Maze Rooms – Whatever Happened to the Garretts [Review]

Whatever Happened to the Garretts is one of the best games in Los Angeles. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Los Angeles.

🤐🎮📼⚾

Location:  West Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: March 5, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $49.50 per player for teams of 2, $37 per player for teams of 3+

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock [A]

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Whatever Happened to the Garretts is an escape game that has continued to come up in conversation. People kept telling us that we needed to play it… and they were right. It was as fun as it was interesting.

An old CRT television with an Atari on top.

Despite losing a bit of trust early on with a couple of weak puzzles and some jankiness, this game recovered. The narrative unfolded wonderfully and the later gameplay was packed with creativity and intrigue.

We’ve long said that escape rooms need to escalate. It’s better for them to finish with a bang, and oh my, Whatever Happened to the Garretts did just that. If you’re in the region, I’d recommend checking this one out. I wasn’t sold on it at first, but when everything was said and done, I was so happy that I listened to folks and played it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • 80s & sci-fi fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Authentic 80s aesthetic
  • Strong escalation in set design and gameplay
  • Clever ending

Story

In 1984, Allan and Ann Garrett had disappeared, along with their teenage son Matthew. Nearly 40 years later, many have visited their home in search of clues, but no one could figure out what happened to them, until today.

A teen's door with warning to keep out. No parents allowed.
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Maze Rooms Austin – The Shed [Review]

Dinner & puzzles

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45 per player for teams of 2 or $30 per player for teams of 3-4

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [B] Mechanical Release

REA Reaction

The Shed was an intense escape room for a small, trusting, and communicative team. Chained to the walls (with safety releases) and each able to access only a corner of the small space, we had to work together to escape this serial killer’s lair.

The Shed lacked some essential clue structure. Maze Room knows this, and has worked to mitigate the issue, but they have a ways to go before the gameplay will truly flow.

These frustrations aside, The Shed was unique and exhilarating. If you’re looking for a dramatic and challenging small-team escape room in Austin, we recommend this dinner date.

In-gameA wall with chains a digital display and a handprint in a gritty murder basement.
Image via Maze Rooms Austin

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • People who are comfortable with physical restraints and a dark, unnerving environment

Why play?

  • Unique staging
  • Intense environment
  • Forced self-reliance
  • Interesting puzzles

Story

Good News: Our new friend had invited us over for dinner.

Bad News: We were unaware that our new friend was referred to as “Austin’s Cannibal” by local police.

In-game: a brick wall with electrical boxes and pipes.
Image via Maze Rooms Austin

Setting

The Shed fell comfortably into the category of escape rooms that we’ve taken to calling the “murder basement.” While it was physically small, it was convincing without being too gory.

Each of 4 players was shackled by the wrists (with a simple mechanical safety release) to a different corner of a small room with a central pillar. The environment was grim, detailed, and foreboding.

In-game: a menacing hooded man in a workshop.
Image via Maze Rooms Austin

Gameplay

Maze Rooms Austin’s The Shed was an atypical escape room with a high level of difficulty.

It was atypical because each player was handcuffed to a different corner of the room for most of the experience. We had to solve the puzzles without moving around in the space.

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

In-game: a brick wall with electrical boxes and pipes.
Image via Maze Rooms Austin

Analysis

➕ We played most of The Shed with both wrists chained to the wall. These were the most comfortable handcuffs we’ve ever been strapped into. We were free to maneuver without causing any scraping or bruising to our wrists. Our handcuffs were attached to the walls by a length of chain and safety clips. The setup was great.

➕ The opening sequence of The Shed worked beautifully. It was hard to get started while chained to a wall and search capacity was limited, but The Shed had an onramp that taught us how to play within its confines.

➖ We had a lot of props in play at any given time. It could be overwhelming to ascertain what was immediately relevant and it was challenging to keep everything we might need in reach. It was also difficult to stay organized with all of the props while restrained.

➕ The Shed did a lot with a small gamespace. It looked great in a dark and creepy way. It hid its secrets well.

➖ When we triggered a solve, we rarely knew what we’d opened. Maze Rooms could add stronger lighting and sound clues to draw players’ attention to the reveals. Providing this immediate reward for any solves would have allowed us to focus on the puzzles rather than searching.

