Enchambered – Containment Breach [Review]

Concrete, steel, and puzzles.

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Containment Breach was Enchambered’s first foray into escape rooms. It was a strong initial outing.

A solid, fairly traditional puzzle game, Containment Breach offered some good group solves in a detailed but dim set. The lighting was especially low, and we couldn’t really do anything without a flashlight… which grew old.

In-game: a large piece of metal machinery in a heavily worn concrete bunker.

Since creating this game, Enchambered has produced some truly outstanding experiences in The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch. Those games are the reason to visit Enchambered. Containment Breach, by comparison, was an optional add-on.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A detailed set
  • Some interesting puzzles and interactions

Story

Decades ago, Doctor Henry Rosenburg had built a device that instantly teleported matter. During his first attempt at demonstrating his creation, it had malfunctioned and Rosenburg had disappeared after the ensuing radiation leak rendered his lab uninhabitable.

Now that the radiation levels had dropped to tolerable levels, we went in to investigate what had happened.

In-game: A PA mounted near the ceiling of the bunker. There's a sign warning of surveillance.

Setting 

Enchambered’s first escape game was a bunker.

The dimly lit set was filled with the kind of texture and weathering details that showed the environment was created by someone who cared.

In-game: closeup of a desk with strange schematics beside a large piece of equipment

Gameplay

Enchambered’s Containment Breach was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large, weathered, yellow metal door with a strange locking mechanism.

Analysis

➕ The dim, detailed, and weathered set looked like a convincing lab/ bunker hybrid.

➖ We spent a lot of time searching in low light. It was annoying to play the entire game with a flashlight in hand.

➕ The props felt bulky and real. The gameplay was tangible. It frequently encouraged collaborative solves.

➖ There were tons of papers that we didn’t need and would likely be needless red herrings to less experienced players.

➕ In one instance, Containment Breach taught use how to use a prop through the gameplay. In a game with solid, yet standard puzzle play, this puzzle was especially well thought out so that players would build mastery and have a sense of accomplishment.

➖ All solves led to a 4-digit lock. There were a lot of locks and they weren’t correlated to the puzzles. We ended up trying every derived code in lots of places, which slowed momentum, especially early on.

➖ While there clearly was a story, we struggled to follow it. The story got lost amid puzzles.

➕ We particularly enjoyed the solves that required teamwork.

➕ We truly respect Enchambered’s tiered pricing. Containment Breach was their oldest game, and tickets for it were less expensive than tickets for their newer games. This improved the value of the experience. More escape room companies should adopt this approach to pricing.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s Containment Breach , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Unreal Escapes – Disco 54 [Review]

Last Dance

Location:  Staten Island, NY

Date Played: March 17, 2019

Team size: up to 11; we recommend 3-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Disco 54 was all about atmosphere and fun. The look. The music. The theme. All of it.

Aesthetically, it looked and felt like a club, and it had a brilliant playlist underpinning it all.

Unreal Escape’s second game was significantly different from their first. It wasn’t as visually arresting as Battleship and it didn’t have the same volume of tech. Instead it felt more focused on gameplay.

In-game: the DJ's mixer.

That said, the party vibe of Disco 54 was occasionally distracting. There were moments when the dance floor and music called to us more than the gameplay did… which, honestly, was fine. We really enjoyed this dynamic.

Unreal is a bit of a hike to visit, but now that they are operating two games it’s an easier decision. For our taste, we preferred Disco 54, but if you’re visiting Unreal, you should play both. They both have something worth experiencing.

Who is this for?

  • Groups looking to party
  • Hustlers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A unique story and set
  • You can dance (don’t worry; it is never required)
  • An unusual and authentic experience
  • Great song selection

Story

The legendary Disco 54 was closing down due to a… disagreement with the IRS. While the owner may have been in debt, that didn’t stop him from stashing cash throughout the club. We went in for one last party and a heist.

In-game: the VIP lounge.

