Puzzah! – The Curse [Review]

Puzzah Express

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

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

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Curse felt like a miniature 5 Wits.

This Puzzah! location was in a mall, right by the food court. The Curse was a compact, tech-driven, family-friendly puzzle game. It was bright, colorful, and approachable.

In-game: wide angle view of the Mayan tomb, a pyramid in the middle of hte room, an large wall mounted puzzle beyond it.

The Curse looked good. It played well. It was not deep. This was a game made for a general audience; for that audience, it was great.

If you’re a diehard escape room player, play The Curse to experience something a bit different. This game had solid automation and adaptive difficulty, which was lovely to see, even if the game was not designed for me and my team.

Bring the kids and convince grandma to come too. This one is for the whole family.

Who is this for?

  • Newbies
  • Children
  • Families
  • Technophiles

Why play?

  • A vibrant family-friendly environment
  • Interesting automation and technology
  • Puzzle play that will engage a family

Story

We descended into an ancient Central American temple on contract with industrialist Victor Maragana. Our mission was to reason our way past the temple’s traps and obtain a long-lost coin.

In-game: A sun etched in the wall of the ruins.

Setting

The Curse was a compact, bright, colorful, and tech-driven Central American temple for families.

Calling it kiddie evokes a cheesiness and cheapness that wasn’t accurate. This was a solidly-constructed space that seemed designed to feel like an adventure without sending anyone home with a nightmare.

The adaptive technology was a smart touch to keep things fair and flowing for players of all ages and skills.

In-game: A large cube resting atop a pyramid in inside of bright ruins.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s The Curse was a family-friendly escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a radio and a blacklight.

Analysis

➕ The Curse was designed for families, new players, and casual players stopping by while strolling through the mall. This 30-minute escape room was the right level of not-too-challenging for its intended audience.

➕ Aesthetically, The Curse was “ancient Aztec meets grade-school classroom.” It was thematically a Central American tomb, but it had bright colors for kids to follow to solve the puzzles. It was a bit strange, but it worked well in this context. It felt deliberately designed and looked polished.

➕ The Curse had a gentle on-ramp. It taught players how to interact with the space.

➕ The puzzles were solid. They were fun, team-based challenges. Puzzah! would present additional complexity as teams built mastery.  

➕ /➖ Puzzah! built a lot of puzzles into a small space. On the one hand, we appreciated the different ways they used the same props and input mechanisms. On the other hand, by the end of the game, the use of the same items was feeling redundant and we wanted more to interact with… or even just interplay between different props.

The Curse encouraged teamwork and sharing by design. When puzzles could only be solved by one person at a time, it even told the group that the next person should step up and take their turn at this trial. I can see this working wonders on sibling nonsense.

➖ The Curse lacked a boss fight. We wanted that final puzzle to be a more challenging, epic battle that necessitated teamwork. Also, we couldn’t actually hold the coin. When we won, we left the room empty handed. This seemed like a missed opportunity.

Tips For Visiting

  • Puzzah! Broomfield is located in the FlatIron Crossing Mall. Puzzah! Broomfield is at the South Entrance just beside Old Navy, right next to the food court.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s The Curse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.

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

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms – Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery [Review]

Puzzle me this.

Location:  Fort Collins, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a sprawling frenzy of puzzles and adventure.

The massive gamespace had been designed by a scenic painter who took the opportunity to give each of the many chambers a unique look and feel.

In-game: A long hallway with a door painted like a jigsaw puzzle at the end of it.

In a lot of ways, this was a traditional lock-and-key escape room. It was, however, exceptionally big, and made smart use of the large space. Additionally, instead of complex puzzles, we encountered wave after wave of quicker solves.

Our knocks against Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery were mostly centered on low lighting and an ending that didn’t adequately pull together this delightful experience.

