Escaparium – The Golden Jubilee [Review]

Heigh-ho Heigh-ho

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: April 6, 2019

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-5

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 Golden Jubilee was a diamond in the rough. Escaparium split this game into two distinct acts: light and dark.

The light side was set in a gorgeous gem mine that would have felt at home at a Disney park. The dark side was in total darkness and required us to puzzle with senses other than sight.

In-game: A collection of gems glowing in the dark.

Escaparium nailed so much in this game, spare a few entirely fixable details that really cramped the experience. The most noteworthy flaw was an early puzzle that just didn’t seem to work cleanly. This diminished our trust in the game, but that mistrust was unfounded.

As we played it, The Golden Jubilee was a beautiful light/ dark hybrid escape game in the spirit of Escape My Room’s Smuggler’s Den. It got a lot right and offered up a ton of novelty. With a few tweaks to the existing gameplay, this could be a masterpiece.

If you’re in Montreal and you’re comfortable with a puzzle experience in total darkness, The Golden Jubilee is a must play.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Puzzlers… who can solve with senses other than sight
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The gorgeous opening gamespace
  • The challenge of a pitch black puzzle room

Story

Dr. Woo had passed away leaving his precious Golden Jubilee gem hidden within his mine. Treasure hunters from all over the world had converged in hopes of finding the gem.

Woo had been known to enjoy games and had surely left some challenges to trip up any would-be treasure hunters.

In-game: A gem mine with mining carts, and gems protruding from the walls and ceiling.

Setting

Escaparium went above and beyond with the set design of The Golden Jubilee’s first act. It basically looked like it belonged in a Disney park as part of a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs attraction. We were in a beautiful gem mine.

In-game: A bucket hanging from a rope in a mine. There is a wooden sign labeled "DANGER" hanging from the wall.

The second act took place in pure darkness. The set was visually irrelevant; everything revolved around our other senses.

In-game: A completely black image with nothing visible.
Actual game photo.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Golden Jubilee was an unusual escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The first act played like a standard escape game. The second act took place in complete darkness where we solved puzzles uses senses other than sight.

Core gameplay revolved around exploring, observing with different senses, making connections, communicating, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Escaparium’s mine was strikingly beautiful. It was cavernous, detailed, and decorated with colorful gems. It was a delightful aesthetic. We really enjoyed this gamespace.

➕ Escaparium really hit the nail on the head with one early puzzle.

In-game: A joust holding up the walls of a gem mine.

➖ Another early puzzle lacked both gating and cluing. The puzzle did not work. This lowered our trust in the game. After hacking our way through it with hints that only sort of made sense, our gamemaster was unable to explain how this should have worked.

➕ /➖ Escaparium set up a fantastic early puzzle with a large prop. Unfortunately, this puzzle asked for a large logic leap and slowed our wheels.

➕ Escaparium justified the dark room with the mine staging and story. The transition made sense.

➖ There was a bit of light bleed into the dark room.

➕/ ➖ Some puzzles in the dark room made more sense contextually than others. We appreciated how some of the puzzles were thematically connected. Others felt oddly random.

➕ The puzzles in the dark room worked well without sight. They also forced us to work together in the darkness. The Golden Jubilee flowed well in this section.

➖ We struggled with the audio in the dark room. Because we couldn’t see, our other senses were heightened. The soundtrack was distracting, especially when working on certain puzzles. The lengthy audio indicators of puzzle solves were confusing at first, and later simply distracting. The audio story elements didn’t land.

➖ The conclusion lacked excitement. It was too easy to intuit early on exactly how the game would conclude. As we all made our way to the bright part of the mine to claim our prize, its reveal didn’t feel momentous or particularly triumphal.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Part of this game is played in total darkness.
  • You need to be able to crawl to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

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

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa [Review]

Powerglove!

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: April 7, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5 (best with 4)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escaparium has an armada of interesting, unusual, and entertaining games. The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa was their flagship.

The second in their series of The Wizard Four games, The Rise of Lord Thulsa was a magical adventure complete with special powers and boss fights. The set was gorgeous and the effects elevated the experience.

In-game: Bottles of magical ingredients.

There were a few opportunities to repair some wear and refine the gameplay or effects, but all around, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

This is a must-play game if you’re anywhere near Montreal. I’d highly recommend playing its predecessor The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts first… but if you only have time for one, then go straight for the sequel.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Wizards
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Wizarding abilities
  • Fantastic, magical interactions
  • Strong puzzles
  • Wizard battles

Story

It had been three years since we had graduated from magic school and had saved the high wizard from Lord Thusla. Now the evil sorcerer had returned and we had to thwart him once again.

In-game: A series of tubes and lab equipment mounted to the wall.

Setting

Escaparium’s The Wizard Four sequel, The Rise of Lord Thulsa, had a set that fit with the first installment, while feeling distinctive as it took us to different iconic wizarding locations.

It looked as good, if not better, than the original, and packed in some heavier magical effects.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa was a standard escape room with additional individual powers and a moderate level of difficulty.

