Time to Escape – Flashback [Review]

Totally rad Dragonlance collection!

Location:  Lakewood, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

Team size: 3-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public or Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Time to Escape’s Flashback was a traditional escape game in a large space.

The puzzles played well and the set was loaded with 80s charm. It was a solid old-school escape room.

In-game: Wide shot of the main character's 80s bedroom.

There wasn’t much wrong with Flashback, but there also wasn’t anything truly memorable about it either. If you’re in the area and looking for an escape room fix, it’s a fine option.

Seeing where Time to Escape started and where they are heading, they are clearly on an upward trajectory. After peeking inside, I’d be curious to play their next game when it officially opens.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • 80s lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Fun traditional escape room gameplay
  • Totally rad references

Story

It was 1989 and someone had kidnapped the pioneer of time travel technology. We had to investigate her home and explore her work to find the secret of time travel.

In-game: A dry erase board in pright pastel colors reads, "Totally RAD."

Setting

Flashback was set in the main character’s 1980s teenage bedroom. From a construction standpoint, there wasn’t anything special going on. Where the environment’s design shined was in the details. The room had a lot of personality beyond the standard 80s cliches that most 80s rooms lean heavily on.

In-game: The main character's bed and bookcase.

Gameplay

Time to Escape’s Flashback was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: a Ouija board on a desk.

Analysis

➕ Flashback was adorable. We enjoyed the props that harkened back to the ’80s. It also had a great soundtrack; we danced our way through the puzzles.

➖ Flashback felt homemade. The set looked like a home, which wasn’t particularly interesting, and by the end even that look had kind of evaporated.

➕ Our favorite puzzles repurposed period appropriate games and toys into escape room-style solves. Time To Escape also leaned into some more niche 80s props, which was charming. These worked well.

➖ Time to Escape struggled with digit structure. At times, we’d derive a combination and try it in the wrong place because we had too many similarly structured inputs. This hampered momentum.

➕ We enjoyed the final puzzle sequence. It was an interesting, layered solve.

➖ Although it was fun, Flashback wasn’t exciting. It needed a memorable moment or a dramatic turn.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Time to Escape’s Flashback, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Time to Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Escapades LA – Disrupted Decades [Review]

This game has re-opened under new ownership. We hear that the new version is substantially different from the version we reviewed below

Escape the shag carpet.

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Disrupted Decades was a nostalgic journey through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s with a heavy emphasis on pop culture. It put an unusual twist on the flow of an escape room by having each room represent a decade and build to a meta puzzle.

We wanted to love this escape room as much as It’s A Doggy Dog World, but Disrupted Decades felt unfinished in comparison to Escapades LA’s other game. The story felt underdeveloped and the set was underwhelming. While we truly enjoyed the puzzles, it felt light on content.

This could and should be a fantastic game. Escapades LA has a solid foundation to build on. In its current form, however, we only recommend this to puzzle lovers who want to see a new take on escape room structure and players who want a taste of nostalgia.

In-game: a 1970s living room with shag carpet,.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Nostalgic nerds
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Nostalgic props
  • An interesting approach to escape game design
  • Some clever and unique puzzles

Story

Someone screwed with the space-time continuum and we had to traverse the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s hunting down anachronisms and setting things right.

In-game: a wall of CDs.

Setting

Disrupted Decades was a 3-room game where each room represented a different decade. Each individual space had props, furniture, and in some cases, carpeting that was emblematic of the decade we were visiting.

The props were generally authentic.

None of the sets were particularly eye-catching or immersive.

In-game: a 1970s living room with a small TV and Polaroid camera.

Gameplay

Escapades LA’s Disrupted Decades was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Escapades LA produced an interesting escape room in Disrupted Decades. They emphasized exploring the props to determine which were out of place and how they worked together to solve a larger meta puzzle for each room.

– In practice, once we got the hang of how this game worked, it felt light on content.

+ It was enjoyable to take a journey back through the nostalgic items. Some of them stretched the limits of the props to deliver interesting interactions.

+ The ’80s had some high points when it came to puzzling.

– The set was subpar. It didn’t go far enough to convey the time periods. Each era would have benefitted from more details. There were a lot of small props, but the sets felt too bare. A few large and tangible set pieces would go a long way.

