Ship of Theseus by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst [Review]

Meta masterpiece.

Author:  J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Release Date:  October 29, 2013

Page Count: 472 plus inserts

Price: About $30

Publisher:  Mulholland Books

REA Reaction

Ship of Theseus, also known as S., is hard to categorize. Presented in book form, it’s an ambitious piece of experimental fiction with many layers of story and meaning. Ship of Theseus started with an innocuous central premise — who is the author V.M. Straka? — and infused it with unique storytelling to create an epic reading experience.

Ship of Theseus felt more like a novel than anything else, but its supplemental documents and many narrative layers made it more involving than passively reading a regular book. At times, the unusual format felt as exciting as a movie and as nonlinear and interactive as a game.

Ship of Theseus title page.

There were ciphers embedded in Ship of Theseus, and deciding how to tackle the layers of story required some strategizing. But mostly the point was to explore and gradually gain familiarity with its rich fictional world of academia and intrigue.

Due to its length and complexity, Ship of Theseus was intimidating. If you’re looking for a straightforward read or clearly delineated puzzles, the setup may feel overwhelming. Just like with certain other J.J. Abrams projects, not all the open questions got clear answers. But even without uncovering all of its secrets, Ship of Theseus had a lot to offer casual readers.

If you love the feeling of exploring someone’s communications and unlocking a grand story piece by piece, Ship of Theseus was made for you.

Who is this for?

  • Avid readers who enjoy being immersed in a story’s world
  • Cipher enthusiasts
  • Fans of experimental literature

Why Read?

  • Rich, intricate world building
  • Impressive construction of story layers
  • Mysteries at every turn

Story

V.M. Straka wrote many novels, but his true identity remains shrouded in mystery. His final book, Ship of Theseus, followed a man with amnesia journeying to distant lands to discover his true identity and motivation. Straka’s translator published the novel posthumously in 1949.

Decades later, two students at Pollard State University meet by writing notes back and forth in a copy of Ship of Theseus left at the university library. By delving into Straka’s web of associations and solving hidden messages in the book, Jen and Eric connect over a shared interest in discovering Straka’s identity. Along the way, they’re thrown into a conspiracy story of their own with life-or-death stakes.

Ship of Theseus book and slipcover.

Setup

Ship of Theseus was presented as an old hardcover book. It had copious notes written in the margins and an assortment of paper mementos interspersed throughout the pages. Besides the authors’ names on the box, the entire package appeared to be an artifact from the story’s fictional world.

The novel unfolded as a stand-alone narrative within the literary intrigue surrounding the associates and scholars of V.M. Straka. 

In the margins, Jen and Eric discussed research about Straka, goings-on in their corner of academia, and typical getting-to-know-you topics. They also shared theories about secret messages hidden in Ship of Theseus. They wrote in different colors in different time periods, so part of the reading process involved untangling the timeline of their findings and the events they described.

By perusing the novel, the translator’s footnotes, the conversations between Jen and Eric, and the documents slipped between the pages, I attempted to puzzle out the concurrent narrative threads and eventually solve the central question: Who is V.M. Straka?

Sample pages of Ship of Theseus, along with a postcard that says "Greetings from Brazil."

Gameplay

Ship of Theseus was primarily a nonlinear reading experience, but certain elements felt a bit like solving puzzles. Determining the timeline of Jen and Eric’s notes based on the color of their pens gave me logic puzzle vibes. Piecing together details from different timelines and different sources helped deepen my understanding of the story world.

Ship of Theseus included a number of ciphers within its pages. The margin notes frequently pointed out odd details about certain passages and theorized about possible hidden messages. Jen and Eric wrote out solutions to several of the book’s ciphers in the margins.

Because Ship of Theseus was presented as a found object, no other solutions were available. The creators initially published websites and social media posts dedicated to solving the mysteries of Straka, in the vein of an ARG. These are cryptic, however, and some of the links may have decayed in the ensuing years.

Reading and rereading Ship of Theseus and its supplementary documents created an increasingly clear picture of Straka’s life and legacy. I felt comfortable putting the book down when the story seemed complete enough. Hunting for puzzles to solve felt like a whole new dimension — one that, in my case, eventually became a burden.

Analysis

Ship of Theseus felt like an artifact with a rich backstory. The paper and binding were yellowed and worn like a real old book. Maybe I’d imagined it, but the pages even smelled a little musty. This authentic design set the stage for the story to come. It also meant I didn’t have to be careful with the book. If you scuff it up or accidentally splash tea on the pages, that only makes it more lifelike.

➕ Between the novel itself, the translator’s footnotes, the inserts, and the margin notes, Ship of Theseus contained at least half a dozen points of view from several different time periods, all presented at once. It blew my mind to imagine the work that must have gone into keeping all these layers straight and combining them to create an immersive, cohesive story world.

A sample footnote plus margin notes from Ship of Theseus.

➕ As a novel, Ship of Theseus stood on its own as an odd but engaging piece of fiction. The parallels between the novel and the side stories added to the intrigue.

➕/➖ The expansiveness of the mythology was impressive, even extending to seemingly official websites and social media posts. But the book came out in 2013, and certain links are no longer live (if they ever were). I found online communities dedicated to solving the book’s mysteries, but the conversation had died down since its publication. At that point, I felt like I was on my own.

➕ Because of all the simultaneous layers, the material appeared out of order and without full context, especially the margin notes. This structure may sound daunting, but in practice it felt empowering to make connections among all the story threads. After I’d spent a few months with Ship of Theseus, it felt like a major triumph to have gone from utter confusion to near fluency with the story’s literary world. But that doesn’t mean less patient readers will get lost: even without deep knowledge of what everything means, the story feels complete, and regular plot reminders help keep most things straight.

➕ Jen and Eric were strong, fleshed-out characters, right down to their distinctive handwriting. Because of Ship of Theseus’s nonlinear design, they developed over time in a unique way. The older margin notes reminded me of my own college days. The more recent ones illustrated how the characters have grown.

➕ Most of the ciphers in the book were pre-solved in the margin notes, but usually not on the same page. I appreciated being able to consider them as long as I wanted before reading on to find the code explained. Cipher aficionados might prefer to spend more time poring over the text before moving on.

