Escape City Buffalo – Over the Falls [Review]

“You’re aboot to die, eh. Soorry.”

Location: Tonawanda, NY

Date Played: September 2, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Over the Falls took us on a trip down the Niagara River on an old cargo ship beset by nefarious Canadian pirates.

The ship setting was expansive, varied, and beautiful in a worn and weathered way. Over the Falls was brimming with fantastic effects and memorable events.

While the challenges varied, and leaned a bit too heavily on search, Escape City Buffalo crafted an incredible environment to house an adventure. Above all else, adventuring aboard this vessel felt grand.

If you’re anywhere near Buffalo, this is a must play.

In-game: a rusty and weathered sit of dials and gauges.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Tourists to Niagara Falls
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The phenomenal set
  • The water feature
  • Tactile solves

Story

We had been traveling across the Niagara River when those infamous Canadian pirates seized our cargo ship, stole the goods, and abandoned the ship, leaving us on course to go right over Niagara Falls. We needed to avoid this impending disaster.

In-game: steaming furnaces.

Setting

We began Over the Falls handcuffed to railings in the furnace compartment of an old cargo ship and worked our way to the bridge. The set was sprawling, magnificently detailed, and weathered. The bowels of this vessel felt lived in. It looked and smelled like a cargo ship.

Escape City Buffalo built some elaborate and impressive features into the later sets of Over the Falls.

In-game: A closeup of a rusty and weathered porthole.
Look at that detail.

Gameplay

Escape City Buffalo’s Over the Falls was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: engine controls.

Analysis

+ The set was incredible. Escape City Buffalo’s attention to detail created a gamespace that instilled a sense of adventure in us. It was a wonderfully fun environment to explore. It was gorgeous.

In-game: heavily weathered and rusting ceiling.
This was from the ceiling.

Over the Falls was well player-proofed. Escape City Buffalo’s epoxy game was solid. In this way they build detailed environments without leaving red herrings in their wake.

In-game: a workshop and a set of gauges and valves.

+ The initial furnace room set was especially fun to explore. We enjoyed the effects. A discovery felt like treasure.

– Over the Falls started with the team split between two different sides of the furnace room. This start felt uneven. One group had a lot more that they could accomplish than the other did.

+ There were a lot of captivating effects and memorable events.

In-game: The entrance door.

– Over the Falls relied heavily on search challenge. We lost a lot of time retracing our steps, scouring for minute details. The most exciting gamespace asked us to search for small details with weak light.

+ Our favorite challenges required us to manipulate objects in the gamespace to achieve our goals. These were satisfying, tactile solves.

– It was difficult to understand the captain of our vessel when he spoke to us over the speakers. We pretty much never heard a word he said.

– Over the Falls lacked a finale. In the end, a door opened as we escaped the cargo ship. It didn’t make a ton of sense (Did we set the ship back on course? Did we find treasure?) and it didn’t punctuate the victory with any of the grand effects we’d seen earlier in the game.

+ The water feature. Wow.

Tips for Visiting

  • Wear clothing and shoes that can get a little damp.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escape City Buffalo’s Over the Falls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape City Buffalo provided media discounted tickets for this game.

60 Out – Flight of the Pandorus Revisited [Review]

Our first ever re-review.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from starting at $40 per ticket for 2 players, to starting at $26.66 per ticket for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

We weren’t planning to replay Pandorus. After hearing that it was essentially a different game within the same set that we knew and loved, however, we decided to give it another shot… and we were glad that we did. The new Pandorus was a significant improvement over its predecessor.

The basic information for this game exists in our previous review. In this re-review, we address the improvements, as well as some new areas to potentially refine.

The bottom-line: Pandorus went from a good game to one of the strongest games that we’ve seen in 60 Out’s substantial collection of games in Los Angeles.

