Farewell to RISE Escape Rooms & the Fate of their Games

Hijacked

Rise Escape Rooms is closing their three outstanding escape rooms today. These games each impressed us, in different ways.

Spellbound won a 2017 Golden Lock-In Award.

Luckily, the games won’t be moving too far.

Book tickets to Escape Immerse Explore: New Orleans 2019… and you can still play them!

Interview with RISE

We caught up with Mindi Plaisance, owner of RISE Escape Rooms, to talk about these changes.

What brought about RISE’s change in direction?

Mindi: We are family owned and operated. We are hands on with every aspect of both RISE Haunted House and RISE Escape Rooms. Our team quickly became escape room enthusiasts and felt we had the creative talent to bring immersive games to our community.

As successful as our games were, we realized that juggling the escape rooms along our rapidly growing Halloween attraction and extremely involved children was too much on our plate. We didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of our product so we decided that focusing all our attention on one industry would give us the opportunity to provide a great seasonal event.

Bookie

What was your favorite part of owning an escape room?

Mindi:Personally, my favorite part was the creative process. I like the challenge of building unique rooms that are immersive, have a variety of puzzles, and flow well… games that are challenging, but not impossible.  

Will your escape rooms live on?

Mindi: We have local buyers for all three games:

The Bookie will be going to the Clue Carré newest location in New Orleans.

Hijacked and Spellbound will be going to the 13th Gate Escape in Baton Rouge. If I know Dwayne, he will put his own spin on our games, so I am looking forward to see what he’s got in that ever-creative mind of his.

Image via RISE Escape Rooms

What is on the horizon for RISE?

Mindi:We are considering a 4th Dark attraction for Halloween as well as transforming our Hayride attraction into a Christmas show. The details are still in the works, but we are definitely sticking to seasonal. 

We love your style. Will we ever see more escape rooms from you?

Mindi: We still have our 5-minute games that we will run through Halloween. I am sure we will be turning those over at some point. 

If someone approached our team on a consulting basis and our schedule permitted it, we’d be open to that idea, but we won’t actively be seeking to get into the game design business.

In-game: The gamespace looks exactly like the interior cabin of a commercial airliner.

Interview with Clue Carré & 13th Gate Escape

After getting the news from Mindi, we reached out to Megan Mouton, owner of Clue Carré, and Dwayne Sanburn, owner of 13th Gate Escape, to learn what we can expect from their production of RISE’s games.

When do you expect the RISE games to reopen?

Megan: The Bookie will hopefully be ready by May. We will be opening it at our 3rd location, which will be inside of Surge Trampoline Park.

Dwayne: We aren’t sure exactly how long it will take to move Spellbound and Hijacked, but we are planning on having them open before your tour in July.

What changes are you making?

Megan: We are not changing much in The Bookie. We have plans to improve and tweak some puzzles, but the overall puzzle structure will be the same.

At this point, we are also planning to make it a 45-minute game, to keep players flowing during their jump time at the trampoline park. We’ll have the option to extend it back to 60 minutes if we feel the 45-minute model isn’t working.

Dwayne: Both games are very solid. We probably will only be making minor changes.

If someone has already played and loved these games at RISE, should they replay them?

Megan: We will not be marketing The Bookie as a game to replay if you have played it at Rise.

Dwayne: It’s doubtful that we will be making enough changes to warrant a replay of either Hijacked or Spellbound.

Visit Spellbound, Hijacked, and The Bookie this July

We will miss RISE Escape Rooms. Their work is phenomenal and we’ll be sad not to stop in Tickfaw on this summer’s tour.

We highly encourage seasonal travelers to check out the other attractions at RISE.

We are, however, incredibly excited the games will be nearby and that we’ll get to see them again this summer at Clue Carré and 13th Gate Escape.

13th Gate Escape – Cutthroat Cavern [Review]

“Goonies never say die!”

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date Played: June 23, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern brought to life the joyous Goonies fantasy that I’ve harbored since childhood. It was filled with massive interactions in an epic set with every detail and surface lovingly handcrafted.

Since opening a few months ago, we’ve received a steady stream of messages along the lines of, “Cutthroat Cavern is my new favorite escape room!” It only takes a few minutes of playing it to see why… and then a few more minutes to really understand.

I will never forget the world of Cutthroat Cavern; there’s a part of me that will always long to return. It is worth traveling to visit this escape room.

In-game: a large stone wall with a massive skull carved into it. The skull's eyes glow with fire.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

Cutthroat Cavern was an incredible adventure-driven game from the set, to the events, to the effects, to the overwhelming scale. If you’re physically capable of playing it, you should.

