Escapology – Under Pressure [Review]

“Pressure pushing down on me. Pressing down on you.”

Location: Garwood, NJ

Date Played: July 10, 2018

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Under Pressure was a good-looking step up from our experience with early games from Escapology in Orlando. It had an appealing set with some charming details and a variety of puzzles. Under Pressure applied pressure, but not for quite the right reasons. A few sloppy puzzles in early and late segments made this escape room much harder and more frustrating than it should have been.

Given how widely Escapology is proliferating, we’re happy to see them on an upward trajectory and hope they continue to iterate in game design.

If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for more of a challenge, dive in.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of the interior of the bunk. Metal walls and pipes.
Image via Escapology

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Mathy folks
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Puzzley gameplay.
  • A strong set.
  • A lovely lobby.

Story

It was 1944 and we were aboard the Steel Shark, the pride of the US Navy. Our mission to surveil the German battle cruiser Scheer came to an abrupt halt when our engines suddenly failed. With pressure increasing, we had an hour to restore the systems before reaching crush depth.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of of the bunk and nautical flags.
Image via Escapology

Setting

Under Pressure represented a significant aesthetic step up from the early games that we had played at Escapology. We began in a well-detailed bunk and puzzled through to the engine room.

While Escapology built finer sets for Under Pressure and these were fairly consistent, quality still dropped off with each subsequent room that we found. Space became more cramped and props looked a little more homemade. This was less pronounced than in the earlier games we had played with Escapology in Orlando, but it was still noticeable.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of a birthday card with a pinup girl attached to a locked locker.

Gameplay

Escapology’s Under Pressure was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

+ We enjoyed a few extra aesthetic touches in the opening set. This included a themed count-down timer as an oxygen gauge.

+ Escapology added effects that enhanced the drama of the experience.

– Under Pressure included a deliberate red herring, meant as a laugh, but no cluing as to how to ascertain the intended approach to the puzzle. It was immensely frustrating.

– Because we encountered this entirely unclued puzzle so early in the experience, everything became suspect. We no longer trusted Under Pressure to supply us with breadcrumbs, leading us to try any and all possible solutions, even if they made no sense, which was a frustrating play style.

+ There was a few larger props that looked and felt great and made sense contextually. We enjoyed how these fit into the puzzling.

Under Pressure offered a few interesting, layered puzzles. These were challenging, satisfying solves.

– One elaborate solve gave us more information than we needed. We were expected to simply use half of it with no explanation of why. We had the right solution, but had no idea it was correct until our gamemaster intervened.

– The final puzzle was infuriatingly incomplete and we burned two hints to bridge the logic leaps necessary to complete the game.

Under Pressure had some brutally frustrating flaws, but they could be easily fixed. We hope the folks from Escapology continue to iterate on this escape room, because from the set details to many of the puzzles, it was a lot of fun.

The Escapology steampunk lobby filled with leather couches and ample seating.
Image via Escapology

+ Escapology has a beautiful and spacious lounge. It’s a comfortable space to hang out for groups of any size. For larger events, the facility is equipped with a party room.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escapology’s Under Pressure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapology comped our tickets for this game.

Clue Carré – Vampire Hunter Room [Review]

Bloodlines.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date Played: June 22, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Vampire Hunter Room was a puzzle-driven escape room. With a fairly standard study-like set, and dim lighting, the intrigue was in the puzzles. These offered a number of fun solves.

If you’re in the area and looking for puzzles over environment, we recommend stopping by.

In-game: An old parlor with a red clothed table, couch, and a painted portrait of a vampire.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Some cool puzzles

Story

Antoine Devillier, an ancient, wealthy, and powerful vampire, had but one weakness: the stake of Van Helsing. Devillier had acquired and hid his one weakness away. Our plucky band of vampire hunters set out to find the legendary weapon and give it a new home in Devillier’s chest.

In-game: The aged and worn fireplace in the parlor.

Setting

Vampire Hunter Room was slightly dim and study-like. The initial set was functional, but lacked excitement and polish. The escape room gave way to a more interesting set later in the adventure.

Gameplay

Clue Carré’s Vampire Hunter Room was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

Vampire Hunter Room was a puzzle-driven escape room. It had a lot of content. We enjoyed many of the puzzles.

– The decor was standard study fair with a vampiric twist. It was not particularly inspiring.

– Vampire Hunter Room was unnecessarily dim. While the dim lighting provided some ambiance, it made solving puzzles more frustrating than they should have been. The trade-off didn’t seem worth it.

