The Enigma Room – In Memoriam [Review]

It’s a dream within a dream within an escape room.

Location: Sydney, Australia

Date played: April 5, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Price: Prices range from 31 – 39 AUD per person, and vary based on the number of players.

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

As psychic doctors, we stepped into the mind of a coma patient. Our goal was to navigate her memories to find the one that would wake her up.

The Enigma Room's hallway. Their name is painted on the wall, their logo of intersecting questionmarks is painted on a doorway.

It was basically medical Inception in an escape room.

The game space took us through various “memories” that were varying degrees of abstract.

The story that unfolded was incredibly sweet. No nightmares. No ugliness.

Blindfolded beginning

To begin the game, we were blindfolded and led into the first room of the game.

The blindfolds were completely unnecessary. The first room contained interesting challenges, but wasn’t visually spectacular. There wasn’t a staggering reveal, it was just a room.

Blindfolds gross me out. Once I saw how unnecessary this one was, I was indignant that I had had to wear one.

Navigating the mind

Making In Memoriam a game within a dream was brilliant. It allowed the designer to present a story through abstract puzzles. Instead of the puzzles feeling out of place (which frequently happens in escape rooms that attempt to tell a story). The abstractness made the game feel more like a dream.

A long hallway with pictures mounted on the walls, an a picture on the floor leaned against the wall. The opposite wall has a door with a clock over it.

Geeky easter eggs

There was a handful of geeky Easter eggs hidden within the game for attentive, pop-culture aware nerds… keep your eyes open for them. I spotted half of of them and completely missed the others.

Construction & puzzles

In Memoriam used a lot of very common closures and locks and also peppered in some more unusual tech. The puzzles were fun and the interactions were entertaining.

Surprisingly emotional

I saw the conclusion of the story coming, but I still found it far more emotionally impactful than I was anticipating.

Escape rooms have made me feel like I was on an adventure. They have made me feel afraid. They have made me feel brilliant and they have made me feel pretty dumb.

This was the first room that made me feel the warm fuzzies.

A proofreader please!

In Memoriam is a beautiful game that tells a great story, but it needs an editor. There were written passages that had typos, duplicated words, and clunky language.
Everyone needs a proofreader; we have one (Thanks, Eva!).

Busted blacklight

There was a blacklight within In Memoriam and it was used quite nicely. It would have been great if it had worked properly.

These things need to be tested regularly and replaced at the first sign of failure.

Should I play The Enigma Room’s In Memoriam?

In Memoriam is a beautiful game with a tender story. It stands out in an escape room world filled with thrills, espionage, and freights as an unusual and welcome deviation from the norm.

The puzzles were great and the game was fun. A finicky UV light and some grammar notwithstanding, In Memoriam is a must play.

Bring your wits and your empathy with you because you’re in for a truly special treat.

Book your hour with The Enigma Room’s In Memoriam, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Essa of Intervirals

We enjoyed In Memoriam with the brilliant and incredibly kind Essa of the Aussie Escape Room blog, Intervirals.

Intervirals was one of the earliest escape room sites out there, and one that we’ve held in high regard for years. Essa showed us some very warm Australian hospitality. Lisa and I are so appreciative and pleased that we finally had a chance to meet Essa in person.

Full disclosure: The Enigma Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Locurio – The Vanishing Act [Review]

Magical & extraordinary.

Location: Seattle, Washington

Date played: April 7, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-6

Price: $34 per ticket

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story

After a 13th performance with the world-renowned magician the Great Noximillian, his assistants mysteriously disappear. On the evening of her 13th performance his current assistant Casey hired us to investigate why.

The game was set during Casey’s 70 minute performance with Noximillian. While the man was distracted by his audience, we were to investigate his office and attempt to save the life of his assistant.

Interior of the Vanishing Act. Depicts massive a red and yellow box chained and locked shut with multiple locks. A poster of Noximillian hangs on the wall beside the box.

70 minutes

This game runs 10 minutes longer than your typical escape room and bits and pieces of Noximillian’s performance could be heard over the PA system in the room.

