Mystery Escape Room – Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors [Review]

Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

REA Reaction

The writings of H.P. Lovecraft are filled with curious and adventurous minds driven to madness. Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors replicated that. Its design was highly ambitious but bumpy execution and lighting problems kept some great ideas from reaching their potential.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • H.P. Lovecraft fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Because Cthulhu calls
  • Dramatic moments
  • The gamemaster

Story

The Old Ones, the horrors born of H.P. Lovecraft’s mind, slumbered dreaming of their ascendance. We had to puzzle through the madness and lore to prevent them from rising and destroying all.

In-game: A skull on a strange table with a book covered in protruding eyeballs behind it.

Setting

We found ourselves in a sporadically lit library amidst skulls and the lore of H.P. Lovecraft.

The set design was uneven. Some of it looked great; other portions were uninspiring.

In-game: a dimly lit bookshelf with a skull and books resting on it.

While there were moments of intensity, this was not a scary escape room.

Gameplay

Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors was a standard escape room with a bit of searching and a heavier emphasis on puzzling and interpreting lore. We struggled to navigate the gamespace without blocking another teammate’s light.

Much like Dracula’s Castle, our in-character gamemaster introduced and vocally oversaw our game… and, oh my, was he a character.

In-game: An old grandfather clock beside a book shelf.

Standouts

Mystery Escape Room opened Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors with an engaging and hilarious introduction. It added excitement to the adventure ahead.

Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. Although offstage for the duration of the game clock, his verbal interactions were helpful and amusing. He was an integral part of Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors.

Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors included an unusual and entertaining Lovecraft lore manual.

The most thematic puzzle had us accept the madness of Lovecraftian lore and unexpectedly triggered an effect.

I’d been waiting for a Cthulu-themed escape room for a long time now. Mystery Escape Room delivered. I was happy that I got to play it.

Shortcomings

In attempting to stay true to the lore, Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors didn’t deliver the intensity that Cthulhu demanded.

The dark gamespace quickly became the most prominent puzzle. We were always in each other’s light… which kind of drove us insane.

There was a lot of reading material, and not within the library books. This was especially frustrating given the lack of lighting.

While Mystery Escape Room built some interesting tech-driven opens, we saw them coming a mile away. To enhance their dramatic effect, we recommend hiding wires and concealing the technology.

We bypassed the final puzzle through a combination of observation and knowledge of Cthulhu lore. We recommend Mystery Escape Room modify the puzzle flow such that teams cannot miss the climax of the adventure.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Escape Room is located in The Gateway. There are plenty of restaurant options in the complex.
  • There’s a paid parking garage in The Gateway complex.
  • At least one or two players will need to crawl a short distance.
  • Mind your gamemaster for hints and entertainment.

Book your hour with Mystery Escape Room’s Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mystery Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

 

Mystery Escape Room – Dracula’s Castle [Review]

Sanguine.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

REA Reaction

Dracula’s Castle was a search-and-puzzle escape room with a narrative twist: from introduction to conclusion, our gamemaster was an off-stage character in our experience. Mystery Escape Room had some shaky execution, but their inventive and humorous game delivery was impressive.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The puzzles
  • Dramatic moments
  • The gamemaster

Story

Who knew Abraham Van Helsing wasn’t a closer? He thought he had slain Count Dracula, but the legendary vampire continued to draw blood. We were asked to invade Dracula’s castle under cover of sunlight to finish what Van Helsing couldn’t.

In-game: A vase sitting in a glowing stained glass window.

Setting

Dracula’s Castle was dimly lit and lined with stone walls. Most of the light entered from a couple of stained glass window and our lanterns. Count Dracula’s coffin rested in the middle of the space.

In-game: a black stone wall and armoire in the background.

Gameplay

Dracula’s Castle had a standard search-and-puzzle escape room structure with an emphasis on narrative and magical happenings.

All of the gameplay was overseen by our incredibly attentive and hilarious in-character but out-of-room gamemaster. He remained a regular audible presence throughout the experience.

In-game: a large, ornate, silver lever lock.

Standouts

Our introduction to Dracula’s Castle was phenomenal. It was informative, engaging, and humorous.

Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. Although offstage for the duration of the game clock, his verbal interactions were helpful and amusing. He was an integral part of Dracula’s Castle.

The puzzles flowed well.

The dark set was appropriately ominous and felt castle-y.