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms imbued their first escape game with an undeniable energy that we couldn’t get enough of. We absolutely recommend Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery if you’re near Fort Collins.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • High-energy, puzzle-driven gameplay
  • Great scenic painting
  • A massive, sprawling set

Story

Over the generations, puzzle shrines dedicated to an ancient, mischievous trickster spirit known by many different names to different cultures had been found all over the world.

One such shrine to “The Puzzler” had been uncovered beneath a building in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In-game: closeup of a door pained with an eye and two ravens.

Setting

Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was physically massive with tons of different chambers to explore.

From a construction and technology standpoint, this experience was fairly typical. The folks behind Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms, however, have a background in scenic paining, which they put to wonderful use. Each of the many chambers had a decidedly different look and feel.

In-game: closeup of a gray door pained like a jigsaw puzzle and chained shut.

Gameplay

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms’ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: closeup of a doorway chained with a padlock.

Analysis

➕ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a sprawling gamespace. It was exciting to continually open up more of the environment. Behind every door, there was more adventure.

➕ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery had a solid on-ramp. It taught us how to interact with the space before it set us loose in it.

➕ The set looked good. It was varied. Each space felt different, by design. We also enjoyed the soundtrack, especially the frenzied music.

➖ The setting was overly dim. We needed portable light sources for much of the solving. We often didn’t have enough of them, so the game became a dance of passing the lights to each other and through the different gamespaces. Some spotlit workspaces would have been a huge help.

➕ Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms built a puzzley game. There was a lot to solve, but the puzzles were largely quick hits. As soon as we had the “aha” moment, we’d be moving forward again. This made for a high-energy experience.

➖ It’s possible for this game to bind up on itself and bottleneck. We experienced some of this when one dexterity puzzle in a small space was taking us a bit too long and there wasn’t anything else for the rest of the team to do.

➖ The final puzzle was a letdown. Although the staging was great, the puzzle didn’t make any sense. Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery would have benefited from a final boss battle that pulled the experience together.

➕ There was a prize hidden in Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery!

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms’ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

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

Mission Escapes – Lunar Escape [Review]

Hit way above its weight class.

Location:  Aurora, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $76 per team for teams of 2 to $184 per team for teams of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Lunar Escape was a fun game that could be transformed into something spectacular with a bit more investment. The puzzles and gameplay were buckets of fun. The set and set pieces’ construction left a lot to be desired.

In-game: Closeup of a maze.

Mission Escape (no relation to Mission Escape Games) has a talent for puzzle and game design. If they level up their presentation, they could build some truly special experiences.

So long as your enjoyment of an escape room isn’t tied directly to set design, we strongly recommend Lunar Escape if you’re in the area; it plays far better than most escape games.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Great early game reveals
  • Some clever, weird, layered puzzles
  • There wasn’t much searching at all
  • A phenomenal final act

Story

A curse had been cast on the earth so that it only received light from the moon. We had to break the curse by completing the Magic Circle.

In-game: a gray-scale clock depicting the Earth

Setting

Lunar Escape had a smart, dramatic dark opening. As the set began to reveal itself, it quickly became clear that most of the set construction was aggressively subpar.

There were bright spots, but overall, looking closely at most items didn’t improve the experience… and there were some set pieces that you didn’t have to look at closely to get a sense that construction wasn’t Mission Escapes’ strong suit.

In-game: Two locked compartments built into a bench surrounded by old shag carpet.

Lunar Escape was fun in spite of its build… and honestly… that was impressive in its own right.

Gameplay

Mission Escapes‘ Lunar Escape was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections and puzzling.

In-game: closeup of a red on/ off switch.

Analysis

➕ Lunar Escape opened dramatically, in darkness. It used lighting as gating, which was elegant, unusual, and safe.

➕ There was essentially no searching. The escape game showed you where to focus.

➖ The build quality was sub-par. Although much of this was obscured by darkness, as we interacted with the set, we could tell that Mission Escapes had a long way to go in construction.

➕ We enjoyed one simple escape room trope executed about as smoothly as we’ve experienced it.

Lunar Escape stalled when we had inadequate tools and the challenge became the execution. In two instances, we knew how to solve the puzzle, but we struggled to succeed at it due to construction or prop quality.

