X-Room – The Mystery in Archeology [Review]

Meh-stery.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 7, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

In The Mystery in Archeology we were archeology students trapped in a collapsed tomb / our professor’s office with only enough air to last 60 minutes. It wasn’t worth trying to make sense of it.

The game started in an unremarkable office and progressed into what was barely a tomb. At no point did the set contribute to a fictional environment.

In-game a photo of a mundane set with a pair of white dressers. A globe and a lockbox rest atop the dressers.

The middle third of the game had the most character in terms of set and puzzles, but we never felt like participants in a story.

Puzzles

The Mystery in Archeology included some challenging puzzles, though at times these were poorly clued.

The puzzles varied the most in the middle of the game, using different input and unlocking mechanisms as well as different types of thinking.

Standouts

We enjoyed interacting with the prop-based puzzles in the middle of the game. There were some fun, tangible pieces, some of which captured the Egyptian theme.

Shortcomings

The poorly clued puzzles were incredibly frustrating. When our gamemaster provided additional hints over walky-talky, he read off a script with no comprehension of how much of the puzzle we had already completed. More often than not, communicating with him added to our frustration, even when he was being helpful.

This game continually suffered from bad lighting with no real purpose, except maybe to obscure the uninteresting set.

We wondered why there were Chinese characters in an Egyptian tomb.

Because of uneven puzzle structure over the course of the sets, this game bottlenecked, especially near the end.

Both the final set and final interaction were major letdowns. When we solved the final puzzle, we didn’t even realize it.

Should I play X-Room’s The Mystery in Archeology?

Due to the uneven game design, it would be hard to recommend an ideal number of players. You only want those extra brains and hands around sometimes.

While X-Room has improved substantially since we reviewed their games a year and a half ago, they are no where near on par with the rest of the New York City market. The middle third of The Mystery in Archeology was a bright spot in the game’s design, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the dreary and frustrating beginning and ending.

There isn’t enough good in The Mystery in Archeology to recommend it to anyone.

Full disclosure: X-Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

X-Room NYC – Prison Break [Review]

Helter-skelter (hel-tər-ˈskel-tər) adverb: in a confused and careless way.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: June 6, 2015

Price: $28 per ticket

Plot

“You were once a detective whom everyone loved, but you got framed by Dr. Locus, the most wanted guy in the world who is an intelligent criminal. He has a prison where he kept all his prisoners for experiments. You had been transferred to a single cell with a guard watching you all day long.

Soon, Dr. Locus will take you out and execute you because you had been ruining his plans! You have to use your professional knowledge to get out of this prison, or you will die and no one knows! Run, detective!”

x-rooms logo

Prisoner scenario

A portion of your team is taken from you, and locked in a separate room. A gated door is between you, so you can see one another, communicate, and pass things between the rooms.

This setup, and the constant need to communicate between the two rooms, were Prison Break’s high points.

Haphazard theming

The puzzles within this game are haphazardly themed. There are only a handful of items in the room that suggest that you’re in the lab of a villainous mad scientist.

For the most part the items in this game seem like a random assortment of things that look kind of cool. There’s stuff ranging from 18th century tall ships to, some “I just bought these from a yard sale” books on a shelf, and then something about the zodiac. It’s all over the place.

The prison cell is cute, but begs the question:

“Why has this brilliant scientist left his human test subjects with so much stuff?”

In situations like this, it’s probably better for the game designers to claim “no theme” and just throw puzzles into a room.

X-Rooms Prison Break - Escaped

Puzzle break

One of our teammates accidentally broken the feature mechanical puzzle in this game by shaking a seemingly useless item lightly.

I figured out that the puzzle broke, and knew how to solve it. I had to call our game-master in. He took the broken pieces, disappeared for more than 10 minutes and came back. He added five more minutes to our clock.

Two truths and a lie

One critical puzzle required players to derive three numbers for a set of clues. We spent a crazy amount of time working on this. Then, on a hunch, I presumed that one of the hints was false, and finally opened the damn lock.

This was even more frustrating than the broken puzzle.

Incoming!

There’s a puzzle in this game that requires your game-master to enter the room and hand something to you so that you can finish it.

This puzzle doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s both outlandish and lazy.

10 player game?

This game is listed for “up to 10 players.” That’s far too many players. I think it realistically tops out at 8, and there should probably be a minimum of 4 people in this game.

Ideally this is a 5-6 player escape game.