The conclusion balanced intensity and humor. It worked well.

Shortcomings

The set was too dark. The perpetually inadequate lighting turned otherwise fun puzzles frustrating.

When we solved a puzzle, we couldn’t always find the resulting open. Especially given the darkness, Mystery Escape Room could build more feedback into tech-driven opens, in the form of lighting, sound, or movement.

We had to stop and read a lot. We would have preferred more variety in clue structure and more clueing born of the environment.

One involved puzzle overstayed its welcome.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Escape Room is located in The Gateway. There are a few restaurant options in the complex.
  • There is a paid parking garage in The Gateway complex.
  • Mind your gamemaster for both help and amusement.

Book your hour with Mystery Escape Room’s Dracula’s Castle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mystery Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Time Run – The Celestial Chain [Review]

Time crunch.

Location: London, United Kingdom

Date played: October 25, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: £33 – £42 per ticket depending upon timing

Story & setting

The vengeful goddess Nemesis broke free from the Celestial Chain. Could we travel through time and gather all of the components needed to bind her once again before she unleashed her retribution on the world?

In-game: An intricate and aged tomb or temple.
This is really what the game looks like.

The Celestial Chain was split into segments. Each segment was set in a different time and place within history. In each segment, we could earn up to 5 resources. We needed to gain at least 1 resource from each era in order to bind Nemesis. Earning at least 3 from each granted us access to the top win condition. Anything beyond 3 was essentially bonus plunder.

Additionally, each segment had its own game clock. The Celestial Chain was more like 5 Wits for adults than a traditional escape room. As a result of this structure, multiple teams were playing different segments of The Celestial Chain at the same time. We could not hang back in an era once that segment’s game clock expired.

As with Time Run’s first game, The Lance of Longinus, the sets were among the finest that I’ve encountered. The Celestial Chain spanned many different periods and places and each looked and felt distinctive. Furthermore, the beautiful sets felt lived in.

Puzzles

Time Run built unique sets with puzzles that tied to each room/ time period. Every era in The Celestial Chain had a cohesive and related set of puzzles. They had established this design with The Lance of Longinus.

In-game: A concrete Soviet bunker with concrete walls, a PA system, and a photo of Stalin hanging on the wall.

In The Celestial Chain, however, the individual set game clock created a continual time crunch not felt in their other game.

Standouts

The first room was an especially smart on-ramp for the game. It had a fantastic core mechanism that really lifted the experience.

The Celestial Chain’s sets were amazing. The variety of spaces that Time Run created was dumbfounding. In nearly any other company, this one game would have been 4 or 5 separate escape rooms.

The varied yet cohesive puzzles were entertaining and felt at home in each segment of The Celestial Chain.

The pacing was intense. When we gained access to a new area/ era, I wanted to dash into it.

I knocked The Lance of Longinus for not having a climax. Oh my, did Time Run go the other direction in The Celestial Chain. The final moments were memorable and impressive.

A lushly decorated office filled with artifacts.
This is the lobby for The Celestial Chain. The lobby!

I mentioned this in the last review, but it bears repeating: Time Run built a whole world to explore. The entire facility – front door, lobby, gamemasters, and both games – were all part of a beautiful Time-Run-verse.

The Celestial Chain concluded with us receiving a detailed score and assessment of our team’s ability and style of play. This was as funny as it was accurate.

Shortcomings

Time was a precious and limited resource in The Celestial Chain, even more so than in most escape rooms. The constantly resetting game clock drove the pace. Not all challenges were equally fun and we would have rather apportioned our time differently, but we didn’t have that luxury. Additionally, it was kind of heartbreaking to have to leave a challenge seconds away from completion.

In The Lance of Longinus, Time Run instituted a standard aesthetic for time travel. This was essentially abandoned in The Celestial Chain (probably for spatial reasons). Consequently, the transitions from era to era were a little harsh. It was a small detail, but I missed walking through portals.

While especially cool, the conclusion was a little chaotic. We nearly missed some key details. We’d also earned more components than we needed, which added some confusion. (As Ikea will teach you, extra parts are always a bit confusing.) When all was said and done, we collectively felt like we had failed. It turned out that we had achieved one of the highest scores ever, but in the moment that was undermined by our confusion. We got over it.

Should I play Time Run’s The Celestial Chain?