+ We enjoyed how Clue Carré wove the bloodlines into the escape room.

Vampire Hunter Room was a solid, themed escape room, but nothing more. We hope that Clue Carré can build on this in the future to develop a cohesive world of puzzles, set, and story.

Vampire Hunter Room came to a pointed conclusion. It was predictable, yet enjoyable.

Tips for Visiting

  • We recommend Victory for post-game cocktails.

Book your hour with Clue Carre’s Vampire Hunter Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carre comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Challenge – The Dentist [Review]

This is a drill.

Location: Delft, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €109 – €119 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Dentist was Escape Challenge’s first game and one of the first escape rooms in the Netherlands. The Dentist may not be on the same level as the other three games from Escape Challenge, but it was still a strong puzzle-driven game with a well-designed set. If you book knowing that this game represents the early roots of escape rooms in the Netherlands, it’s especially impressive.

If you’re in Delft playing The Freakshow already, tack on The Dentist.

In-game: a large old dentist's chair in a white and worn dentist's office with two streaky bloody handprints on the wall.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The opening moments
  • High-end, old-school escape room gameplay
  • A good variety of puzzles
  • Wide open, but detailed set design
  • Good lighting and sound

Story

The Dentist was one of the earliest escape rooms in The Netherlands and had a standard plot: We were locked in the office of a murderous dentist. We needed to escape before he returned and we suffered a horrible fate at his skilled hands.

In-game: a stainless steel pan with many bloody teeth.

Setting

The Dentist was set in a bloodied white oral surgery room filled with steel furniture and centered around an imposing (and comfortable) dentist’s chair. There wasn’t a lot to look at, but those props they had were detailed.

Gameplay

Escape Challenge’s The Dentist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: A gross sink beside a streaky bloody handprint.

Analysis

+ Escape Challenge opened The Dentist with a smart and strangely humorous sequence.

The Dentist was a puzzle-focused escape room.

+ We especially enjoyed employing dentist tools to solve a puzzle.

– At any given point, we had access to multiple locks with the same digit structure. Any given solution could go in any number of places about the room. We spent quite a bit of time trying combinations.

+ Escape Challenge clearly clued reuse. We liked this repurposing of discarded items.

– Escape Challenge tried something different with a lighting change. We loved many facets of this puzzle sequence, but they didn’t quite nail the cluing.

-/+ The gamespace felt a bit too open and empty, but the sparse decor made it that much more dramatic.

+ We appreciated how one in-game clue called back to our experience in the waiting room. It gave The Dentist just a bit more story and added emotion.

– The final sequence fell flat. The reveal felt under-designed and the interaction felt under-clued. It didn’t stand up to the intensity or puzzle caliber of the rest of The Dentist.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 1 hour from Amsterdam city center.
  • There is a parking garage across the street.
  • All players must be able to crouch.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft.

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

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

Clue Carré – The Carnival Heist [Review]

The second most fun you can have in a coat closet.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date Played: June 22, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Carnival Heist was a split-team escape room with an unusual twist. We’re torn between deeply enjoying a lot of what Clue Carré created and feeling frustrated by some of the design decisions that made it interesting.

The Carnival Heist offered interesting puzzles. Bring the right team for a communication-heavy escape room and be mindful that if something appears off, that might be by design.

If you’re in the area and looking for something that plays a bit differently, there is a crown here just waiting for you to steal it.

In-game: A purple walled art gallery with Mardi Gras paintings hung from the walls. In the middle of the room encased in glass is a crown on a pedestal.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Unusual take on split-team escape rooms
  • Interesting set of puzzles
  • Fun final sequence

Story

The priceless King’s Crown was on display at the Vieux Carré Art Gallery during Carnival. With a one hour gap in the viewing schedule, our crew needed to sneak into the gallery and steal the work of art.

In-game: an employee breakroom with a locker, schedule, calendar, and a clock in/out machine.

Setting

The Carnival Heist had a split start whereby half of the group entered the art gallery’s employee break room and the other half entered the coat check room. We eventually converged into the gallery itself.

The break room looked like a break room and the coat check looked like a coat closet. They weren’t overwhelmingly impressive locations, but they did look right. The gallery was a bit more impressive, merging the art gallery aesthetic with a Mardi Gras color palette.

In-game: a coat check closet.

