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.

Mission Escape Games, Queens – The Dungeon of Elements [Review]

It was kind of like Legends of the Hidden Temple… Except I wasn’t screaming at the TV because some kid couldn’t figure out how to assemble the three freakin piece statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey.

Location: Queens, New York

Date played: November 8, 2015

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Price: $25 per ticket, must book at least 4 tickets

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner
Mission Escape Games Logo
Formerly Enigma NYC

Theme & story

The Dungeon of Elements was an Indiana Jones-style tomb raid. There was an old mystical thingy… and you wants the precious… So you need to solve some puzzles to unlock it.

The Dungeon of Elements - Water Urn

The premise was simple and familiar. Instead of loading the game up with story, the puzzles, setting, and huge set pieces carried us through the adventure. It worked well.


The Dungeon of Elements was located in the basement of an older building in Queens. The basement itself went a long way towards achieving that old dungeon feel that so many rooms fail to achieve.

Mission Escape Games, Queens - The Dungeon of Elements

Huge set pieces

The large set pieces set this game apart. There were a lot of impressive fixtures in The Dungeon of Elements. All of the big, sturdy, mechanical, aged components made the game feel like it had a gravitas that many games fail to achieve.

At times the feeling was undermined by obviously modern components and a heavy reliance on color changing LED lighting, but these were relatively minor infractions.


The dungeon was split into a few different areas, each themed on the mythical elements of water, fire, air, and earth.

The Dungeon of Elements - Water Dragon

Each element presented its own challenge in the form of a physically interactive puzzle. It worked well because each puzzle felt intimately tied to the element that it represented (with the exception of the fire challenge… But it’s tough to make a safe fire challenge that actually involves fire).

All of this culminated with a massive conglomerated puzzle that required the entire team to solve.

Team size

As with their other rooms, Mission Escape Games, Queens’ website accurately nails their team sizing: The room maxes out at seven people, but they recommend five or six players.

Should I play Mission Escape Games, Queens’ The Dungeon of Elements?

The Dungeon of Elements was a top tier game. It was elegant, big, brilliantly designed, memorable, and engaged the entire team at all times.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games, Queens’ The Dungeon of Elements, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Mission Escape Game, Queens – The Da Vinci Obsession [Review]

The game in which David became “Sophie.”

Location: Queens, New York

Date played: November 8, 2015

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Price: $25 per ticket, must book at least 4 tickets


Mission Escape Games Logo
Formerly Enigma NYC

Character play

Before we entered the room, David assumed the role of “Sophie” and received an item that would aid us in the room.

This was a fun component that will especially resonate with fans of The Da Vinci Code book and film.

The DaVinci Obsession - Cryptex

Sophie’s special item brought with it an individual power. This was a fun concept that more companies should explore.


The Leonardo da Vinci-themed room that captured Leonardo’s essence (or at least his myth), and that of The Da Vinci Code. The set design and prop supported the theme.

However, it only flirted with storytelling. It set up the story’s characters, but didn’t fully succeed at developing our sense of urgent adventure. It came close, but never really got there.

I didn’t feel like the Robert Langdon to David’s Sophie. I felt like I was with Sophie in a well-themed escape room.

Variety & unambiguity

The Da Vinci Obsession included a healthy puzzle variety.

The DaVinci Obsession

While there was a “counting” puzzle that I usually find annoyingly subject to individual interpretation, this game included a mechanism to clarify what would otherwise be a mess of ambiguity.

This game included multiple non-lock interactions. The puzzles and their solutions continued to surprise us, in exciting ways.


Sophie’s prop provided a fun moment early in the game that made us realize there was more going on in this room than we were expecting.

The DaVinci Obsession - Mirror

As the game progressed, the story and the game design continued to escalate.

Late in the game, a particularly dramatic puzzle succeeded spectacularly. On multiple occasions we have seen this type of puzzle flop. The Da Vinci Obession’s success was derived from a combination of clever execution, and high quality components.

