Mission Escape Games: Special Mission – Penguins of Madagascar [Review]

A few things to know

This is an escape game designed for children 8 to 17 or so. It is a limited engagement, and will only be around for a few more weeks.

Full disclosure: The folks at Mission Escape Games let us play this one for free.

We tried to commandeer some of our friend’s children to play this with us, but schedules didn’t quite work. We still wanted to try the game so that we could get a sense of what a room escape for kids could be like. This was for science.

Mission Escape Games Logo


This game is a promotional event produced in conjunction with DreamWorks to support the movie “Penguins of Madagascar.” It’s a great idea for both room escapes and movies. I hope to see more of this.

“The Penguins need your help to make their escape.

Help Skipper, Rico, Private and Kowalski to solve puzzles and complete their Mission!!

Kids Game

This really is a room escape game for kids. It’s brightly lit. The room is pretty beautiful and completely unintimidating.

Special Mission penguins of madagascar

The game is deliberately linear, and each step along the way introduces you to a new character from the movie.

It’s an escape game with training wheels, and it works really well.


While this game is designed for the under 18 crowd, there is still some noteworthy challenge.

Our four person team of experienced room escapees breezed through 95% of this game in very little time… Then we spent FOREVER trying to solve the final puzzle.

The big TV in the room displays clues provided by the game master (who is always watching via camera). He kept giving us vague hints:

  • “Think like a kid”
  • “Think more like a kid”
  • “You’re still thinking like adults”
  • “Stop thinking like you’ve done a room escape before”
  • “You’re on the right track”
  • “Keep playing with the method you’re trying”

We eventually figured the thing out, but only after a mortifying amount of time elapsed.

Our the game master told us afterwards that the trend with the final puzzle is that adults can’t figure it out, and kids have a whole lot less trouble with it.

No hyperbole, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much trouble with a door puzzle in a room escape. It was hilarious.

Should I play this game?

Bearing in mind that this game will only exist for a few more weeks…

There aren’t many room escape games for kids. If you have kids who would enjoy a bit of brainy adventure, go do it. It’s a unique; physically interactive; and fun.

We never expected to recommend this game for a team of adults, and we aren’t going to. However you can have fun with this as an adult in the same way that you’ll enjoy watching a good animated movie with a kid, even if it’s not a movie you would pick if you didn’t have children with you.

After this room closes, the Mission Escape Games team has plans to transform the room into something a bit more serious. I’d say wait for that if you don’t have any offspring to bring along.

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

Mission Escape Games: Escape the Darkest Hour [Review]

Location: New York, New York

Date played: November, 2014

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 4-6

Price: $180 per team


You’re a rescue team who has gone in search of a missing psychiatric doctor… And something went wrong…

“You have woken up in a completely dark room without a clue as to how you got there.

All you have in hand is a flashlight. You have one hour to discover what happened and make your escape, lest you succumb to the terrors of the room.”

Mission Escape Games Logo

Be Forewarned

Room escape games are typically about as scary as coming home to an empty house with all of the lights on.

“Mission Escape Games: Escape the Darkest Hour” is a horror game.

You should not do this if:

  • This is your first room escape game
  • Horror movies leave you crying or cowering
  • You are afraid of the dark, claustrophobic, or have other medical conditions that would prevent you from doing something intense

There is nothing even remotely dangerous about this room escape, but the intensity is ramped up a few notches.


You’re in an abstract psychiatric ward gone very wrong. The lights are out. There’s blood. There’s creepy music.

Nearly everything in the room screams “horror scene.”

The music that plays while you’re in the room is eerie, and the random sound effects are awesome.

The room incorporates voice overs by professionals actors. Totally badass. And any conversing with the puzzle masters is also in character. The plot progression is outstanding.

Is it scary?

Nothing in the room scared our group. But when one of our team members loudly spazzed-out, that terrified us all. We all agreed that if we weren’t in a horror room, the spazzy episode wouldn’t have frightened us. The ambiance succeeds.

So… Mission accomplished Mission Escape Games.

