Mission Escape Games – Escape the Hydeout: The Mystery of Henry Jekyll [Re-Review]

Transformation

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: March 15, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We returned to Mission Escape Games to play the significantly updated Escape The Hydeout 8 days shy of the 4th anniversary of us playing the original version.

In-game: An elegant study with red and wood walls. The trophy of a buck hangs over a fireplace.

Years later, Escape The Hydeout remains one of our favorite introductory escape games. Mission Escape Games solidified this by ramping up their set design and smoothing over the puzzle flow.

To give you a sense of history… our original review dates back to the days when we wouldn’t have even thought to assess set design.

The current iteration of the game was an aesthetically beautiful, incredibly fair escape room with just enough excitement to hook newbies without scaring them off.

If you’re new to escape rooms, Escape The Hydeout is a must-play. (It’s available in Anaheim, CA, Philadelphia, PA, West Hartford, CT, and New York City.) If you’re a veteran escape room player, this is a well-designed, well-executed room that likely won’t blow your mind.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • An elegant set
  • Silky smooth puzzle flow
  • Beginner friendly

Story

The good Doctor Jekyll had been acting strange and had then disappeared. We’d been hired to find him.

In-game: A bookshelf in an elegant study.

Setting

Escape The Hydeout had a beautiful Victorian aesthetic. The set wasn’t complicated, but it looked fantastic.

In-game: A chair beside a chess table and a globe in a study.

Gameplay

Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Hydeout was a standard escape room with an approachable level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a green walled, room with a chess board, chair, and globe.
The original, March 2015

Analysis

➕ We really loved the puzzles and flow of this game. This was true 4 years ago and these aspects have been further refined in the current version. It was always clear when we’d solved a solution. The game drew our attention to new opens.

➕ The set was fantastic. It was elegant, atmospheric, and deliberate. The audio especially added ambiance.

➖ There was a strong theme as well as allusion to story, but the story wasn’t a strong presence in Escape the Hydeout. We found the audio introduction to the story hard to follow.

➕ While there were written clues and codes in this escape room, we never read them off sheets of paper. They were carved into or otherwise embedded into tangible materials that looked and felt like they belonged in the world.

➕ There were some good reveals and well-executed tech.

➖ Still, 4 years later, Escape the Hydeout lacked the kind of epic or climactic moments that make us feel like a game is a must-play for experienced players.

➕ The emergency exit button works well. We… umm… might have had a teammate “test” it.

In-game: Closeup of a glowing red Emergency Exit button.

Tips For Visiting

  • Mission Escape Games has moved! They are now located in midtown. Take the A/C/E subway to Penn Station or Port Authority.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger for a post-game meal.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Hydeout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Mission Escape Games – Operation End of Days [Review]

Operation End of Days

A new beginning.

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: December 6, 2018

Team size: up to 8 (note that they have two copies of the game, so you could have twice that many and play head to head); we recommend 2-3 per copy

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Operation End of Days looked great and played wonderfully. As the first game in Mission Escape Games’ new Midtown location, it set a high bar.

Mission Escape Games has developed a keen skill for silky smooth gameflow.

Operation End of Days was designed specifically to onboard new players. While the beginning and the ending could be further refined, it was the right amount of not-too-hard. As the current record holder in this game, I can comfortably declare that it was wonderfully fun even when flying through it.

Whether you like escape games, are escape room-curious, or you’re on the fence about them… give Operation End of Days a try. 

In-game: a corner of Operation End of Days.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level (and a great beginner game!)
  • Players who are comfortable playing in low lighting

Why play?

  • Great puzzle flow
  • Sound design
  • Immersive environment

Story

Humanity was facing the end of the world. All previous attempts to end the calamity had failed. We were the last plan, the last hope. We had to create the “final element” to succeed.

In-game: A a series of switches, and a large control panel.

Setting

We entered a detailed, weathered, and beautiful, yet grim bunker. It was filled with machinery and piping. 

Mission Escape Games’ set design has come a long way since the early days of the IKEA-furnished Art Studio, 4 years ago. Operation End of Days ranks among Manhattan’s most elegant escape room sets. 

In-game: a metal box connected by pipes.

Gameplay

Mission Escape Games’ Operation End of Days was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a series of switches. One of them is green, the other 9 are blue.

Analysis

➕ It was intensely atmospheric. The gamespace was dramatically lit, albeit dimly. The sound effects brought the space to life. (Note, it was not scary.) Operation End of Days had a drab (by design) end-of-the-world atmosphere with flairs of color.