– The story felt underdeveloped. There wasn’t much of a beginning, ending, or feeling of consequence. It was just a scenario.

In-game: a franklin electronic dictionary and thesaurus.

+ In the ’90s room they had a Franklin Bookman electronic dictionary & thesaurus. I admit that this is insanely personal and nearly no one will appreciate this prop… but I used to lay in bed with a flashlight every night looking up words and synonyms, and playing word games on one of these things. Seeing one for the first time in over 20 years filled me with joy. Your mileage may vary.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escapades LA’s Disrupted Decades, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapades LA comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Chronicles – Testing Facility [Review]

Office Space meets Portal, with a hint of Tiny Toons

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Testing Facility was a puzzle-focused escape room that justified the puzzling with a humorous spin. Although the gamespace was not inherently exciting and it lacked adventure, Testing Facility was a phenomenally strong puzzle game with character.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you play escape rooms for the puzzles, we strongly encourage you to test yourself against Testing Facility.

In-game: breakroom with a table, breaker boxes, and a Pepsi machine.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • People who think that an Office Space-meets-Portal mashup is a good idea
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Humorous AI
  • Many interesting puzzles

Story

We had eagerly accepted Professor Bentham’s experiment and his challenge to outwit his humorously psychotic AI, PAL, and its desire to make us its best friend forever and ever.

PAL’s personality could best be described as Portal’s GLaDOS with the motivation of Tiny Toon’s Elmyra.

In-game: a close up of a CRT monitor with a DOS prompt reading, "breakroom terminal."

Setting

The tests took place in an office-meets-lab environment complete with Despair Demotivation posters. Furniture included a table, a couple of desks, and not much else. The most eye-catching set piece was an old soda vending machine.

Most of the character for Testing Facility came from the voice of the AI, PAL.

In-game: a collection of lockers with a line pattern painted on them and a desk with a CRT monitor.

Gameplay

Escape Chronicles’ Testing Facility was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

In-game: a wide shot of the the break room.

Analysis

Testing Facility was funny. The AI taunted us throughout the escape room. It added depth and humor to the bland office setting. This was a perfect example of a game that mixed an office environment with something unexpected and turned a tired escape room theme into something entertaining.

– Humor aside, Testing Facility wasn’t an exciting space to occupy. The blandness of an office didn’t energize our group.

+ Escape Chronicles built a lot of puzzle play into minimal props, and in one instance, into one small item. It was impressive.

+ Escape Chronicles printed custom props for one puzzle. This detail created smooth (red herring free!) entertaining gameplay. Many lesser companies would have just made small modifications to existing materials.

+ Escape Chronicles minded the details, delivering interesting and fun puzzles.

In-game: a desk with a National Geographic magazine beside a coffee mug that reads, "World's Okayest Employee."

+ We enjoyed Escape Chronicles’ approach to reuse. We reused knowledge that we had accumulated over the course of gameplay.

– Testing Facility lacked an impactful finale. We would have liked to see or feel a response to besting the AI. Given the character Escape Chronicles had crafted into the experience, there was opportunity to deliver a more exciting or dramatic conclusion.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escape Chronicles’ Testing Facility, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Chronicles provided media discounted tickets for this game.

LA Dragon Studios – Knights of the Round Table [Review]

The Sword in the Puzzle

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $90 for teams of 2 to $280 for teams of 8, 15% discount for Monday – Thursday bookings

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Knights of the Round Table was a family-friendly adventure. Although the gameplay and the set design were uneven, the more tangible interactions delivered fun solves.

If you’re looking for a solid, traditional, family-friendly puzzle game near Los Angeles, check out Knights of the Round Table.

In-game: the entrance to Camelot.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Family-friendly adventure
  • The final interaction

Story

A darkness had fallen over Camelot. We took on the roles of Knights of the Round Table to save the kingdom.

In-game: a bridge over a moat.

Setting

We started our quest outside the castle: a facade crafted to look like the exterior wall of a medieval fortress. There were stone walls, a wooden door, and a drawbridge over a glowing moat. On the other side was the forest, largely represented by wallpaper, some cut wood, and fake hay.

