soon as they had established it. We played the rest of the experience in a much looser, more zany prison world. As players, we had a bit of trouble accepting this transition. For quite some time, we were convinced that the harsh reality of the introduction would return. It didn’t. This dramatically impacted our understanding of the game’s world.

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Prison Escape set up epic individual moments. As an individual (or a small group), we’d be dispatched to accomplish a task that would be central to one of the plot threads. We had to come up with our own strategy and proceed. Succeed or fail, Prison Escape created memorable individual moments. For both of us, and most people we’ve talked to, these were the highlights of the experience.

Mid-Game Discussion

+ Prison Escape left a lot of breadcrumbs to lead players into a plot thread of their own. From found objects to the actors, if we observed carefully and made some basic connections, we’d find a plot thread to follow. Prison Escape worked hard to ensure that every player – even those with no experience in this type of gameplay – could engage with it.

+/- The different plot threads affected one another dramatically. When one plot succeeded long before it was intended to, it shattered another plot thread that hinged on an affected character. One group’s win caused another group to fail.

– After a certain point, if a plot thread failed, there was nothing else to do in Prison Escape. There came a point where it was impossible to break into the other storylines. There were no new plots taking shape. When David’s plot was disrupted midway through, there was no more fun to be had at Prison Escape

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+/- Many of the escape plots were comically ridiculous. This was a ton of fun. It was strange, however, when juxtaposed with the serious tone established in the introduction.

End-Game - Discussion

– The few dozen people who didn’t escape didn’t get an end to their story. They got to watch another group’s plot resolve, but they weren’t participants anymore, only onlookers. They didn’t get a conclusion. We don’t recommend that everyone win. We do recommend that everyone receive an interactive ending.

– About 80% of the participants in our play-through escaped the prison. This seemed like a high number. It diminished the victory for those who succeed and added insult to those who did not. While the escape was fun, the best moments of the experience weren’t in achieving victory. We don’t think everyone needs to escape to enjoy Prison Escape. There was a missed opportunity to catch some plots in action and bring back the intensity of the introduction.

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+ The actors were phenomenal. Furthermore, they were all speaking in their second language. This was the first time Real Life Gaming had run Prison Escape in English. We were seriously impressed with the English and the acting, especially all of the improvisation.

+ In Prison Escape, we were responsible for our own experiences, to a point. If we observed, conversed, played, strategized, and engaged, it could be a truly epic experience.

? In Prison Escape, the game structure was responsible for our experiences, to a point. There was a fair bit of luck involved in getting started. The actions of actors and other players would also affect our experiences, both negatively and positively. We weren’t entirely in control of our own destiny, which made sense in a prison.

Prison Escape is not consistent. It is not a stock experience, David and I had profoundly different experiences. Your game will be unique, as will your individual experiences within it.

The Breda Prison Dome lit at night.

Tips for Playing

  • Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of standing at attention.
  • Do not wear a skirt or dress.
  • Bring as few personal effects as you can. You’ll be locking them in lockers during the experience.
  • Be open to the highs and lows of the experience.
  • Take action. You have to actively play if you want anything to happen.

Book your event with Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Life Gaming provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Adventure Rooms New Jersey – The Hidden Cabin [Review]

Fish’in for Fabergé.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date Played: June 4, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

A fishing- and art collecting- themed mashup, The Hidden Cabin was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room set against an unusual backdrop. Adventure Rooms made some big strides towards the current market expectations, but things didn’t come together quite smoothly enough (but a lot of it is fixable). While we wished the puzzles had been more deliberately integrated into the physical environment, we really did enjoy many of the puzzle solves.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can catch some fun puzzles here. If you’re not excited about puzzle-focused gameplay, there are other fish in the sea.

In-game: A small desk in a fishing cabin.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Fishermen (This isn’t really a joke.)
  • Art collectors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strange theme
  • The more interactive puzzles

Story

We were looking for a stolen Fabergé egg in our uncle’s fishing cabin.

A collection of pots hanging from a cabinet in the a rustic cabin.

Setting

This dimly lit, wood-furnished cabin contained assorted fishing paraphernalia. The set was busy, with a number of wall hangings, and shelves holding various odd and ends. It was fairly convincing in a fishing cabin-meets-Bennigan’s sort of way.

In-game: A cabinet ore, and taxidermied fish hanging on the wall of a fishing cabin.

Gameplay

Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the LL Bean Fly Fishing Handbook.

