Escape From St. Louis – Murder at Denbrough Mansion [Review]

Clue did it?

Location:  St. Louis, MO

Date Played: March 22, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3v3 or 4v4 (They have 2 copies are you can play competitively.)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $34 per player for team of 2 to $24 per player for team of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Murder at Denbrough Mansion was an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. We had a dead man, a series of suspects, and a lot of personal effects from those suspects. We had to analyze the information and conclude who had committed the murder, why, and with what weapon.

The stakes were raised by the fact that Escape From St. Louis had two copies of this escape game and we were racing against the other team. (My team beat David’s in this game; our competitive record is once again even.)

In-game: Denbrough dining room table, and breakfront.

While the story and mystery were loaded with details, the set wasn’t inspiring and the input mechanism for solving the crime was as out of place as it was clunky to operate.

We enjoyed Murder at Denbrough Mansion for its unusual take on the murder mystery deduction genre of escape games. It was different and had some good gameplay moments. If that’s something that appeals to you and you’re in St. Louis, then you should take a stab at solving this crime.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Detectives
  • Any experience level
  • Competitive groups

Why play?

  • You can play competitively against your friends
  • Challenging but fair deduction puzzle

Story

Philip K. Denbrough had been brutally murdered in his mansion after hosting a dinner party with all of his friends and family. We had to gather evidence, analyze it, and solve his murder.

In-game: Denbrough's dining room.

Setting

Murder at Denbrough Mansion was staged within a dining room-like environment. It wasn’t fancy or particularly exciting, but it conveyed the setting.

The set was fine, but it wasn’t the reason to visit Escape From St. Louis.

In-game: the breakfront in Denbrough's dining room.

Gameplay

Escape From St. Louis’ Murder at Denbrough Mansion was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Escape From St. Louis has two identical copies of this escape room. They offer the option to book both copies and play competitively.

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

In-game: a system for organizing suspects, weapons, and motives.

Analysis

Murder at Denbrough Mansion culminated in a giant deduction puzzle. The deduction elements made sense and the puzzles generally flowed well.

➕ Escape From St. Louis provided the tools (different types of charts) to solve the murder. We had our choice of different ways to keep track of the information and reason out a solution.

➕ As we solved the puzzles, we learned about the characters and their relationships and motives. While these were surface level revelations, it gave the playthrough added depth.

➕/ ➖ Escape From St. Louis built a solution input mechanism into the game. They designed it such that we couldn’t brute force our way to the solution of this murder. It was, however, an odd contraption to have on the wall in the dining room.

Murder at Denbrough Mansion took place in a dining room… with a murder-solving input mechanism. It was a serviceable, but uninspired set. The set was simply a container for the deduction gameplay.

➕ Escape From St. Louis had put a lot of thought in the nuances of the items within the game. We “brought” some of the evidence into the room with us because in the narrative it had been gathered at the homes of some of the other suspects. This was a level of nuance often forgotten by game designers.

In-game: A pile of evidence found elsewhere and brought to the crime scene for analysis.

➖ Some of the later puzzles could have used a bit tighter cluing. A few of the logical connections we needed to make seemed a step off.

➖ The triumphal moment of solving the murder fell flat. It wasn’t entirely clear how to register that solution. As the winning team, we were confused whether we’d won, as we could still hear the audio of the other team playing.

➕/➖ We enjoyed playing this room competitively against our friends. For those keeping track at home, we are now tied again at 3 wins each in competitive escape games against each other. That said, it would have been more interesting if there had been opportunities for the two groups to impact one another or even be aware of each other’s progress.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking is available on the street in front of the location, as well as in a private lot behind the building.
  • Stay organized while playing this escape room.

Book your hour with Escape From St. Louis’ Murder at Denbrough Mansion, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape From St. Louis provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Community Video Interview Series: Nick Moran

This interview is brought to you by our Patreon backers!

During our recent travels to Europe, we met many escape room players and creators. We had a lot of fun recording this video interview with Nick Moran, formerly of Time Run in London.

Nick got into escape rooms by way of immersive theater. He is a huge fan of immersion and world building.

For that reason, he’s particularly excited about Escape My Room in New Orleans. He hasn’t played it yet… but he’s hoping to visit soon. Maybe next year?

If you want to visit before Nick does, tomorrow is the last day to buy tickets to Escape, Immerse, Explore: New Orleans. The event is July 12-14. Don’t miss out!

Nick is also just hilarious to talk to. Seriously.

Thank you Patreon Backers!

As a reward for our Patreon backers, to thank them for helping us reach our first few funding milestones, we’ve been sharing two videos a month with them. This interview with Nick is part of an interview series where we have conversations with the interesting folks we meet in our escape room travels.

