Escape My Room – Inventor’s Attic [Review]

Rube Goldberg’s bayou punk attic.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date played: October 7, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

With the DeLaporte annual ball scheduled to begin in an hour, and the estate’s electricity malfunctioning, it fell to us to explore the home and determine the cause of the outages. All wires led to eccentric Uncle Remy DeLaporte’s attic, where he claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine.

In-game: an antique rolltop desk filled with books and trinkets next to a small bed.

Inventor’s Attic was gorgeous and unusual. This room escape took Escape My Room’s eclectic, antique-collection-of-curiosities aesthetic and bumped it up quite a few notches. Uncle Remy’s makeshift inventions were strewn about the space, each one strange and worthy of exploration.

Puzzles

Inventor’s Attic had a lot of nifty gadgets… and of course, these were puzzles. They were interactive and exciting. Inventor’s Attic also required observation and correlation.

Standouts

Escape My Room’s DeLaporte Mansion has an aesthetic like no other. Inventor’s Attic started off with a similar vibrant look similar to Escape My Room’s other escape rooms, but morphed into a more focused look that maintained the feel of the mansion while setting the attic apart. It was beautifully designed.

In-game: A Rube Goldberg machine with slanted shelves with a number of contraptions affixed to it.

We loved the Rube Goldberg-esque theme that ran through Inventor’s Attic. From the first moment of play, we were intrigued by the interconnected oddities.

With Inventor’s Attic, Escape My Room enhanced their spatial reveals. Two moments in particular stood out, where the space changed in surprising and exciting ways.

A lot of the gadgets within the Inventor’s Attic were, to the best of my knowledge, unique among escape rooms. We enjoyed so many of the puzzles that were the meat of this experience. One in particular was almost mesmerizing to work through and a lot of fun.

For one puzzle, Escape My Room included a player-friendly reset switch, something we’ve rarely seen with this type of challenge.

As a matter of philosophy, Escape My Room wants their players to spend as close to a full hour as possible in each escape room. They present bonus puzzles to speedy teams who win with time to spare. The way they introduced this puzzle was so smart.

Shortcomings

Inventor’s Attic didn’t always give us enough feedback when we’d solved puzzles. We sometimes couldn’t figure out what we’d earned. Additional springs or lighting or audio clues would enhance these little reveals.

One of the more involved puzzles didn’t have adequate cluing. We loved the concept, and how it pulled together the inventor’s aesthetic with that of the overall DeLaporte Mansion, but the puzzle within needed work.

The puzzling at the heart of Inventor’s Attic was largely non-linear. While some will absolutely see this as a boon, we were a little disappointed because many of the puzzles couldn’t really support more than 1-2 players at a time. This meant that each of us completely missed at least one of the amazing interactions in this room escape.

Should I play Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic?

I can’t think of a more cohesive escape room company than Escape My Room. Their entryway, lobby, series of lobby puzzles, hallways, and each of their escape rooms have all been crafted with the same aesthetic and story in mind. Even their gamemasters present themselves in character at all times. Everything they have to offer is built around the DeLaporte family, their estate, and their odd history.

It’s damn impressive… and Inventor’s Attic is a jewel in this beautifully strange collection.

Inventor’s Attic is a must-play for experienced room escapers. Its uniqueness, beautiful design, surprising reveals, and brilliant interactions all combined to make an unforgettable and challenging yet fair experience.

Beginners will certainly be impressed by what Inventor’s Attic has to offer, but they will likely be a bit bewildered by it. I would highly recommend playing at least one or two other escape rooms before attempting Inventor’s Attic. That will make this escape room more approachable and let you more fully appreciate how joyous Escape My Room’s latest creation is.

Book your hour with Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

RISE Escape Rooms – Spellbound [Review]

Like True Blood, but with more puzzles and less sex.

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 6-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

Recurring dreams and visions drew us to this rundown and abandoned witches’ den. The High Priestess had summoned us to a forlorn home where we had to gain entry, decipher spells, and discover all that we needed to end the Vampire Patriarch before he arose from his 200-year slumber and reignited his war against the witches.

In-game: An old, dramatically lit house on the bayou. A locked truck sits in the center of the room with a glowing fireplace and lit candles in the background.
Image via RISE Escape Rooms

Spellbound was dark and grim. It never turned into a horror experience, but it also showcased some of RISE Escape Room’s roots in the haunt industry.

The set was beautifully weathered and detailed with tons of nooks to explore. The set design was top-tier.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Spellbound felt magical. When we interacted with the set and props, the escape room responded.

The earlier puzzles were generally self-contained. Spellbound built to multiple complex, layered puzzles.