In-game: the cockpit of the ship with green and red glowing lights and a countdown timer.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A brilliant sci-fi set cobbled together from unlikely and recycled components
  • Humor
  • Memorable sci-fi interactions

Analysis

+ We still loved the unique aesthetic of Pandorus. This time around, the game had been modified such that we always knew what was set dressing and what was an active set piece.

+ Gone were the repetitious activities from the previous game. There was one larger process puzzle, but it was brilliantly designed and didn’t stick around long enough to grow old.

In-game: a strange contraption with tubes running to it.

+ We had been a little perturbed last go around when we had unwittingly made a moral decision. 60 Out had cleared that up. Now we clearly understood our options.

– We encountered muddy audio. The various aspects of the soundscape clashed. This was particularly challenging when we received hints.

In-game: a small robot.

+ The tiny hint robot was adorable and strangely compelling.

– The diminutive droid’s scale was off for the room; it was easy to forget about him. This was a problem because talking with the robot was integral to both the gameplay and the humor of Pandorus.

In-game: green lasers emerging from the ship.

+/- 60 Out kept the best puzzle from the earlier version. We were thrilled to hang back and watch our teammates solve this one. Watching with another year’s worth of experience, however, we realized that this puzzle could have benefitted from some visual feedback.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you’ve already played Pandorus in an earlier version, it is now different enough that you can play it again. Bring some teammates who haven’t played the earlier iteration so that they can solve the 2 or 3 puzzles that reappear.
  • There is a parking lot around back.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Flight of the Pandorus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

Maze Rooms – Magic Kingdom [Review]

Practice good wand form.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 25, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $99 per ticket for teams of 2 to $198 per ticket for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Magic Kingdom was a magical escape room. Set design, props, locking mechanisms, and many of the puzzle concepts all worked magically, and came together to create a really fun world to play in. Because of the magical world, the lack of clue structure was especially pronounced, forcing us to rely in part on our knowledge of escape room game mechanics to solve Magic Kingdom.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you enjoy solving how a room works, try your wand at the fun and playful world of Magic Kingdom.

In-game: a well in an enchanted forest.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Magician wannabes
  • Families
  • Best for players with least some experience

Why play?

  • To perform magic with wands
  • The opening scene

Story

In the Magic Kingdom, the magic tree was dying. We needed to cast a spell in the magic well to bring magic back to the Magic Kingdom.

In-game: the roof a well beneath a large tree and the night sky.

Setting

In their Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms set the magic tree and magic well under a starry night sky in beautiful, glowing light. Beyond the garden sat a quaint windmill with a few rooms of magical props.

In-game: closeup of a mouse in a tiny house.

Gameplay

Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a stairwell and a series of locked boxes.

Analysis

+ In Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms locked all props magically. Given the magical premise of the gamespace, the absence of combination locks worked really well.

+ Some of the scenery, set pieces, and props were beautiful and captivating.

– Some of the clue structure was really worn, almost to point of incomprehensibility. Other cluing had been fixed shoddily, defacing an otherwise beautiful set piece.

+ The magic wands were phenomenal. They were beautiful, tangible props. We had to puzzle out how to work them. Their interactions charged us up.

In-game: a view of the exterior of a home adjacent to a windmill.

+/- Maze Rooms built puzzles into magical concepts. We found one such concept brilliant after we had solved it, but at the time we attempted it, the clues were weak.

– Some of Magic Kingdom’s puzzles needed additional feedback. We couldn’t always tell what we were triggering or whether something had been solved. This was especially pronounced because the world was magical so anything could trigger… well, anything.

In-game: a strange device in a stone walled room.

+/- Maze Rooms added a surprising moment of physical activity (optional for all but one player) and justified it in the gamespace. It was a fun concept. In order to make sure it would be safe, however, the gamemaster had to intervene with instructions. If Maze Rooms could build in-game cluing that facilitates a safe interaction, it would be a clean sweep.

+ The hint system was adorable and fun.