Also, Sophie wouldn’t answer to “David,” which heightened a moment or two that called upon teamwork, more specifically, team members calling upon each other.

Should I play Mission Escape Game Queens’ The Da Vinci Obsession?

This was the first room created by Mission Escape Games, Queens (formerly Enigma NYC). As such, it’s a home run.

Furthermore, as the folks from Mission Escape Queens continues to design and to collaborate with others (ie Mission Escape Games), he continues to iterate, improving upon his earlier work.

The Da Vinci Code fans will love the theme and setting, and, of course, getting to “be” a favorite character for an hour.

There is a huge variety in the types on puzzles in this game. Both new players and escape room veterans will enjoy what The Da Vinci Obsession has to offer.

This is a fun one. It’s worth a trek out to Flushing, Queens, on the 7 train.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games, Queens’s The Da Vinci Obsession, and tell them that The Room Escape Artist sent you.

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




Mission Escape Games, Queens – Escape Plan [Review]

The first escape room that made me feel incarcerated.

Location: Queens, New York

Date played: November 8, 2015

Team size: 4-5; we recommend 4

Price: $25 per person, must book at least 4 tickets

Mission Escape Games Logo

Mission Escape Enigma

Escape Plan was originally created by Enigma NYC. When we went to play, they were in the middle of a merger with Mission Escape Games. Since this game will be branded as a Mission game moving forward, I’ve labeled it as such, but I think it’s important to highlight the people who created the game.

Enigma had a damn cool logo.

Enigma NYC Logo

Story & theme

I started off the game being ushered into a transparent prison cell with my hands cuffed behind my back. I was told that I had been locked up for some time and that I had hired a team to come rescue me.

The room itself was small and bleak. The prison cell was pretty cool. It was sturdy and had a Silence of the Lambs feel to it.

For a small space, the game ultimately had four distinct sets for us to explore.

The set design was very clever and I am hard pressed to think of another game that uses such a small space so dynamically.

Being locked up

When a game requires someone to do something different from the rest of the team, Lisa or I will volunteer. That way, we get the full experience between the two of us.

Escape Plan - Cell

In typical lock up or split up situations, the separated group has to work together to reunite.

That wasn’t the case in Escape Plan. I couldn’t do anything from within my cell to help facilitate my own escape. In a strange twist, my efforts to help my team actually hindered their efforts. They would have gotten me out faster if I had sat down and shut up.

While this twist was interesting, it felt like a design flaw because I spent a quarter of my game doing essentially nothing.

Mission Escape Game Queens - Escape Plan


Escape Plan leaned exclusively on scavenging and logic puzzles.

At their best, the puzzles did a reasonable job of taking us through a prison break story, but there just wasn’t a lot to do in the room.

Also, the lack of diversity in the puzzles wore heavily on our team. I found many of the puzzles tedious.

Team size

On their website, the team size is stated as maxing out at five people, with teams of four recommended. This is an incredibly honest and spot-on assessment.

Escape Plan - Cell D

Escape games in New York City tend to overstate how many players can fit in their rooms. It’s refreshing to see a company that actually assesses team size accurately.

We had five people, but it would have been a better experience with four.

Should I play Mission Escape Games, Queens’s Escape Plan?

Here’s the deal with Escape Plan: It was a really interesting room. It had a lot going for it in terms of set design and layout. If the scavenging and logic puzzles play to your strengths, you might really enjoy this game.

My big complaint with Escape Plan was how useless the locked up player was for the first leg of the experience. Usually being locked up is a bonus mission for your boldest player to undertake. In this case, it felt like a punishment.

I imagine that it would be possible to speed run this room. In our case, we made many mistakes and melted down more than we ever have in a room. We only escaped because I circumvented the final puzzle (so that win is going to have an asterisk next to it). C’est la vie.

Escape Plan is on the bubble for a recommendation. Personally, I greatly preferred the other two rooms we played. However it’s not a bad room; it just wasn’t my room.

So if this sounds like your game…

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

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

Mission Escape Games – Nemesis [Review]

This escape room is temporarily closed. It will reopen in a new midtown location in spring/summer 2019.