Each player wore a glove that activated their special power, which would be necessary to solve certain puzzles.

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

In-game: Magical gloves, each with the symbol of a different elemental magic on it.

Analysis

The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa looked great. It looked mythical, detailed, and polished. It was an exciting environment for our wizard selves to explore.

➕ The powers added an interesting mechanic to escape room gameplay. We could choose how to use them: whether to split up and solve puzzles individually or help each other use the different powers. It was fun to be the wizard controlling a unique ability. This had the added benefit of keeping everyone engaged.

➖ The gloves that activated our powers were a bit finicky. Some of the sensors were especially touchy. The gloves were also pretty worn and some wouldn’t fasten.

➕ One puzzle blossomed into something far more interesting than it had originally appeared.

➕ Another puzzle nailed its target well.

➖ One puzzle seemed to be barely a puzzle. Perhaps it was a ghost puzzle? This was not a satisfying solve and was particularly disappointing when other powers revealed such interesting dynamics.

➕ Escaparium surprised us with an unorthodox transition.

➖ We encountered a tedious search puzzle which, despite the layered approach, was still a time drain.

The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa included a number of other solid, layered puzzles that we really enjoyed.

➖ At times the gameflow felt uneven. Some puzzles triggered far more forward momentum than others.

➕ There was a late-game sequence that played remarkably well. At first it seemed like it might have been too complicated. Then we thought it might be too simplistic. In the end, it felt like it checked all of the boxes just right.

➕/ ➖ In the end, we found ourselves in a wizard battle. The culmination of our powers worked really well. That said, Escaparium was hampered by the limits of their tech. As cool as it was, sometimes the fight dragged. With a few changes to lighting and sound, Escaparium could create a more dramatic series of interactions that would be more emotionally engaging.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • You need to be comfortable with 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 The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts [Review]

Barry Hotter: The Fellowship of the Wands

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: April 7, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was the first in a two-game (maybe more in the future) wizarding series created by Escaparium. We grabbed our wands and set off on a quest to stop evil… and it was delightful.

Escaparium told their own story with the help of many common tropes and a dollop of instantly recognizable pop culture references, giving us players the kind of Harry Potter/ Tolkien-esque adventure that so many of us crave.

In-game: A statue of a wizard holding a crystal ball carved into a stone wall.

The sets were gorgeous. The magic was fun. The effects and puzzles were generally strong.

Some of it was a bit bumpy. It was clear to us that Escaparium was exploring structures for escape room storytelling that became a bit onerous. The wands, while fun, were a bit finicky.

Nevertheless, we were thrilled to have played The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts and even happier after playing its sequel, The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa. If you’re near Montreal, we highly recommend playing both, in order.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Aspiring wizards
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The set was beautiful
  • There was an amazing scene transition; it was incredible how much went into it
  • Some great effects
  • A number of strong puzzles
  • Wands are fun

Story

We were fresh out of magic school and we had been summoned to meet with the high wizard. By the time we’d arrived in his hall, however, he and his family were gone, abducted by an evil sorcerer. It was up to us to save them.

In-game: Animated paintings hanging from a stone wall.

Setting

In The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, Escaparium let us loose in a wizarding school and it looked the part.

We explored a great hall as well as the dormitories. Each had depth, texture, and quite a bit to take in. There were points where I basically stopped playing and just enjoyed the environment.

In-game: a shelf full of scrolls.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a standard escape room where players had wands to use as tools. It had a moderate level of difficulty

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

In-game: 8 magic wands hanging from the top of a doorway.

Analysis

➕ We entered The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts with wands in hand. This added an interesting game mechanic. But also… wands!

➖ As nifty as the wands were, their triggers could be finicky, which was frustrating. Still, we liked the wand mechanic and were disappointed when they fell out of relevance in the late-game. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➕ The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was loaded with nods to various wizarding worlds. Fans will enjoy the magical artifacts and references in this escape room.

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts captured the aesthetics of a number of iconic wizarding locales. Each scene looked outstanding. While Escaparium’s sets were always detailed, they went the extra mile here, crafting a scene purely so that we could enjoy our perspective.

➖ Some of the props in The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts had seen better days.

➖ Play stopped occasionally for long audio interludes. We didn’t find that these added enough depth to the story to warrant the stoppage in play. (We’re guessing that Escaparium would agree, given that they didn’t use this structure in this game’s sequel.)

➕ The middle act had solid puzzles that necessitated a variety of skills sets and magical ability. These flowed well.

➖ We encountered a few puzzles with ambiguous cluing.

➕ Magical artifacts surprised and delighted us as we played. These weren’t by the book.

➖ In a magical escape room, anything was possible. Anything might open from any action. Escaparium needed to better direct players to triggered opens. We couldn’t always tell what we’d affected.

➖The culminating scene felt less triumphant than it should have. The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts lacked its own Mount Doom. (Again, this wasn’t something that this game’s sequel suffered from.)

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a delightful space to play in for an hour.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • You need to be comfortable with stairs to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.