Escape Virtuality – Runaway Subway Train [Review]

Fare?

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: December 18, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Runaway Subway Train felt like a scavenger hunt with locks that didn’t work… in a moving train-like space.

This wasn’t a good escape room, but at the onset, it seemed like it had potential.

In-game: Red bench seating in a train car. You can see a gold hinge running along the back of the seat.

The sad reality was that Escape Virtuality just had us identifying codes and putting them into locks. There was almost nothing to solve and half of the challenge that we encountered was struggling against the worn out locks.

We badly want new and amazing escape rooms in New York City. We wanted to be able to tell you that the Runaway Subway Train is worth your time and money… but we can’t. The only people to whom we can recommend this game are potential owners who want a $39 lesson in how to waste potential.

Who is this for?

  • Scavenger hunters

Why play?

  • The game has unrealized potential

Story

Our subway was out of control and about to crash – in an hour!

In-game: A subway map along the back wall of the train car.

Setting

Our team was split up into two adjacent subway cars. We entered through train-like pocket doors. Each car had roughly the same subway car structure of bench seating with advertisements above.

While everything had the right structure, the details weren’t there. It looked like a subway, but only if you haven’t been inside of one with any level of recency, which is unlikely in Midtown Manhattan.

In-game: Double doors between train cars.

Gameplay

Escape Virtuality’s Runaway Subway Train was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and a split-team beginning.

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

In-game: An ad for a plumbing company who's slogan is, "We're #1 in the #2 business"

Analysis

➕ The first few puzzles taught us how this escape room wanted us to play it, for better or for worse.

➖ There were few puzzles in this escape room. The gameplay was almost entirely of the “observe and input” variety. We spent most of our time searching or waiting on our teammates to struggle with an input.

➖ Because this game required us to observe and input, we spent a lot of time trying anything we’d observed in every lock. There was no way to know what would be important. Guess all the things!

➕ There was one challenging, layered puzzle in Runaway Subway Train. This solved well with teamwork. It was the highlight of the gameplay.

➖ We encountered some misleading cluing, which might have been the result of ghost puzzles. These included a switch that triggered nothing and cluing a code to a digital lock when the input went into an analog one. We also encountered puzzles that weren’t clued at all.

➖ The one reveal was a missed opportunity. Instead of adding intrigue, it was hard to see, and looked worse than what had been there before.

➖ The locks in this game were in rough shape. We open locks more often than most players and we struggled repeatedly to open multiple combination locks.

➖/➕ The set design was subway-like. Escape Virtuality built in all the key elements of a subway car, but for New Yorkers who ride the subway everyday – and probably rode the subway to get to Escape Virtuality – they didn’t sell the concept with their build. They did, however, make it feel like our subway cars were moving. This was the best part of the set design.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking is a challenge in Manhattan. Take the subway (1 to 28th Street or the R/W to 28th Street.)
  • There are tons of restaurants in this neighborhood. We enjoy Hill Country Barbecue and Market.

Disclosure: Escape Virtuality comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Virtuality – Ghost Collector [Review]

The many ghosts of Professor Pepper.

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: October 29, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  Starting at $39 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape Virtuality opened in Manhattan earlier this year with a large, street-level storefront, offering a mix of virtual reality experiences and real-life escape games.

Ghost Collector was a (real-life) escape room with a solid set, interactive solves, and illusions. The opens were largely tech-driven, which worked well with the theme.

In-game: Closeup of a twistable Ouiji board with a bookcase in the background.

The puzzles lacked balance: either too easy, or challenging for the wrong reasons, and without appropriate feedback… and most of them felt more like tasks than puzzles.

The overall experience will likely impress newer players even if they struggle with the gameplay. For more experienced players, this is the type of escape room that some will solve too quickly and others will be haunted for most of the game by a single stumper. If you’re looking for your escape room fix in Manhattan, there certainly are some things to love in Ghost Collector… and it has a lot of unrealized potential.

It’s clear that the owners have put a lot of love into this business and we believe that they could do great things in our home market.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Aspiring Ghostbusters
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A strong opening and closing
  • Some fun effects
  • One very elegant, clever puzzle

Story

A mysterious man had spent his life capturing the malevolent ghosts haunting New York City.

We had been given the opportunity to enter his containment chamber and view the entities. However, viewing them would set them free if we couldn’t complete a ritual to re-bind them within their eternal prison.

In-game: A wall with a glowing set of symbols set in a circle.

Setting

Ghost Collector’s set was fairly well designed, if a little uneven.

The big set pieces generally looked and felt good, especially in the opening and closing sequences.

The rest of the set wasn’t necessarily fantastic, but was painted and decorated so as to be innocuous. Honestly, that made it better than most sets. I thought it was a clever approach.

In-game: A Ouiji board-like device on a seance table.

Gameplay

Escape Virtuality’s Ghost Collector was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, following instructions, and puzzling.

In-game: A stacked, twistable Ouiji board.

Analysis

➕ The ghost collecting theme worked with Escape Virtuality’s style. Given the context of the game, we could interpret the technologically-triggered opens as magical or haunted. The gating style meshed well with the ghosty illusions.

➕ The set looked pretty good and felt solid. We especially enjoyed one large interactive set piece.

➖ As much as we enjoyed the main set piece, the interactions were entirely task based, and felt a bit neutered (one puzzle notwithstanding). This prop delivered the main events of the experience. There was an opportunity to do more with it.

➖ In many of the puzzles, Escape Virtuality struggled to balance difficulty. The puzzles were either straightforward tasks or challenging for the wrong reasons. A lack of feedback for certain solves magnified this imbalance.

➕ We loved the aha moment when we got a handle on one puzzle’s originally overlooked complexity. We loved this puzzle and wish that Escape Virtuality played more with concepts along these lines.

➖ Ghost Collector included a runbook. While we appreciated that we could separate the pages of the spiral-bound diary and rely on it for multiple puzzles at once, we wished that the cluing had been integrated into the world of the game instead.

➖ /➕ Ghost Collector was haunted by a soundtrack. While we appreciated the ambiance, we found it to be discordant with some of the room design.

Ghost Collector is expensive. This pricing is in line with some other local escape rooms. After all, entertainment in Manhattan is expensive. That said, Ghost Collector didn’t offer a ton of gameplay for that price. Experienced players could solve it quite quickly. Booking Ghost Collector is a value judgment.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking is a challenge in Manhattan. Take the subway (1 to 28th Street or the R/W to 28th Street.)
  • There are tons of restaurants in this neighborhood. We enjoy Hill Country Barbecue and Market.

Book your hour with Escape Virtuality’s Ghost Collector, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Virtuality provided media discounted tickets for this game.