Vortex – Nightfall [Review]

Shelter Skelter

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  29.99 CAS per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Nightfall was a strong escape room with an interesting approach to hinting.

The set looked good. The puzzles were entertaining and broadly varied.

In-game: A bloodied water well outside of a cabin in the woods.

As hinting, Vortex had included extra information lying around the room in obvious places. If we wanted to access that additional layer of information, we could do so freely at any time. This was interesting because it created as many problems as it solved – mostly because some of the bonus hints were kind of essential. This was needlessly frustrating, but quite fixable.

All in all, Nightfall was one of the strongest games that we played in the city of Montreal (bearing in mind that a lot of the action in the Montreal escape room community is happening in the suburbs). If you’re in Montreal and looking for an escape, Vortex’s Nightfall is a strong option.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun set and prop interactions
  • Puzzle variety

Story

While hiking through the woods in the late 1960s, one of our friends had fallen and broken his leg. We had found refuge in a cabin and radioed back to town. We were told that rescuers would be dispatched if we could determine our location. As we settled in and began looking for the necessary information, we started hearing harrowing noises in the woods around us… and the sounds kept getting closer.

In-game: 2 people operating a chamber occupied by a third person.
Image via Vortex

Setting

We found ourselves outside of a strange cabin in the woods. The setting was dimly lit, but we were able to see what we needed to see. Exterior scenes have generally proven difficult to sell, but Vortex did a pretty good job of building the right vibe. It certainly showed its seams, but felt solid enough.

As we entered the cabin, the scene shifted dramatically and Vortex maintained their level of quality.

In-game: Closeup on a firepit with a fire glowing within.

Gameplay

Vortex’s Nightfall was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Vortex built a compelling outdoor set for Nightfall. It was dark, but with enough light that we could see what we needed to see. It created a sense of eeriness appropriate for the scenario, without becoming scary.

➕ The gameplay flowed cleanly. We enjoyed the wide variety of puzzles and how they linked together.

➕/❓Nightfall gave clear feedback when we solved a puzzle. We always appreciate this aspect of escape room design. It’s debatable whether Vortex’s choice of feedback notification made sense in this experience. It probably depends on how playful versus realistic your escape game preferences lean… Vortex leaned into playful. Our team was split on the subject.

➕/➖ Players could choose to make this game easier by reading the additional paper cluing that Vortex left within the game. These clues were clearly marked as optional. We appreciated the intent: that players could get the clue structure entirely from within the experience, but could choose to read additional cluing for any given puzzle.

That said, we found a few instances where we couldn’t glean the information we needed without reading the extra papers. It didn’t exist anywhere else. For example, we needed to read the printed material to know that there was a bonus puzzle available within the game. Also, the papers explained how to activate an entire critical sequence.

➖ We found one process puzzle inelegant. It ended up coming down to trial and error.

➖ One large, intriguing set piece built up to an uninteresting reveal. That moment was begging for a more engaging interaction.

➕  Nightfall had a climactic ending. Vortex created a prop that sold the moment. It was campy, but it worked well with the vibe of the set and the game. This ending was unusual, funny, and quite memorable.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking. Download the P$ Montreal parking app to pay the meter.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • All players need to be able to crawl a short distance.

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

Disclosure: Vortex comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Vortex Future [Review]

The future is really hard.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Date Played: February 3, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We lost in Vortex Future. It wasn’t even close. That doesn’t mean that it was a bad game.

Like Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past, Vortex Future was a compact, puzzle-centric experience in a beautiful setting. However, stylistically the two games played completely differently from one another. Where Vortex Past felt like solving a puzzle box, Vortex Future felt like solving a puzzle hunt without the meta puzzles.

In-game: Wide view of a futuristic spaceship.

Vortex Future was a puzzler’s game in the purest sense. There wasn’t any searching; each puzzle was presented and labeled at its own station. They varied broadly in complexity. While there were 2 or 3 that we didn’t care for because of execution or style, they were generally high-quality challenges.