Standouts

Spellbound was gorgeous. From the eerie outdoor porch, to the mystical inner space, Spellbound was a beautiful, engaging, and immersive space.

The locking mechanisms contributed to the feel of the space. Both the old-timey key locks and the magical tech-driven opens made each interaction – and all forward progress – a part of the world of Spellbound.

RISE Escape Rooms took a common escape room puzzle and put their own dark twist on it, transforming it into something far more compelling. This example demonstrated how it can be beneficial to take an old concept and cast a new light upon it.

Spellbound also used another common escape room trope, but augmented it such that it still presented a challenge even if you thought you knew how to do it at first contact.

RISE Escape Rooms manipulated space such that seemingly normal transitions would then yield exciting reveals and transitions later in the escape room.

Spellbound built to a badass conclusion.

Shortcomings

At times, Spellbound suffered from symbol overload.

In the dim light of Spellbound, it wasn’t always clear when we’d solved something. RISE Escape Rooms could add more feedback, through light and sound, or maybe through more magical effects, which would help keep the puzzling on track and contribute to the ambiance.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound?

Yes… if you have some prior escape room experience.

Spellbound was masterfully designed by a team who really gets escape rooms. It looked amazing, played smoothly, put smart twists on established puzzle types, and created a strong sense of adventure.

The catch here: if you don’t have any prior experience, you’ll get lost and miss everything that’s special about Spellbound. RISE Escape Rooms’ website flat out says, “DO NOT BOOK THIS GAME IF IT IS YOUR FIRST ESCAPE EXPERIENCE.” They are right and I respect their willingness to make this point clear to their customers.

If you’re an experienced player visiting New Orleans or Baton Rouge, it is worth finding a car or some means of transportation to Tickfaw, Louisiana. RISE Escape Rooms will not let you down.

If you’re a newbie, go play a few room escapes and level up so that you can explore the world of Spellbound. RISE Escape Room has two other fantastic games that would be perfect games for building up your skills (reviews to come).

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Strange Bird Immersive – The Man from Beyond [Review]

“I am a great admirer of mystery and magic. Look at this life – all mystery and magic.” – Harry Houdini

Location: Houston, TX

Date played: October 7, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 90-120 minutes

Price: $40 per ticket, $34 per ticket on Thursdays

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

Medium Madame Daphne had invited us to a séance for the magician Harry Houdini. All previous attempts to summon the spirit of the legendary performer had failed. On this night, however, something unexpected happened. It fell to us to unravel the mysteries of life and death.

Madame Daphne, dramatically lit, sitting in a large chair at her seance table. Her arms out stretched and eyes closed.
Image via Strange Bird Immersive

The Man from Beyond was a hybrid of escape room and immersive theater. It began and concluded with untimed immersive theater and seamlessly sandwiched a full escape room in the middle.

A large seance table with a tambourine, and handcuffed. A locked chest in the background.

The set was that of a séance parlor. Having seen a few in the past, it looked exactly like the staging of an early 20th century séance. Like the Houdini Séance Chamber in Los Angeles’ Magic Castle, this room was also filled with Houdini’s belongings and mysterious creations.

Puzzles

At times there were puzzles and at times there was theater. Either way, there was magic.

A straight jacket is affixed around a bow tied mannequin.

As we investigated the Houdini paraphernalia, we found the puzzles therein. These were primarily mechanical and observational, which supported the context. The puzzles were fantastic as standalone challenges and came together cohesively as well.

Standouts

Strange Bird Immersive masterfully combined theater with escape room gameplay. The Man from Beyond was an escape room wrapped in context, narrative, and performance. It was engaging, moving, humorous, and thought-provoking. It was so much more than a puzzle game and so much more than most theater.

The actors were incredible. They followed a script that branched according to our responses. They also improvised their own reactions based on our responses. Their characters were convincing and intriguing.

A large old safe that reads, "The Houdinis. Triumph Safe Co. New York."

Strange Bird Immersive incorporated minute details into this set. While unremarkable in their own right, together these brought authenticity to the set and props. This made the narrative that much more believable. Having previously attended a Houdini Séance at the Magic Castle, amongst true Houdini memorabilia, I appreciated the attention to detail that Strange Bird Immersive built into their own creation.

The puzzles in The Man from Beyond leveraged the set pieces and props, all of which belonged to a previous era. We particularly enjoyed the mechanical puzzles crafted into these items. These mechanical puzzles were actually mechanical and were brilliantly reminiscent of The Room video game series.

We’ve encountered few hint systems that were as completely a part of the experience as this one. It greatly enhanced the piece by making hints feel like they were part of the ride.

