Escaparium – The Final Stop [Review]

The fastest route between St. Louis, New York, & London

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 32.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escaparium’s The Final Stop was purchased from St. Louis Escape and heavily modified at the gameplay level with only 3 of the original 12 puzzles remaining in this version. (Interestingly enough, I was able to successfully guess which 3 puzzles were kept exactly as is from the original game.)

In-game: Seating a strap handles for an old, heavily worn subway car.

The Final Stop looked and played like an improved St. Louis Escape game. It was aesthetically pleasing, with some weaker puzzles (especially a pair of original puzzles in the first act). The new gameplay additions were smooth, but still felt like traditional escape room puzzles without much of a cohesive narrative tying it all together.

This is not my style of game, but I can easily imagine plenty of people loving this The Final Stop, especially those that heavily value set design over novel gameplay. This was a far better game that I was expecting when I learned of its origins. Escaparium did good work making The Final Stop their own, but it still doesn’t feel like an Escaparium game.

If you’re in Montreal and looking for a set-driven adventure, The Final Stop offers quite a bit to look at. That said, I don’t think that it comes close to rivaling some of Escaparium’s top offerings like The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen or either of their Wizard Four games (Wands or Gloves)

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The set is impressive
  • There are some fantastic effects and interactions

Story

After a long day of work, we boarded a dingy St. Louis subway. As the ride progressed, a voice boomed over the PA system to inform us that our lap belts had been locked, and that the train was loaded with explosives and was barreling towards the City Center. We were about to become victims of a New World Order uprising… unless we could stop the train ourselves.

In-game: seats of an old, rundown subway.

Setting

The Final Stop’s environmental design was fantastic. It had a compelling rundown and decrepit look. At times the set felt like it was moving, which was a pretty cool detail.

In the mid- and late-game there were some strong set-based interactions that were just fun to look at.

In-game: The ceiling of an old, worn subway car.

My biggest gripe with the set design was that for all of the weathering and intense detailing, this train had no idea where it was from. The PA told us that we were in St. Louis, the iconography and train stops were from New York City, and the system’s insignia was that of London’s Underground. I know that the game was purchased this way, so it’s a struggle for me to understand how a designer can patina a ceiling but not keep logical consistency in the train’s location.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Final Stop was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: a heavily worn gate protecting the train engineer's booth.

Analysis

The Final Stop looked outstanding. The early set evoked a certain stereotypical subway aesthetic; it was weathered and gritty.

➕ Escaparium added motion to this set. Through video as well as actual motion, it felt as if our subway car was moving.

➖ The set was a bit too dark. We struggled to differentiate colors… and none of us were colorblind.

➕ The puzzles worked cleanly… even when we weren’t sure if they would.

➖ It felt like there might have been a few ghost puzzles hiding about the set. Additionally, the gameplay lacked cohesion. Each puzzle stood on its own rather than coming together to give this ride some momentum.

❓ The gameplay style was search, connect, and input. It offered us few meaty puzzles. If you find everything you need, this train will reach its destination quickly.

➖ While the final stop concluded with an explosive prop, the late-game gameplay lacked a matching energy. The Final Stop needed a larger, more integrated conclusion that unified the experience and left a lasting impression.

➕ In the end, The Final Stop felt infinitely larger than it actually was.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. The Final Stop is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • There is some motion in this game.

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Final Stop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – Bernie Block [Review]

Lego Land

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 2 – a small family

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bernie Block is the Lego escape room that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

While it never explicitly mentions Lego in any way, the look and feel was all Lego… and it was a delight.

In-game: A lego kitchen
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Escaparium clearly designed Bernie Block for children, but our team of adults still adored it. Sure, it was easier, but that didn’t diminish the joy of the experience.

I would have loved to see a little more drama at the end to match the detail that was poured into the world, but overall, Bernie Block is a must-play for families who are anywhere near Montreal. If you’re an adult player who doesn’t have kids, there’s a lot to love about Bernie Block if you’re willing to embrace the playfulness of this game. I am quite happy that I did.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Lego fanatics
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The cuteness levels are dangerously high
  • It feels like stepping inside of a giant Lego construction
  • Bernie Block is funny in a family-friendly way

Story

Bernie Block desperately needed our help… to convince his crush to go on a date with him.

In-game: A lego chair in front of a TV in a lego house.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Setting

Everything was built from blocks. Everything. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, the furniture – all of it. Bernie Block looked like we had stepped into something made by an 8-year-old in the best way possible.

As an adult, it felt like wonderful nostalgia… and I have to imagine that as a kid, Bernie Block would feel simply awesome.

In-game: A clock built from giant legos.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s Bernie Block was a family-friendly escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: A lego bathroom.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Analysis

➕ Delightful. This describes Bernie Block to a T. It describes the set, story, music, and so many of the in-game interactions.

➕ The block-based set and prop design created a unique aesthetic. It was bright and friendly. Escaparium minded the details, adding lego-y echos in their choice of set decor and props. The story came to life because we really felt a part of this little world.