In the final minutes of Nemesis, I felt my world crashing, but recovered in the very last moment.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: September 17, 2015

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Mission Escape Games Logo

Theme & story

You’ve been sent to board a massive space-station that has lost power and is about to fall out of orbit, plummet to Earth, and end all life on the planet. You have 60 minutes to restore power to the station, correcting its orbit or the world ends.

The Nemesis looked exceptional. Every item in the room was on-theme and it was sci-fi in a dark and slightly intimidating way.

The game felt like we stepped into a new world, and it was a fun world to explore.

Mission Escape Games - Nemesis


We were the first non-tester team to play Nemesis. Derek, the owner of Mission Escape Games, handled our introduction to the game, and it was a bit disjointed. I followed the story line because it was a familiar sci-fi setup, but some of our less nerdy teammates were confused about the goal of our Mission.

I’d venture to guess that because this is a new game, the introductory speech isn’t polished yet, but it’s an important part of the game (especially for less experienced players).


There was a bit of a mixed bag here in the puzzles.

On the plus side, there were no padlocks whatsoever and many of the puzzles were interactions with the space station.

This room was at its best when the puzzles were space station interactions that advanced a story line.

On the not-so-plus side, a couple of these puzzles were excruciatingly challenging. There was one puzzle that was so hard that I can confidently say our team wouldn’t have solved it… And I’m not even sure we would have gotten it with hints… But we accidentally circumvented that puzzle so we’ll never know.

Breakage & accidental circumvention

This game was technology-driven. Almost everything involved a sensor or something digital. Thus there was high potential for bugs, especially for early players.

In one instance we bypassed a puzzle, and didn’t even know it. We did a thing, and another thing opened. It turned out that we did the wrong thing, and had no idea that we had circumvented the hardest puzzle of the game.

There was another instance where we had the right answer, and the device didn’t work. It was a bummer because that happened at a particularly dramatic moment.

Escalation, storytelling, and a climactic moment

Nemesis had a dramatic beginning, largely because the puzzles fit into the story. It had a similarly dramatic ending. When we restored power to the space station with a minute to spare, and the triumphant theme from one of my favorite PS2 era video games started playing in the background, I was elated… More on that elation in a moment.

The middle of the game lost the plot thread. The puzzles existed for their own sake rather than to advance the story.

Nemesis had so many wonderful moments that conveyed meaning and story, a few of the puzzles didn’t feel like they should have made the cut.

A personal drama

This was a special game for me because it was the first domino in my extraordinarily complex marriage proposal to my (now) fiancée, and Room Escape Artist co-everything, Lisa Radding.

Lisa & David - Post Game

Derek graciously hid a small box in the room for Lisa to find. He asked me if I “wanted to know where it would be hidden.” I didn’t want to know anything about the game, so I said, “no.”

He hid the box in the penultimate puzzle of the game… So I became hint happy in the final minutes. I was silently panicking as it started to look increasingly like we weren’t going to get out.

If you’re interested in the full story of the proposal, you should read Lisa’s post, The Escape of the Ring from the Puzzle Box.

Should I play Mission Escape Games’ Nemesis?

The last time we played at Mission Escape Games, we loved the Hydeout, but we thought it lacked a climax. Nemesis did not suffer from this problem.

It had quite a few wonderful moments in it and the overall feel was seductive in a nerdy sort of way. It was intense, a ton of fun, and a game that I will always remember (not all of that has to do with the game itself).

All of that being said, there were moments when the game didn’t work as designed, a couple of puzzles that were far too confounding, and a few elements that felt like they should have been better incorporated into the story. Mission keeps getting better and we keep moving the goal post on what constitutes a perfect game.

Nemesis is a game for experienced players. If this is your first room, you’re going to have a rough time. It’s (mostly) fair to experienced players, but I am reasonably sure that it will offer an insurmountable challenge to first time teams. Mission has a few games that offer a softer learning curve. Give those a try; then face off against the apocalypse space station.

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

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