❓Sometimes the notes indicated a seemingly important detail that might be part of a code, but never resolved the mystery. My internet research didn’t turn up any answers about the importance of these details. If they are secret messages, they’re extremely hard to decode. If not, they’re just red herrings.

➖ Ship of Theseus felt like it contained a multitude of hidden messages, but I didn’t find much to actually solve. Of the ciphers explained in the margins, the average puzzler couldn’t solve most of them without help. Not that they should’ve dumbed it down — but it hurt a little to solve literally nothing on my own.

➕ As a whole, Ship of Theseus presented a message of hope and perseverance. The conclusion of the various threads felt emotional and satisfying — though it never exactly felt like the end, because I can always pick up the book again and revisit Straka’s world someday.

Tips For Reading

Some of the margin notes refer to things that happen later in the novel, so reading the novel before the notes would be an efficient way to set out…in theory. However, it’s hard to ignore the eye-catching notes in the margins. See what feels right. You could read chapter by chapter, or go through the notes again after reading the whole book in order.

Even if you don’t attempt any extra sleuthing, Ship of Theseus is not a weekend read. Because it’s a longer narrative experience, it helps to keep notes, however you approach your readthrough. With all the out-of-context references, it might even be worth making an index. It all depends on how serious you want to get.

If you aren’t interested in rabbit holes, you can read casually and have most of the details doled out like a regular book. Without the extra trappings, Ship of Theseus is still a memorable, satisfying story.

Finally, don’t let the inserts fall out. But if they do, you can find guides online that describe where they all go.

Buy your copy of Ship of Theseus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

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

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

Scout Expedition Co. – The Nest 2019 [Reaction]

Press play.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: October 8, 2019

Team size: 1-2

Duration: ~60 minutes

Price: $95 per time slot

Ticketing:  Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The 2019 iteration of The Nest retained the poignant beauty of its original run in 2017, and added some new flourishes.

The first version of The Nest offered the unique, haunting experience of rummaging through an abandoned storage space and listening to snippets of a woman’s life on hidden audiotapes. The Nest felt so singular and complete that I hesitated to revisit it for fear of detracting from the original experience.

As returning visitors, knowing the story unavoidably took away some of the surprise and wonder of the original show. However, the changes in design, both large and small, moved us and added to the overall experience.

The original run of The Nest reminded me of playing through a video game like Gone Home (Nintendo Switch) or What Remains of Edith Finch (Xbox One) (Nintendo Switch), only in real life. Returning to see the updated version felt a bit like replaying an old favorite game rereleased with updated effects and new content.

A View-Master, a globe, and other curios sit on a desk under a lamp.
Photo credit: Jeremey Connors

What’s Different?

After Scout Expedition Co. crowdfunded this new run of The Nest, they set up shop in a new location, a former storage building reimagined as Los Angeles Storage Co. The new setting brought the story to life. Riding the freight elevator up to our floor and opening our storage unit felt magical.

Besides the location, the most noticeable change was the feeling of the space itself. The set felt dreamlike and abstract, like a symbolic representation of Josie’s life merged with an artful collection of her belongings. Subtle lighting and sound effects directed our focus and helped make our entire visit more cinematic and immersive.

Light shines on a cassette tape dangling from a piece of twine in front of a background of tree roots.
Photo credit: Jeremey Connors

A couple of new puzzly interactions were swapped in or added, along with some new technical flourishes. We also encountered a new area of Josie’s past. Overall, this iteration of The Nest was a bit less indie and more polished.

In this version’s backstory, rather than being Josie’s distant relatives, we had bought the contents of her storage space at auction. But at its heart, The Nest depicted the same story and the same Josie.

This time around, I walked away with a slightly less melancholy view of her story. But it’s hard to say whether that’s because The Nest changed or because, just like real memories, the experience changes ever so slightly each time you revisit it.

A cassette tape labeled "My 12th Birthday" sits on top of a tape recorder.
Photo credit: Jeremey Connors

Tips For Visiting

The Nest is currently sold out, but Scout Expedition Co. plans to release more tickets soon. Sign up for their mailing list or follow them on your social network of choice for updates.

  • Street parking is available.
  • The Nest requires at least one person to kneel and/or crawl.
  • The Nest has escape room elements, but it’s fundamentally an immersive experience with no ticking clock. Take your time and let yourself get swept up in the story.
  • Each time slot costs the same amount for one or two people. If you choose not to go solo, go with someone you trust to feel all the feelings with, and to share the flashlight.

When new tickets are available, book your hour with Scout Expedition Co.’s The Nest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Scout Expedition Co. comped our tickets for this game.

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 the Night Escape Room [Review]

“This is not the afterlife I had envisioned.”

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 14, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $55-85 per player

Ticketing: Public or private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Escape the Night Escape Room was a limited-run experience that provided a memorable hour of adventure for fans of Joey Graceffa’s YouTube Premium series. It didn’t break new ground for escape rooms, but it offered plenty of entertaining interactions and detailed props to play with. Despite a few hiccups with some of the puzzles, we had a fun time and left interested in learning more about the show.

The approachable difficulty level and the in-room gamemaster made the Escape the Night Escape Room accessible to newer players. It wasn’t the best fit for seasoned escapers looking for their next challenge.

The story, set, and puzzles were all geared toward viewers of the YouTube series, which made it especially exciting for fans. But you didn’t have to be familiar with Escape the Night to enjoy the real-life version, if you didn’t mind the steep ticket price.

Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Fans of Escape the Night
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting interactions
  • Elaborate props
  • To play as characters from Escape the Night

Story

Playing as some of the characters who had previously died in Escape the Night, we had been trapped in purgatory by the Collector. We needed to find nine keys in order to recover the cosmic sphere and make our way back to the world of the living, or risk dying for good.

The premise roughly matched the premiere of Escape the Night’s fourth season, which began in July 2019.

A painting of the Collector collecting a soul.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Setting

The gamespace was decorated to represent different episodes of Escape the Night’s fourth season. We started in ancient Egypt, then the game transitioned to various other themes depicted in the show.

We encountered many of the same items used in Escape the Night, some of which evoked particular moments from the series. The detail of the props and puzzles contributed to the room’s sense of mystery and adventure.

