2015 Golden Lock-In Awards

REA Golden Lock-In Badge

We played and reviewed 65 rooms in 2015

These 10 rooms are the games that we wish we could play again.

There is no perfect game, but these are the ones that still make us smile long after we escaped or, in one instance, failed in the attempt.

That isn’t to say the 55 other games we played were bad; many of them were great too.

Rules

1. We only considered games that we personally played in 2015.

2. We both had to agree to add the room to the list.

3. There was no minimum or maximum number of rooms that had to appear on the list. (It’s a coincidence that the number is 10).

4. Each company could only have one game on the list. (Note that two companies have merged since we played, giving one company two games on this list. However, the games were designed and originally executed completely independently of each other.)

2015 Golden Lock-In Winners

Listed chronologically in the order in which we played them.

Spark of Resistance

60 Minutes to Escape – Portland, Oregon

No other room escape conveyed a narrative like Spark of Resistance. No other room defeated us so thoroughly.

The Dig

Escape the Room Philly – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It started as a free pop-up game promoting a television show, and grew into a permanent immersive adventure.

Outer Space

Escape Games NYC – New York, New York

It was the most beautiful game we set foot in.

Manhattan Mayhem

Escape Entertainment – New York, New York

So clever and so fun, this was the first room escape that we would call “abstract art.”

Mutiny at the Hour

The Crux Escape Rooms – St. Catharines, Ontario

We never stopped smiling on this nutty pirate ship adventure.

The Chamber

Escape The Place – Colorado Springs, Colorado

We played head-to-head, solving a giant puzzle cube akin to the video game The Room.

Saint Angelo’s Castle

Komnata Quest, Long Island City – Queens, New York

It had the most intense, ominous set design.

Nemesis

Mission Escape Games – New York, New York

We can’t fully separate the game from the start of a proposal. This will always be a special game… Plus, it’s an awesome space station.

The Wizard’s Apothecary: The Power of the Rings

Escape Room Live Alexandria – Alexandria, Virginia

Every element was magical, fun, and clever. Even their hinting system was incredible.

Dungeon of Elements

Mission Escape Games, Queens (formerly Enigma NYC) – Queens, New York

Massive, physically interactive set pieces brought the Dungeon to life on an immense scale (especially for New York City).

If I’ve played all of these game, what next?

The RoomEscapeArtist.com 2016 Golden Lock-In Awards will be published in December 2016. Want to be the first to know? Subscribe today.

Mission Escape Games, Queens – The Dungeon of Elements [Review]

It was kind of like Legends of the Hidden Temple… Except I wasn’t screaming at the TV because some kid couldn’t figure out how to assemble the three freakin piece statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey.

Location: Queens, New York

Date played: November 8, 2015

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Price: $25 per ticket, must book at least 4 tickets

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner
Mission Escape Games Logo
Formerly Enigma NYC

Theme & story

The Dungeon of Elements was an Indiana Jones-style tomb raid. There was an old mystical thingy… and you wants the precious… So you need to solve some puzzles to unlock it.

The Dungeon of Elements - Water Urn

The premise was simple and familiar. Instead of loading the game up with story, the puzzles, setting, and huge set pieces carried us through the adventure. It worked well.

Setting

The Dungeon of Elements was located in the basement of an older building in Queens. The basement itself went a long way towards achieving that old dungeon feel that so many rooms fail to achieve.

Mission Escape Games, Queens - The Dungeon of Elements

Huge set pieces

The large set pieces set this game apart. There were a lot of impressive fixtures in The Dungeon of Elements. All of the big, sturdy, mechanical, aged components made the game feel like it had a gravitas that many games fail to achieve.

At times the feeling was undermined by obviously modern components and a heavy reliance on color changing LED lighting, but these were relatively minor infractions.

Puzzles

The dungeon was split into a few different areas, each themed on the mythical elements of water, fire, air, and earth.