So, why did we lose? Well, knowing nothing about Vortex Future, we played too lackadaisically. We burned too much time on a puzzle in the main game before finally taking a much-needed hint. We probably needed 10 to 15 minutes for the final puzzle, which we didn’t have. The final puzzle was totally solvable, but it was also one of the most, if not the most, challenging puzzles that we’ve ever faced in an escape room. As soon as we recognized the challenge for what it was, we knew we were doomed.

If you’re a strong puzzler, there’s a lot to love in Vortex Future. We lost and still enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. I think that we could have won this game if we had realized what we were up against and had approached it with the respect that it deserved.

If you’re a newbie or you’re more into the scenery and adventure aspects of escape rooms and aren’t crazy about games that present heavy puzzling… then try out some of Sauve Qui Peut’s other offerings.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Puzzle hunters
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Experienced players
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Innovative, challenging puzzle design
  • Clean and beautiful presentation
  • If you’re looking for a hard escape game, this was a very hard escape game

Story

It was the year 2089 and we had to board a disabled space station designed to detect threats to Earth. Humanity was counting on us to restore the station’s power and functionality.

In-game: A big red button glowing on the wall of a futuristic spaceship.

Setting

Vortex Future was a beautiful, compact space station lined with cleanly presented puzzle modules. Each station had the same 1 through 8 number inputs and took up the same amount of wall space.

The artistry in Sauve Qui Peut’s design was how they used this same structure to present so many different challenges.

In-game: The power and engine computers in a futuristic spaceship.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling. Every puzzle was clearly presented without any searching. We simply had to figure out how to solve them.

In-game: Two different puzzle stations.

Analysis

❓ Vortex Future was a puzzler’s escape room. This was one of the hardest escape rooms that we’ve ever played.

➕ The spaceship set of Vortex Future looked clean, sleek, and polished.

➕ In Vortex Future, Sauve Qui Peut demonstrated just how much a puzzle designer can accomplish with a simple input interface. While these stations looked similar, and resolved with a consistent interaction, the paths to solve them were incredibly varied.

In-game: A sealed doorway in a futuristic spaceship.

➖ One puzzle felt light on cluing. We spent too long thinking we were making progress, only to find that we hadn’t learned anything about the puzzle at all. Coupled with the puzzle’s harsh sound quality, this was especially frustrating.

➖ One puzzle had a misleading visual interface, given the ultimate puzzle resolution. This puzzle really dashed our expectations.

➖ In one puzzle, the only viable solving method (that we found) was tedious and trial & error-y.

➕ Vortex Future required us to learn the logic of the game world, but think outside the box to solve the puzzles. This resulted in immensely satisfying puzzle solves.

➖ In a few instances the inputs were finicky, which caused us some confusion.

➕ While we got hung up on a few puzzles, overall they were fair, inventive, and unusual escape room puzzles that we enjoyed solving.

❓ The final puzzle was probably the most challenging puzzle that we’ve seen in an escape room to date. It was tangible, team-centric, and the type of thing many experienced puzzlers would know exactly how to approach… but it was a beast of a puzzle nonetheless. I think we would have been able to solve it if we got to it with at least 10 – maybe 15 – minutes on the clock.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • This game would be extremely difficult for colorblind players.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.

Deckscape – Behind the Curtain [Review]

Card magic

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 12, 2020

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about ~$15

REA Reaction

Deckscape games are consistently fun and playfully designed.

In recent installments, the games’ creators have put interesting and engaging spins on the gameplay. That was true of the stage magic-themed Behind the Curtain.

The stage magic box art for Deckscape - Behind the Curtain.

Since their first installment, however, Deckscape has always included a couple of gotcha “puzzles” that feel more like a game of “guess what I’m thinking” than a fair, solvable puzzle. I keep getting the impression that Deckscape’s designer feels that a game needs something that lots of people get wrong. While Behind the Curtain would have been more satisfying if every puzzle felt fair, thankfully we pushed through our early moments of frustration to reveal a truly satisfying play-at-home escape game.

