Farewell to RISE Escape Rooms & the Fate of their Games

Hijacked

Rise Escape Rooms is closing their three outstanding escape rooms today. These games each impressed us, in different ways.

Spellbound won a 2017 Golden Lock-In Award.

Luckily, the games won’t be moving too far.

Book tickets to Escape Immerse Explore: New Orleans 2019… and you can still play them!

Interview with RISE

We caught up with Mindi Plaisance, owner of RISE Escape Rooms, to talk about these changes.

What brought about RISE’s change in direction?

Mindi: We are family owned and operated. We are hands on with every aspect of both RISE Haunted House and RISE Escape Rooms. Our team quickly became escape room enthusiasts and felt we had the creative talent to bring immersive games to our community.

As successful as our games were, we realized that juggling the escape rooms along our rapidly growing Halloween attraction and extremely involved children was too much on our plate. We didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of our product so we decided that focusing all our attention on one industry would give us the opportunity to provide a great seasonal event.

Bookie

What was your favorite part of owning an escape room?

Mindi:Personally, my favorite part was the creative process. I like the challenge of building unique rooms that are immersive, have a variety of puzzles, and flow well… games that are challenging, but not impossible.  

Will your escape rooms live on?

Mindi: We have local buyers for all three games:

The Bookie will be going to the Clue Carré newest location in New Orleans.

Hijacked and Spellbound will be going to the 13th Gate Escape in Baton Rouge. If I know Dwayne, he will put his own spin on our games, so I am looking forward to see what he’s got in that ever-creative mind of his.

Image via RISE Escape Rooms

What is on the horizon for RISE?

Mindi:We are considering a 4th Dark attraction for Halloween as well as transforming our Hayride attraction into a Christmas show. The details are still in the works, but we are definitely sticking to seasonal. 

We love your style. Will we ever see more escape rooms from you?

Mindi: We still have our 5-minute games that we will run through Halloween. I am sure we will be turning those over at some point. 

If someone approached our team on a consulting basis and our schedule permitted it, we’d be open to that idea, but we won’t actively be seeking to get into the game design business.

In-game: The gamespace looks exactly like the interior cabin of a commercial airliner.

Interview with Clue Carré & 13th Gate Escape

After getting the news from Mindi, we reached out to Megan Mouton, owner of Clue Carré, and Dwayne Sanburn, owner of 13th Gate Escape, to learn what we can expect from their production of RISE’s games.

When do you expect the RISE games to reopen?

Megan: The Bookie will hopefully be ready by May. We will be opening it at our 3rd location, which will be inside of Surge Trampoline Park.

Dwayne: We aren’t sure exactly how long it will take to move Spellbound and Hijacked, but we are planning on having them open before your tour in July.

What changes are you making?

Megan: We are not changing much in The Bookie. We have plans to improve and tweak some puzzles, but the overall puzzle structure will be the same.

At this point, we are also planning to make it a 45-minute game, to keep players flowing during their jump time at the trampoline park. We’ll have the option to extend it back to 60 minutes if we feel the 45-minute model isn’t working.

Dwayne: Both games are very solid. We probably will only be making minor changes.

If someone has already played and loved these games at RISE, should they replay them?

Megan: We will not be marketing The Bookie as a game to replay if you have played it at Rise.

Dwayne: It’s doubtful that we will be making enough changes to warrant a replay of either Hijacked or Spellbound.

Visit Spellbound, Hijacked, and The Bookie this July

We will miss RISE Escape Rooms. Their work is phenomenal and we’ll be sad not to stop in Tickfaw on this summer’s tour.

We highly encourage seasonal travelers to check out the other attractions at RISE.

We are, however, incredibly excited the games will be nearby and that we’ll get to see them again this summer at Clue Carré and 13th Gate Escape.

RISE Escape Rooms – The Bookie [Review]

Do you want to play a game? No… Seriously, we have casino games.

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

A troublemaking friend talked us into visiting an underground casino. After a night of losing, we finally struck it big, but the bookie overseeing the joint stole our money and sent us packing. The following day we returned with only one thing on our mind: stealing every penny that thieving bookie had to his name.

In-game: A roulette table in the foreground, a card table in the background.