The Dungeon of Elements - Water Dragon

Each element presented its own challenge in the form of a physically interactive puzzle. It worked well because each puzzle felt intimately tied to the element that it represented (with the exception of the fire challenge… But it’s tough to make a safe fire challenge that actually involves fire).

All of this culminated with a massive conglomerated puzzle that required the entire team to solve.

Team size

As with their other rooms, Mission Escape Games, Queens’ website accurately nails their team sizing: The room maxes out at seven people, but they recommend five or six players.

Should I play Mission Escape Games, Queens’ The Dungeon of Elements?

The Dungeon of Elements was a top tier game. It was elegant, big, brilliantly designed, memorable, and engaged the entire team at all times.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games, Queens’ The Dungeon of Elements, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission Escape Games Queens comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room Live Alexandria – The Wizard’s Apothecary: ​The Power of the Rings [Review]

There’s magic in Alexandria, Virginia. Go experience it.

Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Date played: November 1, 2015

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Production value

From the moment we exited the elevator, we entered the world of Escape Room Live Alexandria.

That world included a reception area and a spacious, styled, and decorated lounge and function room. The space was comfortable, inviting, and designed unlike any other escape room we’ve encountered.

The lounge was themed better than most average escape rooms... And far more massive than this photo suggests.
The lounge was themed better than most escape rooms… And far more massive than this photo suggests.

This production value and styling extended to the The Wizard’s Apothecary: The Power of the Rings. The set was remarkable and believable, in so much as wizardry was believable.

Story

The King’s wizard is missing and only you, as the wizard’s apprentice, have the skills necessary to find him. You have 45 minutes in his study for this task.

Escape Room Live Alexandria is not legally allowed to lock players in rooms. Thus, they created a win condition completely divorced from escape. The game didn’t suffer because of this.

Magic

As one would expect from a wizard-themed game, puzzles unfolded in unique, magical ways. The uses of sensors to create moments of magical happenings were clever, creative, and exciting.

Escape Room Live Alexandria - Wizard's Apothecary - Spellbook

Hints

This game also had a magical hinting system through one of the props in the room. Thus the fiction was sustained throughout the entire experience.

This technique made requesting a hint fun (which is impressive because asking for a hint is decidedly not fun).

Choke point

The Wizard’s Apothecary had one massive choke point in its gameplay. There was a single prop that affected so many puzzles that it created multiple bottlenecks as various members of our team vied for it to solved different puzzles.

This didn’t wreck our experience, but it forced us to stand around waiting… Which isn’t awesome when the timer is ticking down.

45 minutes

The games at Escape Room Live Alexandria are only 45 minutes long.

Normally I find 45 minute games too short. In this case, however, it was 45 minutes without much fluff or tedium. It worked because all of the puzzles were strong… But I would have loved to see a few more challenges and an extra 15 minutes of play.

Escape Room Live Alexandria - Wizard's Apothecary - Magical Items

Customer care

Before the game started, a staff member quickly delivered the game set up and walked us through a poster of “don’ts” in a lighthearted, but serious manner. It was well performed.

The staff at Escape Room Live Alexandria were all exceptionally welcoming. They even opened early for us and then held our suitcase in their closet while we went out to lunch. They earned a lot of appreciation from a pair of weary travelers.

Should I play Escape Room Live Alexandria’s The Wizard’s Apothecary: The Power of the Rings ?

Absolutely.

A magical room calls for magical solutions. Escape Room Live Alexandria’s brilliant and seamless use of sensors elevates the gameplay to a level that few escape rooms rival.

The Wizard’s Apothecary felt like another world with its own physics and logic. The puzzles were creative and challenging.

Escape Room Live Alexandria minded all details: the décor, rules, hinting systems, gamemasters’ performance, and even the hilariously hidden camera. All of this added up to a fun, inviting, and worthwhile destination.

