Trap Door Escape – We’re All Mad Here [Review]

Alice in Asylumland

Location:  Bartonsville, PA

Date Played: January 29, 2022

Team size: minimum of 4; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $60 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players need to climb up a ladder, climb over a high barrier, and crawl to fully experience the game. However, as long as at least one player can do these things, other players could opt to skip this segment.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

There’s no way to make this medicine go down easier:

2 hours of game spread out over 4,000 square feet was a lot for an escape room. It felt like a lot as a player… and it seemed like it was too much for Trap Door Escape.

This game didn’t need to be 2 hours long. The space felt empty and shoddily constructed. The game felt dreary and slow… and the moments that were brilliant overstayed their welcome way past the point of fun.

A bed with a large caterpillar smoking a hookah.

Trap Door Escape was playing with some interesting ideas in We’re All Mad Here, but for whatever reason (time?, budget?, materials?, skillset?), this game felt tragically thin.

Selling the idea that an experience is massive and epic means that it needs to deliver; scale is a burden.

I wished that we liked this game. We wanted to enjoy it, but in the end… we weren’t mad, we were disappointed.

Instead of We’re All Mad Here, I’d strongly urge you to consider playing Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Trap Door Escape really hit their stride in that game.

Who is this for?

  • Alice in Wonderland fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s big and long
  • There are some interesting performative bits
  • The cool segments

Story

As patients of the Red Heart Mental Institution, we explored this Alice in Wonderland-inspired world, digging deeper down the rabbit hole of this curious hospital.

A white much with the words "Red Heart Mental Institution" on a red table.
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Trap Door Escape – F5: A Tornado Escape [Review]

Winds of Change

Location:  Bartonsville, PA

Date Played: January 29, 2022

Team size: 2-12; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: one person needs to climb over a high barrier and crouch in a small space

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I was a big fan of the original F5 game from Trap Door. I loved the way that it blended physicality with escape games and a unique setting. It played in a space that we have rarely seen escape room designers explore.

The new F5: A Tornado Escape was a completely different game. It maintained the unique cornfield setting, the ever-present wind of fans, and the projected tornado… but it swapped out the physicality for more traditional escape room puzzle play. The end result was a game that was considerably more accessible. Plus the new version had far better puzzle design than the original.

A corn field at night.

F5: A Tornado Escape stumbled in some of the details. There were some puzzles that felt noticeably altered, missing, or under-clued. This was particularly rough in the early game, where a few decisions made it difficult to build trust in the design. The good news was that the deeper we pushed in the game, the more it recovered.

If, like me, you’re a fan of the original F5, there was a really interesting callback with a bit of physicality, but this was a fundamentally different experience and one that I probably enjoyed more than the original, even if I missed some of the obstacle course interactivity. I’m sure plenty will be happy that the physical challenges were blown away.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The setting was unique and remains novel (even though Trap Door Escape did it before)
  • It’s a completely different and improved game from the original
  • The finale was neat

Story

A terrifying storm was coming and bringing a massive tornado with it. Could we make it to the barn and save ourselves before the tornado took us?

A corn field with a tornado off in the distance.
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Trap Door Escape – Mad Hatter’s Tea Party [Review]

A boozy tea party

Location:  Bartonsville, PA

Date Played: January 29, 2022

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Players must be 21+ to consume the “tea”

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock [A]

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party felt like a significant deviation from the norm for Trap Door Escape… and I can comfortably state that this was the strongest production that we’ve seen over their many years of operation.

Instead of Trap Door Escape’s typically massive multi-room escape games, we stepped into a single-room experience centered on an actor portraying the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland fame. The portrayal of the Hatter was strong and had a lot of subtle (and not so subtle) depth to it.

The Mad Hatter in a straightjacket sitting at the head of a table. sculpture made from teacups sits in front of him.

From a game design standpoint, we were impressed by the way that Trap Door Escape made use of riddles. Riddles in escape rooms are usually terrible. They’re either too obvious or too opaque… and they rarely feel in the spirit of escape games. Riddles narratively made sense in a game centered around the Mad Hatter, and Trap Door dreamt up a method for making these feel fun, relevant, and fair. Respect.