+ Maze Rooms created a lot of magic through a clever scenery-changing mechanic. It facilitated puzzles and enhanced solves.

+ The final combination of set piece and props delivered a fantastic, magical conclusion for the entire group.

Tips for Visiting

  • Maze Rooms is in a small strip mall with a parking lot.
  • At least one person must be comfortable with physical activity.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

PanIQ Room – The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash [Review]

Pour me a shot of puzzles.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: September 17, 2018

Team size: 2-7 ; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $22 per ticket to $24 per ticket depending on team size and day of the week

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash set us as wily criminals of the Wild West in a standard search-and-puzzle escape room. While the puzzle flow occasionally stalled, it offered satisfying moments that combined searching with interactive puzzle solves.

If you’re looking for a traditional, beginner-friendly escape room with a solid set in Manhattan, try your hand at this jailbreak-heist.

In-game: wanted posters viewed through a keyhole.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun premise and theme
  • Surprising discoveries

Story

A large sum of cash sat in the saloon awaiting the winner of a high stakes poker game. Instead of trying our hands at cards, however, we were taking a backdoor approach: we’d gotten ourselves arrested. Now we were locked in a cell in the sheriff’s office, next door to the saloon. We needed to break out and get to the cash before the sheriff returned or the poker game began.

In-game: jail cell bars.

Setting

We were locked in a small, barred, and dimly lit cell in the corner of the sheriff’s office. His office had a few pieces of furniture and a wall of wanted posters.

In-game: a wall of wanted posters.

Gameplay

PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the sheriff's office with a desk, his jacket, and a gun rack with two rifles on it.

Analysis

+ The staging of The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash as a jailbreak heist was an amusing premise that, odd as it seemed, justified the gameplay.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was well themed from floor to ceiling. Although the opening set was sparsely decorated, the second act included more detailing. The set design was solid… not amazing, but strong.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash had a few substantial red herrings including one that we suspect will pull in most players and one that will likely only distract experienced escape room players.

? One early puzzle created a bottleneck that could last quite some time and quickly become quite frustrating, especially for a larger team. We didn’t struggle with it at all. In fact, it was David’s favorite part… but that’s probably because he nailed it on his first try.

– One interaction made it all too easy to accidentally inhale particles… I can tell you first hand that this was uncomfortable. Depending upon the player’s lungs, this could be a hazard. This entire interaction should be reworked; it wouldn’t be a big challenge.

Particle Spoiler

The particles were sawdust.

Sawdust is a carcinogen in large doses, which isn’t the concern for this puzzle.

My concern is for people who are allergic to it or suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses. The amount that I inhaled gave me discomfort for a few days.

[collapse]

+ PanIQ Room lit up their mid- and late-game opens. This touch added excitement to small reveals and made the clues easier to read.

– We encountered some wear on various set pieces and props.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash included multiple rewarding mechanical search puzzles. We enjoyed these moments.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash lacked a finale. Because the final sequence didn’t engage or excite the entire group, it didn’t build energy towards a reveal or memorable moment.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is street parking in this neighborhood.
  • If you’re coming by subway, take the B/D to Grand St, the F to Delancey, or the J/Z to Bowery.
  • We recommend Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a quick meal or Lena for wine and tapas.

Book your hour with PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PanIQ Room comped our tickets for this game.

60 Out – Cartel: DEA Undercover [Review]

I am the danger.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from starting at $40 per ticket for 2 players, to starting at $26.66 per ticket for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Cartel: DEA Undercover was at its best when it asked us to MacGyver our way through unfortunate circumstances, using situational clues. Although it sometimes felt hokey, 60 Out built tension through immersive design and delivered an exciting adventure.

If you play escape rooms for the adventure and you enjoy circumstantial puzzling, visit Cartel: DEA Undercover. Know that the scenario has some adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture.