Analysis

+ It had been almost 3 years since we’d last visited Adventure Rooms New Jersey. We were delighted to find more attention to set design in The Hidden Cabin, as compared to their original escape rooms.

– The lighting was unnecessarily dim. While we did find small, handheld flashlights, we found the lighting more burdensome than atmospheric.

– The theming was strangely dichotomous. The story setup was all about art, but The Hidden Cabin was all about fishing… until it was entirely about art. The puzzles were set against this disconnected backdrop rather than integrated into a cohesive story.

+ Aesthetically, The Hidden Cabin was a massive step up for Adventure Rooms.

– There were a lot of locks with identical digit structures. Each time we solved a puzzle, we’d need to try it in many different locks before anything opened. Varying input digit structure or adding iconography to the locks would improve game flow.

– There was a prop screaming for a puzzle… that puzzle never materialized.

– There was one entirely unclued puzzle.

– Most of the puzzles could haven taken place anywhere, including on sheets of paper. In fact, some of the more time-consuming solves were entirely focused on sheets of paper. The puzzle design didn’t capitalize on the physical environment. All but one of the puzzles in this game could have existed completely in a puzzle book.

– One of the process puzzles looped four times. This was tedious.

? Thematic outside knowledge could help you out… It wasn’t required, but it sure would have made a key puzzle flow more smoothly.

The Hidden Cabin was a puzzle-focused escape room. Despite the small space, there was a lot of content to work through.

? There’s a solid escape room here. These critiques are quite fixable. We hope Adventure Rooms continues to iterate and improve.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Ani Ramen and Cuban Pete’s, but be prepared for long waits.
  • Much of this escape room takes place in low lighting with flashlights.

Book your hour with Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Adventure Rooms New Jersey provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Challenge – The Freakshow [Review]

Step on up. Come one, come all. This is a show that you won’t want to miss.

Location: Delft, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 – €129 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Freakshow was an intense and physical journey through a twisted circus. Escape Challenge created yet another special game that wound us through a wide variety of sets and scenes as we sought our freedom.

This fast-paced game was not for the faint of heart or body, as it required a bit of balance and dexterity that exceeded the typical demands of an escape game.

There was so much to love in The Freakshow; if you’re anywhere near Delft, please do yourself a favor and play this game.

In-game: The ominous entry way to the fortune teller's wooden trailer.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • People without mobility difficulties
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful and heavily varied sets.
  • Physical puzzles and challenges
  • Tons of memorable moments

Story

We had been abducted by the carnies. They would force us to perform in their circus freakshow if we couldn’t escape before their next show ended.

In-game: Advertisements for different freakshow performances including Big Hera and New Spidora.

Setting

Freakshow looked great. It took us through multiple set changes. Each new location established a fresh look and new challenges. It was heavily detailed and remarkably immersive with quite a few memorable settings.

Gameplay

Escape Challenge’s The Freakshow was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, physical activity, and puzzling.

In-game: A series of boxes and props from the freakshow beside a wooden trailer. There is a rabbit in a top hat, and a the image of a fortune teller painted agains the wall.

Analysis

The Freakshow opened dramatically.

+ Escape Challenge expertly built tension with sound and light.

+ As we made our escape, we traversed multiple different sets, each different from the previous ones. These sets captured many different circus aesthetics.

The Freakshow felt unbalanced. We moved quickly through large spaces and spent a long time in smaller ones. While this may have been because some puzzles played more to our strengths than others, we wished our time had been allocated differently.

+ We enjoyed many of the cerebral challenges in The Freakshow. They were mostly thematic and a ton of fun.

+ The physical challenges in The Freakshow added another dimension of challenge. These were exciting. They also involved the entire group.

+/- We felt torn about one late-game segment. It was interesting and appropriately zany… but I’ve rarely wanted to get past a puzzle and a space as much as I did with that one.

– The Freakshow ended abruptly. We were in this crazy, high intensity challenge, in a ridiculous setting. All of the elements for a climax were present… and then we won. And we looked at each other wondering if that was it. The escape felt incomplete. It needed a conclusive reaction from the set, ideally something that punctuated an escape.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 1 hour from Amsterdam city center.
  • There is a parking garage across the street.
  • All players must be at least somewhat agile and able to go up and down stairs. Talk to Escape Challenge if you have balance issues.
  • There is a segment with flashing lights that might not be suitable for all players.
  • Do not wear nice shoes or clothing.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft. This escape room is in Delft.