➖ The clue structure didn’t quite support the gameplay. Maze Rooms has mitigated this by adding a runbook. While we appreciated that additional cluing, it was annoying to spend most of the game with my head in a notebook. This was especially frustrating given the dim lighting and that both my hands and any flashlights were restricted by a length of chain.

➕ The gameplay emphasized communication. We couldn’t explore, or even see the entire game. We needed to communicate well and trust our teammates.

➕ Our favorite moments involved multiple players coordinating information and actions to solve puzzles.

➖ When we eventually freed ourselves from the restraints, we had access to new spaces… that our teammates knew intimately. We had to pause to share knowledge or waste time re-exploring known spaces.

➕ The penultimate sequence came together well with a surprising reveal and a plot twist.

➕/➖ The Shed required each player to rely on their teammates and hold their own. If one individual couldn’t find/ solve/ interact with an element, there was only so much the other teammates could do to help. We mostly found this exhilarating. Sometimes it made the game stall for a bit too long. Your choice of teammates will significantly impact your experience in The Shed.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Accessibility: Height Requirement of 55 inches (4’5”ft) or taller
  • You can play this game with 2 – 4 people. You cannot add additional people. 4 people is the optimal number.
  • Left-handed players may find this game more challenging than right-handed ones will.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms Austin’s The Shed, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Maze Rooms Austin comped our tickets for this game.

Maze Rooms – Magic Kingdom [Review]

Magic Kingdom is one of the best games in Los Angeles. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Los Angeles.

Practice good wand form.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 25, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $99 per team of 2 to $198 per team of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Magic Kingdom was a magical escape room. Set design, props, locking mechanisms, and many of the puzzle concepts all worked magically, and came together to create a really fun world to play in. Because of the magical world, the lack of clue structure was especially pronounced, forcing us to rely in part on our knowledge of escape room game mechanics to solve Magic Kingdom.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you enjoy solving how a room works, try your wand at the fun and playful world of Magic Kingdom.

In-game: a well in an enchanted forest.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Magician wannabes
  • Families
  • Best for players with least some experience

Why play?

  • To perform magic with wands
  • The opening scene

Story

In the Magic Kingdom, the magic tree was dying. We needed to cast a spell in the magic well to bring magic back to the Magic Kingdom.

In-game: the roof a well beneath a large tree and the night sky.

Setting

In their Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms set the magic tree and magic well under a starry night sky in beautiful, glowing light. Beyond the garden sat a quaint windmill with a few rooms of magical props.

In-game: closeup of a mouse in a tiny house.

Gameplay

Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a stairwell and a series of locked boxes.

Analysis

+ In Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms locked all props magically. Given the magical premise of the gamespace, the absence of combination locks worked really well.

+ Some of the scenery, set pieces, and props were beautiful and captivating.

– Some of the clue structure was really worn, almost to point of incomprehensibility. Other cluing had been fixed shoddily, defacing an otherwise beautiful set piece.

+ The magic wands were phenomenal. They were beautiful, tangible props. We had to puzzle out how to work them. Their interactions charged us up.

In-game: a view of the exterior of a home adjacent to a windmill.

+/- Maze Rooms built puzzles into magical concepts. We found one such concept brilliant after we had solved it, but at the time we attempted it, the clues were weak.

– Some of Magic Kingdom’s puzzles needed additional feedback. We couldn’t always tell what we were triggering or whether something had been solved. This was especially pronounced because the world was magical so anything could trigger… well, anything.

In-game: a strange device in a stone walled room.

+/- Maze Rooms added a surprising moment of physical activity (optional for all but one player) and justified it in the gamespace. It was a fun concept. In order to make sure it would be safe, however, the gamemaster had to intervene with instructions. If Maze Rooms could build in-game cluing that facilitates a safe interaction, it would be a clean sweep.

+ The hint system was adorable and fun.

+ Maze Rooms created a lot of magic through a clever scenery-changing mechanic. It facilitated puzzles and enhanced solves.

+ The final combination of set piece and props delivered a fantastic, magical conclusion for the entire group.

Tips for Visiting

  • Maze Rooms is in a small strip mall with a parking lot.
  • At least one person must be comfortable with physical activity.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Maze Rooms – Secret Mission [Review]

The Spy Who… Had A Moderately Interesting Apartment

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 – $49.50 per ticket, depending on team size

Story & setting

We were Cold War-era CIA agents investigating the home of a presumed Soviet spy. We needed to find evidence against him and escape with it.