In-game: a white van that protrudes from a steel wall.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Breaking Bad fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sense of adventure
  • Badass moments

Story

We were undercover agents who had built a partnership with the Juarez Cartel. The Cartel took a liking to the product that we were supplying them, and wanted to meet. Things went… poorly.

Our backup was too far away to help us. We had to escape.

In-game: A blood-soaked sheet beside a steel wall with blood and a water spigot.

Setting

Our first impression of Cartel: DEA Undercover was a van that was protruding through a wall in 60 Out’s lobby.

We found ourselves in a large and visually impactful outpost of the Cartel. This was one of those games where the reveals really mattered, so spoiling them would do a disservice to the player.

What you need to know is that it looked great… and in case you can’t tell based on the photos that we took, the subject matter of this game won’t be for everyone.

In-game: coke on a balance.

Gameplay

60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, reaction time, and “hacking” our way through the problems we encountered. Most of the challenges were presented as real-life problems in need of a fix, rather than puzzles in need of a solution.

In-game: a steel door with a series of valves.

Analysis

Cartel: DEA Undercover surprised us early.

+ The adventure-style gameplay required us to make connections as we would in a real-life danger scenario. In these instances, gameplay was at its best.

– The more standard escape room puzzle gameplay was weaker. In one instance we experienced misleading cluing.

– One finicky piece of tech wasted a lot of our time even though we understood the goals of the interaction.

+ One late-game interaction built tension and upped the immersion of the experience as it added a feeling of desperation.

– Cartel: DEA Undercover needed a longer late-game audio track. Each time we heard it loop, it diminished the intensity built by the other interactions in the space. The mood flipped from tense to hokey… and the more we thought about what we were hearing, the worse the stereotype caricature sounded.

Cartel: DEA Undercover concluded with us as the heroes in a remarkably cinematic shot.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a small parking lot.
  • Cartel: DEA Undercover involved adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture. If you can handle a modern cable TV crime drama, then you’ll be fine with this game.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

QUEST ROOM – Red Giant [Review]

It’s a ruby, not a distant star.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 23, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $119 for teams of 2 to $219 for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Red Giant was an exciting puzzle-driven adventure through a detailed Egyptian tomb set. It’s an escape room with a majestic look, filled with exciting reveals and wow moments. QUEST ROOM could transform this into a world-class escape room by refining their tech to make sure each moment hits with the power that it deserves. This was an entertaining puzzle adventure.

If you’re in Los Angeles, we strongly recommend a visit to Red Giant.

In-game: a large torch-lit stature of Anubis with glowing green eyes.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting interactions
  • Fun puzzles

Story

We’d always wanted to find The Red Giant, a valuable ruby hidden deep within an ancient tomb. We believed our team of archaeologists could succeed where previous teams had failed, never to return from the depths of the tomb. With limited oxygen, we had only 60 minutes to retrieve this gem.

In-game: the torch-lit walls of an Egyptian tomb with carvings and hieroglyphics.

Setting

A dim tunnel leading to the tomb’s entrance gave way to a majestic Pharaoh’s burial chamber with high ceilings and Egyptian wall art.

In-game: a small sphinx.

Gameplay

QUEST ROOM’s Red Giant was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a wall of sandstone hieroglyphics tiles.

Analysis

+ The Egyptian tomb set looked great. The high ceilings gave it a majestic feel. It was an exciting space to explore.

+ The opening interaction started Red Giant with a bang.

+ We enjoyed the puzzles in the later sections of Red Giant. QUEST ROOM integrated these well with the set pieces in the tomb. They were tangible, interesting solves.

– One substantial early puzzle felt like filler.

– The tech-driven interactions needed additional in-game feedback. Without this feedback, our gamemaster was continually coming through the walky-talky to tell us we had released something. It would have been far cooler if this was self-evident.

+/- Red Giant had an unorthodox late-game interaction. This was a fun concept and could have been a truly wow moment. However, this was not clued forcefully enough. With more clear in-game cluing… and maybe some infrastructure to facilitate the moment, this interaction would be more powerful and exciting.