Serious escalation

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love it when an escape room starts its players grounded in reality and escalates into the fantastic.

Locurio did this spectacularly.

The game ultimately became spooky (more than we were expecting), but as with Senator Payne, it never crossed over into serious horror.

Interior of The Vanishing Act. Depicts a dressing room with a suit hanging elegantly.

Engineering quality

Locurio minded the details in The Vanishing Act. They did a wonderful job of structuring the mechanisms of their game such that the components were hidden or obscured.

Sometimes when magical things happen in an escape room, there are exposed magnets and wires that not-so-gently remind the player that they are in a false reality. That wasn’t the case in The Vanishing Act. For the most part, the bits and pieces that made things happen were cleverly tucked out of sight.

Puzzles telling a story

Each puzzle was interesting on its own and for the most part, they furthered the game.

The earlier puzzles felt more like they were on-theme for a “magician’s escape room” and the later puzzles cleverly told the story.

Puzzles that overstay their welcome

Overall, Locurio’s The Vanishing Act was a wonderful game, but it had a few bumps.

There were a few puzzles that involved a lot of busy work after the we figured out how to solve them. In these instances, we knew what we had to do, but then had to spend 5-10 minutes completing repetitious tasks, looping through the same pattern we had already solved.

It was a bit of a time sink.

Hinting system

The hinting system was deeply baked into the narrative of the game. It was done in an unusual and elegant manner that truly tied the story back to the gameplay.

My only knock against it was that there came a point in the game where the hint system no longer made sense with the narrative of the story… but this is some serious story continuity nitpicking.

Should I play Locurio’s The Vanishing Act?

In The Vanishing Act, Locurio created a classic escape adventure; I can’t put too fine a point on this.

The game played wonderfully, was built beautifully, and told a surprisingly compelling story.

So long as you aren’t planning on bringing young children with you, this is an absolute must-play game.

I am truly looking forward to seeing what Locurio develops next.

Book your hour with Locurio’s The Vanishing Act, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Locurio comped our tickets for this game.

60 Out Escape Rooms – The Mystery of Senator Payne [Review]

[At the time of this review, 60 Out Escape Rooms was called Escape Key and The Mystery of Senator Payne was called Senator Payne.]

“Grr… Argh!”

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: March 19, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Price: $120 per room in less popular timeslots, $140 per room in moderately popular timeslots, $160 per room in highly popular timeslots

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

A senator hired us to infiltrate the office of a rival to steal the language of a bill and prevent it passing. We were the second team that had been dispatched to retrieve the text: no one knew what had happened to the first team.

The game began in an incredibly mundane senator’s office and the mystery unfolded from there.

An escape room designed to look like a senator's office, complete with George Washington portrait, American flag, desk, leaver chairs, and grandfather clock.

Buffy-esque

Senator Payne’s plot unfolded like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you aren’t familiar with Buffy, that’s a fantastic thing.

Buffy is notorious for taking a mundane premise, putting a slightly horror spin on it, making the viewer think they know what’s happening, and then just as the plot is about to take a trip to cliche town, making a sharp turn and going in a completely different direction.

That’s what Escape Key did with Senator Payne.

A bit of horror

Senator Payne can get a bit horrory and intense, but not overwhelmingly scary. (Lisa remained fully functional throughout the game, which has not always been the case when we’ve played more intense horror games.)

Escalation

“Escalation” was Senator Payne in a single word.

It started off comically mundane and then blasted off. Each puzzle was more interesting than the previous one. There were more than a few “I can’t believe that just happened” moments throughout the game.

Puzzles

Each puzzle offered a dramatically different, tactile challenge.

The puzzles were well-clued with the exception of one early puzzle that felt like it was missing something and required a logic leap. That, when mixed with the solution mechanism, didn’t feel fair.

That is not to say that the game was too difficult. We were supposed to play with three other people, but they flaked on us at the last minute. Fortunately, we comfortably completed the game just the two of us and it never felt like were were at a disadvantage.

Incredible ending

Senator Payne’s final puzzle, and the conclusion of the game, has become my new favorite escape room ending.

It was badass. That’s all I’m saying about.