Gameplay

Clue Carré’s The Carnival Heist was a split-team escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around communication, deduction, and puzzling.

Analysis

The Carnival Heist offered serious deduction and logic challenges.

+ We enjoyed the repurposing of a small device for a fun reveal.

– One group encountered an order preservation puzzle, which was a problem because we didn’t know until it was too late.

+/- The coat check and break room looked fine and reasonably accurate, but they weren’t exciting locations.

+ When we entered the two different spaces, each team was presented with an interesting mini escape room with unique goals.

– We eventually stalled forward progress due to an unusual split-team implementation. While we intellectually appreciate this unorthodox structure, we didn’t enjoy it in the moment. It was clued – and really hammered in – but especially difficult to interpret in the moment. Once we misunderstood the intent, there was no way to self-correct without gamemaster intervention. This plagued the different groups for a good portion of the split-team part of the experience.

? We liked the idea that once one group entered the gallery, they could quickly let the other group in as well. However, in the moment, we didn’t realize we had this capability. It didn’t matter for us, but we suggest additional cluing in the event that one team is far behind the other.

+ The gallery reveals upped the energy level in the room.

+ We enjoyed the Indiana Jones-like conclusion.

Tips for Visiting

  • We recommend Victory for post-game cocktails.

Book your hour with Clue Carré’s The Carnival Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carré comped our tickets for this game.

Logic Locks – Time Crimes [Review]

Puzzle Trunk Time Machine

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (portable)

Date Played: May 9, 2018

Team size: 9-18; we recommend 9-10

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: It’s complicated. Contact Logic Locks. The game is also available for resale.

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Time Crimes was the third game we’ve played from Logic Locks and the first portable game designed primarily for corporate groups that we’ve played in Europe.

Portable corporate games are a different beast from standard escape rooms. With no set, they rely exclusively on a collection of props, puzzles, and game flow. These all came together in Time Crimes. There were tons of puzzles, the props looked good, and the game generally flowed well. While Time Crimes had a lot of content, we think any teams approaching the 18 player maximum, wouldn’t get to appreciate the experience Logic Locks has created.

I’m not sure how broadly available Time Crimes will be for the general player base, but if you like puzzle- driven games, this one is worth checking out.

In-game: A table of assorted puzzle components including a number of locked books, a map, and other

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Large volume of challenging puzzles
  • Humor
  • It comes to you

Story

A rogue time-traveling agent had lured us into his plot to change history. It was up to our crew to jump through time and unravel his plans.

In-game: A table of assorted puzzle components including a Chinese zodiac, a locked box, and other strange puzzle components.

Setup

Time Crimes came in three large packages that we were instructed to spread out across different tables, with a computer projecting the remaining content. The game was overseen by an in-character gamemaster who was eager to engage with us… even when one of our teammates humorously yet aggressively pushed the boundaries of standard player/ gamemaster interaction.

Sera looking into the camera wearing a fedora with an expression that screams, "Come at me bro!" The team puzzles in the background.
This photo really captures Sera’s essence.

The boxes contained a wide variety of props representing items acquired from different eras in the past, present, and future. These props looked good when compared with other portable escape games.

In our case, we played in a hotel meeting room, but this thing could be played anywhere that you can comfortably fit the props.

The team working on some puzzles.

Gameplay

Logic Locks’ Time Crimes was a standard portable escape room with a bit of added technology and a high level of difficulty.

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

Lisa & Sharon focused and collaborating on a puzzle.

Analysis

+ Time Crimes began with a more dramatic introduction than we’ve seen from most portable escape rooms. There was more to it than opening a trunk or two.

Time Crimes contained tons of puzzles. We had just about the most intense team that I could imagine and Time Crimes kept us busy far longer than anyone had expected.

David smelling a prop.
Oh look… I’m huffing a prop.

+ Compared to most portable escape rooms, the puzzles in Time Crimes were more challenging.

– Some of the challenge came from detailed searching of the game items. If we missed a crucial detail, it would be impossible to solve the puzzle correctly. Sometimes we knew we were searching-failing. Other times we had no idea why a solution didn’t work.

+/- Time Crimes opened up into 3 separate puzzle tracks. Our gamemaster encouraged us to lay these out such that we wouldn’t confuse the tracks. With a large group, it would be possible – even natural, I’d think – for one player to play through one puzzle track and never see the others.

– There was a lot of content in Time Crimes, but 18 people seems like entirely too many players.

