The Escape Room World Record is Officially in Print

About one year ago, a team of escape room players set the world record for “Most escape rooms attended in one day.”

Guinness World Records 2020 book cover.

Now that Guinness has committed that feat to print in Guinness World Records 2020, it’s that much more official.

Part one of the print entry reads: "Most escape rooms attended in one day. On 3 Oct 2018, Richard Bragg, Daniel Egnor, Amanda Harris (all USA) and Ana Ulin (ESP) - aka "Bloody Boris's Burning Bluelight Brigade" - visited"
“Bloody Boris’s Burning Bluelight Brigade” was quite the team name.
Part two of the print entry reads: "22 escape rooms in 24 hr in Moscow, Russia. The team were able to extricate themselves from all but one of the rooms in the allotted time."
Guinness really hitting that one loss home.

Congratulations to Rich, Dan, Amanda, and Ana!

The team in a room surrounded by Ironman suits.
Left to right: Amanda, Rich, Ana, Dan all surrounded by standard Russian indifference to copyright :p

Get Your Copy

You too can own a copy of history!

Learn More About Their Record Attempt

For more about their amazing feat of brain power and stamina check out our two interviews with the world record holders: anticipating the attempt and reflecting on setting a record.

Montreal Tour – 2020

We’re excited to welcome all 4 of these escape room celebrities to Montreal with Escape, Immerse, Explore: 2020. We hope you’ll join them and us on this continual journey to enjoy these amazing games.

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.

“Escape Room” Enters-Merriam Webster Dictionary

With new concepts come new words. “Escape Room” was among the 533 new words that Merriam-Webster added to their dictionary in their latest batch of updates.

Today we’re going to look at their definition and see if we can improve upon it.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of escape room

a game in which participants confined to a room or other enclosed setting (such as a prison cell) are given a set amount of time to find a way to escape (as by discovering hidden clues and solving a series of riddles or puzzles)

Stylized image of a dictionary open on a table.

Parsing This Definition

They nailed a lot of the key elements here with “game,” “participants,” “set amount of time,” “discovering,” “solving,” and “puzzles.”

We don’t love that “confined” is part of the definition. That gives some people the wrong impression that this activity is dangerous or claustrophobic. That said, as written, this captures that physical space is a key element.

It seems strange to argue with “to find a way to escape” as part of the definition, but in this aspect of the wording, I think Merriam-Webster is just a bit behind. This was true for quite some time, but the term now encompasses broader goals.

Why we love Merriam-Webster

We love Merriam-Webster because they are dedicated to describing the language we use. They watch as terms gain staying power or evolve. They make updates. And they are descriptivists; so are we.

The Room Escape Artist Definition

Escape Room – (noun, singular) a game where a group of participants collaboratively discovers and solves puzzles, tasks, and challenges that require no outside knowledge at a physical venue in order to accomplish a goal within a set amount of time.

In our ERban Dictionary, we also define two synonyms: Room Escape, Escape Game

Room For Discussion

In escape rooms, players both “discover” and “solve” the challenges. There aren’t any directions provided. Discovery is part of what separates an escape room from other types of puzzle games.

“No outside knowledge” separates escape rooms from puzzle hunts. While both are challenging, puzzle-solving activities, escape rooms should be self-contained and shouldn’t require any specialized knowledge.

“Physical venue” separates escape rooms from video games and VR. The idea of real-life or meetspace is a crucial differentiator.

We define escape room and escape game as synonyms. At present, these terms are mostly used interchangeably… except when we don’t want to argue the finer points of a “room” when discussing experiences that take place outdoors, around a table, or in a ballroom, stadium, or theater.

And these points are, of course, arguable. Our definition encompasses physical venues that are outdoors or that hold more than one team at once. These are atypical, but we still see them as escape rooms.

More Room for Discussion

The elephant in the physical venue is the word “escape.” Why is the activity called “escape room” when the goal is to find a relic, steal a McGuffin, or disarm a bomb? In these cases, there might not even be any escaping.

This takes us back to Merriam-Webster. Dictionaries don’t ask why. They describe how language is used.

This term has evolved since its early usage in English somewhere between 2010 and 2012 when “escape” described the sole goal of the activity. That’s what we recognize in our definition.