Setting

Taking clear and heavy inspiration from Studio 54, Disco 54’s set was on point. From the dance floor, to the DJ booth, to the bar, to the VIP lounge, to all of the velvet, the escape game felt like a club.

All of this was elevated by a playlist that was as smart as it was fun.

In-game: the DJ booth labeled "Disco 54."

Gameplay

Unreal Escapes’ Disco 54 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and the opportunity to dance.

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

In-game: a dance floor with colored lights shining on it.

Analysis

➕ A disco club was one of the more interesting and unique settings that we’ve seen for an escape game. It was refreshing.

➕ The club felt right. It was immediately clear to us just how passionate its creators were about nailing the right vibe.

➕ The music was perfect.

In-game: a disco ball

➕ Our gamemaster asked us what volume we wanted the music set to. We could request to turn the volume up or down at any time. We were quite content with our selection of “medium.”

Disco 54 flowed fairly well.

➖ There were some opportunities for stronger clue structure in a couple of puzzles.

➕ The open-ended goal of finding as much money as we could before escaping left plenty of reason for us to keep searching… we might find another way to earn more money.

➖ Not all parts of the set delivered the same scenic quality. The decisions made sense, but we felt when it lacked of grandeur.

➖ There was a missed opportunity that could have floored visitors.

➕/➖ There was some great use of tech within Disco 54. We wish that there had been better feedback and in-game notification of what we had accomplished. We had been instructed to “double check” things after we thought we solved something… and this was ok, but less than ideal.

➕ We really enjoyed taking a break from puzzling and dancing.

Disco 54 would make a great venue for a party.

Tips For Visiting

  • Unreal Escapes has a parking lot.
  • There’s a lot of great Italian food on Staten Island.
  • Unreal Escapes will reskin this escape room for bar and bat mitzvahs.

Book your hour with Unreal Escapes’ Disco 54, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Unreal Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

EscapeSF – Escape from Blind Tiger Bar [Review]

Assembling the naughty list.

Location:  San Francisco, California

Date Played: February 21, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $89 for teams of 2 to $179 for teams of 6

Ticketing:  Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape from Blind Tiger Bar has been a regional favorite among San Francisco escape room players for a few years and we understand why. It had some really unusual and exciting elements. Had we played this game a couple of years ago, it absolutely would have wowed us… Today, we simply enjoyed it.

EscapeSF’s speakeasy-inspired escape room was solid. While its middle segment could have offered something a bit more interesting, it had an impressive opening scene and some wonderful concluding moments.

All in all, this was a good game as long as you control your expectations. While visiting San Francisco, we strongly recommend that you play EscapeSF’s Space Bus, a fantastic game that shows where this company is headed.

In-game: The Blind Tiger Bar with a beautifuly antique cash register.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • An interesting start
  • An explosive conclusion

Story

It was the height of Prohibition and we wanted to acquire a speakeasy. Instead of funding our own illegal business, we’d decided to sneak into an existing one with the goal of finding the names of its owners and stealing their ledger. After that, the police would take care of the owners and we’d have ourselves a new illicit drinking establishment.

In-game: a worn Colt M1911 pistol.

Setting

Escape from Blind Tiger Bar began with us in an alleyway surrounded by doors for all sorts of businesses. Initially, we had to determine which door hid the speakeasy. From that point, we spent the duration of the game within the illegal bar surrounded by liquor bottles and the various props that one would expect to find in a bar.

This escape game had been around for quite a few years when we played it. It was showing its mileage.

In-game: Liquor bottles on a shelf.

Gameplay

EscapeSF’s Escape from Blind Tiger Bar was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ We enjoyed the structure of Escape from Blind Tiger Bar. EscapeSF sandwiched standard escape room gameplay between inventive opening and closing sequences.

➕ The themed set was charming. We especially loved one pivotal prop. It was a true antique and a ton of fun to engage with.

➖ Escape from Blind Tiger Bar was an older game and the set and props were a bit worn.