Inside the castle, the sets looked less dramatic as we explored the rooms.

In-game: a sword, axe, shield, and wood.

Gameplay

LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The intro video to Knights of the Round Table foreshadowed some of the more exciting set pieces in the experience. Because it was filmed in the gamespace, the video added intrigue before we entered the escape room. We were excited when we encountered these set pieces in the experience.

– The beginning sequence didn’t instill energy in the group. Although we enjoyed exploring the initial set, the gameplay was too slow paced, especially as an opening.

+ LA Dragon Studios crafted some more hefty, tangible interactions that felt satisfying to engage with.

– The set design was uneven. LA Dragon Studios made some enticing details, but left other areas of the gamespace underdesigned.

– While some decor was simply decor, much of it functioned as red herrings. It was frequently hard to differentiate set dressing from puzzle components.

+ We enjoyed finding a path through one substantial, late-game puzzle. It was challenging and fun.

– Two of the main puzzles in Knights of the Round Table were brute-forceable. It was too easy to bypass much of the gameplay, either on purpose or accidentally.

– Knights of the Round Table would benefit from additional clue structure and tighter puzzle design.

Knights of the Round Table delivered a satisfying finale. It was an entertaining culminating action, even if it was primarily enjoyed by one player.

+ LA Dragon Studios markets Knights of the Round Table as a family-friendly adventure. From the props, to the interactions, to reveals, it delivered on that marketing. Families will find a lot to enjoy here.

+ Yes, Knights of the Round Table made some of the Monty Python jokes you’d expect.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot behind the building.
  • LA Dragon Studios is in a medical facility. So don’t be baffled by that… you’re in the right place.
  • LA Dragon Studios also has a small arcade with some classic cabinets.

Book your hour with LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: LA Dragon Studios comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Chronicles – Smugglers Tunnels [Review]

Roguish overtones.

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Smugglers Tunnels was a clandestine, puzzle-focused, point-based heist. The puzzles were the gem of Smugglers Tunnels. We had to solve our way through every part of this operation.

While we felt the role-play aspect was unfinished, we think there’s an opportunity to rework that portion to add depth to this escape room. Regardless, the roles didn’t make or break an otherwise excellent puzzle adventure.

If you’re in Los Angeles, there is art here you’ll want to get your hands on.

In-game: a glowing lantern, flashlight, and lockbox next to a small barred passageway with a chain running through it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Badass moments
  • Interesting puzzles
  • Point-based scoring

Story

The forger in our crew of high-end thieves had double-crossed us. For years this guy had been creating clever forgeries and swapping them out with our rightfully stolen goods. We had reassembled the team to steal back what had been wrongfully taken from us.

In-game: a rolltop desk beside a stack of crates and an artest palet.

Setting

The forger kept his artwork underground. We began in two distinct lantern-lit tunnels. We needed to work our way into the forger’s workspace to get our hands on the art. The gamespace was dim with dark, bricklike walls and wooden furniture and props. It had an underground vibe.

In-game: a pegboard with storage for all of the loot gathered in the game.

Gameplay

Escape Chronicles’ Smugglers Tunnels was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

We aimed to steal back the highest possible value in stolen goods to achieve a high score. Points were scored by adding a stolen item to our collection display.

We each had a role on the team (mastermind, safecracker, etc). Our wristband explained what our special knowledge and abilities were, and how to use any role-specific props that we were given.

In-game: close up of a wrist cuff with a series of symbols.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and applying our roles’ knowledge and abilities to the game.

Analysis

+ The point-based heist worked well. The more valuable our theft, the better we scored. The set up, however, was not as straightforward as collecting the most items. There was nuance… which could be solved.

– We each had a specific role on the heist team, but the roles weren’t justified in the experience. We each received additional cluing for our role, but it didn’t feel like outside knowledge, special to the character that possessed it. Instead it felt like reading material that we would have preferred to find baked into the game. This cluing functioned as mini runbook wristbands.

In-game: a locked box displaying the Declaration of Independence.

+ The puzzles were varied and challenging. We enjoyed so many satisfying solves.