Extreme Escape – The Lost Tomb [Review]

Monkey around

Location:  San Antonio, Texas

Date Played:  August 8, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The biggest disappointments are aesthetically beautiful, high-budget games that do not play well. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again.

The Lost Tomb was gorgeous and had some fantastic moments… but the puzzles and gameplay felt incomplete. This was made worse by wear that rendered some puzzles especially difficult to interpret.

After playing and loving Extreme Escape’s The Cursed, we went in fully prepared to be enamored with The Lost Tomb. It didn’t work out that way.

If you love a beautiful set, there’s still an adventure in The Lost Tomb. If you feel that a high-quality escape experience necessitates strong puzzles and gameplay, then your relic is in another tomb.

In-game: A human skeleton hanging from a wall between two panther sculptures.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Cool effects
  • Nifty set design

Story

Our archeological dig had angered the ancient Mayan gods. We had to restore the artifacts to their rightful places or suffer the gods’ wrath.

In-game: A gold Mayan sculputre engraved and hanging from the wall of the tomb.

Setting

Extreme Escape’s The Lost Tomb was a good-looking game. There were loads of details that gave it that classic Indiana Jones vibe.

The lighting and effects helped to sell the setting.

With the exception of one small late-game space, the build quality was quite high.

In-game: A human skull on a spike in a tomb.

Gameplay

Extreme Escape’s The Lost Tomb was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A locked crate in a cave.

Analysis

➕ The set looked good and, at its best, the tech felt magical, in that cursed-tomb type of way. Together, the set and tech made a charming combination. 

➕ Extreme Escape added effects to The Lost Tomb that engaged multiple senses and enhanced the experience.

➖ Most of the puzzles were almost fully designed. A few too many of them required some amount of trial and error, given the possible different ways of interpreting the clues. In many instances the cluing wasn’t quite refined enough.

➖ One segment of the game required expert night vision. We had to discern detail in the dark without a portable light source. This whole segment felt like it was the result of a massive oversight. From set to interaction, it was amazing that this corner of the game existed at all.

➕ Extreme Escape is one of the few companies that doesn’t freak out about players using cameras in the games.

In-game: Lisa & David's selfie inside of the Lost Tomb.
We took a selfie inside of an escape game and we weren’t disintegrated with lasers!

➖ There was significant wear on crucial props and set pieces.

➕/➖ One set piece solved into an especially satisfying and surprising response. That said, the gamemaster had to give us specific instructions for how not to act with this set piece, putting a damper on the moment.

➕/➖ Another clever puzzle might have been a little too clever. It required us to act in a way that felt counter to the instructions given to us at the beginning of the game. This could have been mitigated with extra in-game cluing.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • They are on the top floor of the plaza.

Book your hour with Extreme Escape’s The Lost Tomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Extreme Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Lockout Austin – Enchanted [Review]

You shall likely pass!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played:  August 9, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $175 per team

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Enchanted was a family-friendly escape game that offered up enough challenge and intrigue to keep our excessively experienced team engaged.

Lockout Austin has a style and approach to escape game design that resonates with us. We keep going back to see what they’ve cooked up because their particular blend of in-character gamemastering, puzzles, set design, story, and adventure works. It’s unique to them and that’s no small feat in this industry.

This is one of those companies where I’m inclined to recommend playing though their entire catalog. Enchanted would make a great first game at Lockout Austin, or a wonderful first game for your family. If you’re near Austin, you should check them out.

In-game: Closeup of an elaborate hourglass, a large book, and a plush, fancy chair.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle play
  • Some adorable design
  • The in-character/ in-room gamemaster & hint system

Story

We had been called upon by the Council of Ancient Wizards to endure their tests. If we could pass their trials, they would grant us admission to their order.

In-game: The wizard's chambers with the desk of the wizard.

Setting

Enchanted was a physically small escape game, with an elegant, deliberately designed set (with the exception of a stark white door or two).

In-game: The Wizard's test chamber.

The space looked solid from floor to ceiling.

In-game: The ornate black and red ceiling,

Gameplay

Lockout Austin’s Enchanted was a standard escape room geared towards families, with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A glowing table with building models resting atop it.

Analysis

➕ The theme of Enchanted was fun; we especially enjoyed when Lockout Austin upended a basic design assumption.