We encourage you to back Room Escape Artist on Patreon for access to this type of exclusive content… and because you love escape rooms and want to support our mission to provide well-researched, rational, and reasonably humorous pieces that push the industry forward.

Please support our efforts to build a community of players and creators that will sustain the escape room industry for the future.

Learn more about our Patreon.

The Privilege of Escape: Interview with Artist & Game Designer Risa Puno

Risa Puno is an artist who uses games to examine social dynamics. We spent a lovely April evening with Risa chatting about escape rooms over dinner at an adorable restaurant in the West Village. After learning about her upcoming project, an escape room that explores issues of privilege and inequity, we were eager to chat with her more.

Risa Puno sitting on her workbench.

We caught up with Risa this week to learn more about her project. Her Kickstarter The Privilege of Escape has less than a week to go!

Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your project!

This summer, I am working with Creative Time to create an interactive public art project called The Privilege of Escape that uses the format of escape room games in order to address issues of privilege and social inequity.

Who is Creative Time?

For over 40 years, Creative Time has worked with artists to realize public art projects that contribute to the dialogues, debates, and dreams of our times. Their free and open to the public artworks address major social issues, including the annual 9/11 memorial Tribute in Light, Kara Walker’s A Subtlety…, the enormous sugar sphinx staged at the Domino Sugar Factory in 2014, Duke Riley’s Fly by Night at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy, a political haunted house at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in 2016.

World Trade Center "Tribute in Light" twin towers of light glowing bright in the sky.
Creative Time project, “Tribute in Light.” Photo by Jesse Mills.

Why address the concept of privilege through a game?

I am using the mechanics of escape room games to show that privilege doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win… but it does make it easier to play the game.

Games can operate as simple metaphors for more complex social interactions. This game will be a kind of experiential metaphor that can (hopefully) bypass the charged language around privilege.

The word “privilege” has become so loaded that it often triggers some pretty strong reactions that can shut down meaningful conversation. This game will be a way to open ourselves to the topic.

Why build this as an escape room?

I am especially interested in escape rooms because they are awesome and super fun (duh!), but also because I believe in their potential to communicate deeper meaning. There is something about the combination of group problem-solving with urgent competition that is remarkably impactful.

When I played my first escape room, I was surprised and impressed by how real my emotions were during game play—curiosity, excitement, anxiety, frustration, panic, discovery, delight, euphoria—it was all built in! Whenever I play, although my brain knows it’s just a fun game without anything at stake, I really do feel the highs and lows in a visceral way.

The emotions are heightened by the small group experience, which is rather intimate, and where people’s personalities can emerge in interesting ways. Escape rooms promote teamwork and communication by rewarding participation and collaboration. Even when I’ve played with strangers, I’ve felt a personal connection with them after escaping because we have shared both adversity and triumph together.

A game that requires collective problem-solving to get through uncomfortable situations seems like an ideal format for tackling difficult social issues. Plus, I think having to work to unlock resources and opportunities in order to advance yourself speaks a lot to the concept of privilege.

The ability to escape is inherently a privilege. The freedom to remove yourself from disturbing or harmful circumstances requires (at the very least) access to means, expectation of mobility, and the hope for a more favorable outcome. Our privilege often manifests in what we don’t have to worry about or the things we aren’t aware of. That invisibility can make it really challenging to address.

Escape rooms generally attract people with curious minds who are looking to challenge themselves. After all, escape rooms are all about thinking outside of the box, letting go of assumptions, and seeing things from a new perspective.

Since players usually like to spend additional time afterward to “froth” and talk through the tough puzzles and epic hero moments, I truly believe this format can spark meaningful discussion and communication that could continue beyond the game itself.

A mini golf hole with a loop.
Risa’s “Leap of Faith.” Photo: TalismanPHOTO

What is your response to someone who “doesn’t want to be lectured” while playing a game?

I agree! I wouldn’t want to be lectured while playing a game either. That’s not what this project is about. We are working hard to design interesting puzzles and develop an engaging narrative. It should be as active and exciting as a commercial escape room.

That being said, this is first and foremost a public art project. Privilege and social inequity are not issues that I take lightly.

I believe that games can be used to better understand how we relate to one another. I think that when people are having fun, they tend to be more open to new things. As an artist, my aim is to present a playable experience that allows participants to draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions.

It might not be something everyone wants to take part in. I totally get that. However, if you’re interested in a memorable experience that might provide some food for thought, then you should definitely come play!

What are you hoping people feel as they walk away from this experience?