+ There was a tech-driven series of interactions in Time Crimes. This was unusual for a portable escape room. It brought the entire group together for interactions that everyone could experience together.

Lisa intensely puzzling.

– It was challenging to follow the story because we spent the majority of our time with individual puzzles, most of which were thematic, but did not carry the narrative. We had to have retained enough story details as they had been presented to make meaningful decisions at the end.

+ There were some genuinely funny moments in Time Crimes. This is the kind of game where you should puzzle hard, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Lisa: Focused. Sera: Superhero. Sharan: Focused. David: Stoned.
The range of facial expressions in this photo.

+ Logic Locks took some splendid in-game photos. I don’t know if they do this for every team, but they should. It was good fun.

Tips for Playing

  • Time Crimes needed to be set up in a relatively large space. It worked well in a hotel meeting room, where we played it. (We wouldn’t have been able to play it comfortably in our one-bedroom apartment.)

Book your session with Logic Locks’ Time Crimes and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Logic Locks comped our tickets for this game.

 

I Survived The Room – The Order [Review]

Go to the Mask-for-aid.

Location: Long Island City (Queens), New York

Date Played: June 28, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket weekdays, $30 per ticket weekends

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

I Survived The Room has been quietly creating unusual escape games in the basement of an indoor extreme sports facility. The first reaction of any diehard escape room player upon entering their lobby is something along the lines of, “this must be a terrible cash grab,” but that cannot be further from the truth.

The Order was an actor- and puzzle-driven split-team game that could be fairly comfortably replayed once.

The gameplay was bumpy and the experience uneven… but if you’re the kind of player who is willing to forgive some sins in the quest for unique experiences, there was a lot to love in The Order.

In-game: A dungeon with a dead body gripping a scroll mounted to the wall.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Some fantastic interactions
  • An intriguing split-team, largely replayable escape room
  • The actor

Story

The Order, an ancient secret society, had issued us an invitation to join their ranks. If we could pass their tests, we would be granted access to their wealth of hidden arcane knowledge. If we would fail, we would pay a dire toll.

In-game: The Knight of the Order cloaked in black, red, and white with an ornate gold and red mask reading a book.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Setting

The Order was an actor-driven split-team game. A costumed knight of The Order escorted us around the block, blindfolded us, and led us into one of two rooms: a dungeon and a library.

The dungeon was detailed, dim, and imposing. The library was bright, less beautiful, but far more inviting. These two sets converged in a steampunk-ish laboratory.

Each area of the game was distinctive.

In-game: A self in the library with an augmented skulls, brain, and heart.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Gameplay

I Survived The Room’s The Order was a split-team escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, interacting with the actor, and puzzling.

In-game: A wooden table with strange medallions mounted to it.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Analysis

+ The knight of The Order introduced the game, fully in character. He set the tone for The Order and stayed true to the world of the game in every interaction.

+ The sets had different tones and styles, but all felt more or less part of a cohesive world. We liked the countdown timer.

+/- The sets were uneven. One was ominously detailed; another was mostly bare and unexciting.

+ We bartered with the knight for our hints. Hint delivery bled into the story.

– We needed 3 hints on the same puzzle. While we enjoyed the in-character hint-delivery, things really ground to a halt when we got stuck and didn’t fully grasp the subtleties of the hints.

+ We were drawn to one puzzle. Even after solving it, we kept playing with it.

– The tech-driven opens needed more feedback. We solved multiple puzzles without knowing what we’d unlocked.

+ We enjoyed one dramatic release that built tension.

– We read much of the clue structure from long passages. We would have liked these elements to be further incorporated into the environment. Reading was especially frustrating in low lighting.

– For much of The Order, we played split in two groups, in two separate spaces — for all intents and purposes, playing separate escape rooms in one world. At times we were unsure whether audio was relevant to us, or the other group. The reunification of the group was clunky. Whichever group finished first had to “help” the slower group before the entire team could move to the next scene. By entering a mostly solved space with no context, the other group seriously disrupted play.

The Order asked us to make a choice, but it was at best a blind choice, and could easily be an unknowing choice. Depending on the order the team found, read, and solved various clues, it would be possible to – and we did – accidentally choose an ending before realizing we were making any choice at all.

+ By starting in different spaces, and offering a choice of ending, The Order was replayable. The team could return a second time and each individual would see almost entirely different puzzles. This was an interesting innovation.

– A few too many interactions didn’t trigger as expected, resulting in our in-character gamemaster having to hobble out and fix them or re-input our correct solution.

