Escape the Room San Antonio- Western Bank Heist [Review]

Hold up

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Date Played: February 3, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A] Push To Release

REA Reaction

Escape the Room San Antonio’s Western Bank Heist looked gorgeous. It was a beautiful and detailed game space.

The experience, however, felt hollow. The gameplay wasn’t dynamic, logical, or interesting. On multiple occasions, this game was barely clued. In one instance, I considered changing the code on one of the locks because doing so would have fixed the worst puzzle in this game. All it would have taken was swapping two digits to something that actually made sense. I didn’t do it… but Escape The Room absolutely should.

Escape the Room San Antonio built an amazing stage for a dramatic heist. With minimal tweaks in puzzle design and gameplay, they could make this adventure truly outstanding.

In its current form, we can only recommend Western Bank Heist for its scenery. Our playthrough was irritating.

In-game: A cashier standing behind a barred window in an elegant wooden bank.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs

Why play?

  • The gorgeous set
  • To see one of the silliest puzzle solutions that we’ve encountered in years


Our gang saddled up to rob a bank.

In-game: Post office boxes.


Escape The Room’s Western Bank Heist had a fantastic look that struck our entire team the moment we set foot in the room. The dark wood, white paint, and gold embellishments felt both strange and right.

Additionally, Escape The Room had added a few new effects to modernize this game and they were a smart addition.

In-game: A sign that reads, "Deposit Slips" surrounded by intricate woodwork, above it is a beautiful gold ceiling.


Escape the Room San Antonio’s Western Bank Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The difficulty stemmed from unrefined puzzles.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: An intricate clock hanging on the wall.


➕ This holdup took place in a spacious and detailed bank set. With its substantial wooden set pieces, built into the architecture, it looked and felt like the stage for a bit of prairie mischief.

➖ Although the set looked great, it wasn’t bright enough for a search-and-puzzle game. We were encouraged to use our phones for flashlights which was fine, if out of place… but there really wasn’t a good reason for us to need flashlights of any kind in this game. The low contrast clues weren’t fun to find.

➖ All roads led to a 4-digit combination… even when a different digit structure would have made more sense. Each time we derived an answer, we had to try it in every available input, which shot any forward momentum.

➕ We enjoyed the few tangible puzzles that were built into the fixtures of the gamespace. These were mostly new puzzles that had been recently integrated into The Western Bank Heist.

➖ We tripped up repeatedly on unclued searching and red herrings.

➖ One puzzle required a hefty logic leap. We required multiple hints on what should have been a quick-hit puzzle. When we finally got the right answer, this puzzle’s solution was about 75% inane bullshit.

➖ Escape the Room San Antonio missed an obvious opportunity for an explosive and memorable moment.

➕ Despite a few missed opportunities, Western Bank Heist went out with a bang.

➖ Still, as we skipped town, we felt intimately familiar with the space, but not the sense of adventure or satisfaction one would hope from successfully robbing a bank. We’d spent more energy poring over every nook and cranny than solving puzzles. The experience felt hollow.

Tips For Visiting

  • Escape the Room San Antonio is right off The San Antonio River Walk.

Book your hour with Escape the Room San Antonio’s Western Bank Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape the Room San Antonio provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape the Room NYC – Jurassic Escape [Review]

Jurassic Escape

“Life, uh… finds a way.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: October 11, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

As I entered Jurassic Escape, in my head I heard the voice of John Hammond say, “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” This escape room felt like it was heavily inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Escape The Room NYC largely nailed the aesthetic and vibe of the movie. This was straight down to the effects, including one of the most memorable moments in the movie.

As a kid, I loved that movie. I loved that book. I loved all things dinosaurs. I couldn’t wait to step into this world that I had so painstakingly tried to recreate with my toys in my parents’ basement. Did I mention that I was excited?

In-game: The dinosaur pens.

Did it play on that level?

Jurassic Escape was a mixed bag. Its highs soared and its lows were bafflingly disappointing. (How do you make shooting a gun the least intense moment in a puzzle game?) Jurassic Escape constantly shifted between an immersive dinosaur adventure and an average escape game.

In the end, I was thrilled that I got to play Jurassic Escape, but I couldn’t help feeling that this one could have and should have been a curve breaker.

Who is this for?

  • People who love dinosaurs (If you don’t… why?)
  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Dinosaurs!
  • Some fantastic effects
  • Some brilliant setpieces
  • Dinosaurs! 