– We would have liked to see Escape Chronicles take additional steps to justify the existence of these puzzles in their narrative.

+ Escape Chronicles turned one common escape room process puzzle into an legitimately challenging communication and logic puzzle. It was a much-needed path through an overused escape room trope.

In-game: a glowing lantern resting on a lock box in a stone tunnel.

+ The dimness didn’t bother us. It made sense. We had plenty of lanterns that we could carry around and set next to various props. This setup also culminated in a fantastic puzzle sequence.

– In one instance, Smugglers Tunnels asked us to search for a minute detail. This took us out of the game. In this one instance the lighting irked us.

Smugglers Tunnels had a couple of badass moments that worked well with the underground staging.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • One player needs to be able to crawl.

Book your hour with Escape Chronicles’ Smugglers Tunnels, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Chronicles provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – The Vault [Review]

Pack your Pip-Boy for the apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: April 16, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per ticket on weekdays; $50 per ticket on weekends

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

In The Vault, Komnata Quest blended action and comedy in their Fallout themed experience. This was an easy, straightforward, linear adventure-based game that felt like the escape room world’s equivalent of the summer action flick. A little more depth in puzzle design would have been an improvement, but we had a good time traversing its large set and playing with all sorts of interesting toys.

If you’re in Manhattan and looking for an approachable, beginner friendly adventure, give The Vault a shot.

In-game: A welcome screen with instructions about a first aid kit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A fun exploration of the Fallout world
  • A humorous artificial intelligence overseer
  • Some great tangible interactions

Story

Nuclear Armageddon had rendered the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. To avoid the radiation, diseases, and mutant monsters, humanity had retreated to the safety of underground vaults. Unfortunately, the vaults were no longer the safe haven that humanity had relied on. Our squad was dispatched to investigate and neutralize the threat.

In-game: A pair of boxes, one is labeled

Setting

Leaning heavily into the mythology of the Fallout video game series, The Vault dropped us into a subterranean ark of sorts, designed to protect and preserve humanity after the Earth’s surface was rendered insufficient for civilization. The Vault was loaded with Fallout references and had a sterile, military-meets-laboratory feel.

The gamespace was surprisingly large for a Downtown Manhattan escape room. There were many spaces to explore.

In-game: A Nuka Cola cabinet.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest Manhattan’s The Vault was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, communicating, and making connections.

In-game: The door to the research unity, it looks like there are monsters on the other side of it.

Analysis

+ The Vault was based on the Fallout series. The interactions that pulled on the source material were fun and memorable.

In-game: a large binary switch.

+/- A lot of the escape room was informed by a critical prop. This thing was awesome, but also failed to provide key feedback to let us know that it was working.

+ The lock nerd in me was incredibly pleased with one of the puzzles in Vault.

+/- The in-game “artificial intelligence” was funny.

– However, in-game audio was challenging to hear. Consequently, it was also difficult to tell the difference between audio clues and AI taunts. This was frustrating.

+/- The set was large, especially by Manhattan standards. For all of the space that Komnata Quest had for Vault, it felt light on content and challenge.

+ I have a personal love of nixie tubes. Discovering them in an escape room makes me happy.

Tips for Visiting

  • For upscale dining nearby, we recommend sushi at Haru.
  • For casual dining nearby, City Acres Market offers Vanessa’s dumplings.
  • There are not a lot of dining options open late in this neighborhood.
  • Parking is a challenge; consider a subway or ferry for transportation.

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

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Empire Rooms – Ravenwood Grove [Review]

A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Geek References.

Location: Fairfield, NJ

Date Played: April 9, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

Ravenwood Grove justified this heist escape room. It was fun, puzzle-focused game in a pretty standard setting. It was even more fun for those of us who caught all the nerdy references.

If you’re in the area, check this one out, and don’t get too distracted by the Easter eggs.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Pop culture nerds
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Geeky references
  • Strong puzzle game
  • Solidly written and justified narrative that didn’t get in the way

Story

Our team of thieves had been planning this heist for months. Our tech guy would disable the security system and we would sneak in and steal a rare piece of art from a collector. The plan was perfect. What could go wrong?