While I can’t say that I’ve visited one, The Bookie looked the part of a small underground casino, complete with a bar and all of the major gaming tables, each one converted into a puzzling station.

Puzzles

The Bookie was built for puzzlers.

The Bookie included both obvious and subtle puzzles. Some puzzles beckoned to us in the form of large casino games. We found others hidden within our surroundings. The Bookie included both sustained, overt puzzling and one-off, observational solves.

While many of the puzzles were themed on casino games, no prior knowledge was necessary to resolve these puzzles. You can solve these puzzles even if you don’t know poker from blackjack.

In-game: shot from within a craps table, the casino's bar lit in the background.

Standouts

RISE Escape Rooms wrapped the casino set in a larger story, which added a layer of excitement and unexpected set exploration.

The Bookie included strong beginning and ending puzzle sequences, with substantial puzzles to chew on in the middle. In this way, the escape room flowed well and created emotional tension.

We interacted with the casino set and props through the puzzles. These tangible, involved puzzles would entertain a larger team without feeling like busywork.

Shortcomings

The Bookie could easily be overwhelming. Casino games themselves are puzzle-y. Escape room puzzles staged on top of blackjack or roulette can be paralyzing, as players need to ascertain how much to involve the games in the puzzles at hand. When some of the puzzling is more complex, as it was in The Bookie, it can be easy for a team to go off the rails. The key to remember going in: the puzzles were not built within the games that they look like. Anyone can solve any of these puzzles.

The Bookie included one arbitrary connection mixed in with these more involved puzzles. It seemed out of place in the experience.

It was possible to solve a little too much of the final puzzle sequence out of phase. This caused us a little bit of confusion.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ The Bookie?

The Bookie was a puzzler’s escape room, set in a gorgeous casino and staged as a heist. It included a number of serious puzzles and this set up added a layer of complexity.

Because of this, The Bookie would be an intimidating challenge for newer players. We recommend that you play a few other escape rooms before taking on The Bookie.

Note that you do not need to know casino games to enjoy The Bookie. You can solve every one of these puzzles even if you’ve never handled dice, cards, or poker chips.

In The Bookie, RISE Escape Rooms wrapped challenging puzzles in a clandestine adventure, which upped our adrenaline level and delivered a seriously fun escape room.

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ The Bookie, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

RISE Escape Rooms – Hijacked [Review]

“Get off my plane.”

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We boarded RISE Airlines flight 772, sat in our seats, buckled in, watched a riveting safety demonstration, and then drifted off to sleep… until we were startled awake by a hijacking. It fell to us to secure the plane and land it before it ran out of fuel and fell to the earth.

In-game: The cabin of a commercial aircraft with rows of 3 seats beside closed windows.
Take a moment and look at this.

There’s no other way to put this: RISE Escape Rooms built a commercial airliner’s fuselage into their facility. It bore the look, shape, and aesthetics that anyone who has ever flown will immediately recognize. They even went out of their way to build cabin doors that looked strikingly similar to the genuine artifact.

In-game: A rounded cabin door marked EXIT, with an open and close lever latch.
That was not a camera trick; the door was curved.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Hijacked took us through the components of a commercial aircraft. As we opened each new space or prop, we engaged in a thematically appropriate puzzle. The puzzles traversed the aircraft.

Some of the puzzles involved set or prop interaction. Other times, RISE Escape Rooms presented themed paper-style puzzles to us, on board the aircraft.

Standouts

Hijacked looked and felt like an airborne airplane. The cabin included rows of seats, overhead compartments, a drink cart, and a lavatory. The cockpit had a myriad of buttons and dials. The plane even had the thick, heavy outer doors. It was exciting to explore a space that was familiar, but also unusual. The thing that seemed a little out of place… too much legroom (which was great for the game and would be fantastic in real life too).

In-game: A close-up of a coach seat with the seat belt laying atop it unlatched.

Moreover, RISE Escape Rooms created some shocking full-set interactions.

The puzzles took us throughout the plane, revealing each area of the set in turn. This was exciting.

Hijacked started out with one simple on-ramp puzzle to help us get our bearings. This puzzle asked us to think about the airplane staging. It worked beautifully as the catalyst to this airborne adventure.