➖ There was a lot to uncover. We found the searching to be varying degrees of boring and fuzzy. These solves generally felt uninteresting and arbitrary.

➕ We enjoyed the more puzzley puzzles.

➖ One puzzle could be solved out of sequence with just a bit of common outside knowledge.

➕ The gameplay had consequences. Our choices through one sequence determined how our experienced resolved.

➖ In the moment, we made a conscious decision, but not a knowing one. It wasn’t clear as we played that there would be consequences.

➕/ ➖ As we played Escape from Blind Tiger Bar, we couldn’t help but feel like there were missed opportunities in this game. We believe this is a matter of timing and perspective. When Escape from Blind Tiger Bar was introduced, it pushed the envelope. Today it isn’t as surprising as it was a few years back. That doesn’t take away from the game EscapeSF built, but it does change the way it feels to a well-traveled escape room player.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a paid parking garage across the street.
  • We enjoyed dim sum at the nearby Great Eastern Restaurant.
  • There were steps down from the lobby to Escape from Blind Tiger Bar.

Book your hour with EscapeSF’s Escape from Blind Tiger Bar, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: EscapeSF provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Mission Escape Games – Escape the Hydeout: The Mystery of Henry Jekyll [Re-Review]

Transformation

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: March 15, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We returned to Mission Escape Games to play the significantly updated Escape The Hydeout 8 days shy of the 4th anniversary of us playing the original version.

In-game: An elegant study with red and wood walls. The trophy of a buck hangs over a fireplace.

Years later, Escape The Hydeout remains one of our favorite introductory escape games. Mission Escape Games solidified this by ramping up their set design and smoothing over the puzzle flow.

To give you a sense of history… our original review dates back to the days when we wouldn’t have even thought to assess set design.

The current iteration of the game was an aesthetically beautiful, incredibly fair escape room with just enough excitement to hook newbies without scaring them off.

If you’re new to escape rooms, Escape The Hydeout is a must-play. (It’s available in Anaheim, CA, Philadelphia, PA, West Hartford, CT, and New York City.) If you’re a veteran escape room player, this is a well-designed, well-executed room that likely won’t blow your mind.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • An elegant set
  • Silky smooth puzzle flow
  • Beginner friendly

Story

The good Doctor Jekyll had been acting strange and had then disappeared. We’d been hired to find him.

In-game: A bookshelf in an elegant study.

Setting

Escape The Hydeout had a beautiful Victorian aesthetic. The set wasn’t complicated, but it looked fantastic.

In-game: A chair beside a chess table and a globe in a study.

Gameplay

Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Hydeout was a standard escape room with an approachable level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a green walled, room with a chess board, chair, and globe.
The original, March 2015

Analysis

➕ We really loved the puzzles and flow of this game. This was true 4 years ago and these aspects have been further refined in the current version. It was always clear when we’d solved a solution. The game drew our attention to new opens.

➕ The set was fantastic. It was elegant, atmospheric, and deliberate. The audio especially added ambiance.

➖ There was a strong theme as well as allusion to story, but the story wasn’t a strong presence in Escape the Hydeout. We found the audio introduction to the story hard to follow.

➕ While there were written clues and codes in this escape room, we never read them off sheets of paper. They were carved into or otherwise embedded into tangible materials that looked and felt like they belonged in the world.

➕ There were some good reveals and well-executed tech.

➖ Still, 4 years later, Escape the Hydeout lacked the kind of epic or climactic moments that make us feel like a game is a must-play for experienced players.

➕ The emergency exit button works well. We… umm… might have had a teammate “test” it.

In-game: Closeup of a glowing red Emergency Exit button.

Tips For Visiting

  • Mission Escape Games has moved! They are now located in midtown. Take the A/C/E subway to Penn Station or Port Authority.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger for a post-game meal.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Hydeout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Enchambered – The Whispering Halls [Review]

The Haunted Mansion

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

From the theme to their approach to set design and construction, Enchambered’s Disney influences were on display in The Whispering Halls.

