Real Escape Game by SCRAP – Escape From the Mysterious Room [Review]

The Western Hemisphere’s first room escape.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Date played: November 21, 2015

Team size: up to 11; we recommend 9-11

Price: $29 per ticket

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Theme & story

Escape From the Mysterious Room was, to the best of my knowledge, the first escape room in the Americas. It predated the concept that an escape room should have a cohesive theme, let alone a story.

It was a strange room filled with an assortment of items and puzzles. We had to find everything of significance and suss out the solutions.

Historical significance

Real Escape Game by SCRAP brought room escape games to the United States, starting with this game.

Playing it late, and knowing escape games the way I do, I felt like I had stepped into a time machine: two years ago, this was how most escape rooms played.

Faint theme, no story, weak aesthetics… Just scavenging and puzzles that ranged from hard to brutal.

Scavenging

They told us up front to make a mess… And we really needed to.

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Image via SCRAP – A approximation of the mess we made.

Scavenging was the beating heart of Escape From the Mysterious Room. It was tough to find the puzzles, and once we did, we occasionally missed the nuance in the items that we had found. We have never played a room with a more difficult scavenging component than Escape From the Mysterious Room. There was one puzzle that we didn’t find at all. Thankfully we were able to work around it.

Interestingly, in Escape From the Mysterious Room there were elements that we absolutely had to find to escape, and there were elements that we could work around, without which we could still escape.

Puzzles

SCRAP games are notoriously challenging. Escape From the Mysterious Room was no exception.

Like the scavenging component, the puzzles were hard.

At times it was difficult to tell if we had the correct answers. Not all of the puzzles provided feedback. This made the game especially difficult because it wasn’t always possible to tell if we had the correct answers. There were guardrails to make sure we weren’t too wrong, but the lack of feedback added enough uncertainty that solving a puzzle didn’t really feel like a win… Because we weren’t sure if we were right.

The myriad puzzles all culminated into a pair of final puzzles.

In typical SCRAP fashion, the last puzzle was brutally challenging, and required both attention to detail and a monumental leap in logic.

Outside knowledge

Our gamemaster made a big deal about how we didn’t need any outside knowledge to solve the game. Phones and Google were prohibited. However, there was a puzzle or two that required limited outside knowledge.

My guess is that most teams include people who hold this knowledge, but these instances seemed unnecessary and wrong.

The spirit

The game was overseen by a mostly silent “spirit” who walked around the room, observing us, and occasionally whispering hints and rule clarifications.

At one point he stopped our team from searching something, which led us to believe we were finished with it. We weren’t.

If it weren’t for my father’s persistence (my parents joined us for this one), we would not have returned to this puzzle because we thought we had completed it.

Our spirit was especially helpful, but he threw us way off on this one.

Team size

Escape From the Mysterious Room had a lot to do.

It’s listed as an 11 person room. We brought nine people and we needed them all. I wouldn’t attempt this one with fewer than nine people.

For most of the game, everyone stayed busy.

When the final puzzle came around, things got tedious, but we needed everyone looking at it because it was so damn esoteric.

SCRAP’s style

SCRAP has a distinctive style. This was our fourth SCRAP game and our first victory; we had 60 seconds remaining.

In one attempt, we reached the final puzzle with a ton of time remaining, and didn’t know that there was another puzzle to solve.

In our other two attempts we reached the final puzzle with 20-30 minutes remaining, and spun our wheels until time expired (Escape From the Time Travel Lab predates us writing reviews).

SCRAP games follow the same structure: emphasis on scavenging, large volume of smaller puzzles, and then an esoteric final puzzle that requires a major logic leap.

I appreciate what they do, but it will never be my style of game.

Should I play Real Escape Game by SCRAP’s Escape From the Mysterious Room?

Escape From the Mysterious Room is now closed in Brooklyn, but we truly appreciate that the folks from SCRAP Brooklyn kept the game running so that we could play it before they shut it down. While we were the last team to play it in Brooklyn, the game is still running at a few different SCRAP locations.

Escape From the Mysterious Room is not a game for rookies.

Escape From the Mysterious Room is not a game for people who feel entitled to a victory.

Escape From the Mysterious Room is not for players who expect detailed theming or story.

Escape From the Mysterious Room is for experienced players. It’s for people who want to test themselves against a mighty opponent.

At its best, this is a game that offers an old-school escape room challenge and a lot of cleverness.

At its worst, it’s tedious, frustrating, and confounding.

Regardless of escape room design preferences, Escape From the Mysterious Room is a critical piece of escape room history. As such, it is a must play for connoisseurs of these games.

Book your hour with Real Escape Game by SCRAP’s Escape From the Mysterious Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

SCRAP: Escape From the Walled City [Review]

Room escapes are one thing, expectations get a bit higher when you’re tasked with escaping a minor league baseball stadium.

