Duck & Cover Classroom demonstrated an alternative model for how to build escape rooms. Nearly every element in the room was recycled or sustainably sourced. Especially for the 1950s classroom theme, this set design aesthetic looked fantastic. And while this game was built a good few years ago, it had visually aged quite well.
At a time when the budgets to build escape rooms continue to rise rapidly and most rooms use new materials and props shipped from far-off places, Escape Artistry has shown that sets can be both lower budget and more environmentally sustainable without necessarily sacrificing on appearance.
The gameplay in Duck & Cover Classroom felt similarly creative and appropriate for the theme, with many puzzles that naturally emerged from the items one would find in a primary school classroom. Most props were decently maintained, with the exception of two interactions that were in need of a significant face lift and required gamemaster assistance to function.
Escape Artistry got their start with The Railcar, and continuing in a recognizably theatric style, Duck & Cover Classroom was an admirable step up in terms of scenery cohesion and streamlined puzzle design. If you are in the Chicago area, Duck & Cover Classroom would make an enjoyable addition to your itinerary.
Made entirely out of recycled and reclaimed materials, we had to escape a railcar set in the future after Chicago’s third fire. The world had burned and people had to rebuild with what was around.
The Railcar was built as a proper railcar within their facility. The doors opened like a railcar, it was shaped like a railcar, and it looked like a railcar – inside and out.
The catch was that it was completely cobbled together from found objects. It simultaneously looked like junk and a work of art… and all of this fit within the story.
Escape Artistry built The Railcar to be a more advanced game and it truly was. This was a puzzle-y game for people who were ready for a bit of a challenge.
It was not the hardest game out there, but it offered far more resistance than your average room.
The puzzles were fun. However, they didn’t fit into the narrative quite as well as we would have wanted.
The set was ruggedly cool and it made a statement.
By the nature of its construction, the game clearly articulated a political message. However neither the story nor our gamemaster ever pushed that political agenda. It would have been so easy to talk about the “dystopia caused by some environmental calamity,” but Escape Artistry didn’t go there. They were respectful of us as players and let us interpret the story and message.
Speaking of our gamemaster… she was awesome. Her delivery of the story and rules was fast, fun, and hilarious.
Many puzzles culminated in a puzzle built into one of the biggest set pieces. This set piece was a neat but fragile idea and it malfunctioned on us. Our gamemaster was ready with a cheesy backup “challenge” to replace solving the puzzle. The workaround couldn’t make up for the failure. That game component was too critical to allow for a failure (and I am betting that it doesn’t work all too often).
This wasn’t a game for 10 people. We had a full room and it was too many. The railcar amplified the bottlenecking. It became difficult to traverse the long narrow game when our teammates congregated around a puzzle.
Should I play Escape Artistry’s The Railcar?
Incredibly few room escapes convey a message in an artistic manner. Escape Artistry artfully built a game that had a political bent, but never pushed it into obnoxious territory.
The set was incredibly cool, even if it didn’t offer the level of polish one would typically expect from a futuristic railcar. They managed to brilliantly justify the rough construction with their story.
Their puzzles were challenging and generally fun. One of their climactic puzzles was flawed, but I do think that they could and should improve it.
The Railcar wasn’t perfect but it offered an interesting and unusual experience. That made it absolutely worth playing.
Escape Artistry should not be a first game for those new to escape rooms. Sink your teeth into a few other games before you visit The Railcar. That experience will help you play the game better, and more importantly, will help you appreciate this game’s interesting idiosyncrasies.