Yes, you absolutely should play The Celestial Chain, but only if you’ve already played The Lance of Longinus. Time Run has a particular style and approach. You will enjoy The Celestial Chain so much more if you learn the ropes in their more relaxed first game.

From set, to puzzles, to facility, Time Run is comfortably sitting among the best in the business. The Celestial Chain was their sophomore game and it pushed a lot of boundaries. Some of those boundaries cracked a little, but none of them broke. The pacing, intensity, and beauty of this game was remarkable.

In-game: a large and mysterious metal vessel. It could be a submarine or a space ship.
Look at all of the details. Just look at them.

The Celestial Chain can be enjoyed by players of most experience levels. We dissuade true newbies from booking it; this game will be hell if you are clueless. It operates under the assumption that you have at least a basic idea of what goes on in an escape game.

Depending upon your skill level, you’ll have to adjust your expectations. If you’re moderately experienced, shoot for 3 resources per era. Trust me when I say that 3 per era is par… and quite a good performance.

The Celestial Chain is one of those rare games that will make even the most experienced of escape room players scramble. Don’t go in cocky. No team has earned a perfect score in The Celestial Chain. We came pretty close, but fell short. Remember than any resources gained beyond 3 of a kind are for vanity and not needed in the finale. We were told this by our gamemaster and forgot it in the heat of the moment.

Enjoy the world that has been created within this facility. The Time Run world is so fleshed out that it could be made into a novel, movie or television series. I think that it would be a hit.

If you haven’t already, go play Time Run’s games. They will be open through the end of the year and maybe into 2018… but eventually their building will be leveled and turned into housing. It’s only a matter of time, so run and visit them while you still can.

Book your hour with Time Run’s The Celestial Chain, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Time Run comped our tickets for this game.

Images via Time Run.

Time Run – The Lance of Longinus [Review]

94% infallible.

Location: London, United Kingdom

Date played: October 25, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: £33 – £42 per ticket depending upon timing

Story & setting

Inventor and adventurer Luna Fox created a time machine and uses it to yank powerful and mystical artifacts away from those who would use them to distort history. While Ms. Fox was off on one of her missions, her steampunk robot Babbage summoned us to complete a quest of our own: acquire the Lance of Longinus before its legendary messiah-killing powers could be used in the service of evil.

A massive circular door with an elaborate hourglass engraved. The right side reads, "The Laboratory."
Literally Time Run’s front door.

Time Run’s experience ran from their massive front door through the escape room’s conclusion. We were greeted by an actor in a beautiful set, introduced to the lore of Time Run, and then seamlessly sent off upon our journey through time.

A steampunk office with a map of England and a massive collection of metal and wooden parts.
Time Run’s lobby was more detailed and aesthetically pleasing than most escape rooms.

The Lance of Longinus spanned multiple time periods. Each new period involved a completely different set, feeling, and experience. The various settings were all magnificently executed; they stood in stark contrast to one another.

Puzzles

Each time period within The Lance of Longinus had a completely different feel and style of puzzling that fit with the era.

Throughout the escape room, the puzzles felt tangible and chunky. The props and puzzles were large and part of the environment. Solutions involved physical action. This design connected the entire experience.

Standouts

Damn near everything within The Lance of Longinus as well as Time Run’s facility looked and felt perfect. When we entered their grounds, we entered their world.

In-game: An ornate Greek tomb filled with statues of gods.
This was just one room of The Lance of Longinus.

The puzzles and challenges were inspired by each time period. Every segment felt like its own individual escape room. In fact, with a few more puzzles, any one of those segments could have stood on its own as a complete escape room.

There was a series of puzzles involving many large components and an even larger gamespace. The scale gave this whole run of challenges a gravity that I’ve rarely felt in an escape room.

An illustration of steampunk robot Babbage and inventor / adventurer Luna Fox.
Babbage & Luna Fox

The audio and video portrayal of Luna Fox and Babbage sent them though time with us, while keeping us consistently within the experience.

The actors that we encountered before and after the escape room were fantastic.

Hints were timely, useful, and well embedded. Babbage delivered them.

At the conclusion of the game, we received a card assessing how we had played. It was funny… and accurate. It was clear that someone had watched us intently.

Shortcomings

The climax of The Lance of Longinus was not particularly thrilling, when compared to the journey we took to arrive at it.