From our perspective, Behind the Curtain was one of the strongest games in Deckscape’s respectable stable.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid puzzle play
  • Clever use of simple concepts from magic
  • This is one of Deckscape’s stronger products

Story

We had received an anonymous envelope with free tickets to a magic show performed by the legendary Lance Oldman in New York City… so we went to the show…

The deck of cards and a mysterious envelope.

Setup

Behind the Curtain followed the same structure as all previous Deckscape games. We explained this in detail in our first Deckscape review of their original games Test Time & The Fate of London.

The only key difference in Behind the Curtain was the inclusion of a mysterious envelope.

Gameplay

Deckscape’s Behind the Curtain was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.

Early puzzle cards introducing the main character, magician Lance Oldman.

Analysis

➕ Deckscape created magically thematic puzzles for Behind the Curtain. They would obscure, change, and misdirect. We appreciated how the gameplay style made sense with the story.

➕ In Behind the Curtain, Deckscape included props that allowed them to do more than they could otherwise have accomplished with only the deck of cards. They employed these in thematically relevant ways to add intrigue and deliver satisfying solves. They stretched these few additional props remarkably far.

➖ We encountered a few puzzles that felt like “gotcha” moments. One early puzzle was so egregiously obnoxious that we thought about quitting. Deckscape always throws in a couple of garbage puzzles and we hate that they do it.

➖ It wasn’t always clear – from the wording or the illustrations – when you needed an object or what you needed to understand about an object in order to solve a puzzle. This led to a couple of choke points where it was difficult to use the hint system to even figure out where to focus our attention.

➖ Although you should be able to solve through multiple stacks of cards at once for the bulk of the game, we broke sequence at one point due to some confusion born from the game’s art.

➕ We enjoyed an artistic late-game solve and the finale.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: just the game

Buy your copy of Deckscape’s Behind the Curtain, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Exit: The Game – The Mysterious Museum [Review]

The Mysterious Time Machine

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 19, 2020

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

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: about $10

Publisher: Thames & Kosmos

REA Reaction

Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum was one of our favorites of the series… and it completely caught us off guard. The name and packaging looked painfully drab and unappealing, so much so that it sat on our shelf collecting dust for about a year. It turned out that this boxed escape game was actually a clever time travel story.

The box art for the Mysterious Museum, depicts the entrance to an exhibit.
The packaging doesn’t reflect the gameplay.

The Mysterious Museum was one of the easiest tabletop escape games that we’ve played, but don’t read that as a criticism. There is an underappreciated joy that comes from playing a beginner-friendly tabletop puzzle game; things just click and flow.

The puzzle style was more about observation and connection than deeper solving. If you are an experienced puzzler, especially one familiar with the Exit: The Game series, your playthrough will likely go by quickly. We may have breezed through this game in under 30 minutes, but we weren’t bothered by that because we found that time so enjoyable.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop puzzlers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • This was one of the smoothest Exit: The Game experiences we’ve played
  • Some clever puzzles that we enjoyed as experienced players, but are straightforward enough for beginners
  • Fantastic low-key Easter eggs for Exit: The Game fans

Story

On a field trip to the Florence Natural History Museum, we had accidentally fiddled with an artifact and found ourselves traveling through time!

Closeup of the initial puzzle's art, depicts a closed museum ticket counter.

Setup

Our first review of Exit: The Game dove deep into their core mechanics. You can visit that review for more structural details.

Gameplay

Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum was a standard play-at-home escape game with an easy level of difficulty.

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

Assorted game components.

Analysis

➕ With The Mysterious Museum, Exit: The Game put an interesting twist on the escape “room” format. We moved through the same room repeatedly, in different time periods. We liked this change in format.

➕ We enjoyed the art direction and illustrations in The Mysterious Museum.

➖ Although we enjoyed the uses of destructibles in this escape game, we think the gameplay would have been cleaner if those destructible puzzles were presented in reverse order, with the destruction as the means to the solve first, and as the crux of the solve second.