As with The Legend of the Skull Witch we were thrilled by The Whispering Halls. While there were some opportunities for additional refinement and drama, overall this was a high quality escape game.

If you’re anywhere near Sacramento, we highly recommend The Whispering Halls. If you’re looking to choose between The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch, you can’t really go wrong… so flip a coin, or better yet, play both.

In-game: an ominous metal door knocker.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Ambiance born of a detailed set
  • Puzzle progression
  • Interaction design
  • Density of content

Story

The caretaker of an old Victorian manor had hired us to investigate paranormal happenings within the home that he was charged with maintaining.

In-game: a bookcase

Setting

Creepy but never terrifying, The Whispering Halls was beautiful and filled with subtle homages to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, but never felt like it was ripping off the famous haunted house. Enchambered used time-tested techniques to make the space feel both haunted and larger than it actually was.

In-game: glowing candles mounted to a red wall.

Gameplay

Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Whispering Halls was an enchanting space. Enchambered built vertically, affording them space to add details without red herrings and an expanse without barren space. It was deliberately designed and atmospheric, setting the tone for an exciting escape room.

➕ Enchambered used a variety of effects to create exciting moments inside The Whispering Halls.

➖ The gamespace showed a bit of wear and not all the wiring was completely hidden.

➕ Enchambered built interesting puzzles into unusual interactions. These were a ton of fun.

➖ One puzzle had an overly tight tolerance.

➕/➖ Enchambered provided a step to help shorter players participate in higher puzzles. It would have been helpful to affix this to the floor, or label it, so that it wouldn’t be confused as a puzzle component.

➕ The puzzles flowed well. We could see the different puzzle paths emerging and build mastery of the room as we played. This made similar solves – and even multiple locks with the same digit structure – less arduous. It also built up anticipation for opens.

➖ One moment of individual isolation could have really shined, but felt underwhelming.

➕ Your ticket to The Whispering Halls buy a lot. As this escape room revealed its secrets, it also unveiled more densely packed puzzle content. There was a lot of game within these walls.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

… when you come out to San Fransisco this June for Escape, Immerse, Explore: The Palace. Enchambered would make a lovely day trip add-on to your time in California. Today is the last day to book tickets to our Palace Games tour. Don’t miss your chance!

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Enchambered – The Legend of the Skull Witch [Review]

The Wicked Witch of the West Coast

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Few games open as strongly as The Legend of the Skull Witch. Enchambered’s cabin of magic and evil was fueled with strong puzzles and just enough frights to make it intense and exciting without feeling terrifying.

A couple of gameflow issues notwithstanding, this was an incredible game from a strong company. The Legend of the Skull Witch was a remarkable world to puzzle through.

We highly recommend The Legend of the Skull Witch. If you’re anywhere in the region, take a trip to play it. We did; we were thrilled with that decision.

In-game: an effigy hanging from the wall with fire projected onto it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Magical interactions
  • Detailed and immersive gamespace to explore
  • Use of effects

Story

Legend had it that a vile witch lived in the swamps outside of New Orleans. The tale told of her luring bewildered partygoers away… a mistake that they paid for with their lives.

We hadn’t bought into the stories, but two of our friends had disappeared during Mardi Gras. We’d tracked them to a rundown cabin in the middle of the swamp.

In-game: A tree with glowing tubes hanging from that function as the game's clock.

Setting

The Legend of the Skull Witch made an immediate impression. The multi-level set, staggering volume of details, animations, and how it all came together were arresting. Normally when I enter an escape room I immediately look for where to start. In The Legend of the Skull Witch, I stood there and looked at what Enchambered had built, not to start solving, but simply to take it all in.

Enchambered maintained that level of detail throughout the entire experience. The Legend of the Skull Witch was a little scarier than Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls. That intensity carried through to some of their set design and effects choices.

In-game: A wooden shelf containing magical ingredients.

Gameplay

Enchambered’s The Legend of the Skull Witch was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a small creature holding a talisman.