The head of a minotaur under glass.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Gameplay

Escape the Night Escape Room was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty. Core gameplay revolved around observation, searching, and basic math.

Escape the Night Escape Room generally emphasized adventure over puzzling, with the tasks split between traditional escape room puzzles and fun large-scale interactions. Though the puzzles tended to be simple, the room was packed with gameplay.

A grid of tiles depicting different hieroglyphics, with several squares lit up.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Analysis

➕ The Escape the Night Escape Room escape room had plenty to offer fans of the YouTube series. The story, props, and pivotal moments in the game related back to the show. The young superfan in our group could hardly contain himself.

➕/➖ The set design didn’t manage to fully disguise that we were in a pop-up space, but the room was filled with ornate props and set pieces that heightened our experience.

➕ Escape the Night Escape Room gave us a lot to do. The active, hands-on interactions felt adventurous. Whereas most escape rooms have one or two big moments, Escape the Night Escape Room had several.

The hilt of a sword in the foreground, with museum pieces including a bust under glass in the background.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

➕ Our in-room gamemaster provided guidance throughout and ensured that the game ran as smoothly as possible. The gamemaster triggered certain events once we had solved the corresponding puzzles, and these moments mostly felt natural and seamless.

➖ At one point, when we tried a less obvious but correct answer to a puzzle, nothing happened until the gamemaster realized our answer also worked. More playtesting might have uncovered this alternate solution. Even better, designing the puzzle with just one solution would have prevented any confusion.

➕/➖ The puzzle flow kept us busy and avoided bottlenecks despite its linear structure. However, we noticed a couple of items left over from ghost puzzles and had to bypass another due to a prop malfunction.

➖ Certain interactions required a good amount of handholding. For example, at one point the gamemaster cleared items off a surface just before it popped open, presumably to avoid flinging treasure all over the room. A more self-piloting design would have preserved the surprise and kept us immersed in the game during these moments.

➕ We enjoyed solving one particular riddle that involved themed items in the room rather than outside knowledge or sudden insight.

➖ In another puzzle, we struggled to figure out the order of certain items, but it turned out the placement didn’t matter. This ambiguity caused us to spin our wheels longer than we needed to.

➕/➖ In a few exciting instances, one player took an action alone to move the game forward. At first we decided together who would participate, but for the last of these decision points, the outcome was decided by random chance. If we’d been given an interesting challenge or choice inspired by the show at the end of the game instead, we would have walked away with more to discuss and reminisce about long after the night was over.

Tips For Visiting

For promotional games like the Escape the Night Escape Room, if you’re not familiar with the brand, including at least one fan in your group will add a lot to the experience. If you are a fan, bring money for the merch table, and don’t forget your cosplay for the photo wall.

Escape the Night Escape Room took place in August 2019 and is not currently running.

Disclosure: Escape the Night Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

60out – Miss Jezebel [Review]

A tea party to die for.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: July 27, 2019

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45 per player (minimum $135)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Miss Jezebel was a one-of-a-kind, actor-driven game that combined immersive theater and escape-room-esque gameplay with delightful results.

Part interactive performance, part sneaking around and solving puzzles, Miss Jezebel felt quite a bit like being inside a point-and-click adventure game like Maniac Mansion, only bawdier.

The actor playing Miss Jezebel took command of the game flow while making us feel like the experience was uniquely ours. Because of the improvisational aspects of the show, Miss Jezebel may even have replay value for those who want to experience the performance elements again.

Miss Jezebel poses in glitzy tea party attire.

If you just want to be left alone to solve puzzles with your friends, Miss Jezebel may not be your cup of tea. But for groups who know each other well and are comfortable with a raunchier style of humor and more intense interactions than the average escape room, Miss Jezebel is a must-visit.

60out is planning more immersive theater experiences in the future. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Who is this for?

  • Adults 18+ who are comfortable with suggestive humor
  • Fans of immersive theater
  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Unusual interactions
  • Humorous, playful vibe
  • The thrill of deception

Story

We were detectives tasked with investigating an eccentric character named Miss Jezebel who was suspected of murdering a series of husbands. While attending one of her famous tea parties, we needed to surreptitiously search her home and uncover evidence of her crimes.

A table lamp next to a doorway with a beaded curtain featuring an open eye.

Setting

Miss Jezebel took place at the titular character’s home, in her dimly lit sitting room. At first glance, the decor seemed eclectic yet cozy, but closer inspection revealed an edgier side.

The scenery was fairly basic, but it supported the story and the gameplay effectively.

A sideboard filled with haphazardly stacked dishes.

Gameplay

Miss Jezebel offered a combination of immersive theater and escape room, with periods of actor interaction interspersed with bursts of searching and solving. The gameplay included a few classic escape room puzzles, but largely revolved around searching, stealth, and creative problem solving.

Our mission was to find evidence that would bring down Miss Jezebel without her catching on that we were investigating her. Therefore, we had to follow Miss Jezebel’s instructions and not get caught breaking her rules. Disobeying her could result in one of several “punishments” that were both undignified and time-consuming.

Because of the interactive format, much of the experience was improvised by the actor and the participants. Rather than following a strict puzzle flow like a typical escape room, the hour felt like it was broken into stages, with some variability in the interactions that could get us to the end of each sequence.

A lace-covered table lamp illuminates a dim room, including a framed monkey head.

Analysis

➕ Miss Jezebel bills itself as a “thriller/comedy,” and it did not disappoint. The pressure to achieve our goal was intense, but the scenario was so zany that we couldn’t help but laugh—a lot.

➕ The actor playing Miss Jezebel excelled at inhabiting a demanding role while also keeping track of our progress and subtly nudging us toward our goal. Miss Jezebel was a dangerous killer…but she was a fun dangerous killer. She somehow made us feel unsettled, entertained, and perfectly safe all at the same time. By the end, we were almost rooting for her to win.

➕ Due to the improvisational nature of our interactions with Miss Jezebel, it sometimes felt as if we were pushing the game forward by creating our own solutions. We enjoyed having the freedom to improvise our way out of each problem—or at least feel as though we were improvising. This variation also personalized our playthrough, making it feel like each group’s experience would be slightly different. It would be fascinating to see how other groups approached the same obstacles.