➖ One puzzle didn’t speak to us clearly enough. It was a little out there.

➕ We enjoyed Exit: The Game’s twist on “mysterious object” for this game.

➕ Exit: The Game has continued to find ways to innovate while relying on the same core game mechanics. While not unexpected, this game’s innovation was an especially bright spot in our playthrough.

➕ At the conclusion of The Mysterious Museum, Exit: The Game included some amusing little keepsakes. We enjoyed the prizes and an Easter egg.

➖ Looking back at the hint cards after we’d finished, the stage 1 hinting seemed a bit heavy-handed.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: scissors

Buy your copy of Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Exit: The Game provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escaparium – Bernie Block [Review]

Lego Land

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 2 – a small family

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bernie Block is the Lego escape room that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

While it never explicitly mentions Lego in any way, the look and feel was all Lego… and it was a delight.

In-game: A lego kitchen
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Escaparium clearly designed Bernie Block for children, but our team of adults still adored it. Sure, it was easier, but that didn’t diminish the joy of the experience.

I would have loved to see a little more drama at the end to match the detail that was poured into the world, but overall, Bernie Block is a must-play for families who are anywhere near Montreal. If you’re an adult player who doesn’t have kids, there’s a lot to love about Bernie Block if you’re willing to embrace the playfulness of this game. I am quite happy that I did.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Lego fanatics
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The cuteness levels are dangerously high
  • It feels like stepping inside of a giant Lego construction
  • Bernie Block is funny in a family-friendly way

Story

Bernie Block desperately needed our help… to convince his crush to go on a date with him.

In-game: A lego chair in front of a TV in a lego house.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Setting

Everything was built from blocks. Everything. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, the furniture – all of it. Bernie Block looked like we had stepped into something made by an 8-year-old in the best way possible.

As an adult, it felt like wonderful nostalgia… and I have to imagine that as a kid, Bernie Block would feel simply awesome.

In-game: A clock built from giant legos.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s Bernie Block was a family-friendly escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A lego bathroom.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Analysis

➕ Delightful. This describes Bernie Block to a T. It describes the set, story, music, and so many of the in-game interactions.

➕ The block-based set and prop design created a unique aesthetic. It was bright and friendly. Escaparium minded the details, adding lego-y echos in their choice of set decor and props. The story came to life because we really felt a part of this little world.

➕ We met the characters in Bernie Block through amusing videos with stellar voice acting. They added humor and purpose to the gameplay.

➖ Although counting puzzles belong in a family-friendly escape game, the cluing felt messy, which made this sequence more chaotic than it needed to be.

➖ In one case, the trigger tolerances were a bit too tight. We had solved something and it didn’t quite register until we shifted things.

Bernie Block was especially charming because of its scale. The space felt small, but the interactions felt big. Escaparium replicated Lego interactions in their puzzle design, and delivered them at human size.

➖ We loved many of the set pieces in the second act – so much so that we wanted them to be a larger part of the experience. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➖ There was opportunity to do something more energetic with the finale.

➕ The Lego theme had broad appeal. Kids will feel at home in this game. Our group of adults felt nostalgic and no less joyful.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. Bernie Block is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s Bernie Block, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Immersia – The Grand Immersia Hotel [Review]

Fantastic service. Shuttle bus included with your stay.

Location:  Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Grand Immersia Hotel was different beast. It was big, narrative-driven, and incredibly compelling. With this escape room, Immersia has clearly established itself as one of Montreal’s must-play companies.

This ambitious escape game used many wonderful tactics to build intrigue and excitement.

In-game: closeup of the hotel's key display.
Image via Immersia

As you’ll see below, we noticed a few rough edges and opportunities for refinement. That said, they didn’t get in the way of the intensity of this adventure. That’s really what you’re paying for in The Grand Immersia Hotel.

If you’re anywhere near Montreal, check into the The Grand Immersia Hotel. You’re doing Montreal wrong if you skip it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Size and scale
  • Some gorgeous setpieces
  • Brilliant delivery of narrative & adventure

Story

It had been years, but the Grand Immersia Hotel was finally reopening. The opening bash would be the party of the century.