Plot

“The titans are coming, and they’re hungry. Based on the manga megahit, Attack on Titan, the newest Real Escape Game (REG) takes players to a world inhabited by giant, humanoid creatures that live for no other purpose than to make a snack of all of us. The high walls of the stadium are the only thing keeping you safe… for now. Experience the latest edition of SCRAP’s interactive storytelling and puzzle-solving games, ¨Escape from the Walled City,¨ on a scale never seen before. Join thousands of other players as you decode clues inside a real stadium! Each REG requires participants to use their best detective skills as they race against the clock. Be warned, though: survival isn’t easy, and teamwork will be essential if you hope to survive. Escape or not, the game is going to be killer! This event will be held in stadiums in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. After already hosting over 40,000 players in the US to date, the SCRAP team is excited to present a new project with such a grand scope, keeping them at the forefront of live escape entertainment!”

Mass Escape Games

SCRAP, the folks who imported real life escape games to the United States, brought their latest mass escape game to New York. Last year SCRAP’s mass game, “Escape from the Werewolf Village” became the very first room escape that we reviewed over on my personal blog TheGeekWhisperer.com.

Lisa and I put that review together, and later created Room Escape Artist, out of a genuine love for escape games, and a fear that subpar games would turn people off from the experience. We wrote:

“My big concern is that there were people in that room who were doing a room escape for the first time and think that Escape from the Werewolf Village is representative of all room escapes. If this were my first, I am not sure I’d have gone to a second one.”

So is this mass game better? Absolutely. Escape from the Walled City is an improvement on nearly every level when compared with Escape from the Werewolf Village, but is that enough?

Stadium

Being on the field of a stadium is fun. Playing a game that’s spread across the field and the stands is also pretty damn cool.

In Werewolf Village, the room itself was irrelevant to the story. In Walled City, the stadium represents something in the story. The size of the facility also greatly increases the distance between things. If you don’t like to move, then this isn’t the event for you.

That being said, I think that a lot more could be done with the stadium besides adding lots stairs and putting distance between things.

And… The field was covered in crap. It wasn’t SCRAP’s fault… but it was still kind of gross.

SCRAP crap Escape the Walled City

Story

This game has a reasonably cohesive story, even if it isn’t entirely compelling. In Werewolf Village, the story was laughably abstract. Walled City’s story is a lot more tangible and easy-to-follow.

The story still doesn’t create a believable fiction.

Attack on Titan Tie-In

I’m not an Attack on Titan fan; however, if they substituted a fictional world that I cared about, say Firefly, I think I would have been disappointed.

All mechanics lead to a password to advance, and the passwords were goofy in the context of the story that SCRAP was trying to tell, shattering any fiction that the game attempted to build.

Puzzle Quality

In typical SCRAP style, the game is made up of mostly written logic and word puzzles.

The vast majority of those puzzles were junk puzzles. SCRAP games are always loaded with a heavy volume of puzzles that feel like homework. They aren’t hard, and they aren’t fun.

There were three more physically involved puzzles in this game that were brilliant, and unique. However they tied back to something that wasn’t fun.

Final Puzzle

This was my third SCRAP game, and I hated the final puzzles to the previous two games that I played. This latest one was marginally better, but still very obtuse.

My gripe with SCRAP is that their games are all structured the same:

  1. Battle through a pile of junk puzzles with a few cool ones peppered in
  2. Struggle with a obtuse final puzzle
  3. Lose

They seem to pride themselves on their comically low escape rate, but it’s a bit dishonest. They are a company that likes to design inescapable rooms with a tolerance for error. The teams who do escape are anomalies.

We got to the last puzzle with 25 minutes remaining, and ended up with 58% of the last password derived from a method that wasn’t what the designers intended.

The most significant way that Walled City improved upon Werewolf Village was that you knew whether you’d won or lost when the game ended. That may seem trivial, but it’s a big deal.

Escape from the Walled City Room Escape Artist

Should I play SCRAP’s Escape from the Walled City?

This game is a valiant effort at making a cohesive mass escape game. It’s a huge leap forward when compared with Escape from the Werewolf Village, but it’s just not quite enough of a leap to make it worth playing.

The stadium was fun, the aforementioned three great puzzles were entertaining, but they were drowned out by the sea of junk puzzles, and a game that wasn’t epic enough to warrant its setting.

The US cities that this game visits — New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — all have vibrant room escape scenes, and there are so many better places to get locked in for an hour.

When our game was over, our team packed up and went to play a regular escape game on Long Island.

Going into this, I didn’t think that mass escape games were ever going to be worth playing. I’m still not a believer. However, I do have hope that SCRAP might one day change my mind… They just need to figure out how to break away from this structure that they are so committed to.