Komnata Quest – The City of Ashes [Review]

Noisy hill.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: June 18, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket on weekdays, $35 per ticket on evenings, $40 per ticket on weekends/holidays

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

City of Ashes was a search-heavy, pseudo-horror escape room in a dim lighting. It had a few interesting set pieces, and a strong final sequence, but none of that could make up for the general dullness of the game itself.

Having played all of the games that Komnata Quest currently offers in New York City, I can comfortably recommend that you play any of their other offerings ahead of this one. It’s not a disaster, but it’s well beneath Komnata Quest’s potential. Skip it.

In-game: a series of old school desks in a dark, grim room.

Who is this for?

  • Komnata Quest completionists

Why play?

  • A great final puzzle sequence.

Story

Teed up as a Silent Hill escape game, we approached an empty city devoid of life to investigate.

In-game: An old children's tool kit on a black floor.

Setting

We removed our blindfolds to take in the dim, gritty, and just a bit gory surroundings. We traversed a number of sets, each quite different from the next, but none particularly inviting.

In-game: A small wooden door against a black wall with a chalk drawing of a young girl curled up seemingly crying.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest’s The City of Ashes was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling, with emphasis on searching.

Analysis

City of Ashes felt like cheap horror. It was grim, but not really scary. The dimness was more frustrating than fear-inducing.

+ A few detailed set pieces looked great.

City of Ashes required substantial searching in low light. We continuously tripped up because we hadn’t found the item we needed to complete a puzzle.

– The puzzles lacked clue structure and feedback. There was a puzzle that we solved, but had no idea how or why.

– We couldn’t properly hear the audio track over the ambient noise. If it held any clue structure or story, it was impossible to make out.

City of Ashes overtelegraphed one of its most interesting moments.

+ The concluding segment was shockingly good.

– I can’t recommend this game at $30 per ticket, and the $35 per ticket during the evenings and $40 per ticket on weekends and holidays is unjustifiable.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – Joker’s Cafe [Review]

“Hey kids! Joker here…”

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: June 18, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket on weekdays, $40 per ticket on evenings, $45 per ticket on weekends/holidays

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Joker’s Cafe was a creepy, but approachable escape room. Although neither the beginning nor the ending hit the mark, the majority of the gameplay was entertaining. The puzzles combined with set design, technology, and effects to deliver energetic solves.

In-game: The checkout counter at Jokers Cafe.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A lot of square footage for New York
  • Some strong puzzle moments and effects

Story

The Joker had been luring children into his cafe and using them for his experiments. Since “The Bat” was busy saving other people, our team of GCPD officers had been dispatched to the scene.

In-game: a small painting of a Joker labeled "J."

Setting

We started on a street corner outside the Joker’s Cafe looking to break into the bubblegum pink candy shop. This bright and eerily friendly setting evolved into someplace more sinister.

In-game: The cash register in Joker's Cafe.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest’s Joker’s Cafe was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large amount of popcorn.

Analysis

Jokers Cafe had a large footprint, especially when compared with most other New York City games.

– Komnata Quest had repurposed their former one-person lobby game, Mousetrap, as the opening sequence for Joker’s Cafe. Because this early puzzle structure didn’t engage a larger group, Joker’s Cafe had a lackluster beginning.

+/- Through detailed set design and misdirection, Komnata Quest created a few surprising opens. While we appreciated the concepts, we wished it telegraphed these less.

+ Joker’s Cafe successfully transitioned between different tones. It offered a peek ahead such that more jumpy players could become comfortable with the creepiness to come.

– Joker’s Cafe wasn’t particularly inspiring as a Batman or Joker game. It felt like Komnata Quest could have done a lot more with the theme.

+ Periodically, we’d see interesting puzzle design. One mid-game puzzle had elements that were interesting to combine.

+ Komnata Quest integrated an unusual device into the narrative as a puzzle. This came together soundly.

– In one segment, we searched through quite a bit of unnecessary material. It felt like maybe a puzzle thread had been removed from the game, because these props felt like unresolved puzzles, which led us off the path of gameplay.

Joker’s Cafe ended anticlimactically. There was a delay before a correct input registered, which left us wondering for just a bit too long whether we’d correctly solved the final puzzle.

– Komnata Quest has become really expensive. Joker’s Cafe was a really good game, but was it $40-$45 per player on evenings, weekends, and holidays good? I’m on the fence about that. New York has a lot of quality games for less money. These prices elevate expectations to heights that Komnata Quest hasn’t delivered.

