Outside the Box – Darklight Disco Fight [Review]

Puzzle Dome

Location:  Webster, MA

Date Played: November 10, 2019

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 6 (played as 3 vs 3) or 8 (played as 4 vs 4)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

At its core, Darklight Disco Fight was a competitive puzzle battle.

Outside the Box’s game design was deeper and far more nuanced than any other competitive escape game we’ve encountered to date. There were multiple ways to interact with and sabotage the opposition, and a great many opportunities for a team to approach the game strategically instead of just solving puzzles faster than the other folks.

This was a super fun, hilarious, high-energy game.

In-game: a flourscent glowing square with a dice and a big question mark besdie it.

The tragedy of Darklight Disco Fight, however, was that we had to play it to truly understand how to play it well, or with any type of strategy. Now that we’ve solved the puzzles, we can’t play it again the way we would have wanted to play it.

Outside the Box did so many smart things in this low-budget production. The struggle with producing something novel and new like Darklight Disco Fight is that it’s essentially a public beta for all manner of new concepts. Some work; some don’t. In this case, a lot of them could benefit from refinement.

I absolutely recommend Darklight Disco Fight to a group of evenly matched puzzlers who are in the area. To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Who is this for?

  • Competitive folks
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The massive volume of puzzles
  • Competitive play
  • Opportunity to interact with and affect your opponents

Story

Two teams entered a head-to-head puzzle battle at the blacklight disco.

In-game: wide shot of Darklight Disco. There are an assortment of costumes hanging from the wall, and a glowing square on the floor.

Setting

The Darklight Disco Fight set was split into two identical and mirrored spaces. Each team entered their own space to compete against the team on the other side of the wall.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Darklight Disco Fight had a bare-bones, old-school escape room look. The focus was on the gameplay. The room was basically filled with puzzle components and locked compartments, all bathed in blacklight.

The gamemaster was a key part of the world as we regularly had to show solutions on camera or announce them audibly to earn points. This interaction added to the experience as our gamemaster brought a lot of personality to Darklight Disco Fight.

In-game: closeup of puzzle solution compartment, each is numbered and has a lock hanging from it.

Gameplay

Outside the Box’s Darklight Disco Fight was a competitive escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and moving quickly. It was also imperative to understand the structure of the game and helpful to strategize an approach. Pay close attention to the rules video and ask questions.

In-game: closeup of a fishtank with a yellow submarine inside of it.

Analysis

➕ Darklight Disco Fight had an infectious energy. It was dark, but fluorescent, with an energetic soundtrack. It pitted us against our friends in competitive play. This upped the stakes and our exuberance.

➕ Our gamemaster added great energy. He interacted with us, verifying our solves, calling out when we triggered new challenges, and DJ-ing the game.

Darklight Disco Fight didn’t look like much. It was all about the puzzles. However, it had a gameshow aesthetic and it didn’t need anything else.

➕ Darklight Disco Fight was jam-packed with puzzles. These varied enormously in type of challenge and difficulty of solve. The puzzles also varied as to how they affected the gameplay, which added a level of complexity. There was something for everyone and every goal.

❓ The puzzles required more outside knowledge than typical escape room puzzles. We had to solve serious math equations, among other things. This worked fine because no team needed to – or would have time to – solve all the puzzles within the 60-minute game clock. If we didn’t know a reference, or couldn’t remember an operation, we could just skip the puzzle. This might irk some players, however, because it is different from typical escape room gameplay.

In-game: A strange puzzle that seems to take inspiration from Super Mario Brothers.

➕ We were equipped with the tools we needed to solve, including cipher charts and whiteboards.

➖ Outside the Box introduced Darklight Disco Fight with a video. This did not adequately explain the unorthodox gameplay. It covered too much information too quickly. While our gamemaster did give us a chance to ask questions at the conclusion of the video, we didn’t understand well enough to know what we were confused about. We had to figure out how to play as we played.

➕/➖ There could be tons of strategic approaches to this game. As an unusual set up with lots of variables, there could have been plenty of ways to approach gameplay. Unfortunately, our playthrough felt like a free-for-all due to our lack of strategic understanding. This neutered a lot of the depth that Outside the Box built into the game.

 Darklight Disco Fight lacked a clear way to keep track of puzzle progress across both teams. Although we had a scoreboard, it was limited. A bigger, more detailed board could have conveyed the action and taken over some of the organization that was put on the teams.

➖ The game structure enabled the teams to interact – to steal away puzzle components, rendering puzzles impossible for the other team, or to create other forms of sabotage. Not all of these were created equal. We could also trigger something we didn’t want to have happen.

