Enchambered – Containment Breach [Review]

Concrete, steel, and puzzles.

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Containment Breach was Enchambered’s first foray into escape rooms. It was a strong initial outing.

A solid, fairly traditional puzzle game, Containment Breach offered some good group solves in a detailed but dim set. The lighting was especially low, and we couldn’t really do anything without a flashlight… which grew old.

In-game: a large piece of metal machinery in a heavily worn concrete bunker.

Since creating this game, Enchambered has produced some truly outstanding experiences in The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch. Those games are the reason to visit Enchambered. Containment Breach, by comparison, was an optional add-on.

Who is this for?

  • 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?

  • A detailed set
  • Some interesting puzzles and interactions

Story

Decades ago, Doctor Henry Rosenburg had built a device that instantly teleported matter. During his first attempt at demonstrating his creation, it had malfunctioned and Rosenburg had disappeared after the ensuing radiation leak rendered his lab uninhabitable.

Now that the radiation levels had dropped to tolerable levels, we went in to investigate what had happened.

In-game: A PA mounted near the ceiling of the bunker. There's a sign warning of surveillance.

Setting 

Enchambered’s first escape game was a bunker.

The dimly lit set was filled with the kind of texture and weathering details that showed the environment was created by someone who cared.

In-game: closeup of a desk with strange schematics beside a large piece of equipment

Gameplay

Enchambered’s Containment Breach was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large, weathered, yellow metal door with a strange locking mechanism.

Analysis

➕ The dim, detailed, and weathered set looked like a convincing lab/ bunker hybrid.

➖ We spent a lot of time searching in low light. It was annoying to play the entire game with a flashlight in hand.

➕ The props felt bulky and real. The gameplay was tangible. It frequently encouraged collaborative solves.

➖ There were tons of papers that we didn’t need and would likely be needless red herrings to less experienced players.

➕ In one instance, Containment Breach taught use how to use a prop through the gameplay. In a game with solid, yet standard puzzle play, this puzzle was especially well thought out so that players would build mastery and have a sense of accomplishment.

➖ All solves led to a 4-digit lock. There were a lot of locks and they weren’t correlated to the puzzles. We ended up trying every derived code in lots of places, which slowed momentum, especially early on.

➖ While there clearly was a story, we struggled to follow it. The story got lost amid puzzles.

➕ We particularly enjoyed the solves that required teamwork.

➕ We truly respect Enchambered’s tiered pricing. Containment Breach was their oldest game, and tickets for it were less expensive than tickets for their newer games. This improved the value of the experience. More escape room companies should adopt this approach to pricing.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s Containment Breach , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Enchambered – The Whispering Halls [Review]

The Haunted Mansion

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

From the theme to their approach to set design and construction, Enchambered’s Disney influences were on display in The Whispering Halls.

As with The Legend of the Skull Witch we were thrilled by The Whispering Halls. While there were some opportunities for additional refinement and drama, overall this was a high quality escape game.

If you’re anywhere near Sacramento, we highly recommend The Whispering Halls. If you’re looking to choose between The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch, you can’t really go wrong… so flip a coin, or better yet, play both.

In-game: an ominous metal door knocker.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Ambiance born of a detailed set
  • Puzzle progression
  • Interaction design
  • Density of content

Story

The caretaker of an old Victorian manor had hired us to investigate paranormal happenings within the home that he was charged with maintaining.

In-game: a bookcase

Setting

Creepy but never terrifying, The Whispering Halls was beautiful and filled with subtle homages to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, but never felt like it was ripping off the famous haunted house. Enchambered used time-tested techniques to make the space feel both haunted and larger than it actually was.

In-game: glowing candles mounted to a red wall.

Gameplay

Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Whispering Halls was an enchanting space. Enchambered built vertically, affording them space to add details without red herrings and an expanse without barren space. It was deliberately designed and atmospheric, setting the tone for an exciting escape room.

➕ Enchambered used a variety of effects to create exciting moments inside The Whispering Halls.

➖ The gamespace showed a bit of wear and not all the wiring was completely hidden.

➕ Enchambered built interesting puzzles into unusual interactions. These were a ton of fun.

➖ One puzzle had an overly tight tolerance.

➕/➖ Enchambered provided a step to help shorter players participate in higher puzzles. It would have been helpful to affix this to the floor, or label it, so that it wouldn’t be confused as a puzzle component.

➕ The puzzles flowed well. We could see the different puzzle paths emerging and build mastery of the room as we played. This made similar solves – and even multiple locks with the same digit structure – less arduous. It also built up anticipation for opens.