+ Our gamemaster’s introduction set the tone for an exciting, high-stakes exploration. This, combined with the exploration gear, upped our energy level before we even entered the gamespace.

Red Giant was at its best during its impressive tech-driven events. There were some incredible moments in this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • QUEST ROOM has two locations. Red Giant is at the 5517 Santa Monica Blvd location.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player needs to be pretty tall.

Book your hour with QUEST ROOM’s Red Giant, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: QUEST ROOM provided media discounted tickets for this game.

The Crux Escape Rooms – The Clinic [Review]

The puzzle clinic.

Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario

Date Played: September 2, 2018

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

Duration: 50 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

With The Clinic, The Crux Escape Rooms has delivered another amusing, puzzle-focused escape room. The Clinic put their own spin on “medical lab” and it was a light-hearted take that invigorated the theme.

The Crux Escape Rooms built The Clinic on a low budget, but it didn’t show. They stayed true to their aesthetic vision, hiding the puzzles, refining the flow, and writing in little winks and nods to their other games (and escape rooms in general). Although the conclusion could have been more dramatic, The Clinic was an impressively entertaining puzzle-centric escape room.

If you only have time for one escape room at The Crux Escape Rooms, we have a deep love of Dead Air. That said, if you’re in the area, we highly recommend making time to play their full complement of games, especially the Clinic. It’s fantastic.

The "Herring Clinic" logo, it's a red pill with an "H" on it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Escape room players*

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • Amusing tidbits

Story

We had volunteered as test subjects at The Clinic. We needed to solve our way out of this experiment.

In-game: The door for the Herring Clinc's office of Katrina Herring.

Setting

This medical waiting room had a large receptionist’s desk on one side and a semicircle of waiting room chairs on the other. There were plants, wall hangings, and pharmaceutical advertisements.

It was a convincing clinical environment. As the game progressed, we experienced other equally convincing medical environments.

In-game: the clinic's waiting room. It looks like a convincing medical waiting room.

Gameplay

The Crux Escape Rooms’ The Clinic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

*While the gameplay would be approachable and entertaining for players of any experience level, players with experience in escape rooms will appreciate additional nuance in The Clinic.

In-game: A poster that reads, "4 out of 5 doctors recommend you exercise your brain daily."

Analysis

+ Behind The Clinic’s bland facade, it was incredibly amusing. When we looked closely, we found lots of puns and jokes. The background music also set a playful tone. These details enlivened an otherwise easily stale theme.

+ The Crux Escape Rooms locked a lot of drawers in this escape room with standard combination locks. They did this, however, without defacing their aesthetic with an abundance of locks. It was a small detail that added a lot to the look and feel of the space.

+ The opening act flowed really well. The puzzles worked so well with the gamespace.

– The momentum waned in the second act. With different puzzle paths crossing in a small space, the flow wasn’t as clean.

– The conclusion needed more drama.

+ We had to earn our solves in The Clinic. The puzzles were generally challenging, layered, and interesting.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • The Crux Escape Rooms is also a board game cafe.

Book your hour with The Crux Escape Rooms’ The Clinic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Crux Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escapades LA – It’s a Doggy Dog World [Review]

Who’s a good room? Who’s a good room?

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

It’s a Doggy Dog World was a playful, whimsical, entertaining escape room that didn’t take itself too seriously. At its best, the set design zeroed in on a dog’s perspective and the puzzles asked us to think like dogs. While the build quality varied and sometimes lacked polish, Escapades LA created an adorably entertaining world that was a joy to dig around in.

If you’re in Los Angeles and looking for a game to play with your family… or you still have an inner child, consider this a strong recommendation for It’s a Doggy Dog World. 

In-game: an oversized doghouse.

Who is this for?