We had been abducted by a man obsessed with revenge. Before he dropped us off at the hotel, he had blackmailed us and given us explicit instructions to follow. He wanted the celebrities and politicians to suffer and we were his instrument.

In-game: The front desk of the hotel.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Grand Immersia Hotel was expansive, with multiple scene changes among vastly different spaces.

As with any hotel, The Grand Immersia Hotel was impressive in the common areas… and the rooms… less so. These were maybe a touch too unimpressive for the purported grandeur of the newly reopening hotel.

The grand parts of the The Grand Immersia Hotel really leaned into the grandeur.

In-game: The hotel bathroom.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Grand Immersia Hotel built excitement and momentum. From the opening moments of this thrilling ride, through each scene change, it kept our hearts racing, and our solving energetic.

➕/➖ Immersia built an incredible juxtaposition into The Grand Immersia Hotel. We entered through the scene of a stereotypically bad escape room, but pretty soon, we could glimpse a later scene, even before we could reach it. Each scene was justified in the story and the collections of scenes worked together beautifully. In a couple of instances, however, that juxtaposition was a little too strong.

➕ The acting in The Grand Immersia Hotel was a lot of fun. We could play into it as much or as little as we wanted. Whether we chose to avoid or engage, it added excitement and the threat of consequence.

➕ We loved one elegant late-game puzzle. Although it was process-y, it was tangible and thematic. The moment we keyed into the aha, we were impressed. 

➖ At times, Immersia leaned heavily on standard escape room tropes.

➖ One late-game puzzle lacked feedback.

➕ We encountered a clear decision point in The Grand Immersia Hotel. We understood our choices and their consequences.

➖ We read much of the narrative cluing from papers rather than felt it through the gameplay.

➕ The plot twist – albeit short – added to the experience. We enjoyed how the final scene played out to wrap up our story.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Our Quarantine Tabletop Escape Room To Play List

In this time of social distancing, we’re staying positive and embracing the opportunity to play many of the play-at-home escape rooms and other puzzle games that have been piling up around us. Some of these, for far too long.

The iconic scene from The Twilight Zone's "Time Enough at Last." The man on Earth surrounded by his books just before he breaks his glasses.
If you aren’t laughing right now, go watch, The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last”

Typically we don’t publish about products until we can vouch for their quality… so buyer beware. A listing here is not necessarily an endorsement. This is more of a statement that “This is a thing that exists and might be entertaining.”

Please reference An Escape Room Players Guide To Self-Quarantine for a list of suggestions that we’ve already reviewed.

If you know of other tabletop escape games that we haven’t yet reviewed that you think we’ll enjoy, please let us know and please let everyone reading know by writing a comment.

Reviews Coming Soon

REA’s “To Play” List

Boxed Escape Rooms

Subscriptions

Books

Puzzles

For Kids

Watching the Mail

These new games are on the way to us – we think – and if they arrive, we’ll add them to the list.

If you know of other tabletop escape games that we haven’t yet reviewed that you think we’ll enjoy, please let us know and please let everyone reading know by writing a comment.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REA Statement on COVID-19

We are hosting two escape room tours and a convention in 2020.

We feel it is our responsibility as event organizers to address concerns around COVID-19.

Last night we published the Reality Escape Convention’s Statement on COVID-19.

We realize that the tours are approaching more quickly than RECON. These are smaller events with less risk of exposure. That said, we are monitoring the situation closely and we will be sharing updates with our attendees as they become available.

In all cases, our sentiment and approach remains the same:

We’re going to do the research and hard work to take care of our attendees. If you were on our New Orleans Tour last year when a hurricane struck, you would have seen how tirelessly we worked to turn that event into a success through dedication, adaptability, and a near total lack of sleep.

We truly appreciate those who have purchased tickets to our 2020 events already. We want the rest of the community to purchase with confidence that those hosting them are attentive, responsive, and alert.