Shortcomings

While the puzzles were thematically airplane-y, they didn’t tell the story of a hijacking on board. We made seemingly random connections between objects, generally sticking to a theme. The gameplay was escape room-y.

Hijacked included a number of less interactive, paper-style puzzles. Especially considering the exciting aircraft set, any puzzles that didn’t incorporate the space felt out of place and disappointing.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ Hijacked?

Hijacked was an exhilarating escape room. The gorgeous details sold the adventure. It contributed to the overall experience in ways I never would have dreamed up. It was brilliant.

RISE Escape Rooms constructed Hijacked a couple of years ago and its age shows in the occasionally lackluster gameplay. It was a linear playthrough with more paper-style puzzles that only belonged because they were thematically “airplane.” That said, the puzzles flowed well and built to a more exciting conclusion.

RISE Escape Rooms has built something incredibly special. This set delivered an exciting adventure that overpowered any other shortcomings, even age. This is a must-play.

Whether you’re new to escape rooms or overly experienced, Hijacked offers an unusual and fun adventure. RISE Escape Rooms has constructed a truly impressive environment that delivers a dramatic airborne exploit.

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ Hijacked, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

 

RISE Escape Rooms – Spellbound [Review]

Like True Blood, but with more puzzles and less sex.

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

Recurring dreams and visions drew us to this rundown and abandoned witches’ den. The High Priestess had summoned us to a forlorn home where we had to gain entry, decipher spells, and discover all that we needed to end the Vampire Patriarch before he arose from his 200-year slumber and reignited his war against the witches.

In-game: An old, dramatically lit house on the bayou. A locked truck sits in the center of the room with a glowing fireplace and lit candles in the background.
Image via RISE Escape Rooms

Spellbound was dark and grim. It never turned into a horror experience, but it also showcased some of RISE Escape Room’s roots in the haunt industry.

The set was beautifully weathered and detailed with tons of nooks to explore. The set design was top-tier.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Spellbound felt magical. When we interacted with the set and props, the escape room responded.

The earlier puzzles were generally self-contained. Spellbound built to multiple complex, layered puzzles.

Standouts

Spellbound was gorgeous. From the eerie outdoor porch, to the mystical inner space, Spellbound was a beautiful, engaging, and immersive space.

The locking mechanisms contributed to the feel of the space. Both the old-timey key locks and the magical tech-driven opens made each interaction – and all forward progress – a part of the world of Spellbound.

RISE Escape Rooms took a common escape room puzzle and put their own dark twist on it, transforming it into something far more compelling. This example demonstrated how it can be beneficial to take an old concept and cast a new light upon it.

Spellbound also used another common escape room trope, but augmented it such that it still presented a challenge even if you thought you knew how to do it at first contact.

RISE Escape Rooms manipulated space such that seemingly normal transitions would then yield exciting reveals and transitions later in the escape room.

Spellbound built to a badass conclusion.

Shortcomings

At times, Spellbound suffered from symbol overload.

In the dim light of Spellbound, it wasn’t always clear when we’d solved something. RISE Escape Rooms could add more feedback, through light and sound, or maybe through more magical effects, which would help keep the puzzling on track and contribute to the ambiance.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound?

Yes… if you have some prior escape room experience.

Spellbound was masterfully designed by a team who really gets escape rooms. It looked amazing, played smoothly, put smart twists on established puzzle types, and created a strong sense of adventure.

The catch here: if you don’t have any prior experience, you’ll get lost and miss everything that’s special about Spellbound. RISE Escape Rooms’ website flat out says, “DO NOT BOOK THIS GAME IF IT IS YOUR FIRST ESCAPE EXPERIENCE.” They are right and I respect their willingness to make this point clear to their customers.

If you’re an experienced player visiting New Orleans or Baton Rouge, it is worth finding a car or some means of transportation to Tickfaw, Louisiana. RISE Escape Rooms will not let you down.

If you’re a newbie, go play a few room escapes and level up so that you can explore the world of Spellbound. RISE Escape Room has two other fantastic games that would be perfect games for building up your skills (reviews to come).