Minor Spoiler: Game Structure Discussion

The Man from Beyond gave one player an individual scene, apart from the rest of the group. Unlike so many similar moments in other games, the rest of the team remained actively puzzling and entertained. We each enjoyed this time, despite the differences we experienced.

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There were some great sounds cues.

Strange Bird Immersive created an air of mystery around the entire experience. The room reacted. The actors reacted. And we reacted. Sometimes in unpredictable ways.

It has proven challenging for many escape rooms to deliver story and gameplay in a single hour with a ticking clock. In The Man from Beyond, Strange Bird Immersive avoided these pitfalls by removing the countdown timer entirely during storytelling segments and allowing the team to puzzle with little interruption during the gameplay segment. This elongated the length of the experience and worked magically.

At the onset of the experience Strange Bird Immersive served us small Prohibition-era cocktails; they were fantastic. They will also serve beverages without alcohol or sugar if requested.

Shortcomings

The Man from Beyond started with an onramp interaction, to help newer players learn how to interact with an escape room space. While this introduction tactic was clever, it never resolved; it simply got us exploring a little. Throughout the experience, we continually wondered whether this opening scene would factor into something or whether it would unravel into a plot twist. This part lacked closure.

Multiple readers have reported that this item has been removed: One visually loud prop looked like something that it was not. This created some confusion and burned a fair amount of time. The prop seemed like a really bad puzzle, but it wasn’t. It just looked like a familiar bit of bad design. Ultimately this was a distraction and The Man from Beyond would have been better with something else in its place.

Hiding a few cables and tubes would improve the overall game and reduce the risk of players screwing up their own experience.

While the important narrative elements came from the experience itself, there were additional details to be gleaned from written texts. These were too small and wordy for everyone to enjoy.

Should I play Strange Bird Immersive’s The Man from Beyond?

Without a doubt, if you’re anywhere near Houston, Texas, you should visit The Man from Beyond, and bring everyone you know.

The Man from Beyond was fun, beautiful, moving, puzzley, and somehow managed to be both intense and approachable at the same time.

A navy blue room with the walls covered in stars. Strange tagged cages hang above a pair of antique chaise lounges.

Strange Bird Immersive’s first experience was masterful. It stands out among escape rooms. It stands out among immersive theater.

At $40 per ticket, for up to 2 hours of immersive theater and escape room gaming in a beautiful environment, with great puzzles and actors, Strange Bird Immersive is one of the highest value experiences that we’ve encountered to date.

I left The Man from Beyond feeling incredibly emotional because it was a beautiful story…. and because Strange Bird Immersive created an experience that realized what I’ve hoped to see from the escape room medium.

Book your hour with Strange Bird Immersive’s The Man from Beyond, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Strange Bird Immersive comped our tickets for this game.

 

The Room – The Lost Treasure [Review]

Lived up to the hype.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 4, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 24€ per ticket for 5 players

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

A construction crew repairing a Humboldt University building had found a mysterious vault that was not in the blueprints. The government had tapped our archeology team to uncover the secrets contained within its depths.

Our Indiana Jones meets Warehouse 13 meets The Goonies adventure ensued after we navigated our way through a narrow maze and entering a mysterious ancient chamber.

In-game: an assortment of steam punkish items, the Philosopher's Stone, and a glowing bowl of purple orbs.

The Lost Treasure’s set was world-class. It was detailed and gorgeous with hidden nooks and interactions laced throughout the gamespace.

In-game: A light passing through a number of focal points and then reflecting off of a mirror as a beautiful hazy beam.

Puzzles

The Lost Treasure was a fantastic puzzle game. We had plenty to solve and the challenges were real, but fair. Additionally, the puzzles were born of the environment and the adventure.

In-game: An ancient chamber with a large ruined turn table, and assorted animal samples, documents, and books.
I wish this came out a little sharper, but the light fog in the space made wider shots a little difficult.

Most puzzles required or encouraged at least 2 players’ cooperation to resolve.

The Room didn’t beat us over the head with exposition and story. They did, however, enable us to feel our own narrative arc as we worked through the experience.

Standouts

Almost everything…

As mentioned above, the set design was world-class. It was hyper-detailed, but it never felt confusing or burdened with red herrings.

In-game: A collection of beautiful crystals, and stones.

The puzzles were challenging, fair, and well executed.

The interactions, reveals, and general use of technology were phenomenal.

The sound design was among the best that we’ve heard… not that there are all that many companies even striving to include top tier audio.

With a small exception below, the lighting was dramatic and useful.

