Amaze Escape – Art of the Heist [Review]

“9-1-1 this better be good.” -Chief Wiggum

Location:  Arlington, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 15, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

The Art of the Heist was a competent escape game with solid puzzle flow, good humor, integrated history, and a compelling, authentic setting.

Amaze Escape’s creation was held back by two frustrations: an overabundance of interesting red herrings and a painfully underdeveloped late-game sequence. These were serious momentum-killers, but are quite fixable.

Art of the Heist was a strong game that I wanted to enjoy more than I did. It just needed a bit more polish.

If you’re in the area and looking for a solid escape game in a unique and authentic setting, Art of the Heist would be a good choice.

In-game: The police station, featuring an American & Massachusetts flags, a coat hanger with a uniform and a desk with a computer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A genuine setting
  • Solid gameflow
  • An interesting final puzzle

Story

We were members of a syndicate of thieves tasked with stealing the world’s most valuable suitcase. Allegedly the suitcase had found its way into police custody in the town of Farlington, Massachusetts.

The syndicate had created a diversion, giving us an hour to break into the police evidence locker and retrieve our prize.

In-game: Close up of the electronic surveillance system box.

Setting

Amaze Escape was located in a building that formerly housed a municipal justice center. Their earlier game made use of the building’s authentic jail cell. Their latest game was set within the police station.

The concrete walls and generally drab setting was livened by a number of Simpsons references and other jokes. The setting was pretty perfect and was one of those instances where the real thing doesn’t necessarily look like TV or the movies, but feels like the genuine artifact.

In-game: the word "Taxachusetts" painted boldly on the wall.

Gameplay

Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Amaze Escape was located in a former municipal building that housed the court, jail, and police. They stuck to their roots again in their second game, The Art of the Heist, set it in a police station. It was believable.

➕ The puzzles flowed pretty smoothly. The gameplay generally worked well.

➖ We encountered one frustrating section. Ambiguous cluing, lack of necessary light sources, and choice of input mechanism came together aimlessly.

➖ Amaze Escape included substantial red herrings in The Art of the Heist. We kept looking for ways to interact with these significant props, only to find that they were simply ambiance. This was unfortunate because these red herrings were among the most interesting items in the game.

➕ We enjoyed one nifty late-game tech-driven solve. It was an intriguing design and amusingly precise.

➖ While we enjoyed the setup, we didn’t feel the narrative pressure of the heist scenario. The Art of the Heist lacked a moment of intensity and excitement that made our hearts race.

➕ I loved how Amaze Escape worked other bits of Boston heist history into their game, including the infamous Gardner Heist, which I had originally learned about from my favorite podcast, The Futility Closet.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking nearby. Pay the meter.

Book your hour with Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Amaze Escape – Escape from Death Row [Review]

Sixty minutes of hard time.

Location: Arlington, MA

Date played: December 10, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Amaze Escape was located in a former municipal building that used to function as the local jail. Escape from Death Row was set in the retired jail cells. The walls, bars, and locks were real.

There wasn’t a story, but there was a goal: get out.

In-game, a jail cell with a handcuffs strapped to one of the bars.

Puzzles

Escape from Death Row‘s puzzles started strongly. They were fairly typical escape room-style puzzles, and they were fun, especially when mixed with the setting.

As the game progressed, the puzzle quality degraded. By the time we opened the exit door, our team was literally chatting about other things.

In-game: closeup of the jail cell's locking mechanism.

Standouts

The set was truly amazing because it was real. It seemed like Amaze Escape only had to make minor tweaks to gamify it.

I may have fallen in love with the jail cell lock & key; everybody has a weakness.

Giant jail cell key
One big key

In this room escape, the goal-based setup with minimal story worked well.

The early puzzling was good fun.

Shortcomings

Escape from Death Row fizzled hard.

The late game interactions were weak and at times confusing. It was “I’m not sure if I should do this” confusing, not “this is a challenging puzzle” confusing. There’s a difference.

Amaze Escape leaned too heavily on the drama coming from the set and failed to do much of anything to heighten the experience.

Should I play Amaze Escape’s Escape from Death Row?

Escape from Death Row’s set was unique and the puzzling started strong. This set the game in a great direction. As time wore on, the puzzles became less interesting and the novelty of the jail cells diminished.

I found myself wishing that the folks from Amaze Escape did a little more to capitalize on their exceptionally cool location. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it could be so much more.

Escape from Death Row was a solid game for beginners. The intensity of the set wasn’t overwhelming and there was plenty for newbies to sink their teeth into.

Experienced players will need to decide if escaping from a real jail cell is enough of a draw when the puzzle and gameflow are not, but I am happy that I decided to play.

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

Full disclosure: Amaze Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.