Escape Room Live Alexandria is an hour on the metro from Washington DC’s Union Station, or 20-30 minutes by Uber, but it is worth the trip if you can spare the time. Plus, downtown Alexandria is adorable. You can round out a half-day excursion with eating, drinking, shopping, and general site-seeing.

Every member of our team enjoyed this game. In fact, one player mentioned that her only disappointment was that she didn’t get to solve all the puzzles because they happened while she was solving something else.

Book your session with Escape Room Live Alexandria’s Wizard Room, and tell them the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Live Alexandria comped our tickets for this game.

Mission Escape Games – Nemesis [Review]

This escape room is temporarily closed. It will reopen in a new midtown location in spring/summer 2019.

In the final minutes of Nemesis, I felt my world crashing, but recovered in the very last moment.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: September 17, 2015

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Mission Escape Games Logo

Theme & story

You’ve been sent to board a massive space-station that has lost power and is about to fall out of orbit, plummet to Earth, and end all life on the planet. You have 60 minutes to restore power to the station, correcting its orbit or the world ends.

The Nemesis looked exceptional. Every item in the room was on-theme and it was sci-fi in a dark and slightly intimidating way.

The game felt like we stepped into a new world, and it was a fun world to explore.

Mission Escape Games - Nemesis

Intro

We were the first non-tester team to play Nemesis. Derek, the owner of Mission Escape Games, handled our introduction to the game, and it was a bit disjointed. I followed the story line because it was a familiar sci-fi setup, but some of our less nerdy teammates were confused about the goal of our Mission.

I’d venture to guess that because this is a new game, the introductory speech isn’t polished yet, but it’s an important part of the game (especially for less experienced players).

Puzzles

There was a bit of a mixed bag here in the puzzles.

On the plus side, there were no padlocks whatsoever and many of the puzzles were interactions with the space station.

This room was at its best when the puzzles were space station interactions that advanced a story line.

On the not-so-plus side, a couple of these puzzles were excruciatingly challenging. There was one puzzle that was so hard that I can confidently say our team wouldn’t have solved it… And I’m not even sure we would have gotten it with hints… But we accidentally circumvented that puzzle so we’ll never know.

Breakage & accidental circumvention

This game was technology-driven. Almost everything involved a sensor or something digital. Thus there was high potential for bugs, especially for early players.

In one instance we bypassed a puzzle, and didn’t even know it. We did a thing, and another thing opened. It turned out that we did the wrong thing, and had no idea that we had circumvented the hardest puzzle of the game.

There was another instance where we had the right answer, and the device didn’t work. It was a bummer because that happened at a particularly dramatic moment.

Escalation, storytelling, and a climactic moment

Nemesis had a dramatic beginning, largely because the puzzles fit into the story. It had a similarly dramatic ending. When we restored power to the space station with a minute to spare, and the triumphant theme from one of my favorite PS2 era video games started playing in the background, I was elated… More on that elation in a moment.

The middle of the game lost the plot thread. The puzzles existed for their own sake rather than to advance the story.

Nemesis had so many wonderful moments that conveyed meaning and story, a few of the puzzles didn’t feel like they should have made the cut.

A personal drama

This was a special game for me because it was the first domino in my extraordinarily complex marriage proposal to my (now) fiancée, and Room Escape Artist co-everything, Lisa Radding.

Lisa & David - Post Game

Derek graciously hid a small box in the room for Lisa to find. He asked me if I “wanted to know where it would be hidden.” I didn’t want to know anything about the game, so I said, “no.”

He hid the box in the penultimate puzzle of the game… So I became hint happy in the final minutes. I was silently panicking as it started to look increasingly like we weren’t going to get out.

If you’re interested in the full story of the proposal, you should read Lisa’s post, The Escape of the Ring from the Puzzle Box.

Should I play Mission Escape Games’ Nemesis?

The last time we played at Mission Escape Games, we loved the Hydeout, but we thought it lacked a climax. Nemesis did not suffer from this problem.

