CBS Sunday Morning Appearance Tomorrow

Here’s a riddle for you:

What does Room Escape Artist have in common with Janis Joplin, Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Harriet Tubman?

CBS Sunday Morning's sleepy sun logo

Answer:

We are all a part of CBS Sunday Morning on October 20, 2019.

Here’s a preview of us speaking with David Pogue and (re)playing Golden Lock-In Award winning Time Chasers at Trap’t.

(By the way, the β€œyes!” was unrehearsed and happened spontaneously during filming.)

Tune in tomorrow at 9am Eastern (barring any major news disrupting the episode)… and tell CBS Sunday Morning that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

“Real ID” and Escape Room Tourism

Many of us travel all over in search of amazing escape rooms.

Starting on October 1, 2020, American citizens will need a “REAL ID” compliant form of identification for domestic airplane travel.

That is only 1 year away.

Background

The law dates back to the post 9/11 security freakout of 2005. Rollout/ enforcement has been delayed repeatedly, but October of 2020 is the drop dead enforcement date.

Some states adopted this law a few years ago. Others, like my adopted home, the great State of New Jersey, just started rolling it out.

I am out today, literally renewing my license as a REAL ID as this publishes.

We’re going to set aside whether this is a good or bad idea and look at the facts as they pertain to escape room tourists.

Is My License a REAL ID?

It’s pretty easy to tell if your license is a REAL ID. It will have a star in the upper right quarter that looks like one of these:

5 different gold and black stars indicating REAL ID.

What Happens on October 1, 2020?

If you don’t have a REAL ID as of October 1, 2020, the TSA will require you to fly domestically with a valid passport. Otherwise they won’t let you through security.

Take a look at your license and make sure that your future travels won’t be disrupted by this Bush-era law that took over a decade to roll out.

Visit the TSA for more information on REAL ID.

Note that you will still need a passport for international travel, now and after October 1, 2020. For Americans attending our escape room tour, Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020, make sure you have a passport. And if you have a passport, but not a ticket to this event, there are just a few left!

Clue Chase – Sunken City [Reaction]

Magic Buttons

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: September 29, 2019

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 20 minutes

Price: free

Ticketing: Public or Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock (there was no door)

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sunken City was a free 20-minute escape room designed to promote climate-friendly behavior.

In-game: A model of a city with solar panels laying about.

From a puzzle standpoint, the game played cleanly and had a lot of content for its length. A runbook notwithstanding, it was quick, smooth, and enjoyable.

In-game: A lab desk with many notes on it.

From a content standpoint, Sunken City was more thematic than it was persuasive. Sunken City was not about to change anyone’s mind or strike up a deep dialog about climate change or environmentalism in either direction.

In-game: "GET ON BIKE" is spray painted on an old plaster wall.

All in all, I’m glad that we were able to experience Sunken City. We were the final team through, so it’s no longer playable unless it gets remounted in the future.

In-game: flower pots in a makeshift greenhouse

Tips For Visiting

  • This was a limited-run escape game produced by Clue Chase.
  • It took place on in Nolan Park on Governor’s Island, which is accessible by ferry from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • It is not currently available for booking.
  • Visit Clue Chase in Manhattan to play their other games.

If Clue Chase remounts Sunken City, book your session and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Conundrum Escape Rooms – Experiment C73 [Review]

πŸ’™ & πŸ’Š

Location:  Arvada, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $80 per team for teams of 2 to $200 per team for teams of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock [A]

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Experiment C73 was David’s type of game from start to finish. The puzzles were tangible and rewarded communication and spatial awareness. A bit of dexterity went a long way.

To top it all off, Conundrum Escape Rooms took some design risks that paid off profoundly.

In-game: A long black and white hallway with doors on boths sides and a large rorschach image on the far wall.

This wasn’t the prettiest game, but even that was deliberate and well executed.

Ultimately, Experiment C73 was way more than the sum of its parts, and many of those individual parts were great in their own right.

As far as we’re concerned, Experiment C73 is a regional must-play escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure 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?

  • Brilliant mechanical puzzles
  • Strong world-building
  • Engaging communication challenges

Story

The year was 1973 and we’d volunteered for a psychiatric experiment; it seemed like a fun way to make a few bucks.

As we entered the experiment we had a bad feeling about the administrators and their intentions. They seemed keen on making us prove our sanity.

In-game: A strange set of black on white wall adoenments.