➕ We incurred a couple of penalties for getting caught breaking the rules, but they were so amusing that we didn’t realize they functioned as time penalties. These “punishments” were more fun than frustrating and provided some of the most memorable moments of the evening.

Miss Jezebel’s off-the-wall interactions were captivating and memorable. Despite the bizarre nature of the puzzles, we felt completely immersed in our adventure.

Miss Jezebel is 18+ primarily because it relies heavily on adult humor—approximately the level of debauchery you might expect at a bachelorette party. Miss Jezebel also included a handful of potentially awkward interactions along the same lines. Some players might find these elements embarrassing; others will find them hilarious.

➕ At times the gameplay felt remarkably like a video game brought to life. We loved the situational puzzles that forced us to improvise in order to cajole or distract Miss Jezebel. Of the more traditional escape room puzzles, one aha puzzle had a particularly creative solution reminiscent of an old-school point-and-click adventure game.

➖ The audio hints sometimes overlapped with the actor’s attempts to point us in the right direction. They were also occasionally more direct than we would have liked. Subtler hinting would have allowed us to feel we made the discoveries on our own.

➕ Miss Jezebel asked a lot more from us than the typical escape room, but we always felt safe and comfortable with what the game required. Our group of two seasoned improvisers and one timid puzzle enthusiast handled the game just fine. The 18+ rating and the “expose the killer” theme may sound intimidating, but we always felt like we were having fun.

➕ 60out threw in a few amusing Easter eggs, including a reference to another of their games.

Tips For Visiting

  • Free parking is available in the rear of the building.
  • This experience has live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors.
  • Miss Jezebel isn’t scary, but it is socially challenging. Bring at least one or two people who are outgoing, hard to embarrass, or just willing to take one for the team.

Book your hour with 60out’s Miss Jezebel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60out comped our tickets for this game.

The Best Medicine Productions – The Shadow Space [Review]

We will, we will haunt you.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: May 30, 2019

Team size: 10 tickets per time slot

Duration: ~60 minutes

Price: $50 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

With a simple setting and an elegant premise, The Shadow Space offered a fun and unique combination of immersive theater, escape room, and murder mystery.

As ghosts on a guided tour of the living, we got to experience the other side of a haunted house. Through observation, deduction, and some light haunting of the actors in the performance, we attempted to determine what had happened in the house and influence the characters towards a favorable ending.

4 hands on a ouiji board.

Playing as ghosts felt novel and invigorating. Being invisible removed the complexity and awkwardness of two-way communication that sometimes comes along with immersive theater, while still providing an entertaining new mechanic.

The Shadow Space will be back for a second run in October 2019. If you’re near Los Angeles and curious to experience a uniquely haunting hybrid show, The Shadow Space is worth checking out.

Who is this for?

  • Immersive theater fans
  • Mystery lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Unusual interactions
  • Escalation
  • Collaborative mystery solving
  • The chance to be on the other side of a haunting for once

Story

As recently deceased ghosts, we were on a tour of the living. Our guides had promised us an evening of entertainment as we observed the inhabitants of a home on a day of celebration…and we encountered even more drama than we’d imagined.

The haunted house, a beautiful blue and white house with a yellow door and a porch.

Setting

The Shadow Space took place in a cozy Los Angeles home decorated with items of importance to its inhabitants. We haunted the first floor of the house, which included a kitchen, living room, study, and dining room where the two occupants were hosting another couple for a get-together. As we could not walk through doors, the rest of the space was off limits.

The house felt lived in, and the layout of the rooms allowed us to explore and follow the actors however we chose.

Rules of Haunting: No phones or smoking. The living can't hear you. Don't touch or block the living. Touch only what glows.

Gameplay

The Shadow Space was an immersive theater production with mystery and puzzle elements. Though it started out as a simple evening of ghostly entertainment, we eventually discovered that we needed to solve a mystery by uncovering clues and influencing the actors.

The Shadow Space emphasized the performances and the gameplay roughly equally. Though we encountered a couple of more traditional puzzles, most of the solving took place in the audience’s minds as we pieced together the clues to the central mystery.

As ghosts, we were invisible to the residents, but our hosts warned us not to haunt them too aggressively. Therefore, we could only touch objects that shone with a spiritual energy (i.e., items that lit up under a blacklight), and only when the living were not observing us. We could, however, interact with certain objects to spook the living—as long as they weren’t looking. We also could not pass through doors unless they were opened for us, which presented an interesting challenge.

Though it wasn’t all about winning, the gameplay had a medium to high level of difficulty. Between the puzzles and the central mystery, core gameplay revolved around observation, deduction, and timing.

Analysis

➕ The concept of a ghost tour and the presence of tour guides brought levity to a potentially somber and disturbing story. A pre-show icebreaker where the audience members revealed our (often humorous) causes of death also lifted tension, which helped prepare us for the experience.

➕ The premise of playing as ghosts haunting the living was inventive, and just plain fun. We enjoyed puzzling out how to affect the actors without interacting in the traditional sense.

➕/➖ Between exploring the house and observing the different actors, The Shadow Space provided a lot of possible threads to follow. On one hand, that freedom felt exhilarating. However, with nine audience members and six actors in the space, we struggled to keep track of everything, and communication became an additional challenge.

➖ For the sake of realism, the actors spoke at a normal volume, as if there weren’t a dozen other people in the space with them. This hindered our sleuthing somewhat, as we missed some moments that revealed key information about the characters’ relationships. If the more important conversations had unfolded in such a way that the audience couldn’t miss them, we would have felt more in control.

➕ The moment of transition from ghost tourists to mystery solvers surprised us and ramped up the excitement. The change in our objective felt seamless.

➕/➖ One early haunting opportunity brought the entire group together for a shared experience. That moment was fun and engaging, but it felt disconnected from the rest of the show. It would have felt more rewarding if that moment had paid off later, or otherwise been incorporated into the story.

➖ Our tour guides left us alone at one point, and we weren’t sure whether we still had to follow the rules without supervision. A bit more guidance on how the game worked would have reassured us in that moment.

➕ The actors did an impressive job of performing while both monitoring and ignoring the audience. On top of all that, their dialogue and actions often suggested what we were supposed to do next. This built-in hint delivery was subtle and effective while maintaining immersion.