It had quite a few wonderful moments in it and the overall feel was seductive in a nerdy sort of way. It was intense, a ton of fun, and a game that I will always remember (not all of that has to do with the game itself).

All of that being said, there were moments when the game didn’t work as designed, a couple of puzzles that were far too confounding, and a few elements that felt like they should have been better incorporated into the story. Mission keeps getting better and we keep moving the goal post on what constitutes a perfect game.

Nemesis is a game for experienced players. If this is your first room, you’re going to have a rough time. It’s (mostly) fair to experienced players, but I am reasonably sure that it will offer an insurmountable challenge to first time teams. Mission has a few games that offer a softer learning curve. Give those a try; then face off against the apocalypse space station.

Book your hour in Mission Escape Games’ Nemesis, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest, Long Island City – Saint Angelo’s Castle [Review]

Saint Angelo’s Castle requires players to wear costumes… Is it good enough to pull it off?

Location: Queens, New York

Date played: September 12, 2015

Team size: 3-5; we recommend 3-4

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Long Island City?

For those who don’t know New York, Long Island City is nowhere near Long Island. It’s in Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan.

It is incredibly easy to get to from Midtown Manhattan.

Theme & story

You’re prisoners in an Inquisition dungeon. You’re scheduled for execution in one hour: escape, repent, or perish.

Saint Angelo’s Castle was a real place. The story that played out felt like a mixture of myth and history; it worked damn well.

The setting was magnificent in a dungeon-y sort of way.

There was a good reason why we were locked in the game and there was an equally good reason why we needed to escape. The story was peppered throughout the game. It was both dire and fun.

Costumes

Prior to the game’s beginning, our gamemaster instructed us to put on robes and hoods.

None of us were thrilled about the robes, but we all went along with it.

Only a few of us were ok with the hoods. As in OMEscape’s The Penitentiary, this presented a hygiene problem that made some us uncomfortable. As a reviewer, I’ll go along with just about anything, but I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled about it. My hood smelled of fabric softener, so I was confident that it had been washed recently, but I didn’t know that until it was on my head.

Komnata Quest

Legal release

Like many escape companies, Komnata Quest had us sign an aggressive release form. I tend to find these things a bit silly, but Komnata Quest did something that really bothered me: They made me sign away their liability for lost items. Then they asked us to put our phones and bags into a locked chest outside of the game.

When I said, “No, I just won’t use my phone during the game,” I was met with more suspicion than I deserved.

That chest was probably safe, but I think that it was pretty ballsy to make me take full responsibility for my belongings and expect to take those belongings from me.

Bound beginning

As the game began, the gamemaster led our team into the dungeon and locked us up. One player was locked up in a far more interesting, and far more uncomfortable manner than the others.

I really liked the way that this game started. However, Komnata Quest’s website did not make it clear that we would be restrained. Some of the people we escape rooms with on a regular basis would not be cool with restraint and it should be clear that restraint is involved before money changes hands.

Creative puzzles & interactive play

Once the game got going each puzzle offered a different challenge. There weren’t a ton of puzzles in this game, but the puzzles were fun, interesting, and memorable.

This room also had more than a few things that we had never seen.

3-5 Players

Small escape games are basically unheard of in New York. One of the best parts of Saint Angelo’s Castle is that it is an intimate game.

It plays 3-5 players and it comfortably fits 3-5 players.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Saint Angelo’s Castle?

So long as you aren’t a jittery player, this is a must play game.

The level of detail in this room is only rivaled by a few of the best rooms we’ve encountered. Komnata Quest does a lot of work to weave story, puzzles, and intrigue into a compelling hour of play.

Komnata Quest has recently opened in the United States and while they are working out a few kinks in their customer service system, their game is exceptionally sound.

While this is Komnata Quest’s first room in the States, this is not their first rodeo. The Komnata Quest Russian website has a listing of many games that sound incredibly interesting. I hope they import all of them.