Setting

Conundrum Escape Rooms’ Experiment C73 was an interesting beast that began as one game and ended as another.

This escape room opened with an interesting twist on the split team game. Then it became something a bit different.

Conundrum Escape Rooms played with the 1973 aesthetic. They used the function of their game to set the tone for its form. If it sounds like I’m being cagey about the direction of the experience, it’s to avoid spoilers.

In-game: strange white on black writing on a wall.

Gameplay

Conundrum Escape Rooms’ Experiment C73 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and a split-team beginning.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, dexterity, communication, and puzzling.

Analysis

βž• Experiment C73 used a small space creatively to make it feel larger than it was.

βž• The set design was smart. This isn’t to say it looked great; it didn’t. It looked exactly as intended, leaning into that 1970’s aesthetic. 

βž• The staging justified the puzzles.

βž• The puzzles rewarded teamwork.

βž– The gameplay in Experiment C73 was uneven. It was easy to end up playing support and not see the best angles. Not all teammates had as interesting or exciting playthroughs as others.

βž• Conundrum turned one classic escape room trope into a completely different one. It was brilliant. They clued this twist so creatively, and even used a crafty psychological hack to increase the odds of it working. It delivered.

βž• The puzzles were unusual, in a good way. What seemed simple was sometimes far more complex, but always fair.

❓ It’s hard to recommend a perfect team size. Although communication and teamwork were essential, the footprint was small and it could be challenging to maneuver around each other. Some of the later puzzles were single-player solves.

βž• Conundrum Escape Rooms added a personal touch that surprised and delighted us.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This game is at the Arvada location.
  • At least one player will need to crouch/crawl.
  • This game has a split beginning. Not all players start in the same space.
  • Conundrum Escape Rooms will soon open a second copy of this game. Larger groups will be able to book both copies and race each other.

Book your hour with Conundrum Escape Rooms’ Experiment C73, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Conundrum Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Enigma Emporium – Carte Rouge [Review]

Loaded Deck

Location:  at home

Date Played: Summer 2019

Team size: we recommend 2-3

Duration: 8-12 hours

Price: $25

Publisher: The Enigma Emporium

REA Reaction

We’re big fans of Enigma Emporium’s postcard-based puzzles… so we were eager to dig into their larger, more elaborate, and beautiful deck of puzzle cards.

We ciphered through the cards in two extended sessions and found the experience mixed.

The Carte Rouge deck.

We loved the concept, the art, and a lot of the early puzzles… but as the mystery pressed on, it got repetitive. Then it got really repetitive.

Overall, Enigma Emporium absolutely delivered when it came to production value. From a gameplay standpoint, there was a lot to love and we’re happy that we played through it. At the same time, it’s hard to keep ourselves from imagining other things that could have been done with such a gorgeous deck of puzzle cards.

If you’re into cipher-play and have the patience to buckle up for a 6 – 12 hour mystery, then Carte Rouge is worth exploring.

Who is this for?

  • Code breakers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful card art and high production value
  • An interesting story hidden behind ciphered messages
  • You enjoy progressive discovery

Story

A mysterious and strange deck of cards had arrived in the mail. A note was included asking us to investigate its origins and purpose.

The King and Queen of Hearts from Carte Rouge. Both have clearly have ciphered messages around the boarders and on their clothes.

Setup

Carte Rouge was an actual deck of 52 cards plus a pair of jokers. Embedded in the card art (particularly the face cards) we found hidden messages and puzzles.

They were printed on quality card stock. If one wished to purchase this deck and use it exclusively to play card games, that would be a viable option.

The cardback from Carte Rouge.

The art itself looked fantastic. Enigma Emporium managed to maintain that classic card art, while hiding loads of messages.

Gameplay

Enigma Emporium’s Carte Rouge was a play-at-home escape game with a high level of difficulty relative to most tabletop escape games.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, deciphering, making connections, and keeping organized.

The Jokers from Carte Rouge are covered in intricate ciphers.

Analysis

βž• We were captivated by the puzzle-in-playing-cards concept. This setup also facilitated collaborative gameplay. We could spread the cards out among players and work through the puzzles as a team.

βž• The cards were beautiful and intricate. They looked and felt like the real deal. The artwork was exquisite.

❓ The puzzling in Carte Rouge was almost entirely deciphering. If you enjoy ciphers, this is your tabletop game; it’s great. If you don’t want to solve ciphers and translate passages, this will not be for you.