➕ In Lunar Escape, we built mastery through solving, which enabled us to solve a more complex, layered puzzle late in the game. This felt fantastic.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Mission Escape is on the third floor, Suite 390.
  • Lunar Escape is also available is Mission Escapes’ Seattle location.

Book your hour with Mission Escapes‘ Lunar Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

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

BerlingsBeard & Wildrence – The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch [Review]

The eye of the beholder

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: October 8, 2019

Team size: up to 16

Duration: 90-120 minutes

Price: from $40 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign co-produced by Wildrence and BerlingsBeard. It was aimed at teaching new players the ropes. As someone who had played D&D only twice before, and most certainly didn’t yet grasp all the mechanics, I was the target audience.

A stuffed Beholder on a table.

We played the 9th chapter in an ongoing campaign… so we slayed a dragon.

Dungeon master Ken Breese was phenomenal. He made sure everything ran smoothly and all players, at all experience levels, had a good time. He was in control of the experience, but we felt like we had agency.

I had a wonderful time.

If I were to take up D&D – and I would, if I had more time – I would want a consistent group of players/ characters who could form relationships and tell a more coherent story. $40 makes sense for an introductory lesson or 3 with a skilled dungeon master, but if I were going to play a full campaign, $400 per player feels like a lot. And that’s the thing: I would want a full campaign.

The game map, characters, dice, buildings, and a white dragon strewn about the map.

The physical space of The Wildrence is fantastic in so many contexts, but it didn’t contribute enough to the experience to merit the price.

Ken was amazing. Our session was delightful. I am so happy that we went because I feel like I left a more confident D&D player. It was absolutely worth it one time. The question is: does that price point prevent a community from forming? My gut is that, for most, it does. And what I want out of my social gaming is connection.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • The D&D curious
  • D&D players without a party

Why play?

  • Smooth onboarding to the world of D&D
  • An outstanding professional Dungeon Master
  • To have your moment of glory

Story

We played the 9th chapter in a weekly D&D campaign hosted by BerlingsBeard and taking place at Wildrence. Players could buy tickets to a single session or multiple sessions. We played only a single session, but as the 9th chapter of a 10 chapter campaign, it was pretty badass journey.

We were adventurers on a quest to slay a dragon that was terrorizing a town.

The game map covered in dice with our chraacter models in the town.

Setting

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was co-produced by Wildrence and BerlingsBeard.

Our adventuring took place at Wildrence, the home of many New York City immersive productions. They’d staged The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch around a table in the kitchen area of the multi-purpose immersive stage.

Upon arrival, we each selected a pre-made character card. When we first sat down at the table, the dungeon master introduced the world and took us through our character cards, helping us round out the details of our desires and personalities.

The leather-covered table provided ambiance. Atop the table there were dice, maps, character figures, buildings, and a $^%*@#$%&*ing dragon. Our Dungeon Master triggered light and audio cues as we played.

The game map with our characters in buildings, and a dragon approaching.

Gameplay

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was a game of D&D. The dungeon master built a world for us to explore and play within. He was decidedly in control of the main story beats; it was up to us to decide how we reacted and what implications that had for the world and the other characters in it.

Core gameplay revolved around exploring, imagining, storytelling, and rolling dice.

Closeup of two drink tokens.

Analysis

➕ The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch made D&D accessible for new players. Starting out, D&D can feel intimidating. There’s an entire world of information to learn in order to play the game. This experience was set up to minimize confusion and get new players rolling quickly.

➕ We had an assortment of pre-made characters to choose from, presented on cards. The cards gave us enough information that we could start playing without becoming overwhelmed. We didn’t need to understand everything on the character cards right off the bat either. It would be explained as it became relevant to play. We could also embellish these characters and make them our own.

➕ Ken Breese was a skilled dungeon master. At the onset, he asked us each questions to get us thinking about the characters we’d chosen, who they were, and what motivated their decisions. He helped us get to know our characters and their roles in the world.