➖ One moment of individual isolation could have really shined, but felt underwhelming.

➕ Your ticket to The Whispering Halls buy a lot. As this escape room revealed its secrets, it also unveiled more densely packed puzzle content. There was a lot of game within these walls.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

… when you come out to San Fransisco this June for Escape, Immerse, Explore: The Palace. Enchambered would make a lovely day trip add-on to your time in California. Today is the last day to book tickets to our Palace Games tour. Don’t miss your chance!

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Enchambered – The Legend of the Skull Witch [Review]

The Wicked Witch of the West Coast

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Few games open as strongly as The Legend of the Skull Witch. Enchambered’s cabin of magic and evil was fueled with strong puzzles and just enough frights to make it intense and exciting without feeling terrifying.

A couple of gameflow issues notwithstanding, this was an incredible game from a strong company. The Legend of the Skull Witch was a remarkable world to puzzle through.

We highly recommend The Legend of the Skull Witch. If you’re anywhere in the region, take a trip to play it. We did; we were thrilled with that decision.

In-game: an effigy hanging from the wall with fire projected onto it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Magical interactions
  • Detailed and immersive gamespace to explore
  • Use of effects

Story

Legend had it that a vile witch lived in the swamps outside of New Orleans. The tale told of her luring bewildered partygoers away… a mistake that they paid for with their lives.

We hadn’t bought into the stories, but two of our friends had disappeared during Mardi Gras. We’d tracked them to a rundown cabin in the middle of the swamp.

In-game: A tree with glowing tubes hanging from that function as the game's clock.

Setting

The Legend of the Skull Witch made an immediate impression. The multi-level set, staggering volume of details, animations, and how it all came together were arresting. Normally when I enter an escape room I immediately look for where to start. In The Legend of the Skull Witch, I stood there and looked at what Enchambered had built, not to start solving, but simply to take it all in.

Enchambered maintained that level of detail throughout the entire experience. The Legend of the Skull Witch was a little scarier than Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls. That intensity carried through to some of their set design and effects choices.

In-game: A wooden shelf containing magical ingredients.

Gameplay

Enchambered’s The Legend of the Skull Witch was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a small creature holding a talisman.

Analysis

The Legend of the Skull Witch began with an imposing projection. It set the tone beautifully.

➕ From the get-go, The Legend of the Skull Witch offered a lot of options for exploration, from the gamespace to the details.

➖ The Legend of the Skull Witch relied too heavily on explanation. There would be an opportunity to make the puzzles more immediately approachable, letting players discover how to work the mechanisms through play.

➕ In place of locks – combination or magnetic – Enchambered built other input mechanisms. These interactive inputs also felt magical, and appropriate for the space.

➖ Too many puzzles resolved to the same digit structure. While this was mitigated by interesting inputs, we spent a bit too much time trying the same combination in multiple different locks. Small variation in digit structure would have smoothed over the game flow.

➖ We struggled with one puzzle that combined a lot of disparate information. It seemed we activated components out of order. It was frustrating when we couldn’t re-trigger information.

➕ The puzzles generally solved cleanly and were tangible. Although one overstayed its welcome, we enjoyed its mechanic. Many of the puzzles encouraged teamwork.

In-game: A wall of wooden masks and totems.

➕ Enchambered built effects that helped us feel the story – the desperate plight of the witch’s victims – as we played. It was haunting and impressive.

➕/➖ We appreciate a thematic and integrated gameclock. This one was beautifully worked into the set. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the gameclock for what it was until after we’d won the game. That may have been on us… I’m really not sure.

➕ We visited Enchambered while part of their facility was under construction. Due to construction regulations, they couldn’t allow players into the final gamespace for The Legend of the Skull Witch. They created an elegant workaround that enabled them to run our game through to the end despite this inconvenience. Although we would have loved a hands-on experience for this portion, we respect their concern for safety and regulations, and their ingenuity.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s The Legend of the Skull Witch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Spellbound Supper [Review]

Puzzle pre fixe

Location:  San Francisco, California

Date Played: February 21, 2019

Team size: 3-10; we recommend exactly 5 or exactly 10

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per person weekdays, $33 per person weekends

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

SCRAP once again created a unique escape game structure clever enough that it could be a genre unto itself.

The entirety of Spellbound Supper happened in our seats around a dinner table.

In-game: Team B surrounding their white table.

SCRAP used a combination of real life objects, projection, and a Microsoft Kinect to allow us to gesture and interact with the projected items. It was “magical” in the Steve Jobs sense of the word.