Hop a subway to Long Island City and play Saint Angelo’s Castle; there aren’t many games in this league.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Saint Angelo’s Castle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code, escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Escape The Place, Colorado Springs – The Chamber [Review]

A head-to-head competitive escape room that feels a lot like the video game “The Room.”

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Date played: September 5, 2015

Team size: up to 10 (5 versus 5); we recommend 4 or 6, definitely an even number

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

The setup for this game is a little out-there:

Two teams that are part of a demolition crew have finished setting explosives in a building. The timers were set for an hour when both teams stepped into identical rooms with cosmic scrawling on the walls, Leonardo da Vinci art, and a mysterious sealed cube in the middle of the room. The doors lock behind the teams and they have to find a way out before they are killed by their own explosives.

Like I said… A little out-there. Thankfully the setup doesn’t stop this from being a very special escape game.

“The Room”

“The Room” (and its sequel, “The Room Two”) are far and away my favorite mobile/tablet video games. The entire game is about unlocking a puzzle box. Each time you solve the box, it reveals another box within it. It’s the Russian nesting dolls of puzzle games.

The elegance of “The Room” is derived from the simplicity of its interactions. The game designers allow the player to control the game by directly touching the puzzle box. The controls are simple, and the game is beautifully rendered.

The real-life room escape industry owes a debt of gratitude to this video game, among others. I have been waiting a long time to see a live room escape game company riff of The Room.

Escape The Place has done just that.

The cube

The beating heart of this game is the cleverly engineered cube in the middle of the room. It produces a linear experience that is filled with original puzzles.

It’s physically interactive and it left quite an impression on me.

Competitive play

We had five players, so we split the teams along gender lines (at the suggestion of the gamemaster). Two women vs. three men… Neither Lisa nor I were thrilled to play one another.

The hinting system worked via walkie-talkie. If your team asked for a hint, the other team heard it.

This particular game played almost entirely to my strengths and Lisa had a rough time. It also turned out that three people was the right team size; two was a serious handicap.

Both teams escaped, but with about a 20 minute differential.

Each team can track the progress of the other via the LEDs on the control panel.
Each team can track the progress of the other via the LEDs on the control panel.

Some bumps

We were the first paying customers in The Chamber. As such, we contended with puzzle failures:

There was a lock that neither Lisa nor I knew how to release.

There were two locks that were positioned in ways that were very challenging to open.

And in Lisa’s room, there was one mechanical puzzle failure.

All of this stuff is fixable, but it detracted from our overall experience.

Should I play Escape The Place’s The Chamber?

This was our first competitive room escape experience and we really enjoyed it. This room was designed for us to escape; the game was in the race.

Get an even number of people together (ideally 6 in total, but 8 would be ok). Make sure players have played at least one room escape game before. Then go at it to outplay the people in the next room.

The Chamber has a silliness about it at first, but that quickly fades as the experience takes over… It is a must-play experience if you’re anywhere near Colorado Springs.

Book your time with Escape The Place’s The Chamber, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The Crux Escape Rooms – Mutiny at the Hour [Review]

[At the time of this review, The Crux Escape Rooms was called The Hour.]

Yarrr… [insert generic pirate cliché].

Location: St. Catharines, Ontario

Date played: August 30, 2015

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Price: 20 CAD

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

Mutiny at the Hour was beautifully constructed to look and feel like the different areas of a pirate ship. It was an exciting and fun to inhabit a pirate ship for an hour.

The story: Your ship has been overtaken by pirates. You and your teammates are locked in the captain’s quarters. You must escape from there, through different areas of the ship… and into the ocean?

The Hour LogoWe want to walk the plank? I guess that is better than being captives of pirates? The story doesn’t hold water.

The puzzles and their props generally stayed to a nautical theme, but they didn’t tell a story. This game packed a lot of story potential that went unrealized.

Custom construction

The folks from The Hour hand built this massive game. The settings, scenery, puzzles, and much of the decor are all clearly handmade with a ton of love.

