Escape Room Madness – Nuclear Annihilation [Review]

A critical mass of puzzle material.

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: June 24, 2019

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Nuclear Annihilation was a challenging puzzle-centric escape room with some nifty interactions. Escape Room Madness presented a traditional escape game, completely with old-school difficulty and low lighting.

The lighting became annoying, even though we had more than enough flashlights for the team.

In-game: Nuclear reactor control panel covered in buttons, switches, and lights.

While there were some strong narrative mechanics, they were few and far between.

If you struggle to see in low light or want a stronger sense of adventure, I cannot encourage you to play this game. However, if you’re attracted to escape rooms for the puzzles, and want to have a large amount of content to play through, this is a great option.

As far as old-school escape rooms go, this one appealed to me more than most.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Volumes of puzzles
  • Nifty switches as inputs

Story

A terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant where we worked had left us trapped. We had to handle the situation.

In-game: "Biohazard" and an image of a gasmask painted in black on concrete.

Setting

We entered a low-lit room with puzzle stations lined up around the periphery. Many of the stations had some lovely, tangible interactions with buttons, switches, and dials that were pleasantly tactile.

Flashlights in hand, we puzzled through the game.

In-game: A desk in a dimly lit room, a panel with glowing switches in an assortment of colors.

Gameplay

Escape Room Madness’ Nuclear Annihilation was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

The difficulty came from the volume of puzzles within the space.

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

In-game: A suitcase bomb open, dials, buttons, switches, and a display revealed.

Analysis

➕ Escape Room Madness built fun electronics into Nuclear Annihilation. The control panels with switches and lights looked and felt good. These fun inputs worked well in the gamespace.

➕ / ➖ The gameplay was gated with locks. The volume of locks gave everyone the opportunity to participate in opening up new game elements. While some of the puzzles and locks were correlated by clues, on other occasions, we’d derive a 4-digit combination and have to try it all over the room. There was almost no variation in digit structure among the locks, which was unfortunate.

➕ Time notifications came to us as news reports. These were well produced and worked well within the theme.

➖ The puzzling felt largely disconnected from the rest of the experience. While many of the puzzles were thematic, they didn’t convey narrative. Escape Room Madness relied on laminated pieces of paper as clues rather than building clue structure into the environment.

➕ Our favorite puzzles made use of clues and inputs other than laminated paper. Newer players were especially excited by one layered decode that relied on unfamiliar props.

➖ The gamespace was dark. While Escape Room Madness provided enough flashlights for each player to have their own, we were continually hampered by the flashlight-between-head-and-shoulder lighting technique, in order to use two hands on a lock. With all the locks we needed to see and manipulate, we would have been much more comfortable with a bit more light.

➖ We wasted a bit of time on puzzles we couldn’t solve yet. On multiple occasions, it seemed as if a puzzle was accessible, but we didn’t yet have all the necessary components. Additional gating would be helpful so that players don’t feel like they’ve wasted large amounts of time.

❓ We accidentally created a red herring in this room… and honestly, our imagined puzzle was pretty amazing. We needed a hint to move on past our concept because we were so sure of it. We were then dumbfounded when we learned that it wasn’t the intended puzzle because it worked so perfectly.

Nuclear Annihilation was an old-school puzzle-driven escape room. There were a lot of puzzles to solve. For players who play escape rooms for the puzzles, there were a ton of puzzles that solved cleanly and moved the team forward.

Tips For Visiting

  • Nuclear Annihilation is located on the 5th floor. Note that Escape Room Madness has other games on the 6th floor.
  • Escape Room Madness is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Take public transit; Escape Room Madness is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ Nuclear Annihilation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Escape Room Madness – Apocalyptic Mission [Review]

An appetizer of puzzles before the apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: January 22, 2018

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per ticket

REA Reaction

Escape Room Madness’ second escape room was a step forward, especially in terms of set design. That said, Apocalyptic Mission lacked the polish, scale, and excitement that we’ve come to expect of new escape rooms in Manhattan. It’s a fine escape room, but it won’t blow your mind.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players who don’t mind using flashlights for the whole game
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The villain in the opening video
  • Some interesting mechanical puzzles

Story

Disgraced medical researcher Dr. Semias Vexx had been forced out of the community for unethical practices. If we could not solve his puzzles, he would release a deadly virus around the world to exact his revenge.