Spellbound Supper was an amazing concept and a remarkable experience. At the same time, the game felt unfinished. There were many little places where added refinement would have made all the difference.

We would love to see more games in this style. SCRAP could and should push this idea even further. It was mind-opening and entertaining. Throughout the experience, despite the imperfections, I couldn’t help but marvel at how much fun it was.

If you’re in San Francisco, this one is absolutely worth checking out. Much like The Popstar’s Room of Doom it wasn’t perfect, but its cleverness and novelty greatly outweighed its flaws.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Technophiles
  • Fantasy fans
  • Players with mobility struggles
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The brilliant use of technology
  • The dramatic yet simple setting
  • Unusual gameplay, challenges, and puzzles

Story

We’d heard legend of a risky dinner served by a powerful witch. Those who had attended, if deemed worthy, had been rewarded with wonderful magical abilities. Everyone else who had dined with the witch had vanished.

In-game: Team A surrounding their white table.

Setting

Spellbound Supper was an escape room played entirely at a dinner table. All of the puzzles and components were either delivered by our server or projected onto the stark white table cloth.

The projected graphics were beautiful.

The room itself was elegant and slightly intimidating, but not in a frightening way. Its minimalist intensity combined with the demeanor of our server to create an imposing vibe.

In-game: A neatly folded green napkin on a white plate and white tablecloth.

Gameplay

Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Spellbound Supper was an atypical escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The unorthodox environment added challenge. We had to solve different types of puzzles – printed and projected – from our seats at the table.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and using the magical tools we were provided.

Analysis

➕ The dinner table theme was novel. This was our first puzzle feast.

➕ Although we didn’t move from our seats at the table for the duration of the game, Spellbound Supper kept our attention focused on the meal. SCRAP used projection mapping to reveal the gameplay. It was magical and visually intriguing.

➖ The courses progressed rather nonsensically. There didn’t seem to be any reason – story-driven or puzzle-driven – supporting this progression.

➕/➖ The technology could be finicky. We were torn about it. On the one hand, straight video games do some of this better. On the other hand, it was entertaining to be playing a video game with real props, in real life.

➖ We became impatient with the mechanics. We had to wait for long voiceovers to finish. When we made mistakes – which we did often as we pieced together how to solve puzzles – we had to finish a failed cycle repeatedly, which became tedious and took away from the magic feeling magical. We spent a fair bit of time waiting to get back to puzzle-solving. A reset interaction would have been a big improvement.

➕ Spellbound Supper assigned us roles. These were pretty even. You couldn’t draw the short straw. Additionally, the roles were vital to the experience. (For this reason, we recommend you play with a group of exactly 5 or exactly 10 people.)

➖ There weren’t a whole lot of props and the ones they had felt chintzy. With a few more details, dinner would have been classier, and the game more polished.

➖ There was a lot to read. Seated at a table, we had to pass cards around in low light. We would have preferred this part to be better incorporated into the projection mapping or the physical gameplay.

➖ We played with 2 groups of 5 players each. The two groups played the game simultaneously around separate tables without ever interacting, or even seeing each other. We finished at different times, which lead to confusing, anticlimactic endings. The audio kept playing while we tried to figure out if we’d won it or if there was more.

➕ As is typical of SCRAP games, there were a few twists. These were mostly fair challenges that mostly made sense, well… it was still a difficult SCRAP game with an obligatory logic leap or two.

Spellbound Supper was fun. Even in moments of frustration, I was eager to try again, see the next challenge, and explore the interactions. It was so unlike any other escape room we’ve played and the novelty was part of the fun.

Tips For Visiting

  • The Japantown parking garage is across the street.
  • There are lots of great restaurant options in Japantown.
  • There is no real food served as part of this game.

Book your hour with Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Spellbound Supper, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Escape Games by SCRAP provided media discounted tickets for this game.

14 Innovative Escape Rooms in 2018

We wanted to take a moment to point out a number of escape rooms that we played in 2018 that did something truly innovative to push the escape room format in a different direction.

We saw tons more innovations in 2018, but these ones stuck out to us.

Presented in the order that we played them:

2018 Innovative Escape Rooms

Bogeyman

Trap Door Escape Room – Morristown, NJ

In-game: A strange purple glowing passageway.

Trap Door added a scare actor and turned an otherwise straightforward game into a frantic, challenging experience, as we were chased around and cornered by a monster.

Beat the Bomb

Brooklyn, NY

In-game: gif of Lisa, David, and Lindsay getting doused with a paint explosion.