  • All ages
  • Dogs at heart
  • Active adventurers
  • Playful puzzlers
  • Scenery sniffers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t take themselves too seriously

Why play?

  • The amazing playful concept
  • Wonderful dog-inspired moments
  • A brilliant ending

Story

The mailman, our arch nemesis, had stolen our favorite ball. With our humans away, nothing could stop us from retrieving it.

In-game: a dog's view of a wood fence.

Setting

We were dogs escaping our home and yard. Everything was staged from a dog’s perspective, putting emphasis on the kinds of things a dog would fixate on.

The set itself had a homemade feel. Some parts looked unfinished; others looked dead-on.

Gameplay

Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World was a standard escape room with an playful premise and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Escapades LA nailed whimsey in It’s a Doggy Dog World. The game was welcoming and playful. It was easy to get in character and know our role in the world.

It’s a Doggy Dog World was at its best when we were taking dog-like actions for dog reasons.

+ The scale and perspective of the set was smart.

– Some of the game shifted focus away from pure dog play. These moments were fine, but didn’t feel as inspired as when It’s a Doggy Dog World was laser-focused on what it was and who we were in the game.

+/- The set was uneven. Parts of it looked great. Parts looked unfinished. If felt like there were opportunities that weren’t fully realized.

– Some of Escapades LA’s tech was exposed and needed housing.

+ The ending was brilliant.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escapades LA has no relation to Escapade Games in Anaheim (the makers of the horror game, Zoe). These companies really couldn’t be more different if they tried.
  • There is street parking.
  • For food we recommend Republic of Pie.

Book your hour with Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapades LA comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Chronicles – Smugglers Tunnels [Review]

Roguish overtones.

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

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

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

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

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

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Badass moments
  • Interesting puzzles
  • Point-based scoring

Story

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

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

Setting

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

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

Gameplay

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Visiting

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

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

Escape City Buffalo – Body Collectors [Review]

“I choose you…”

Location: Tonawanda, NY

Date Played: September 2, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

This was very SAW-like.

The folks behind Escape City Buffalo ran a haunt before they opened the escape room. Body Collectors drew on their experience building realistically creepy horror experiences to deliver intense, uncomfortable, and unforgettable moments. Although at times the gameplay suffered from an overreliance on searching in low light, Body Collectors successfully combined gameplay with a haunted house in this horror escape room.

If you’re anywhere near Buffalo and you enjoy horror and escape rooms, Body Collectors is a must-play.

In-game: A torture chair behind a cage.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror hounds
  • SAW fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A memorable opening
  • Intense moments
  • Masterful horror set design

Story

Locked up in a murder lair, we needed to prove ourselves worthy of life, or we’d become the next collected bodies.

In-game: Bloodied tools and kitchen knives hanging on a wall.

Setting

This dark, gritty murder lair was unnerving. From the blood and bones to the instruments of torture, the set was unsettling. This was masterful horror set design.

In-game: a bloodied, dismembered arm on a baby scale.

Gameplay

Escape City Buffalo’s Body Collectors was a horror escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and in at least one instance, bravery.

A large portion of the difficulty was derived from a combination of low light and fear.

Analysis

+ Body Collectors opened with a visually impactful, intense scene.

+ The set looked great, in a scary way. It was detailed and weathered, creating a grimy, unnerving gamespace.

– Body Collectors required substantial searching in low light. It became frustrating when the escape room bottlenecked around searching. Intensity and momentum diminished quickly at some key moments.

– One prop was too worn to facilitate a puzzle properly, especially in the dim light.

+ Nearly every critical interaction came with a memorable moment.

+ Escape City Buffalo used space well to taunt us. One prop dangled in front of us the entire game.

+ One little detail added a haunting intensity to a late-game sequence.

+ Fans of the SAW movies will really like some of the homage interactions.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player must be able to crawl.

Book your hour with Escape City Buffalo’s Body Collectors and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape City Buffalo provided media discounted tickets for this game.