Tips for Visiting

  • Accessible by the G subway and the East River ferry. Street parking only.
  • We recommend Paulie Gee’s for pizza and Ovenly for desserts.
  • Players need to be able to step over a relatively high barrier.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Joker’s Cafe, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – The Vault [Review]

Pack your Pip-Boy for the apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: April 16, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per ticket on weekdays; $50 per ticket on weekends

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

In The Vault, Komnata Quest blended action and comedy in their Fallout themed experience. This was an easy, straightforward, linear adventure-based game that felt like the escape room world’s equivalent of the summer action flick. A little more depth in puzzle design would have been an improvement, but we had a good time traversing its large set and playing with all sorts of interesting toys.

If you’re in Manhattan and looking for an approachable, beginner friendly adventure, give The Vault a shot.

In-game: A welcome screen with instructions about a first aid kit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A fun exploration of the Fallout world
  • A humorous artificial intelligence overseer
  • Some great tangible interactions

Story

Nuclear Armageddon had rendered the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. To avoid the radiation, diseases, and mutant monsters, humanity had retreated to the safety of underground vaults. Unfortunately, the vaults were no longer the safe haven that humanity had relied on. Our squad was dispatched to investigate and neutralize the threat.

In-game: A pair of boxes, one is labeled

Setting

Leaning heavily into the mythology of the Fallout video game series, The Vault dropped us into a subterranean ark of sorts, designed to protect and preserve humanity after the Earth’s surface was rendered insufficient for civilization. The Vault was loaded with Fallout references and had a sterile, military-meets-laboratory feel.

The gamespace was surprisingly large for a Downtown Manhattan escape room. There were many spaces to explore.

In-game: A Nuka Cola cabinet.

Gameplay

Komnata Quest Manhattan’s The Vault was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, communicating, and making connections.

In-game: The door to the research unity, it looks like there are monsters on the other side of it.

Analysis

+ The Vault was based on the Fallout series. The interactions that pulled on the source material were fun and memorable.

In-game: a large binary switch.

+/- A lot of the escape room was informed by a critical prop. This thing was awesome, but also failed to provide key feedback to let us know that it was working.

+ The lock nerd in me was incredibly pleased with one of the puzzles in Vault.

+/- The in-game “artificial intelligence” was funny.

– However, in-game audio was challenging to hear. Consequently, it was also difficult to tell the difference between audio clues and AI taunts. This was frustrating.

+/- The set was large, especially by Manhattan standards. For all of the space that Komnata Quest had for Vault, it felt light on content and challenge.

+ I have a personal love of nixie tubes. Discovering them in an escape room makes me happy.

Tips for Visiting

  • For upscale dining nearby, we recommend sushi at Haru.
  • For casual dining nearby, City Acres Market offers Vanessa’s dumplings.
  • There are not a lot of dining options open late in this neighborhood.
  • Parking is a challenge; consider a subway or ferry for transportation.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s The Vault, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – Sherlocked [Review]

Professor Holmes’ final exam.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: January 29, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40-$50 per ticket (depending on team size) on weekdays; $50-$60 per ticket (depending on team size) on evenings and weekends

REA Reaction

In the beginning, Sherlocked struck all the right notes. However, Komnata Quest’s interactive style vanished in the latter half of the experience, fizzling into a paper-based observation-and-deduction exam. What started off fun turned into an agitating and frustrating mess.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Any experience level
  • People who want to play as detectives

Why play?

  • To play as a detective
  • The escape room puzzle sequences

Story

A politician has been murdered and our dear friend Sherlock Holmes has been framed for it. We broke into the legendary detective’s home at 221B Baker Street in search of evidence to exonerate him.

In-game: a desk with a typewriter, globe, hour glass, and photo of a beautiful woman.

Setting

The flat of Sherlock Holmes was a bright Victorian study. Parts of it felt lived in; other areas seemed sterile and staged. Most of the critical props and set pieces showed signs of wear.

Sherlocked’s set was unusual for Komnata Quest because it was well lit.

In-game: a shelf covered in statues of birds, elephants, mermaids, and other animals.

Gameplay

Sherlocked felt like two games in one escape room.

Initially we played a traditional escape room filled with searching, puzzles, interesting interactions, and a lot of reading.

When we reached the final puzzle, the tone and gameplay shifted.

Final Puzzle Structure

The final challenge was a multiple choice test regarding the facts of the case. The correct answers would secure our freedom as well as that of Mr. Holmes.

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In-game: A statue of a raven perched upon a skull.

Standouts

The opening puzzle sequence struck a chord with us. It was well clued and soundly executed.

The early detective work. The interactive investigating was pretty nifty.

The first portion of Sherlocked, which included about 75% of the gameplay, flowed really well. These puzzles were a ton of fun.

Shortcomings

The final 25% of gameplay felt like a standardized test. The gameplay moved away from the environment onto a few sheets of paper. There was far too much to read and some of the questions had ambiguous answers or observational nitpicks. This wasn’t conducive to escape room-style gameplay and it wasn’t fun.

