Upside Down Escape Games – The Theater [Review]

Master of Puppets

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Upside Down Escape Games caught us off guard with The Theater because it packed some technology that you don’t expect to see in a small-town escape room.

In-game: a boxoffice stand with an owl dressed in fancy clothes sitting within.

When we played, The Theater it felt like it was brimming with potential… but also unfinished. This was confirmed for us after we played. Nevertheless, there was a lot to enjoy here. The things that worked well worked really well and looked great.

The aspects that felt like they needed more work came in 2 varieties: those in need of fairly minor tweaks, and tech that just needs more time and iteration.

The Theater has the potential to put on a hell of a show, and we have a lot of confidence in Upside Down Escape Games’ ability to get it there. Either way, we think this one is well worth seeing, and we’re glad that we did. We hope to revisit this game down the line.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Technophiles
  • Fright fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Surprising technology that you really wouldn’t expect from a small-town escape room company
  • The puppet theater did some really unexpected stuff

Story

Once more, our friend Darryl had dragged us to a strange place for his birthday – and disappeared. This time we entered a horrifying puppet theater with a countdown clock. What was with this guy?

In-game: ominous masks of comedy and tragedy painted in red on a box office.

Setting

Upside Down Escape Games split us into 2 groups. 1 person was brought into the theater; the rest were let in through the box office.

The small theater had all of the right components (but not quite enough seating to feel completely right).

The box office was small, and again, had most of the right components, but this space felt a little unfinished.

The coolest parts of this game weren’t immediately evident. I’ll leave it at that.

In-game: a theater conscession stand.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Theater was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It has a split-team start, with 1 person separated from the rest of the group.

You can choose to play this game on scary mode, which adds jump scares. (They are worth it.)

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

In-game: an "Admit One Ticket" sign flanked by freaky baby doll parts pained black and red.

Analysis

➕ Upside Down Escape Games leaned in to the creepy puppet vibe with this unusual escape room concept and it worked.

➕ We played on scary mode. The jump scares were well timed and delivered great moments. Play it on scary mode. You know you want to.

➕/➖ The construction of this game was uneven. It was a case of extremes, and it was kind of understandable. Some aspects of this game received an incredible amount of creative attention… and other parts were painted black. Upside Down Escape Games made good choices about where to focus their resources, but the disparity was noticeable.

➕Upside Down Escape Games dealt with a malfunction so well that we weren’t confident that something was ever wrong.

➕/➖ We loved an unusual and silly puzzle, with clean execution, but the sticking point was a lack of cluing that yes, we should interact in a way that felt unnatural.

➖ The Theater included some incredibly delicate props that seemed out of place and will surely break. They were more eye-catching than they were relevant.

➖ In one instance, The Theater suffered from a common upside down trap: when a clue is reversed or flipped, do you also reverse the solution?

➕ The hint system was more than a hint system. It was a part of this creepy theater.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games built an extraordinary set piece that eyed the game space from the opening moments, building up dramatic intensity. Then it delivered.

➖ The end fizzled. The show needed a finale.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games truly surprised us with the unique tech that they built into The Theater.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Theater, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Upside Down Escape Games – The Arcade [Review]

Insert Coin

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Few things make me as nostalgic as arcades. They remind me of my birthdays as a kid, the birthdays that really meant something.

The Arcade packed a lot of great content into a small package. Upside Down Escape Games modified a lot of old equipment into fun and fair challenges. I think that there’s something beautiful about that because all of these classic video games were about making interesting and fun mechanics out of basic technology.

In-game: A few arcade cabinets, the closest one reads, "Nintendowl"

If I were to ask anything of this game, it would be for more of the kinds of interactions that made this game special. I’d love to see it lean a little harder into the gaminess of the setting.

Upside Down Escape Games did a great job of using their technical and artistic chops to pull together something entertaining and unique. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking out The Arcade, especially if this feels like the kind of nostalgia that will put a smile on your face.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Video gamers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The Arcade pushes a lot of nostalgia buttons
  • A good mix of puzzles

Story

Our friend Darryl was hosting his birthday party at the local arcade – but the guy had just disappeared – from his own party. I just wanted to play some games, but the rest of the group figured we really should find him. After all, it was his party.

