Escape the Estate – The Playwright [Review]

Something’s missing.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: April 29, 2017

Team size: up to 8-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23-28 per ticket

Story & setting

Opening night had arrived, but the script was missing. We needed to search the playwright’s room in order to find the script and alleviate the superstitions of the show’s cast.

The Playwright had an old-timey, lived-in hotel room vibe. More than any other room escape at Escape the Estate, The Playwright felt at home within the backdrop of the Hotel Whitmore.

In-game: An old typewriter atop a desk in an old hotel room.

Puzzles

The Playwright was puzzle-driven. Some of the puzzles felt brilliant and refined. Others didn’t seem quite finished.

Standouts

The Playwright had a number of wonderful mechanical interactions that surprised and delighted us.

Susan, our gamemaster, was a wonderful and unobtrusive in-game actor. I was particularly fond of the quirky and subtle way that she would indicate when we were on the right track for any puzzles where we were a bit unsure of what the room escape wanted from us.

Shortcomings

Segments of The Playwright’s set had strange gaps and clear construction flaws. They didn’t seem like they should have been there, as they were neither part of the puzzling, nor the ambiance.

Some of the puzzles were missing clue structure and required logic leaps, or in one instance, unapologetic trial and error.

The Playwright lacked drama.

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Playwright?

The Playwright was a puzzley escape room with some great mechanical moments, but it needed more drama written into it.

I never really felt any stakes in this experience. At one point, I found myself wondering why: “If this is opening night, why doesn’t everyone have a copy of the script?” Or, “It’s opening night, why doesn’t everyone know their lines?”

This lack of drama was systemic throughout the gameplay, which didn’t build towards anything.

Beginners will likely find The Playwright a strong challenge, as we were able to make a few of the logic leaps by virtue of understanding how escape rooms work.

Experienced players will likely find some of aspects of The Playwright underwhelming or simply wish for more polish.

There were great moments within this room escape, but this show was well past opening night and the script felt unfinished.

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

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape the Estate – The Chamber [Review]

The escape wall.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: April 29, 2017

Team size: up to 4; we recommend 2-4 new players

Duration: 15 minutes

Price: $10 per ticket, discounted as an add-on experience

Story & setting

This 15-minute introductory escape room took place in the dark space “below” the Hotel Whitmore, the setting for all Escape the Estate games. A traveling professor once stumbled upon this ancient burial ground and now we had as well.

Although we stood in a long, narrow room, The Chamber was actually an escape wall. One of the room’s longer walls contained all the clues and interactions.

The setting was a haunted burial ground, and it looked pretty compelling.

In-game: Two alcoves in a stone wall. One has a human skeleton in it, the other has multiple human skulls.

Puzzles

The Chamber was a decidedly entry-level experience that led us through basic escape room progression. There was one simple series of puzzles that led to a couple of exciting moments.

Standouts

While simple, The Chamber demonstrated escape room-style thinking and game progression, as intended for its audience. This was an excellent 101 class and a great teaser for Escape the Estate’s longer experiences.

It was short and entertaining.

Shortcomings

It’s possible to circumvent all of the puzzles in the opening moments of the game. I solved the final puzzle first, after about 90 seconds inside The Chamber, before touching any of the other props or puzzles. Thus, we escaped without playing through any of the experience. This problem could have been prevented with a little gating, either technical or physical. (We did play again immediately afterwards, in order to play through the entire game flow.)

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Chamber?

Escape the Estate designed The Chamber as an on-ramp for mall goers who don’t know about escape rooms and might be wary to commit to an hour-long experience. Who can say no to a free 15-minute game?

I actually think that The Chamber is Escape The Estate’s strongest escape room because it knows exactly what it is and who it’s for. Our biggest issue with the experience is likely only ever going to be a problem for players who are experienced and therefore not The Chamber’s target audience.

I love the idea of an escape room designed strictly to orient new players and give them a little tease of what an escape room can be.

If you’re visiting Escape the Estate for one of their 60-minute escape rooms and The Chamber is empty, give it a go. It’s the only escape wall we’ve seen and it’s quite a wall, drawing on the company’s experience crafting haunted houses. The Chamber won’t be challenging, but it will still be fun. It will likely even surprise you.

Look for Escape the Estate’s The Chamber when you visit Escape the Estate and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

Escape the Estate – The Hideout [Review]

Those mobsters and their puzzles.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: January 20, 2017

Team size: up to 4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 20 minutes

Price: $15 per ticket

Story & setting

In a cabin behind the Hotel Whitmore (the fictional setting of all Escape the Estate games), Prohibition-era mobsters have hidden their loot. We had 20 minutes to find the valuables before the police or the gangsters returned.

