Ninja Escape – Black Lace [Review]

It’s a blur.

Location: Seattle, Washington

Date played: April 8, 2016

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4-5

Price: $28 per adult ticket

Theme & story

In Ninja Escape’s second mission, Black Lace, we found ourselves in a battle of wits against a villainess creating a bio-weapon. We had to complete a series of missions within her lab and escape before the facility detonated.

Tiered win conditions

Ninja Escape presented tiered win conditions for Black Lace. These can be thought of as easy, medium, and hard victory.

These were specifically (1) find specific files – 30% success, (2) find the bio-weapon – 20% success, and (3) escape the facility with everything – 10% success.

This nifty feature enabled a non-binary win/lose situation. It allowed Ninja Escape to keep the game challenging without making everyone feel like a loser.

That said, knowing that we found the files and the bio-weapon but still got exploded felt like a hollow victory.

Deceptive design

We’re rarely surprised by the interactions within a room. Black Lace had some moments that truly caught us off guard, in a good way.

The game space wasn’t massive, but Ninja managed to squeeze quite a bit into it.

Ninja Escape logo - A ninja star with a keyhole in the center.
I’m still loving this logo.

Wordy

Ninja Escape clearly worked hard to tell a story and develop the nemesis in the game. This was admirable, but the story was told heavily in prose. When mixed with the many text-based puzzles, we found ourselves reading far more than was enjoyable in a timed escape room environment.

Surprise solutions

In Ninja Escape’s first mission, Hack Attack, we knew when we had solved a puzzle. In Black Lace, we had a hard time determining exactly what the puzzles were, so we just tried a lot of stuff, and were pleasantly surprised when things worked.

This challenge was compounded by the volume of similar locks. It was frustrating to try possible solutions repeatedly in different locks.

Topnotch customer service

The staff at Ninja Escape was among the most engaging, friendly, and confidence-inspiring that we’ve encountered. We raved about them in our review of Hack Attack and everything we said in that review holds equally true for Black Lace.

Should I play Ninja Escape’s Black Lace?

For the first time in a long time, we felt like new players; this wasn’t a good thing. We spent a lot of time guessing at what the puzzles were, and then where to put the solutions. I lost track of the number of times I put a combination into a lock with nearly no confidence that it would work.

When things did go our way, we were usually rewarded with more confounding puzzles. From beginning to end, Black Lace felt like running on a treadmill; we ran hard and stayed put.

When all was said and done, we couldn’t remember what puzzles we had solved 15 minutes after playing the game. The experience was a blur.

Ninja Escape understands the value of different experiences. They built their second game, Black Lace, in a different style from their first game, Hack AttackThis was an admirable endeavor, but Black Lace needed additional refinement.

At this time, we recommend Ninja Escape’s first game Hack Attack (which we played after Black Lace) over the newer Black Lace.

Full disclosure: Ninja Escape comped our tickets for this game… They also gave us a pair of t-shirts with their awesome logo on it.

Ninja Escape – Hack Attack [Review]

You’re actually allowed to hack this escape room.

Location: Seattle, Washington

Date played: April 8, 2016

Team size: 4-12; we recommend 6-8

Price: $28 per adult ticket

Theme & story

“Your team of Ninja puzzlers are dropped into the office of Mr. Hancock – a rogue member of The Kraken – our ancient enemy. He has stolen billions of dollars from our client. Can you solve the mysteries, recover the account, and escape before The Kraken return? Yes you can, if you are Ninja enough. “

Ninja Escape had a charming 1980’s action flick vibe. They play 8bit video game tunes as lobby music. The story was bit campy. They also had an unusual and refreshingly tongue-in-cheek “our players are ninjas” thing going on that mocked the faux reality of escape rooms, while still presenting a serious game.

Ninja Escape logo - A ninja star with a keyhole in the center.
That’s one fine logo. Note how the star is built from keyholes.

Puzzles

Hack Attack’s puzzles contained a mix of lock and key and technologically driven interactions. The challenges themselves offered a mix of your more typical escape room puzzles and cyphers, but presented them in a fun, compelling, and ultimately intense manner.

Hacking

The name of the game was Hack Attack; it lived up to the name.

The “steal the files” techno-thriller story notwithstanding, Ninja Escape embraced puzzle circumvention in a player-friendly manner.

We were allowed to use our phones (not that they were a huge help) and when we defeated their puzzles in unexpected ways, they praised it in our postgame (instead of getting indignant as some escape room companies do).

They even told us how some other teams have creatively circumvented the game’s challenges.

Their “it’s 2016, everyone has a phone, of course you can use it” attitude was really levelheaded and pleasant.

Team post game photo
12 seconds remaining. It’s so much better to escape with seconds to spare.

Bugs and Fixes

During our play-through, the computer we were “hacking” experienced some difficulties of the non-responsive variety.

This should have been a big problem, but it wasn’t because Ninja Escape’s gamemasters were incredibly attentive (and engaging). Our gamemaster appeared immediately with backup materials in-hand. We never even had to call for assistance.

It was a disruption to the flow of the game, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Dust

There came a point in Hack Attack when we entered a dusty locale. It seemed deliberate, and part of the ambiance, but for me, Hack Attack swiftly became Allergy Attack.

Should I play Ninja Escape’s Hack Attack?

In Hack Attack, Ninja Escape has created a strong escape game. Early on it came across as simplistic, but as the game progressed, it revealed a deeper complexity than we had anticipated.

The gamemasters at Ninja Escape truly elevated the player experience. They were fun and funny, but also commanded respect. They zeroed in on safety and they didn’t burden us with unnecessary rules and regulations.

Hack Attack wasn’t a mind-blowing game. The technology, puzzles, and story didn’t push boundaries, but everything gelled well.

I can’t help but look back on the game and feel that it was far more than the sum of its parts.

Book your hour with Ninja Escape’s Hack Attack (and save $5 with the promo code “NINJASTAR”),  and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Ninja Escape comped our tickets for this game… They also gave us a pair of t-shirts with their awesome logo on it.