➖ The clues we needed to solve the mystery were hard to piece together in such a whirlwind environment, and we only had a moment to decide on what we thought had happened. We would have benefited from another couple minutes to discuss our findings as a group before voting on what course of action to take.

➕ “Haunting” the actors felt thrilling and unique. We found ourselves wishing the show had been a bit longer so we could have had some extra time to play around with the ghost mechanics.

Tips For Visiting

The Shadow Space had a limited run in May 2019 and is not currently playing. In future performances, the venue and other details may change. You can sign up for The Shadow Space’s mailing list to be notified about the show’s return from October 8 to November 3, 2019.

Update 10/1/19: The Shadow Space will be running October 8 – November 3, 2019 in Hollywood. Tickets are available and for a limited time people can get a 1/3 off tickets by using the promo code “RIP.” The show has moved to the historic Hartsock House in the heart of Hollywood that was built in 1919 to house missionaries. There is parking. 

This experience has live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors. Interaction is minimal if you want it to be; this is a low-pressure event for less outgoing audience members.

The Shadow Space was tense and unsettling at times, but never truly scary. However, the October run may change things up in that department.

When the show returns in October, book your hour with The Best Medicine Productions’ The Shadow Space, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

3D Escape Room: Frequency Podcast [Review]

An escape room for your ears.

Producer:  The Owl Field

Date Played: April 13, 2019

Team size: Potentially unlimited, but we recommend playing solo

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: Free

REA Reaction

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an audio drama with escape room puzzles built in so listeners could solve along at home. It felt a lot like playing a tabletop escape game, but with podcast tracks instead of envelopes and tactile puzzles.

Closeup of Apple Airpods.

Unlike most podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency was comprised of a set of tracks meant to be navigated in a certain order to reach the end of the game, with decoy tracks thrown in to obscure the correct answers.

The Owl Field’s 3D sound design was immersive and engaging. Some of the puzzles depended completely on the audio format, which felt novel and intriguing.

Though 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played with a larger group, playing solo seemed like the ideal experience. The puzzles didn’t involve collaboration, and it was more convenient to listen through one set of headphones. If you typically enjoy playing puzzle games solo, try this one by yourself.

3D Escape Room: Frequency probably won’t stump veteran solvers, but it’s still worth checking out, especially considering that there’s zero cost or travel barrier.

It was exciting to experience an escape room in this new format, and we’d love to see The Owl Field (or other podcasters) create more games like this.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of podcasts and audio entertainment
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Innovative audio format
  • Exciting storyline
  • The convenience of playing anywhere you want

Story

Madison and her friends go off the grid to check on Lenny, a reclusive conspiracy theorist who’s gone missing. They find themselves locked in his trailer full of old radios and recording devices, and they must solve his puzzles to escape… and maybe save the world.

3D Escape Room Frequency's staticy logo.

Setting

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an escape room built into a podcast format. The story and puzzles were conveyed through the voice actors and the audio clips the characters found.

The sound was binaural, so the action seemed to be coming from all directions through the headphones. The audio design was elaborate and well produced, adding ambience to this at-home escape adventure.

Structure

3D Escape Room: Frequency had 40 separate audio tracks: 10 puzzle tracks and 30 decoy tracks. Each puzzle’s solution code matched the name of the next track players needed to access in order to find the next puzzle and advance the story. The game proceeded in a linear fashion through each puzzle track to the conclusion.

As each puzzle track progressed, the hints became increasingly transparent. As soon as we determined the solution to the puzzle, we could advance to the next corresponding track. Listening through to the end of the track ultimately revealed the solution to the puzzle.

The total runtime of all the puzzle tracks is greater than 60 minutes; final solving time depends on how quickly the player finds the codes within each track and moves on to the next.

Gameplay

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an interactive podcast escape room with a linear structure and an approachable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around listening, pattern recognition, and simple math. Some of the puzzles could have been presented in written text but were transformed by the audio format. Others completely relied on sound.

Analysis

➕ The Owl Field created a slick product out of a unique idea. This audio escape room format could easily be repeated with all sorts of themes and still be fun and exciting, just like live escape rooms.

❓ Technically, 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played in a group, but it makes more sense as a solo experience. The puzzles were relatively simple and unfolded one at a time, which precluded the teamwork element of most escape rooms. Plus, it would be hard to communicate with others while concentrating on audio puzzles.

➕ The 3D audio design was surprisingly cool. It added to the immersion, and it made the overlapping dialogue easier to understand. The binaural effect also provided certain puzzles with extra depth.

➕/➖ 3D Escape Room: Frequency used some of its puzzles to reveal bits of the story, and hinted at a larger narrative through snippets of dialogue and sound. Though the dialogue was sometimes a bit goofy and certain plot elements remained unexplained, the voice acting and audio design carried the game and the story well.

➕ The characters periodically reported how many puzzles they had left to solve. These regular progress reports felt natural and helped track progress through the game.

➖ The introduction instructed players to write down which tracks they’d listened to in case they made a mistake and needed to backtrack. Since most of the decoy tracks appeared to be tied to a particular puzzle, it would simplify the gameplay if the decoy tracks indicated which track to return to.

➕ The puzzle tracks repeated the pertinent information multiple times, with the characters providing subtle hints, then increasingly less subtle hints, and eventually revealing the solution at the end of the track. This in-character hint delivery felt authentic and seamless. Listening to the characters attempting to solve the puzzles provided gentle nudges towards the solutions.

➕ The answer confirmation also worked smoothly. The 30 decoy tracks made it counterproductive to guess at an answer until it was 100% clear. Also, since the decoy tracks revealed incorrect guesses after 30 seconds, each track was padded to the same length. This obscured which tracks were relevant and which were decoys.

❓ Distortion was a key element of certain puzzles. Some players might find this frustrating; others might enjoy this particular sensory challenge.

➖ The ending felt a bit abrupt. Considering the format, it would have been cool to receive different endings for the win and loss states.

➕ In a podcast-based escape room, the additional dimension of time could easily have created chaos if players decided to skip around searching for clues. 3D Escape Room: Frequency’s linear design avoided this potential confusion. It kept things simple, and it worked.