An evil corporation was cloning weaponized dinosaurs. We had to stop them.

In-game: A close-up of the face of a cage triceratops.
Image by Steve Ewing


We began our adventure in the dinosaur pens. This set looked fantastic. It was a few animatronics away from feeling like it could have belonged in a Universal theme park.

Late game, we found ourselves in the less inspiring laboratory, which looked a step or two above your standard white-walled lab escape room.

In-game: A hole in a wall, a storage room with crates is beyond it.


Escape the Room NYC’s Jurassic Escape was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.


➕ The initial set was especially cool. This was exactly what I’d wanted to see in a Jurassic Park-inspired escape room.

➕ Escape The Room built some phenomenal effects into Jurassic Escape. We loved one absolutely amazing and oh-so-memorable moment.

➕ One puzzle directly referenced Jurassic Park. I saw it coming before I even entered the game. I was plenty happy to see it there.

➖ Jurassic Escape had some rough bottleneck puzzles that conflicted with the intense adventure theme. These puzzles stopped all forward progress. While this could be fine in some themes, it didn’t feel natural in Jurassic Escape.

➕ At its best, Jurassic Escape offered thematic puzzles that carried the narrative forward and instilled a sense of adventure.

In-game: a case for a tranquilizer gun.

➖ An early challenge featuring a gun was boring and lacked adequate direction. There was no reason for this to be anything but a quick, intense, and cool moment. It was instead a momentum-annihilating dose of tedium. If Escape The Room NYC only changes one thing about this game, please let it be this.

➕ Mid-game, Escape The Room NYC ratcheted up the intensity and really made Jurassic Escape roar.

➖ Escape the Room NYC never paid off the intensity of the theme or their best moments. When we won, the game ended as if we had found the door key. They forgot to truly end our story… and there was an opportunity to deliver an impactful exit.

❓ The featured dinosaurs in Jurassic Escape were from the late Cretaceous Period. [Pushes glasses up.]

Tips For Visiting

  • Escape the Room NYC is easily accessible by subway.
  • Take the elevator up to the escape room company.
  • We recommend Hill Country Chicken for a bite to eat before / after the game.

Book your hour with Escape the Room NYC’s Jurassic Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape the Room NYC comped our tickets for this game.

Escape the Room NYC – Clock Tower [Review]

Don’t fritter and waste this hour in an off-hand way.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: July 20, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

Clock Tower was a steam-punkish adventure to correct time.

The escape room took place in a laboratory called the Clock Tower, home to an eccentric keeper of time. The space included different mechanisms for altering and experiencing time. These were the crux of both the set and the puzzles.

In game: A table covered in steam-punkish machinery. An image of a Tardis rests on the wall of the detailed and weathered space.


The puzzles in Clock Tower were born of the incredible environment. The set pieces themselves were the puzzles.

Clock Tower’s puzzles ran the gamut of mechanical, observational, mathematical (nothing brutal), auditory, logical, and at one point, even “magical.” Multiple puzzles involved clocks, but with dramatically varied approaches. These different puzzle types all included tactile components.


Clock Tower transported us not just through time, but into a space so unlike the midtown building that houses Escape the Room NYC. The room was composed of larger set pieces that contributed to a cohesive environment. Each set piece was exciting, beautiful, and intricate, but not distracting (mostly).

More importantly, the puzzling existed through the set. We explored, fiddled, manipulated, and even constructed parts of this set as we solved the puzzles. This made the puzzling that much more dynamic.

Many of the puzzles in Clock Tower were tech-driven, but the tech driving these interactions varied enormously and frequently felt invisible.

Through a combination of set, puzzles, and tech, Clock Tower delivered multiple cinematic moments. Each one delighted us.

Clock Tower included multiple puzzles we’ve never seen before. This wasn’t limited to different takes on familiar concepts. Clock Tower forced us to think of new ideas.

Clock Tower demonstrated that an escape room can be seriously challenging and still fair.


The initial gamespace bottlenecked, both in physical space and gameplay. Clock Tower required a large team, but it initially couldn’t involve the full group.

Two of the early puzzles felt too similar, even though they ended up being quite different. This created confusion about whether they were standalone puzzles or somehow intertwined. It lead us needlessly off track for a bit.

While certainly both challenging and fair, in a few instances, Clock Tower would benefit from a little more clueing within the game. When we received hints from our gamemaster, they were always additional indirect clues; we would have liked to uncover most of those details ourselves within the environment.

