I Survived The Room – The Order [Review]

Go to the Mask-for-aid.

Location: Long Island City (Queens), New York

Date Played: June 28, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket weekdays, $30 per ticket weekends

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

I Survived The Room has been quietly creating unusual escape games in the basement of an indoor extreme sports facility. The first reaction of any diehard escape room player upon entering their lobby is something along the lines of, “this must be a terrible cash grab,” but that cannot be further from the truth.

The Order was an actor- and puzzle-driven split-team game that could be fairly comfortably replayed once.

The gameplay was bumpy and the experience uneven… but if you’re the kind of player who is willing to forgive some sins in the quest for unique experiences, there was a lot to love in The Order.

In-game: A dungeon with a dead body gripping a scroll mounted to the wall.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Some fantastic interactions
  • An intriguing split-team, largely replayable escape room
  • The actor

Story

The Order, an ancient secret society, had issued us an invitation to join their ranks. If we could pass their tests, we would be granted access to their wealth of hidden arcane knowledge. If we would fail, we would pay a dire toll.

In-game: The Knight of the Order cloaked in black, red, and white with an ornate gold and red mask reading a book.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Setting

The Order was an actor-driven split-team game. A costumed knight of The Order escorted us around the block, blindfolded us, and led us into one of two rooms: a dungeon and a library.

The dungeon was detailed, dim, and imposing. The library was bright, less beautiful, but far more inviting. These two sets converged in a steampunk-ish laboratory.

Each area of the game was distinctive.

In-game: A self in the library with an augmented skulls, brain, and heart.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Gameplay

I Survived The Room’s The Order was a split-team escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, interacting with the actor, and puzzling.

In-game: A wooden table with strange medallions mounted to it.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Analysis

+ The knight of The Order introduced the game, fully in character. He set the tone for The Order and stayed true to the world of the game in every interaction.

+ The sets had different tones and styles, but all felt more or less part of a cohesive world. We liked the countdown timer.

+/- The sets were uneven. One was ominously detailed; another was mostly bare and unexciting.

+ We bartered with the knight for our hints. Hint delivery bled into the story.

– We needed 3 hints on the same puzzle. While we enjoyed the in-character hint-delivery, things really ground to a halt when we got stuck and didn’t fully grasp the subtleties of the hints.

+ We were drawn to one puzzle. Even after solving it, we kept playing with it.

– The tech-driven opens needed more feedback. We solved multiple puzzles without knowing what we’d unlocked.

+ We enjoyed one dramatic release that built tension.

– We read much of the clue structure from long passages. We would have liked these elements to be further incorporated into the environment. Reading was especially frustrating in low lighting.

– For much of The Order, we played split in two groups, in two separate spaces — for all intents and purposes, playing separate escape rooms in one world. At times we were unsure whether audio was relevant to us, or the other group. The reunification of the group was clunky. Whichever group finished first had to “help” the slower group before the entire team could move to the next scene. By entering a mostly solved space with no context, the other group seriously disrupted play.

The Order asked us to make a choice, but it was at best a blind choice, and could easily be an unknowing choice. Depending on the order the team found, read, and solved various clues, it would be possible to – and we did – accidentally choose an ending before realizing we were making any choice at all.

+ By starting in different spaces, and offering a choice of ending, The Order was replayable. The team could return a second time and each individual would see almost entirely different puzzles. This was an interesting innovation.

– A few too many interactions didn’t trigger as expected, resulting in our in-character gamemaster having to hobble out and fix them or re-input our correct solution.

– The final gamespace was crowded. Neither the physical space nor the puzzle flow lent itself to the full group coming together in one room.

+ I Survived the Room introduced many great ideas in The Order. While these innovative concepts didn’t all come together perfectly, they offered new experiences. We hope I Survived the Room continues to refine the flow in this game because this is a society players will want to join.

Tips for Visiting

  • I Survived the Room is accessible by public transportation: take the 7 Subway to 33 St – Rawson St.
  • There is street parking in this area.
  • We recommend Doughnut Plant for a post-game snack.
  • All players must be able to walk down a flight of stairs.
  • Half the players must be comfortable playing in dim lighting.
  • For an additional take on this game, with a bit more spoilers, read our friend and teammate Kathryn Yu’s review over on No Proscenium.

Book your hour with I Survived The Room’s The Order, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: I Survived The Room comped our tickets for this game.

I Survived the Room – Club Escape [Review]

In Russia, escape room finds you.

Location: Long Island City, NY

Date played: November 6, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket on weekdays, $30 per ticket on weekends

Story & setting

In Club Escape, the town’s newest nightclub, we quickly learned that we were trapped by the Russian mafia.

Club Escape started before we arrived at the club as an actress marched us down the street to the building’s entrance and ushered us inside. She dramatically delivered us to the club’s basement office, which was almost typical, but with the intensity dialed up, as half our team was locked not in the office, but in the adjacent torture chamber.

Bloodied cutting implements are mounted to a blood spattered tile wall.

The set was large and fairly detailed.

Puzzles

The puzzles were solid, but they weren’t the stars of the show.

Club Escape included many challenging puzzles, generally in a typical escape room style. They leaned heavily on searching, observation, and communication.

Most puzzles led to a lock.

Standouts

The Club Escape experience wound along unexpected paths. I Survived the Room augmented what could have been a standard escape room with an interesting plot twist, and a set full of surprises.