The story wasn’t especially complex.

His home was kind of cute. It wasn’t a particularly inventive escape room set, but it was detail-oriented. The lamps even matched the wall paper and it generally felt like the 1970s.

In-game, livingroom with an old television and record player in the background. A bottle of vodka and a glass rest on a small table in the foreground.

Puzzles

Secret Mission included a handful of puzzles of the standard room escape variety. They were fairly well-themed and fit into the space well.

There weren’t a ton of puzzles in this game. They generally proceeded linearly with each unlocking the next.

Standout

Secret Mission included some nifty puzzle interactions that integrated old technology. We most enjoyed manipulating the larger set pieces from the era.

Shortcomings

For the conscientious player, this older technology posed an unintended challenge: we handled one particular item too delicately. This isn’t to say that players should abuse the game, but it was challenging to know whether or not to interact.

Secret Mission, a predominantly linear room escape, fell victim to circumvention by outside knowledge. In one instance, we solved a puzzle too soon to by virtue of knowing something that Maze Rooms provided later in the game. Since we found the puzzle before we found the knowledge, we solved the puzzle out of order and disrupted the game flow.

Should I play Maze Rooms’ Secret Mission?

This was a standard, solid room escape game, but not an exciting one.

We entered the game, solved puzzles, confirmed that our man was a spy (as we’d expected), and got out. Neither the ambiance nor the puzzles built drama or intrigue.

That said, Secret Mission wasn’t a bad game. It was a solid execution of a themed escape room. The puzzles were fun, but not particularly challenging. The game worked well without excelling.

This is a good and enjoyable game; it just isn’t great.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Secret Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Maze Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Maze Rooms – Lunar Mission [Review]

What happens when the ship breaks down?

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: October 15, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 – $49.50 per ticket, depending on team size

Story & setting

We started Lunar Mission split as the rescue team and the trapped members aboard a lunar station in disrepair. We needed to get the rescue team aboard the station, and once reunited, repair the station in order to survive.

Throughout the course of the game, we explored the expansive space station. It was a visually appealing, sturdy space for exploration.

Lunar Mission’s narrative was linear: Repair and proceed forward to the next repair.

In-game: A steel floor of a ship with safety restraints on the walls.
Image via Maze Rooms.

Puzzles

Most of the puzzles in Lunar Mission were pretty straightforward, once we had figured out what was expected of us.

Some were clear; some were bafflingly opaque. In our game, a number of things broke.

All stages of the game rewarded detailed observation above all else.

Standouts

The set looked pretty great.

In-game, a non-repeating pattern appears illuminated in blue in the background, a cube with a joystick is illumminated in red in the foreground.
Image via Maze Rooms.

Lunar Mission incorporated some major set pieces into truly interactive puzzles.

Some of these interactions triggered physical responses from the repaired space station.

Shortcomings

Our experience in Lunar Mission included two major technical malfunctions. These broke the final act of the game such that our gamemaster had to come into the game to investigate and finally trigger the conclusion herself. This would have been an awesome game moment if it had worked. Instead it was a major letdown.

Some of the puzzles were poorly clued and thus pretty baffling. Due to the poor cluing in the early portion of the game, we didn’t realize how broken the latter section was. We thought we just weren’t getting it. Nevertheless we still solved the final puzzle through a clever brute-force approach.

Should I play Maze Rooms’ Lunar Mission?

In Lunar Mission, we experienced a beautiful set and some great interactions.

Maze Rooms relied heavily on technology to produce these moments. When key things broke, it ruined the experience. We’ve never seen a game breakdown on quite this scale. It may well have been a fluke, but it was the experience that we had, and we didn’t leave happy.

Lunar Mission was not a particularly puzzley game. It was about observation, discovery, and manipulating the set, which was at times opaque. It was an interesting challenge in a fun environment. It would be more challenging for newer players, but approachable and fun for a variety of experience levels.

Due to the amount of breakage that occurred in our game, it’s tough to give this a wholehearted recommendation, but there is something interesting to see in Lunar Mission. Go in knowing that it doesn’t fail gracefully.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Lunar Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Maze Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.