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

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

The Great Escape – The Experiment [Review]

The doctor will see you now.

Location: Zwolle, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2018

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €135 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Experiment balanced horror with silliness. The Great Escape deliberately designed every moment of this escape room. While the puzzles were not narrative driven, they were fun to solve and they worked with the decor and the acting to deliver an exhilarating experience.

It’s worth traveling out of your way – and it probably is out of your way, if you’re a tourist to Amsterdam – to Zwolle to play the experiment.

In-game: the entry way for the "Wester Clinics national institute for mental health," beyond it is a lobby.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Intense actor-driven moments
  • Immersive gameplay
  • Fun and unusual interactions

Story

One of our friends had asked us to accompany him to an experiment he’d signed up for. As soon as we settled into the waiting room, we realized that this experiment was something more sinister… and we need to escape.

In-game: the lobby with a magazine wrack, chairs, and a stack of in-take forms.

Setting

We entered a medical waiting room. Chairs lined the walls. The waiting room was decorated with the typical plants, wall hangings, toys, and reading material that we would have expected. (I guess the cliched medical waiting room aesthetic is transcontinental.) All of this foreshadowed the medical theming of the rest of the experience.

Gameplay

The Great Escape’s The Experiment was an escape room that included elements of interactive theater. It had a higher level of difficulty and a high level of tension.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling, with a bit of improv as well.

In-game: a stack of intake forms in the lobby.

Analysis

+ Through acting, set design, and scent, The Great Escape built the world of The Experiment elegantly and effectively.

+ As we entered the gamespace, we were greeted with a new environment. More than the look, the smell alerted us to the nature of this experience. It worked brilliantly.

+ In the first scene, we got to know the characters. In the scripted part, the actors played off each other. This enabled The Great Escape to develop a menacing character without alarming the players. Interjected throughout the scene were the less scripted interactions with us, which further developed the characters’ roles as well as our place in the game’s world.

– While the puzzles played well, many of them felt arbitrary. They were more escape room-y than mechanisms to drive the plot forward.

+ That said, we enjoyed solving these tangible, large-scale puzzles, and their silliness contributed to the absurdity that balanced the horror-vibe.

– In one scene of The Experiment, we encountered multiple combination locks with identical digit structure. We recommend more variety to make this scene play more smoothly and not stifle forward momentum.

– Height was an advantage. One late-game puzzle presented a lot of information just slightly too high for me to comfortably work with it. The irony was that, given the type of puzzle it was, I was the natural person to solve it… and my three +6-foot (182cm) teammates looked on.

+ The hint system was charming. It worked with the staging.

+/- The Experiment built to a dramatic escape. Our teammates had differing opinions about this ending depending on the roles we took in accomplishing it. From my vantage point (which I shared with David), our clandestine escape operation delivered a dramatic conclusion. Our teammates in another role would have liked more threat of danger/ failure at this juncture. Their ending felt too soft for the experience.

+/- For people who are afraid of the concept of an escape room, The Experiment embodied exactly what they fear: being trapped in an uncomfortable setting that’s just a bit scary. These feelings can be off-putting. For the right players, however, these feelings can also be energizing and exhilarating.

The Experiment was silly-scary. It wasn’t overly horror, but it was intense. The acting, environment, and puzzles came together really well to deliver a deliberately crafted experience.

+ Hats off to the actors who delivered The Experiment to us in their second language. They did a phenomenal job.

Tips for Visiting

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

Disclosure: The Great Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Exit: The Game – The Forgotten Island [Review]

WILSON!

Location: at home

Date Played: May 26, 2018

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

Duration: 60-120 minutes

Price: $13 to 20 per game

REA Reaction

The Forgotten Island was a standard Exit: The Game installment. If you’ve played any of the originals, you’ll be familiar with the structure, vibe, and tricks. This particular installment had a number of especially clever puzzles mixed throughout it and a few that felt like they could benefit from additional clue structure and maybe a bit of editing.

If that puts a smile on your face, you should buy it. If you don’t like the series, this one will not change your mind.

The tropical island cover of Exit: The Game's The Forgotten Island.

Who is this for?

  • Tabletop gamers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • People who are fans of the Exit: The Game series

Why play?

  • Clever puzzles
  • Affordable tabletop gameplay

Story

While we were out sailing, the weather had taken a sudden turn and we’d capsized. We’d washed ashore on a deserted island. As we looked around we realized that everything on this island was locked up… even a boat.