For anyone with a short attention span, the volume of introductory content would likely be a bit much. I found it entertaining, but there was a lot of it. Then there was a little more.

While absolutely not a shortcoming, there was a minor cultural difference that Americans might want to keep in mind. This caused a significant slowdown for us:

Very minor spoiler

Europeans write dates as DD/MM/YY. We knew this, but didn’t think about it at the time.

[collapse]

Should I play Time Run’s The Lance of Longinus?

Yes… if you’re in London, you should visit Time Run.

Everything in Time Run was consistent, interrelated, and part of a larger story. The front door, lobby, hallways, gamemasters, and both of the escape rooms (review of The Celestial Chain coming soon) were part of a larger time-jumping, artifact-nabbing world. It was impressive and delightful.

Plus, if you’re a tourist visiting London, I cannot think of anything more authentically British than Time Run’s premise: “We’ve invented a time machine and we’d like you to plunder ancient artifacts. It’s for everyone’s own good that we hold onto these things.”

Time Run operates its games through a private booking system. You need a minimum of 3 players to attempt The Lance of Longinus.

If you’re a newbie, The Lance of Longinus will be a steep but doable challenge. This was, without a doubt, the more approachable escape room at Time Run. That being said, I strongly encourage you to play another escape room or two before attempting Time Run. You will be so much happier playing The Lance of Longinus with a basic understanding of escape room gameplay.

Experienced players will find a lively, ever-changing, and beautifully constructed world of actors, puzzles, and set design all loaded with nuance and detail that will stick with you long after you’ve returned to the present day.

Book your hour with Time Run’s The Lance of Longinus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

All images via Time Run.

Full disclosure: Time Run comped our tickets for this game.

Riddle Room – Captain’s Curse [Review]

Pillaging, puzzling, and a puppy.

Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Date played: July 15, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

Captured by pirates who were in the midst of casting a curse upon humanity, we had to free ourselves and save the world.

In game: Behind a jail gate, a dog with keys in his mouth sits beside a cannon.
Points for the Pirates of the Caribbean (ride) reference.

Captain’s Curse was an office space filled with pirate-y props. The set was cute and hardly immersive.

Puzzles

Captain’s Curse was built around search and discovery. There were lots of little bits and pieces to collect. It heavily rewarded those with a keen eye.

Standouts

Throughout Captain’s Curse we uncovered historical information about various famed pirates. Most of this came in short bits and any instances of longer prose never became arduous. Captain’s Curse communicated a lot of information without slowing the pace of gameplay. In fact, two of our teammates left wanting to learn more about Ching Shih, a remarkably badass Chinese pirate queen.

We enjoyed the adorable staging depicted above. Who can say no to that cute cuddly face?

Riddle Room chose mostly old-timey boxes and locks that seemed to belong well enough on a pirate ship.

Shortcomings

Captain’s Curse contained a lot of itty bitty props and relied heavily on finding over solving. We were continually unlocking every little thing we uncovered.

The set design did not do a great job of conveying a plot or even a feeling. It was a vaguely pirate-esque office.

Riddle Room’s reliance on search collided with lighting issues and prop selection. Everything combined to deliver some tedious search work.

Much of the action in Captain’s Curse felt repetitive rather than layered. The repetition lead to an emotionally level game with few moments of intensity or deeper satisfaction.

Should I play Riddle Room’s Captain’s Curse?

Captain’s Curse was a solid execution of an older style of escape room: there was a lot to poke through and uncover, but it was not all scavenging… It ultimately led to some puzzles. Riddle Room had a few truly fun and interesting ideas here and then filled in the gaps with what have become escape room standards.

Newer players will likely enjoy Captain’s Curse. Much of what’s old hat to us will be new and fun. It would also be a great room for families, as an educational and not-at-all-scary pirate ship with plenty for children to uncover.

For more experienced players, if you find yourself in the area and want some light puzzling, step aboard, but don’t sail too far out of your way to plunder this game.

Book your hour with Riddle Room – Captain’s Curse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Liberty Escape Rooms – Revolution [Review]

When in the Course of human events…

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 25, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per ticket

Story & setting

In the winter of 1777, we embarked on a secret mission to thwart General Howe, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the American Colonies. His men were dangerously close to stealing the Liberty Bell, a prominent symbol of rebellion against Britain. He planned to capture the Bell and melt it into bullets to break the rebels’ morale.