I imagine that people will walk away feeling a lot of the same emotions they do when playing regular escape rooms. After a really good game, I usually leave still feeling tingly from the thrill. I am hyper-aware of the world around me and my role within it. I want to relive every moment and puzzle, trade opinions with my teammates, celebrate the things we did really well, and talk through things that we could have done better.

I love discussing the dynamics between the players and how that affected our game. It makes me feel like we were in charge of our collective experience. I think that’s what having the privilege of escape is all about.

What are some escape rooms you are taking inspiration from?

I’ve mostly played escape rooms in around New York City, where I live.

I really enjoyed the seamless puzzle flow in Operation End of Days at Mission Escape Games.

I also enjoyed how Komnata Quest’s innovative use of physical space in Maze of Hakaina supported their theme.

I thought the hint delivery system in Alien Encounter at Clue Chase was particularly novel.

I felt transported by the introductory sequence of Deep Space at 5 Wits in West Nyack.

I enjoyed how Exit Escape Room NYC constructed the submarine setting for Operation Dive.

Practically every room I’ve played has offered fun and unexpected moments that I’ve found inspiring. It’s fascinating to see what kinds of narratives game designers come up with to create a sense of urgency and wonder.

As a builder and tinkerer, I especially love seeing exciting sets and hands-on puzzles that require spatial reasoning and visual logic. I’m a total nerd, so I definitely prefer puzzle-based challenges over tasks. I live for that “aha” moment when you realize what you’re supposed to do with something that’s been right in front of you the whole time. I’ve also become addicted to the rush of adrenaline that comes when you don’t know how many puzzles are left so you’re not sure if you’re going to make it out in time.

I’m taking inspiration from games I haven’t played yet too! Since there are so many rooms out there and so little time before this project goes live, it’s been super helpful to read your reviews on Room Escape Artist. Thank you!

While I’ll be too busy with this project to join your Escape Immerse Explore tours this summer, I totally want to do that next year!

I am most inspired by how creative and innovative the escape room community is. It’s wonderful to be around thinkers who are constantly trying to push the envelope with new ideas. Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been so generous with information and advice. This is a fun, wacky, intense community. I am absolutely honored to become a part of it.

What are some of the other projects you’ve created that might give escape room players a sense of your approach design?

I make interactive installations and sculptures that often use forms of play to understand how we relate to one another.

For example, I made a fully functional 9-hole miniature golf course called The Course of Emotions: a mini-golf experience. Each hole presented emotional obstacles that you had to overcome, such as Worry, which featured a windmill with blades shaped like question marks to symbolize how when you’re worried your questions get in the way; a par-40 maze that literally spelled the word “Frustration;” and Insecurity, which required players to deal with physical insecurity by putting while standing on a seesaw platform.

Emotion mini golf
Risa’s The Course of Emotions I.

I’ve also made my own version of the classic tilting maze game Labyrinth. My version was larger and two players were given identical mazes attached to the same tilting surface, so they had to negotiate and decide whether they were going to cooperate or compete. The title, Good Faith & Fair Dealing, comes from contract law. I really liked seeing how players communicated with each other because it said a lot about their relationship with one another. It was fun to see the differences between how old married couples played versus people who had just started dating. Roommates and coworkers were probably the best since they’re used to problem solving and compromising with one another. Once I saw identical twins play and they won together without speaking a word out loud!

Who else is working with you on The Privilege of Escape?

I’m primarily working with Brett Kuehner, who designed the Golden Lock-In Award-winning Clock Tower at Escape the Room NYC.

Brett is the best! His enthusiasm for all things puzzle-related is infectious!

Our working styles and skill sets are complementary. I have a lot of ideas. He’s been invaluable in sorting them into: fun versus confusing, reliable versus finicky, and feasible versus unrealistic.

I have experience with interactive play and analog/ tactile game design, but this is my first time creating an escape room. Brett’s technical expertise and first-hand knowledge of escape room behavior and logistics is incredible.

Brett is always patient and generous with his advice. He’s been an incredible asset to this project.

What design concepts are you currently thinking through?

This week I’ve also been thinking about what makes an escape room fair.

There is a surprising amount of acceptable frustration and confusion that is part of the normal escape room experience because the players’ sense of accomplishment is rooted in overcoming difficulties. This is different from anything I’ve built previously.

Another challenge at the moment is developing the narrative aspect of the experience. My past work hasn’t usually involved an explicit narrative and I don’t have a background in immersive theater. Thankfully Creative Time has my back for that (and everything else!).  I’m really excited by how things are shaping up.

With Creative Time backing this project, how will the Kickstarter money be used?