Darklight Disco Fight was a canvas for our own fun. Solving puzzles was gratifying… so was heckling, sabotaging, and otherwise enjoying competitive gameplay with friends.

➖/❓/➕ Darklight Disco Fight needed better onboarding before we entered the gamespace. We spent the first few minutes explaining to each other how to play. There were plenty of key nuances that far too many people missed, but would have made play smoother. At the end, we all wished we could play again with a strategy. But unfortunately, as it was an escape room, we’d already solved far too many of the puzzles for it to be replayable. In its current form, Darklight Disco Fight is trapped in a Catch-22 where players need to play once to learn how to play well, but after playing once, can’t ever play again.

We hope Outside the Box will consider making a “B” version with new puzzles. There is a ton of replayability within this structure, and with new puzzles, we expect many teams would return with a competitive strategy. We certainly would!

Tips For Visiting

  • The entrance is behind the building.
  • There is a parking lot behind the building and street parking out front.
  • We highly recommend you play this one with friends where everyone feels comfortable together and wants to compete in a high energy puzzle showdown.

Book your hour with Outside the Box’s Darklight Disco Fight, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Outside the Box – The Body Shop [Review]

Girls will be girls.

Location:  Webster, MA

Date Played: November 10, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Body Shop was a fantastic example of the kind of greatness that is achievable on a modest budget when an escape room is imbued with skill, passion, and attention to detail.

Outside the Box did a lot of worldbuilding in The Body Shop. Some of it was overt; a lot of the detailing was subtle. Altogether, their game world was as creative as it was grimly hilarious.

In-game: An autoshop of a motorcycle in the middle covered with a tarp.

The set looked great; the puzzles solved cleanly. From our vantage point, the biggest opportunity for Outside the Box to elevate their style would be to integrate the puzzles not only into the set, but also into the story. As it was, the puzzle looked good within the environment, but didn’t usually carry much meaning. If Outside the Box can figure out how to do this, they will be a real force. As it is, The Body Shop was already fantastic.

If you’re in the Boston area Webster, Massachusetts is a bit of a drive… but it really is worth it, especially if you have a dark sense of humor.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • People with a sense of humor
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Hilarious and nuanced storytelling
  • A strong and unique set
  • Great tangible interactions

Story

It was late at night and someone had placed an order for immediate delivery from internet retail giant Conga. We were the closest delivery people, so off we went, package in hand, to a local body shop.

As we followed the owner’s instructions and delivered the package, the door locked behind us and the alarm triggered. The shop seemed pretty shady, so leaving was our only priority.

In-game: a bay door for the autoshop.

Setting

We arrived at The Body Shop with a package to deliver in hand, and explicit instructions of where to deposit it. As we entered the space, it was clearly an auto shop. It looked fantastic. The tools, the look, and the grit of the place all achieved that recognizable aesthetic.

In-game: A detailed, heavily worn brick, concrete, and steel wall.

The level of detail also exceeded the obvious. It took some time before we realized the lengths to which Outside the Box had gone when constructing The Body Shop.

One key detail that I’ll point out: the story details were embedded in a number of places around the set. Taking a moment here and there to internalize these added a lot to the experience.

Gameplay

Outside the Box’s The Body Shop was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a rack of tires sitting beside a set of red lockers.

Analysis

➕ Outside the Box took risks with their story and interaction design. This paid off. The Body Shop was edgy, but also hilarious.

➕ Outside the Box crafted the world of The Body Shop. From the opening moments of the experience, we were learning about this world, its characters, and our place in it. Outside the Box created a solid base on which their story unfolded.

In-game: a workbench with wrenches hanging from a pegboard.

➕ The detailed set and props made The Body Shop an exciting space to explore. One reveal especially impressed us. Although this wasn’t a high-budget build, it was thoughtfully designed to deliver impactful moments.

➕ Outside the Box used light and sound to enhance the atmosphere and add drama.

➕/➖ The puzzles were thematic, tactile, and interactive. They were fun solves. That said, many of the puzzles were escape room-y, which is to say, they were built within the environment, but they weren’t carrying the story beats.

➖ A few too many puzzles required writing utensils. This became a bit tedious and distracted from the detailed environment.

➖ It wasn’t always apparent whether we had enough information to work on a puzzle. We spun our wheels a few times.

The Body Shop had a lot of content, both in terms of puzzles and story. It generally flowed clearly and logically. This story was also intelligently delivered. It wasn’t arduous to take it in.

In-game: closeup of a motorcycle wheel.

Tips For Visiting

  • The entrance is behind the building.
  • There is a parking lot behind the building and street parking out front.
  • The theme is playful and funny, but might be off-putting to some players. There is a light Halloween-horror feel.

Book your hour with Outside the Box’s The Body Shop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.