Analysis

The Legend of the Skull Witch began with an imposing projection. It set the tone beautifully.

➕ From the get-go, The Legend of the Skull Witch offered a lot of options for exploration, from the gamespace to the details.

➖ The Legend of the Skull Witch relied too heavily on explanation. There would be an opportunity to make the puzzles more immediately approachable, letting players discover how to work the mechanisms through play.

➕ In place of locks – combination or magnetic – Enchambered built other input mechanisms. These interactive inputs also felt magical, and appropriate for the space.

➖ Too many puzzles resolved to the same digit structure. While this was mitigated by interesting inputs, we spent a bit too much time trying the same combination in multiple different locks. Small variation in digit structure would have smoothed over the game flow.

➖ We struggled with one puzzle that combined a lot of disparate information. It seemed we activated components out of order. It was frustrating when we couldn’t re-trigger information.

➕ The puzzles generally solved cleanly and were tangible. Although one overstayed its welcome, we enjoyed its mechanic. Many of the puzzles encouraged teamwork.

In-game: A wall of wooden masks and totems.

➕ Enchambered built effects that helped us feel the story – the desperate plight of the witch’s victims – as we played. It was haunting and impressive.

➕/➖ We appreciate a thematic and integrated gameclock. This one was beautifully worked into the set. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the gameclock for what it was until after we’d won the game. That may have been on us… I’m really not sure.

➕ We visited Enchambered while part of their facility was under construction. Due to construction regulations, they couldn’t allow players into the final gamespace for The Legend of the Skull Witch. They created an elegant workaround that enabled them to run our game through to the end despite this inconvenience. Although we would have loved a hands-on experience for this portion, we respect their concern for safety and regulations, and their ingenuity.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s The Legend of the Skull Witch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Perplexium – Incoming Transmission [Review]

Engage!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Incoming Transmission was a sprawling space epic in the vein of Star Trek.

We’ve learned to count on Austin’s 15 Locks/ Perplexium to produce creative and unusual escape games that tinker with the formula. They did just that with Incoming Transmission.

In-game: The bridge of a space ship with multiple control consoles and many glowing lights.
Image via Perplexium

This space-based escape game was less about discovering a physical space and puzzling through it. It was more about learning the ship’s systems and using them to traverse the universe, completing missions and solving the problems of alien species. This escape room felt more like a giant control panel than a puzzle room.

This structure meant that Perplexium was able to produce a replayable game with plenty of dynamic missions to tackle.

With gameplay that felt more like a hybrid of video gaming and some tabletop gaming, Incoming Transmission could be the perfect game for your team or it could fizzle. We enjoyed ourselves and could imagine going back for a second go at space travel if we’d finished playing out the other escape rooms that interest us in Austin.

If you’re a little intrigued by all of this and near Austin, Texas, then you should beam aboard Incoming Transmission. At the very least, you’ll be in for an novel ride.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Unusual, replayable game structure
  • Great set
  • A humorous script

Story

As cadets in the fleet, we had been beamed aboard the SS Adventure. We had to get the ship running and then traverse the universe to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly solve intergalactic problems.

In-game: A series of large control toggles.
Image via Perplexium

Setting 

We were beamed aboard a Star Trek-inspired spaceship with an angular, futuristic aesthetic, complete with dozens of blinking lights, buttons, switches, and dials… all of which were active game components.

In-game: A space ship control panel with multi-colored glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Gameplay

Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission combined standard escape room gameplay with atypical elements. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Incoming Transmission could be played in “story mode,” which combined more typical escape room-style gameplay with video game-like elements. It could be replayed in “points mode” which opened up the star system and allowed crews to go off and have a real-life video game-like adventure without some of the more tangible escape room moments.

The gameplay was similar to something like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Core gameplay revolved around figuring out how to interact with the environment, following instructions, and communicating.

In-game: A space ship control panel with glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Analysis

➕ The spaceship set was interesting and beautiful.