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

5-Minute Escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape [Review]

5 minutes of prime cut escape room.

Location: Tickfaw, Louisiana & Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 5 minutes

Price: $5 per ticket

Structure

There is a little-known attraction open at haunted houses across the country: 5-minute escape rooms.

During October, crowds of people flock to RISE and 13th Gate to visit their world-famous haunted houses. While they wait in line (RISE) or near the box office (13th Gate), haunt goers can spend up to 5 minutes in each mini escape room on the premises.

Players are up against a 5-minute game clock with no hints and no gamemaster.

Scenarios & settings

During our recent visit to RISE and 13th Gate, we played (and in one case, viewed under construction*) the following themes:

  • Locked-Up (prison theme), RISE
  • Heist (museum heist theme), RISE
  • Captured (serial killer theme), RISE
  • Voodoo (voodoo theme), 13th Gate
  • Saw (serial killer theme), 13th Gate
  • Abyss (submarine theme), 13th Gate

Each small set was beautifully designed and expertly constructed. The gorgeous sets transported us from the grounds of the haunted houses to these themed adventures.

The exteriors of Abyss, SAW, and Voodoo at 13th Gate Escape. Each exterior is themed, and has a countdown clock.
The outwardly facing countdown clock was a nice touch.

*All 6 5-minute escape rooms are now open.

Puzzles

Each 5-minute escape encapsulated the first scene of an escape room. We observed our surroundings, determined relevant information, and worked together to complete a few interactive – but not particularly involved – puzzles, which culminated in a complete solve.

Standouts

The sets were world class. RISE and 13th Gate construct some of the most outstanding sets we’ve seen. (Reviews of their 60-minute escape rooms are forthcoming.) They did not cut corners for these shorter experiences.

These 5-minute escapes felt like movie trailers for the 60-minute escape rooms at RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape. In each short playthrough, we were exposed to simple, escape room-style puzzling, which felt like a teaser for the more complex and layered challenges in the longer games.

RISE and 13th Gate edited out all extraneous and distracting content. The tight game design was truly impressive.

These 5-minute escapes required minimal reset labor. To increase throughput, these couldn’t be a burden to reset. There was little time in between playthroughs.

For the individual games, these particular details stood out:

  • Abyss at 13th Gate included impressive tech-driven effects that provided story and drama.
  • The Heist at RISE Escape Rooms incorporated a great agility challenge.
  • 13th Gate created progressive clue structure for the most search-heavy game, Saw. As time passed, the clueing became more direct, effectually functioning as a hint system.

Shortcomings

We can see how 5-minute escape rooms could be polarizing. Players who understand how to play will have intense and thrilling playthroughs. Players who are completely out of their element won’t have enough time to make sense of… anything. The same 5-minute escape room could be exhilarating to some and bewildering to others. That’s the nature of the genre.

5-minute escape rooms introduce a good deal of risk for the industry. By virtue of their locations at popular haunted attractions, they have the potential to introduce many more people to escape rooms. They need to be amazing. They need to be the escape room movie-trailer experiences we saw at RISE and 13th Gate. They are incredibly challenging to build well and if executed poorly, they will turn people away from escape rooms.

Should I play the 5-minute escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape?

If you are visiting RISE Haunted House, RISE Escape Rooms, 13th Gate, or 13th Gate Escape this fall, the 5-minute escapes would be a great add-on to your experience.

Each one we tried delivered a exciting complete experience with an incredible set and strong puzzle flow.

Arrive focused. You have to be on for every second of a 5-minute game. If your mind wanders for just 10 seconds, you’ve just wasted more the 3% of your game clock.

For the individual games, note that (1) RISE’s Prison Break split us between two spaces, but we could see and hear each other and (2) 13th Gate’s Voodoo took place in a particularly tight space and would not be comfortable for claustrophobic players.

This season, there are 5-minute escape rooms at multiple haunted attractions throughout the United States. Locally in New Jersey, Brighton Asylum offers 2: The Bomb Squad and The Device. (We haven’t had a chance to try either one yet.)

Note that 5-minute escape rooms are add-on, limited-time attractions, open to guests when the haunted houses are open.

Play the 5-minute escapes when you visit RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for these games.