It’s easy to feel good about a game that was so clearly born of passion and care. Mutiny at the Hour is a unique experience and is as close to a fully custom construction as we ever find.

Automagically

This game has very few locks, and zero combination locks. The few key locks that are in the game are of the old-timey, heavy metal variety that feel at home on the ship.

Most of the puzzles resolved automagically: You do something, and a something else triggers via technology.

Cooperation

Many of the puzzles in this game relied on teamwork. The game was expertly crafted in this regard so that it could not be a one-man show. During our hour, I worked in tandem with each of my teammates to solve different game elements.

We escaped at the buzzer with just four players. It may be possible to escape with three, but this is a six person game.

Best victory photo ever!
Best victory photo ever!

Puzzles & difficulty

Overall the puzzles were physically and mentally engaging. In at least one instance, a player needed to climb within the set. This was well designed to be safe and fun (this also didn’t require much exertion).

There were a few instances where a player could determine their task relatively quickly but the task itself took some time to complete. Perhaps this would work well for larger groups, but with only four players, we struggled when multiple people were tied up completing concepts they’d already worked out… One or two puzzles overstayed their welcome.

Should I play The Hour’s Mutiny at the Hour?

Mutiny at the Hour brought a cleverness that exceeded that which we frequently see. The set was designed in a unique and engaging way. Puzzles were crafted such that they interacted with the set and players could not circumvent elements. And ultimately, these puzzles were fun. The pirate ship experience was exciting.

In this game, The Hour has upped their game design substantially, adding the automagic puzzles. Their sophomore effort far out-shined Jail Break. They still have a ways to climb to integrate the setting and puzzles into a cohesive story whose ultimate goal makes sense. However, this did not detract from the in-game experience.

Experienced players will enjoy the custom design of this game. New players may find this game a little out of their league, but I think it’s still worth a go. If you only have time for one game at the Hour, play this one.

Book your hour with The Hour’s Mutiny at the Hour, and tell them the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Entertainment – Manhattan Mayhem [Review]

[Formerly known as Monkey Mayhem]

An abstract, tongue-in-cheek game that packs humor and challenge. Brace yourself for the primate apocalypse!

Location: New York, New York

Date played: August 28, 2015

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 6-8

Price: $29 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme and story

Ten monkeys have escaped from the Central Park Zoo, and they are destroying Manhattan! You are the animal rescue team tasked with putting the monkeys back in their cages and saving the city.

This Midtown Manhattan escape room is the first game that is set in the Big Apple. It’s about time.

Abstract art

Escape games are art: There is a lot of realism (or attempts at it) in some and others are non-objective.

This game was abstract; every element was a metaphor. In this way it expertly avoided the pitfall of the uncanny valley.

Most of the puzzles in this game were presented on a pedestal that represented an iconic location within New York City. As a player, it was clear what each puzzle represented. It all came together surprisingly well.

Escape Entertainment Monkey Mayhem Statue of Liberty

Humor

Monkey Mayhem never took itself too seriously.

Why did players only have an hour? They needed to go save a beached whale!

It was funny, and it was fun.

Audience

This was an approachable room that still packed a lot of difficulty.

There were elements that were perfect for children. But our team of adults fully enjoyed the artistic creation. Tourists and New Yorkers alike will get excited over the setting.

Puzzle variety

Monkey Mayhem included a variety of puzzles crafted for different intellects. These puzzles were overwhelmingly tactile in nature, and were a joy to solve.

This game contrasted sharply with Escape Entertainment’s other room, Prohibition Pandemonium, which skewed heavily towards a few select skillsets.

Lack of scavenging

More than most games, the puzzles are clearly identified; there was no scavenging in this game. In fact, by the time we captured all of the monkeys, we had left the room less messy than when we entered the scene. This fit the theme.