➕ As we brought this ship to life and completed missions it reacted with different effects. These upped our excitement about the missions and our feelings of triumph.

➕ There was a heavy video component that involved alien characters appearing on a large screen to ask for help, make demands, or threaten us. It was both Star Trek-y and funny… kind of like The Orville… but without dick jokes.

➕ We enjoyed the escape room-style gameplay of configuring the ship. We especially enjoyed operating the ship’s transporter.

➖ The gameplay often felt more like following instructions than exploring or solving puzzles.

❓ The second act of the game took place at consoles, much like a multiplayer video game. It was fun, but the novelty wore off quickly. We would have liked more puzzle variety or a quicker pace during this segment. Reactions to this segment will likely vary based on individual player preferences.

➖ Incoming Transmission lacked an intense boss flight. The gameplay felt one-note, even as our ship came under fire. We would have liked to build toward the climactic battle.

➕ The replayable “points mode” concept was interesting. There were so many console-based puzzles packed into the game that we could return again and again to play though the challenges from our consoles aboard this intergalactic ship.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This room involves crawling, ducking and tight spaces. At least one player will need to do this.
  • This room includes flashing lights, fog, and loud noises.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Perplexium comped our tickets for this game.

15 Locks – Dead Man’s Cove [Review]

Worth the doubloons.

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 1, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Dead Man’s Cove combined puzzles and adventure into an epic sea voyage. Through the decor, sound, and effects 15 Locks delivered incredible and memorable gameplay moments.

In-game:A jolly roger flag hanging on the wall of a pirate ship.
Image via 15 Locks

While we struggled with the dim lighting, we enjoyed the puzzles. This little ship was jam-packed with them.

Dead Man’s Cove was a highly creative take on the traditional escape room. 15 Locks added tons of details and transformed a game that could have felt like a basic escape room into something magical.

If you’re anywhere near Austin and you’re looking for an escape room adventure, regardless of experience level, you’ll find a lot to enjoy aboard this vessel.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle pirates
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting moments
  • Detailed set
  • Excellent puzzles
  • The hint system

Story

Our ship was trapped somewhere between the land of the living and the land of the dead. We had to battle mystical evils and navigate ourselves out of troubled waters.

In-game: A locked door and a powder keg inside of a pirate ship.
Image via 15 Locks

Setting

15 Locks staged Dead Man’s Cove inside of a cursed pirate ship. The setting was appropriately dim. It used a variety of effects to convey the various ghosts from the ship’s past that we needed to appease or defeat.

In-game: The captain's desk and a locked chest aboard a pirate ship.
Image via 15 Locks

Gameplay

15 Locks’ Dead Man’s Cove was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: The inside of a pirate ship There are ropes and chains running from the ceiling and walls, and number painted into a beam.
Image via 15 Locks

Analysis

➕ 15 Locks’ introduction worked really well… and revealed a charming and fun hint system. We enjoyed taking hints.

➕ Dead Man’s Cove looked exceptional. The wood paneling combined with heavy wood furniture, lantern lighting, choice of locks, and nautical props transported us to these troubled waters.

➖ The gamespace was unbalanced. Since so much of it was beautifully crafted into a specific aesthetic, a latter set felt under-designed in comparison. There was opportunity to do more with this part of the gamespace.

Dead Man’s Cove wasn’t a large space, but it packed a lot of gameplay.

➕ The puzzles flowed smoothly and solved cleanly.

In-game: A table with a map on it inside of a lantern-lit pirate ship.
Image via 15 Locks

➖ The dim lighting was frustrating. Especially given the reliance on combination locks and short passages written in a small font, we struggled with lack of light. A few spotlights on one or two work surfaces would have made a world of difference.

➕ 15 Locks used light and sound to surprise us. Dead Man’s Cove continually delivered exciting, interactive moments. We enjoyed experiencing these as a group.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with 15 Locks’ Dead Man’s Cove, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 15 Locks comped our tickets for this game.

