Themescape – The Terminal [Review]

Chuga Chuga Chuga Chuga. Search! Search!

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Themescape’s The Terminal had a cool-looking graffitied NYC subway set. It was for the best that it looked good because the game felt like it was about 95% search-based.

In-game: graphittied subway walls with a Pepsi vending machine.

The entirety of the experience was grounded in escape room logic. Nothing made sense. It hearkened back to the earliest days of escape rooms.

We just didn’t like this game. It always feels tragic to see a weak game in a solid set. Themescape’s The Gate was considerably more interesting. I’d strongly encourage playing it over The Terminal.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers & scavengers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Old-school search-based gameplay
  • A couple of nifty interactions

Story

A blackout had killed power to New York City. However, a runaway subway train was barreling towards the end of the line. We had to restore power and engage the train’s emergency brakes.

In-game: A NYC subway wall covered in graphitti and a sign for the NQR Downtown & Brooklyn.

Setting

The Terminal looked like a modern New York City subway station… but created to evoke the graffitied imagery associated with the New York City of a few decades ago.

The set looked pretty good, even if it didn’t ring true to me at all as a New Yorker.

In-game: A NYC subway map mounted to the subway wall.

Gameplay

Themescape’s The Terminal was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching.

Analysis

➕ Themescape crafted a bright and busy train station set. It looked pretty good.

➖ The gameplay was almost entirely search. Once we had everything we needed, puzzles solved in seconds. Any time we paused, it was because of a search fail.

➖ The Terminal lacked gating. We spent a lot of time trying to solve puzzles before we’d found all of the components. There was no in-game cluing to clarify that these puzzles weren’t active yet.

➕ The Terminal had one large set piece that was a fun input mechanism. It had another nifty device that gave some variety to the continual searching.

➖ The cluing was misleading. In one instance, we found a “secret clue.” Due to the labeling of the clue, we thought the game could be solved without it. The thing was, a note on a prop had already led us away from the item now in play due to the “secret clue.” This entire set up was baffling.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Themescape’s The Terminal, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Themescape comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Themescape – The Gate [Review]

STARGΛTE-ish

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Gate blended sci-fi and ancient Egypt into an escape room environment unlike any we had seen; it was really smart.

In-game: Wide angle view of the tomb's doorway surrounded by contianment tech.

Themescape did a lot of cool stuff with this game, but the experience was hampered by one laughably weak user interface (that we had to return to repeatedly) and some generally clunky tech. If Themescape fixed these elements, this game could be a lot stronger.

In the state that we saw it, The Gate had a lot of personality and charm that made up for some of its more frustrating elements. Additionally, the sci-fi elements fixed some of the inherent struggles with ancient Egyptian escape game design. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Stargate fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The sci-fi/ ancient Egypt mashup led to fun set design

Story

A team of researchers exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb had found a gateway to another realm. In response, a team of government scientists had built a containment unit around the passageway.

With every passing moment, the containment tech grew weaker. We had to study the tomb and determine how to remedy the situation as it failed.

In-game: A sealed stone doorway to an ancient Egyptian tomb flanked by king cobra statues and asurrounded by strange technology.

Setting

Themescape’s The Gate evoked a Stargate aesthetic, blending technology with an ancient Egyptian tomb. This felt fresh and justified a lot of the tech that we typically find in Egyptian tomb-themed escape rooms, without feeling out of place.

Overall, this was a good-looking set with a flavor all its own.

In-game: Closeup of a king cobra statue surrounded by technology.

Gameplay

Themescape’s The Gate was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of containment technology, there are buttons and knobs.

Analysis

➕ The Gate looked different from most of the Egyptian games we’ve played. It combined futuristic sci-Ffi with ancient Egypt to create a novel gamespace.

➕ The unusual set looked compelling. We were intrigued by the gamespace and its puzzles.

➖ The “central nervous system” of the game made no sense in the experience. It was also only half an interface, with no visual cue or visual prompt.

➖ We tripped up on a red-stickered lock that was actually in play. While this was certainly on us as players – Themescape didn’t tell us to avoid stickered items – it seemed an unnecessary design decision, especially since it conflicted with the norms of escape room design.

➕ The puzzle concepts were solid. Once we found everything we needed, the puzzles were quick as long as the tech worked.

➖ We encountered one extremely clunky puzzle. The clue only sort of made sense. It highlighted something unrelated to the puzzle components, it was extremely hard to read, and the tech was finicky to use. (It had clearly been repaired multiple times, but didn’t really work as intended.) These things, combined with aggressive timeouts, made us think we were solving this thing wrong, when in fact, we were doing it exactly right.

➖ The tolerances on the tech were too tight. We repeatedly solved puzzles correctly, but our timing was just a hair off. We learned not to disregard a solution we thought was correct before fiddling with every prop just a bit, in case we were right and the tech just hadn’t responded to us.

➕ The Gate included one stellar reveal that worked well with the set concept.

➕/➖ The transition was exciting. The visual indicators amped up intensity. That said, triggering the transition went on for far too long.

The Gate ended with a favorite Egyptian tomb trope, but delivered in a different context, and for effect rather than as a puzzle. We liked this atypical take on the concept.

The Gate felt like it was set up to be a narrative-driven escape room, but it played like a traditional puzzle-driven game. 

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Themescape’s The Gate, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Themescape comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.