Most of the puzzles in Clock Tower furthered our time-centric mission, but one seemed entirely out of place. It was a good puzzle, but we didn’t understand why it belonged.

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s Clock Tower?

Clock Tower is an ideal game for escape room enthusiasts. It had a gorgeous set, integrated and tactile puzzles, and it will still be exciting and challenging even for seasoned players.

Very experienced teams will be happier in slightly smaller groups, if they can finagle such a booking, as there was some bottlenecking that left folks hanging and unable to help puzzle. We recommend that new players play at least a few other escape rooms first before booking Clock Tower.

With Clock Tower, Escape the Room NYC has nailed so much of what makes escape rooms exhilarating, from the interactive puzzling to the cinematic moments.

While they can continue to improve narrative integration so that all the puzzles feel natural in the space and deliver more story arc, they are making strides in that direction.

When the doors out of Clock Tower opened up, we felt that we had truly righted time and earned that victory in a fun little world hidden in Midtown Manhattan. That’s what escape rooms are about.

Book your hour with Escape the Room NYC’s Clock Tower, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Escape the Room NYC – Submarine [Review]

We all live in a puzzle submarine.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: March 27, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

While exploring a deserted island with our friends we happened upon an old diesel submarine. We climbed aboard the boat and found ourselves locked in and descending. We had an hour’s worth of oxygen left to figure out how to surface the sub and save ourselves.

The set looked fantastic. The entirely custom construction blew away older Escape The Room NYC sets. The shape of the room, the doors, and the manner in which they made us feel like there was a world outside of the room was superb.

SS Escape - Submarine exterior shot. It looks like weathered metal.


Even with the impressive set, the puzzling remained front and center.

The early puzzling consisted of fairly standard but well-executed escape room-style puzzles. With the late game puzzles, we moved through a story-driven adventure.

The puzzles kept most of our large team engaged at any given point throughout the room escape.

Submarine focused more on exploration and discovery than on scavenging through the set.


The set was exceptional. When I had some downtime in the middle of the game while my teammates puzzled, I wandered around taking it all in. There were tons of dials, buttons, and gauges that were merely part of the set. While upon an initial glance I had internally freaked out because it seemed that the scenery overload could lead to confusion, it was actually easy to tell the important controls from the unimportant ones.

In-game, and detailed submarine door.

The puzzling was good fun. The solutions felt rewarding. We could witness the results of our progress as we moved through the room escape.

There were some great puzzles, expertly crafted to require the involvement of multiple players.

One recurring task was both compelling and kind of annoying; it was deliberate and it worked well in spite of its repetitious nature.

While trapped in the Submarine we actually felt like there was an exterior world. Brilliant.


We experienced a major technical malfunction: many of the excellent puzzles lacked feedback. We solved at least two of them purely by lucky timing. In this tech-driven adventure, feedback is crucial and should be checked with every reset.

Much of the second half of Submarine followed a narrative arc where the puzzle solutions furthered the story… except for one puzzle that shifted back to non-narrative “escape room logic.” Had this puzzle been in an escape room without a narrative, or even appeared before the story had kicked in, it would have been fine. In this case, it felt out of place and strangely disappointing.

That same puzzle centered on a prop that felt cheap and out of place in the otherwise gorgeous set. There was one other prop that felt like it had been carried over from an older escape room and didn’t belong in this artfully designed and constructed world.

There was some 3D modeling that could have looked a bit more compelling, especially in comparison to the set’s beauty.

Should I play Escape The Room NYC’s Submarine?

Submarine introduced the next level of set and puzzle design from New York City’s first escape room company.

After our most recent experiences at Escape the Room NYC, we had started to count them out. They might have been first, but newer players had surpassed them. With Submarine, Escape the Room NYC is back in the picture and we welcome this return to form.

If you enjoy puzzles, teamwork, adventure, and how these can come together to serve a purpose, in a craft so unlike a room in the Manhattan building you entered from the street, I recommend Submarine.

This will be a challenging escape room for newer players, but it is well designed and conquerable at all experience levels.

Bring a full team, I wouldn’t recommend taking this plunge with strangers.

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

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

Escape the Room NYC – The Rec Room [Review]

A reminder that the 1980s is over-romanticized

Location: New York, New York

Date played: June 3, 2016

Team size: 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

The Rec Room perfectly embodied its 1980’s aesthetic. We had played The Apartment in this same space about a year ago, but Escape the Room NYC completely rebuilt the space to capture a new vibe. Even the walls and the lighting were on theme.