EscapeSF – Space Bus [Review]

Ride on the Magic School Bus

Location:  San Francisco, California

Date Played: February 21, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $155 per team of 4 players to $275 per team of 8 players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The aptly named Space Bus was exactly as its name implied: a retired school bus transformed into a spaceship… and a beautiful one at that.

In-game: The Space Bus' exterior with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background.

When we heard “converted school bus” we pictured a rundown hacked together mess… not a slick Star Trek-esque setting.

In addition to looking good, Space Bus performed where it counted: strong puzzles.

While there were a few aspects and moments that could have been smoother, EscapeSF’s mobile sci-fi game was a solid escape room through and through.

If you’re in San Francisco, this should be among the escape rooms that you play.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Great puzzles and flow
  • An elegant spaceship set
  • Space Bus can come to you (within reason)

Story

We boarded the Space Bus bound for Space Academy. While in transit with our fellow cadets, the bus was damaged. We needed to figure out how to get everything running properly before the system failure became terminal.

In-game: A wide angle view of the starboard side of the Space Bus.

Setting

Space Bus was set in a converted school bus. From the outside it was incredibly clear that this was a bus, but once inside, we were in a spaceship.

The glowing lights and sleek sci-fi design greatly exceeded anything that I had ever imagined I’d see in a school bus. The only details that gave away the gamespace’s original purpose were some rooftop emergency exits, air conditioners (all painted silver), and the exit door leading to the front of the bus.

In-game: The glowing thermal control system routing console.

Gameplay

Escape SF’s Space Bus was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It was unusual because it was on wheels.

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

In-game: The glowing energy consumption level by sector console.

Analysis

➕ EscapeSF turned a classic yellow school bus into a spaceship. The bus had been through an impressive metamorphosis. It was jarring – in a good way – to see a school bus look so futuristic and beautiful.

In-game: The Space Bus school bus with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background

➕ The physical interactions in Space Bus were immensely satisfying. This spaceship had great button-y buttons.

➕ We enjoyed the structure of “turning puzzles on” and then returning to them when we were ready to solve them.

In-game: The Space Bus Flight Manual

➕ Space Bus was a successful checklist-style escape room. Although we were following set instructions, it wasn’t exactly a runbook. We had to correlate instructions with puzzles, which added a reasoning element, and the gameplay wasn’t strictly linear. Additionally, the checklist made sense in the scenario. We could imagine a larger world where we’d be completing a different set of tasks should our spaceship have encountered a different sort of trauma.

➖ For the most part, the instructions were in small booklets. Although we had multiple copies, one was pretty worn, the text was small, and we couldn’t remove the pages to correlate them with the physical puzzle elements. We were constantly flipping through these books trying to find something we knew we’d seen before, which was frustrating. Even adding section tabs would make a big difference.

➕ The puzzles were intelligent. In some cases, they had multiple possible solutions. EscapeSF had programmed the technology to recognize multiple correct solves, and all correct solutions, even if the solutions were – as happened in once instance – input out of order. EscapeSF also had bypasses ready should anything not function properly. The tech was fun, forgiving, and fair.

➖ Space Bus started strongly, but lacked a finale. The last scene was the weakest in terms of both set design and puzzles.

In-game: The front of the Space Bus filled with post-game signs.

Tips For Visiting

  • Space Bus is mobile. You can play it parked outside of EscapeSF or book it to come to you.
  • You will need to go up a few steps onto the bus.

Book your hour with Escape SF’s Space Bus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: EscapeSF provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Spellbound Supper [Review]

Puzzle pre fixe

Location:  San Francisco, California

Date Played: February 21, 2019

Team size: 3-10; we recommend exactly 5 or exactly 10

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per person weekdays, $33 per person weekends

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

SCRAP once again created a unique escape game structure clever enough that it could be a genre unto itself.

The entirety of Spellbound Supper happened in our seats around a dinner table.

In-game: Team B surrounding their white table.