This was a large gritty set that captured us in the game’s fiction.

A detailed and weathered wall-mounted metal switch box.

The actress bought an intensity to this experience beyond what the puzzles provided. Her dramatic hands-on introduction of the game was at times shocking. She built the fiction early in the game, but didn’t stay on top of us throughout the puzzling. This provided a nice balance and allowed us to puzzle without monologue interludes.

Club Escape brought together acting, technology, and puzzles.

Shortcomings

Club Escape fell short of intertwining all of its elements to elevate each other. There were strong puzzles here, but they were standard and they didn’t contribute to the dramatic moments of the game.

The intensity of the introduction could be a big problem for people who suffer from PTSD. It kind of came out of nowhere, and while we loved it, we know people who would have a big problem with it.

In that way, Club Escape didn’t live up to its own dramatic opening. It kept the intensity high for quite some time, but eventually petered out into an anticlimactic final escape. The late-game puzzles felt like the busywork to get through in order to escape.

We experienced a major technical failure that stopped the game. However, the staff at I Survived the Room was quick to right to situation and gave us back the lost time to make up for it.

If you don’t make it through to the end, you won’t receive a walkthrough.

Should I play I Survived the Room’s Club Escape?

I Survived the Room has a great schtick: you’re brought to a place under false pretenses and then horrible things happen. They introduce you to the game through an actor before you even see the set. Once you step into their world, your heart starts to race and you know you need to escape. They do a great job of making you need to escape.

Note that this game requires physical mobility and players start blindfolded. It could be problematic for young children or people suffering from PTSD.  The set was gritty and at times dark.

Of the two games currently available from I Survived the Room, this is the more approachable game, but The Sanatorium is the stronger game because the drama stayed through to the very end. Neither is an easy game, but if you can puzzle your way to the final third, they are dramatic and surprising.

Be sure to brush up on your rules for playing games with actors in advance of your visit to Club Escape.

Book your hour with I Survived the Room’s Club Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: I Survived the Room comped our tickets for this game.

 

I Survived the Room – The Sanatorium [Review]

“If I weren’t insane: I couldn’t be so brilliant!”

– The Joker, Dreadful Birthday Dear Joker

Location: Long Island City, NY

Date played: July 17, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Two patients have gone missing and their doctor has sent you a letter asking for your help tracking down these individuals, who are a danger to themselves and society.

Pulling from Batman-esque depictions of insane asylums, I Survived The Room’s Sanatorium feels like Gotham City’s famed Arkham Asylum. (It never made a direct reference to Batman, but the spirit was absolutely present.) Sanatorium’s design and decor were dark, gritty, creepy, and at times deliberately gross.

I would classify Sanatorium as a creepy thriller. It wasn’t a horror experience, but it ran right up against the horror threshold.

A woman inspecting a cabinet of drawers with candles atop it.
Image via I Survived The Room

Puzzles

Sanatorium’s puzzles were based in the story. At its best, the puzzles propelled the narrative of the game. At times the link between the puzzles and the story became tenuous and abstract.

Early in the game, the actors split the team into different rooms, forcing communication between the players. This was the omnipresent hurdle in the game. It turned fairly easy puzzles into challenging obstacles.

Standouts

Sanatorium employs live actors, and they were exceptional. Their roles were fully incorporated into the experience and their commitment made it truly special.

Image of a doctor in a dimly lit room. He has a crazy look in his eyes and a threatening posture.
Image via I Survived The Room

Their use of practical effects, sound, and lighting weren’t fancy, but were brilliantly done. They managed to use little details to great effect.

One of the most critical puzzles was creative, intense, and really blew minds.

Shortcomings

Sanatorium had more than a few tight spaces and then became tighter around the key set pieces.

Our team of 4 was the perfect size: more would have been too cramped, but with fewer we would have been short on time.

Sanatorium’s methods of enforcing communication also created a few imbalances in the player experience because the team’s success hinged on absolutely everyone playing well and communicating thoroughly.

We were handcuffed at the start of the game, which didn’t add anything beyond discomfort and minor hassle.

While deliberate, the design was a bit too gross for me. Upon returning home, my clothes went into the wash, and I took a shower.

Should I play I Survived The Room’s The Sanatorium?

We were incredibly skeptical of I Survived The Room prior to playing. They are part of a large indoor paintball company a couple of subway stops outside of Manhattan. Their release forms weren’t written for the escape room; they were all about paintball. At first and second glance, I Survived The Room looked like a cash grab from an entertainment company that had extra unused space in their facility. That assessment was dead wrong.

Sanatorium was a ton of fun. It was immersive, intense, and the actors were excellent. It also had a few of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced in an escape room to date.

On the other hand, it was grimy and gross, and its puzzles derived a bit too much of their challenge from discovery and communication.

Our team was 50% new players. I can confidently say that Sanatorium was not a game for newbies. Our newbie friends are both brilliant people, but without any prior understanding of escape rooms, this game would be bewildering without guidance from experienced players (or heavy use of hints).

This is an actor-driven room escape. If you aren’t ready and willing to completely engage with the actors, then you should spare yourself (and them). Here are a few tips for playing games with actors.

If you’re an experienced player who loves immersive gameplay and isn’t afraid of a nerve-wracking set, intense actors, or a deliberately gross environment, then this is absolutely your game. Go book it, and don’t wear anything fancy.

Book your hour with I Survived the Room’s The Sanatorium, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: I Survived the Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.