In-game: A study covered in art.

Setting

We were in a home gallery setting. Our mark was a collector of rare and nerdy artifacts. The set had an office/ gallery vibe that wasn’t inherently exciting. The fun of the set came from all of the hidden and not-so-hidden nerdery laced throughout the environment. There were many entertaining details to appreciate.

In-game: a small book case with symbols on the books.

Gameplay

Empire Rooms’ Ravenwood Grove was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Empire Rooms did a great job of setting up the story, justifying our presence in the game, and establishing the role of the gamemaster. It’s details like this that cost an escape room company absolutely nothing, but go a long way towards building a strong fiction.

+ There was a ton of content in Ravenwood Grove, in terms of puzzles as well as nerdy references and Easter eggs.

+ The Easter eggs were great. We probably spent 5 minutes pointing them out and explaining them to one another.

– There were a few too many locks with similar digit structures.

– One of the niftiest props in the game did nothing at all. It was the kind of prop that just screams, “PLAY WITH ME!” We wished it had been incorporated into a puzzle.

+/- There was a narrative twist that was simultaneously cool and kind of a let down.

+ Ravenwood Grove flowed well. It mixed old school play with strong, tech-driven moments.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot nearby.

Book your hour with Empire Rooms’ Ravenwood Grove, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Empire Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Locked: Escape Game Franklin – Antidote [Review]

Prepare your lab coats, nerds.

Location: Franklin, TN

Date Played: February 10, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

Antidote was a straightforward puzzle game in a lab environment. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it played well, with satisfying solves.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Puzzle flow

Story

On our first day of work at BTC Laboratories we were immediately exposed to poisonous gas. We had one hour to create the antidote or our life insurance policies would kick in.

In-game: A clean box with large arm holes in a blue and white science lab.

Setting

Antidote was a lab game that felt a little like a doctor’s office. It was clean, sterile, and contained lab equipment. A few puzzles and locks notwithstanding, it looked believable, which wasn’t the most exciting setting.

In-game: A collection of lab flasks filled with colored liquids.

Gameplay

Antidote was a standard search-and-puzzle escape room with a heavier emphasis on puzzling.

In-game: a yellow canister mounted to the wall with a flammable sticker on it.

Standouts

One early effect upped the excitement and helped set the stage.

The puzzles in Antidote felt at home in a lab.

Antidote clearly laid out what was expected of us. The puzzles flowed well as we checked items off a list towards accomplishing our goal. This too felt lab-esque.

Locked: Escape Game Franklin added a lovely personalized touch to the game.

Shortcomings

The set was bland. With the exception of one effect, the gamespace was kind of forgettable.

While the puzzles worked, they weren’t exciting. The gameplay was emotionally level. The solves lacked memorable moments.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking out front.
  • We enjoyed The Tin Roof 2, especially their signature sandwich.

Book your hour with Locked: Escape Game Franklin’s Antidote, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Mystery Room NYC – Chapter 5: Secluded Vault [Review]

Who gave Uncle Scrooge a vat of lacquer?

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: March 19, 2018

Team size: 6-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

Despite the uneven clue structure and set construction, we enjoyed many of the puzzles and nifty mechanisms in Secluded Vault. If Mystery Room NYC can remove debris from former puzzles and put a bit more attention into upkeep and cluing, Secluded Vault will deliver a more satisfying experience.

All in all, the fifth installment from Mystery Room NYC was a big step up from chapter 4.

In-game: a collection of gold coins lacquered to a silver table. The lacquer is clearly pooled around the coins.

Who is this for?

  • Observant players
  • Players who enjoy mechanical interactions
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Unusual interactions

Story

Our pursuit of Edwards, the recurring villain at Mystery Room NYC, had led us to a vault. We needed to solve our way past the security to steal a journal from within.

Although this was Chapter 5 of the Mystery Room NYC saga, it didn’t rely on any knowledge of previous chapters. It was only connected to those other chapters in so far as there was a recurring character as the backdrop for the escape.

Those of us who didn’t know the story going in had no idea that there was a story.

In-game: A bookcase with books a plant, and some coins all behind acrylic plasic shielding.