➕ Lockout Austin set the gamemaster in the room with the aspiring wizards. He looked and acted the part well. This wizard remained behind his desk, out of the way of the players, but available to us if we needed his wisdom. He was a feature of the experience rather than a necessity, and adaptable to each team.

➖ In an artfully designed, magical gamespace, the doors appeared overlooked, which broke the world just a bit. Even painting them flat black would have been an improvement.

In-game: A locked chest that reads, "How many did we eat?"illuminated by a lantern.

➕ The puzzles were surprisingly deep for a family-friendly game. A number of layered puzzles worked well as group solves, and we liked how these engaged much of the team. They were balanced well with shorter solves.

➖ One segment needed better lighting or better contrast. We struggled for the wrong reasons.

In-game: a metal rod mounted to the wall with many rings hangning from it.

➕ We never got to see the hint system in action, but it was creative and funny.

➕ While Enchanted relied heavily on locks, Lockout Austin incorporated technology to deliver magical interludes that added character to the game. We especially enjoyed these puzzles.

➖ Enchanted needed a climax. There was an opportunity for the final puzzle or the in-character gamemaster to deliver a more dramatic conclusion when we earned our admission into the order. 

➕ There was a moment for the young child on your team to feel triumphant in a room of bigger people solving puzzles.

Tips For Visiting

  • Lockout Austin had many food options nearby.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s Enchanted, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lockout Austin comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room in a Box – Flashback [Review]

Cameo

Location:  at home

Date Played: July 27, 2019

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

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $20.99

Publisher: Mattel

Disclaimer

I’m going to open by being especially up front. We know the creators of Escape Room in a Box very well.

There’s a mutual respect and friendship that we need to be clear about. David has collaborated with the women behind this product on a television pilot… and there’s enough affection in this friendship that Juliana and Ariel named the main character of Flashback Dr. Lisa David.

No one is hiding anything.

We wrote as honest a review as we would for anyone else, but if you’d like to disregard our thoughts on this product, feel free to stop reading now.

REA Reaction

Mainstream, mass-produced tabletop escape games are almost exclusively made from paper; Escape Room in a Box is the exception.

We were big fans of Escape Room in a Box’s The Werewolf Experiment and we’re huge fans of Flashback. Anyone can open this box and just play it. There aren’t laborious rules, quirky apps, or unusual nuances to understand. That’s how escape rooms are supposed to work.

The weakest points in this game were two of the puzzles that felt like they needed a little more work. One lacked precision; the other required lighting conditions that won’t always be present. Neither of these broke the game in a significant way.

From the writing, to the art, to the puzzles, Flashback demonstrated that Escape Room in a Box wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. These are still two of the strongest, most escape room-y tabletop games on the market.

Whether you’re new to the genre or you play them all, we recommend Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid puzzles that are far more tactile than most tabletop escape games
  • A cute story and strong writing

Story

We’d received an urgent letter from Dr. Lisa David warning us that we were in grave danger. One of her friends had descended into madness and was coming after us.

We had to delve into her past in order to determine what was wrong and remedy the situation.

Setup

Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback was a natural successor to The Werewolf Experiment. The game was loaded with tangible components and played like a real life escape room. We opened the box and the progression of play was self-evident.

There were minimal rules and no software to futz with.

Flashback was structured in three 30-minute segments (blue, red, and purple). They could be solved in any order or in parallel; each stood on its own as a unique path. For reference, we completed all 3 paths in about 45 minutes.

Gameplay

Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback was a play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The folks at Escape Room in Box write their games in a playful, entertaining voice. They leaned into this with Flashback, delivering an adorable story through fun and relatable banter.

➕ Flashback relied heavily on tangible props, more so than the majority of boxed escape rooms. One of these interactions will likely stop some players cold (rest assured, it was well clued). In this way, Flashback felt more like an escape room than many of the play-at-home games in this style.

➕ The colored puzzle tracks were clear. We could play them sequentially or simultaneously, and we never felt lost. We enjoyed how the tracks were themed by puzzle type, which was grounded in the narrative. The gameplay worked well.

➕ The game looked and felt polished. We appreciated the quality paper materials. The art looked great, especially in the purple track.

