Mass Escape – 44 Winterwood Lane [Review]

A broken seal

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

44 Winterwood Lane had strong worldbuilding. A great introduction, a beautiful candle-lit representation of the game clock, and a brilliant scene helped pull it all together.

In-game:

Mass Escape packed quite a few challenging puzzles into this bewitching experience. 44 Winterwood Lane could be improved by pulling those late-game challenges deeper into the story, and using them to tie off the narrative as thoroughly as the beginning opened it up.

Overall, Mass Escape is a fantastic company making unique and flavorful escape games. They have a style unlike anything else we’ve encountered and it’s a style that we truly enjoyed. 44 Winterwood Lane was our least favorite of the 3 games that we played at Mass Escape… and we still liked it a lot.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Ghost hunters
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A few great set pieces
  • An illuminating game timer
  • Memorable, haunting moments

Story

Our estranged aunt had recently passed away. We didn’t know much about her beyond the fact that her daughter had mysteriously died many years ago. Nevertheless, we had an appointment with her estate’s caretaker to claim our inheritance.

In-game:

Setting

We stepped through the doors of an old rundown estate, a shadow of its former glory. It had a high ceiling and imposing antique furniture. An assortment of candles lined the ceiling; every few minutes one would extinguish.

The set looked good and well weathered. However, some portions of the set looked considerably more lived-in and finished than others.

In-game:

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s 44 Winterwood Lane was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Mass Escape set the tone of the experience from the opening moments of the escape room. They minded the details, sealing our fate as we tried to claim our inheritance.

➕/➖ Although we’d come for the money, as the story of this place unfolded, that turned out to be a side quest. Predictable as it was, the twist added intrigue to 44 Winterwood Lane. However, the plot got a bit murky.

➕ Mass Escape integrated an unorthodox gameclock into the set. It felt native to the world. This was set dressing, ambiance, and time keeping all in one.

➖ The scale felt off in one room. Some of the set pieces lacked the estate’s majestic allure. Portions of the game felt empty, but at the same time full of potential red herrings.

➖ We encountered extremely well camouflaged, unclued searching in 44 Winterwood Lane. Granted, this was for a bonus puzzle. In a game where searching was generally well clued, however, this seemed challenging for the wrong reasons.

44 Winterwood Lane hid its mysteries well… and revealed them in turn. We especially enjoyed when an object magically appeared.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s 44 Winterwood Lane, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Mass Escape – Ice Station Zero [Review]

Government jobs are stressful

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Like all of my favorite Cold War anti-nuclear proliferation fiction, Ice Station Zero was funny and grim.

In-game: A very large green computer with many lights, buttons, and switches. It is labeled, "Ice Station Zero."

Focused on a few specific characters and an impending nuclear apocalypse, Mass Escape got really personal. We had to dig into the lives of the people responsible for this base just as much as we had to sort out the operations of an intercontinental ballistic missile… and that’s what made Ice Station Zero shine. Disarming a bomb is normal in an escape room; getting to know the people who made it tick is something special.

This is a nifty game with a flavor and play style that is, in our experience, unique. If you’re in or around Boston and have access to a car, I strongly recommend finding your way to Mass Escape for Ice Station Zero as well as their other games.

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?

  • The humor and character that underpinned this game
  • Some fantastic setpieces

Story

The world was caught in the grasp of the Cold War and all communication had been lost with the incompetent staff of nuclear missile silo Ice Station Zero. We had been deployed to investigate.

In-game: A metal desk in the middle of an old nuclear bunker.

Setting

Ice Station Zero looked really good – with one small exception – the starting area was pretty weak. Once we had advanced beyond this small dark space, the nuclear silo looked fantastic. Mass Escape struck a balance between Cold War nuclear control room and government bureaucratic hell. We’ve never seen an escape room that looked like this one before.

In-game: a small dim room lit by a red alarm light.

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s Ice Station Zero was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Closeup of a nuclear launch button.

Analysis

 Ice Station Zero had characters and character. (Mass Escape even armed us with a joke.) The place felt lived in, by actual people, whom we learned about. We liked the mechanism for learning more about the plight of the people at this station. It was clear and concise, with a great interface.