Tips For Listening

  • For best results, listen with headphones in a quiet room. It’s not 100% necessary to use headphones, but the overlapping dialogue and distorted puzzles will be much easier to understand. Plus, it is an audio drama, so immersion is part of the experience.
  • If you’re playing with others, make sure to sync up the tracks at the same time, and use a podcast player you’re familiar with to avoid technical issues… Or use a headphone splitter.
  • Unlike other podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency requires your full attention, so don’t plan on multitasking while you listen. As the introduction says, a pencil and paper for taking notes is key. And keep a timer handy if you’re feeling competitive.
  • This podcast contains some instances of swearing, but otherwise it’s totally kid-friendly.

Add 3D Escape Room: Frequency to your podcast queue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

“The Escape Room,” a Novel by Megan Goldin [Review]

“This isn’t an escape room.” (page 295)

Author: Megan Goldin

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Page Count: 368

Price: $26.99

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

REA Reaction

The Escape Room is a novel that uses the escape room setting as a hook for a corporate thriller about corruption in the financial industry.

The escape room gimmick seems like a good opportunity to integrate puzzles into a mystery storyline, but readers intrigued by the title will likely be disappointed that The Escape Room is no more of a brainteaser than the average thriller novel.

The gold covered novel for "The Escape Room" by Megan Golden. There is a person peering through a narrowly opened door.

The bleak setting, clichéd characters, and unrefined puzzles made the reading experience feel almost like being stuck in an elevator right along with these four unpleasant people.

If you’re an avid reader of thrillers with some time on your hands, you may decide it’s worth indulging your curiosity. But don’t be deceived by the title—at its core, The Escape Room isn’t really about an escape room at all. If you’re looking for engaging puzzles or an elegant mystery, don’t think twice about skipping this one.

Who is this for?

  • Voracious readers who can’t get enough thrillers
  • People who like seeing investment bankers suffer

Why Read?

  • To find out who made it out alive

Story

Four shady investment bankers from Stanhope and Sons were summoned to play an escape room as a team-building exercise. They got more than they bargained for when they were locked in an elevator together and forced to solve the mystery of why they were really there and what happened to their former colleague Sara Hall.

The title of "The Escape Book" bleeding through from the next page beside a Sun Tzu quote, "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Gameplay

The puzzles are not a particular selling point for The Escape Room. It’s marketed as a thriller, with no particular emphasis on a game component except as part of the plot.

The story includes a handful of simple riddles and word puzzles, some of which must be solved with knowledge only the characters have. There is no interactivity or game structure to the puzzles—you can’t really solve along as you read.

Analysis

➕ The concept of describing two timelines at once in alternating chapters made the reading experience more interesting. Guessing where the storylines converged was one of the more enjoyable things about the book.

➖ The writing style felt repetitive and clichéd. There were extravagant details about suits, ties, makeup, jewelry, gourmet food, and other accoutrements of wealth. All this description seemed like overkill, especially for a book that also emphasized the dangers of greed.

➖ The escape room itself wasn’t much like an actual escape room at all. The handful of puzzles had no structure or progression, so there was no game to play along with. Also, the escape room took place entirely in an elevator. This limitation put the immersion factor much lower than the recent Escape Room movie, for example. But the game aspect of The Escape Room also fell short of some of the incredible real-life escape rooms we’ve seen set in small spaces, such as The Basement’s Elevator Shaft, which made an elevator setting far more interesting and dramatic. Since a novel can have unlimited special effects, it would have been exciting to see a more innovative use of the escape room setting.

➖ Spending hundreds of pages stuck in an elevator with such despicable main characters made The Escape Room less fun than it could have been. The four investment bankers embodied variations on the standard greedy villain, with backstories that didn’t do much to give them emotional depth. If their characterization had provided more insight into how they felt rather than just what they wanted, the plot would have felt more like a robust narrative than a chess game.

➕/➖ Near the beginning, the characters’ interactions in the elevator scenes were amusingly reminiscent of bumbling escape room first-timers. But in later chapters, they easily made logic leaps that would be challenging for real-life players.

➖ The mystery structure felt haphazard and lacked the element of surprise. The pacing dragged, and the plot played out quite predictably. (The cover text even hints at the endgame.) The story could have benefited from some crafty red herrings, an aha moment where everything falls into place, or some form of redemption for any of the greedy, selfish characters.

The Escape Room is a book about how money and status corrupts, but it simultaneously implies that money can buy happiness. There is no middle ground, and both ends of the spectrum are portrayed as unenviable, with no way out. It was a bleak point of view.

➖ One character in The Escape Room was an autistic math genius who was repeatedly described as having “poor social skills” and dehumanized with descriptors like “robotic” and “otherworldly.” Beyond these harmful stereotypes, she was also treated badly by other characters, and her story was told largely through other people’s speculation about her motives. It was disappointing to see her treated like a plot device rather than a fleshed-out character with her own agency.

➕ The opening of The Escape Room teased a thrilling story of an escape game gone wrong. The excitement of that prologue made it clear that the escape room scenario could provide an intriguing hook for plenty more thriller novels in the future.

Tips For Reading

  • The Escape Room is a quick, easy read that won’t provide too much of a challenge on a long flight or a lazy weekend.
  • Be aware that the plot includes detailed descriptions of sexual assault and violent death.
  • If you can’t figure out a puzzle, don’t beat yourself up. It’s probably just because you’re not a high-powered investment banker at Stanhope.

Buy your copy of The Escape Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: St. Martin’s Press provided advance readers’ copies for review. Some details may change before publication.

(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.)

Escape Hotel Hollywood – Escape Room Movie Experience [Review]

Escape the Escape Room escape room.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: January 9, 2019

Team size: Up to 6 (we recommend 2-4)

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: Free (limited run ended January 2019)

Ticketing: Choice of public or private booking

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Escape Room movie live-action experience was a fitting entry point into the world of escape rooms for people whose interest may have been piqued by the movie.

Playing the Escape Hotel Hollywood version after watching the movie could have been a bit of a letdown, since the real-life puzzles were necessarily less cinematic than their movie counterparts. But the live-action experience was effective as an appetizer for the film, and it was entertaining to see a prop or puzzle in the movie and be able to say, “I did that!”

