OutIn60 – Insane Asylum [Review]

I learned a lot about madness.

Location: Hoboken, New Jersey

Date played: July 3, 2017

Team size: 3-12; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

While observing a dangerous patient’s therapy session, a horde of zombies broke out in the asylum. We had to escape before the zombies reached us.

The set was fairly nondescript. It was a large space with some basic furnishings and the occasional bloody handprint and blood spatter. If I hadn’t been told that I was in an insane asylum, I probably would not have been able to guess the theme.

In-game: A typewriter on a desk in a dark room. A large maze hangs on the wall in the distance.

Puzzles

Insane Asylum was a tech-driven search-and-puzzle game.

OutIn60 produced a series of puzzles that usually put an interesting twist on a standard puzzle or interaction.

Additionally, Insane Asylum had an automated hint system that delivered new information based on a combination of sensor triggers and timers. The hints essentially made the puzzles easier over time, whether we wanted that or not.

Standouts

I loved one massive puzzle that honestly occupied all 4 members of our team. I love a good oversized puzzle that necessitates teamwork.

There were a number of smaller, nuanced interactions that offered a novel take on things we’ve seen before.

Shortcomings

The story and set didn’t work at all. We never felt like we were in an insane asylum. We never felt like we were in the midst of a zombie outbreak. In fact, we’re still not sure why those two themes were amalgamated in Insane Asylum.

Over time, the automated hint system, which had intrigued us in OutIn60’s first escape room, made us feel rushed, frustrated, and annoyed. It continually pushed us hints while we were actively solving the puzzles. It also tended to do so in the most condescending tone possible. Then at the end of the game, when we truly wanted a hint… silence.

In-game: a TV depicting a doctor speaking with a restrained patient in a padded cell.
These two “guided” us through the room escape.

One puzzle was missing an entire section of clue structure. We solved it because we had teammates who could read music. Without that knowledge, we would have had to wait until the automated hint system pushed the solution to us.

Insane Asylum had a serious lack of feedback from the set. The puzzling was linear. Accomplishing one step made the next one possible, but the set didn’t do much of anything to indicate that something new had opened. We were continually stuck waiting for the hint system to tell us where to focus.

There were a few broken and loose components that really threw us off. This issue was magnified because our gamemaster made a big deal in the pre-game briefing about how “everything works really well and if it’s meant to open, it will be easy to open.” We were delicate with the set and props, but there were at least two points in the Insane Asylum where we needed to not be so delicate.

Should I play OutIn60’s Insane Asylum?

Insane Asylum was a tragic escape room. It was honestly innovative and it was made up of many interesting puzzles, moments, and technology. The problem was that it didn’t come together into something cohesive. It felt like less than the sum of its parts.

The hint system, in which OutIn60 has clearly invested their effort and money, solves a problem that they don’t have, while whitewashing their real problems. OutIn60 operates 2 escape rooms; they aren’t operating at a scale where this level of automation is saving them massive amounts of money. The automated hints, however, cover up flaws in puzzle design. Instead of having the gamemaster watch teams be baffled, they simply wait until the computer pushes the teams more information than they need to solve the puzzle in a satisfying way.

It’s a shame to look back at a room escape that innovated in so many ways, yet felt like it didn’t amount to its potential… but that’s Insane Asylum. I love that OutIn60 focused on creativity, but that should not come at the price of constant player frustration.

Full disclosure: OutIn60 comped our tickets for this game.

Out in 60 – The Pyramid [Review]

“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” – Indiana Jones

Location: Hoboken, NJ

Date played: September 27, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

Our team of Indiana Jones-ian archaeologists were exploring an 8,000 year-old pyramid with dark secrets.

The Pyramid, an entirely lockless game, was almost completely handcrafted. The game’s creators built nearly every prop and piece of decor. This included many 3D printed items and a ton of hidden technology.

As a result of the hand construction, this was a room that looked like no other. Not every component was refined or polished, but it was original, unusual, and clearly built with love.

In-game, image of the wall with a grid of sandstone embossed with hieroglyphs.

Puzzles

The Pyramid was unapologetically inspired by the Indiana Jones trilogy (and that travesty from 2008 with the same cast and director). From the story to the interactions, The Pyramid was clearly designed to make us feel like Indy and his crew. Consequently, the puzzles were physically interactive and linear.

Additionally, The Pyramid rewarded players with keen observational skills more that most escape rooms do (and that’s saying something). Generally, once we found everything and determined which components went together, deriving the solutions wasn’t too challenging.

The hinting was almost entirely automated. Over the course of a puzzle, hints would automagically trigger based on timing and what we had accomplished. The net effect was that as time wore on, each puzzle became easier. Our team was impressed by this feature, but torn on whether we liked or disliked it.

Standout

The unique construction of The Pyramid was an unexpected breath of fresh air from a brand new company.

The level of love, care, and inventiveness was superb.

The lockless design was thematic and surprising.

There were a number of brilliant physically interactive puzzles. In the middle of The Pyramid, there was a run of about five puzzles that truly impressed me . One interaction after another put big smiles on the faces of our entire team.

Shortcomings

While the handcrafted and 3D printed construction was a welcome addition to the game, it would have benefited from additional refinement. All of the 3D prints would have been more compelling with some post processing. While the exteriors of major set pieces generally looked good, their interiors would have been improved by the same love and care.

There was a lot of clue doubling. Most puzzles could be solved through different sets of clues. This over-cluing led to either confusion or oversimplification.

Audio cues were critical, but the speaker system didn’t have enough clarity. We occasionally struggled to hear what was going on.

We accidentally circumvented a major late puzzle due to a bug. It was a shame because the puzzle was really cool and I wanted to solve it.

The ending kind of fizzled out, especially in comparison to some of The Pyramid’s best parts.

Should I play Out in 60’s The Pyramid?

The Pyramid was an unusual game in a number of ways. It was completely lockless, automated, and more handmade than most escape rooms. It was also Out in 60’s first game, which makes its achievements all the more impressive.

That said, it had its bumps, some of which came from the simple fact that the design was more complex than the norm. None of these faults came anywhere close to experience breaking, and many of them could be improved through iteration should Out in 60 choose to do so.

Improvements or not, this is one of the more interesting games in New Jersey and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I think that players who have experienced at least one or two games will get more out of it because they will better grasp what makes it special.

Book your hour with Out in 60’s The Pyramid, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Out in 60 comped our tickets for this game.