General Howe’s office was built in an actual historic building that was owned by one of the founding fathers of the United States.

In-game: Closeup of a handwritten letter with a quill pen and ink. A red British officer's jacket hangs on the wall in the distance.

Puzzles

In addition to some more standard escape room interactions, Revolution largely featured encoding and enciphering techniques from the latter half of the 1700s. While not 100% historically accurate, Liberty Escape Rooms was clearly committed to historical puzzling and it worked.

Standouts

I normally find office settings stale, but the historical spin changed that. Revolution hid interactions that turned what should have been a mundane gamespace into an exciting one.

In game: A regal red wooden rocking chair beside a painting of King George III.
My deciphering throne.

Liberty Escape Rooms did their homework and used history to create a compelling room escape. Furthermore, they knew where they had deviated from historical accuracy for the sake of game design, and even went so far as to explain this to us in the post-game debrief.

There were a lot of great moments in Revolution that are going to stick with me.

Shortcomings

One critical interaction felt metaphorically forced. As a result, it seemed like many teams, ours included, may have physically forced it a little too much. This one interaction was beat up and should probably be rethought.

I would have appreciated a little more layered complexity in some of the puzzles. Many of Revolution’s puzzles would have benefitted from having an extra step after completing a decipherment.

Should I play Liberty Escape Rooms’ Revolution?

I have a degree in early American history and a passion for the history of cryptography. I was nervous going into this escape room because I thought that my outside knowledge would sour the experience. I was dead wrong; it made a great escape room even better.

Regardless of your experience level, I wholeheartedly recommend Revolution. It’s approachable, interesting, well-constructed, and filled with beautiful, authentic props and good surprises.

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

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

Komnata Quest – Limitless [Review]

Limitless placed one big limitation on us.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Date played: June 19, 2017

Team size: 2

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $50 per ticket on evenings and weekends, $40 per ticket on weekdays

Story & setting

We explored a long-shuttered lab that had spent decades researching the limitations of the human brain. Now, locked in separate compartments of this abandoned research space, we had to work together to uncover its secrets.

In-game: A completely black image with nothing visible.
Actual game photo.

Limitless was a game for 2 players set in complete darkness. With the exception of the cameras, there was nothing to see. We had to explore the set and solve the puzzles using our other senses.

Puzzles

Limitless was built around darkness and separation. Every puzzle involved observing our respective environments, communicating, and collaboratively reasoning through our options.

Standouts

Komnata Quest used the darkness of Limitless to mess with our senses. In absence of sight, some simple interactions became perception-bending puzzles.

Similarly, the cooperative element was persistent and generally put to good use.

Shortcomings

There was some finicky tech.

We got stuck due to a missed observation and it was very difficult for the gamemaster to hint us back on track.

The story was a little hard to follow. Post-game, I only kind of understand it.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Limitless?

Limitless was a lot like Komnata Quest’s Boxed Up, but more fun and less extreme. Both are games of courage, darkness, and collaboration between a pair of teammates.

I do not recommend that newbies play Limitless, as it would likely prove frustrating and incomprehensible to blindly sense through an escape room without really understanding the nature of these types of games.

For experienced players, I encourage you to give Limitless a try if you:

  • Aren’t afraid of the dark.
  • Have a teammate whom you trust and collaborate well with
  • Aren’t going to miss the $50 it costs on evenings and weekends ($40 on weekdays)

Don’t drag just anyone to Limitless; if one partner shuts down, the team shuts down.

As far as the value for admission is concerned, Limitless essentially costs $100 per pair to play. I don’t necessarily think that it’s worth it for every player out there. That’s a lot of money and there are a lot of great games with exciting environments that cost far less… You don’t even have to leave Komnata Quest’s building to find some of them. The choice to play Limitless is a value judgment.

One last note: Limitless is played without shoes, so wear socks… and unless you want to go barefoot through one of the puzzles, I’d encourage you to wear the lightest colored socks you own. If you want to find out why, you’ll just have to play Limitless.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Limitless, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Komnata Quest – Heir To The Throne [Review]

When you play a game of thrones you win or you run out of time and mope.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Date played: June 19, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket on evenings and weekends, $28 per ticket on weekdays

Story & setting

Our great house had fallen to invaders and we found ourselves chained up in our own dungeon. We had to escape… and set things right.