➖ While some of the artwork was adorable, it didn’t carry throughout all of the puzzle tracks. More memorable art throughout the game would have further supported the narrative.

➖ A few of the puzzles lacked precision. In one instance, the prop didn’t match its cluing quite closely enough. In another instance, we didn’t have the environment that the puzzle demanded or enough direction as to how to create it. These puzzles felt unrefined.

➕ With Flashback, Escape Room in a Box integrated the narrative and puzzles more closely than in their original game, which was a delight.

➕ The hint system was easy to use, self-service, and comprehensive.

Flashback was easier than many of the play-at-home escape rooms on the market. This will be a quick playthrough for experienced puzzlers, though no less fun because of it. If you’re looking for meaty puzzles, however, look elsewhere. Flashback would be a great choice for beginners and families.

➕ At $20, the value of this game is insane relative to other similar products made entirely of paper.

😏 Objectively speaking, Doctor Lisa David was a most excellent character name.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pencil, paper, access to a kitchen
  • I would recommend playing the puzzle tracks sequentially. There’s no real reason to rush though this game. Savor it.

Buy your copy of Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided a sample for review. 

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

Yoda Games – Pharaoh’s Revenge [Review]

“Do… or do not.”

Location:  at home

Date Played:  July 30, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2

Duration: 60-90 minutes

Price: $24.99

Publisher: Yoda Games

REA Reaction

Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge was fairly standard tabletop escape game written in both English and German.

The puzzles played cleanly and offered a bit of challenge. That said, the hint system was annoying to use and there weren’t any truly special or memorable puzzles that stuck with us after playing the game.

The German & English cover for "Pharoah's Revenge an Escape Room @ Home"

The bottom-line on this: I’d be surprised to encounter many players who think it’s their favorite tabletop puzzle game, but I’d be equally surprised to find an experienced tabletop puzzler who thinks it’s abysmal.

If you’re a fan of tabletop escape games, Pharaoh’s Revenge is a solid choice.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • You like puzzling
  • An interesting answer verification mechanism

Story

We’d discovered a new ancient tomb in Egypt. Along with the burial site and treasure… we’d also found a brand new curse! We had to solve the Pharaoh’s puzzle in order to spare our lives from his trap.

Setup

We began by cutting out 5 colored strips of card stock, each a different length; these were used to input and verify solutions.

In-game: an introductory letter on a sealed envelope, a piece of acetate, a dry erase marker, and a small piece of cardboard with 5 different size/color bars on it.

The materials within Pharaoh’s Revenge were double-sided with English and German language components.

The game was a fairly typical tabletop escape game consisting of mostly paper components sealed within envelopes filled largely with paper components.

The most unusual component was a sheet of acetate and a dry erase marker that was critical to some of the puzzle solves.

Gameplay

Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge was a play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The game could be played in either English or German. We played in English; it played cleanly. All written puzzles were double-sided, German on one side, English on the other. This worked well.

➕ The answer verification system was simple, nifty, and unique.

➕ The puzzles were solid and offered enough challenge.

➖ There weren’t any really special, memorable interactions.

➖ The hint system was less than stellar. Yoda Games built their hint system into a website and required us to navigate to specific URLs in the instruction booklet for each individual hint. The hint website had no navigation whatsoever.

➕/➖ Pharaoh’s Revenge could be repackaged for another playthough by a different group, but we couldn’t find instructions for said repackaging. We would have had to keep track of that information from the beginning, but we didn’t know to do that up front.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: scissor, pencil, and paper

Buy your copy of Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Yoda Games provided a sample for review. 

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

Mobile Escape Room Texas – Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty [Review]

Roll away the Alamo

Location:  San Antonio, TX

Date Played:  August 7, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: contact them for event pricing

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When Mobile Escape Room Texas approached our booth at the escape room conference in San Antonio, we were intrigued by Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty. We’ve generally enjoyed our experiences in trailer-based escape rooms and have been impressed with the ingenuity of these creators.

Mobile Escape Room Texas surprised us, however, by raising the bar. When our gamemaster “locked” us inside this Alamo, we were taken aback by the level of detail and portrayal of the historical space. Whereas most games in trailers lean into the long and thin layout when choosing a theme, Mobile Escape Room Texas did something different, including an unorthodox transition to boot.