➕ Our dungeon master had a plan for this chapter, the 9th of a campaign, but he made it seem like our actions resulted in the effects. He emphasized fun over all else. For instance, he made sure that everyone had their epic moment, even fuzzing the rules a little to accomplish this. (David knew that he was being handed his epic moment, but this wasn’t evident to me, as someone with almost no D&D experience.)

❓ Our Dungeon Master came in with a solid plan. We had a quest to accomplish and he made sure we saw it through. I liked this. It spoke to my need to get things done. However, I can see others preferring a more freeform style of dungeon mastering with more world exploration rather than storytelling.

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch enhanced the experience with maps and figures, which was neat. The tangibles really helped me grasp what was happening.

➖ As a stage, The Wildrence didn’t add much. The game was set in the kitchen. Although the Dungeon Master controlled the Hue lights and sound cues, and staged the game with some leather on the table, that was about as much as the space offered. This experience would have been equally as engaging around just about any other table.

❓ Drink tokens were on sale: $15 for 2 drinks. The price was expensive by most standards… but not really by NYC standards.

➖/➕ The characters were uneven. One of the 4 people in our group had attended previous chapters of The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch. She’d developed a character who was overpowered, compared to our new characters. She had magical weapons! We appreciate that players can book into a single session or many sessions, playing as often as they’d like, and using the campaign as an opportunity to truly learn D&D, as she’d done over the weeks. That said, it made for some overtly imbalanced gameplay dynamics.

➕ Our Dungeon Master kept the experience energetic and engaging.

Tips For Visiting

  • A few of our favorite restaurants in the area include Russ & Daughters CafeVanessa’s Dumpling House, and Mission Chinese Food.
  • By subway, take the F to East Broadway. Street parking can be challenging in this neighborhood.
  • Wildrence is located down a flight of stairs.
  • Wildrence is hosting a D&D-themed open house on November 12 and their next D&D campaign will be a mini 3-session holiday campaign on November 19, November 26, and December 3.

Book your session with The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch comped our tickets for this game.

Q The Live Escape Experience – The Conjuror [Review]

Odd Duck Immersive

Location:  Loveland, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019,

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $24.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Conjuror was an actor-enhanced escape room. It was teed up to us as more immersive theater than escape room, but that didn’t feel like accurate expectation setting.

This was a solid escape room, with a dramatic (and slightly over-the-top) character overseeing the experience. He was a delight. Additionally, there was one fantastic recurring set piece. It was pretty much worth playing the game for these two things alone.

In-game: a series of glass vials beside a crow.

The puzzle design itself was fine – maybe a little dated – but it got the job done.

One last thing… and this recurred in both games we played at Q The Live Escape Experience. They needed to get a cleaning crew into their games. Both games were unacceptably dusty.

All in all, there aren’t that many escape rooms with a theatrical bent to them and this was a solid one. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then you should check out The Conjuror.

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?

  • The seance table
  • A strong introduction
  • The actor interactions

Story

We had tickets to see Malveaux the Magnificent conduct a seance, piercing the veil between life and death to commune with the spirits.

In-game: a white table clothed table in a dim seance parlour.

Setting

Billed as a hybrid of immersive theater and escape room, The Conjuror opened with a humorous scripted introduction. From there, we found ourselves in a magical study/ seance chamber. The centerpiece of the game was the seance table, which was quite cool.

The room had a grim, Addams Family vibe. While the game was fairly new, it was pretty damn dusty.

In-game: an assortment of magical items including a skull, and a hand labeled "Poison Ivy."

Gameplay

Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror was a standard escape room with a theatrical bent and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and bantering with the actor.

Analysis

➕ The Conjuror started with a performance. The actor was engaging and talented. He established a character in the opening act, which set up the rest of the experience.

❓ Although The Conjuror opened with an actor, the experience was an escape room, not immersive theater (as it was framed for us). For the majority of the time, we solved puzzles towards accomplishing a mission. Although it had dramatic flourishes, and allowed character banter, it was an escape room through and through. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but setting expectations is important.