We weren’t allowed to take any non-spoiler photos, but this picture gives you a good idea of the walls in the Rec Room.

Despite impeccable theming, The Rec Room didn’t tell a story. We simply needed to escape this room, and with it, escape the 1980’s. There was potential for a narrative, but Escape The Room NYC didn’t bother to attempt a story.


These puzzles required expert scavenging. We had to carefully search every aspect of the room in order to dive into the more mentally challenging aspects of The Rec Room.

Escape the Room NYC built The Rec Room’s puzzles around some fun 1980’s props and gadgets. Some of these functioned as expected. Others were simply vehicles for different types of interactions. We enjoyed this variety in design.

Additionally, the puzzles provided challenges for all types of players.


The theming in The Rec Room was spot on and we loved the props. We really felt like we spent an hour playing in a 1980’s rec room. In fact, I couldn’t resist the urge to dance to the soundtrack.

The staff at Escape the Room NYC was top notch. Our game master was energetic and engaged.


Escape the Room NYC sells 10 tickets to this game, but this was really, at most, a six-player experience. The space was small and at any given time, there weren’t enough puzzles to engage our entire team. This overcrowding severely diminished our game experience.

The Rec Room incorporated technological mechanisms: solutions triggered other things to happen. Because of the overcrowding and the resulting chaos, we never knew what action caused what reaction from our environment. This made it impossible to know whether we had correctly solved various puzzles.

There was one order-preservation puzzle. With so many people and the required heavy scavenging, this was bound to be problematic. We needed a clue or we never would have thought to return props to their original locations. This was infuriatingly lame.

There was one task that took forever to complete largely because the interface was terrible (and also far too modern for a 1980s game).

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s The Rec Room?

Escape the Room NYC was the first company to open in New York and the first company that David and I each visited. We loved their early games and expect better from them.

The Rec Room had too many people crammed in its tiny space, and the game felt dated (and not in 1980s nostalgic sort of way).

While this new game incorporated more technological mechanics than those early games, its overarching design was that of 2014. The industry has progressed, but this game was left behind. It tried to keep too many people occupied by relying on heavy scavenging, a mainstay of early US games.

Stuffing 10 people into The Rec Room felt like a cash grab.

The Rec Room enables players to spend an hour in a well-designed, enjoyably-themed environment. It wasn’t a bad game, but we’ve seen some excellent work come from Escape The Room and The Rec Room did not feel like a step in the right direction.

New York City is one the most competitive markets in the US. This game cannot stand up to the polish, innovation, technology, or narrative that others provide. The Rec Room was good enough, but given the drawbacks, we recommend that if you have limited time in New York City, you spend your money elsewhere.

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

[Image via]

Ford Escape NYC [Review]

It was a giant advertisement, but it was a fun, well-executed giant advertisement.

Location: New York City, New York

Date played: June 26, 2016

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Price: Free – Limited Run Promotion

Story & setting

We were broke New York millennials doing broke New York millennial stuff in a simulation of the New York City boroughs in a Ford Escape SUV.

A giant Ford Escape billboard welcoming new players.

The game was set in a massive indoor space one avenue west of Penn Station. We worked our way through a number of different sets, including an apartment, office, coffee shop, and Bushwick art show, among other locations. We traveled between these locations by driving a 2017 Ford Escape.

At each set, actors facilitated the experience, and led us through the story of our day with the vehicle.


At each point of the game, we interacted with a feature of the car in order to accomplish a critical task or solve a puzzle. The staff made this clear upfront, and cleverly leveraged this game dynamic so that everyone had to pay close attention to the car’s sales pitch.

The game allowed us 6 minutes to complete the few puzzles within each set.

Given the limited time, the puzzles were all very basic, and didn’t allow for any form of progressive exploration. Important clues were obvious. In some cases they were pointed out by the staff; in others, they were literally labeled “IMPORTANT.”


It was pretty damn cool driving a car through an escape experience. My favorite parts of the game were in the car. I could have actually used a bit more of the car.

The scale of this game was staggering, as was the pace at which we were pushed through it. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

The game gave a good overview of both escape rooms and the Ford Escape. (Honestly, the standout feature for me was the vehicle’s Sony sound system.)


As an experienced player, the puzzles weren’t particularly satisfying. However, the new players were clearly blown away by them.