➕ We met the characters in Bernie Block through amusing videos with stellar voice acting. They added humor and purpose to the gameplay.

➖ Although counting puzzles belong in a family-friendly escape game, the cluing felt messy, which made this sequence more chaotic than it needed to be.

➖ In one case, the trigger tolerances were a bit too tight. We had solved something and it didn’t quite register until we shifted things.

Bernie Block was especially charming because of its scale. The space felt small, but the interactions felt big. Escaparium replicated Lego interactions in their puzzle design, and delivered them at human size.

➖ We loved many of the set pieces in the second act – so much so that we wanted them to be a larger part of the experience. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➖ There was opportunity to do something more energetic with the finale.

➕ The Lego theme had broad appeal. Kids will feel at home in this game. Our group of adults felt nostalgic and no less joyful.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. Bernie Block is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s Bernie Block, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen [Review]

I’m on a ship!

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: 37.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was an ambitious game.

Escaparium built a massive nautical escape with a beautiful, sprawling set, and strong interaction design.

In-game: A view through a long, old, wood ship. A treasure chest sits on the floor.

From a puzzle and gameplay standpoint, there was a lot to love in The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, especially in the second and third acts. The opening had great ideas, but some rocky execution muddied the waters.

If you are plugged into the broader escape room world, then you’re likely wondering how it compares to 13th Gate’s famed Cutthroat Cavern. Comparing things to a beloved game like Cutthroat Cavern is pretty dangerous when it comes to expectation setting. It’s been so long since I personally played at Cutthroat Cavern that I don’t know that I can truly make a fair comparison. The passage of time does funny things to memory, accentuating the things that you love and hate about a game, while the middle kind of evaporates. But what I’ll say is this:

If you love big budget, blockbuster escape rooms, then The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen should be on your list. I can’t tell you whether you should like it more or less than any other game. I can say that Escaparium crammed a lot of love, technology, and detailing into this ambitious game… and it’s absolutely worth going out of your way to play it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s massive, gorgeous, and so impressive
  • Surprising and delightful moments

Story

The Admiral had ordered us to find the Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen. Once we found it, we needed to do whatever it took to learn the secrets that the Voodoo Queen had to offer.

In-game: A desk with a lantern, compass, and skull resting on it.

Setting

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was gorgeous. We boarded a ship to begin our adventure. When I say, “we boarded a ship,” I don’t mean that “it looked like the interior of a ship,” I mean it was basically a ship. I saw the exterior. It was kind of crazy… and that was just the first act.

Escaparium built an ambitious, sprawling world for The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and it was loaded with wonderful set-driven moments.

In-game: Shelves inside of a ship containing lanterns and pots.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: A caged area inside of an old ship.

Analysis

➕ The set of The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was breathtaking. It was gigantic and detailed. It induced a child-like urge to explore and discover. From the opening moments through multiple set changes, it delivered on adventure.

➖ With an enormous and inviting gamespace, but linear gameplay, Escaparium needed stronger cluing in the opening moments to route our attention toward the gameplay. We struggled to pick up momentum early on because almost every other aspect of our new environment was more captivating than the opening puzzle sequence.

➕ The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen included a variety of tactile puzzles. In the second and third act, these were especially well integrated into the set and props, which made them that much more engaging and satisfying to solve.

➖ A few of the puzzles needed stronger feedback. In one instance, we believed that we had completed two puzzles simultaneously and when the game reacted, we couldn’t tell which puzzle was correctly completed and which one needed another look.

➖ There was opportunity to more thoroughly connect the solves with the story. While the puzzles felt thematically connected, they didn’t feel integrated into the narrative.

➕/➖ We adored one layered sequence that required coordinated teamwork in the face of adverse conditions. It was challenging, but exciting. It was also needlessly frustrating because of a lack of feedback and some ambiguous cluing. With a few adjustments, this would be a smoother ride, and likely become the most memorable solve of the game.

In-game: A book with an embossed face.

➖ In this detailed world, any breakage easily becomes a red herring. It wasn’t always clear when an object moved freely whether we were meant to interact with it, or whether it had become detached.

➕ Escaparium used practical effects to enhance the staging and the story.

➕ Each scene change was dramatic, right up through the finale, which felt like a worthy culmination of our efforts. From start to finish, The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was quite the ride.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • There is some motion in this game. At any point a player may request for this motion to stop.

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Blind Tiger [Review]

Puzzles on tap

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: April 6, 2019

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Blind Tiger was the most traditional escape room that we played at Escaparium. It looked good, played cleanly, included great swing music, and had at least one memorable moment.

In-game: An array of provocative pinup girls.

From our perspective, a hallmark of Escaparium’s game design is their willingness to take risks in their gameplay and sets… to make things that we haven’t seen anywhere else. Sometimes this delivers a big payoff and sometimes it’s a little bumpy, but it’s always interesting.