– The final gamespace was crowded. Neither the physical space nor the puzzle flow lent itself to the full group coming together in one room.

+ I Survived the Room introduced many great ideas in The Order. While these innovative concepts didn’t all come together perfectly, they offered new experiences. We hope I Survived the Room continues to refine the flow in this game because this is a society players will want to join.

Tips for Visiting

  • I Survived the Room is accessible by public transportation: take the 7 Subway to 33 St – Rawson St.
  • There is street parking in this area.
  • We recommend Doughnut Plant for a post-game snack.
  • All players must be able to walk down a flight of stairs.
  • Half the players must be comfortable playing in dim lighting.
  • For an additional take on this game, with a bit more spoilers, read our friend and teammate Kathryn Yu’s review over on No Proscenium.

Book your hour with I Survived The Room’s The Order, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: I Survived The Room comped our tickets for this game.

5 Wits Foxboro, MA – Espionage [Review]

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

Location: Foxboro, MA

Date Played: July 15, 2018

Team size: 2-15; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $19.99 per ticket for one adventure, $24.99 for two adventures

Ticketing: Public (contact them for private games)

REA Reaction

5 Wits’ original Espionage in Foxboro, MA was bookended with awesomeness. The clandestine introduction and dynamic conclusion were leaps and bounds beyond what we had experienced in the more recent, more technology-driven version. In the middle, we saw segments that had been carried over into the updated experience and a section that… we can see why it got cut.

If you’re familiar with 5 Wits, know that the Foxboro location offers longer, actor-led adventures.

5 Wits is more about the adventure than the puzzles. If that’s appealing, and you’re anywhere near Boston, this is worth a visit, especially if you have children with you.

In-game: A rug shop.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Secret agents at heart
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A massive set with some beautiful sections.
  • A creative and exciting opening sequence.
  • A brilliant and magical closing sequence.

Story

Our team of spies had been sent into the headquarters of a nefarious organization known as The Cabal. Our mission was to find stolen satellite plans, identify the mole within our own organization, and do so without being discovered.

In-game: A console for the Cabal Corporation with buttons correlating to chess pieces.

Setting

Our adventure began in an old rug shop, a front for our covert organization and a listening post. After receiving our mission, we descended into the Cabal’s base and began infiltrating their security.

From there, we explored an ever-changing series of corridors and research labs. Most of the experience was incredibly detailed and incorporated more than a little magic to keep things interesting.

In-game: Lisa, David, and Lisa's parents looking up at a spy satellite.

Gameplay

5 Wits’ Espionage was a family-friendly adventure guided by an actor, with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, navigating physical challenges, and enjoying the large and detailed set.

In-game: A large safe with 4 different wheels.

Analysis

+ We entered this undercover operation… under cover. The opening sequence was charming, interactive, approachable, and exciting.

Game Exterior: The game's starting place, a mysterious rug shop.

+ Our guide Angela was energetic, humorous, and a lot of fun.

– We received substantial mission intel through video recordings. Most of these overstayed their welcome.

+ We brought mission-critical tools with us on our adventure. We could choose to access them as it seemed appropriate. This stayed true to the story and worked well.

+ Our guide also carried our gear around with us; it was never a burden.

Espionage included a few more challenging cerebral puzzles that relied on logic and reasoning.

– One set was filled with red herrings. We did not enjoy a search-focused segment in a room where anything felt like it could be relevant.

– One puzzle required substantial guesswork. We were hesitant to guess, wondering if we’d missed some information. We would have preferred some cluing.

+/- Espionage had some beautiful segments, but a fair amount of this game was aesthetically a step down from all of the other experiences we’ve had with 5 Wits.

+ The concluding sequence was brilliantly designed and appeared magical. 5 Wits tricked our senses to end Espionage with a bang.

? We reviewed Espionage at 5 Wits’ Syracuse location more than three years ago. The two versions follow the same mission and incorporate many of the same sets, structure, and puzzles, but they aren’t identical. There are segments that differ between the two. Additionally, the older Espionage in Foxboro is guided, while the newer version in Syracuse (NY) and Plymouth Meeting (PA) is automated, with only voiceover and video guidance. If you enjoy 5 Wits’ adventures, it’s worth playing both versions, but maybe not in too short a span of time.