A Ford Escape with a green screen in the background. The car is surrounded by cinematic lighting.
We shot some video in front of a green screen. Turns out Lisa and I aren’t great at forced enthusiasm.

I’m completely baffled by the location. It seems an insurmountably steep challenge to sell millennials in New York City on the virtues of owning a car, let alone an SUV.

For those unfamiliar with NYC, you pretty much have to be independently wealthy to own a car in this city. If you live in the outer boroughs or New Jersey it’s absolutely an option (or a necessity), but I do not know anyone in Manhattan with a car. This experience feels like it would have been a lot more appropriate in Los Angeles… or damn near any other city in the United States.

The event’s website, registration, and promotional material were a mess. The website was clunky, difficult, and deeply unappealing. When we shared the link, a lot of our readers questioned whether this was even an escape game. We were skeptical going in, and pleasantly surprised that the event greatly exceeded our expectations.

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s Ford Escape NYC?

This was a limited run experience. It was a lot of fun and it was free. If it, or a variant of it, shows up in your city, it’s a good time.

A small fleet of Ford Escapes is in the foreground, the coffee shop stage is in the background.
The coffee shop is off in the distance.

I wouldn’t recommend going far out of your way explicitly to play it, but if it’s convenient, and you can pair it with something else nearby, it’s more than worth the time.

It included heavy sales pitch aspects, but they were well woven into the gameplay.

The size of the event, the massive staff, the actors, and the fact that the game made so much use of the car was excellent.

If it’s ever an option for you, book your session with Escape the Room NYC’s Ford Escape NYC, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape the Room NYC – The Home [Review]

A new reviewer tackles an old favorite.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: January 10, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Price: $30 per ticket

Escape The Room NYC Logo

Guest review! Intro by David Spira

Jessica Felleman is a writer and an integral part of Team Room Escape Artist. She accompanies us on most of our NYC games and is one hell of a clutch player.

When she was looking for a game to take her friends and family to, Lisa and I were thrilled to hear that she had chosen Escape The Room NYC’s The Home. We played The Home before we began writing reviews and we have never back-filled. So here’s Jessica’s review:

Theme & story

Themed as a “Victorian mystery,” the room definitely felt like we’d been dropped into a Dickens’ story, so props to props, but beyond that we didn’t receive any accompanying information as to why we were locked in, or whose house it was, or if there was a specific mystery to our situation.

The Home seemed very straightforward, but it also escalated in a few exciting and unexpected ways.

While it didn’t really have a story, it did convey a sense of adventure.

It was all very mysterious, which made getting started on the puzzles a little halted. On the story end, I would’ve liked a little more substance.


“I feel so accomplished!”

Said by my newbie cousin, who helped out at key points. He expressed exactly what it is about room escapes that gets so addicting! The Home provided the perfect stepping stone for that experience.

The puzzles were well thought out and accessible to everyone.

We definitely said “cool!” a handful of times. We appreciated that while there were basic “find the digits” locks, there were also some surprising and interestingly designed puzzles that changed up the experience so we never felt bored.

Friendly & honest staff

Our puzzle master, Megan, was great and friendly, as were the front desk staff, who kindly reminded us that when they said “the coat rack is just a coat rack” that’s exactly what they meant.

I can attest to the fact that the coat rack did not at all help us escape, except to keep our coats off our bodies and out of the way.

Escape The Room NYC - The Home


At the beginning of the game we all had things to do as we turned the room over. However, within 15 minutes there were only one or two puzzles to work through at a time, which continued though the game and caused everyone to feel a bit useless for long chunks of time until we made it out.

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s The Home?

The Home had puzzles for new and experienced players and the flow was easy enough for the newbs to follow along and participate. (My cousins are already looking to do another room!). The game felt like an adventure. It was not the most complex design, but everything worked, and it was fun.

If you’re looking for an introductory room to bring your friends to, The Home fits the bill.

If you’re looking for an escape room that conveys a story, or are an experienced group of people looking for a tough challenge, The Home may not be for you.

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

Escape the Room NYC – Apartment [Review]

A nonlinear game that truly captures a New York City apartment’s je ne sais quoi.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: June 28, 2015

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Price: $28 per ticket


“You are trapped in what feels like your typical NYC apartment: small, intimate and full of roommates (your fellow puzzlers). You usually just feel trapped inside your NYC home, but now you are for real! This game is for up to 10 players.”