The Blind Tiger doesn’t have that risky intrigue that we saw in the other 5 Escaparium games that we played on our recent trip to Montreal. There’s nothing wrong with that (especially from a company with so many games); it might even be a good thing for them.

We absolutely recommend The Blind Tiger if you’re in Montreal and looking for a solid speakeasy experience that plays really well. If you’re looking for something out of the box, however, Escaparium has plenty of other games that might not play as smoothly, but offer something unique.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Great music
  • Strong speakeasy touches
  • Some good puzzling

Story

The Blind Tiger was the most popular speakeasy in Chicago. Our boss, the leader of a rival crime family, had sent us to sneak into the Blind Tiger to steal its owner’s ledger. There would be something juicy contained within it.

In-game: A roulette table.

Setting

The Blind Tiger was a speakeasy. It looked like a compelling underground drinking and gambling establishment.

While it wasn’t the fanciest set, little details made it feel real. These included liquor labels, pinup art, and cigarette displays.

In-game: A sales display for LUCKY Cigarettes on an old wooden bar.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Blind Tiger was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: A view behind the bar at a wall of liquor.

Analysis

The Blind Tiger had a lively soundtrack of swing music and a beautiful, polished set. We enjoyed the vibe of the gamespace.

➖ Although the gamespace was spacious, one area lacked adequate room to maneuver. It was easy to scrape oneself on doors, once opened, and hard to work together in this area.

➖ We encountered a ghost puzzle within the set decor.

➕ The voice-overs were clear and well acted. They added character to the game.

➕ The puzzles were thematic and largely tangible. They flowed well.

➕/➖ One substantial puzzle was well integrated into the gamespace. The cluing was varied and included physical props, which made this puzzle more engaging than this style tends to be. That said, it was a long process puzzle for a timed escape game.

In-game: closeup of some liquor bottles. one reads, "Red's Pure Old Panther Piss."

➕/ ➖ We enjoyed assembling… what would then become another puzzle. It was a nifty prop, but a bit too finicky. It also needed a touch more cluing.

➖ Although the puzzles worked well, they generally weren’t novel or exceptionally memorable.

➕ A thematic meta puzzle helped us gauge our progress instead of having to rely on a gameclock.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Blind Tiger, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat [Review]

Down the rabbit hole.

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: April 7, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Entering Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat felt like entering a cartoon. The world was vibrant and largely constructed from foam, giving it a chunky, playful feel.

In-game: The Cheshire Cat hanging out in a tree.

Escaparium’s imagining of Alice in Wonderland was at its best when it had us playing with this otherworldly environment and interacting with its unusual props. The more tangible and funky the interactions were, the more fantastical the experience became.

That said, this escape room started off too slowly. Some of the more cerebral puzzles felt rough or logic leap-y, which juxtaposed harshly against the playful setup and set.

In the end, we walked away from Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat loving it for its quirky design and forgiving a lot of its frustrations because of its novelty. If you’re the kind of player who’s seeking new things, and you find yourself near Montreal, check it out. It might drive you a little mad, but it’s worth it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • To go down the rabbit hole
  • The Wonderland aesthetic

Story

Every once in a while we have to pull the story directly from the escape room company’s website. This is one of those times:

“The Hatter’s hat’s hat is needed so that the hat of the hatter can control the hatter when wearing his hat but the hat of the hatter’s hat is where the power of the hatter’s hat is at. Without his hat, the hatter’s hat is powerless and the hatter with or without his hat will be himself if the hatter’s hat’s hat is taken away. You are needed to help Alice find the hatter’s hat’s hat so that the hatter can be himself again…”

In-game: The Cheshire Cat hanging in a big tree branch over a pool of water.

Setting

Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat felt like a cartoon world. It was bright and vibrant with a slightly grim twist… it felt like Alice in Wonderland. It was overflowing with both subtle and overt references to Lewis Carroll’s timeless stories.

In-game: A pool of water in the woods.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: Brightly colored flowers and mushrooms.

Analysis

➕ Escaparium’s ode to Wonderland looked wonderful. It was fantastical, life-sized, and cartoonishly detailed. From ceiling to floor, no detail was overlooked.

➕ Some of the set details that made Wonderland so intriguing also rolled into the puzzle play. This was Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat at its best.

➖ Some aspects of the set and props were showing too much wear.

In-game: The White Rabbit in the woods.

➖ Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat got off to a slow start. Some of the puzzles lacked concise cluing. In one instance we had to wait repeatedly for the a clue to loop on a timer.

➕ There were a number of fantastically physical moments.

➖ A few of the later puzzles asked us to make some logic leaps. The cluing felt incomplete.

➕ We loved the manner in which we transitioned between 2 scenes.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • You will remove your shoes before entering the game.
  • You will need to climb down (or step outside the game to walk down stairs) to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • If you book both Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat and The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa, book “Alice” first and “Wizard” second.

Book your hour with Escaparium’s Alice and the Mad Hatter’s Mad Hat’s Hat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.