Locks with your locks

This room has a lot of locks. It is littered with combination and key locks. They are everywhere.

This room is pretty damn awesome, but if I have to really knock it for something it’s the designer’s heavy reliance on locks. All roads lead to a lock.

This contrasts pretty harshly against the few, and insanely cool non-lock puzzles. There aren’t many of them, but when they happen, they are wonderful.

A serious challenge

I am proud to say that we were only the fifth team to escape in something like 170 team attempts. That’s about a 3% success rate, which puts this on-par with some of the most challenging rooms I’ve ever heard of. It’s the most challenging game that I have ever attempted and won.

Escape the Darkest Hour Victory

Our team was very seasoned; most of us have started playing room escapes on a regular basis.

Due to the creativity and experience of some of our players, we cleverly circumvented some of the puzzles, and I suspect that the folks at Mission Escape Games might be making a couple changes to the room as a result of said creativity.

This is a really tough game. It’s a worthy adversary, and I highly recommend taking on “Escape the Darkest Hour” if you have a few escape games under your belt.

If you’re in NYC, and you’re not up for this, give Mission Escape Games: The Art Studio, or Escape the Room NYC: The Office a try; they are great starter puzzles.

Mission Escape Games – Escape the Darkest Hour (click on the tab on the left), and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Mission Escape Games: The Art Studio [Review]

Location: New York, New York

Date played: October, 2014

Price: $28 per ticket

The Plot

“You’ve been called in to assist in a disappearance!
A studio in town is hiding a secret and we need your help!
The tenant has disappeared without a word.
Find clues, solve questions and help us find our friend!”

The Staff

The first thing that our team discovered at Mission Escape Games is that boundless enthusiasm of the staff. Their love of room escape games was inescapable. We really liked them.

Mission Escape Games Logo


The Art Studio escape was themed on, you guessed it, an art studio. The room is fairly basic, and there isn’t a story, but everything is on the theme.

The furnature, decor, and the puzzles themselves are kept within the theme. The mystique is loosely held together, but it works.


The entire game was decidedly non-linear, which was great for a larger group. Everyone could work on different things.

10 People?

This is billed as a maximum 10 person game. The space is a bit too tight for 10 people. I’d suggest 6-8.

With a team of 10 people we were at times stepping on each other. I literally stepped on one of my friends.

Fun with Little Adventure

This is a solid starter room, but there isn’t much of a sense of adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, the room is a lot of fun, but there weren’t any moments where I thought “damn… that’s incredible.”

There’s plenty to throw you off, but there is a similarity between a lot of what’s happening in this room, and some elements start to illicit a feeling of déjà vu.

Ultimately the puzzles are tricky and clever, however they never inspire awe.

Questioning the Sturdiness

The staff informed us before going into the room that in the near future, they will set up video cameras, and the game will proceed without a puzzle master in the room with the players. In principle, this is a great idea. In practice, I’m not certain that this particular room is sturdy enough to play without supervision.

While we were waiting outside, the team before us walked out, and one of the guys (who seemed like a drunken meathead) proudly proclaimed that they told him not to use force, but he broke something and it helped them win. As we inspected the room we found a small cabinet that was taped up.

On the flip side, in an attempt to over-engineer a solution to a puzzle, I accidentally broke something.

If the room stays as it is today, I suspect that the room will experience a bit too much weathering from both overzealous and overaggressive players without a puzzle master in the room; it’s already been subject to a beating with supervision.

Great Deception

My biggest complement to this game is that while the room is fairly simple, the creators did a so superb job of creating deception; especially if you’re familiar with room escapes.

The record for this room is under 30 minutes, and if you’re really on top of things, I can easily see achieving this. However that was not the case with my team. We never got it together.

This was the first time that time that I lost a game that I felt like I should have won. It was a humbling experience.


All-in-all, this is a very solid introductory puzzle.

I recommend both the room, and Mission Escape Games as a company. They are opening three new puzzles over the coming weeks, and I cannot wait to go back and play more.

Mission Escape Games – NYC, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.