Where Mad Hatter’s Tea Party could benefit from iteration would be in a few of the more ambiguously clued puzzles, some lighting choices, and one very sticky set of props in need of a cleaning (and possibly a rebuild).

We’re truly happy that we played the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party… and that’s not just because Trap Door Escape opened a distillery… which was evident in their selection of “tea” for this experience. If you’re in Eastern Pennsylvania, this is one of the strongest escape games available.

Who is this for?

  • Alice in Wonderland fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Actor interacters
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Strong actor performances
  • An intimate game with some clever puzzle design
  • Boozy “tea”

Story

Set in the same world as Trap Door’s other Alice in Wonderland game We’re All Mad Here, we were patients at the Red Heart Mental Institution. We entered a “group therapy” session with one of the Institution’s more well-behaved patients. In the session, we had to make sense of his madness and of course, indulge in the beverage of his choosing.

A table with a sculpture made from teacups, a tall cake, a sculpture made from spoons, and a few tea pots.
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Trap Door Escape Stream – Bogeyman [Hivemind Review]

Bogeyman is a livestreamed escape game created by Trap Door Escape Room in Red Bank, NJ.

In-game: Someone dressed as a scientist in a YouTube Livestream.

Room Escape Artist has a review of Bogeyman in its original format from February 2018. This is a review of the livestreamed version of the same game, in the new Hivemind Review format.

Style of Play: livestreamed adaptation of a real-life escape room

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: 24.99 per person

Booking: book online for a particular time slot

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

In-game: A hand reaching for a book in a YouTube Livestream.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Bogeyman was an interesting experiment in livestreaming escape rooms. The gameplay was filmed in the brick-and-mortar escape room itself, which allowed for some great visuals and some fun jump scares. In fact, it actually looked like a pretty fun escape room to play in real life. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate well to this medium. The combination of live gamemaster commentary plus pre-recorded video clips left the experience feeling a bit disjointed and the players feeling a notable lack of agency. Perhaps this game might be better served as a solo experience where players navigate between video clips in a kind of choose-your-own-adventure-style game. In this format, it might be a better fit for newer players. Still, it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This was my first foray into playing an escape room “streamed live,” and I found Trap Door’s format disappointing. There was a gamemaster “hosting” and it soon became apparent that he was playing pre-recorded video clips. While there was some interaction between the gamemaster and the players, it felt more like we were just watching a guided walk-through of an escape room. Our “commands” in the chat weren’t followed unless they fit with the linear narrative. This style of virtual play might be good for beginners or casual players who need a bit of hand holding, but felt very gated and frustrating for more experienced players. This might be more fun if it was played as a private room. I think having up to 50 players (which is allowed) would make the chat too chaotic.

In-game: a puzzle involving a family to do list chart in a YouTube Livestream.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This is a game I would absolutely like to play in real life. The online execution of the game didn’t really work for me. The gamemaster was good, but the play structure required players to send chat messages to instruct him. There was some serious lag in the execution. A dozen people might be sending the correct puzzle solution, but it could be a minute or more before that solution was input. This aspect went from frustrating to comical. The chat was actually the most fun portion of the game, joking with other players as we waited on the gamemaster.

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

A streamed version of a typical live game, Bogeyman had a big space feel about it – effects, scares, etc. However, the streamed version had a slower pace with limited puzzles and a lot of participants. It was easy to try to participate – you just say what you want to happen in the chat – and then the live gamemaster might do it.

The game was fun, but felt crowded at times with a necessarily linear nature of the game, as all the participants were watching one feed. Kudos to the staff and players for keeping it fun – and it was fun – but it felt more like watching an escape room than really playing one. If you play escape rooms for the story/experience, this is more for you. If you play for the puzzles, you may be a bit disappointed. None of this is a knock on the presentation – as it truly was a game where everyone got to follow all the action.

Format Description

Bogeyman is played via YouTube livestream. The players interact with the gamemaster via chat. The gamemaster walks through the rooms of the game and plays prerecorded video clips of gameplay after players message the appropriate gameplay instructions. This is a public game with many players typing in the livestream at the same time.

Disclosure: Trap Door Escape Room provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Trap Door – The Greatest Freakshow [Review]

“Better than Award Winning Musical CATS!” -David Spira

Location:  Morristown, New Jersey

Date Played: December 17, 2019

Team size: up to 16; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $40 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

What do you do when you’re an escape room creator with a small child who watches Disney movies on endless loops? You make an escape room musical; that’s what you do.

