Steal and Escape – The Neighbor [Review]

The Neighbor is one of the best escape rooms in San Diego. Here are our recommendations for other great escape rooms in San Diego.

I’m watching you… đź‘€

Location: San Diego, CA

Date Played: March 6, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: some narrow passageways

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Steal and Escape showcased their build skills and technical chops through every surface of The Neighbor. It was a delight seeing the work ethic and creativity demonstrated in Steal and Escape’s owner Jason Richard’s 2020 RECON talk put into practice in this room to great effect.

The Neighbor contained one of my all-time favorite tech moments of any escape room I’ve played. It was subtle in such an insidiously sneaky way… and it had me viewing my real-world surroundings a bit differently for weeks after playing.

Throughout The Neighbor, the puzzles and set design were consistently stellar, though with a noticeable increase in puzzle-narrative integration as the game progressed. We also appreciated a well-designed home AI system that served as an in-world delivery mechanism for both story and hints.

The front door to a house, above it are storm clouds.

If you are choosing amongst Steal and Escape’s rooms, you can’t go wrong — they are all strong standouts within the San Diego escape room scene. The Neighbor included even more memorable moments and was generally more sequential, while The Lost Expedition was a consistently innovative and smoothly honed experience that had a split-team start and parallel puzzling. We also got a peek into The Missing Season, which opened shortly after our visit, and the set looked gorgeous.

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Steal and Escape – The Lost Expedition [Review]

The Lost Expedition is one of the best escape rooms in San Diego. Here are our recommendations for other great escape rooms in San Diego.

I dig it.

Location:  San Diego, CA

Date Played: March 6, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lost Expedition was filled with unique interactions, innovative tech, and a multifaceted narrative. Steal and Escape went the extra mile in designing this room, and it paid off big time.

Nearly every element of The Lost Expedition was painstakingly designed and constructed from scratch, even when it wasn’t immediately obvious on the surface. The set was an impressive self-standing structure with numerous well-concealed details. There was a ton of tech in this room that worked reliably and facilitated the room’s most memorable moments. Each player was assigned a unique role that meaningfully translated into personal goals and skills and a sense of narrative purpose. Furthermore, fuel management — operating a control panel that actually turned the lights and power on/ off in the various areas of the game — provided an in-world approach to timekeeping.

A room with metal walls, a small garage door, and an assortment of technology, canisters, gauges, a breaker box, etc.

The Lost Expedition was a challenging, narratively-driven, and densely-packed game that managed to flow remarkably well and avoid ever feeling too chaotic. This is quite a tricky balance to achieve, but Steal and Escape nailed it. This room had clearly adapted to a range of player feedback and gone through many iterations — reflected by thoughtful signposting and adaptive difficulty throughout the experience. A mission objective screen reminded us about our high-level objective(s) at any given time, and each of our roles focused our attention on a subset of the available tasks.

The Lost Expedition was one of the strongest offerings in San Diego and a must-play if you’re in the area, especially for puzzle-loving players with at least some escape room experience.

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Steal and Escape – Mysterious Stranger [Review]

I thought my neighbors were difficult.

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 4, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket, minimum purchase of 3 tickets

REA Reaction

Mysterious Stranger was an intimate escape room.

Steal and Escape lovingly crafted Mysterious Stranger to surprise and delight players of all experience levels. It drew on well-established, successful gameplay tactics and combined these with original concepts. While it was search-heavy, search solves were unusually rewarding.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Inventive puzzles
  • Surprises
  • Great execution
  • An amazing lobby puzzle (not kidding)

Story

Our quiet night was disrupted when we received a phone call from Government agents. They had detained our neighbor and believed that he was in possession of a device that would destroy America before they got there to stop it. They demanded that we break into his home and steal the weapon before it could turn the Cold War hot.

Setting

Mysterious Stranger was a break-in game. We began outside of our neighbor’s home, and had to find our way inside.

In-game: A front yard at night. A locked red toolbox sits in front of an ivy covered white picket fence.

Once within, we found ourselves exploring a home from roughly the 1970s, complete with the color pallet that has been the butt of many a joke.

Gameplay

Mysterious Stranger was a puzzle-driven escape room with a lot of interactions built into the set. One key difference: instead of escaping a room, we were breaking into one.

Mysterious Stranger also involved a lot of searching, but it was a lot more clever than in most escape rooms. When we found things we felt accomplished.

Standouts

The unexpected opening set up a sense of adventure. This was complemented by exceptional voiceovers.

Steal and Escape hid secrets well. Much of the intrigue was in uncovering oddities. While this may be an older, search-heavy style of gameplay, it was executed in a such a way that it was interesting and entertaining even for seasoned players.

The puzzling also relied substantially on mechanical and physical interactions. When Steal and Escape needed paper-style cluing, they found tangible ways to connect them to the environment.

In-game: A desk with a typewriter.

Our favorite puzzle sequence traversed set pieces that had initially seemed unrelated, and resulted in an unexpected open.

Mysterious Stranger required us to make a choice with consequences.

The lobby puzzle that is available before this game was fantastic.

Shortcomings

Mysterious Stranger could feel cramped. While there was a lot to puzzle through, the layout of the space made it hard to involve too many people.

Mysterious Stranger looked aged. While this was stylistic and deliberated, at times the game also showed signs of wear.

We didn’t internalize enough context from playing through the story to make an informed decision. Thus the choice wasn’t as impactful as it should have been.

Tips for Visiting

  • Steal and Escape had a fantastic mini game in a room off lobby. Get there early and play it.
  • Steal and Escape had ample free parking and plenty of dining options in the area.

Book your hour with Steal and Escape’s Mysterious Stranger, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Steal and Escape comped our tickets for this game.