Story

While hiking, we had come across caves known as the Cutthroat Caverns. Our guide explained that they had been used to perform human sacrifices by the Mayans. Furthermore, legend told of a pirate who had used the caves as his secret hideout.

We had asked about descending down into the caves and the guide had refused to go, but had told us how to get there… with a warning: “Around dusk the high tide would flood the caves… and if we were still inside, we wouldn’t survive.” We had ignored the warnings and had hiked towards the caves. Then the ground had given way beneath our feet and we had tumbled into an ancient chamber.

In-game: three skulls resting on a pedestal inside of Mayan ruins.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Setting

Cutthroat Cavern was built as a cave with a series of chambers. We began in a compact and focused area. From there the set expanded dramatically.

I can’t bring myself to explain the space in any level of detail as discovery is the most impactful part of this experience.

Suffice to say, it was grand on a scale that – to the best of my knowledge – is unrivaled in the escape room world. It even topped Tomb of Anubis in the jaw-dropping reveals department.

Finally, while the Cutthroat Cavern may be massive, 13th Gate Escape minded the tiniest of details.

In-game: Wooden ship wheel with a skeletal hand pointing at the top of the wheel.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Gameplay

13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern was an escape room of epic scale with a higher level of difficulty. It played like a traditional room, but I hesitate to call it standard because so much of it was so unusual.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and embracing the adventure. If you don’t stop to smell the roses a bit, you’re doing it wrong.

Analysis

+ Cutthroat Cavern was as gigantic as it was epic. It inspired a sense of adventure. This experience was about as close to living in The Goonies as I suspect I’ll get for some time.

In-game: The carved wooden figurehead of a winged woman on the bow of bow of an old ship.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

+ Considering its size, 13th Gate Escape did a smart job of creating a straightforward and intimate on-ramp. They slowly rolled out access to the environment, preventing the escape room from feeling too overwhelming.

+ The aesthetic formula at play in Cutthroat Cavern is: micro + macro = real. 13th Gate Escape used overwhelming scale along with fine detail to produce a jaw-dropping gamespace.

+ Cutthroat Cavern had one of the coolest interactions that I’ve ever seen in an escape game. It was the kind of thing that if 99% of escape room companies built it, they would design a full game around the mechanic and continuously loop through it in creative ways (and that would probably make for a cool game). 13th Gate used this for a single puzzle.

+ The puzzles and flow were generally strong. They presented fair challenges that fit comfortably within the environment and story. Most of the puzzles weren’t revolutionary, but they worked fantastically within the fiction… and then there was the one puzzle that was really revolutionary.

– One puzzle was particularly finicky and required strong visual acuity paired with a precise touch. Another puzzle was particularly difficult to find.

+ There was a lot of sand in Cutthroat Cavern. This isn’t a spoiler, as 13th Gate Escape told us upfront that there would come a point where we should remove our shoes. I wasn’t convinced that this would be great… but it was. We ran around barefoot like giddy children.

+ Cutthroat Cavern had fantastic cutscene-like physical events that really highlighted the beauty and grandeur of the set. We stopped gameplay and turned our attention to these sequences. It was worth it.

– It was possible, and occasionally easy, to completely miss some of the crazy interactions in Cutthroat Cavern.

+ Our biggest knock against 13th Gate Escape’s past games was the use of Escape Room Boss to manage the game clock and hinting. While Escape Room Boss was still the system managing those aspects of the game, it was completely invisible to the players. 13th Gate Escape created an innovative approach to remove the burden of Escape Room Boss from the players. I wouldn’t have thought of this solution and my hat is off to them for thinking it up. In its place, they designed a conceptually integrated hint system for Cutthroat Cavern.

– In practice, the hint system was far too difficult to understand. Whenever our team received a hint, each player had their own interpretation of what they’d heard — not what the hint meant, but the words that had been spoken. We respect in-game realism, but recommend scaling back just a bit to improve usability and dramatically reduce player frustration.

+ Win or lose, Cutthroat Cavern delivered a proper conclusion to the story (although it sounded like the loss conclusion was more badass.)

– Many of us didn’t realize that we had won the game. We had to confirm that the game clock had stopped before we could fully devote our attention to the finale.

+ This was the most visually-arresting, over-the-top adventure escape room that I’ve seen to date.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: 13th Gate Escape has ample parking in a lot across the street.
  • Food: Head to downtown Baton Rouge (close by) for a great meal.
  • Accessibility: To fully enjoy this game, you need to have mobility on sand. This escape room also requires at least one player who is good on their feet and moderately fit.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

13th Gate Escape – Death Row [Review]

Ride the lightning.