SCRAP used a combination of real life objects, projection, and a Microsoft Kinect to allow us to gesture and interact with the projected items. It was “magical” in the Steve Jobs sense of the word.

Spellbound Supper was an amazing concept and a remarkable experience. At the same time, the game felt unfinished. There were many little places where added refinement would have made all the difference.

We would love to see more games in this style. SCRAP could and should push this idea even further. It was mind-opening and entertaining. Throughout the experience, despite the imperfections, I couldn’t help but marvel at how much fun it was.

If you’re in San Francisco, this one is absolutely worth checking out. Much like The Popstar’s Room of Doom it wasn’t perfect, but its cleverness and novelty greatly outweighed its flaws.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The brilliant use of technology
  • The dramatic yet simple setting
  • Unusual gameplay, challenges, and puzzles

Story

We’d heard legend of a risky dinner served by a powerful witch. Those who had attended, if deemed worthy, had been rewarded with wonderful magical abilities. Everyone else who had dined with the witch had vanished.

In-game: Team A surrounding their white table.

Setting

Spellbound Supper was an escape room played entirely at a dinner table. All of the puzzles and components were either delivered by our server or projected onto the stark white table cloth.

The projected graphics were beautiful.

The room itself was elegant and slightly intimidating, but not in a frightening way. Its minimalist intensity combined with the demeanor of our server to create an imposing vibe.

In-game: A neatly folded green napkin on a white plate and white tablecloth.

Gameplay

Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Spellbound Supper was an atypical escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The unorthodox environment added challenge. We had to solve different types of puzzles – printed and projected – from our seats at the table.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and using the magical tools we were provided.

Analysis

➕ The dinner table theme was novel. This was our first puzzle feast.

➕ Although we didn’t move from our seats at the table for the duration of the game, Spellbound Supper kept our attention focused on the meal. SCRAP used projection mapping to reveal the gameplay. It was magical and visually intriguing.

➖ The courses progressed rather nonsensically. There didn’t seem to be any reason – story-driven or puzzle-driven – supporting this progression.

➕/➖ The technology could be finicky. We were torn about it. On the one hand, straight video games do some of this better. On the other hand, it was entertaining to be playing a video game with real props, in real life.

➖ We became impatient with the mechanics. We had to wait for long voiceovers to finish. When we made mistakes – which we did often as we pieced together how to solve puzzles – we had to finish a failed cycle repeatedly, which became tedious and took away from the magic feeling magical. We spent a fair bit of time waiting to get back to puzzle-solving. A reset interaction would have been a big improvement.

➕ Spellbound Supper assigned us roles. These were pretty even. You couldn’t draw the short straw. Additionally, the roles were vital to the experience. (For this reason, we recommend you play with a group of exactly 5 or exactly 10 people.)

➖ There weren’t a whole lot of props and the ones they had felt chintzy. With a few more details, dinner would have been classier, and the game more polished.

➖ There was a lot to read. Seated at a table, we had to pass cards around in low light. We would have preferred this part to be better incorporated into the projection mapping or the physical gameplay.

➖ We played with 2 groups of 5 players each. The two groups played the game simultaneously around separate tables without ever interacting, or even seeing each other. We finished at different times, which lead to confusing, anticlimactic endings. The audio kept playing while we tried to figure out if we’d won it or if there was more.

➕ As is typical of SCRAP games, there were a few twists. These were mostly fair challenges that mostly made sense, well… it was still a difficult SCRAP game with an obligatory logic leap or two.

Spellbound Supper was fun. Even in moments of frustration, I was eager to try again, see the next challenge, and explore the interactions. It was so unlike any other escape room we’ve played and the novelty was part of the fun.

Tips For Visiting

  • The Japantown parking garage is across the street.
  • There are lots of great restaurant options in Japantown.
  • There is no real food served as part of this game.

Book your hour with Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Spellbound Supper, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Escape Games by SCRAP provided media discounted tickets for this game.