This design eliminated the need to figure out what was a puzzle and how to link puzzle elements together. While I enjoyed knowing what was a puzzle, I recognize that the unambiguity of Monkey Mayhem may not be everyone’s brand of banana.

Locking locks

This was the first game where I had to close a lock to solve a puzzle. That was unexpected and fun.

… But I recommend that game-masters instruct players how to lock the locks.

Climactic moment

The missing link in Monkey Mayhem was a climax… It needed a King Kong puzzle.

It needed that moment that makes players turn their heads and think, “Wow! That was bananas!”

Optional competitive mode

Escape Entertainment offers two identical versions of Monkey Mayhem. Two groups can come to compete against each other, playing the same game simultaneously.

We’re looking forward to seeing more of this head-to-head style gameplay throughout the industry.

Post game

The staff at Escape Entertainment gave us an exceptional experience in customer service.

That said, we recommend that Escape Entertainment create a standard postgame walkthrough procedure for their staff to follow. Especially in a game such as Monkey Mayhem where single players will each solve unconnected puzzles, it is important to give a comprehensive walkthrough, whether the team wins or loses.

I missed a lot of what went on and a thorough recap would have been very helpful.

Escape Entertainment Monkey Mayhem

Should I play Escape Entertainment’s Monkey Mayhem?

We shattered the record for this game; we won in half the time allotted. We brought one of the best, most seasoned teams we’ve played with yet… And we still had a blast.

Escape Entertainment’s first two games are very different experiences. Each is a work of a different kind of art, and each is worth playing. Player sensibilities might lend themselves to one game over another. But if you only have time for one, play Monkey Mayhem. It’s a stronger game with more puzzle variety, and it offers an experience like no other.

Make sure you bring a intellectually diverse team to this one, you’re going to need a variety of skills to escape Monkey Mayhem.

Book your hour with Escape Entertainment’s Monkey Mayhem, and tell them the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Games NYC – Outer Space [Review]

“Captain, we’ve encountered an anomaly and the ship’s dead in the water!”

“How long will it take us to get running?”

“At least two hours Captain.”

“Get it done in one.”

Location: New York, New York

Date played: July 14, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Price: ranges from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $26 per player for teams of 6

Emergency Exit: [A] Push to Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Plot

“On the way home from a distant galaxy, your spaceship encounters a serious problem. Even an experienced pilot would find this job demanding! In this game, you have to regain control of the situation to escape the darkness of the universe.

Stay focused and get back on course!”

space_2_pattern

Beautiful

This game is pretty. Really pretty. It looks like no other escape game I’ve ever seen in that it captures the bright and clean Star Trek aesthetic perfectly.

With the exception of one small but significant nook in this game, everything is perfectly themed. The space just feels right.

Lots of technology that works

This game is filled with technology. There are no physical locks; there are a few keypads. All of the mechanisms feel like they ought to be there.

There are a number of different screens on the ship’s bridge. Each has its own interface with art that perfectly fits within the game.

Bad photo: This screen was flashing warning... You can still tell that everything looked really cool.
Bad photo: This screen was flashing warning… You can still tell that everything looked really cool.

Puzzle theme conflict

For a room that leans so heavily into a theme (and does it well), there are a few puzzles that feel a bit forced.

In one instance there is a riddle that while good, didn’t fit within the story of the game.

Similarly there was a puzzle that revolves around Morse code. While I love Morse code as much as the next communication and code geek, it felt like it probably didn’t belong in this far future game.

Automation without indication

This game is very linear. Each puzzle must be resolved in order, and a lot of things are triggered programmatically. Many of these computer-driven effects are obvious (large set-pieces turn on or off or big warning signs flash); some are far too subtle (like small compartments automatically unlocking).

This was the biggest failing of Outer Space.

Throughout the game, players solve puzzles, and things unlock, but there is no way of knowing what you unlocked (or that you unlocked anything at all).

This game desperately needs more audio or visual indication to let a player know that they have earned something.