The more money we raise, the more people can play! The funding gained through the Kickstarter campaign will be used to extend the run of the exhibition.

Creative Time is covering the costs of the project’s production and run, but we are facing a limited capacity due to the small-group nature of escape rooms. With your support, we’ll be able to extend the length of the project, allowing us to share this unique experience with as many people as possible.

By backing our campaign, you can get all kinds of nifty rewards too, including reserving a spot for yourself to play.

Your support also acknowledges Creative Time’s efforts to work with the next generation of socially engaged artists. Really, it’s a win-win for all of us who are interested in gaming, social justice, and art all rolled into one!

An infinite mobius strip monkey bars.
Risa’s Mobius Strip Monkey Bars

Where/ when/ how can players experience your escape room?

The Privilege of Escape will open this July in New York City. Creative Time’s projects are always free and open to the public, but tickets go fast and there usually ends up being a really long waitlist.

You can get your ticket in advance by backing the Kickstarter. Many of our reward tiers include it!

More information on ticketing will be available in June on Creative Time’s website.

Back The Privilege of Escape on Kickstarter, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Sauve Qui Peut – Final Exam [Review]

No more teachers; no more books

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Date Played: April 8, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock *

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sauve Qui Peut’s Final Exam was surprising. We had been told that it would be more physical and it absolutely delivered. This escape game was all about agility, dexterity, and teamwork.

This was a truly different game that asked us to take some risks as we explored its eccentric gameplay. We had to climb a ladder and crawl… and there were confined spaces. Not everyone had to crawl or enter tight spaces, but everyone needed to climb and the tight crawlspaces were where Final Exam was most interesting.

In-game: A schoolyard fence with with a bookbag hanging from it.

Along with this experimental gameplay came some frustrations. One core mechanism was particularly quirky. Another key moment was muddied up by a bit of unnecessary confusion.

All in all, this was a nutty game. While we were a bit dubious of it in the opening act, we grew to love it. We recommend it to anyone near Montreal with the willingness to explore this strange maze to its fullest.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Agile players
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To experience a crazy puzzle construct
  • Unusual design elements
  • Playfulness

Story

We had all aced our final geography examination, but our teacher suspected that we had cheated. We’d earned our grades fair and square, but he’d failed us anyway.

To avoid summer school, we’d plotted to break into school, hack his computer, and clear our records. Failure of any kind was not an option.

In-game: A hopscotch with each tile bearing a piece of sporting equipment shot through the gate of a schoolyard.

Setting

Sauve Qui Peut’s Final Exam opened up in a schoolyard at night. It was a fenced-in play area beside a brick wall. It wasn’t the most elegant of sets, but it absolutely conveyed schoolyard.

From there, we climbed our way into our classroom… and beyond that, well… spoilers… really strange… really fun spoilers.

In-game: A view into a classroom from the outside of the school.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Final Exam was a standard escape room that required more physical prowess than most escape rooms. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, communicating, and maneuvering around tight spaces for significant periods of time.

Analysis

Final Exam had a playful premise that made returning to school fun.

➕ Final Exam incorporated physical solves including dexterity and agility. We especially liked how these solves required teamwork. One physically skilled person couldn’t solve these puzzles alone.

➖ In one instance, different clue paths jumped over one another, resulting in unnecessary confusion.

➕ While Sauve Qui Peut telegraphed some of the early gameplay, they surprised us with a reveal that changed the nature of the game. It was elegant and exciting.

Final Exam felt video game-y… in a fun way. This entire aspect of the game was unexpected.

➖ While many of the puzzles made sense in the schoolyard and classroom theming, others felt arbitrary and oddly out of place, given that theming.

➖ We solved one puzzle correctly, but the solve didn’t trigger because our choice of tool was correct, but off by a fraction of an inch. This slowed the roll of our momentum.

➖/➕ Final Exam ended anticlimactically. Because of the teamwork aspect of the final puzzle, we weren’t all together when we freed ourselves from the classroom, having cleared our names. One person stepped into freedom triumphantly without the rest of the team. That said, the exit was designed such that everyone who wished to experience the unusual element of Final Exam had the opportunity to explore this.

❓ *The entrance door to Final Exam was never locked. There was also an emergency exit door at a particular juncture. That said, Final Exam required at least some players to spend time in confined spaces. Not everyone will be comfortable with these spaces or their emergency exit options.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is more physical than most escape rooms. Everyone needs to be able to climb a ladder. At least 2 people need to be able to crawl.
  • You can play this game in English or French.

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

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

Last Chance for New Orleans Tour Tickets!

The purple, gold, and blue Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans Logo

If you’re on the fence about Escape, Immerse, Explore: New Orleans this July, you have 1 week left to decide… unless other people claim the last few tickets first.

