Curious Escape Rooms – Escape The Video Store [Review]

Rewind.

Location: Fitchburg, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket, student discounts available

Story & setting

We stepped back in time to the year 1999 to investigate strange happenings at a local video rental store. Could we dig up the evidence we needed to figure out what was going down in this relic of the not-so-distant past?

In-game: The comedy section of a video rental store. Murder By Death and My Cousin Vinny are clearly staged.

From the cash register to the racks of VHS tapes, Escape The Video Store tossed us back a couple of decades and into a fixture of every American community: the independent video rental store. The set was loaded with nostalgia and pop culture (not references).

Puzzles

When we played Curious Escape Rooms’ first game, The Dollhouse, we sped through it. Escape The Video Store was a considerably more challenging game with layers of complexity, team-based puzzles, and a lot to accomplish.

In-game: A cash register at the checkout station of the video rental. There is a big cardboard pop up for Pinocchio.

Standouts

Curious Escape Rooms outfitted Escape The Video Store with authentic props. I’m hard-pressed to think of things in the escape room – aside from hidden mechanisms and electronics – that were not born of the 1990s.

In-game: A shot of the the TV on VHS section. The Doctor Who videos are most clearly visible, along with a poster for Twin Peaks.

The puzzling in Escape The Video Store was challenging and fair… and there was a lot of it.

While the set was busy and searching was a core component of this escape room, we weren’t bogged down with endless searching drudgery. Whenever we were searching, we had well-defined targets, and we knew when we had found them. In a set that could have housed endless red herrings, the game flowed well.

Shortcomings

Curious Escape Rooms could dramatically improve Escape The Video Store with cleaner, more precise construction and execution. If they were to hide housed technology, make cuts, and finish materials with a little more care, their set design could start to shine.

Escape The Video Store relied heavily on paper. Although well presented, this escape room could be so much more if the puzzling were more deeply embedded into the set and interactions.

Should I play Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store?

Anyone who has ever said to us “I don’t have a massive budget so I can’t make good games” has heard about Curious Escape Rooms. They have been our go-to example for a small team, operating on a low budget, in a small town, that produces interesting and worthy escape rooms by steering into their strengths. Escape The Video Store was another example of this type of design and a surprisingly different experience from the previous escape room we played with them.

In Escape The Video Store, Curious Escape Rooms built a nostalgia-fueled challenging puzzle game that I absolutely recommend for experienced players.

Newbies could take on the video store, but I think that they would enjoy it more if they weren’t learning escape room basics at the same time. I’d recommend picking up a little experience before stepping into this time warp.

If you were born after 2000… prepare to experience bewilderment at what passed for technology in the not-so-distant past.

Book your hour with Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Curious Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

 

Curious Escape Rooms – The Dollhouse [Review]

Feel little again.

Location: Fitchburg, MA

Date played: December 10, 2016

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

In The Dollhouse we entered a life-size dollhouse.

The Dollhouse looked like the hodgepodge mess of furniture and toys that one would find in a kid’s dollhouse. Not mine… which was anal-retentively matched, but I certainly had friends with dollhouses that felt a lot like the one built by Curious Escape Rooms.

The pretense for this excursion was secondary to the puzzle adventure in the world Curious Escape Rooms created, but that journey was magnificently child-like.

In-game: A giant Barbie doll sitting at a table dressed as a child-like detective in a dollhouse.

Puzzles

Many of the puzzles in The Dollhouse required substantial searching.

As long as we had all the components, the puzzles made sense and flowed logically one to the next.

Standouts

Curious Escape Rooms built this entire experience with a small budget and a lot of creativity. The designers knew their strengths and steered into those skills when they conceptualized and constructed The Dollhouse. As a result of their ingenuity, they produced a unique game with some imaginative, yet budget-conscious innovation.

The Dollhouse manipulated perspective in unexpected ways. It was an unusual theme and it came to life, so to speak.

A pair of particularly surprising moments added depth and made The Dollhouse pretty damn compelling.

The conclusion was clever.

Shortcomings

While the aesthetic held together, some of the set could have been more thoroughly cleaned, especially considering the extent to which we had to scavenge.

The Dollhouse involved moving more substantial setpieces than experienced players will generally feel comfortable with.

One puzzle overstayed its welcome and probably should have been broken up into a few smaller interactions.

Should I play Curious Escape Rooms’ The Dollhouse?

The Dollhouse was a fun escape room that brought childhood memories to life through creative perspective and skillful use of technology.

Note that this room escape is playful and approachable for all audiences; it is not creepy.

The puzzling was relatively basic. The beauty of The Dollhouse was playing around inside it. It was a great beginner game.

Curious Escape Rooms is a little over an hour’s drive west of Boston, but also accessible by train. It might be a hike, but The Dollhouse is worth a visit for experienced players interested in seeing how escape room designers embraced constraints and used their skills to create something brilliantly unusual.

Book your hour with Curious Escape Rooms’ The Dollhouse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Curious Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.