➕ Mass Escape commits to their characters. The gamemaster who introduced us to Ice Station Zero really sold himself as a government bureaucrat. He was entertaining and quippy.

➖/➕ We struggled with some input mechanisms. In one case, the mechanism was barely functional. In another the directions seemed ambiguous. Clean and clear inputting would help with game flow. That said, our in-character gamemaster marched in and handled this in a way that actually improved the experience.

➖ At any given time, we had a lot of papers. We were continually referring back to paper instructions, and some of the puzzles were paper-based as well. Although clipboards made sense thematically, it would have been more fun to be interacting more with the room and less with the paper.

➕ The gameplay flowed well. It was challenging, but we could also figure out how to solve our way forward.

➖ One imposing set piece felt underused, we would have liked to play with this thing a bit more.

➕ Mass Escape turned one wall of an office set into something unexpected that also fit right in. They really dialed this set up a notch.

➕ Mass Escape’s method for adding in bonus content truly shined in Ice Station Zero. They use a similar structure in all of their games, but it felt most relevant and engaging in this one.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s Ice Station Zero, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Mass Escape – The Eckstein Experiment [Review]

Steampunk Experimentation

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Thinking back on The Eckstein Experiment, I’m kind of amazed that it was only 1 hour long. The set was large, packed with detailed and unique spaces. There were a lot of fantastic team-based challenges. The character with whom we interacted was brilliant.

In-game: A brain and eye in a jar.

We have a weak spot for steampunk sets over at Room Escape Artist, and this was one of our favorites. It was tactile and beautiful.

We loved this game… except for the beginning. The initial moments of the experience were great, but the first few minutes of gameplay felt stale, like they belonged in a different world… one we’ve seen many times before. Once we were past the early gameplay, this game soared.

If you’re near Boston with a car, go play The Eckstein Experiment at Mass Escape. While you’re there, play Ice Station Zero as well, if not all 3 of their games. This is a really cool company that is designing creatively.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Tons of content
  • Strong team-based gameplay
  • A cool steampunk set
  • A great hint system

Story

Strange lights had flashed and even stranger noises had come from the medical office of Dr. Eckstein. One day, curiosity got the better of us and we decided to investigate.

In-game: a steam-punk-ish laboratory with glowing beakers and flasks of liquid.

Setting

The Eckstein Experiment opened up in typical-looking escape room jail cells. Once we were free of the bars, things changed quickly. Mass Escape pulled from steampunk and laboratory aesthetics to create something unique.

The opening was fine; it looked good. The mid- and late-game sets were something considerably more special.

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Analysis

➕ Although the opening set was nothing special, The Eckstein Experiment transitioned into a beautiful steampunk laboratory. We loved the aesthetic and the dynamic of the interconnected spaces. There was also a surprising set piece that might creep up on you.

➕ Mass Escape crafts charming characters into their games. Our gamemaster set the tone for the experience, acting as a character in our story. His sincere delivery added to the fun. Mass Escape was able to lean into this antagonistic character because they had a different method of hint delivery. We didn’t need to trust this guy.

In-game: a severed thumb on a surgical tray.

➕ The hint system added a playfulness to The Eckstein Experiment. Mass Escape seamlessly integrated the hints, such that it would have been a lesser game without taking them.

➕ Mass Escape made great use of space.

➖ The first act of The Eckstein Experiment was unbalanced. It was a split-team start where some people had a lot more they could do than others. It also felt too generic in comparison to what came immediately after.

The Eckstein Experiment fostered engaging team dynamics.

➕ Mass Escape combined both escape room-y puzzles with more situational-based solves.

➖ Mass Escapes really needed to dial up the size, lighting, and precision of one key interaction.

➖ Additional gating in one section would prevent teams from blindly burning substantial time on inactive puzzles.

❓ The bonus quests in The Eckstein Experiment weren’t integrated as cleanly as were those in their other games.

➕ Mass Escape devoted a whole section of this game to one gimmick, and transformed it into a communication puzzle. Then they repurposed a space that we didn’t expect to reuse, which was impressive.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • At least 2 people have to crawl.
  • The game has a split beginning. Players will start in different spaces.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mass Escape comped our tickets for this game.