In-game: An hourglass sitting on a stack of crates.

Mobile Escape Room Texas designed primarily for a corporate/ party, non-puzzler audience. They can run Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty as a 15-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute game. They can segment the trailer to run two games simultaneously. The versatility was impressive.

If you’re an experienced escape room player, don’t expect especially novel puzzle-play or interaction design. Expect detailed design and solid gameplay with a few minor hiccups.

The novelty is how this game navigated the arduous spatial and audience constraints. From this angle Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty, is especially impressive.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • History buffs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Great set design
  • Solid puzzle play rooted in history

Story

It was 1836 and we had gone to the Alamo to retrieve a letter on orders from Sam Houston. We’d been misidentified as spies and locked up in the small mission right before the famous battle was set to begin.

In-game: a Mexican flag, coats, and a lantern hanging on the wall of the Alamo.

Setting

Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was set inside a mobile escape room trailer: all signage on the outside, another world within.

The exterior of Mobile Escape Room's trailer.

Inside the trailer, the walls evoked the old fortress with detailed weathering. The wooden furniture and props felt like they belonged. The dim space was lit by lanterns. There was no resemblance to the modern trailer and no indication that we were on wheels.

Gameplay

Mobile Escape Room Texas’ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was a mobile escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A musket viewed through cage bars.

Analysis

➕  From the gamespace, you never would have known that Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was a mobile escape room set inside a trailer. The set was designed and detailed. It looked great. Mobile Escape Room Texas even constructed a transition.

➕ Mobile Escape Room Texas minded the period-specific details of their historical staging. They even crafted custom brass wheels for a word lock.

In-game: The weathered concrete and stone walls of the Alamo.

➕ The puzzles and inputs varied enormously. We enjoyed putting our mark on one puzzle and wrapping up another. If we turned around, we might find a well-hidden input. There were many satisfying solves.

➖ We encountered some severe wear where a puzzle was practically illegible. 

➖ One ghost puzzle marched on.

➕ /➖ Mobile Escape Room Texas triggered a sound to indicate when a puzzle was solved. While we appreciated the feedback, this was frequently lost among the sounds of a team of people in a small space. Spring-loaded doors that pop open would help a team’s forward momentum. 

➕ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty included cut-scene video interludes. We enjoyed how these added background to the game without disrupting gameplay.

➖ In an escape room that offered great moments, the ending fizzled. We wanted to feel the triumph of success more emphatically.

Tips For Visiting

  • Mobile Escape Room Texas can bring the game to you. It’s a trailer. You can also come to them at their regular parking lot in San Antonio.
  • At least one player will need to crawl.
  • Mobile Escape Room Texas can run this game as a 15-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute experience depending on a client’s needs and goals.

Book your hour with Mobile Escape Room Texas’ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mobile Escape Room Texas comped our tickets for this game.

Clueless Escape Rooms – Save Tony [Review]

An IV drip of puzzles

Location:  Ann Arbor, Michigan

Date Played:  August 3, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Save Tony was a traditional puzzle-driven escape room with a familiar, but unusual premise. It was bright, inviting, and family-friendly. We needed to find a cure… but it wasn’t for the zombie virus!

With interesting and diverse puzzles that involved a group and solved cleanly, Save Tony flowed well.

In-game: a skeleton hanging and looking into the camera.

Save Tony wasn’t flashy, but the puzzle-play was fun. This is the type of game design that made us fall in love with escape rooms.

While it won’t present anything spectacular to experienced players, if you enjoy escape rooms for the puzzles, and you find yourself in Ann Arbor, you’ll enjoy giving poor Tony 60 minutes of your time.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Lots of engaging puzzles
  • A good looking doctor’s office set
  • A unique premise

Story

A patient had been brought in unconscious with an apparent snakebite. We had to determine which type of snake had bitten him and the proper course of treatment before time – and he – expired.

No snakes (real or plastic) appear in this game.

In-game: A wide angle shot of the medical office. It looks like a doctor's office.

Setting

Save Tony took place in a large, while-walled doctor’s office, with white cabinets and various medical props. Tony lay unconscious on the exam table. It wasn’t the most exciting space, but it was true to the theme. It was also an exceptionally bright gamespace in an industry with far too many dim ones.