➕ Q The Live Escape Experience kept the character involved throughout the experience. He was amusing. We could choose how much to engage with him. This was fun.

➕ The Conjuror wove narrative and puzzles together. The puzzles were justified and made sense in the space.

➖ The puzzles felt dated. They were largely search based and not all well clued. One seemed like it almost required a hint. There were opportunities to make the puzzles more interesting.

➕ That seance table!

➖ The gamespace was filthy. David didn’t set foot in particular area of the gamespace because his allergies were already acting up, and that section would surely have aggravated them more.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Q The Live Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

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

Deckscape – The Mystery of Eldorado [Review]

Survivalist

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 22, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about $17

REA Reaction

The Mystery of Eldorado was the fourth installment in Deckscape’s card-based, story-driven escape game series. We were lost in the Amazon (rain forest… not website) and Deckscape added a survivalist twist to the puzzles.

In The Mystery of Eldorado, we had to make decisions – lots of them. Our choices came with ramifications: some foreseeable, others that came out of nowhere. In puzzle-driven games, if you’re solving well, you usually feel in control. The Mystery of Eldorado, however, always felt a little out of control, which was equal parts thematic and annoying.

The jungle and ruins art of the Deckscape Mystery of Eldorado box.

This was a strong installment, especially for Deckscape fans. The art was good. The story was playful. There were plenty of puzzles to fill a play session; we just wished that there was a little more variety to the puzzle types.

All in all, this was a fun game for the price and a good value for table top escape room players.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Survivalists
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some truly unusual puzzles
  • An interesting story
  • You’re a Deckscape fan
  • It’s cute

Story

While searching for the lost city of Eldorado, our plane had crashed in the jungle. With limited resources, and danger lurking in the leaves, we were committed to finding the legendary city or to die trying.

4 cards with different survival tools.

Setup

The Mystery of Eldorado followed the same structure and core mechanics of Deckscape’s previous games. We explained this in detail in our review of Test Time & The Fate of London, so we won’t rehash it.

As with previous Deckscape games, the print quality was great, as was the art.

Gameplay

Deckscape’s The Mystery of Eldorado was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and reasoning though options.

Analysis

 The Mystery of Eldorado had a fun premise. It didn’t take itself too seriously… but it also worked well. It was a good balance.

➕ The writing was entertaining and the game world was funny. We played in English, which was a translated version. The writing held up.

➕/➖ There were many choices to make within The Mystery of Eldorado. That was cool because they were often consequential. However, many of them were blind choices and the ramifications felt haphazard.

➕ The artwork was great and had a consistent look about it.

➖ There were a few instances of eye-catching red herrings within the cards. Deckscape seems committed to their gotcha moments.

➕ Most of the puzzles were delightful and satisfying. The survivalist twist was well executed. It was surprising to have to attempt to reason through some of the more realistic logic puzzles.

➖ A minority of the puzzles were pretty dubious, which is kind of a thing with Deckscape. That said, there weren’t too many of these.

➖ There wasn’t quite enough puzzle variety for our liking. A few puzzle types were repeated with minor alterations.

➕ Deckscape created diegetic hints. They crafted characters and props within The Mystery of Eldorado that would provide the hints. This was fun.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table or the floor
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Deckscape’s The Mystery of Eldorado, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Deckscape provided a sample for review… and we lost it when we moved. So we bought our own copy to review it.

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Escape from Hellscream – The Elevator [Review]

The elevator to Hell

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 2 – 6 (or elevator weight capacity)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape from Hellscream was about the experience, the setting, and playful terror.

Are you looking for an intellectual puzzle-driven adventure? Go somewhere else.

In The Elevator, the actors struck a balance between fear and humor that managed to amplify both without undercutting the tension.

Additionally, the experience was built around a functioning elevator; we used it to access different floors of the game. This was a nifty gimmick… and it allowed us to traverse a huge set without having to navigate stairs.

