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

âž• 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.

âž•/âž– 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.

âž– 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.

âž– 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.

âž– 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.

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Defenders of the Triforce – Los Angeles [Review]

It’s dangerous to go alone…but awfully crowded in groups of six.

Location: Los Angeles, CA*

Date played: February 12, 2017

Team size: 6; we recommend 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket early bird, $35 regular price, $40 at the door; might vary by city

Story & setting

The story was reworked from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: As the titular Defenders of the Triforce, our job was to work as a team to find the legendary Master Sword in order to free Princess Zelda and defeat the evil Ganondorf.

SCRAP Zelda Defenders of the Triforce poster featuring silhouettes of Ganondorf and Link.

The gamespace was a hotel ballroom with a couple dozen tables seating teams of six. Stations around the room represented locations in Hyrule, but most of the gameplay took place at the tables.

The decor was minimal—it felt precisely like being in a hotel ballroom—but staff members were dressed for the occasion and interacted with us in character.

Like SCRAP’s other large-scale events, the game was introduced by an emcee and the story was delivered through an intro video, with the gameplay loosely following the story.

Puzzles

In typical SCRAP mass event fashion, we spent most of the hour at the table solving paper puzzles. These were a bit more inventive than past SCRAP pencil puzzles, but familiar to those of us who had played their games before. Some were moderately challenging, but others would not be out of place in a children’s puzzle book.

The more dynamic moments involved basic items reminiscent of the Zelda series, as well as certain tasks that required us to interact with staff members.

At first glance the puzzle flow appeared linear, but it turned out to be more complex. We were given a way to organize our progress, but we still struggled to keep things straight at times.

Solving the puzzles and reaching the ending demanded close attention to the clues we had available. We never had to guess or make logical leaps.

Standouts

The puzzle flow was elegant. Defenders of the Triforce kept our interest and provided an increasing challenge. The first task was simple enough to be almost like a videogame tutorial, and the hardest tasks were last, which made the ending feel like an accomplishment.

We enjoyed the physicality of wearing Link hats and manipulating various props. The final sequence was fun, especially for Zelda fans. We were all delighted by one particular prop interaction that felt unexpected and exciting even though it was low-tech.

In-game: A ballroom full of seated players all wearing green Link elf hats.

Our success in the game depended on teamwork and attention to detail, rather than an insight that could make or break the ending. This was a welcome departure from past SCRAP games, which have notoriously relied on unintuitive leaps of logic in the final puzzle.

Shortcomings

Having approximately 150 people in the same space was a challenge. It was hard to concentrate in a room full of adventurers; waiting in lines to access certain clues created significant bottlenecks.

Because some elements of the game were accessible out of order, we ended up doubling back and uncovering clues we no longer needed. We also spent several minutes fiddling with a (probably) unintentional red herring that could have been prevented with a small design tweak.

We would have appreciated a hint when we got stuck, but there was no discernible hint system.

Due to the venue and the focus on pencil puzzles, we never truly felt like we were adventuring through Hyrule, despite all the references to the Zelda series.

We didn’t get to keep the hats, which was a letdown for some of us (and also made us wonder if they’d been laundered between games).

Should I play SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce?

Defenders of the Triforce was lighthearted and not terribly difficult—unlike most of SCRAP’s large-scale games, the majority of the teams made it all the way to the end.

The more physical elements of the game were especially cool for those of us who were Legend of Zelda fans, but non-fans could enjoy Defenders of the Triforce without a knowledge gap.

Because of the theme and difficulty level, Defenders of the Triforce would be a safe bet for younger players, families, and less experienced puzzlers—with the understanding that this game format is missing the sense of mystery and exploration of a typical escape room.

Defenders of the Triforce is a fun game with lots of references for Zelda fans, but the videogame series has so many story and gameplay elements that could be great fun in an escape room, and this implementation only scratched the surface.

If you’re looking for an immersive adventure or a puzzling challenge, Defenders of the Triforce is probably not going to be your thing, even if you are a Zelda superfan. At its heart, it was a low-tech opportunity to put ourselves in Link’s shoes (…or hat) and be the heroes of a real-life Zelda legend.

If you’re looking for an hour of Zelda-themed fun (and there are still tickets available in your area), Defenders of the Triforce is worth your time.

Book your hour with SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

*Defenders of the Triforce is coming to Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. The event dates and ticket sale dates vary by city.

Lisa & David will be playing in New York on May 4 at 9PM. Look for them there!