The last day to purchase tickets is Tuesday, May 28.

This tour takes place Friday July 12 – Sunday July 14.

Your Ticket Includes

This tour includes 9 escape rooms and numerous other awesome things!

  • Escape My Room, New Orleans (2 escape rooms)
  • Clue Carré, New Orleans (2 escape rooms)
  • 13th Gate Escape, Baton Rouge (5 escape rooms… including their new horror game Asylum!)
  • An immersive puzzle event set in the French Quarter, designed and produced by Escape My Room
  • A weekend with Lisa and David as escape room tour guides
  • A talk by Lisa and David
  • A catered group meal
  • Bus transportation to 13th Gate Escape
  • Exclusive discount coupons to book additional escape rooms at these venues
  • Networking with other tour attendees
  • The option to play an escape room with Lisa or David
  • Event t-shirt

We have an incredible group of folks coming to this event from all over the country… and even from the other side of the world. Yes, 1 person is coming from Australia! On this trip you will have teammates who are as excited about these escape rooms as you are!

This is all included in your ticket for $799 per person.

Take Advantage

While in town, you can take advantage of the amazing food, drink, and partying that New Orleans has to offer.

Escape My Room will have Escape Extinction: Sharks running at the aquarium. Clue Carré will have new games open at their new location in Surge Trampoline Park. While these games aren’t officially part of the tour, you will have time to book them while you are in town. You will be some of the first players in the community to see these new attractions.

Don’t Wait

These tickets are only available until Tuesday, May 28th. There are only a few left and we anticipate they will sell out before the week is up. Buy your ticket today!

Any questions? Read the FAQ or contact us. We’re happy to help you figure out if this tour is right for you.

Escaparium – The Golden Jubilee [Review]

Heigh-ho Heigh-ho

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: April 6, 2019

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-5

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

The Golden Jubilee was a diamond in the rough. Escaparium split this game into two distinct acts: light and dark.

The light side was set in a gorgeous gem mine that would have felt at home at a Disney park. The dark side was in total darkness and required us to puzzle with senses other than sight.

In-game: A collection of gems glowing in the dark.

Escaparium nailed so much in this game, spare a few entirely fixable details that really cramped the experience. The most noteworthy flaw was an early puzzle that just didn’t seem to work cleanly. This diminished our trust in the game, but that mistrust was unfounded.

As we played it, The Golden Jubilee was a beautiful light/ dark hybrid escape game in the spirit of Escape My Room’s Smuggler’s Den. It got a lot right and offered up a ton of novelty. With a few tweaks to the existing gameplay, this could be a masterpiece.

If you’re in Montreal and you’re comfortable with a puzzle experience in total darkness, The Golden Jubilee is a must play.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Puzzlers… who can solve with senses other than sight
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The gorgeous opening gamespace
  • The challenge of a pitch black puzzle room

Story

Dr. Woo had passed away leaving his precious Golden Jubilee gem hidden within his mine. Treasure hunters from all over the world had converged in hopes of finding the gem.

Woo had been known to enjoy games and had surely left some challenges to trip up any would-be treasure hunters.

In-game: A gem mine with mining carts, and gems protruding from the walls and ceiling.

Setting

Escaparium went above and beyond with the set design of The Golden Jubilee’s first act. It basically looked like it belonged in a Disney park as part of a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs attraction. We were in a beautiful gem mine.

In-game: A bucket hanging from a rope in a mine. There is a wooden sign labeled "DANGER" hanging from the wall.

The second act took place in pure darkness. The set was visually irrelevant; everything revolved around our other senses.

In-game: A completely black image with nothing visible.
Actual game photo.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Golden Jubilee was an unusual escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The first act played like a standard escape game. The second act took place in complete darkness where we solved puzzles uses senses other than sight.

Core gameplay revolved around exploring, observing with different senses, making connections, communicating, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Escaparium’s mine was strikingly beautiful. It was cavernous, detailed, and decorated with colorful gems. It was a delightful aesthetic. We really enjoyed this gamespace.

➕ Escaparium really hit the nail on the head with one early puzzle.

In-game: A joust holding up the walls of a gem mine.

➖ Another early puzzle lacked both gating and cluing. The puzzle did not work. This lowered our trust in the game. After hacking our way through it with hints that only sort of made sense, our gamemaster was unable to explain how this should have worked.

➕ /➖ Escaparium set up a fantastic early puzzle with a large prop. Unfortunately, this puzzle asked for a large logic leap and slowed our wheels.

➕ Escaparium justified the dark room with the mine staging and story. The transition made sense.