The answer card deck, riddle card deck, a stack of help cards, a strange item, the decoder wheel, and the Forgotten Island journal.

Setup

The Forgotten Island played exactly as did the original three Exit: The Game episodes. I discussed the mechanics of this destructible game in an earlier review. If you’re curious about how this series works, give that one a read:

Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb [Review]

Gameplay

Exit: The Game’s The Forgotten Island was a puzzle-driven at-home escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

Analysis

+ There were a lot of excellent puzzles in The Forgotten Island. They played with perspective and space especially well.

+ There was an especially entertaining group sequence. This puzzle on its own would be a good argument for having four players present.

– Being a nautical-themed escape game, there were a lot of map-based puzzles, and we had access to too many similar components at the same time.

– One of the most interesting puzzles suffered from a lack of clue structure.

– The final puzzle was interesting, but too laborious. The ending of The Forgotten Island fizzled while two players plodded through it.

+/- Once again, if you like Exit: The Game, this is a quintessential Exit box. If you love the style, you’ll likely enjoy the puzzles in The Forgotten Island. If you dislike Exit: The Game or you find yourself getting tired of it, this will feel like more of the same gameplay.

Tips for Playing

  • Make sure that you have a pair of scissors handy.
  • Do not discard the box or any game materials until after you have finished playing.
  • It isn’t possible to replay this game without going to great lengths to copy and preserve destructible materials. You can do it, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
  • Play in good lighting. If you need reading glasses, have them available.

Pickup a copy of Exit: The Game’s The Forgotten Island, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Full disclosure: Thames & Kosmos sent us a complementary reviewer’s copy of this game.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic [Review]

“Draw me like one of your French girls.” -Rose

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Titanic was a puzzle-focused escape room for newer puzzlers ready to set sail. The themed challenges were a lot of fun. Titanic combined lock-based gameplay with tech-driven interactions. With the addition of more in-game feedback, Titanic could flow more smoothly and feel more immersive.

If you’re a less experienced player looking for an interesting puzzle game, this is a great place to dive in.

If you’re more experienced, this a value judgment. Know that you’ll move quickly through this 45-minute experience, but there are some cool puzzles to grapple with. 

In-game: a chaise lounge beside a porthole in a large stateroom.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with little to moderate experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • The chaise longue
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

In our stateroom aboard the Titanic II, the unthinkable happened: we hit an iceberg. (No one could have seen that coming). We needed to escape our room and find our way to the deck of the ship in time to board a lifeboat, or…

Meme: Frozen Rose holding Jack says, "I'll never let go, Jack." Next panel, Jack is gone, reads, "LOL JK."

Setting

Our spacious stateroom was sparsely furnished with a few lovely antiques, some wall decorations, and a porthole with an iceberg view.

In-game: a porthole looking out over the water, an iceberg in the distance.

Aside from being a touch too Spartan and a little worn, the setting conveyed Titanic-style luxury well.

In-game: A portrait hanging on the wall over a mantle.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

In-game: a series of bells labeled "TITANIC."

Analysis

Titanic delivered fun, tangible puzzles. We particularly enjoyed a deduction puzzle.

+ We enjoyed the nautically-themed props and their use as puzzle components.

+ David especially enjoyed sprawling on the chaise longue and making jokes.

– Although we appreciated the theming, we would have liked to internalize more story – of the space, our characters, or the impending disaster – as we progressed toward the deck.

+/- There wasn’t a lot to find. On the one hand, we weren’t bogged down by searching through red herrings. On the other hand, the space felt a bit empty. It lacked depth.

– A few of the puzzles lacked feedback. In one instance, when we couldn’t tell if we were striking the right chord, we assumed the puzzle was out of play or broken. It was working, but it gave no indication of that.

– Later in our playthrough we solved a puzzle out of sequence, before receiving the appropriate cluing. The resulting interaction opened, but was not in play. Since we’d been conditioned earlier to proceed with puzzles even without feedback, we continued to hack at this interaction until our gamemaster noticed and nudged us back toward another unsolved puzzle.

+/- We were glad we couldn’t advance out of sequence because we would have missed a substantial portion of the game and some of the best puzzles. We wish the gamemaster hadn’t had to step in to redirect us.

+ The exit door was nifty.

+ Escape Room Live’s lobby and bar area is gorgeous; it’s a lovely place to hang out. I don’t normally get excited for lobbies, but this one is special.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.