In-game: A metal and brick dungeon wall.

Designed in clear homage to Game of Thrones, parts of Heir To The Throne pulled directly on George RR Martin’s fantasy world and most of it alluded to the source material. Komnata Quest sent us on a journey through a surprisingly expansive and generally compelling castle dungeon adventure.

Puzzles

As with many of Komnata Quest’s escape rooms, Heir To The Throne was an adventure experience. It was, however, decidedly more puzzley than most of their escape rooms.

The puzzles required more physicality than those in most escape rooms.

Standouts

The large set just kept going. We’ve gotten out of a lot of Komnata Quest’s room escapes pretty quickly and this one had three moments when we thought we were finished.

While some segments looked better than others, the set generally looked good, and some portions looked fantastic.

There were plenty of fun and unexpected interactions.

Shortcomings

For a portion of the game, our team was chained together. The restraints were cumbersome and uncomfortable with no safety releases. The mechanism that was used to release the restraints was equal parts interesting and cheesey… which is a strange statement that you’ll only understand after experiencing it.

Heir To The Throne had some questionable props and interactions from a safety standpoint.

I was expecting a more dramatic climax to the narrative.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Heir To The Throne?

Komnata Quest lives on the edge and Heir To The Throne is a prime example of their style of game design. It was an intense, unusual, adventure that was at times uncomfortable and a little unsafe.

If you struggle with mobility or do not feel comfortable being restrained, then you should skip Heir To The Throne.

If you’re a newbie or experienced escape room player looking to feel like you’re escaping from the dungeon of Winterfell, you’re probably going to have a pretty good time.

Not every decision made in Heir To The Throne was 100% sound, but that’s life in Westeros.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Heir To The Throne, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Boom Chicago Amsterdam – Escape Through Time [Review]

Yes and, let’s go prank some Nazis.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 6, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €69-129 per group

Story & setting

At this top secret laboratory, we traveled back in time to World War II to assist the Dutch resistance. It was a risky mission, as any sojourn into the past could have devastating consequences on our present.

Our experience began in a local pub where we received a packet of puzzles and logic problems from the bartender.

A beer held up in front of a tap that reads, "La Trappe: Trappist"
Get your pre-game buzz on. Because Amsterdam.

After our puzzle packet and a beer, we made our way down the street to the recycling facility that disguised the time travel lab we were truly seeking. Yes… Escape Through Time was zany.

Our gamemaster, the laboratory doctor, met us in character and oriented us for our trip back in time. Once we’d left her lab, we found ourselves in a period-esque room of simple furniture and props. We started exploring the past.

Escape Through Time was created by the improv comedy troupe Boom Chicago. We could feel this influence throughout the room escape in its humor and especially in the story progression that took us far afield, but somehow managed to tie everything back together.

Puzzles

Escape Through Time’s best puzzles tied into the time travel component of the game. In fact, the puzzling brought the time travel to life.

The non-time travel puzzles were your standard escape room interactions.

Standouts

Escape Through Time’s pub intro was a good way to make the escape game more of a social outing.

There was an exciting twist in the middle of this room escape.

We ultimately resolved our time travel predicament through a puzzle intertwined with the narrative.

Escape Through Time used lighting well to enhance the time travel experience.

We adored one late-game puzzle.

Our amusing gamemaster met us in character and introduced us to her lab and our mission. She was an integral part of our adventure.

Shortcomings

The introduction, while humorous, was long-winded. Escape Through Time could have cut the back story in half and still delivered it with the same wit and energy that set the tone for our adventure.

This intro was really difficult for some on our team to listen to not only because it was long, but also because we were in their faux recycling center that was complete with the smell of rotting garbage. I’m all for use of odor, but damn, eau de garbage was distracting.

We misinterpreted one clue and stumbled upon a safety hazard. Clip exposed screws, especially if you direct your players to search near them.

There was an unevenness to Escape Through Time. While the overall experience and a few moments brilliantly integrated story and puzzling, too many of the puzzles and interactions were forgettable.

Should I play Boom Chicago Amsterdam’s Escape Through Time?

Escape Through Time made us laugh, think, and experience narrative. It took us one way and then turned us another. It was witty and fun.

There’s something different about Escape Through Time. I think some of that comes from the improv comedy background of its creators. The entire adventure had an almost serious, but actually humorous energy about it.