In-game: a blackboard covered in equations and molecules diagrams. There is a locked and worn first aid kit mounted to it.

Setting

We were given flashlights and set loose in a dimly lit, gritty, hacked-together lab.

The set was a big step up from Escape Room Madness’ first game, but not particularly refined.

In-game: A lab measuring cup filled with yellow liquid. A blackboard covered in equations sits behind it.

Gameplay

Apocalyptic Mission was a small-team, puzzle-centric escape room.

The gameplay was built around searching for information and puzzling in low lighting.

In-game: 3 jars filled with mysterious fluids, all labeled with biohazard stickers.

Standouts

Apocalyptic Mission’s humorous intro video set an appropriately dramatic yet playful tone for the escape room. The actor playing the mad scientist nailed the Joker-esque monologue.

With Apocalyptic Mission, Escape Room Madness had leveled up their set design from their initial escape room offering. The set contributed an ambiance that augmented the experience.

We enjoyed one puzzle and its input mechanism that elicited physical reactions from a large set piece.

Shortcomings

While some of the puzzles related to science-y props, many felt disconnected and contrived. They were a bit too escape room-y – where puzzles and solutions only made sense in the context of a puzzle game – and lacked cohesion. This escape room-y feel conflicted with the narrative that was presented at the onset of the game.

Although some puzzles incorporated larger, more tangible set pieces, we still read a lot of puzzles and clues off laminated sheets of paper. We encourage Escape Room Madness to make the clue structure more experiential and more connected to the environment.

While Escape Room Madness certainly stepped up their set design from their first game, the construction in Apocalyptic Mission was rough and imprecise.

One puzzle suffered from continual iteration that left red herrings in its wake. Now that Escape Room Madness has achieved the desired implementation of this puzzle, it would be greatly improved if they eliminated the earlier clues that are no longer meaningful.

Apocalyptic Mission lacked a climax. Our gameplay didn’t feel connected to the story and when escaped, we didn’t feel like we had done what the characters claimed we had accomplished.

Tips for Visiting

  • There are 2 other escape room companies in this building. Go to the correct one.
  • Escape Room Madness is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Colorblind players may struggle at one or two points in the game.
  • Take public transit; Escape Room Madness is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ Apocalyptic Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Escape Room Madness – The Perfect Crime [Review]

The average crime.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 27, 2016

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per ticket

Story & setting

We were in a detective’s office investigating a crime. We needed to determine whodunit, before they got us too.

This was a standard, mundane office setting with locks all over.

A faux rotary phone in the foreground. Wood paneled walls and a bookcase in the background.

Puzzles

Escape Room Madness relied on common escape room puzzle tactics. The Perfect Crime combined a lot of escape room cliches with a few less standard puzzle executions.

Standouts

One particular puzzle’s output was especially elegant.

The game flow was clear.

A line of a dozen "Private Investigator" badges hanging on chains along a wood paneled wall.

Shortcomings

The Perfect Crime’s story arc was flat. At no point did we feel a sense of urgency or heightened stakes.

Escape Room Madness relied on multiple locks with identical input structures, which further flattened the emotional experience of the game.

Tons of details were ultimately useless.

We didn’t need to be in this particular office to solve The Perfect Crime. The escape room could have been equally dramatic, perhaps more dramatic, if it had come in a box for at-home play. The environment was simply a container rather than part of a story.

Should I play Escape Room Madness’ The Perfect Crime?

The Perfect Crime wasn’t a bad game. The puzzles made sense and flowed clearly from one to another. Everything worked.

That said, it wasn’t an exciting room escape either. The environment didn’t contribute to the experience. It never created anything from all that puzzling.

If you’re a new player, looking for an approachable and non-threatening place to start out in Midtown Manhattan, The Perfect Crime is fine. However, there are far more exciting room escapes to experience.

Escape Room Madness is a company with potential. They understand game flow; they got a lot of the basics right. It was clear that they care. If they are willing to push themselves to produce a game that makes a statement, they could grow into a viable competitor in the Midtown Manhattan market.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ The Perfect Crime, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Madness provided media discounted tickets for this game.