In-game:

The biggest annoyances came from a near total lack of lighting in one lengthy segment, which was great at first, but stretched on too long. We were also disappointed in some of the prop selection, which included a lockout safe.

Escape from Hellscream offered “scary” and “not scary” modes. The difference between the two was the presence of scare actors. I’ll be blunt:

There is no reason to visit Escape from Hellscream and play the “not scary” mode. Playing “not scary” would be like watching “not erotic porn.”

If you’re near Colorado Springs and like horror escape games, Escape from Hellscream is a must-visit.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fans
  • Actor-friendly players
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The hilarious and intimating scare actors
  • An imposing set
  • The elevator was cool
  • Adrenaline

Story

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator didn’t really have a story. It was essentially a haunted house with escape room puzzles as gates.

In-game:

Setting

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator was built around a real, functional elevator. The gameflow was controlled by locks and hasps on the elevator control panel.

In-game:

As we navigated the floors, we explored a haunted house filled with scare actors. It is possible to play without the actors, but why bother?

There were multiple settings that seemed entirely unrelated to one another. Each had its own creepy, dingy, haunted house vibe.

Gameplay

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator was a haunted house with escape room puzzles as gates. Your fear level will adjust the difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved primarily around searching with a few puzzles. Interacting with the actors was also part of the gameplay.

In-game:

Analysis

➕ “Scary mode” means the actors play too. The actors were the life of this experience and clearly had a ton of fun. These guys were simultaneously intimidating and hilarious, creating a vibe unlike any other escape room we’ve played.

➖ This was a search-heavy escape room, played primarily in low lighting. We didn’t have enough flashlights to solve the puzzles. While this was intentional to create a mood, it carried on far too long.

➕ Although much of the gameplay was searching, there were some serious puzzles in the first act. These were good solves.

In-game:

➖ One critical interaction had weak feedback. Ultimately one of the actors clarified things, but there was an opportunity for stronger execution.

➕ We enjoyed the gameflow, which Escape from Hellscream crafted around the elevator. With the locks on the buttons, the scare experience was gated by puzzles that we solved in this well-lit space where nobody unexpected would appear. It gave fearful players a break to solve puzzles and changed up the experience. This was a unique design choice.

➖ We didn’t have a clear sense of game progression and timing. We misunderstood the instructions – and I’m not sure if this was on us or on them – so we thought we had a lot more game left to solve than we actually did, meaning we rushed the ending a bit more than we needed to.

➕/➖ We could ask for hints over a walkie-talkie. The hint-giving was part of the gimmick and they toyed with us over it. This was totally in character for the game. That said, the actors controlled the gameflow. They could make things more or less hidden and help or hinder puzzles. There was an opportunity to have smoother gameplay facilitated by the actors and keep more of the experience in-world.

➖ Escape from Hellscream used some generally frowned-upon props including trick locks and a lockout safe. These have the potential to stall gameplay. Swapping these for less frustrating items would make a smoother experience.

The Elevator was a high-energy game. It got our adrenaline pumping.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape from Hellscream comped our tickets for this game.

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

Locked In Escapes – The Infected [Review]

Steampunk Zombie Apocalypse

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Infected was a traditional escape room with a couple of theatrical twists and a clever theme: the steampunk zombie apocalypse.

In-game: A broken steampunk clock.

Locked In Escapes did a lovely job on this game and it felt strong for Colorado Springs. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Steampunks
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A clever twist on the zombie apocalypse escape game
  • Solid puzzles
  • Some really fun effects
  • A strong introduction and conclusion

Story

Within a steampunk London, an outbreak had been driving the population mad. The roaming hoards of infected had transformed the city into a violent wasteland.

An urgent letter from a family member and colleague had begged us to visit her lab and complete her work; it might be the only way to control the disease.

In-game: steampunk bookshelves.

Setting

The Infected was a good-looking traditional escape room with a strong steampunk vibe.

