Escape the Mystery Room (West Nyack, NY): Black Ops Room [Review]

A nonsensical story, a tricky lock, and some meh puzzles wrapped in camouflage.

Location: West Nyack, New York

Date played: August 1, 2015

Team size: not specified; we recommend 3-4

Price: $20 per ticket for teams of 1-5, $18 per ticket for teams of over 6

Theme & Story

The story behind this game went something like: “General Patton has assigned you to defuse a bomb, in a barracks.”

The room was about the size of two respectable cubicles with some kind of World War II airplane painted on the wall. It contained a bookcase filled with books about various wars and a ton of military paraphernalia from a random assortment of eras.

This room looked like it was designed by someone who spent $100 visiting a used bookstore, a Home Depot, and an Army Navy store.

Speaking as a guy who has a degree in American history… Why the hell is General Patton (1885-1945) assigning people in 2015 to disarm a bomb in a barracks that is loaded with random military crap from a variety of different eras?

Mystery Room Palisades Center

Not terrible puzzle structure

Unlike the Sports Room, the Black Ops Room has a reasonable logic flow to it. It’s a linear game and the puzzles proceed accordingly. There is clear cause and effect. You can solve these puzzles without asking for help.

The puzzles aren’t incredible, but they aren’t terrible either.

We solved all of the puzzles in this game within about 15 minutes. And we spent another 15 minutes trying to figure out how to open one particular lock that we’d never seen before.

Mystery Room Palisades Center - Black Ops

The final puzzle

This game was what Escape the Mystery Room calls a “mystery room,” as opposed to an “escape room.” The goal is to solve some problem rather than a door puzzle.

The way you “input” your answer to the mystery is to walk out of the room, find a gamemaster, and tell her the correct answer.

… And yes, that is about as fun as it sounds.

To win the game, you literally have to remove yourself from the game. I am not going to say that the Black Ops Room ever built to a climax, but any tension that had built prior to us solving the final puzzle dissipated the moment I walked out of that room to find the gamemaster.

Should I play Escape the Mystery Room West Nyack’s Black Ops Room?

“Black ops” implies a clandestine operation, which is inherently an intense experience. The name is also riffing off of the title of a popular and intense video game. It’s ultimately a letdown. Taking a chance on sushi at the mall food court just beyond Escape the Mystery Room’s doors is a far more intense experience.

Escape the Mystery Room has established an approach to escape games that is lazy. It seems deliberate because this is not their first location; they started in Georgia.

They use cheap parts, to facilitate weak puzzles, wrapped in poor themes. They take a quantity over quality approach that I sincerely doubt will sustain itself.

Escape the Mystery Room West Nyack is about a 10 minute drive from my parent’s home. I was genuinely excited that there was an escape room company that I could frequent when visiting them. After playing two games, however, I cannot see myself spending the time or money to play another of these games.

Escape the Mystery Room represents the worst in escape gaming. I see no evidence of passion, caring, or a desire to build something special. It comes across as a cynical attempt to cash in on a trend. I worry that anyone who plays Escape the Mystery Room without having played a good escape game will be turned off from the entire industry.

Skip this room. Skip this company.

Escape the Mystery Room (West Nyack, NY): Sports Rooms [Review]

Buckle up sports fans; this is a rough one.

Location: West Nyack, New York

Date played: August 1, 2015

Team size: not specified; we recommend 4-6

Price: $20 per ticket for teams of 1-5, $18 per ticket for teams of over 6

Volume of Games

This company rents a large chunk of real estate in West Nyack, New York’s Palisades Center. Through their use of three quarter height partition walls, they create ten distinct, small boxes, each holding a game. When we visited, three were “escape” rooms and three were “mystery” rooms, where solving the mystery isn’t tied to opening a locked door. Others were still empty.

Any game could be built into any partitioned room. These rooms aren’t elements of the game; they are pens around a few puzzles.

Supervision

Two staff members are responsible for running and overseeing this entire operation. This includes: greeting players, working the register, explaining the games, explaining the rules, debriefing post-game, taking pictures, setting up between teams, AND overseeing ALL gameplay.

There is no game-master in the room; there are no cameras. When we needed a hint in the Sports Room, we opened the door (of a room whose entire goal is escape), walked back to the lobby, and asked for help. Players can do this as often as they would like, and waste valuable time wandering around looking for staff who might be in any of the other rooms. Or eating lunch. Yes, one of our teammates apologized to the clue master for interrupting her lunch because we needed help. After we spent time wandering around and apologizing over lunch, we then tediously explained what we’d already solved so that the staff could determine an appropriate hint.

We were the only group when we arrived as they opened on a Saturday morning, but by the time we left, they weren’t keeping up with the needs of their customers, and most of the rooms were still empty. There wasn’t even anyone in the lobby to say “thank you” to as we left.

Mystery Room Palisades Center

Theme

You are an athlete in your room in the Olympic Village and you need to unlock the door of your room to get to some Olympic event that starts in 45 minutes. Because this room houses an Olympic athlete, that apparently gives the designer license to use anything related to sports and claim it’s on theme. There are puzzles about baseball, golf, football, bowling, and there are non puzzle-elements relating to equally as many sports.

This room looks like it belongs to a huge sports fan who owns a few cans of paint and suffers from a personality disorder. And if this room is supposed to be in the Olympic Village, it makes the athlete quarters in Sochi, Russia, seem considerably better furnished.

Puzzle Quality

The best puzzles in this room are the two tavern puzzles, the ones anyone can buy.

The puzzles designed for this room mostly involve counting, arithmetic, and making bonkers logic leaps. They aren’t creative or exciting, and, like tavern puzzles, they could be installed anywhere. The room itself isn’t a game element.

The puzzles are challenging because the game lacks adequate cluing and therefore the puzzles can have multiple solutions. Many times we didn’t know if we had solved a puzzle correctly until we took time to seek out the clue master and ask her to confirm or reject our solution.

We frequently criticize rooms for having too many locks. But in this case, more locks would have been an improvement. A lock confirms a correctly solved puzzle. This game lacks traditional locks and doesn’t replace them with mechanical/ electronic/ digital locking elements.

Final Puzzle

The final puzzle is particularly obtuse. Many earlier solutions feed into this final puzzle, but nothing in the room tells you which ones. At the risk of a slight spoiler, we feel it’s important to point out purposeful misdirection: When we failed to solve the door puzzle, despite having derived ALL of the answer components, David pointed out that the clue for the door puzzle implied that order mattered, when the explanation demonstrated that it did not. Our clue master grinned at us and said “yeah, I know.”

Our conclusion after playing this room is that it wasn’t designed to be difficult… It was designed not to be solved.

Should I play Escape the Mystery Room’s the Sports Room?

We strive to write reviews that are constructive for designers and informative for players. We recognize that someone worked hard to create this room. To that end, we try not to be mean.

When we tell you that this is the worst room we’ve ever played, we hope you fully understand us. There is no one component or cluster of problems with this room. Instead there isn’t anything good about it: It wasn’t fun, compelling, or interesting. And it wasn’t fair. It also didn’t feel like it was made with any amount of love or care.

The Sports Room was the first time we that we left feeling bad that our friends and family spent time and money on a room escape.

I can only recommend Escape the Mystery Room’s Sports Room to players looking to investigate an outlier room on the bottom end of the bell curve.