Perplexium – Incoming Transmission [Review]

Engage!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Incoming Transmission was a sprawling space epic in the vein of Star Trek.

We’ve learned to count on Austin’s 15 Locks/ Perplexium to produce creative and unusual escape games that tinker with the formula. They did just that with Incoming Transmission.

In-game: The bridge of a space ship with multiple control consoles and many glowing lights.
Image via Perplexium

This space-based escape game was less about discovering a physical space and puzzling through it. It was more about learning the ship’s systems and using them to traverse the universe, completing missions and solving the problems of alien species. This escape room felt more like a giant control panel than a puzzle room.

This structure meant that Perplexium was able to produce a replayable game with plenty of dynamic missions to tackle.

With gameplay that felt more like a hybrid of video gaming and some tabletop gaming, Incoming Transmission could be the perfect game for your team or it could fizzle. We enjoyed ourselves and could imagine going back for a second go at space travel if we’d finished playing out the other escape rooms that interest us in Austin.

If you’re a little intrigued by all of this and near Austin, Texas, then you should beam aboard Incoming Transmission. At the very least, you’ll be in for an novel ride.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Unusual, replayable game structure
  • Great set
  • A humorous script

Story

As cadets in the fleet, we had been beamed aboard the SS Adventure. We had to get the ship running and then traverse the universe to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly solve intergalactic problems.

In-game: A series of large control toggles.
Image via Perplexium

Setting 

We were beamed aboard a Star Trek-inspired spaceship with an angular, futuristic aesthetic, complete with dozens of blinking lights, buttons, switches, and dials… all of which were active game components.

In-game: A space ship control panel with multi-colored glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Gameplay

Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission combined standard escape room gameplay with atypical elements. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Incoming Transmission could be played in “story mode,” which combined more typical escape room-style gameplay with video game-like elements. It could be replayed in “points mode” which opened up the star system and allowed crews to go off and have a real-life video game-like adventure without some of the more tangible escape room moments.

The gameplay was similar to something like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Core gameplay revolved around figuring out how to interact with the environment, following instructions, and communicating.

In-game: A space ship control panel with glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Analysis

➕ The spaceship set was interesting and beautiful.

➕ As we brought this ship to life and completed missions it reacted with different effects. These upped our excitement about the missions and our feelings of triumph.

➕ There was a heavy video component that involved alien characters appearing on a large screen to ask for help, make demands, or threaten us. It was both Star Trek-y and funny… kind of like The Orville… but without dick jokes.

➕ We enjoyed the escape room-style gameplay of configuring the ship. We especially enjoyed operating the ship’s transporter.

➖ The gameplay often felt more like following instructions than exploring or solving puzzles.

❓ The second act of the game took place at consoles, much like a multiplayer video game. It was fun, but the novelty wore off quickly. We would have liked more puzzle variety or a quicker pace during this segment. Reactions to this segment will likely vary based on individual player preferences.

➖ Incoming Transmission lacked an intense boss flight. The gameplay felt one-note, even as our ship came under fire. We would have liked to build toward the climactic battle.

➕ The replayable “points mode” concept was interesting. There were so many console-based puzzles packed into the game that we could return again and again to play though the challenges from our consoles aboard this intergalactic ship.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This room involves crawling, ducking and tight spaces. At least one player will need to do this.
  • This room includes flashing lights, fog, and loud noises.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Perplexium comped our tickets for this game.

Perplexium – Rogue A.I. [Review]

A buggy super computer.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

An advanced artificial intelligence went rogue. We needed to gain access to it and change its programming to eliminate the threat.

It looked and felt a lot like Portal 2… which was pretty cool.

Aesthetically, Rogue A.I. was all over the place. Some portions of the game looked fantastically futuristic. “Server room chic” is my best description for it.

In-game: A surreal white room with pillars of varying height. The room is split into small squares by blue LED strips that illuminate the entire space. It looks very futuristic.
This room was white. It photographed interestingly.

Other portions of the game looked drab and uninspiring, especially in comparison to the parts that were otherworldly.

Puzzles

Rogue A.I. was a challenging, puzzle-heavy game. We were the 7th team to escape in its 3-month existence.

Perplexium created a number of largely tech-driven spacial and reasoning puzzles to occupy the hour. They also adapted a few famous puzzles into Rogue A.I.’s gameplay.

Standouts

Some of Rogue A.I. looked amazing. These parts were fun to explore.

Some of the puzzles were fun, challenging, and fostered teamwork.

The A.I. was a character in the game. It was superbly executed.

Shortcomings

Rogue A.I. had a problem with gating, or lack thereof. We frequently received pieces of puzzles and access to puzzle interactions far earlier than we should have. This made the game artificially more difficult than it should have been. It created odd situations where we had solved a puzzle and triggered something to happen in a portion of the game that we did not have access to.

There were a number of construction issues as well, specifically gaps in set pieces where it was easy to lose small items and instructional material.

There was a lack of working surface, which added to the likelihood of placing small objects in precarious places.

While some of the game looked awesome, a fair amount of it did not. These parts stood in painfully stark contrast to the more exceptionally designed areas.

There was a lot to read and far too much of the reading material was useless or unimportant.

We were surprised when the game ended. The final puzzle left us feeling so unsatisfied that it was bizarrely hard for our team to accept that we had achieved the win condition. It’s worth noting that we had (talented) strangers on our team and they clearly also experienced the bafflement that we were feeling.

Should I play Perplexium’s Rogue A.I.?

One of the more interesting aspects of Rogue A.I. was where the difficulty came from. There were challenging puzzles to solve, but they weren’t so hard that Rogue A.I. should have such an incredibly low escape rate.

The main challenge stemmed from little flaws that reverberated off of one another to create frustration and friction. We lost pieces twice, one to a gap in a set piece and another when the tech triggered a door to fling open and launch a piece. We wasted time with puzzles that we had access to, but didn’t have all of the pieces or information. The crazy part was that we solved them that way. We had people spending the entire game trying to make sense of large written passages when it turned out that we barely needed any of the reading material.

All of this was compounded by having too many people. Rogue A.I. was far too intimate a game to sustain a large team. The physical space had plenty of room, but the space around the puzzles was usually tight.

Rogue A.I. didn’t feel like a finished product; we felt like beta testers.

If Perplexium were to reduce the reading material, fill physical gaps in fixtures, limit puzzle interface access until it was relevant, provide solid workspace, and add a finale worthy of their creation, they would have an exceptional game on their hands.

Beginners ought to skip Rogue A.I. in its current form. It will eat them alive.

Experienced players could find the space and concept entertaining, and the challenge a worthy undertaking, so long as they can secure a private booking and bring a smaller team of strong puzzlers (we got very lucky with our random teammates).

Rogue A.I. has a ton of potential and I hope that it is realized soon.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Rogue A.I., and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Perplexium comped our tickets for this game.