➖ There was a bit of light bleed into the dark room.

➕/ ➖ Some puzzles in the dark room made more sense contextually than others. We appreciated how some of the puzzles were thematically connected. Others felt oddly random.

➕ The puzzles in the dark room worked well without sight. They also forced us to work together in the darkness. The Golden Jubilee flowed well in this section.

➖ We struggled with the audio in the dark room. Because we couldn’t see, our other senses were heightened. The soundtrack was distracting, especially when working on certain puzzles. The lengthy audio indicators of puzzle solves were confusing at first, and later simply distracting. The audio story elements didn’t land.

➖ The conclusion lacked excitement. It was too easy to intuit early on exactly how the game would conclude. As we all made our way to the bright part of the mine to claim our prize, its reveal didn’t feel momentous or particularly triumphal.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Part of this game is played in total darkness.
  • You need to be able to crawl to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Golden Jubilee, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Wrath Of Poseidon [Review]

9 out of 10 gods recommend Trident.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Date Played: April 8, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sauve Qui Peut had a style unto themselves. Their games were unusual and quirky. Wrath Of Poseidon was our favorite of the 3 games that we played with them. (They had 9 games at the location we visited.)

The second half of this game was vibrant. Wrath Of Poseidon was uneven in many ways. This unevenness paid off in the end, however, even adding to our experience.

If you’re in Montreal, Sauve Qui Peut is a bit outside the city. If you have a car, I highly recommend visiting them. Wrath Of Poseidon made us feel happy.

In-game: A periscope in a submarine.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The second act
  • The details

Story

Poseidon, the vengeful god of the seas, was furious with humanity for polluting his kingdom. In retaliation, he intended to flood the lands. The only way to save humanity would be to steal his legendary trident spear.

In-game: A sealed door in a submarine.

Setting

Wrath of Poseidon was a game in 2 acts. It began in a submarine. Then we experienced a transition of mythic proportions.

The submarine setting was great. It had a bronze sort of steampunk aesthetic that made it feel different from your more traditional naval vessel escape game.

The second act… well, if I spoiled it for you, I’d be a jerk. Rest assured, it was awesome and I would love to talk about it.

In-game: piping and pressure gauges in a submarine.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Wrath Of Poseidon was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The premise of Wrath Of Poseidon was fantastical, but meaningful. The story was light but certainly present.

➕ We especially liked the puzzle that asked us to remember the why of this escape room and act according to that premise.

➖ While some later puzzles integrated seamlessly, many of the early puzzles lacked inspiration. They didn’t make a ton of sense in the world. We had to dive deep in this dark submarine to find the threads of gameplay.

➖ Although Sauve Qui Peut built a polished world for Wrath Of Poseidon, at times the clue structure felt slapped on. For example, handwritten numbers on objects felt unrefined given the level of detail in other parts of the experience.

➕ Sauve Qui Peut designed mechanisms brilliantly so that one solve enabled a later one to work properly. The gating worked well and the second solve blew us away.

➖ We tripped up on ghost puzzles. This added some unnecessary confusion… but I also think that it would be difficult to fully remove this.

Wrath Of Poseidon was a beautiful escape room. Every set was carefully crafted and artistically detailed.

➕ Wrath Of Poseidon delivered a spectacular reveal. We stopped playing to take it in.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • You can play this game in English or French. However, if you don’t read French, there is one important instruction that you may miss.

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

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

St. Louis Escape – Haunted Hotel [Review]

Animatronic Hotel

Location:  St. Louis, MO

Date Played: March 21, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel felt like an ode to Disney. Some of it was overt; some of it was in the subtle choices of props and effects.

This felt much more like Disney’s Haunted Mansion than what you’d expect from a game named Haunted Hotel built by a haunted house company. That is to say, it wasn’t scary.

In-game: a suit of armor in front of worn plaster walls, the insignia for Disney's "Haunted Mansion" hands proudly.

In St. Louis Escape’s collection of strong sets, this was my favorite, partially because it had some unusual elements… and because I’ve seen plenty of Egyptian tombs, pirate ships, and murder basements. A haunted hotel was a welcome change.

There was a ton to look at in this game… and looking at all of the stuff was usually more entertaining than solving the puzzles.

The puzzle and game design fell short with weak cluing, some damaged components, and a puzzle that was remarkably out of place… not just in this particular game, but in the St. Louis Escape facility.

If you’re going to play one game at St. Louis Escape, it should either be Haunted Hotel or Cellar Escape. For my money, Cellar Escape offered considerably better gameplay… but Haunted Hotel was a lot less scary and had much more charm and novelty.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful and unusual set design

Story

Checking into this ghoulish hotel was easy. The question was, could we check out?