The culminating puzzle sequence involved almost no player action and offered no feedback. Our gamemaster had no means to follow our progress. Any help was clunky at best. (This wasn’t his fault; it was due to the game’s structure.)

The set showed a lot of wear, which was amplified by the lighting. We always try to be respectful players, but especially given the state of the set, we played particularly cautiously… and we got burned by that decision.

An incredibly important moment didn’t reveal emphatically. We didn’t even know that we had triggered something. Komnata Quest could make that open pop so that players don’t miss the moment.

One puzzle invited MacGyvering… but only as intended by the game designer. We were chastised for finding another similar “tool” within our environment.

Sherlocked cost between $40 and $60 per ticket depending upon team size and day of the week. For an escape room with maintenance issues and a lengthy, weak finale, that was too much money.

Tips for Visiting

  • For upscale dining nearby, we recommend sushi at Haru.
  • For casual dining nearby, City Acres Market offers Vanessa’s dumplings.
  • There are not a lot of dining options open late in this neighborhood.
  • Parking is a challenge, consider a subway or ferry for transportation.
  • Book during the week with a larger team for a more reasonable price.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Sherlocked, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

 

Komnata Quest – Cursed [Review]

Don’t split the party.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 20, 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket on weekdays, $40 per ticket on evenings and weekends

Story & setting

We entered an abandoned house that was haunted by the ghost of a little girl. After she had been killed, each of her 6 sisters had been found dead mysteriously, one by one. We wanted to uncover the horrible truth of what had happened to this family.

This house was dark and creepy. It had multiple rooms. Some spaces were cramped; others were ominously wide open.

In-game: A blood-soaked bathroom.

Cursed was a horror escape room. It included practical effects and jump scares, but no live actors.

Puzzles

In order to solve the puzzles, we needed to engage with the set and props. In Cursed, that could take a fair bit of courage.

Cursed included both straightforward observational interactions and more sustained puzzle challenges.

The mystery of what had happened in this house was, in itself, a puzzle to solve throughout the length of the experience.

Standouts

The practical effects in Cursed were phenomenal. They were thematic, entertaining, and surprising. They delivered the dramatic tension that really made this escape room what it was.

While Cursed took place in atmospheric low lighting, the darkness didn’t hamper most of the gameplay. Komnata Quest strategically placed just enough lighting to facilitate puzzling.

As we solved puzzles, we received bits of story. The delivery was thematically appropriate and well written. We appreciated that additional layer of puzzle woven throughout our investigation of this haunted house.

We particularly enjoyed Cursed’s dexterity challenge.

The hint system was well integrated into the gameplay.

Cursed did a good job of instilling fear early and throughout much of the escape game.

Shortcomings

For a horror game to stay scary throughout the experience, participants need to continually fear the unknown. In Cursed, we backtracked through the gamespace often enough that we became too comfortable with it. By the end, we weren’t on edge anymore.

If fear and linear flow had pushed us to travel as a group, we would each have experienced a more complete experience. As we became more comfortable, we separated from one another. In one instance, David tripped an effect before anyone else was in the room. The rest of us missed a great moment. Being separated also made it harder to parse bits of story, which were triggered by events, from gameplay nudges.

The clue structure supporting the puzzles was uneven. Some worked far better than others.

The climactic sequence was a letdown, relative to the experience that had preceded it. From the decor to the puzzle to the choice of effects, it was a lackluster conclusion.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Cursed?

Cursed is one of only a handful of horror escape rooms in and around New York City… and it is by far the scariest to date. It offered tension, story, and puzzles. This is a hard trio to balance and Cursed succeeded.

Players of any experience level can enjoy Cursed. The puzzles will be more challenging for newer players or anyone who freezes up in tense environments. That said, the hint system is well integrated with the storytelling. I expect you could still enjoy Cursed even if you needed quite a bit of nudging through the puzzles.

As with other horror games, ideal team size depends on how scared you want to be. The fewer people, the more you have to interact with the environment to solve the puzzles.

Note that if you struggle with low lighting, you will struggle in Cursed. While we felt that the strategic lighting worked, know that it won’t work for everyone.

Komnata Quest imports their room escapes from Russia. Of the many Komnata Quest escape rooms offered in New York City, Cursed is the first one that is substantially different from its Russian counterpart. The New York owners of Komnata Quest changed the story so that it would resonate with American audiences, and in doing so, had to refactor much of the rest of the experience. They did a fantastic job.

Cursed was a lot of fun. It was an exciting, dramatic, and puzzle-driven adventure. The practical effects created a tension that made it both challenging and enjoyable.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Cursed, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.