In-game: the inside of a claw machine, filled with stuffed animals.

Setting

The Arcade was a small arcade complete with a couple of video game cabinets, a claw machine, and Skee Ball.

It was a small approximation, but it felt accurate. I think what really sold it for me was the ridiculous carpet.

In-game: a skee ball machine in an arcade.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Arcade was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and functional arcade games.

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

In-game: The Escape Block arcade cabinet.

Analysis

➕ The Arcade looked authentic. That carpet! Throwback.

➕ The arcade games were real and functional. We didn’t even need any coins to play them. If a player just wanted to play video games or Skee-Ball for an hour, that’s kind of an option.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games worked the arcade games into the gameplay, which was tons of fun. They created fair challenges out of mechanics that could easily have been impossibly difficult. They balanced how much time we spent in front of each cabinet while solving the escape room.

➖ Although the arcade games delivered tangible gameplay, there was opportunity to take other puzzle elements off paper and make them more tangible. 

➕/➖ One great game stole the show. We enjoyed the thematic set pieces, and the different ways it was incorporated into puzzle design. That said, by the end, it felt over-used.

➖ Although Upside Down Escape Games built some surprises into The Arcade, they didn’t all pop. With additional sound and light cues, these reveals could become events.

➕ There are countless obscure and overt video game references in The Arcade… if that’s your sort of thing.

➖ Our exit lacked a boss fight. We wanted a more impactful finale.

➕ As we exited the game, there was a surprise waiting for us.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Arcade and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Upside Down Escape Games – The Gingerbread Cottage [Review]

Solve, solve as fast as you can

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 1- a small family group

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $18 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Gingerbread Cottage was an adorable, family- and newbie-friendly seasonal game. It was one of the nicer temporary games that we’ve encountered.

The story was cute, the hint system was clever, the puzzles were fair, the props were well-selected, and there was a tiny bit more tech than we’re accustomed to finding in a limited run escape game.

In-game: gingerbread house wall covered in gumdrops.

This game was meant for families and small groups of new players. The recipe included short and sweet puzzles and it was iced with a touch of humor.

If you’re a seasoned escape room player, this one isn’t really made for our kind, but we still enjoyed nibbling on it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas aficionados
  • Great for families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Adorable premise
  • Solid puzzle game
  • Christmas cheer

Story

Peeled from a baking sheet, we had gained sentience as we were placed in our gingerbread home. From beyond the walls of our candy cottage we’d heard that Darryl was coming home in 45 minutes… and he was going to be hungry.

In-game: A fireplace decorated with stockings, a rocking chair, and a giant - partially decorated gingerbread cookie on the wall.

Setting

The Gingerbread Cottage was a small, humble, and adorable little popup Christmas game. Most of the props were artfully selected Christmas decorations meant to build the fiction of the inside of a gingerbread house.

The game itself was constructed around the decoy gingerbread man, a simple, but effective piece of tech.

In-game: A white christmas tree shelf covered in gingerbread cookie ornaments beside a fireplace decorated with stockings.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

6 homemade gingerbread owls.

Analysis

➕ The Gingerbread Cottage had an adorable, playful premise.

➕ The gameplay was approachable and entirely non-linear. It was easy to dive in and clear how to play. The gameplay was smooth.

➖ Maybe we were seeing it in the wrong light, but one puzzle felt a little off to us.

➕ Although Upside Down Escape Games had a small footprint and low budget for this holiday popup escape game, they created a lot of cheer. It didn’t feel cheap or temporary.

➖ There was an opportunity to more evenly use the space. The majority of the puzzle elements were a bit on top of each other.

➖ The Gingerbread Cottage lacked a finale. With a final puzzle or some fanfare, the win would have felt like more of an event.

➕ The hint system was thematic and cute.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.