The Escape Room I Didn’t Know I Wanted – Part 3 – Community

Introduction

Lisa: This is the third piece in a three-part series by Diane Kobrynowicz and Sarah Mendez about taking risks and finding community through escape rooms.

In this – the final installment – Sarah and Diane both share thoughts on why this was “The Escape Room They Didn’t Know They Wanted” and what it ultimately gave them, which was far more than 60 minutes of gameplay. They also offer suggestions for anyone else who is looking to expand their community through escape rooms.

Brief Series Recap

Sarah, a fledgling escape room enthusiast, created an elaborate escape room in her garage just for the heck of it.

With the help of REA, Diane, a veteran escape room enthusiast, got to play the escape room and had an absolute blast doing so.

Sarah & Diane: We want to close this series by sharing what’s been possible for us as a result of taking chances. We hope to inspire you to take even more chances with fun, adventure, and creating community.

Diane and Sarah with their significant others.
Left to Right – Tony, Diane, Jonathan, Sarah

Previous Experience with the Escape Room Community

Sarah: Prior to this experience, my husband Jonathan and I lived in our personal escape room bubble. We had played most of our 38 games as a date activity, dragging friends along on less frequent occasions. Although I was eager to entertain our friends with my garage escape room, I didn’t realistically expect anyone to be nearly as excited about it as I was. In short, we were oblivious to the possibility that there might be a broader audience for my creation. By extension, we had no idea that there could be value to a broader audience.

Diane: Tony and I had become knitted into the escape room community, first by taking a recommendation from David for our first experience of an escape room in New York City about 4 years ago, and then by participating in 3 of REA’s Escape Immerse Explore Tours. We’ve had the pleasures of joining David and Lisa when they’ve come to the greater Austin area to play games, and of pointing newbies to the Room Escape Artist as a resource for orienting themselves to this new world. Indeed, it was an email from Lisa that connected us to Jonathan and Sarah.

The Community’s Role in This Story

Our connection wouldn’t have happened without the existence of a broader, accessible network of escape room enthusiasts. There were three elements to this connection:

Reaching Out

Sarah: My husband Jonathan, an Asker, tapped into REA’s treasure trove of knowledge by asking if they might happen to be in the area and interested in checking out the room. To any Guesser, like me, this immediately sounded like an outlandish question (“Hey, world-renowned escape room reviewers, do you want to fly to the far reaches of outer Austin to see our garage?”). Who would humor such a suggestion?

Getting Connected

Sarah: REA – Community Builder Extraordinaire – that’s who! They could have ignored this request. Instead, they responded in a wiser and more useful way by serving as a matchmaker. They shared some local contacts who might be interested in and could more practically pursue such an experience.

Completing the Handshake

Sarah: Local contacts doesn’t guarantee making a connection. We could extend our hand, but would anyone reach back? Fortunately, Diane and her fiancé Tony’s open, adventure-seeking personalities made them the perfect pioneers for the experience. They not only jumped on the opportunity, but they promoted it to the rest of the local group. Ultimately, through their enthusiasm and unsolicited advocacy – Diane said it was “not to be missed” and that comment was what made one local couple take the plunge – seven more deeply experienced players came over to play the game.

Connections Matter

Ease of Connection

Sarah: We lived in a bubble, playing escape rooms ourselves. This experience showed us that escape rooms could actually connect us to other people. When each team of enthusiasts arrived, we immediately knew we had something to talk about – what rooms we had done, our puzzle preferences, our approaches to clues, etc. – and all these things helped us immediately connect with strangers. We had absolutely no idea that (1) we would be excited to talk about escape rooms for hours on end and that (2) other people would share that excitement.

Audience for Niche Creativity

Sarah: As I made my room, I felt more and more that designing an experience is an art form. I found myself wanting to share it with others who would appreciate it.

