Escape New Haven – Wreck Havoc: Global Catastrophe [Hivemind Review]

Wreck Havoc: Global Catastrophe is a digital megagame created by Escape New Haven in New Haven, CT.

Japan's HQ in Gather.

Format

Style of Play: digital megagame

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: The game supports team sizes from 24 to 240. We played with 32 (8 groups of 4) and this worked well.

Play Time: about 2 hours

Price: $38 per person

Booking: Fill out the contact form on Escape New Haven’s website to set up a booking for a large private group.

Description

A global catastrophe has occurred and nations must sort out how to address the problem. Each player was assigned a team named for a country. Individual countries had to solve puzzles in order to earn currency. The currency could be spent on tools to help solve the crisis. Your country will need to ally with other countries.

Virtual world in Gather. A central meeting place with the Room Escape Artist logo and many character avatars.

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Escape New Haven – Escape.Anywhere: Before Moonrise [Hivemind Review]

Escape.Anywhere: Before Moonrise is a real-life escape room livestreamed through an avatar, created by Escape New Haven in New Haven, CT.

A pair of hands in black latex gloves manipulating an old rotary phone.

Format

Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed through an avatar

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $89 for the entire group (online playthrough)

Booking: Book online for a specific time slot. Note, Escape New Haven is now offering both in-person and online playthroughs of this game.

This escape room has the option for a “regular” mode or a “hard” mode, which adds a couple of additional puzzles.

Description

This is played over Zoom. The gamemaster shows you around the room via a camera. Photos of things you notice in the room appear in your web inventory for reference.

A black gloved hand pointing at a door inside of a cabin.

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Escape New Haven – The Game Show [Review]

“I’ll take ‘escape rooms’ for $200, Alex.”

Location: New Haven, CT

Date Played: December 18, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

REA Reaction

On the one hand, we loved the innovation in The Game Show. Escape New Haven included more inventive game mechanics in this escape room than most companies have in all of their games combined. On the other hand, The Game Show didn’t adequately onboard players, which could leave even experienced players completely clueless. Its unforgiving nature could be frustrating or exhilarating.

In-game: The neon and reflective Game Show set with puzzle stations along the walls and a pedestal in the middle of the room.

Who is this for?

  • People who like competitive games
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Atypical escape room structure
  • Unusual game mechanics
  • Competitive gameplay
  • Great twist

Story

We were contestants on a new game show. The winners would receive a free trip to sunny New Haven, Connecticut.

In-game: A reflective wall with a box covered in four switches, red, green, blue, and orange.

Setting

Split into two teams, Red and Blue, we were each led into mirror image spaces where we had to use puzzle stations built into the walls to compete with one another for points.

The back wall graphically displayed each team’s score in real time.

In-game: The score rings, a large ring for "Red Points" and a smaller ring for "Blue Points."

Gameplay

The competitive gameplay was built around rapidly learning the rules to each game and outplaying your opponents.

The initial difficulty was more in operating the game’s controls. Once we mastered that, we turned our attention to the competitive puzzles.

Finally, there was a big twist in this game… and explaining it would absolutely ruin the game. So I’m going to leave it at that.

Standouts

The Game Show was different. Its starting split-team competitive segment and the twist that ensued made for a dramatic and unusual experience.

The competitive concept was energizing. Escape New Haven drew inspiration from famous psych experiments, but reinvented the concepts as gameplay. It worked well.

The Game Show made sense, narratively speaking.

The post-twist gameplay was fantastic. I wish I could go into more detail.

Shortcomings

The competitive gameplay lacked instruction or clear feedback. If you get it, it will be exciting. If you don’t get it, it will be painfully frustrating. If it doesn’t click for anyone, you will spend a lot of time in an unforgiving environment, under pressure from the competitive aspect. This could and should be smoothed over.

In terms of build quality and finish, while The Game Show was a step up from some of Escape New Haven’s earlier work, their set design still lacked polish and attention to detail. Everything felt decidedly homemade, even when the creation was impressive.

For example, the video segments seemed haphazardly slapped together. They featured a host standing in front of a white sheet. The elementary look detracted from the aesthetic that Escape New Haven clearly wanted for The Game Show.

Tips for Visiting

  • Use the app Parkmobile to fill your meter on the street in New Haven.
  • There are lots of great restaurants in New Haven.

Book your hour with Escape New Haven’s The Game Show, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape New Haven provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape New Haven – The Crypt

LIGHTS! CAMERA! DEMONIC CURSE!

Location: New Haven, CT

Date played: June 25, 2016

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: Adult $26 per ticket, Student with ID $22 per ticket, Child $22 per ticket

Story & setting

We were investigating the disappearance of the cast and crew of the horror movie The Crypt. The escape game started in the film star’s dressing room and progressed onto the movie set itself.

Escape New Haven had refactored this space since we played The Workshop  in these same rooms over a year ago. The set for The Crypt was thematically sound; the overall execution of the set was hit or miss from room to room.

The story was lightly horror, encased in movie-making, which lightened the mood. For the most part, the narrative held up. It got a bit hokey at the end.

A coffin drapped in a white cloth in a dark, crypt.

Puzzles

The Crypt included a lot of puzzles and a lot of locks. However, the game thread was readily apparent. We could easily tell which puzzles opened which game elements.

As the game progressed, the puzzles incorporated more complex interactions, moving beyond lock and key.