Escape the Room NYCFull Disclosure

Escape the Room NYC comped our tickets for this game.

Very New York City apartment-y

It’s cramped and strangely shaped, but it’s in a awesome neighborhood and the rent is great. Escape the Room NYC set out to give their players a true New York experience… And they succeeded. This escape room looks exactly like a New York City apartment (except that it’s missing a shower and a bed).

The trouble with hitting the mark so well on this particular theme is that the game space felt very tight with seven adults and the game is billed for 10 people.

Rare is the NYC apartment that comfortably fits 10 humans.


The game is decidedly nonlinear, and that is what makes this room work. It’s tight, but there’s a lot to do.

The deeper you get into the game, the more cramped things feel because there are fewer puzzles for people to gather around.

Well done, no magic

The Apartment is a good game. Escape the Room NYC’s staff is wonderful, exuberant, and highly attentive (they are the best non-owner staff we’ve ever encountered). The puzzles are all logically sound, well-constructed, and for the most part fit into a tight theme. That theme just isn’t particularly exciting, and it’s lock heavy.

Everything works, and is fun, but there’s no climactic “wow” moment… Because it’s an apartment. However that’s not to say that this room is lacking surprises; it has some good ones.

Clues in high places

This was my parents’ first room escape, and my dad climbed up on a chair to look for things in high places. I kind of snapped at him because escape rooms never hide things so high up that you have to climb on chairs to get them… Turns out I was wrong. Twice.

There were a couple instances where clues were hidden very high-up. I’m 6’1, if I can’t find something without climbing, then it’s probably too high.

Escape the Room NYC - Apartment - Escaped

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s Apartment?

Here’s the deal. Escape the Room NYC has five rooms in Manhattan. Four of them come in various flavors of awesome. The Apartment is good.

If you’ve never played with Escape the Room NYC before, then this will absolutely be a great time. If you have played one of their other games, then this one is going to fall short.

Expectations grow with reputation.

Book your hour with Escape the Room NYC’s Apartment and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape the Room Philly – The Dig [Review]

[Formerly known as The Cavern]

A delightful adventure that is begging for a tangible plot.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Date played: May 30, 2015

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-8

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner


“You’ve been summoned into the deep and have 60 minutes to unravel the mystery of the Cavern.”

Digging up the past

Defying expectations, “The Cavern” begins by dropping players into a church-like environment; it was decidedly not-cavernous… That part comes later.

The Cavern gives a second life to the expensive set pieces born from Escape the Room NYC’s (owners of Escape the Room Philly) collaboration with the USA Network on their Dig Escape Game. If you played that game, then you’re going to feel like you’re in familiar territory. Don’t get too comfortable (we did); the breadth and difficulty of this game has been ramped up a few levels (but you’re still going to know how a few things work).


The game feels like Indiana Jones and The Da Vinici Code had a baby, and that’s a good thing.

The look, the feel, the sights and the sounds of this game are all on-point. The experience is pretty incredible (especially if you hadn’t played Dig).

Puzzle variety

The folks from Escape the Room NYC have become exceptionally talented at crafting a wide variety of puzzles that fit elegantly into their games. The Cavern is no exception.

Each puzzle offers its own challenge, most of those puzzles are memorable, and many of them are physically interactive (more so than with most escape rooms).

Often the puzzles resolve in exciting, fun, and unexpected ways (not putting a combination into a lock).

Escape the Room Philly - The Cavern - Room Escape Artist


Later in the game, there are some seriously inventive puzzles; two of them could use a bit more tuning to guide players along the way.

One we solved with the help of a clue (and I really don’t think we would have resolved it without one). The other we solved, but didn’t know it. Saying more would be too spoiler-y.

Story please!

This game begs for a story. The puzzles are almost telling a story, but each player must imagine what that story is.

Spicing it up with a cohesive narrative would make this game shine.

Up to 10 players?

The Cavern is billed as a game for “up to 10 players.” While the game space in totality can more than comfortably fit 10 players, I don’t think there are enough puzzles to keep 10 players busy throughout the game.

As you press deeper into the game, it becomes more linear (in a good way). However, there isn’t room around these puzzles for more than a few players at a time.

We had 6 people, and that felt right.

Should I play Escape the Room Philly’s The Cavern?

The Cavern would stand out as a great game in a competitive market; in Philadelphia it’s incredible.

If you didn’t play the Dig game, this one is going to really wow you. If you did, there’s still a lot of fun to mine from the Cavern, but it’s not going to shock you in the way it will an unfamiliar player.