Tips for Visiting

  • 5 Wits is located at Patriot Place, near the cinema.
  • There are many food options at Patriot Place.
  • At least one team member must be able to crawl through a small space.
  • At least one team member must be comfortable with a more physical challenge.

Book your hour with 5 Wits’ Espionage, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Room Zandvoort – The Boat Trip [Review]

I’m on a boat.

Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €59 per group of 2 players to €99 per group of 4 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Boat Trip pushed the limits of escape room interaction design. What began as a typical search-and-puzzle escape room then shifted into something unusual. In the final scene, Escape Room Zandvoort augmented escape room gameplay to reach for brilliant interaction design. However, as much as we loved their aims, these mechanics felt under-responsive and unfinished. It’s one of those games we really liked, but wish that we could have loved.

If you’re in Zandvoort, please do check out The Boat Trip. This ride was more interesting than it initially appeared.

Post game green screen photo the team on the bow of the ship.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t get seasick

Why play?

  • Mid-game puzzle sequence
  • Dramatic conclusion
  • The post-game photos

Story

After the fishing boat’s captain had been injured in a seafaring accident, he’d hired us to take his boat out and reel in the day’s catch. The weather looked favorable, but we knew it could turn without warning.

Post game green screen photo the team on the bridge of the boat being rescued.

Setting

We began on the aft deck of the fishing boat. It had a handmade deck aesthetic, with stairs, railings, and a bit of rigging. We worked our way through the boat as we progressed through the game. The set was small but elegant and clearly built with love.

Gameplay

Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Boat Trip was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

– The Boat Trip started off slowly. While we appreciate on-ramp puzzles, the initial scene of The Boat Trip was search-heavy, with not quite enough clue structure and too many red herrings.

– One of those red herrings fit too snugly into something that it really shouldn’t.

+ We enjoyed one portable game element that we could affix to different spaces to produce different effects. It illuminated some of our favorite puzzles in The Boat Trip.

– One of the puzzles in the middle segment was overly sensitive.

– The Boat Trip felt search-heavy. Even when we triggered tech-driven opens, we had to search to figure out what we had accomplished.

+ As The Boat Trip progressed, Escape Room Zandvoort ramped up the intensity of the experience.

+ When we called for help – as one does on a boat in distress – the mechanism worked well, delivering satisfying feedback. We really enjoyed this segment.

– The most critical late-game interaction suffered from lag time in response and unchanging visuals. This added confusion as we weren’t sure 100% what we were controlling.

+ The late-game was revved up by physical effects that added intensity to the concluding puzzle sequence.

+ Escape Room Zandvoort took some of our favorite postgame photos we’ve seen to date, set against their green screen.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • There are adorable restaurants along the beach, just a few minutes walk from the escape room.
  • This is not for players who get motion sick or seasick.
  • At least 1 player needs to know how to use a compass.

Book your hour with Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Boat Trip, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Zandvoort provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape My Room – Smugglers Den [Review]

A case of wine before a blackout.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date Played: June 21, 2018

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

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Escape My Room reliably provides unusual escape room experiences; Smugglers Den was no exception. It began in as a fairly typical escape room and then transitioned us into darkness, where we spent the rest of the game puzzling by touch.

Smugglers Den was a game of extreme tradeoffs. We lost the beautiful Escape My Room aesthetic and the DeLaporte family narrative. We gained a private, small-team experience with a different approach to puzzling and a variety of new sensory inputs.

If puzzling in pure darkness sounds like a welcome adventure and challenge, this is one fine example of the niche pitch-black genre. If you’re thinking, “darkness is a big nope” then you should trust that instinct, but do so knowing that this was a safe, horror-free escape room.

In-game: A brick wine cellar with wooden crates and old photos.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A great opening puzzle sequence
  • The challenge and intrigue of a dark escape room
  • An unusual final puzzle

Story

The DeLaporte family was in financial dire straits and facing the reality that they might have to sell their estate. As a last-ditch effort to raise funding they had hired our team to investigate their old wine cellar for any valuables left behind by Silver Dollar Sam, a notorious smuggler who, according to family legend, had used the cellar for running his illicit goods.

In-game: A corner of the brick wine cellar with a few photos, a bottle of wine, and an old radio.

Setting

Smugglers Den was an unusual game in Escape My Room’s universe. We began in the DeLaportes’ wine cellar, which felt right at home in… their home. It was a beautiful, detailed, and weathered space filled with appropriate props.

After solving our way through the wine cellar, we entered a dark space for the remaining two-thirds of the game.

