Adventure Rooms New Jersey – The Hidden Cabin [Review]

Fish’in for Fabergé.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date Played: June 4, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

A fishing and art collecting themed mashup, The Hidden Cabin was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room set against an unusual backdrop. Adventure Rooms made some big strides towards the current market expectations, but things didn’t come together quite smoothly enough (but a lot of it is fixable). While we wished the puzzles had been more deliberately integrated into the physical environment, we really did enjoy many of the puzzle solves.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can catch some fun puzzles here. If you’re not excited about puzzle-focused gameplay, there are other fish in the sea.

In-game: A small desk in a fishing cabin.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Fishermen (This isn’t really a joke.)
  • Art collectors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strange theme
  • The more interactive puzzles

Story

We were looking for a stolen Fabergé egg in our uncle’s fishing cabin.

A collection of pots hanging from a cabinet in the a rustic cabin.

Setting

This dimly-lit, wood-furnished cabin contained assorted fishing paraphernalia. The set was busy, with a number of wall hangings, and shelves holding various odd and ends. It was fairly convincing in a fishing cabin-meets-Bennigan’s sort of way.

In-game: A cabinet ore, and taxidermied fish hanging on the wall of a fishing cabin.

Gameplay

Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the LL Bean Fly Fishing Handbook.

Analysis

+ It had been almost 3 years since we’d last visited Adventure Rooms New Jersey. We were delighted to find more attention to set design in The Hidden Cabin, as compared to their original escape rooms.

– The lighting was unnecessarily dim. While we did find small handheld flashlights, we found the lighting more burdensome than atmospheric.

– The theming was strangely dichotomous. The story setup was all about art, but The Hidden Cabin was all about fishing… until it was entirely about art. The puzzles were set against this disconnected backdrop rather than integrated into a cohesive story.

+ Aesthetically, The Hidden Cabin was a massive step up for Adventure Rooms.

– There were a lot of locks with identical digit structures. Each time we solved a puzzle, we’d need to try it in many different locks before anything opened. Varying input digit structure or adding iconography to the locks would improve game flow.

– There was a prop screaming for a puzzle… that puzzle never materialized.

– There was one entirely unclued puzzle.

– Most of the puzzles could haven taken place anywhere, including on sheets of paper. In fact, some of the more time-consuming solves were entirely focused on sheets of paper. The puzzle design didn’t capitalize on the physical environment. All but one of the puzzles in this game could have existed completely in a puzzle book.

– One of the process puzzles looped four times. This was tedious.

? Thematic outside knowledge could help you out… It wasn’t required, but it sure would have made a key puzzle flow more smoothly.

The Hidden Cabin was a puzzle-focused escape room. Despite the small space, there was a lot of content to work through.

? There’s a solid escape room here. These critiques are quite fixable. We hope Adventure Rooms continues to iterate and improve.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Ani Ramen and Cuban Pete’s, but be prepared for long waits.
  • Much of this escape room takes place in low lighting with flashlights.

Book your hour with Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Adventure Rooms New Jersey provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Adventure Rooms New Jersey – The Remedy [Review]

Location: Montclair, New Jersey

Date played: August 27, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-6

Price: $30 per ticket

Theme & story

You’ve been poisoned by a mad scientist and you have one hour to find The Remedy.

This game was in the style of Adventure Room’s The Swiss Original, but with a few enhancements. Most notably, it added a loose, but cohesive story.

In The Swiss Original, Adventure Rooms established a science-y/ medical style – in part because of its setting in a former doctor’s office and in part because of its science experiment-type puzzles. The theming of the Remedy built on that model.

The puzzles didn’t integrate a more profound story, but they were generally on theme.

Adventure Rooms Logo

Construction quality

The elements of this game were sturdy, and the more delicate elements were well protected.

When Adventure Rooms incorporated flashlights and black lights, the lights were strong and puzzles using them were unambiguous. This is a big deal in an industry that leans heavily on these elements in a weak way.

However, the box containing the Remedy itself has sharp edges that may be dangerous. We recommend a Surgu fix. Sharp edges on a critical latch are no good and a terrible final memory.

Cameras

The staff watched us through cameras that were built into the furniture and are not easily recognized as cameras. We wasted time trying to “solve” a room oddity that was actually a cavity holding a camera. This was not the first time we’ve had this problem at Adventure Rooms New Jersey; we only realized that these were the cameras this time around.

Adventure Rooms clearly informed us what was off limits with red tape; they should mark these cameras as well.

Cool toys

The Remedy included a variety of puzzles that speak to different intellectual strengths and they were generally more tactile than in most escape games.

Similar to the Swiss Original, it includes some unusual equipment that isn’t common in room escapes… or everyday life for that matter. These are unique game elements. They are simply really fun.

wonderful toys

Should I play Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Remedy?

The Remedy is a solid, quality room. It won’t wow a seasoned player, but it doesn’t have to; it’s really fun. Every player on our team enjoyed playing from the time we stepped into the room through finding the Remedy.