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We were scheduled for a seat in the electric chair in one hour. Due to overcrowding in the prison, the warden moved us to the old and previously abandoned Cell Block E. Some say that it was shutdown for safety reasons; others because there was an unexplainable escape. We were hoping for the latter because we had to find a way to break out.

In-game: An incredibly realistic of an old, rundown prison cellblock hallway.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

Death Row nailed the concrete and steel prison aesthetic in another of 13th Gate’s hyper detailed sets. Death Row looked like someone had turned the set of The Green Mile into an escape room. It felt real.

Puzzles

Death Row combined keen observation with mechanical interactions. We needed to parse out which components of our unadorned gamespace would enable us to work the various machinery we encountered.

Death Row included one difficult strength and dexterity challenge… and it was luck of the draw who’d needed to execute on it.

Standouts

We’ve seen a lot of prisons, but 13th’s Gate’s Death Row overshadowed the others. Its high ceilings and deliberately barren walls rendered the cells dramatically unwelcoming. In its depths, we found heavy metal bars and pipes, which completed the aesthetic.

We used the few tools we had to craft an escape with the objects we found. This felt thematically appropriate. One late-game use of a standard item really drew us in.

The final action was fantastic. 13th Gate combined lighting, sound, and other effects to deliver a dramatic and exciting prison ending, unlike any other we’ve played to date. It was a little unsettling, as it should have been.

Shortcomings

Death Row started with each of us in a different cell. There was only so much we could accomplish before freeing ourselves from the cells. Unfortunately, due to the physical layout of the space, the gameplay came to a halt as we all waited for the player with the appropriate vantage point to complete a challenging action. Our inability to help each other, or do much of anything, was frustrating.

Death Row leaned a bit too heavily on journal reading. The gamespace was exciting and engaging and we would have liked to uncover more from the space itself and less from the written word. The most engaging puzzles were those that were fully integrated into the set.

In one instance the cluing in Death Row led us astray, down a frustrating and time consuming path.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s Death Row?

Death Row looked and felt like a prison. Creating hyper-realistic environments in large scale is 13th Gate Escape’s bread and butter. They make it look easy… like they hadn’t so much built the set as found it.

I’ve said many times that prison escape games are not my favorite because they generally look and play the same. Death Row was very much a prison escape game, with a lot of the tropes that come with it, but it also had a look that was undeniably cool, and an ending that was anything but common.

The puzzling in Death Row was a little bumpy, but it all came together.

Regardless of your level of escape room experience, Death Row is playable. Some parts pack a lot of challenge. Just approach it calmly, observe what’s at your disposal, and an answer will present itself.

If you’re into the prison escape game concept, you won’t find many that can rival the stunning visuals and feeling of Death Row.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s Death Row, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

13th Gate Escape – Agent 13 [Review]

Sharks and freaking laser beams.

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We entered the recently discovered bunker of a former Nazi inventor who had infiltrated the United States after World War II. The inventor was a known pioneer in rocketry as well as atomic weaponry, but it is also believed that he was an early and secret pioneer in artificial intelligence. A previous agent had been sent to learn the secrets of this bunker, but he had disappeared. It was up to us to see if we could learn the true nature of this facility and learn the fate of the missing agent.

As with the story, Agent 13’s set was eclectic and detailed. Walking a few feet through a doorway could take us to a completely different world from the one that we had occupied mere moments before. The build quality and attention to detail were beyond incredible… which is true of every room offered by 13th Gate Escape.

In-game: A sci-fi science lab with tubes filled with glowing green material, and a large metal and glass chamber with lighting running through it.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

In the service of furthering the adventure, 13th Gate Escape filled Agent 13 was many massive set pieces and interactions that did not serve a purpose other than to be really freaking cool. Almost any other escape room company wouldn’t have even thought to add this level of detail.

Puzzles

The beating heart of Agent 13 was technology.

Agent 13 required many different skills including observation, correlation, logic, deduction, communication, and even agility. In general, we engaged the expansive and detailed set to work toward solutions, which we entered in the form of buttons, switches, or the like.

The puzzling in Agent 13 was a team effort.

Standouts

Agent 13 had multiple sets, each more exciting than the last. These were detailed and beautiful. 13th Gate Escape designed intricate and incredible set pieces that were… just set pieces to instill drama. These enhanced the look and feel of each gamespace and made Agent 13 into an emotional rollercoaster of an escape room.

While some of the elaborate set pieces were there simply to add drama, others were deeply involved in the puzzling.

The transitions were incredible. They were surprising and included fantastic effects.