In-game: A pitch dark room.
In game photo: We’re just gonna keep making this joke until we stop snickering at it.

Gameplay

Escape My Room’s Smugglers Den was an escape room played largely in darkness, with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, building understanding of the dark space, making connections, and communicating.

In-game: Close-up of a money back and large silver dollars.

In addition to escaping, we were playing for a score. There were a number of over sized silver dollars hidden throughout the gamespace. (We found all but one of them.)

Analysis

+ The wine cellar moved from on-ramp to complex puzzling. It gave us a glass of the kind of experience that Escape My Room typically presents… but not a full bottle.

+ There were a lot of nifty boxes to unlock… which doesn’t mean what you think it means.

+ The puzzles set in darkness forced us to adapt our methods of exploration and communication. This was among the finest dark rooms that we’ve encountered.

– Light bled through the edge of a door. While exits and signage are important, as our eyes adjusted this light bleed eventually let us sort of see each other, diminishing the effect of the darkness.

+/- Smugglers Den felt light dark on content. That said, it had a lot of puzzles for a dark escape room. Perspective played a big role in puzzle satisfaction.

? The search for coins forced us to explore the dark space thoroughly. The puzzles, however, asked us to do the same. We were torn on how much the coins added to the experience beyond the justification of the narrative.

– Escape My Room is the DeLaporte Estate, a beautiful, unusual, designed world. Smugglers Den didn’t fully belong to this world. The detailing and character of Escape My Room’s work comes in large part from the visuals that were essentially absent in this game. We missed the magic of the Escape My Room aesthetic.

– When the game ended, the lights came back on and we saw the unthemed puzzle room that we had been locked within. It really shattered the magic. We wished we would have exited back into the world of the DeLaportes and let the darkness of Smugglers Den remain a mystery.

– At 45 minutes and with a much smaller gamespace and far less set design, Smugglers Den was priced the same as Escape My Room’s longer and more detailed games. This presented a problem that’s not easily solvable. If they were to lower the price, this game for more advanced players would attract more newbies, but as fun as it was, it didn’t feel like the same value as the much more grand Inventor’s Attic.

+ The final puzzle came together unexpectedly. This was absolutely one of the high points of Smugglers Den.

Smugglers Den was a ton of fun. It was dark, but not at all scary. It was playful, strange, and exciting.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is so much amazing cuisine in the neighborhood. We highly recommend Mother’s and Cochon.
  • All players must be comfortable in darkness and able to crawl a short distance.

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

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

Komnata Quest – The City of Ashes [Review]

Noisy hill.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: June 18, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket on weekdays, $35 per ticket on evenings, $40 per ticket on weekends/holidays

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

City of Ashes was a search-heavy, pseudo-horror escape room in a dim lighting. It had a few interesting set pieces, and a strong final sequence, but none of that could make up for the general dullness of the game itself.

Having played all of the games that Komnata Quest currently offers in New York City, I can comfortably recommend that you play any of their other offerings ahead of this one. It’s not a disaster, but it’s well beneath Komnata Quest’s potential. Skip it.

In-game: a series of old school desks in a dark, grim room.

Who is this for?

  • Komnata Quest completionists

Why play?

  • A great final puzzle sequence.

Story

Teed up as a Silent Hill escape game, we approached an empty city devoid of life to investigate.

In-game: An old children's tool kit on a black floor.

Setting

We removed our blindfolds to take in the dim, gritty, and just a bit gory surroundings. We traversed a number of sets, each quite different from the next, but none particularly inviting.

In-game: A small wooden door against a black wall with a chalk drawing of a young girl curled up seemingly crying.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest’s The City of Ashes was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling, with emphasis on searching.

Analysis

City of Ashes felt like cheap horror. It was grim, but not really scary. The dimness was more frustrating than fear-inducing.

+ A few detailed set pieces looked great.

City of Ashes required substantial searching in low light. We continuously tripped up because we hadn’t found the item we needed to complete a puzzle.

– The puzzles lacked clue structure and feedback. There was a puzzle that we solved, but had no idea how or why.

– We couldn’t properly hear the audio track over the ambient noise. If it held any clue structure or story, it was impossible to make out.

City of Ashes overtelegraphed one of its most interesting moments.

+ The concluding segment was shockingly good.

– I can’t recommend this game at $30 per ticket, and the $35 per ticket during the evenings and $40 per ticket on weekends and holidays is unjustifiable.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.