βž• Our favorite ciphers were clued brilliantly by other patterns. For us, these ciphers were the pinnacle of the gameplay in Carte Rouge. Most of them appeared earlier in the experience.

βž– Much of the ciphering resolved to narrative embellishments, but didn’t advance the plot of the game. We translated brutally long passages, working through them long after the aha moment. In the end, a lot of it was flavor. This got repetitive.

βž– Multiple puzzles used the same cipher. Once we’d worked out that particular system, we had to work through a number of different instances. This was repetitive and seemed like a missed opportunity.

βž–Β While sometimes the ciphers were subtly clued in the artwork, other times they weren’t clued it all (as far as we could tell). As we played, we found that there were limited encipherment options. We’d just hack at different possibilities until a passage resolved to something meaningful.

βž• Enigma Emporium crammed a lot of game into only a little space. This was impressive. They fit an incredible amount of information into a card.

The 2, 3, & 4 of Clubs from Carte Rouge. They look normal except for an "R" printed in the middle of the 2.

βž– The deck of cards itself felt like a missed opportunity. We were anticipating mechanics involving magic, placement, math, poker hands… really anything that one does with a deck of cards. Yet, it didn’t matter how these cards were held or arranged. In fact, there was little interaction between the cards at all. Additionally, most of the cards were barely used. The gameplay revolved around only a small portion of the deck and we didn’t need to do much beyond regard and rotate.

βž– The hint system lacked sufficient granularity. We’d be hinted at the same thing repeatedly and then be provided the answer. Furthermore, the hints for some key puzzles were buried in the sequence of hints for the final puzzles. In an effort not to spoil later puzzles for ourselves, we didn’t find them until well after we needed them.

βž– All these ciphers begged for an interesting extraction, hidden within the cards. Instead, the game resolved with a narrative quiz of sorts. This felt out of character with the rest of the experience.

Tips For Player

  • Required supplies: a small table, an internet-connected device, paper and pencil
  • While you don’t need a laptop, we found keeping track of solutions in a spreadsheet to be helpful.
  • If your reading vision isn’t great, you’re going to want a good magnifying glass.

Buy your copy of Enigma Emporium’s Carte Rouge, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enigma Emporium provided a sample for review. 

Reminder: New York City Escape Room and Immersive Meetup on Wednesday!

This Wednesday join us for the New York City Everything Immersive Meetup, co-hosted by Room Escape Artist and our friends at No Proscenium.

Glo and Bulder looking into one another's eyes with the mountain in the background.

Details

Please RSVP on Facebook or by contacting us.

  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019
  • Starting at 6:00pm and continuing for a few hours
  • Shades of Green Pub (125 E 15th St between Irving Pl and 3rd Ave)
  • We will be congregating in the back room

This is a casual gathering. There is no formal programming. Stop by at your leisure.

For more information, read the meetup announcement or check out the Facebook Event.

Should I Attend?

We love meeting other folks who enjoy immersive entertainment. This is a space to share ideas, find collaborators, talk about experiences (with spoilers!), and give/ get recommendations.

If you’re part of the New York City escape room and immersive community – or if you happen to be in town this week – we’d love to meet you.

Also, we’ll have some popular friends joining us from the other side of the world!

PanIQ Room – Pyramid Heist [Review]

Decipher like an Egyptian

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: September 20, 2019

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player for Public booking, $34 per player for Private booking

Ticketing: Public or Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Pyramid Heist was one of PanIQ Room’s earlier escape rooms. The gameplay was heavily focused on searching, ciphering, and unlocking. That said, despite repetitive concepts, the gameplay moved pretty smoothly. Our teammates – a family of 4 including 2 teenagers – participated in everything and had a blast doing so. It was a traditional escape game in the style that stoked our early interest in escape rooms.

Although the initial office set wasn’t particularly exciting, Pyramid Heist offered more than initially met the eye and escalated dramatically in the second act.

In-game: A sarcophagus covered in sand.

If you are looking for a solid, classic escape room in New York City, Pyramid Heist has been our favorite game at PanIQ Room in NYC thus far. It didn’t offer anything novel to experienced players, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • An unexpected second act
  • Opportunities for collaborative solving

Story

We had broken into the Curator’s office at the Museum of Ancient and Historical Artifacts in order to steal the Golden Ankh of Ra. Although security had left a lot of locks to prevent this type of theft, our boss knew we were the team for this heist.

