America’s Escape Game – Faceoff [Review]

LET’S GET READY TO PUZZLE!

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

Faceoff was a head-to-head competitive room escape game. America’s Escape Game elected to forgo any kind of story or pretense in favor of a red-team-versus-blue-team competition.

The room’s aesthetic had kind of a 1980s TV competition feel to it. Pretty much everything on the red side was painted a slightly washed out red, and nearly everything on the blue side was painted a washed out blue. In the middle there were a number of different ways to interact with the other team.

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we were moving too quickly to care.

Two head-to-head faces. The red one is on fire. The blue one is radiating electricity.
Faceoff’s exterior wall painting. There was nothing worth photographing inside of the game that didn’t spoil something.

Puzzles

There were a number of different pattern recognition puzzles as well as physically involved dexterity challenges.

America’s Escape Game also mixed in an element of negotiation, which was unusual and interesting.

We split into teams as women versus men: Lisa teamed up with Amanda Harris (to my knowledge, the most experienced escape room player in the English-speaking world). I teamed up with Amanda’s boyfriend Drew Nelson (probably the second most experienced player).

It was intense and we were neck and neck for most of the game… until we were outclassed by their pattern recognition skills. In the closing moments of the game, they pulled off a spectacular win with partial information.

Standouts

Leaving story out of Faceoff was a good decision. The game was us versus them. That was all the motivation that we needed.

The head-to-head competition was good fun. In our particular case, the evenly matched teams heightened the experience and made the stakes feel much larger than in most escape rooms.

The negotiation component added complexity to the competition.

The design of the space created some interesting opportunities for interplay between the two teams.

Shortcomings

One of the more physical challenges was awkwardly constructed and forced most involved to contort into strange positions. Lisa left with a large bruise on her arm from the environment.

That same physical challenge had almost no tolerance for error. This made it shockingly difficult and ultimately anticlimactic. That my team was able to do it at all meant that we won that challenge. It didn’t feel fair.

There were too many locks with the same digit structures. In a game where every second counted, it was annoying to repeatedly try the same combinations all over the room.

The puzzling was a little uneven and greatly favored some puzzling skills over others. Those with strong pattern recognition can power through the puzzles with limited information, which was exactly what Lisa and Amanda did. They didn’t need to negotiate with us because they were that damn good.

Faceoff lacked feedback for when the one team did something that affected the other.

Should I play America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff?

There aren’t a ton of competitive room escapes out there, and this is only the second one that we’ve encountered.

The added intensity of competition was a ton of fun for all involved, even those of us who lost.

I can’t recommend Faceoff for new players. Basic experience and an understanding of how room escapes flow will allow you to focus on the game itself rather than trip up over how to puzzle or how the locks work.

Bring some collaborative teammates and worthy opponents… and you might want to leave the sore winners and losers back home. This could get intense.

Book your session with America’s Escape Game’s Faceoff, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: America’s Escape Game comped our tickets for this game.

America’s Escape Game – Crisis at 1600 [Review]

Crash the White House.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

A paramilitary group launched missiles at the White House and we needed to enter the Oval Office to disarm them.

For the most part, Crisis at 1600 was a standard office escape room with a style of furniture and props that suggested a governmental office. It was themed, but the set design didn’t elevate the drama of the mission.

A white wall with a portrait of Lincoln mounted to it.
Image via America’s Escape Game

Puzzles

Crisis at 1600 relied heavily on busywork puzzles. Once we had determined how to solve something, it took quite some time to execute the solution.

The puzzles were not distributed evenly throughout the game. This unevenness created bottlenecking, which would be magnified with large teams.

Standouts

The penultimate segment of Crisis at 1600 was unusually designed and a lot of fun.

Shortcomings

Everything before and after that aforementioned section lacked punch. We were completing tedious puzzles in a governmental office.

One particular portion of the game demanded accuracy while forcing us to use an inaccurate toy as a precision tool. The concept was exciting, but the execution was frustrating. Our gamemaster interrupted this segment to inform us that should we not succeed at the task, we’d have to burn a hint to move forward in the game.

Players with knowledge of American government and history will be able to steamroll portions of Crisis at 1600. We completed a section of the room escape out of order because we had the outside knowledge to both speed up and bypass puzzles.

There was one tedious newspaper-style puzzle.

Should I play America’s Escape Game’s Crisis at 1600?

Multiple people in Orlando have suggested to us that this is the greatest room escape they’ve ever played. We don’t know what to make of that. Did they seeing something we didn’t? Or is it that everyone loves their first time?

This is America’s Escape Game’s flagship game. While Crisis at 1600 may have given the company its start, at the end of 2016, it felt dated. If they want to lean on this experience as a flagship, it needs to be updated. It’s a great concept and there is opportunity to create a dramatic space, an emotional roller coaster, and more interesting puzzles. They could make this game that into that special something.

That said, as we played it, Crisis at 1600 was a very average room escape. New players will enjoy it; experienced players could certainly have fun puzzling for America, but won’t find much to write their representative about.

America’s Escape Game seems a well-managed and disciplined company, but we don’t understand the Crisis at 1600 hype. We hope they can build more drama and intrigue into their White House.

Book your hour with America’s Escape Game’s Crisis at 1600, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: America’s Escape Game provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

America’s Escape Game – Pandemic [Review]

Curing Ebola in an hour or so.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 14, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

In Pandemic, we needed to stop an infectious disease from destroying the planet. We took over where the scientists investigating it had left off (or died off).

In-game, an elevator door.

The overall game had a stark medical feel. It felt a bit like a slightly industrial, poorly lit doctor’s office. It didn’t look bad but wasn’t much to look at either.

Puzzles

Pandemic’s puzzles relied heavily on busy work. Once we’d figured out how to solve something, we had many minutes to go before completing the solution. At least five separate puzzles all required this type of repetitious execution.

Pandemic included one dated newspaper-style puzzle that played more like an elementary school reading comprehension exam than an adventure puzzle game.

Standouts

Pandemic included one particularly exciting interaction that we hadn’t seen until we visited Orlando.

The game flowed logically and smoothly.

Shortcomings

Many of the puzzles involved busywork rather than progressive discovery.

One prop was badly jammed and the hint to reinvestigate it was delivered with unnecessary condescension.

Close-up of a wall with gas masks hanging from it.
Image via America’s Escape Game

Asking for one hint resulted in heavy-handed followup hinting. We found this frustrating because we were already back on the right track and it was simply taking time to execute on something that was tedious by design.

Should I play America’s Escape Game’s Pandemic?

Pandemic was a competently designed escape room; the puzzles flowed logically from start to finish.

The set wasn’t particularly exciting, but the gritty environment added a little urgency to our mission.

In late 2016, the game felt dated. Much of the puzzle difficulty was in the execution, not the solution.

Pandemic was perfectly passable. There’s plenty here for new players to enjoy. However, more experienced players shouldn’t expect to be wowed.

That was the thing with Pandemic. There wasn’t a lot wrong with it, but there also wasn’t anything special.

Book your hour with America’s Escape Game’s Pandemic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: America’s Escape Game provided media discounted tickets for this game.