Adventure Rooms has a distinct style that is generally tactile and engaging. They skew loose on theme, and heavy on locks. We’ve come to accept this from the franchise. They make fun games that won’t blow your mind, critiquing them further here feels like getting angry at the Sun for disappearing every night. Adventure Rooms does what Adventure Rooms does.

We recommend these rooms over their third game, Penrose Dream, which strays more from the company’s strengths.

The Remedy is Adventure Rooms’ strongest offering yet.

Book your hour at Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Remedy and tell them the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Adventure Rooms Canada, Niagara Falls – The Missing Finger [Review]

Some pleasant surprises and lots of misdirection (some of it is misdirected).

Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario

Date played: May 16, 2015

Team size: 2-24; we recommend 5-8

Price: it’s complicated

Plot

Adventure Rooms Canada games’, as with all Adventure Rooms that we’ve encountered, don’t have plots. By virtue of the way it begins, and a couple of the puzzles, there is the faintest sense that you’ve been trapped in a room by a serial killer who likes to travel.

Adventure Rooms Canada Logo

Bound to start

You begin this game handcuffed to the wall; it’s not scary.

The beginning of the game is a ton of fun, and a high point in The Missing Finger. In a weird way, being handcuffed creates an easier start by limiting options; you can only solve the puzzles that are within reach. It also forces communication in a way other starts do not.

Clever & unexpected

There are a number of clever and unexpected moments in this game. The second half of the game has so many great moments that caught us off guard because we thought we knew what was going to happen, and the reality was far cooler than what we anticipated.

These moments really make the game, and I can’t say more without spoiling it.

Adventure Rooms Canada The Missing Finger

Red herrings

The Missing Finger is red herring heavy, especially in the first half of the game. We burned a lot of time just trying to sort the stuff that matters from the stuff that doesn’t.

A few of these misleading elements are so clever that we lost a lot of time on them because we were certain that they were relevant. I’m not fully opposed to red herrings, but I dislike games deriving their difficulty through obscuring the real puzzles with junk. I’m not a fan of misleading non-puzzles that make you feel clever only to pull the rug out from under you.

The Missing Finger teeters dangerously on the edge of too much obfuscation, but narrowly avoids that chasm.

“No hacking”

Before the game began, our puzzlemaster (who was a really nice guy) made us sign an agreement. Most of it was your standard, “don’t be a destructive idiot… and you can’t sue us” boilerplate, but there was one piece that really rubbed me the wrong way: You must agree that if you hack or circumvent puzzles, you lose.

I asked how they defined “hacking a puzzle.” Our puzzlemaster explained that if we had a five digit combo lock, and we figured out four of the digits, spinning the disk for the last digit was considered hacking.

I took umbrage with that rule, and voiced my discontent. You can design a puzzle that can’t be “hacked” this way. Game designers shouldn’t need to cover the shortcomings of their work with rules.

Rules should keep players safe. Rules should protect the game space. Rules should not be used to add difficulty to a puzzle.

When you’re down to a one in ten guess at a last digit, spinning the wheel until the lock pops is not hacking.

Update – Adventure Rooms Canada’s owner has reached out to tell us that we were given the wrong definition of “hacking” when we played. She states that their rule is, “Having 4 out of 5 digits to a combo, if completed by doing the actual puzzle, is not a hack.” The rule is meant to prohibit wild guesses and physically breaking puzzles. Unfortunately this is not how we were introduced to the rule prior to our game, and we review the experience that we have. 

Cross-game puzzle contamination

We’ve played three games with Adventure Rooms franchises: one in Niagara Falls, and two in Montclair, New Jersey. We saw three puzzles repeat between The Missing Finger and Penrose Dream.

This was a letdown, but it’s not a problem with The Missing Finger; it seems to be a risk of Adventure Rooms’ model of tossing puzzles into a room in one of their two dozen locations.

I hope this isn’t a repeating pattern.

Update – The owner of Adventure Rooms Canada insists that while puzzles repeat between Adventure Rooms franchises internationally, they do not repeat between Adventure Rooms Canada locations. This does not resolve the overall challenges that we found hopping over the border to play their game. 

Should I play Adventure Rooms Canada, Niagara Falls’, The Missing Finger?

While I go into more detail on some of the things that fell short for me, this is a strong room with many great moments scattered throughout the game.

There’s a lot of original thinking and design in The Missing Finger. There was one big reveal in this game that left the whole team totally shocked (in a great way).

It’s a fairly linear game, and it’s heavy on misdirection, but it’s well worth playing.

It’s also worth noting that it is about a two minute walk from Escape Room Niagara Falls, so you can easily play both companies in one afternoon. We’ll be returning to Niagara Falls at the end of the summer, so we’ll play their games then.

One last thing… If you’re an American, don’t forget that you need a passport to cross the boarder into Canada… And you should expect your border guard to be aggressively baffled by the concept of an escape room.

Book your hour with Adventure Rooms Canada, Niagara Falls’, The Missing Finger and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you. 

Adventure Rooms New Jersey – Penrose Dream [Review]

A different experience for a seasoned escape gamer.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date played: April 25, 2015

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Price: $30 per ticket

Plot

“Enter a dream space for a mind-boggling experience!”