➖ The monitor was excessively bright against the dim gamespace. The font choice was particularly hard to read against the bright background. Softening the screen aesthetics may be a nitpick, but it would significantly improve this escape room by making it easier to read the game clock and clues. 

➕  Operation End of Days was hearty and solidly constructed.

➕ In building Operation End of Days, Mission Escape Games accommodated the oddities of the building, working these into their apocalyptic environment. We never felt that the confines of a New York City office building location compromised the game’s design.

➕ Mission Escape Games used inexpensive components elegantly. They may not have cost a lot, but they looked polished. The construction and design came together wonderfully and supported the puzzle play well.

In-game: A series of pipes connection boxes.

➖ The starting place likely won’t be obvious to new players who don’t know the standard mechanics of an escape room gamespace. Since this game was designed specifically to engage muggles, augmenting this beginning so that it unambiguously called out “start here” to newbies would help get the fun rolling.

Operation End of Days flowed beautifully. The largely linear puzzle design made it accessible for newer players, but no less fun for those with experience. 

➖ One puzzle felt unrefined and bottlenecked. With larger teams, this would likely become immensely frustrating.

➕ We particularly enjoyed a layered puzzle that combined typical escape room inputs in atypical ways.

➖We would have appreciated a meatier final puzzle. There was a distinct final interaction, but it felt a little anemic for a finale. 

➕ We regularly tell creators that a great game designed for newbies can still be immensely satisfying for experienced players. Operation End of Days was one of those games. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Mission Escape Games has moved! They are now located in midtown. Take the A/C/E subway to Penn Station or Port Authority.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger for a post-game meal.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Operation End of Days, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Mission Escape Games Queens – The Curse of the Pharaoh [Review]

Pharaohs & Queens.

Location: Flushing, NY

Date played: August 20, 2016

Team size: up to 7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

By entering this tomb, our group of explorers disturbed the pharaoh and triggered his curse. We had to journey deep into the tomb to break our it and save our souls. Each player received an individual curse, symbolized by a lock on a bracelet, to unlock within the hour.

The Curse of the Pharaoh had a well-constructed, beautiful set with brilliant interactions. It was incredibly fun to move deeper and deeper into the tomb.

A series of egyptian organ jars resting on a shelf.

Puzzles

Throughout this tomb, we encountered challenging puzzles.

They involved physical interactions with the set and props. Many also leaned heavily on layering and logic. Because of these design features, as well as the proliferation of hieroglyphs, the puzzles required extensive communication.

Not every challenging puzzle felt fair. At times, we were foiled by large logic leaps coupled with opaque cluing.

Standouts

Mission Escape Games constructed an outstanding tomb set. It was interactive, detailed, sturdy, and fun. The set delivered the magic of the experience.

There were some strong, challenging puzzles that involved different types of set piece manipulation.

Through clever design, Curse of the Pharaoh delivered a few truly surprising moments.

Shortcomings

We were trapped in this cursed tomb with a few weak flashlights. I would prefer to bring adequate lighting to my explorations. This was a source of frustration.

In order to lift the curse, we relied on an important document. There was only one copy and it was not easy to use. Because of this, the game bottlenecked.

There were spotty locations in the scenery where exposed screw heads felt out of place.

A few puzzles included some less than clear associations and others demanded excessively drawn-out execution after we figured out what we needed to do.

Should I play Mission Escape Game Queens’ The Curse of the Pharaoh?

The Curse of the Pharaoh was a challenging and exciting game.

This was a set that everyone could love. It provided challenge through both puzzles and tasks.

It will surprise even the more seasoned players, who will truly appreciate the design and build quality of the entire escape room.

This would be an excruciatingly difficult first room escape.

While Mission Escape Games has pretty much nailed the environmental details, they could put a little more effort into gameplay and flow to further improve the experience. This game has a lot to offer, and with additional refinement, it could really be a masterpiece.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Game Queens’ The Curse of the Pharaoh, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission Escape Game Queens comped our tickets for this game.

 

Mission Escape Games – Escape the Darkest Hour 2016 [Review]

A pound of puzzles with a side of gore.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: August 8, 2016

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $180 per team, regardless of how many players

Story & setting

In Escape the Darkest Hour, we had to escape from the murderous butcher’s lair.

This was the sequel to Mission Escape Games’ original Escape the Darkest Hour and it improved upon the original in every way.