In-game: The hotel's decrepit front desk.

Setting

Haunted Hotel had a busy, heavily detailed set filled with quirky animatronics. It was pretty clear that the creators of this game were Disney fans.

St Louis Escape had deliberately designed everything in the space from the floor to the ceiling. Everything was beautifully weathered. There was so much to look at.

In-game: The ornate yet dusty tile floor.

Gameplay

St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a creepy portrait with its eyes cut out.

Analysis

➕ The detailed set of Haunted Hotel was a joy to explore. It was busy, but not distracting. We enjoyed the aesthetic.

➖ Intentional weathering aside, the set was heavily worn. One key prop was almost impossible to find due to wear.

➕ Our favorite puzzles resolved to tangible interactions with the set. These were the best parts of the playthrough.

➖After the opening scene, Haunted Hotel was almost entirely linear. We spent a lot of time waiting idly because we had too many teammates and too few open puzzles.

➖ Haunted Hotel included a laminated runbook. While it didn’t rely on this as heavily as in some of St. Louis Escape’s other games, it was frustrating to be concentrating on paper cluing instead of immersing ourselves in the set.

➕/➖ Haunted Hotel included a few strong layered puzzles. Unfortunately, each one had its own ambiguity issue. The clue structure wasn’t quite all in place.

➕ We enjoyed the presence of ghostly characters.

In-game: The ceiling adorned with art.

➖The audio was a persistent problem. The intro video lacked audio. We couldn’t hear the ghostly characters very well. At points we were confused whether audio was part of a puzzle, an indication of puzzle progress, background ambiance, or the screams of players in other games.

➖It was easy to accidentally re-trigger the animatronics. This proved confusing.

➕/➖ Bits of story were scattered about Haunted Hotel. The ghosts contributed to our understanding of the story. Ultimately, however, the experience fell short of succeeding as a story-driven adventure.

➖ As we played Haunted Hotel we continually felt that St. Louis Escape took shortcuts in design and maintenance. We encountered one entirely broken puzzle; we didn’t have to solve it to achieve the goal. We could shortcut another puzzle by finding one key piece. Additionally, one puzzle felt completely out of place – aesthetically and thematically – in the experience. We were baffled by its presence.

Tips For Visiting

  • You can park for free on the street directly in front of the building or on the side of the building.
  • There are stairs up to the escape room lobby and the escape rooms.
  • Beware that St. Louis Escape has a habit of putting 4-digit solutions into 5-digit locks.
  • This escape room was haunted, but not scary.

Book your hour with St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: St. Louis Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts [Review]

Barry Hotter: The Fellowship of the Wands

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: April 7, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was the first in a two-game (maybe more in the future) wizarding series created by Escaparium. We grabbed our wands and set off on a quest to stop evil… and it was delightful.

Escaparium told their own story with the help of many common tropes and a dollop of instantly recognizable pop culture references, giving us players the kind of Harry Potter/ Tolkien-esque adventure that so many of us crave.

In-game: A statue of a wizard holding a crystal ball carved into a stone wall.

The sets were gorgeous. The magic was fun. The effects and puzzles were generally strong.

Some of it was a bit bumpy. It was clear to us that Escaparium was exploring structures for escape room storytelling that became a bit onerous. The wands, while fun, were a bit finicky.

Nevertheless, we were thrilled to have played The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts and even happier after playing its sequel, The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa. If you’re near Montreal, we highly recommend playing both, in order.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The set was beautiful
  • There was an amazing scene transition; it was incredible how much went into it
  • Some great effects
  • A number of strong puzzles
  • Wands are fun

Story

We were fresh out of magic school and we had been summoned to meet with the high wizard. By the time we’d arrived in his hall, however, he and his family were gone, abducted by an evil sorcerer. It was up to us to save them.

In-game: Animated paintings hanging from a stone wall.

Setting

In The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, Escaparium let us loose in a wizarding school and it looked the part.

We explored a great hall as well as the dormitories. Each had depth, texture, and quite a bit to take in. There were points where I basically stopped playing and just enjoyed the environment.

In-game: a shelf full of scrolls.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a standard escape room where players had wands to use as tools. It had a moderate level of difficulty

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

In-game: 8 magic wands hanging from the top of a doorway.

Analysis

➕ We entered The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts with wands in hand. This added an interesting game mechanic. But also… wands!

➖ As nifty as the wands were, their triggers could be finicky, which was frustrating. Still, we liked the wand mechanic and were disappointed when they fell out of relevance in the late-game. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➕ The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was loaded with nods to various wizarding worlds. Fans will enjoy the magical artifacts and references in this escape room.