The set was a small wood cabin in the back of the Escape Estate’s former Petco retail space. We had to break into the cabin and then puzzle our way to the loot.

It was an adorable, little space.

In-game: The exterior of a wood cabin. The door is chained shut, and the window blackened. A sign reads,

Puzzles

While The Hideout was a short game in a tight space, it required a surprising amount of searching. It was amazing how much could be hidden in such a small area.

There were only a few puzzles, but one of them took a little bit of doing.

Standouts

The Hideout, like all other games at Escape the Estate , was gamemastered by an in-character and in-costume bellhop. Our gamemaster was never in the way. The character was used to introduce the game and as a general presence outside of the cabin, adding a wonderfully whimsical flavor to the experience.

Breaking into the cabin to get the game going was an excellent way to start the adventure.

The exterior of the cabin looked great.

Escape the Estate managed to do a lot with a small space.

Shortcomings

The Hideout was a little heavy on searching and light on puzzling for my taste.

The technology used in the game telegraphed some of the puzzle solutions. While this won’t be evident to newbies, experienced players and techies could reverse engineer some puzzle solutions.

Some of the important props lacked heft and felt like toys in an environment that was otherwise robust. Granted, given their original location in the cabin, more heft might have been dangerous. I’d recommend reworking one segment so that The Hideout‘s props can all feel like they belong there.

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Hideout?

I love when an escape room company looks at a small corner and decides to turn it into an intimate little game.

The Hideout was small, but dynamic. It had two sets, searching, and puzzles. It looked good. While I think a small space is more conducive to a more puzzley experience than a searching one, I cannot argue with the results.

Escape the Estate’s The Hideout was small, challenging, and fun. I wouldn’t visit them explicitly to play it, but if you’re already playing one of their other full-length games, you’d be wise to tack on this 20-minute adventure.

Book your session with Escape the Estate’s The Hideout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Escape the Estate – The Gamble [Review]

Our night was on the house.

Location: Syracuse, NY

Date played: January 20, 2017

Team size: up to 10-12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23 per ticket

Story & setting

We arrived at Hotel Whitmore and stepped into the 1920s. Our bellhop led us to the manager’s private gaming parlor where we needed to escape with evidence of the sinister behavior taking place there.

Escape the Estate repurposed a former Petco in the Shoppingtown mall into its Hotel Whitmore attractions. Guests were greeted at reception and escorted back to the gaming parlor or any of the hotel’s other attractions.

The Hotel Whitmore’s gaming parlor brought us back in time with its wallpapered walls, framed artwork, and old furniture. While The Gamble’s staging – including walls reaching almost to the ceiling – did not quite remove us from 2017, the props and puzzles were captivating enough that we could suspend our disbelief for the hour of gameplay.

In-game: A scrabble board sitting on an animal pelt table cloth. A bellhop stands beside the mantle in the background, hands folded in front of him.

Puzzles

The Gamble offered a lot to puzzle through. These included words, numbers, ciphers, and perspectives, among other challenges.

While most puzzles led to a lock, some also included more tech-driven interactions.

Standouts

Our experience in the Hotel Whitmore began even before our time did.

Our bellhop greeted us in character and remained in character throughout our experience. When we rang for their services, the bellhop would appear and deliver appropriate hints without ever intruding on our game. The bellhop character was a wonderful and intriguing part of The Gamble.

These gangsters had no shortage of secret hiding places. These were surprising and fit in the Prohibition-era setting.

Escape the Estate got their start in haunted houses. While The Gamble wasn’t scary, the designers found ways to lean on their haunt skills to add depth to the room escape without derailing the experience. It worked well.

There were some great puzzles and a memorable moment or two in The Gamble.

Shortcomings

Some of the puzzles overstayed their welcome.

There were too many boxes – even if most were luggage – and it quickly got old to check multiple possible inputs with similar digit structures each time we derived a solution. Furthermore, we would have loved to see more antique keys rather than modern combination locks.

One puzzle seemed riddled with red herrings. We spent a long time working through it, only to have the solution become clear immediately upon a late game reveal.

The ending didn’t live up to the drama of earlier parts of the experience.

Should I play Escape the Estate’s The Gamble?

The Gamble was Escape the Estate’s first room. They played to their strengths in experience design to build the world of The Hotel Whitmore that extended beyond the timer for any one game. The delightful and unobtrusive gamemaster navigated the intersection of theater, immersive experience, and puzzles.

The Gamble was a puzzler’s room escape, but an approachable one. There was a lot to unpack, but it flowed smoothly. Both new players and experienced players should find the puzzling enjoyable.

While much of this room escape was by the books, Escape the Estate brought their own point of view and charm to the overall experience. Check in to Hotel Whitmore and…

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

Full disclosure: Escape the Estate comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.