If you recognize re-purposed props, there is one puzzle that you should sit out and let someone else solve it (I wish I had).

It’s a new game, so I would expect it to evolve some over the coming months. I’m betting its going to get even better.

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

Escape the Room NYC – Theater [Review]

Be still my beating heart… This is a 12 person room escape that can actually fit 12 people.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: April 26, 2015

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 8-12

Price: $28 per ticket


“The Theater is for up to 12 players. You and your fellow theater goers are trapped in a theater. You have one hour to escape or it’s curtains for everyone.”

12 people!

The website says, “The Theater is for up to 12 players.” We brought 12 adults. We all fit in the room with tons of space to spare. We all had fun.

This never ever happens, and I was totally ready to write about how “12 person rooms shouldn’t be a thing.” The Theater pulls it off because it’s big (huge by Manhattan standards). It’s actually a theater.

Escape the Room NYC Theater - Room Escape Artist

It’s a theater!

The theater actually is a theater. Before the space was converted into an escape game, there were theatery things happening in the same space.

This means that there is theater rigging and auditorium seating.

When I read the description, I was expecting a “backstage” setting with tons of props and costumes.

The setting makes the game. It’s dramatically different from any other escape game I’ve played. Never underestimate the power of a unique environment.

Not us... But a shot of a team inside the room.
Not us… But a shot of a team inside the room.

Image via Escape the Room NYC (Facebook)

Too many 4 digit combo locks

The Theater isn’t perfect.

It has a ton of combination locks, and almost all of them were 4 numerical digits.

Why is this a problem?

Every time you think you have a solution, you have to try it in half a dozen locks. This gets tedious, and you really have to be on top of your game to make sure that you don’t miss a lock.

Locks are great. Lots of locks is fine. A wide variety in combination length, as well as letter, and directional locks help break up the patterns, and creates a situation where the players know which lock a solution belongs to. It seems small, but this makes the room considerably more player-friendly.

Bad lock

One disk in one lock was set incorrectly. For example:

The clues lead us to the number “1234” but the lock accidentally required “2234.”

We burned at least five minutes on that before asking for our a hint. Our game master told us to try “1234” and it didn’t work. We only figured it out because one of our teammates started futzing with the first disk, and accidentally opened the thing.

Bad setups are deeply frustrating, and what makes this even more agitating is that we have had a bad setup three out of six times that we’ve played with Escape the Room NYC.

As a reviewer, this puts me in a tough position because while I think they have some of the most creative and fun games I’ve ever encountered, they have consistent quality control issues that are inexcusable.

Bad setups are never ok. You only get to play these games once; they should be set up correctly.

Bad Lock Response

We reached out to Escape the Room NYC for a comment about quality control. Designer and Co-founder Victor Blake agrees that bad set ups are never ok. He explained the lengths he goes to to ensure correct set ups and high quality game experiences at all his locations. He works hard at it, but sometimes things break and his staff are human.

Our consistent experience with bad locks is not reflective of the total percentage of set up mistakes at Escape the Room; he keeps track. We have to chalk this up to dumb luck.

Victor offered us a refund and free tickets to our next room. He does this for any team that experiences a quality control issue that impacts their experience. We enjoyed the Theater too much to accept the refund, but we accepted the free game; he doesn’t want to treat us differently than he would any other team.

Exceptional Staff

That staff at Escape the Room NYC continue to impress us. They are energetic, engaging, and passionate about the game and the players’ experiences.

Best walkthroughs in the business

Escape the Room NYC has the best post-game walkthroughs in the business. It may seem like a small detail, but it matters.

Walkthroughs are especially important when you’ve just played a 12 person game, as there is no way for each player to keep track of everything that happened.

Escape the Room NYC

Should I play Escape the Room NYC’s Theater?

I love escape games that riff off of local culture and history, and there few things as New York as the theater.

The room is awesome. The game is both fun and challenging (the escape rate is approximately 20%).

I wouldn’t recommend this game for a team of first timers because it’s so different from most rooms that it’s more fun to play after having experienced some more typical escapes.

You can bring a team of 12 people to this game. I think 8-10 is probably ideal, but you’re still going to be able to have a good time with 12.

Escape the Room NYC needs to get a handle on quality control because bad setups keep tainting an otherwise exceptional experience.

Book your hour with Escape the Room NYC’s Theater, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.