In-game: A desk with an old typewriter, a book, a phone, and an ancient egyptian artifact.

Setting

Pyramid Heist opened in a standard office space with a desk, bookshelf, and a few wall hangings.

In the second act, it opened up into a considerably more exciting gamespace.

In-game: A sketch of a sarcophagus.

Gameplay

PanIQ Room’s Pyramid Heist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A bookshelf with a sarcophagus statue.

Analysis

βž• Although Pyramid Heist opened in a drab office setting, as our search intensified, we found ourselves in a more impressive and interesting setting. The second act exceeded expectations.

βž– Pyramid Heist had a lot of locks of similar types and similar digit structures. Whenever we found a key or solved a code, we’d have to try it all around the room. More variation would enhance momentum.

(Ok, we didn’t have to try all the keys in every lock because we used David’s superpower of recognizing which type of key goes to which lock – which left our teenage teammates awestruck – but most players can’t rely on this. I certainly can’t look at a key and know where to try it.)

βž–Β PanIQ crafted a cipher-centric escape room. While I enjoy ciphering, Pyramid Heist struggled for lack of puzzle variety. There were too many overlapping, but different ciphers, which came into play at different times. This could easily cause confusion, especially among newer players. Additionally, we continually needed to rely on the provided pens and paper to work out the ciphers.

βž• We appreciated some unorthodox opens. These segments were especially enjoyable.

βž– We fell victim, yet again, to playing too gently. In this search-heavy game, not all searching was properly clued. One search in particular desperately needed addition cluing.

βž• Pyramid Heist had thematic puzzles that came together well. We were able to follow the gameplay from start to finish.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking in this neighborhood.
  • If you’re coming by subway, take the B/D to Grand St, the F to Delancey, or the J/Z to Bowery.
  • We recommend Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a quick meal or Lena for wine and tapas.

Book your hour with PanIQ Room’s Pyramid Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PanIQ Room comped our tickets for this game.

Novel Escape – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea [Review]

Under da sea

Location:  Austin, TX

Date Played:  August 9, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public and Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I’m going to sum Novel Escape’s inaugural game, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in one word: elegant

The only thing that impresses us more than a big budget game executed brilliantly… is a humble game executed brilliantly. That’s what we’re talking about here.

The setup, puzzles, and climactic story beat were smart, elegant, and smile-inducing.

In-game: A periscope hanging from the ceiling.

Novel Escape poured a lot of love and care into this game. For those who are looking to have every inch of the set blow their minds or experience mind-boggling technology, there’s a little of each, but it’s the gameplay that stars in this show.

We heard word of Novel Escape from two long-time readers who beta tested the game. We squeezed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in on our most recent trip to Austin, before Novel Escape officially opened their doors, and we’re thrilled that we did.

If we have one concern for Novel Escape, it’s durability. We played in a pristine, pre-opening version. Some of these props might need additional reinforcement to survive the daily grind of escape room players.

Now that Novel Escape is finally open, if you’re nearby, I highly recommend diving into 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Jules Verne fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Wonderfully crafted puzzles
  • Adorable set design
  • Solid storytelling

Story

Our ship had wrecked and the notorious Captain Nemo had taken us aboard the Nautilus and press-ganged us into serving him. Nemo had decided to be kind and offered us a deal: if we could find and return a long-lost family heirloom of his we would be free to go.

In-game: A locked hatch within the submarine.

Setting

Our adventure opened in a one of Captain Nemo’s submersible pods. The infamous Captain was issuing his orders… and promises.

The set offered a lot of variety, and was a little uneven. None of it was weak, but some segments stood out.

In-game: A shelf covered in shells, ships in bottles, and a lighthouse.

Gameplay

Novel Escape’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A control panel with a variety of switches and buttons.

Analysis

βž• The puzzles in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea carried this game forward swimmingly. They were thoughtful, clean, well-tested (we played before the game had officially opened), and generally engaged multiple people in group solves. They had depth. Each teammate had a different favorite puzzle, which speaks volumes.

βž• Novel Escape draws inspiration from classic novels. Before we entered 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, our gamemaster read us the rules in the Novel Escape style. We’re hardly ever captivated by the rules, but this thematic delivery was a rare exception.