In-game: Trailers and tents lit with strings of lights.

When I heard the concept I didn’t know what I was getting into. Were there going to be actors? Was this a show? Was this an escape room?

The answer: It was an escape room through and through. While it had actors artfully projected and displayed, and included recorded performances, it was a 2-hour escape room in a large space, as Trap Door is known to build.

This was very much a Trap Door production. By that, I mean it was innovative, big, thoughtful, and in need of much stronger puzzle content.

This escape game was lovable in so many ways, but the one that mattered most to me personally was the emotional message and a moment that tied into it. It was honestly innovative. The level of commitment and investment in this game was undeniable; just the square footage alone is costly. It just needed much stronger gameplay.

If you’re in the area, I recommend The Greatest Freakshow because it does a lot of truly interesting and unusual things… and I love that… even though it’s frustrating how regularly this escape room undercuts brilliant moments that are unlike anything that I’ve seen from any other escape room company.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • It’s quite large and contains many different scenes
  • The escape room as a musical concept was clever
  • There were some compelling moments

Story

Xunder’s Freakshow was ensorcelled by the song of the evil siren Atina. We had to free the minds of the freaks and team up with them to put a stop to her sinister serenade.

In-game: The ringmaster standing center stage.

Setting

Dating back to their first game, Trap Door has always created big escape games (in terms of square footage). A small Trap Door game is still big… and The Greatest Freakshow was big compared with their other big games. I think it might be smaller than Cure Z: Quarantine, but they are both at a size where it just doesn’t matter which is larger.

The Greatest Freakshow’s world included a stage, fair grounds, carnival games, and dressing rooms or trailers for nearly all of the main characters. There was no shortage places to visit. Throughout, Trap Door minded plenty of details. They covered the ground in convincing rubber wood chips. They used a large television and projections selectively to add life to the space. As a timer, they had the various scheduled stage performances by the Freakshow’s characters. It was a novel and cool space to explore.

A few of the spaces felt too empty or underdeveloped, but on the whole, Trap Door filled the large space.

In-game: The mermaid's tent adorned with a compass and ship's wheel.

Gameplay

Trap Door’s The Greatest Freakshow was a standard escape room with a large set and musical interludes. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: The mermaid's tank, she is laying in it sleeping.

Analysis

βž• Trap Door’s commitment to large scale is admirable. It is undeniably fun to traverse a sprawling gamespace.

βž• On a conceptual level, I absolutely loved the escape room musical as a genre. I also truly respect the way that Trap Door brought this concept to life in an affordable, repeatable way through video and projection.

βž•/βž– The use of the performance schedule and musical numbers as the game timer was a great idea. This was undercut by the lack of audio in the space where we spent all of the second act. This is a fixable problem.

βž•/βž– The emotional climax of The Greatest Freakshow was brilliant and the cinematic execution was smart. From a gameplay standpoint, this interaction suffered because most of our team was struggling to see the information that we were supposed to work with. Again, this is fixable.

❓ The opening interaction left our whole team baffled, but we tried to play along. We weren’t sure what the game wanted of us, or if there was a point to the performance… or why it ended when it eventually did.

❓ While I’m no theater critic, and I am certainly no singer, to me, the performances felt more like spirited community theater than a professional production. Most of the performances were charming, not wowing.

In-game: A picnic table in the fairgrounds.

βž– The funhouse was undercut by either unclued challenges or janky tech.

βž– The puzzles were painfully lacking. For the most part, they involved identifying information in one place and more or less transcribing it into a corresponding input mechanism.

βž– A key setpiece in the concluding sequence was visibly unfinished and bludgeoned an otherwise great moment to death.

βž• The Greatest Freakshow contained a great sequence that carved itself into my memory.

In-game: A cage decorated with knives and lit with a string of lights.

Tips For Visiting

  • EPILEPSY WARNING: There are flashing lights used during this game to simulate circus stage lighting.
  • This is at Trap Door’s Morristown location.
  • There street parking and a parking garage nearby on Cattano Ave.

Book your hour with Trap Door’s The Greatest Freakshow, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Trap Door comped our tickets for this game.