Deliberately slow

This room is designed to slow your team down. It’s billed as a 2-6 person game, and that’s very fair. Regardless of your team size, the game will likely slow your progress.

Our team was mixed on if this was a good or a bad thing, and this was the first time that Lisa and I had a significantly different opinion on a room. She wasn’t bothered by this style of design; I was. It’s worth noting that our team was split on this as well.

Escape Games NYC - Outer Space - Team Room Escape Artist
“Don’t mind me, I’m just throwing off the balance of the photo.”

Should I play Escape Games NYC’s Outer Space

If you’ve broken out of a few rooms, and want to experience something different, then this is the most interesting room I’ve seen in the New York City area.

We found the room challenging, but narrowly escaped without any hints (we had 3 minutes remaining). I wouldn’t recommend Outer Space to beginners, as I don’t think they will be up for the challenge, and I know that they will not appreciate how different this game is from the norm.

It can get a bit tedious at times, and I think that the room could benefit from a little more iteration, but it’s a special room that deserves to be played.

Book your hour with Escape Games NYC’s Outer Space and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape the Room Philly – The Dig [Review]

[Formerly known as The Cavern]

A delightful adventure that is begging for a tangible plot.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Date played: May 30, 2015

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-8

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Plot

“You’ve been summoned into the deep and have 60 minutes to unravel the mystery of the Cavern.”

Digging up the past

Defying expectations, “The Cavern” begins by dropping players into a church-like environment; it was decidedly not-cavernous… That part comes later.

The Cavern gives a second life to the expensive set pieces born from Escape the Room NYC’s (owners of Escape the Room Philly) collaboration with the USA Network on their Dig Escape Game. If you played that game, then you’re going to feel like you’re in familiar territory. Don’t get too comfortable (we did); the breadth and difficulty of this game has been ramped up a few levels (but you’re still going to know how a few things work).

Theming

The game feels like Indiana Jones and The Da Vinici Code had a baby, and that’s a good thing.

The look, the feel, the sights and the sounds of this game are all on-point. The experience is pretty incredible (especially if you hadn’t played Dig).

Puzzle variety

The folks from Escape the Room NYC have become exceptionally talented at crafting a wide variety of puzzles that fit elegantly into their games. The Cavern is no exception.

Each puzzle offers its own challenge, most of those puzzles are memorable, and many of them are physically interactive (more so than with most escape rooms).

Often the puzzles resolve in exciting, fun, and unexpected ways (not putting a combination into a lock).

Escape the Room Philly - The Cavern - Room Escape Artist

Tuning

Later in the game, there are some seriously inventive puzzles; two of them could use a bit more tuning to guide players along the way.

One we solved with the help of a clue (and I really don’t think we would have resolved it without one). The other we solved, but didn’t know it. Saying more would be too spoiler-y.

Story please!

This game begs for a story. The puzzles are almost telling a story, but each player must imagine what that story is.

Spicing it up with a cohesive narrative would make this game shine.

Up to 10 players?

The Cavern is billed as a game for “up to 10 players.” While the game space in totality can more than comfortably fit 10 players, I don’t think there are enough puzzles to keep 10 players busy throughout the game.

As you press deeper into the game, it becomes more linear (in a good way). However, there isn’t room around these puzzles for more than a few players at a time.

We had 6 people, and that felt right.

Should I play Escape the Room Philly’s The Cavern?

The Cavern would stand out as a great game in a competitive market; in Philadelphia it’s incredible.

If you didn’t play the Dig game, this one is going to really wow you. If you did, there’s still a lot of fun to mine from the Cavern, but it’s not going to shock you in the way it will an unfamiliar player.

If you recognize re-purposed props, there is one puzzle that you should sit out and let someone else solve it (I wish I had).

It’s a new game, so I would expect it to evolve some over the coming months. I’m betting its going to get even better.

Book your hour with Escape the Room Philly’s The Cavern, and tell them that The Room Escape Artist sent you.