Furthermore, the game packed an enormous variety of puzzle types that drew on various different intellects. This was a puzzle room and throughout the game, the puzzles remained the star attraction.

Standouts

The aesthetic of the movie set of The Crypt was exceptional. It felt like both a mausoleum and a movie set. The clues arose from within the set; they weren’t bolted on to an otherwise ordinary room. It was designed with great care and attention to details.

One particular element of this second room was designed to intensify the drama and require teamwork.

We rarely post photos of later rooms, or any game element not immediately apparent when a player enters. However, Escape New Haven encouraged us to photograph the later part of The Crypt. They too use its design as a teaser: when we entered the game, we could see through to this movie set before we could access it.

Shortcomings

While portions of the game were brilliantly themed, other segments were surprisingly spartan and rough. The difference in quality and attention to detail from room to room was jarring. Fortunately, theming improved over the course of the game.

In the end, the story lost intrigue as it diverged from the puzzles and wound its way to what should have been a dramatic conclusion. In this way, the climax of the game fell flat. The penultimate dramatic moment fizzled as we plodded through story toward the final game interactions.

Had we run out of time grinding through the endgame, we would have been very angry.

Should I play Escape New Haven’s The Crypt?

The Crypt was primarily a puzzle room with engaging, varied, and thematically-driven puzzles. These puzzles were encased in the narrative.

The theme was lightly horror, but the story and the set weren’t scary.

The movie set of The Crypt was well-designed and executed to enhance the drama and the story intrigue. It was an exciting set to explore.

The Crypt wasn’t a perfect game: It succeeded at puzzles and theming, but didn’t quite achieve the storytelling aspect. Still, it demonstrated substantial growth for this company, which is moving to a bigger location nearby. It’s worth visiting Escape New Haven’s (new) location to play The Crypt. We’re looking forward to playing their future games as we travel between New York and Boston.

Book your hour with Escape New Haven’s The Crypt, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape New Haven provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape New Haven: The Library [Review]

A room that remembered to bring the challenge, but forgot to pack some polish.

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Date played: July 19, 2015

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-5

Price: $26 per ticket

The plot

You have infiltrated the private study of a wealthy family. The family is hiding a secret… What is it? You have 60 minutes to figure it out and escape before the family returns home.

Escape New Haven Logo

A library

I was unusually uneasy about playing a room escape called “The Library.”

Books are the one thing that I just don’t want to touch when I walk into an escape room. I’m not talking a few books; a few books never ruined my hour. What drives me up the wall are shelves worth of books.

True to its name, The Library had no shortage of bound paper.

Without getting spoilery, for a player with a finite amount of time, the books weren’t handled gracefully. There were a number of clues that suggested the player look for a particular book that wasn’t there… And the way the player needs to go about using the books was inelegant.

A tale of two rooms

Parts of this game felt very refined, well-designed, and well-built. Then there were parts that felt haphazardly thrown together like they were a proof of concept for some better puzzle that Escape New Haven had on the bench of their workshop.

Generally speaking, the earlier puzzles seemed stronger, and the later puzzles seemed weaker. This gives the feeling of a school paper done at the last minute; it starts off strong and the quality trails off as the writer increases the page count.

The inconsistency was jarring.

When it’s good

At its best, this escape room has some wonderfully fun puzzles that are unique and have clever counter-brute-force mechanisms baked in.

The chess puzzle (visible as soon as you enter the room, and also featured on Escape New Haven’s website) is particularly noteworthy.

Escape New Haven The Library
Not us – Image via Escape New Haven

When it’s bad

At its worst, this game goes out of its way to create a feeling of stasis. There are times where a player cranks out puzzles and feels as if absolutely nothing is accomplished.

There are also elements of this game that are so dirty and hacked together that I wasn’t sure whether they were intentional. We played with Lisa’s parents and at the end of our game her mother explained to Max (one of the owners) that he needed to do a better job cleaning up… And she was right.

Story

This game has a story, and saying it was bolted-on would imply that it the story and the game were connected at all. The story served as a distraction for us. There were times when we thought that the story was relevant to the gameplay, but it never was.

I don’t think this would have bothered us much, but it also wasn’t compelling. In the end, it was a time-eater with no payoff.

Should I play Escape New Haven’s The Library?

There are elements of The Library that are smart, fun, and original. We legitimately had to think in this one, and it’s worth noting that this is the first room that defeated us this calendar year.  In that regard, our hats are off to the team at Escape New Haven.

However this game also suffers from some of the same problems as Escape New Haven’s facilities. The place is a bit chaotic and has a college dorm feel to it. The lobby is cramped, cluttered, and unfinished. Walking to the bathroom involves passing by paint cans and scrap lumber. When we played with them the first time, we chalked this up to them being new… Almost four months later it feels like a habit. This all was underscored by the slipshod state of The Library.

We are big fans of the Escape New Haven team (and have a roundabout personal connection to them that we explained in our last review). At their best they bring an interesting approach to puzzle design that is unlike any other company we’ve encountered. However, from a company that pushes boundaries and does interesting things, we expect to see a higher level of refinement.

We didn’t lose because this game was unfair. If you’re looking to play a game that presents a solid challenge but could use a lot more polish, then you should reserve your spot in The Library. If you are in New Haven and want to play a game that’s more put together, then I recommend The Workshop.

We have high expectations of Escape New Haven and look forward to playing their next game. We hope that it comes with the polish that we’ve come to expect from top escape game companies.

Book your hour with Escape New Haven’s The Library, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.