Victory photo. Lisa holds the

Should I play Escape Key’s Senator Payne?

Absolutely… so long as you aren’t too jittery or bringing young children.

Senator Payne packed so many magical moments, a fun story, and some of the most entertaining interactions that Team Room Escape Artist has ever experienced.

The staff at Escape Key was warm and welcoming and the game was topnotch.

If you’re a Buffy / Angel fan, then this is a must play.

The people who flaked missed something special.

Book your hour with 60Out’s Senator Payne, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Key provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Steel Owl Room Adventures – Escape the 1980s [Review]

Another 1980s escape room! This one was in Philadelphia and it was created before the one in Washington, DC. Time travel is so complicated.

Photo of a gun-weilding, sunglasses-clad Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2, captioned,

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: February 7, 2016

Team size: 4-14; we recommend 4-8

Price: $28 per ticket

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

This game was set in four different 1980s commercial spaces. There wasn’t really a story so much as there were a series of pop culture and nostalgia fueled puzzles.

Everything 80s

Everything in Steel Owl’s venue was 80s themed.

The game, the victory photos, the event/party room, the employees’ clothing, and even the bathroom were 1980s themed.

Intro video

We have a new champion for best intro video. Escape the 1980s begins with an incredible Max Headroom-y explanation of the game, its rules, and its objectives.

The video rental store

Escape the 1980s began in a video rental store, which was one of the most grin-inducing escape room locales I’ve visited. It was strange to realize that I haven’t set foot in a video rental store in over 10 years.

Video really was the beating heart of Escape the 1980s. If you don’t know how VHS works, you will by the end of Escape the 1980s.

A video rental shelf containing a variety of 1980s classics movies, and some that aren't quite so classic.
This one goes to 11.

Great technology

From Atari, to the Commodore 64, to a very funny pop culture interface, there was a lot of tech in Escape the 1980s and it all worked. These items weren’t just added for flavor; they were deeply integrated into the experience and they were wonderful.

Photo of a Commodore 64 keyboard

How helpful was 1980s knowledge?

A strong understanding of 1980s pop culture provided a strong edge in Escape the 1980s.

That being said, everything was perfectly solvable without any outside knowledge and the game never really became truly difficult.

The bubblegum pop of escape rooms

I don’t mean this as an insult.

Escape the 1980s wasn’t difficult. It was designed for the players to experience the entire game and win.

There was a two-tiered hinting system: The first was the rooms soundtrack. The songs changed depending upon what puzzle we were working on and the chorus of the song was a hint at the action that we needed to take.

Second, we could also buy a clue at the cost of a three minute penalty. However, there were a couple of opportunities to earn extra minutes through humorous side missions.

The game also included candy and free beer coupons for a local bar hidden throughout the game space.

Everything was easy to digest.

Should I play Steel Owl Room Adventures’ Escape the 1980s?

Escape the 1980s was a deceptively brilliant game. It was upbeat, player-friendly, and had no edge to it at all. That wasn’t bad.

Photo of an Atari with a paddle. There is a cartidge in the console that has had it's title redacted.

Escape rooms started as a very challenging form of entertainment. As the medium grows, expands, and evolves, one natural branch is a very friendly, softer experience. Escape the 1980s embodies this.

The puzzles were sound. The setting was fun. The game was funny. And the overall experience was very well thought out.

Some of the rooms in Escape the 1980s were stronger than others and the game relied too heavily on VHS tapes to the point of predictability, but overall, it was an incredibly pleasurable experience.

If you’re looking for a creative, technologically-driven experience that isn’t too difficult then you’re going to love Escape the 1980s.

If you’re seeking a serious challenge, or a gritty, intense environment, then you should look elsewhere.

Photo og a guy in a blue jackey covered in yellow chicks,
Mason “The Coding Designer” Wendell

I never stopped smiling in Escape the 1980s and that counts for quite a bit.

Dust off your Atari skills and book your hour with Steel Owl Room Adventures Escape the 1980s, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code, Room_Escape_Artist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Steel Owl Room Adventure comped our tickets for this game.