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.

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!