Skurrilum – Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death [Review]

“This is a lovely room of death.” – Ace Ventura

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 11, 2019

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €99 per group for teams of 3 to €156 per group for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death did tons of unique things. We hadn’t played a game set in a zoo. This setting, in combination with Skurrilum’s ghost-hunting staging, gave Zoo of Death an unusual jumping off point.

Zoo of Death had some amazing moments and interactions contained within its beautiful set. It also had a fantastic door puzzle. (It’s well documented how much we love a great door.)

In-game: Overhead shot of a cage in a rundown zoo at night.
Image via Skurrilum

There was plenty to love in this game, but does it live up to the hype of Wailing Woman or the 9th best escape room in the world? That’s more debatable.

One critical prop that could turn dangerous didn’t feel sturdy enough and the story lost its way in the last act by taking itself way too seriously and not paying off that intensity.

Zoo of Death was an incredibly strong escape room. Critiquing a game like this can get dicey because we’re talking about missed opportunities in the finer points of execution, which can sometimes look like condemnation of the entire experience. That’s not our intent.

Skurrilum built an impressive and unique game in Zoo of Death. If you’re in Hamburg, you ought to check it out. But once again, as with Wailing Woman, leave your hype in their lockers.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Memorable interactions
  • Story-driven gameplay

Story

Ghost-hunting celebrity Ernie Hudson had given us a second case! This time he’d sent us to investigate grim and scary events at a nearby zoo.

In-game: A sign reads, "Do not make eye contact with the gorilla."
Image via Skurrilum

Setting

Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death opened as Wailing Woman did: in darkness, with a voiceover establishing the story and setting the stage.

Once the game began, we found ourselves on the grounds of a rundown zoo. It looked old, creepy, and forgotten.

In-game: A tire swing hanging in a sad, dark cage.
Image via Skurrilum

Gameplay

Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death was a narrative-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a brain cooked up to some strange device.
Image via Skurrilum

Analysis

➕ Skurrilum built two games in the world of ghost-hunting celebrity Ernie Hudson. In this second game, we had a strong sense of Ernie as a character and his world. It’s a world with infinite possibilities. We were excited to be back in it, in an unusual escape room setting, solving another case.

➖ The opening sequence of Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death bottlenecked severely. There was no way for most teammates to participate at all.

➕ Skurrilum used space brilliantly in Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death. The changes were unexpected and tons of fun.

➖ While impressive, we questioned the safety of one large set piece, its corresponding action, and its sturdiness.

➕ The best puzzles asked us to solve real-world problems in the zoo setting. If we wanted something from one set piece, how could we logically get it? This was an incredibly satisfying sequence of linked solves.

In-game: A decaying rodent in a cage.
Image via Skurrilum

➕ There was a beast of a puzzle. It was fun.

➖ The gameflow was choppy.

❓ The choppiness of the gameflow was exacerbated by a bad reset and the gamemaster failing to intervene even though we were repeatedly saying how we thought the puzzle was supposed to work and that something seemed wrong. We spun in circles for a solid 10 minutes until we finally received confirmation from the gamemaster that something was amiss and the issue corrected.

➕ We love a good door mechanism. Skurrilum transformed a classic puzzle type into an amazing doorway.

➖ While the narration was fun, in this instance, it felt like the story was told rather than experienced. Wailing Woman did a better job on this front.

➖ While Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death took us on an adventure, we wanted more from the culminating interaction. Narratively, the conclusion disappointed us by steering straight into the obvious cliche. We thought that Skurrilum was going to do something more interesting with the ending. It felt like it built-up drama only to fizzle out at the end.

Tips For Visiting

  • Minimum age is 14 years old
  • You must be able to climb stairs and crawl to play this game.

Book your hour with Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Skurrilum provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Skurrilum – Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman [Review]

Haunted

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 11, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  from €120 per group for teams of 4 to €176 per group from teams of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We did it. We went to Hamburg to play the number one escape room in the world as voted by TERPECA 2018: Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman. In doing so, we completed all of the top 10 games on the TERPECA 2018 list.

In-game: an old dusty organ in a study, the walls are adorned with trophy skulls and taxidermy birds.

We did our best to control our hype and go in with the right mindset to maximize our enjoyment of the game. It was a fantastic escape room filled with many dramatic and unusual moments… but it fell short of our expectations.

Wailing Woman was showing too much wear. It seemed like there may have been some missing puzzles and story beats. We struggled with lighting issues. One moment should have been amazing, but collapsed under the weight of a translation error that sent us wildly off course.

The TERPECA 2018 voters played Wailing Woman in German, with a gamemaster essentially subtitling it. This has me wondering if the game felt fundamentally different under those circumstances. Additionally, I truly think that Wailing Woman suffered from the hype because part of the experience then became trying to understand why so many incredibly experienced players, designers, and owners were so wowed by this game.

The bottom line is that Wailing Woman was an incredible escape room… but it was made and maintained by humans. I highly recommend playing it, but go in expecting to play a great and inventive escape room, not “the world’s greatest escape room.”

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Many unusual and fantastical moments
  • Story-driven gameplay

Story

Ghost hunting celebrity Ernie Hudson was too busy to take on the case of the Wailing Woman so he’d sent us, his students, to investigate the case.

Were there real ghosts or were the disturbances caused by something more pedestrian? It was up to us to discern the truth.

In-game: the inside of Ernie Hudson's mobile home filled with his gadgets, degrees, and ugly print patterns on his couch.

Setting

Wailing Woman opened in a dark room, with a voice-over sequence setting the stage and establishing the story.

Once the lights turned up, Skurrilum sent us into Ernie’s mobile home to gather what we needed to begin investigating the reported paranormal disturbance.

In-game: The exterior of a beautiful old home that shows signs of disrepair.

Gameplay

Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman was a narrative-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A view from the entrance of Ernie Hudson's mobile home. His gear is visible on all sides.

Analysis

➕ Skurrilum told the story of our escape room through voice-over narration. As we played, we listened to a narrator explain our progress. This was an unusual and captivating storytelling style. Ernie was funny and engaging.

➕ Skurrilum built interesting sets for Wailing Woman. They were diverse, well designed, and well constructed.

➖ While the sets looked good, key props were showing too much wear.

➖ We encountered some frustrating puzzle design. In some cases we struggled to read in low light. In other instances, we struggled to internalize the story while solving the puzzle. More often then not, the puzzle content didn’t support the team size.

➕ In Wailing Woman, we conversed with the spirits, as any aspiring ghost hunters would. This lead to a fiery dialog.

➖ While we loved the effect of communicating with a ghost, in practice this didn’t work quite as well as it should have. We think that we ran into a minor English/ German mistranslation that had reverberating effects.

➕ There’s this nifty trick that we’ve only seen a few times in our escape room travels… and Skurrilum swapped it in. It’s always cool when this happens and it worked well with the story of this game.

➖ Despite the ghostly interactions, we felt more connected to Ernie Hudson than to the mission. We didn’t feel invested in the characters we were trying to help. We wished Ernie Hudson had made an audio appearance at the end because he was the most compelling character.

➖ The final act fell flat for us. Some of this was the translation error, but it also felt like something may have been missing. The conclusion felt abrupt.

➕ The ghosts were the stars of this escape room. They delivered the most impressive and entertaining moments in the experience.

Tips For Visiting

  • Minimum age is 14 years old
  • You must be able to climb up and down a few stairs.

Book your hour with Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Skurrilum provided media discounted tickets for this game.