Additionally, Clueless Escape Rooms had 2 copies of this game, so competitive teams could race against one another.

In-game: closeup of the "Exam Room 2" sign.
Exam Room 1 was next door.

Gameplay

Clueless Escape Rooms’ Save Tony was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ We loved the premise. In our escape room careers, we’ve saved a lot of unfortunate souls from gruesome demises. This was our first snake bite intervention.

➕ Save Tony looked appropriately sterile, with white walls, medical cabinets, and doctor-y implements. That said, neither Tony or the gamespace looked entirely authentic. We could buy into the fiction, all the while understanding it was a playful, family-friendly, snake-bite situation.

➕ Clueless Escape Rooms created a variety of themed puzzles that worked well within the gamespace and made use of physical props. We especially enjoyed their take on sutures and gifts brought by well-wishers.

➖ One device failed to balance properly. There are more reliable ways to implement this type of tool.

➖ One puzzle showed significant wear, which detracted from solving it.

Save Tony was designed to support a larger group of beginner players. Many of the puzzles could incorporate multiple people piecing things together. That said, for experienced players, nothing required an army.

➖ Because there were a lot of locks in this escape room, we occasionally found ourselves trying a single combination in multiple places. Varying the digit structure more would prevent this from stymieing momentum.

➕/➖ Save Tony culminated in a logic puzzle, which was entirely appropriate for the scenario. While we appreciate that this was set up so as not to sink the muggles and instead to send most teams out of the hospital on a high note, as puzzlers we would have liked a meatier challenge, especially since we’d been building to this from the opening moments of the game. Your mileage may vary.

Save Tony played smoothly from start to finish. It was a traditional puzzle-forward escape room, primarily gated with locks. This was the type of escape room that made us enjoy this genre of entertainment.

➕ The final interaction was cute and clever.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Clueless Escape Rooms has two copies of Save Tony. If you have a lot of people, you could play head to head.

Book your hour with Clueless Escape Rooms’ Save Tony, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Exit Escape Room NYC – Sugar Rush [Review]

Undercooked

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played:  August 11, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sugar Rush put a new twist on the escape game format for us: our goal was to bake cupcakes. In the end, we received cupcakes.

In-game: 3 decorated cupcakes in a baking pan.

While Sugar Rush shined conceptually, the execution fell short of stellar on every level. The puzzles and gameplay were of spotty quality. The set looked kind of like a restaurant kitchen. The cupcakes were reminiscent of an elementary school bake sale. (Is that a thing that still happens or have we litigated that into oblivion?)

This game was fine, which was disappointing. There were opportunities for great reveals, narrative novelty, and better cupcakes. New York City has some great cupcake bakeries and I’d bet that people would shell out a few extra dollars per ticket if it came with quality dessert.

This was one of those games that I wanted to love. When I heard the concept, I wanted to send all of my friends who are kind of on the fence about escape games. It wouldn’t take a lot more refinement to make Sugar Rush special; I hope it gets there.

Who is this for?

  • Players with a sweet tooth
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The concept was adorable and novel
  • If you win, you get to eat a cupcake

Story

We’d entered the Great NYC Baking Challenge.

Our task: make the best cupcakes ever!

The catch? Someone had hidden all of our ingredients.

In-game: a small oven in a kitchen, above it a box labeled "Recipe Safe."

Setting

Sugar Rush was set in a restaurant kitchen with a strange glass wall dividing the space. The set looked almost as it should. At any given point, if you got up close to something, it looked right, but stepping back and taking in the set in as a whole, it felt off.

In-game: An empty egg carton and a checken in a kitchen.

Gameplay

Exit Escape Room NYC’s Sugar Rush was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Before escape rooms entered my life, I spent a solid three years tasting (and analyzing) cupcakes all around New York City. I have notes on more than 60 bakeries; there’s a big spreadsheet. Don’t pretend you’re surprised. Anyway, it’s an understatement to say I adored the concept for Sugar Rush. I love baking and I love escape rooms! Even for those less enamored with dessert, this was a fun and novel thematic combination.

➕ /➖ In some ways, the set looked like a test kitchen, but it felt just a bit office-y. Individual props looked great, but we weren’t quite sold. It also didn’t have the necessary workspace for frosting our award-winning creations.

