Escape Room LA – The Pyramid [Review]

You might have to make a small sacrifice.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: December 2, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket weekdays, $37 per ticket weekends

REA Reaction

The Pyramid was an imposing monolith of puzzles.

Escape Room LA stands out as a large-team, puzzle-focused company in a city that generally emphasizes storytelling. The Pyramid impressed us with elaborate sets, numerous reveals, and challenging, tangible puzzles… all without sacrificing adventure.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with a least some experience
  • Larger groups
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Many tangible puzzles
  • Dramatic reveals
  • Large scale
  • It’s a challenge

Story

We set off on a journey to find the mythical Mayan Mask of the Jade Warrior. Finding the artifact would ensure our survival.

In-game: A stone alter with glowing red eyes and teeth and a pedestal with small statues atop it.

Setting

The Pyramid was an Indiana Jonesy adventure through a Mayan temple. It had an aesthetic that hovered comfortably between realistic and cartoonish. I mean that as a compliment. It was a fun place to puzzle.

Gameplay

Escape Room LA built gameplay around large groups and collaborative challenges.

The Pyramid contained lots of puzzles (and skulls). There was enough for everyone to sink their teeth into.

Standouts

The Pyramid spanned multiple large and varied sets. These were detailed and they hid their secrets well.

In-game: 4 pillars of skulls, above them, the ceiling is covered in skulls.

At each set change junction, we confronted an impressive, interactive gate. The sets, combined with imposing gates, created grand reveals continually throughout the experience.

We enjoyed many of the puzzles in The Pyramid. They made use of the set pieces and props. We traversed the various sets with purpose.

The starting puzzle sequence introduced escape room gameplay and cooperation. It opened The Pyramid well.

We brought a large and talented team (plus one infant); everyone was busy throughout the experience.

Given the Mayan staging, we encountered a number of symbol systems. Escape Room LA incorporated these into the various puzzles. We also found them helpful for separating the different puzzles in play.

Shortcomings

While some of us enjoyed the symbols, others felt like they made many of the puzzles feel too similar. We were continuously matching or interpreting different symbol systems.

The Pyramid contained multiple puzzles in each game segment. Since many of these required teamwork, sometimes across large distances, the noise of other teammates working together became a frustrating obstacle. Additionally, because so much was happening at once, we were frequently confused as to which interaction had triggered which reveal.

Within The Pyramid we uncovered multiple notebooks containing important clue structure. While these fit the theming, they hindered gameplay, as only one person in the group could use them at any given time. To alleviate bottlenecking, we recommend separate written materials or incorporating these clues into the set.

One of the larger props was touchy. Our gamemaster had to continually reprimand us for attempting to manipulate it in unintended ways. If Escape Room LA does not want players to get creative with this prop, they need to improve the intended interaction.

One smaller space needed to be cleaned. Achoo.

Tips for Visiting

  • Bring a larger group. The Pyramid will be best if you parallel puzzle.
  • Escape Room LA is located in downtown LA. Plan for street parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room LA comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room LA – The Detective [Review]

Soft-boiled crime drama.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 16, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket on weekdays, $37 per ticket on weekends

Story & setting

Set in the 1940s in the office of a private detective, we had to solve an open case and escape before the bad folks arrived.

The set resembled an office from an era that was distinctly not contemporary, but not necessarily specific to the 1940s. The office space included a lot of stuff and with the exception of a few interesting props, wasn’t a particularly compelling space.

In-game, a detective's office with a large desk in the middle, a typewriter, grandfather clock, and large bookcase.
Image via Escape Room LA

There was an in-game gamemaster assuming the role of the detective’s secretary. With the exception of a few hints, we barely felt her presence.

Puzzles

The Detective was a puzzle-focused room escape game. It was designed for a large team and packed full of puzzles.

The puzzles were somewhat varied but primarily paper based, leaning heavily on indexing and making connections.

Standouts

The Detective had plenty of puzzles. Puzzle lovers will enjoy the volume of material to work through and the complexity of some of the connections. There were a lot of “ah-has!”

The room escape included one custom-built lock. It felt neither modern, nor like a period piece, but it was particularly fun.

Shortcomings

For all the puzzles in the game, most of them didn’t need to be solved in that particular detective’s office. They could have boxed up and shipped to anyone, anywhere, to be solved with pencils and paper.

Neither the setting nor the mystery were particularly compelling. We never felt like we were in the 1940s or on a clandestine adventure. As the clock wound down, we felt a sense of urgency from the clock, not from the mystery or story of our own mission.