βž• We commend Novel Escape for minimal reading in an escape room inspired by a book (we were a little worried that we’d be hit with large passages). We appreciated how Novel Escape incorporated text to deliver an “aha” rather than by slowing us down with reading material.

βž– One puzzle seemed narratively out of place. Although it was a fun group solve, there was an opportunity to do something more relevant with that segment.

βž• In this primarily lock-and-key escape room, Novel Escape surprised us, hiding a twist in plain sight, and cluing it expertly. It was low tech – and low budget – but so well crafted as to deliver an incredible moment.

βž– The set was uneven. Some parts of the gamespace were more inspiring than others. It all looked good, but there was an opportunity to enhance it in some areas.

βž•/βž– We enjoyed that our game was introduced in-character. Novel Escape could sell this more strongly, both pre-game and post-game, to raise the stakes of the adventure.

❓ We’re worried about the durability of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was in great shape when we visited, but this was before Novel Escape had officially opened. We aren’t convinced that the delicate components will withstand the beating that escape rooms take over time.

In-game: a quote from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"painted to the wall: "The Nautilus confirmed the words of an astute engineer, 'There is no well-constructed hull that cannot defy the sea."

βž• Hints floated in as needed. We loved the hint delivery method.

βž• We enjoyed a call back and an Easter egg. These little details added charm to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Novel Escape’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Novel Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Codeword Escape – Curse of the Golden Touch [Review]

Long live King Midas and his weak grasp of basic economic principles.

Location:  Rocky Hill, CT

Date Played: August 18, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $35 per player for teams of 1-2 to $28 per player from teams of 6+

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Connecticut is peppered with lovely mom & pop escape room shops; Codeword Escape is one such location.

While this isn’t a massive-budget operation, they are doing traditional escape room gaming right. They picked a smart, unique setting (King Midas was a brilliant choice), built solid puzzles into the environment, and then let us players make our own fun. It worked.

Regardless of your experience level, there is something to love in Curse of the Golden Touch. If you’re in the area, you should check it out.

In-game: A golden chandelier hanging from an ornate gold ceiling.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle play
  • An elegant set
  • Cute and clever moments

Story

The King had found a magical lamp and used it to wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. It didn’t take long before he had transmuted his beloved daughter into a golden statue. The King had begged us to find a way to break his magical curse and restore his daughter.

In-game: A red and gold throne room.

Setting

Set within a gold and velvet throne room, Codeword Escape made this space look regal… and they managed to rework the drop ceiling so that it added to the aesthetic.

This wasn’t a complicated build, but Curse of the Golden Touch looked elegant.

In-game: Two shields hung on a wall decorated in red velvet.

Gameplay

Codeword Escape’s Curse of the Golden Touch was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

βž• Codeword Escape built an adventure into an office-y retail space in Connecticut. For Curse of the Golden Touch, they augmented the space to give it a castle-y feel. We also appreciated the King Midas theming, which was a new theme for us, and gave them smart design constraints on the “castle” theme. They leaned into this with great results. For a lower budget build-out, it felt appropriately castlesque and regal. We truly appreciated their attention to the details of design.

βž• Curse of the Golden Touch was a puzzle-driven escape game. The puzzles were varied, interesting, and challenging. There was plenty of content to keep a larger group engaged.

βž– Curse of the Golden Touch relied too heavily on laminated paper cluing. There were opportunities to build more clue structure into the set and the props so that it felt more integrated, rather than layered on top of the gamespace.

βž– In the first half of the game, the puzzles weren’t gated enough. Although we appreciated Codeword Escape directing our attention to the “first puzzle,” something that can be especially helpful for new players, we found that plenty of other puzzle paths could have been solved simultaneously. This wasn’t technically a first puzzle; it was a lengthy puzzle. This led some teammates to feel like they’d missed out on a good portion of the game by following the instructions.

βž• Codeword Escape mapped puzzles and locks well to keep the forward momentum of the solver. The challenges were in the puzzles, not the mechanisms; the game flowed well.

βž• /βž– The final scene of Curse of the Golden Touch was unexpected and adorable. That said, we didn’t spend enough time there. There’s an opportunity to shift a bit more gameplay into this segment so that the game feels more balanced and teams can fully enjoy the artfully designed space.

βž• The ceiling was great. They did a really smart thing with their drop ceiling… and there aren’t many companies doing smart things with drop ceilings.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Codeword Escape’s Curse of the Golden Touch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codeword Escape comped our tickets for this game.