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Light theming

This is the second Adventure Rooms game we’ve played, and it’s fairly similar to the Swiss Original. The theming is very light. This is billed as a “mind-boggling dream space,” and I think that’s an overstatement.

This room is pretty random. However I don’t think that design by non-sequitur = dream.

That being said, Adventure Rooms continues to prove that an escape game doesn’t need strong theming to be a fun experience.

Awesome furniture

Most of the furniture in Penrose Dream is custom built and it’s awesome.

The furniture is the best part of this room; I would love to see more escape games incorporate custom built furniture. This opened up so many different and unexpected dynamics.

Anti-climactic

This game was a combination of two different rooms that are across the hall from one another. While that’s not really normal for an escape game, it didn’t harm the experience.

However, it’s disappointing that the second room was far less exciting and far less fun than the first room.

The first room was pretty damn cool, so we entered the second one wanting something more interesting than what we found.

Different puzzles

Overall, Adventure Rooms continues to provide experiences that are filled with unusual puzzles. We had never seen most of the puzzles in this game before and that’s becoming a big deal.

No run-through

This game had a ton of puzzles in it and we had a very talented team. As a result, many puzzles were solved without me having any knowledge of how they resolved.

I would have appreciated a full run-through from the staff after we escaped.

Adventure Rooms Penrose Dream Room Escape Artist

Should I play Adventure Room’s Penrose Dream?

I think that this is a more advanced room, for a more seasoned escape gamer. That’s not to say that it’s brutally hard; it isn’t.

This game presents a strong challenge and defies a lot of the recurring escape game cliches. That’s what makes it interesting, and worth playing.

If you’ve only escaped a room or two, you’ll still be able to appreciate it. However if you’ve played a few more, I think you’ll be able to look at Penrose Dream and see through some of its imperfections to recognize that this game is doing some weird stuff in a good way. Maybe the “dream space” description isn’t too far off point.

Book your hour with Adventure Rooms New Jersey – Penrose Dream, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

A disclaimer

The more fanatical room escaper may recognize the gentleman on the right in the above photo as Derek Tam, one of the owners and designers of Mission Escape Games in New York City.

This was our first time playing a game with him. Still, we will continue to aggressively review his games. One of the things that we like about Derek and his team is that they take our reviews like champs. We’re not hiding this so don’t come at us with #RoomEscapeGate silliness.

Adventures Rooms, New Jersey – Swiss Original [Review]

Location: Montclair, New Jersey

Date played: January 19, 2015

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Price: $30 per ticket

Plot

This game isn’t really themed. By virtue of its location in what was a previously a doctors office, and a few of the puzzles, it has a medical-ish feel.

Global Company

Adventures Rooms is global company with US locations in Middletown, Connecticut and Montclair, New Jersey. Founded in Switzerland, they have a number of locations throughout Europe, that have a deliberate corporate team building feel and follow their “maze” style of room escapes.

Their flagship game is called “the Swiss Original,” and it appears at all of their locations with minor variations.

“Maze”

Adventures Rooms calls their games “mazes.”

They are essentially a series of isolated rooms that you have to escape in succession.

When you hear “maze,” you should think daisy-chained rooms, not a corn maze.

I was surprised when we exited the last room, and there wasn't another.
I was surprised when we exited the last room, and there wasn’t another.

Awesome moments, no magic

Every room in the Swiss Original contains a number of fairly typical room escape puzzles, however each room peaks with an incredible and exciting moment.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but we handled one or two pieces of equipment that I never expected to see in a room escape. This is what makes the experience. It’s not that any particular puzzle is incredible, but handling some of the equipment is just too damn cool.

Ultimately, this is a very Swiss game. Everything is well designed and works perfectly, but there’s not much soul.

Clear & fair

This game is well-crafted.

The rules are clear and easy to follow, and while it can get challenging, it’s always fair (which is not always the case in a room escape).

Adjustable difficulty

Because subsequent rooms in the maze are locked until you get to them, the game masters can adjust the difficulty on you, and customize the experience based on how well you’re doing.

We ripped through the first room, and they really turned up the degree of difficulty on us for later rooms.

We still finished with about 15 minutes left; the team really came together on this one.

Adventure Rooms NJ - Room Escape Artist Team

Hackable

One thing that I truly loved about this game (and the company) is that they don’t care how you solve each room.

There are multiple paths out, and they don’t have a problem with you cleverly circumventing some of their puzzles.

I love approaching a problem knowing that I can find more than one way through it, and that no one is going to slap my wrist if I have solved 3 of 4 numbers in a lock and brute-force the last wheel.

Wonderful staff

The staff not only let you hack their puzzles, they enjoy letting you go to town on their game. They are gregarious, excitable, and truly passionate about giving the players a great time.

Bottom-line

You’ll have a great time in this game, and walk away remembering some exceptionally cool moments (two in particular), but keep in mind that there’s no magic here. You’re looking at a very finely tuned standard room escape.

This is New Jeresy’s first room escape company. They are centrally located, and this game is fun.

I think it’s on the easier side, but this is an exceptional first room escape, and a fun experience for veterans.

Book your hour with Adventures Rooms, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.