In-game: an old study-like environment with books, paintings, a large red leather chair, and a maze.

We appreciated that this escape room didn’t feel like an overly branded marketing tool. On the other hand, we would have liked to see a bit more of the atmosphere and gameplay drawn from the movie.

The set and puzzles were fairly conventional and there wasn’t much in the way of story. Still, despite a couple of time-consuming puzzles that broke our momentum, Escape Hotel Hollywood fit a good amount of content into this half-length game.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of the Escape Room movie
  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A taste of the Escape Room movie in real life
  • Escape Hotel Hollywood’s atmosphere and special effects
  • It was free

Story

We were locked in an amalgam of the different rooms from the movie Escape Room. We had to solve all the puzzles in order to escape with our lives.

In-game: two paintings next to a shelf with bottles containing liquid.

Setting

We entered through a dimly lit study furnished with the usual escape room trappings. The set design was fairly basic and only thematically related to the movie, but a mid-game transition heightened the experience. Special effects and props reminiscent of the Escape Room movie added tension and excitement.

In-game: a globe and 4 locked boxes.

Gameplay

The Escape Room movie experience was a standard escape room with a linear structure and a low level of difficulty.

The live-action experience recreated a couple of the puzzles from the movie almost exactly, but other puzzles were completely new, or only connected thematically.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, pattern recognition, and dexterity.

In-game: A replica phonograph.

Analysis

➕ The Escape Room live-action experience was enjoyable for a promotional tie-in. The escape room didn’t feel overly branded, but it still gave us a taste of the movie.

➕/➖ The set design wasn’t extraordinary, but lighting and temperature changes added to the immersion.

➕ The cluing was solid. We could almost always piece together what we were supposed to do with the puzzle elements available to us.

➖ We unintentionally bypassed one late-game puzzle by brute-forcing a combination that was easy to guess. Adjusting the gating around this puzzle would have prevented players from accidentally (or intentionally) skipping chunks of the game.

➖ Two different puzzles required prolonged maneuvering of finicky components to move forward in the game. These tasks bordered on tedious.

➖ The most laborious puzzle appeared to have a flaw in its instructions. We knew what we were supposed to do, but this snag (along with the complexity of the task itself) cost us nearly half of our time in the room. If this puzzle had been shorter and/or easier to reset, it would have felt more at home in a 30-minute game.

➖ One puzzle had large, heavy components that slid down quickly, which was startling and had the potential to be painful if our fingers were in the way.

➕/➖ Some of the reveals were telegraphed early on (think visible hinges on a picture frame), but others managed to surprise us, even as seasoned players.

➕ Escape Hotel Hollywood designed the lobby and check-in process to feel like part of the evening’s entertainment. Staff members were in character and added drama to the overall experience. We left feeling like we’d experienced more than just a 30-minute escape room.

Tips For Visiting

The Escape Room movie live-action experience had a limited run and is no longer running.

For free branded escape rooms like this one, get tickets early and consider bringing fewer than the maximum number of players (if allowed) for optimal enjoyment.

Escape Hotel Hollywood’s Escape Room movie live-action experience took place from December 2018 to January 2019 and is not currently running.

Dream Study #114 [Review]

🎵 All I have to do is dream… 🎵

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: December 9, 2018

Team size: Variable depending on the time slot. (The event had timed entry, but attendees could continue playing or just hang out until the end of the night.)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket (limited run ended in December 2018)

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Dream Study #114 was an immersive theater piece with puzzle elements set in a relaxed bar environment. It didn’t deliver the full experience of immersive theater or escape rooms: the puzzles were simple, and there were only a few scripted scenes during each hour. The option to interact with actors, however, offered extra adventure for players who wanted to get more involved in story than the average escape room allows. The experience was uneven and unstructured at times, but Dream Study #114 showed that mixing these genres has a lot of potential.

Ultimately, Dream Study #114 felt like hanging out at a bar with some bonus theatrical and puzzle elements, which is a fun time as long as showgoers know what to expect. We’d love to see more hybrid events like this experimenting with form.

In-game: A busy bar lit red.

Who is this for?

  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Casual puzzlers

Why play?

  • Hybrid show with puzzle and immersive theater elements
  • A unique night out at a bar
  • Victory drink ticket

Story

The psychologist Dr. Rose Hallard had invited us to take part in an experiment where we would enter an important “dream memory” of hers from 1983. Our goal was to solve the mysteries planted in her mind to influence a major scientific breakthrough. 

In-game: A poster telling the reader to "Unlock the power of your dreams." It has a trippy image of heads within heads.

Setting

Dream Study #114 took place at an actual bar peppered with props and puzzles related to Rose’s memories. The set felt like a regular working bar with some added effects. Theatrical scenes occurred at timed intervals throughout the evening. Participants could buy drinks, chat in between scenes, and solve the related puzzles at their leisure. 

In-game: A lamp illuminating a couch with a newspaper.

Gameplay

Dream Study #114 was part immersive theater production and part escape room. Upon arrival, we each chose one of two tracks, each of which involved solving a different set of puzzles scattered around the bar. Upon completing the puzzles, we entered the resulting solution into a mysterious device to learn how the story ended.

Both tracks in Dream Study #114 included simple puzzles that revolved around observation and making connections.

In-game: an old radio device lit blue and glowing.

Analysis

➕ The bar was a perfect setting for an immersive theater/puzzle hybrid event. It felt slightly surreal to get a clue from a bartender who wasn’t part of the cast, or to hear an actor refer to a drink on that night’s menu. Putting on a show at an actual bar risked red herrings, but the puzzle flow was clear enough that this wasn’t an issue.

➕/➖ The theatrical scenes, puzzles, props, costumes, music, and even the video playing on the TV behind the bar were all related to the dream study theme. We could tell a lot of thought went into these details. However, the truly dreamlike occurrences were few and far between. We would have loved to see more uncanny or unsettling moments.

➖ Each track had us start out by locating a character, with no guidance on how to do so. For one track, it took half an hour before the person we were looking for appeared. This caused some of us to spend half of our time wandering around looking for things to do. It also created a bottleneck once that character was available.