➖ The tech need a bit more refinement. It wasn’t entirely well hidden; exposed wires needed housing. It was also a bit glitchy and didn’t always give sufficient feedback.

➕ The props were adorable. We enjoyed how Exit Escape Room NYC build amusing puzzles around the essential cupcake ingredients. It was funny and charming.

➖In the second part of the experience, the puzzles were thematically related, but no longer tied to the narrative.

➖ Exit Escape Room NYC did the cooking show swap, but without trying to convince us that we were decorating the cupcakes we’d baked (with the ingredients we’d found!). We’ve seen this type of swap executed beautifully (and humorously) in escape rooms before. Sugar Rush would have been far cooler if they had gone the extra distance to sell their fiction to us.

➖ The cupcakes were “meh.” We won the game, but I cannot be convinced we won the Great NYC Baking Challenge.

❓ Because so many people have asked: We don’t know whether the cupcakes were bought or baked. (I’m guessing baked from a mix.) We aren’t health inspectors.

Tips For Visiting

  • Exit Escape Room NYC has two copies of this game. You could race your friends in this baking competition.
  • Exit Escape Room NYC is easily accessible on public transportation.
  • Note that Sugar Rush is not located at their 38th Street location with most of their other games. It is located a couple of blocks away at 247 West 36th Street.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger (across the street).

Book your hour with Exit Escape Room NYC’s Sugar Rush, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Exit Escape Room NYC comped our tickets for this game.

Michigan Escape Room – Infirmary [Review]

Photogenic

Location:  Clinton Township, Michigan

Date Played:  August 3, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Infirmary was a fantastic escape game.

The puzzles were great, with many novel interactions.

The set looked incredible, and our only real knock against it was that we wished we had a little more light in one space.

The narrative had some intense and eerie twists, without turning into a horror experience. The one thing holding this game back was that there was room for a lot more drama in the conclusion.

Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary was a must-play if you’re anywhere near Detroit.

Post-game: David laying on an operating table, list looking into his eyes with a knife in her hand.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A wonderfully creepy set filled with details
  • A great mix of puzzles

Story

We were investigative journalists attempting to shut down a cruel and unusual medical facility… but in order to tell our story, we needed to survive the ordeal.

In-game: A wide shot of the Infirmary. It's heavily weathered and worn.

Setting

I’m going to sum up Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary in 2 words: beautifully dingy.

This rundown medical facility looked incredible. This was one of those games where I stopped playing a few times and just took it all in, touched all of the textures, and enjoyed the space. Michigan Escape Room has been at this for a long time and it was clear that they’d learned a thing or two about building escape room sets.

In-game: A partially illuminated overhead surgical light.

Gameplay

Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A worn periodic table of elements hung from the wall.

Analysis

➕ Infirmary looked creepy, in a deliberately designed way. The set was consistently detailed, creating an eerie vibe.

In-game: 2 gross containers each with a human heart within.

➕ The puzzles were creative, diverse, and well integrated into the set and props. We especially enjoyed when the puzzles involved multiple people in a layered group solve. These were especially satisfying. Our favorite example created a high pressure situation.

➕ The interactions of the Infirmary gave feedback. This detail added to the ambiance and helped the gameplay flow smoothly.

In-game: Closeup of the varied wall textures. There is a lot of detail.
A lot of care went into every inch of this set.

➖ In a couple of instances, we were hampered by low lighting. There were opportunities for spotlighting, especially in the late game.

➕ It’s well known that we enjoy doors, but the Infirmary impressed us with a creative twist on door design.

➕/➖ Michigan Escape Room modified a common medical prop, making it perform escape room “magic” in a phenomenal reveal. While this part of the interaction was brilliantly executed, the rest of the puzzle seemed like an afterthought that could have looked more polished.

➕ Escape Room Michigan used technology to enliven Infirmary, pulling us further into the story, and providing necessary clue structure. This was captivating and well integrated.

➖ Infirmary lacked a climax. Once we found the evidence, we wanted a culmination of our story – an unexpected twist or a triumphant escape. The game had many badass moments. In comparison, the end fizzled.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Infirmary is at the Clinton Township location. Michigan Escape Room has another location in Washington Township.

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

Disclosure: Michigan Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.