The use of space, select use of darkness, set transitions, and the overall layout of The Lost Treasure were brilliant.

In-game: an ancient map beside a golden bell.

The historical, mythological, and pop cultural Easter eggs in The Lost Treasure were entertaining and fit well in the game.

The entire final act of The Lost Treasure was fantastic. You are going to want to win this game because the sequence of events at the end blew us away.

Shortcomings

There was one interaction that triggered its feedback a little too early. As a result, I didn’t fully complete the interaction which made for a minor complication that Lisa was petite enough to sneak past. If the feedback came upon the absolute completion of the interaction, this would eliminate the issue entirely.

Our flashlight was a little funky and difficult to control in The Lost Treasure. It’s difficult to discuss without minor spoilers, most of which you learn in the game’s briefing:

Minor flashlight spoiler

We had a sort of haunted flashlight that would disable in certain areas of the game and stay dead for a little while. The effect was cool, but when we wanted a flashlight, it almost never worked, and we never truly needed one anyway. We simply abandoned it.

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The Room’s The Lost Treasure cannot be enjoyed by all players. The game has many tight spaces and you physically have to pass through a narrow passageway to even enter the game. Their booking website is up-front about this stating:

“All players must

  • pass through narrow passages
  • be fit and healthy
  • not have a fear of darkness
  • not suffer from claustrophobia and asthma”

The sizing issue is real and the narrow passageway at the beginning ensures that people who will get stuck in the game cannot even begin it. There are a lot of great things that happen in The Lost Treasure as a direct result of these design decisions, but it’s also a shame that there are some escape room players who simply will never be able to play it.

Should I play The Room’s The Lost Treasure?

If you can fit into The Lost Treasure and aren’t claustrophobic, then without a doubt, you should go play this escape room.

In-game: An assortment of animal samples with a large stuffed bird staring into the camera.

You’ll need at least one or two players who can crawl and are not afraid of the dark to make it through this adventure.

The Lost Treasure was one of the most hyped games that we’ve played to date; it resoundingly beat our expectations.

Lisa and I played this on our own and we methodically tag-teamed nearly every puzzle, taking our time and milking it for all it was worth. When we won in the final minutes, we didn’t want to leave.

I can comfortably declare that to date, I have never had this much fun in an escape room… and this was my 405th escape game.

If you’re near Berlin, please go play The Lost Treasure.

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

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: The Room comped our tickets for this game.

13th Hour Escape Games – The Great Room [Review]

[At the time of this review, 13th Hour Escape Games was called Haunted Scarehouse.]

The name doesn’t lie: the room was great.

Location: Wharton, NJ

Date played: September 11, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

When the Hayden family of murderers caught us trespassing on their property, they locked us in The Great Room of their farmhouse. We needed to escape in order to survive.

In-game: A dilapidated banister, a door beyond reads "Dave" written in blood.

The Great Room was a grand ballroom-esque space with a high ceiling, a large dining table in the room, and smaller furnishings along the walls. The open space was dim and eerie, but not scary.

Puzzles

The puzzles in The Great Room facilitated teamwork. Any given puzzle might engage different parts of the space in different ways. Many of the puzzles were more complex than they originally appeared.

Standouts

The Great Room surprised us. It was exciting when the space revealed something entirely unexpected.

The set looked phenomenal.

In-game: 4 skulls resting on a small table in an old rundown room. The largest skull has a knife protruding from it.

The layered puzzles flowed well, connecting set pieces and encouraging teamwork. They were also designed so we couldn’t cut corners.

The puzzles engaged the full space. The gameplay was interactive and tactile. It was hands on puzzling.

Haunted Scarehouse went the extra mile. They used both the introduction and conclusion to The Great Room to add levity and fun.

Shortcomings

Since most of the puzzles were presented or revealed, we found a single search element to be unnecessarily challenging by virtue of it being out of context.

Haunted Scarehouse designed an interconnected set and puzzle room escape, but it didn’t convey narrative. The next level for them will be to use the gameplay to take players through a story.

Should I play Haunted Scarehouse’s The Great Room?

The Great Room was pretty great. It was a series of fun, tangible, interconnected puzzles. These solved into some exciting reveals.

The Great Room took place in low light (with adequate flashlights). It was a little bit creepy, but not scary.

Make sure that at least one person on your team is agile.

We recommend The Great Room for the puzzle-minded, regardless of experience level. It will be pretty challenging if you are new to escape rooms, but the gameplay is approachable. It still has new intrigue to offer more seasoned players.

Book your hour with Haunted Scarehouse’s The Great Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Haunted Scarehouse comped our tickets for this game.