One physically intense stretch of game was designed such that we had to work together to advance. Accomplishing this challenge required at least 4 people.

Shortcomings

Agent 13’s narrative was disjointed. It more or less time-hopped and felt like World War II-meets-Portal. While all of the individual interactions looked cool, we never fully bought into this futuristic 70-year-old-bunker-meets-lab.

A few puzzles lacked adequate clue structure. In one instance, we recommend the tech either accept variant solutions, or the clues be more specific.

13th Gate Escape could tweak the tech slightly to make it more reliable. For example, eliminate the use of a live internet connection to feed critical information that could be hosted locally.

Agent 13 bottlenecked in the climactic moments of the escape room. We ended up largely bypassing the intended communication puzzle, as it overstayed its welcome and was bogged down by lengthy documents, some relevant and others red herrings.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate Escape’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s Agent 13?

Agent 13 was impressive. The set was enormous and detailed, with each segment so different from the others. The tech and effects were incredible.

As the sets changed, so too did the puzzle types, which was exciting. The variation, however, contributed to a disparity in fun versus frustration. A few of the puzzles didn’t quite tip the scale in the fun direction.

Agent 13 contains challenging puzzles that rely on communication and teamwork. We expect that Agent 13 would be exceedingly difficult for newer players and is probably best enjoyed by more seasoned players.

As you play though Agent 13, you’ll traverse what feels like the past, the present, and even the future. And that is worth seeing.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s Agent 13, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

 

13th Gate Escape – Tomb of Anubis [Review]

Anubis: God of the afterlife and dramatic reveals.

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

While following a boring guide through the Pyramids of Giza, we decided that it would be more fun to explore on our own… until we triggered a trap and discovered the corpse of another would-be explorer. There was no going back, only through. Could we find our way out of the Tomb of Anubis?

In-game: A narrow corridor in an Egyptian tomb with a circular series of wheels with symbols on the far wall.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

Tomb of Anubis was huge. The scale of this escape room was dumbfounding, as was the level of detail. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call the set of Tomb of Anubis a work of art. From sand to sandstone, to carvings and statues, no detail was too small to ignore.

Puzzles

To solve the puzzles, we manipulated the gorgeous and expansive set pieces inside Tomb of Anubis.

To understand the puzzles, we pored over a small journal of diagrams and prose that contained the clue-structure. 13th Gate Escape divorced cluing from the environment.

In-game: A series of colored bottles on a ledge within an Egyptian tomb.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

While there was a lot of adventure, there were some strikingly challenging puzzles in Tomb of Anubis.

Standouts

When Tomb of Anubis revealed its inner depths, we were shocked. We’d never seen a space transform on such a scale. It was the most dramatic and exciting reveal we’d experienced in an escape room to date.

We were Indiana Jones exploring this tomb. The set reacted to us. On multiple occasions, the tomb revealed surprises. It was intense. It was badass.

Tomb of Anubis was a challenging puzzle game. There were a lot of complex puzzles to work through in the space. They involved beautiful props and the set itself.

We enjoyed one transition space that was a physically interactive puzzle, an elegant link to a previous solve, and a dramatic set interaction all rolled up into one. It was incredible to traverse.

Shortcomings

Inside the Tomb of Anubis, we found a journal that functioned as a run book for the puzzles. It lead us through the different tasks inside the tomb, one by one. We focused on this one prop – and struggled against an unclear font and little diagrams – rather than on the much more impressive space around us. We would have loved to have been able to spend this escape room 100% engaged with the amazing gamespace.

Because much of the clue structure was in the journal, the puzzles were less interconnected and the experience less fluid.

Our gamemaster warned us not to place items on a very inviting surface, so as to not compromise gameplay, but this intervention put a damper on a late-game reveal. If 13th Gate Escape made a small adjustment to the set piece, they’d enhance the drama of that one moment by removing the need for gamemaster intervention. It would be worth it.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s Tomb of Anubis?

Tomb of Anubis had one of the most impressive escape room sets that we’ve ever seen. It was enormous, detailed, and interactive. When it changed, oh wow, did it change. It was breathtaking.

I only wish that I hadn’t spent so much of my time in Tomb of Anubis with my head in a little journal.

If you like escape rooms that transport you to incredible places you can’t see in real life, look no further than Tomb of Anubis.

Know too that Tomb of Anubis is no slouch of a puzzle game. Bring a larger team. Cooperate. Share the journals and the set piece interaction. You’ll have to puzzle hard to see this one all the way through.

The Egyptians did the afterlife right.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s Tomb of Anubis, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.