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts captured the aesthetics of a number of iconic wizarding locales. Each scene looked outstanding. While Escaparium’s sets were always detailed, they went the extra mile here, crafting a scene purely so that we could enjoy our perspective.

➖ Some of the props in The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts had seen better days.

➖ Play stopped occasionally for long audio interludes punctuated with effects. We didn’t find that these added enough depth to the story to warrant the length of the gameplay stoppage.

➕ The middle act had solid puzzles that necessitated a variety of skills sets and magical ability. These flowed well.

➖ We encountered a few puzzles with ambiguous cluing.

➕ Magical artifacts surprised and delighted us as we played. These weren’t by the book.

➖ In a magical escape room, anything was possible. Anything might open from any action. Escaparium needed to better direct players to triggered opens. We couldn’t always tell what we’d affected.

➖The culminating scene felt less triumphant than it should have. The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts lacked its own Mount Doom. (Again, this wasn’t something that this game’s sequel suffered from.)

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a delightful space to play in for an hour.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • You need to be comfortable with stairs to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

St. Louis Escape – Cellar Escape [Review]

High-end murder basement

Location:  St. Louis, MO

Date Played: March 21, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints:  [B] Mechanical Release

REA Reaction

Cellar Escape was comfortably our group’s favorite game at St. Louis Escape.

While its gameplay was a little more search-centric than we typically go for, the game’s runbook was onerous, and the story was underdeveloped… the set design was top-notch and the game played fairly cleanly.

If you’re visiting St. Louis Escape and you’re comfortable with a horror experience, Cellar Escape is our recommendation. If you’d like something a little less intense, we suggest attempting Haunted Hotel (review coming soon) instead.

In-game: A dead man sitting at a desk with a typewriter in betwen two jail cells.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players interested in moderate horror
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Great set design
  • Intense moments

Story

We were trapped in a serial killer’s lair and had to find a out way out before he returned.

In-game: An electrical box labeled "Danger Live Wires."

Setting

Cellar Escape was St. Louis Escape’s take on a murder basement. From a set design standpoint, it delivered everything that you’d want out of a murder basement. It was dark, grim, gritty, intimidating, and bloody.

As with all of St. Louis Escape’s sets, it was thoroughly designed from floor to ceiling.

In-game: A meat-grinder oozing large amounts of ground, bloody flesh.

Gameplay

St. Louis Escape’s Cellar Escape was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and a split-team beginning.

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

In-game: A red we need a clue sign sitting beside a laminated and spiral-bound book labeled "CELLAR ESCAPE." All surrounded by a beautiful set.

Analysis

Cellar Escape looked murder basement-y. It was dark and foreboding, but also detailed and thoughtfully designed.

➕ The split beginning worked well to encourage teamwork early on and didn’t overstay its welcome.

➕ We especially enjoyed the puzzles that felt authentic to the scenario. The escape room was at its best when we were deriving solutions that seemed plausible for escaping a killer’s lair.

In-game: A dead man sitting at a desk.

Cellar Escape relied heavily on a runbook. This was frustrating to use and detracted from our experience in the gamespace. Furthermore, it seemed to not be quite up to date with the current gameplay of the escape room. We encountered runbook ghost puzzles.

➕ St. Louis Escape seems to have a penchant for breaker boxes in their escape room design; it worked well in this room.

➖ Some of the tech in Cellar Escape had especially tight tolerances. If our hands were just slightly off they wouldn’t trigger, even though we’d correctly solved the puzzle. This put gameplay on ice for a little longer than it should have.

➖ Unclued trick locks are problematic in escape rooms. If you don’t know how to solve them, you will burn far too much of your game clock trying. If you basically know how to open all of the common trick locks on the market like David does… then they’re kind of boring. Either way, they’re suboptimal.

In-game: The cobweb covered ceiling of the Cellar Escape.

➕ Cellar Escape ground to a good jump-scare.

➖ Cellar Escape could fit a lot of people. St. Louis Escape will sell up to 12 tickets to it. The gameplay, however, had choke points. If you play with a large team, there would be a lot of down time for individual players.

Cellar Escape was a search-heavy escape room. In some instances, this worked well with the theme. In other instances, we found this tedious. Your mileage will vary.

Tips For Visiting

  • You can park for free on the street directly in front of the building or on the side of the building.
  • There are stairs up to the escape room lobby and the escape rooms.
  • Beware that St. Louis Escape has a habit for putting 4-digit solutions into 5-digit locks.

Book your hour with St. Louis Escape’s Cellar Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: St. Louis Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.