➖ The idea of having two tracks was intriguing, but the experiences were uneven. One track had a simpler goal and puzzles and (we realized later) required no actor interaction. The other track revealed more backstory and drama and had more interesting puzzle components. We would have had more fun comparing notes afterward if we had equally engaging experiences to share.

➕ The final interaction felt momentous. We felt like the heroes no matter which track we had played.

➖ Because there were 12 people per time slot (in addition to the players still hanging around from previous time slots), the characters and props were in high demand. This sometimes caused bottlenecks, particularly towards the end of the hour. Also, important props tended to meander around the bar, which made solving difficult. Having a gamemaster dedicated to wrangling puzzle components would have alleviated this problem.

➕/➖ A drink ticket was provided to each player at the end of their track, which added to our feeling of triumph. However, we would have preferred to get a drink ticket at the beginning of the evening while we were settling in. This would also ensure that everyone got their money’s worth whether or not they finished their track.

➖ Before entering the event, we were asked to answer a question to determine our track. The question seemed unrelated to the evening except that it broke us up into teams. If we’d been asked a more introspective question, or if we’d chosen a side once we knew a bit more about the story, we would have felt more immersed in the show and invested in the outcome.

➖ We were told up front to be careful who we trusted, which gave us the impression that we shouldn’t help each other out. This initially led us to be cautious about revealing our missions and progress in the game. Once we decided to socialize more and team up with other guests, we had more fun. This felt like a mismatch between story and gameplay.

➕ We appreciated that the event space and the lack of time limit meant we could stay at the venue after the show. It was the ideal place to rehash our experience—the venue where it happened.

Tips For Visiting

Dream Study #114 had a limited run and is no longer playing. The venue and other details may change if it is revived in another form.

This experience had live actors, though interaction was not required. (Review our tips for playing with actors.) For shows like Dream Study #114, it adds to the experience if you enjoy speaking with actors, but you can just as easily sit back and watch others interact.

Dream Study #114 took place in November and December 2018 and is not currently running.

Mister and Mischief – Escape from Godot [Review]

A real-life actor’s nightmare.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: June 17, 2018

Team size: 8 tickets per time slot

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket (limited run during the Hollywood Fringe Festival)

Ticketing: public

REA Reaction

At its best, Escape from Godot felt a little like that dream where you’re on stage and you can’t remember your lines… only exciting and fun. A refreshing blend of escape room and immersive theater, Escape from Godot used puzzles and gameplay to drive the stage production forward. The experience was appropriately absurdist… being based on Waiting for Godot (synopsis).

The actors blew us away with their commitment to delivering their lines while managing game flow.

Escape from Godot broke away from escape room conventions. What emerged was fun, engaging, and impressive. We left feeling entertained and energized. If Escape from Godot is revived in another form, it would definitely be worth checking out.

In-game: Three actors performing a scene. One actor looks very surprised.
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Who is this for?

  • Theater fans
  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Quirky puzzles integrated with a live theater production
  • Talented and enthusiastic actors
  • Unique, playful experience
  • Bowler hats

Story

Upon arriving at a theater to attend a friend’s play, we learned that everyone involved in the production was being threatened with a lawsuit if they continued the play without permission – including the audience. We had one hour to fill in for the stage manager and help the actors complete the play before the lawyers arrived to shut it down.

Setting

Escape from Godot was an escape room intertwined with a theater production. Rather than relying on scenery and effects, the immersiveness of Escape from Godot unfolded mostly temporally, via actors and props on the stage. The set, a relatively ordinary theater, was secondary to the puzzles and interactions.

Gameplay

Mister and Mischief’s Escape from Godot was an escape game and theater blend that revolved around theatrical cues, dialogue, and actor interactions. We participated both as audience members watching the actors and as crew members puzzling out how to guide the play (and the escape room) to its final curtain.

Escape from Godot included medium-difficulty escape room puzzles involving logic, observation, and wordplay.

Two actors standing on stage while another actor whispers to a player
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Analysis

+ Escape from Godot was fun for theater buffs and theater newbies alike. Those of us who were more familiar with Waiting for Godot got extra enjoyment from certain details and interactions, but we didn’t need to have seen the play.

+ The absurdist theme meant we weren’t always sure what we were supposed to do, but orienting ourselves was part of the challenge. It felt like being in an actor’s nightmare, with all the chaos and confusion of being thrust on stage without our lines – but in a good way.

+ The puzzles were whimsical and integrated with the theme.

+ Escape from Godot involved actor interaction, but some players were in the spotlight more than others. Shy players didn’t have to worry because interaction was limited and only as involved as each person wanted it to be. Accommodating different audience member personalities made the show approachable to extroverted players as well as people who were less comfortable with interaction.

+ The actors went all out. On top of their solid acting, they delivered hints subtly and seamlessly, right when we needed them. By calibrating our timing with thoughtful cluing, they had the ability to control the flow of the experience and make sure each group felt victorious at the end. This kind of improvisation must have been tricky to pull off. We were impressed with how effortless it felt and how much it added to our enjoyment.

– The venue wasn’t perfect. The space near the stage was a bit cramped, which made it hard for all eight of us to participate equally at times when we were in the audience area.

+ Playing Escape from Godot felt true to the experience of watching a play; it also felt like putting on a play. Even without elaborate sets, the action and the puzzles kept us engaged and immersed for the whole hour.

? Due to the linear gameplay, there were a couple of bottleneck moments. Fortunately, the show was designed so that the least busy of us could always entertain ourselves by watching the actors perform their scenes.

+ The beginning and ending of Escape from Godot were largely unguided, which gave us a feeling of mystery when we entered the theater and triumph when we led the show to our curtain call.

+ Escape from Godot showed that the theater is a natural setting for an escape room hybrid. Solving puzzles to influence the show is a unique and fun game mechanic. We’d love to see more people experimenting with integrating gameplay into stage productions.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escape from Godot had a limited run and is no longer playing. If Mister and Mischief decide to revive it, the venue and other details may change.
  • This experience had live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors. Interaction is minimal if you want it to be; having one or two outgoing teammates should be enough.
  • Since Escape from Godot was an escape room within a play, it was more about enjoying the experience than beating the clock. You might have to wait for the actors to finish their lines before you can progress anyway, so take your time and enjoy the performance.

Escape from Godot took place in June 2018 and is not currently running.