59:59 Room Escape NYC – Escape from the Hound of the Baskervilles [Review]

“Elementary.”

–  Sherlock Holmes, The Crooked Man

Location: New York, NY

Date played: July 21, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes (+/- 1 second)

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

In Hound of the Baskervilles, we assumed the role of a collective Watson to solve one of Sherlock’s famous cases.

We entered a large, sparsely furnished room. It was appropriately themed and didn’t look bad, but it also wasn’t particularly interesting.

A greco-roman bust sits upon a wooden desk, a wall of books rests behind it.
This photo is a bit more dramatic than the room really is.

Puzzles

Hound of the Baskervilles was a collection of puzzles. These ranged in difficulty and required different skill sets. However, the puzzles were primarily paper-based, meaning we engaged with them without engaging with the physical space.

While discovering the puzzle components, we also uncovered written hints / instructions as to how to approach them. This cluing technique added to the paper-puzzle structure.

Standouts

We enjoyed the majority of the puzzles.

Our gamemaster was friendly and alert. He had a good read on our team dynamic and engaged with us appropriately.

Shortcomings

This game fell flat because it was presented as a room escape. In this genre of entertainment, games derive intrigue when physical space and puzzles intertwine to create an enhanced, immersive experience. The game lacked half the equation.

Hound of the Baskervilles didn’t rely on its physical space – which was expansive considering its location in the premium real estate market of Midtown Manhattan. These puzzles could have been printed and solved at home around our dining room table.

Given the setup as detectives, we expected to uncover a story and solve a mystery. However, the puzzles only hinted the theme of the famous Sherlock Holmes case, rather than help us unravel the case around us. This nod to theme had the unfortunate side effect of making many of the combination locks readily hackable, at least to our experienced team.

Should I play 59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Escape from the Hound of the Baskervilles?

Hound of the Baskervilles was a collection of paper-based puzzles with a nod to a theme. On the strength of the puzzles, it was still entertaining. In fact, it could probably be recreated without a room to escape and not lose anything. It might even be better because it wouldn’t let down our expectations for “room escape.”

This game didn’t capture the feel of Sherlock Holmes, or the drama of this case.

Full disclosure: 59:59 Room Escape NYC comped our tickets for this game.

59:59 Room Escape NYC – Escape of the Three Little Pigs [Review]

HUFF! PUFF!

Location: New York, NY

Date played: July 21, 2016

Team size: 2 to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes (+/- 1 second)

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

The Three Little Pigs was a rescue mission escape room set in a cute, playful, storybook scene.

The story was a backdrop for the mission; it didn’t make a ton of sense… I’m still not sure if we were people, pigs, wolves, or some other woodland critter. Regardless, the story wasn’t important in the grand scheme of the game.

Promo image for the game. A chess board with three black pieces substituted with pigs, and the white king depicted as a wolf.

Puzzles

While the game space was playful and kid-friendly, the puzzles were adult-challenging.

More than once, they relied on seemingly random pop culture references (we were encouraged to use our phones as needed).

Additionally, there was a critical prop that caused regular bottlenecks in our game.

Standouts

The room escape environment was a bit abstract, and adorable.

The “rescue mission” set up added a bit of fun. This was thoughtfully designed so as not to leave any team members unable to participate in the game for any period of time.

Shortcomings

There was pretense of story, especially with the rescue mission component. However, the game didn’t use the puzzles or the fun, quirky setting to develop narrative. Instead, we solved puzzles – sometimes on theme and sometimes not – while inhabiting a gamespace that felt like a playroom. In the end, it all felt a bit disjointed.

Additionally, we were continuously checking solutions in a number of different input locations. Because the room was more a collection of puzzles than it was a journey though a narrative, there wasn’t anything about any particular puzzle that would clue in to what we’d need next.

The Three Little Pigs looked like a room for kids, but played like a room for adults. The dissonance was jarring.

Should I play 59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Escape of the Three Little Pigs?

Escape of the Three Little Pigs set up a fun environment. This was an adorable staging for this theme, but it offered a game that wasn’t really for kids.

The story, if there was one, was an identity crisis. Three Little Pigs was a game without an audience.

There were some good puzzles worked into the game, but they didn’t work together. Once we derived a solution, we had to input it in multiple locks because most combinations fit in most locks.

The folks from 59:59 are kind and thoughtful, but they are being left behind by the New York market. They should take a tour of the games in the area, and then determine where they want to excel and how they are going to bring something exciting to the table.

We wanted to love their game, but ultimately, Three Little Pigs was a fairy tale without any magic.

Full disclosure: 59:59 Room Escape NYC comped our tickets for this game.

59:59 Room Escape NYC – Chamber of Dreams [Review]

“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.”

-Edgar Allen Poe

Location: New York, New York

Date played: October 11, 2015

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Price: $28 per ticket

Theme & story

Riffing on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, the Chamber of Dreams leaned heavily on language and visuals as we worked our way through a room divided into past, present, and future sections.

The story was abstract. It was easy to tell that there was a story; it was considerably more difficult to understand that story and why it mattered.

Give the poster a second or third look. It's clever.
Give the poster a second or third look. It’s clever.

Past

In an effort to make their games fully secular, 59:59 Room Escape NYC recently redesigned their Escape From the Christmas Ghost game based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol into an Edgar Allen Poe themed game.

While I don’t know much more about the old version of this game, I do know that they maintained the past, present, and future layouts.

59:59 Chamber of Dreams

Present

We recently played a game based on Ernest Hemingway that was basically devoid of word or language puzzles and heavy on math. It was a game about a literary icon that forgot that it was about a writer. Chamber of Dreams did not fall into this trap. It was heavy on word puzzles, which made a lot of sense.

Poe basically created the mystery genre, but there wasn’t much mystery… Nor did the game elicit the macabre that Poe is so famous for.

59:59 Room Escape NYC also used locks in a very clever way that we hadn’t seen before… The downside here was that there were a ton of locks.

Chamber of Dreams occasionally suffered from confounding design as there were a few puzzles that were very out of place, and one puzzle that spilled out between the past and present in a particularly confusing manner.

Ultimately, Chamber of Dreams felt like a work in progress, not a finished product.

Future – Should I play 59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Chamber of Dreams?

59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Kickstarter (of which we were backers) put a heavy emphasis on the beauty of their rooms. 59:59 clearly made an attempt to live up to this promise, but fell far short of the bar set by many of the escape games in New York City.

The three rooms that 59:59 offers are the first games they have produced. Chamber of Dreams isn’t a bad room for a first attempt, but there is a lot of opportunity for growth in storytelling, puzzle design, and overall quality of execution.

That being said, we still had fun and escaped having solved a number of puzzles we hadn’t encountered.

Book your hour with 59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Chamber of Dreams, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

59:59 Room Escape NYC Chamber of Dreams - Victory