Setting

The set was an escape room-style office with a few bank-esque nods. A few desks, shelves, and bookcases-turned-display cases were set against barely adorned white walls.

Any decor not behind glass was lacquered down. The entire set felt like a giant still life.

In-game: A digital keypad against a silver table.

Gameplay

Secluded Vault was an observe-and-puzzle escape room. If we could move or manipulate it, we were going to have figure out how to use it by connecting it to something we could observe.

The clue structure varied enormously. Sometimes Mystery Room NYC told us exactly what to do and sometimes we had to grasp at connections.

Standouts

Secluded Vault included a few unusual mechanical interactions. We enjoyed these moments as many of them were particularly cool.

Mystery Room NYC thwarted our expectations with one prop that wasn’t used as we’ve come to expect. We thought we had this case cracked, but we were wrong, in a good way.

The reliance on observation of a larger gamespace facilitated teamwork.

Shortcomings

Since opening Secluded Vault, Mystery Escape Room had removed some of the puzzles, but left disabled set pieces or props. This created needless red herrings that persisted throughout the experience. It was also a disappointment because some of those props seemed like they should have done something cool.

In-game: A beat up contraption with odd symbols on it.

The set and props lacked polish and showed signs of wear. Some of this wear made the game look beat up; other instances obscured the in-game clues.

There were audio clues that were so garbled that we couldn’t understand them.

Secluded Vault suffered from inconsistent clue structure. At times, it was too direct. Other times, we were presented with unfamiliar objects and expected to intuit connections without any cluing.

Mystery Room NYC remains heavily committed to their ongoing narrative, but it is so loose that it’s irrelevant, missable, and forgettable.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Room NYC’s downtown location is accessible by subway. Take the B/D/F/M to Broadway-Lafayette or the 4/6 to Bleecker or the R/W to Prince. There is also street parking.
  • For nearby food, we recommend Burger and Barrel (try the Bash Burger). There are lots of options around.

Book your hour with Mystery Room NYC’s Chapter 5: Secluded Vault, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Locks and Puzzles – Western Bank Heist [Review]

Tick, tick, boom.

Location: Lakewood, NJ

Date Played: January 27, 2018

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

Western Bank Heist was a ton of fun. It was inclusive, but not overly simple. It was unrealistic, but it didn’t try to be more than a game. We road off into the sunset smiling… having played our 500th escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Western fans
  • Any experience level
  • Families
  • Players who can cooperate

Why play?

  • The adorable props
  • Solid puzzles
  • Team experience

Story

Our band of bandits arrived in a small frontier town in search of food, water and supplies. We also found the town quiet and the bank full. It was heist time.

In-game: sign for an old western back beside the skull of a steer.

Setting

We entered a collage of an old western town. The walls were painted with murals, each one representing something different. Tangible props lined those walls.

There were more tangible interactions in Western Bank Heist than in Malus the Elf, but at the same time, the focus on the murals made the set more abstract.

In-game: ACME Dynamite

Gameplay

Western Bank Heist had a unique style of play where most of the puzzles came together at once, even when we were doing lots of different things.

Western Bank Heist most readily rewarded observation.

Standouts

Western Bank Heist was adorably thematic. It didn’t try to be realistic. The set and props were playful and fun.

Western Bank Heist could engage less puzzle-minded players. It was easy to get involved.

One larger, layered puzzle required different types of observation. This too helped engage different types of players in a collective solve.

Locks and Puzzles incorporated technological puzzle elements well. These were interactive and gave feedback.

Shortcomings

It was frustrating to get started. Locks and Puzzles abundantly clued the opening interaction, but the layout of the set – more thematic than realistic – buried the opening thread of the gameplay.

The scale and details of a crucial prop were a bit off. We struggled with a puzzle simply because we didn’t realize what the prop was supposed to be.

Western Bank Heist teeters on the edge of outside knowledge. While it would be possible to solve this escape room without these specific skills, it would certainly be much more challenging.

Tips for Visiting

  • Locks and Puzzles has ample parking available out front.
  • There are plenty of food options nearby.

Book your hour with Locks and Puzzles’ Western Bank Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locks and Puzzles provided media discounted tickets for this game.