Should I play Escape Room LA’s The Detective?

The Detective was one of Escape Room LA’s earlier designs and the style and production value are from an earlier era, if we can say that in an industry that has only been prominent in the United States for three years.

That isn’t to say that this was a bad game; rather this was a game crafted in a particular style. It’s packed with puzzles.

If you love puzzles and you can gather a large group of puzzle-loving friends, give this one a go. Ignore the environment and enjoy the puzzles; they are solid.

If you enjoy escape rooms for the opportunity to be a part of a narrative or for the creativity and fabrication of other worlds, try The Alchemist instead.

If you’re interested in spoilers, you can watch Conan make a mockery of The Detective.

Book your hour with Escape Room LA’s The Detective, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room LA comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room LA – The Alchemist [Review]

Is there a word for taking gold and transforming it back into lead?

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 16, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket on weekdays, $37 per ticket on weekends

Story & setting

The Alchemist was your standard wizards-and-magic setup: enter the library, work your way into the sanctum, and puzzle your way to the mystical maguffin.

It’s a time-tested setup that works well, so long as you create the right environment and build interesting interactions throughout; Escape Room LA did just that. The gamespace looked great and absolutely conveyed a slightly cartoonish, but generally compelling wizard’s lair.

In-game - a wizards study with paintings on the walls, a large bookcase, and sigels painted on the door.
Image via CNET.

Due to Escape Room LA’s adherence to standard wizarding tropes, they didn’t need to add a lot of story or exposition for the narrative to reveal itself through gameplay.

Puzzles

The Alchemist had a strong mix and large volume of puzzles. This was a big game that required a cooperative and attentive team.

The puzzles were a ton of fun to solve. They made great use of the room as well as the themes that the game played with. Escape Room LA was the most puzzley company that we encountered in Los Angeles. Unlike the other game we played on our visit, The Alchemist combined puzzle-centricity with a beautifully constructed set.

Standouts

The Alchemist’s puzzles and interactions were wonderfully embedded into the scenery and environment. This was the heart of the game.

The gameflow was interesting. Where some games will force a team to split by locking them up in different parts of the game, The Alchemist produced a natural split of the team and accomplished it without interference.

Shortcomings

The Alchemist was a game with a lot of rules and most of the unusual restrictions prohibited exploration. Violation of these rules resulted in additional condemnation.

Our gamemaster was in costume and in character as a silent monk. She provided hints, handled a finicky interaction, broken interactions, and chastisement while silently miming at us. The in-game gamemaster wasn’t inherently problematic, but the regular discipline was.

Most of the game took place within a large room, but there were sections that we weren’t even allowed to look at until we had “reached” them, even though they were in plain sight. With 10 players (about two too many) in the room, a couple of us would take a look at the future puzzles to get a sense of what we had to do down the line. Our gamemaster would mime her castigation at us for this, which somehow felt far worse than vocalized criticism. This soured the experience.

One of the set pieces and interactions within The Alchemist was so iffy as to require our gamemaster to step in and fully control it; another broke completely. There was a third utterly infuriating interaction that took us something in the realm of 10 minutes to complete after we started doing the right thing. The sensor’s tolerance was so tight that we couldn’t get the thing to trigger.

Should I play Escape Room LA’s The Alchemist?

We love puzzle-based games, especially when the puzzles are integrated into the props and make us solve our way through a narrative. After we won, we walked out feeling pretty bitter. The root cause of this was purely gamemastering and overall customer care.

Our first game with Escape Room LA began late, so our second game began late as well. During our walkthrough, Lisa took out her phone to text our friends whom I was meeting at the Basement to cancel our pre-game plans. She was yelled yet because phones were forbidden because heaven forbid that any photos of the game get out.

The grand irony here was that I had already seen video of every section of The Alchemist because Escape Room LA let CNET film the game. So, if you’re curious what The Alchemist looks like in intimate detail, please feel free to watch the video, but do so knowing that it shows the entire gamespace and spoils a few puzzles. You’ve been warned.

The Alchemist is a strong game, especially if you’re a puzzler, and I absolutely recommend it. However, go in knowing that metaphors involving rods and rectums may apply to your customer service experience. The tragedy of The Alchemist was that they put us into a great game and then spent an hour finding new ways to diminish an otherwise brilliant experience.

Book your hour with Escape Room LA’s The Alchemist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room LA comped our tickets for this game.