Riddle Me Out – Bank Heist [Review]

How the hell do they justify selling tickets for $38.00?

Location: New York, NY

Date played: September 12, 2016

Team size: 2-8, we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $38 per ticket

Story & setting

We were robbers who learned of a bank’s plan to upgrade their security system. We had one hour to infiltrate their facilities and steal stuff before the upgrade completed.

We had to break into the bank through an adjacent store. The initial setup was adorable. Once in the bank, it looked alright. The walls were painted with bank-ish murals. Beyond that, it generally looked like an office.

Puzzles

Bluntly: there weren’t any puzzles.

There were a lot of tasks, some more clever than others. These tasks generally involved guesswork.

The closest that Bank Heist came to having a real puzzle hinged on a lot of counting.

Standouts

The initial setup of breaking into the bank through its less secure neighboring business was clever and well-constructed.

Screenshot of Riddle Me Out's website. States, "Exciting. Most technologically advanced escape game."
… ish.

There was one technological interaction that was pretty nifty. It wasn’t clued at all, but once we figured out what to do, it was neat.

Shortcomings

Where do I even start?

Similar to their Alice in Wonderland game, Riddle Me Out mounted a tablet to the wall in order to distribute “self service hints” every five minutes. These hints were useless, generic direction cues. None of the touch screen hints gave us any useful information.

We reached a point in the game where we needed to use a toy that was repurposed as a game prop. The toy broke and we were stuck for a solid 20 minutes while we tried to make the thing work. We yelled and screamed and waved at the cameras. No help. Only repetition of the same hint telling us to do what we would have liked to do, had the prop worked. After some button mashing the thing kind-of-sort-of worked and we were able to limp through the rest of the task.

Nothing was properly clued. This game felt like a series of punchlines without setups. Every damn interaction took wild guesswork and luck. There were even times where we accomplished a task and didn’t even realize it.

This game was completely linear, but they sold eight expensive tickets to it. At any given point, at least four players on our eight-person team had nothing to do. Nothing at all.

At the end of our game, our gamemaster walked in and smugly began to tell us “what we missed” in one of the early interactions. It was the first time that I ever yelled at a gamemaster. I’m not proud of this, but I don’t regret it either.

One of our teammates, an enthusiast who was visiting from Europe and had time to play only two games during her stay, asked for a refund. The owner apologized for the game, but refused the refund.

Riddle Me Out offers the second most expensive tickets in New York at $38. That’s a joke.

Should I play Riddle Me Out’s Bank Heist?

No.

Riddle Me Out displayed no sense of puzzle design or game flow in the Bank Heist. At its best, the Bank Heist offered a bit of novelty, but it never backed up anything with substance. There were no puzzles and the tasks were devoid of proper clue structure.

The gamemastering was abysmal; I don’t think we were being watched at all.

The experience that Riddle Me Out gave us was on par with some of the worst escape room experiences that I’ve ever had.

Riddle Me Out’s Bank Heist would be a rip-off at half of the price.

Full disclosure: Riddle Me Out provided media discounted tickets for this game.

A hookah-smoking caterpillar

Riddle Me Out – Alice in Wonderland [Review]

“We’re all mad here.”

Location: New York, New York

Date played: April 16, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Price: $38 per ticket

Theme & story

Set beyond the looking glass, we were exploring puzzles in the world of Alice in Wonderland.

The room was driven by theme, as opposed to story, and the space itself was beautiful.

Fun staging

The walls were the star of Riddle Me Out’s Alice in Wonderland. Covered in murals, with intricacies such as a nifty door in a tree, the staging brought us into the fiction. The set was cool.

Wall painted to look like a forrest. There's a tree and butterflies.

Most technologically advanced escape game?

Riddle Me Out set high expectations: Their website proclaims that they are the “Most technologically advanced escape game.”

Screenshot of Riddle Me Out's website. States, "Exciting. Most technologically advanced escape game."
Screenshot via RiddleMeOut.com

This claim elevated my expectations.

Riddle Me Out’s use of technology was strong. In fact, it was stronger than most escape rooms. However, it was not the most technologically advanced escape room we have ever seen. It wasn’t the most technologically advanced game in Manhattan.

In that regard the game was disappointing where it needn’t have been.

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”

It’s been a long time since I was so confused, confounded, and frustrated in an escape room.

Our excessively experienced team spent a good chunk of the game chasing our collective tails to figure out what to do next. We escaped, but it was a bewildering experience.

Our confusion was the result of a miscommunication from the beginning of the game: Riddle Me Out had embedded a touch screen in the wall of the room for self-service “hints.” They also had a more traditional gamemaster-driven hint system. Being experienced players, we were reluctant to use the hint touch screen, and the one time we did, the hint seemed pretty obvious, so we disregarded the device. However, unbeknownst to us, this touch screen was a critical part of the game. Some puzzles included clues that came only from the touch screen, not from within the room.

It was confusing.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

It’s difficult to evaluate the puzzles in Alice in Wonderland because we solved the game without using the touch screen.

We basically applied our experience and various skills to guess, reason, and brute-force (cryptographically not physically) our way out.

Should I play Riddle Me Out’s Alice in Wonderland?

In Alice in Wonderland, Riddle Me Out built an attractive room with intrigue and clever design. The room itself was a fun place to spend an hour.

That said, Riddle Me Out is a young company who, in the words of Lewis Carroll, should ask themselves, “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

Alice in Wonderland felt more like a prototype for an unfinished game than a fully tested experience. It lacked the flow and internal logic of a refined escape room. The story broke by requiring us to use a wall-mounted touch screen to get computerized hints in a game set in a story from 1865. We could have overlooked the touch screen as a hint system, but not the screen as an integral part of the game that required us to step out of any immersive fiction.

Riddle Me Out charged $38 per person to play Alice in Wonderland; that was its biggest flaw. Escape room prices will stratify and some companies will absolutely justify higher ticket prices, but the games will have to live up to the price tag. Alice in Wonderland was not refined enough to demand $38.

Off with their heads? No. Not at all.

Riddle Me Out is new company on the right track, but they need to peer into their looking glass and decide what they are seeking to accomplish. They can slash the price on this game and it would be good deal, or they can focus on building the story, internal logic, and flow of a top tier game.

I wish them the best of luck, and look forward to paying another one of their games in a few months’ time.