This escape room didn’t have a particularly compelling set or advanced technology. It was a puzzling story. And for that, it could be appreciated by any level of player. If that’s your interest, we recommend a visit.

Go, have a beer, some puzzles, and a few laughs.

Book your hour with Boom Chicago Amsterdam’s Escape Through Time, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Refuge: Prologue [Review]

“Oh shit! We’re competing against each other… and I know how smart my friends are.”

Location: New York, NY

Date played: April 14, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $38-43 per ticket

Story & setting

Refuge: Prologue was an immersive, narrative-driven, competitive puzzle game.

Set in a dystopian mirrored reality where humanity’s decisions have caused an environmental apocalypse, we were competing for coveted spots in billionaire Alex Ayers’ prosperous Refuge. Our lives depended on proving our worth.

Refuge: Prologue took place in The Mist, an immersive entertainment space in Chinatown. The various rooms were staged for different challenges, each stylized, some more intriguing and involved than others.

At any given point, our group was divided up, competing against each other in different challenges. As Alex’s recorded voice narrated the instructions for various activities, we also learned the extent of the plight of Earth and human society, a narrative that unfolded over the duration of the experience.

In-game: a player looking upon a picture hung on a wall in a hallway.
Image via Refuge.

Puzzles

Refuge: Prologue pitted us against each other as we each vied for a future in Alex’s Refuge.

The puzzles took different forms: understanding the objective and context of any given contest, puzzling our way through, and strategizing against each other.

During the various puzzle challenges, we used logic, riddles, math, intuition, deductive reasoning, reaction time, agility, luck, strategic thinking… and more.

In-game: A hand interacting with glass bottles containing rolls of paper.
Image via Refuge.

Standouts

Refuge: Prologue painted a compelling dystopian parallel reality. Its message provoked thought about our world.

Refuge: Prologue meticulously designed printed materials and set dressing. It was deliberately crafted and looked polished.

The puzzles and games were challenging. For most interactions, each individual had to rely on their own understanding, make quick decisions, and continually strategize.

My favorite challenge was physically involved and lots of fun. The story unfolded through the escalating complexity of the puzzle. It was clever.

Without spoilers, the website for Refuge: Prologue was as clear as possible about what this experience entailed.

Shortcomings

The tech in Refuge: Prologue was repeatedly buggy. Even before we accidentally knocked something a little too forcefully, it was finicky. The set was delicate, and the tech even more so. Much of the set and technology needs modification in order to stand up to repeated use.

It wasn’t entirely clear how points were calculated, and therefore which actions and decisions mattered most. It also seemed like luck played a substantial role in some of the games.

The challenges varied in quality. One slow-paced game seemed to drag on. In another puzzle, the order of activities seemed to create a markedly unfair situation for the players.

Throughout the experience, there was a lot of information to take in in short amounts of time. Sometimes it was reading on top of audio instruction. Other times it was comprehensive reading while searching for other information. While this was part of the challenge, it was also more frustrating than it needed to be.

Should I attend Refuge: Prologue?

Refuge: Prologue was not a room escape, but it was an immersive, narrative-driven puzzle adventure. It was challenging and interesting.

In Refuge: Prologue, you will be competing against the others in your booking. You will be alone, vying for your own spot in a better future. If you usually count on others to pull some of the weight, you’re in for a rough ride.

Your adversaries are the others who’ve booked into your session. We recommend that you bring a group of people you know are equally competitive, skilled, and engaged. All the better to strategize against them… Also, leave the sore winners and losers at home.

While the technology implementation and set design had flaws, the folks behind Refuge: Prologue were attentive to detail.

Note that the website gives the following warnings, all of which matter: Don’t be late. Wear comfortable shoes. Also, one puzzle uses the full spectrum of color; colorblindness will be problematic.

If you like quick-paced puzzle competitions where you work on your own against opponents, and you don’t mind that the game, the rules, and the points will be a bit opaque, then we recommend visiting Refuge: Prologue.

If you’d rather work as a team or you don’t want to compete without a clear picture of what’s going on, you might want to sit this one out.

Win or lose Refuge: Prologue offers a new form of immersive puzzle adventuring. We’ve seen a lot collaborative gaming, and a little head-to-head team-based gaming, but Refuge is its own beast. Battling your friends by yourself offers a new style of interactive intrigue.

Book your spot in Refuge: Prologue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.