The surroundings were creepy and uncomfortable, but still approachable. It was edgy and unsettling without being dangerous or grotesque (ok, maybe just a little grotesque). This made the game space fun to explore.

A bloody scene with a mutilated body in a dark room.
Image courtesy of Mission Escape Games (because we forgot to shoot our own)

The set was also entirely dark. We had to find any light we would have within the game. There was enough light to be found.

The story was simple: don’t become the next victim.

Puzzles

Escape the Darkest Hour’s set was a puzzle. Much of the difficulty was in finding important elements and observing the game environment well enough to extract clues from it. In many ways, solving the puzzles meant interacting with the lair itself.

The more standard puzzles were of the “word” variety.

Standouts

Escape the Darkest Hour provided just enough story to keep us engaged. Furthermore, that story came across largely through the puzzle components; we never read long passages of text about victims or psychiatric episodes or other serial killer things.

Mission Escape Games delivered approachable horror for the masses.

While many horror experiences deliver shock through revolting decor and the fear of what may appear, this game delivered shock in the escape room sense. The setting might make you jump, but the magical set responses were exciting.

Mission Escape Games’ attention to set detail was superb.

Shortcomings

While this game included much more than locks, it had its fair share of run-of-the-mill padlocks requiring identical input structures.

In addition, there were multiple puzzles in play with similar elements. At its lowest point, we struggled to figure out which clues went to which puzzles.

Should I play Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Darkest Hour?

Escape the Darkest Hour was an accessible horror game. It kept us on the edge of our seats without inflicting lingering nightmares.

As long as you can remain at ease in the dark and in the presence of theatrical blood and gore, you can have fun with this game. And if you are a horror fanatic, this will be a lighter way to indulge.

Mission Escape Games delivered horror as an escape room, through locks, puzzles, and automagical moments. This was a puzzle game in a creepy setting. If you solve the puzzles, you’ll learn the story, and achieve your freedom.

Leave the young children at home.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Darkest Hour, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Mission Escape Games – Escape the Initiation [Review]

A game designed specifically to introduce new players to escape games.

Mission Escape Games Logo

Location: New York, New York

Date played: December 29, 2015

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

Price: $28 per ticket

Deliberately basic

Basic, introductory rooms are usually created by accident. A new game designer doesn’t really have a strong grasp on the art and science of room escape design, and makes a room that’s soft and gooey.

These basic rooms are generally flawed in a great many ways, but are hopefully good enough to drive interest in playing another, better game.

Escape the Initiation was interesting because it was deliberately designed by seasoned escape room designers as an on-ramp for the hobby.

It was optimized for noobs. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t junkie. It wasn’t too easy, but it was miles away from too hard.

This was the beginner’s Goldi-locks room.

Mission Escape Games - Escape the Initiation 3

Theme & story

“The president of the Company, Mister M, has selected you to join his secret society. But in order to become a member, you must pass the initiation exam! You have one hour to solve the puzzles of the room, or else be trapped forever.”

The setup was confusing. Were we trying to get into a secret society or get a job at a prestigious company? We won, and I’m still not sure.

The room was a straightforward puzzle room. It wasn’t overdone and it wasn’t underdone… It was done.

Puzzles, locks, and magic

The gameplay was a solid mix of exactly what you’d expect from a strong, but typical escape game: an assortment of locks, some scavenging, a good mix of puzzles, and some technology-driven magic.

Mission Escape Games - Escape the Initiation 1

Missable magic

There were two special moments in Escape the Initiation. Both were pretty damn cool.

You’d have to have been unconscious to miss one of them.

But the other, which our team considered superior, happened quickly and without warning. The biggest complaint we had from our teammates came from the folks who were looking at something else when this moment  triggered.

Those that missed it were indignant.

Mission Escape Games - Escape The Initiation

Should I play Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Initiation?

In Escape the Initiation, Mission Escape Games decided to make the room escape equivalent of a sampler platter. It provides a great 101 course in Escape Rooms. It covers most of the cliches with its own twists.

Nothing was too hard, obnoxious, or unfinished.

The game wasn’t designed to shock, challenge, and impress us, it was made to shock, challenge, and impress the folks who have never played ones of these games… And while I’m not the target for this game, I think it more than succeeded.

It’s a polished game to introduce people to the hobby, and it’s now my go-to recommendation for first timers.

It’s also a great candidate for a more experienced team to attempt a speedrun.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Escape the Initiation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.