Future Collaboration

Sarah: Now that we have connections with people who share our love of escape rooms, we have all sorts of new possibilities ahead of us. Most obviously, we have new friends to play rooms with who are enthusiastic enough to potentially travel to do so! Beyond that, we’ve discussed opportunities to jointly create wider experiences beyond just my garage. I never would have even considered thinking about this as more than a hobby, and I still might not, but what a fun, unexpected result of exploring a hobby from another angle.

Support for the Industry

Diane: As our escape room experience deepened, we came to appreciate the uniqueness of and challenges with this form of entertainment.

We want to play more escape rooms! We want more escape room companies to exist and thrive! We share our love as self-defined “Escape Room Ambassadors” by introducing escape rooms to anyone and everyone. How else will this unique form of immersive entertainment continue to exist for all of us to enjoy, unless we all take on helping it grow?

Because most escape rooms aren’t replayable, it can be challenging for these businesses to establish a consistent customer base. Word-of-mouth advertising is the most persuasive kind, so we can all help the escape room world by recommending our favorites.

Integrating Newbies

Diane: Not everyone is enthusiastic about experiencing with a new type of entertainment, particularly one with a premium price. Escape rooms are so individual that it’s easy to imagine a newbie might have one bad experience and never go back. We provide context and encouragement to newbies to maximize the likelihood that they will have a good experience. That’s one reason we are so grateful to REA as a central hub of this mission.

How To Connect

It might seem that this just boils down to basic networking, but it is really so much more.

Maybe, like Sarah, you hadn’t realized the potential of applying networking skills to a hobby like this.

Maybe, like Diane, you find people fascinating and you find escape rooms fascinating, so combining the two make for more fun, more adventure, and more opportunities.

Here are some tried-and-true techniques for connecting with each other:

Be a Community Member

Diane: Be inspired by this 3-part guest article series to define yourself as an unofficial “Escape Room Ambassador.” Take on sharing the escape room experience in a way that works for you. In fact, consider taking more risks by reaching out to others, especially to escape room-loving strangers, and forming new connections.

Introduce the concept of escape rooms to your friends. Mix up your team sometimes to expose new people to the experience. The more people who discover and enjoy escape rooms, the broader the market, and the more fun we can all have together!

Research Resources

Sarah: Search online or ask at the escape rooms in your town if there are meetup groups, blogs, Facebook groups or relevant events that draw escape room enthusiasts. If there are none in your area, you could host your own.

Support Escape Room Businesses

Diane: Creating an escape room is often a labor of love, so the people behind a new escape room business are a part of the community and need your support. If you play the room and believe the business has potential, take the time to write them reviews. Spread the word to your friends. When a business has a quality product and customer experience, help to get it off the ground with word-of-mouth marketing so that it can deliver more fun experiences to you in the future.

Read REA’s FAQ

Diane: The REA FAQ is a good place to start, if you want to connect with their community.

Given REA’s mission, they have some fabulous ways to connect with others. These include:

Be an Asker

Diane: The crux of our experience rested on several sparks of connection, none of which would have happened if we’d all assumed that there was nothing to be gained. Be open to possibilities. Imagine best-case scenarios. Someone has to reach out their hand first, so make it you.

Epilogue

Sarah & Diane: The coda to our story is that as a result of this pop-up-escape-room-in-a-garage experience, we two couples went on a destination escape room trip weekend to Houston that was anchored by Strange Bird Immersive, voted the top escape room company in the North America. We followed that up with an escape room triple date adding the couple who “took the plunge” to experience Sarah’s escape room. Our continuing adventures are just beginning!

Escape room post-game photo - Diane & Sarah with their significant others and friends

In a world of disconnection or virtual connections, there is something uniquely meaningful about real-life escape game experiences, real-life friendships, and community.

Reader Stories

Lisa: “Reader Stories” is a series we started back in 2016. Included in REAs mission statement is “we strive to grow the community of amazing people who love solving the puzzles together.” We think sharing stories in one avenue for growth.

If you feel inspired by Diane and Sarah’s story, we hope you’ll create new adventures of your own around your love for escape rooms.