Locked In Escapes paid special attention to the ceiling and it really paid off.

In-game: ornate copper ceiling.

Additionally, the gamemastering made the opening and closing moments of this game special.

Gameplay

Locked In Escapes’ The Infected was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: A faux rotary phone encased in glass and chained shut.

Analysis

➕ We loved the steampunk twist on a zombie apocalypse theme. It was unusual, and it came together well. We enjoyed the set and prop details that supported this world as well.

➕ Locked In Escapes delivered an entertaining introduction. It was theatrical and ridiculous, and they sold it. It added intrigue and energy to the escape room.

➕ The puzzles were solid. There was adequate cluing at potentially frustrating junctures. The game flowed well.

➖ A few puzzles solved less than cleanly. In one case, subtle imagery blew us off course. In another, we encountered multiple solutions that seemed equally correct. A third instance had faint cluing.

➖ The second act was dark and although Locked In Escape provided enough flashlights (and the flashlights were cute), we would have appreciated spotlighting for workspaces.

➕ The climactic moment of The Infected turned into a wonderful reveal. It was exceptional.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Locked In Escapes’ The Infected, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locked In Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

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

Top Escape Rooms Project calls for Nominators and Voters!

If you play a lot of escape rooms, and you have opinions about them, consider participating in the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award, or TERPECA.

Top Escape Rooms Project: Enthusiast Choice Award 2018 logo. A gold ribbon made of keys.

About the Project

The Top Escape Rooms Project is an attempt to find the very best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the experience of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world.

In 2018, the first year of the project, it awarded 25 escape rooms and 10 companies with this achievement.

For more background and commentary (and an incredible list of escape rooms!) read our announcement of the 2018 winners.

TERPECA is not a Room Escape Artist project; however David and I are on the advisory committee.

Year 2 Improvements

In 2019, the second year of the project, creator Rich Bragg had two major goals: expand the coverage to more parts of the world and improve the data collection process.

Last year’s participants are actively reaching out to their friends and global enthusiast communities to encourage broader participation.

There is a new voter portal where participants can sign in and make their nominations and rankings. There’s a new and improved UI too.

Should I Participate?

If you have played more than 50 escape rooms… yes!

50 is the minimum escape rooms played requirement to be a voter. You will get the chance to vote for your favorite rooms to win this award.

If you have played more than 200 escape rooms, you can also join as a nominator. You will be able to nominate your favorite rooms to be voted on, and you also get to vote.

How do I Join?

Visit the TERPECA voter portal to sign up.

Fill out the form to the best of your ability and the committee will try to get back to you as quickly as possible.

The nomination deadline is October 31, so if you’ve played more than 200 escape rooms and you’d like to nominate, sign up ASAP!

For detailed answers to all your questions about the project and how to join, read the TERPECA FAQ.

Best is Challenging

David and I submitted our nominations earlier this month. It was challenging to whittle down the many incredible escape rooms we’ve played into just 20 nominations.

There are so many different ways to define “top” or “best.” The Top Escape Rooms Project recommends that you consider which rooms you are most likely to recommend to someone else who also loves playing escape rooms.

We took this to heart in our nominations. After we generated our respective lists, we enjoyed an evening chatting about why we thought others would love a game we’d loved, or even why they might love one that we hadn’t loved quite as much.

To reiterate, this award is not produced by Room Escape Artist. It is not the same as our Golden Lock-In Award winners, our award for our favorite rooms we played in any given calendar year. (Stay tuned for our 2019 Golden Lock-In Award livestream and announcement on Saturday, January 4, 2020.)

While we have a longstanding and uncomfortable relationship with the word “best,” we think that the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award offers a valuable tool for traveling escape room players. We’ve joined the advisory board to help it grow. We believe in its mission to synthesize a community’s worth of opinions into a list of top escape rooms that we can all enjoy. We can’t wait to see which rooms bubble to the top this December when the winners are announced.

If you enjoy playing escape rooms, we hope you’ll add your votes!

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 “yes!” 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.