Replayable and modular, Beat the Bomb felt more like a gameshow with different games within it than an escape room. It all concluded with a battle against time. When the clock struck zero, a giant paint bomb exploded all over us.

The Bunker: Strange Things at Hawkins Lab & The Shiners

Escape Woods – Powder Springs, GA

In-game: An old trailer in the middle of the woods. It's lit with a long strand of light bulbs.

Escape Woods games were raw and real. Both games felt like actual adventures.

The Diamond Heist

Get Out of Here – Utrecht, The Netherlands

The escape room briefing area.

Get Out of Here delivered the narrative of The Diamond Heist with a third person voiceover that told our story as we advanced through the game. This solved a number of escape room storytelling problems.

Jason’s Curse

Escape Room Rijswijk – Rijswijk, The Netherlands

In-game: a weathered basement wall with the words "KNOCK KNOCK WHO IS THERE" painted on it.

Escape Room Rijswijk did something incredible with their space, physically transforming the gameworld while we were within it. It was one hell of a trick.

The Pop Star’s Room of Doom

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – San Francisco, CA

In-game: view from one apartment window through another. Across the way is the popstar's blue walled apartment covered in 90s references.

The Pop Star’s Room of Doom wasn’t an escape room. It was something new: a time loop game. We were reliving the same actor-driven time loop, taking different actions each time, and trying to determine how to break the cycle and save the game’s main character.

It’s a Doggy Dog World

Level Games – North Hollywood, CAA

In-game: an oversized doghouse.

We played as dogs trying to get our favorite ball back. The vibe was unique, warm, and playful. We left this game wishing that there were more whimsical escape rooms.

We loved this game so much and we’re sad that it and Escapades LA are closed. I don’t know if its for sale, but if it is, someone should adopt it and give this pup a new home.

The Courtyard

THE BASEMENT – Sylmar, CA

In-game: an aged porch with a rocking chair.

The Courtyard had a jaw-dropping set, but its true innovation was how THE BASEMENT integrated an actor into the experience and gameplay. There’s a scene in this one that we will never forget.

The Experiment

Get the F Out –  Los Angeles, CA

In-game: torn ship's mast.

Designed for escape room enthusiasts, Get the F Out’s incredibly meta game, The Experiment, had two unusual innovations. One involved lighting. The other was in its storytelling. Months later, we’re still debating what we were supposed to take away from this game.

Museum of Intrigue

Syracuse, NY

A Museum of Intrigue mystic character posing in front of the story display.

We didn’t enter an escape room; we were patrons of a quirky museum of oddities, along with all of the other players… but it wasn’t a museum. It was a sandbox for puzzles, scavenger hunts, and adventures. We had our mission and everyone else had theirs, but we were all puzzling and exploring in the same space at the same time. It was chaotic and lively and it became more interesting as more people showed up.

La Terrible Affaire Bambell

Heyou Escape –  Le Cannet, France

In-game: The hallway of the apartment complex that housed the game.

Terrifying. Heyou Escape built tension by adding a sense of danger and screwing with our minds and expectations. I’m not sure if La Terrible Affaire Bambell is actually an escape room, or if we were even players… Looking back, I think we may have just been props in their production.

D.J. Death

The Gate Escape – Leominster, MA

In-game: a dance floor with DJ Death's skull and cross scythe logo.

The Gate Escape put training wheels on escape room gameplay. Instead of presenting a free-for-all escape room-style game, each puzzle was presented in its own station… and it concluded with a dance party. This was a great way to open up new players to escape room style puzzling.

The Summons

The Seven Forces – Cincinnati, OH

In-game: A stage at the front of teh room features an assortment of strange pieces of technology and mystical artifacts.

By adding social and group dynamics into the large-scale theatrical escape room event format, The Seven Forces created something new and special. Their approach kept multiple teams engaged with both the puzzles and one another for the entire game.

More Innovation

We’d love to have you join us on an escape room tour!

Join us in visiting some of the other innovative games we’ve found in our travels. (It just so happens that we didn’t play them in 2018.)

Escape Immerse Explore: The Palace

Escape Immerse Explore: New Orleans

The Fine Print

If you’ve seen something like we’ve described above elsewhere, we aren’t claiming anything is entirely unique. These are the games that we saw the innovations in.

This post wasn’t intended as a re-review of anything. For full critiques of these games, take a look at the reviews.

We’ve left out games that won 2018 Golden Lock-In Awards. You can check that list out too. Many of them were highly innovative. We’ve already heaped tons of praise on those games.