Do you have an escape room-inspired personal story? We’d love to hear from you.

Great Scott Mystery Rooms at The Storyteller’s Cottage – The Dame Disappears [Review]

Where in the world is Agatha Christie?

Location:  Simsbury, Connecticut

Date Played: January 20, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dame Disappears was a lovely, beginner-friendly escape game in The Storyteller’s Cottage, a Victorian mansion turned escape room/ writers’ workshop/ event space.

Located in a charming small town, we absolutely adored The Storyteller’s Cottage, its programs, and its goals. We wish there was something like this near us.

As an escape room, The Dame Disappears was a strong game for newer players. It was elegant, engaging, and told a story.

In-game: closeup of a nightstand with a book, a lamp, a tea pot and a tea cup.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid, beginner-friendly puzzling
  • The Storyteller’s Cottage is a wonderful place to visit
  • The Victorian charm of the set and setting

Story

Agatha Christie had gone missing and Scotland Yard had sent us to her home to inspect her belongings. Could we solve the case of the missing mystery novelist?

In-game: Wide view of a bed room with large dressers and a makeup vanity.

Setting

We entered a gorgeous historical home that has been repurposed as an escape room/ writers’ workshop/ whatever other crazy and fun ideas the owners and patrons dream up. It was a wonderful place.

The individual escape rooms were set in rooms within this house. In the case of The Dame Disappears, the room was Agatha Christie’s bedroom. The space was simple, yet lovingly built with clear and consistent art direction.

The use of technology was limited, yet imaginative.

In-game: an open trunk with a dress hanging inside beside a fireplace.

Gameplay

Great Scott Mystery Rooms’ The Dame Disappears was a standard escape room with an easy level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Wide view of an old bedroom centered on the bed.

Analysis

➕ Great Scott Mystery Rooms was built into the beautiful Victorian mansion that is The Storyteller’s Cottage. The Dame Disappears took place on the second floor, in a bedroom that hearkened back to the era of the house with its bold wallpaper and antique furniture. The adorable set felt at home in The Storyteller’s Cottage.

➕ The puzzles were well clued. Although the gameplay was search-heavy, we never found ourselves ransacking a bedroom blindly. While at times there was a higher volume of text, we never found ourselves pulling random words or numbers from documents.

➖ Much of the clue structure was on laminated sheets of paper. We’d love to see Great Scott Mystery Rooms pull more of the clue structure into the set and props and find less anachronistic methods of delivering written materials.

➖ The puzzle gating included a number of locked boxes. Locked trunks belonged in The Dame Disappears. Other locked items felt out of place. There was an opportunity to vary the puzzle gating and build it into more set pieces and props, rather than place it atop these items.

➕ We enjoyed stepping upon a nifty reveal.

➕ The hint system was part of the game world. It was helpful and responsive.

➖ The final puzzles lacked excitement. Although they involved fun mechanisms, they were single player solves, and located in a corner such that they wouldn’t really be available for onlooker participation. For a group of more than 2 people, we expect that much of the team would disengage right as they reached the finale.

➕ The narrative had a fun twist for the final act. This added intrigue.

➕ The escape rooms at Great Scott Mystery Rooms are inspired by literature. They incorporated Easter eggs for the Agatha Christie fans.

Tips For Visiting

  • Great Scott Mystery Rooms is located within The Storyteller’s Cottage, an adorable vintage Victorian home that hosts literary events, literary societies, writers’ workshops and retreats, storytelling events, author salons, literary-themed mystery rooms, and much more.
  • You can park on the street directly in front of the house, or anywhere on Hopmeadow Street (on-street parking is free). Additional free parking is available behind the Fiddler’s Green building (where Joe Pizza is located).
  • The Dame Disappears is on the second floor of the house, up a flight of stairs. There is another escape room on the first floor of the house, which is wheelchair accessible.

Book your hour with Great Scott Mystery Rooms’ The Dame Disappears, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Great Scott Mystery Rooms comped our tickets for this game.