Should I play X-Room NYC’s Prison Break?

This game is a bit chaotic. Some puzzles lie to you. Some puzzles break easily. The theming is all over the place… Yet the game isn’t entirely without merit because we still managed to have fun. I’m not confident, however, that the team would have enjoyed it without someone experienced to notice when a puzzle broke, or to work through a deceitful puzzle.

I’ve played 3 of the 5 games that X-Rooms has to offer, and I think that they need to sit down and seriously reflect on what they want for their business. They can make entertaining games. The Forest Cabin is easy, but it isn’t bad. Prison Break is more challenging, and the concept is fun, but the execution is weak.

New York City has stiff competition, and from what I’ve seen, X-Rooms needs to rapidly ramp up the quality of their games’ to keep up. Time is ticking.

X-Room NYC – The Exhibition Gallery: The Lost Art [Review]

The case of the missing fun.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: June 6, 2015

Price: $28 per ticket

Plot

“There was a world-wide art exhibition gallery show going on in the city. There were so many invaluable arts in this show. You, as a detective in the city, were the commander of the security of this exhibition gallery. You did everything you could to protect these priceless arts. But before the gallery ended, there was a missing painting in the gallery.

You were facing a lot of pressure, and you swore that you would find the painting before the sunrise. You used every source and searched all suspicious places, but you found nothing! Now there is only one hour left before the sun rises, you go back to the gallery and hope to find some clues. As a detective, can you find the lost painting to maintain your good reputation? Do your best!”

x-rooms logo

No substance

The Exhibition Gallery: The Lost Art puts players in a small “art gallery” and serves them a handful of lightly art themed puzzles. Most of them are unmemorable (I’ve already forgotten them). The one that is memorable will be remembered for less-than-stellar reasons

The most memorable part

Whenever we play an escape game, I ask each of my teammates at the end two questions:

  • “What was your favorite part of this room?”
  • “What was the worst part of this room?”

If we have time, I’ll chat for hours with them about the details, but in a crunch, I find those two questions elicit the most important information.

The Exhibition Gallery: The Lost Art is the first game I’ve ever played where no player could call out a specific thing that they loved about it. One player noted his favorite part was solving this particularly irritating puzzle (that consumed about half of our hour in the room). Now he wasn’t saying that solving the puzzle made him feel accomplished… He was happy because the puzzle was over. Everyone else on the team agreed with him.

The Exhibition Gallery: The Lost Art - Escaped
We stubbornly rejected many clue offers.

Shoddy construction

The game wasn’t well-built. At one point a player accidentally pulled an eye-bolt out of the wall while while trying to put a combination into a lock. The lock didn’t open, but the door did.

Eye bolt

We left the door closed until we figured out the combination. When I took a closer look at what broke, I could see that the drywall was chewed up from the same eye-bolt having been pulled out multiple times.

I’m sure they pushed the bolt back into place after we left and it will continue falling open.

No polish

There is a noticeable lack of care. Often we see rooms that aren’t well-designed but clearly have a lot of love poured into them. This isn’t one of those rooms.

There are a number of compartments built into this room from some door hardware and plywood. The fabricators of these rooms didn’t even take the time to sand and paint the doors.

Should I play X-Room NYC’s The Exhibition Gallery: The Lost Art?

The last X-Rooms game I had played was the Forest Cabin, a very easy room for true beginners. I closed that review saying, “The game gives me hope for the other games offered by X-Rooms.” Unfortunately, this game dashed those hopes.

Whenever I write a review, I try to be as constructive as possible. However, as I try to do this now, I keep returning to the same conclusion:

This game needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Skip it. This is the most forgettable room I’ve ever played.

X-Rooms has better games and there are many other stellar games in New York City.

X-Room NYC – The Forest Cabin [Review]

Location: New York, New York

Date played: February 14, 2015

Price: $28 per ticket

Plot

“It was a nice sunny day, and you decided to go hiking with your friends in the forest. However, the mist came out of nowhere, and you were the last person on your team because you could not see anything. Then, you just got lost! You were terrified and did not know where to go. Suddenly, you saw some bright light through the mist, so you followed its path and finally found a cabin in the forest! You thought you could finally get some help. Once you arrived outside the cabin, you sensed something fishy because the door was unlocked. There was no one inside. You finally knew what was wrong. It was too quiet.

“Boom!” The door was shut, and you could not get it to open! Now, you need to find a way to get out of this cabin and find your friends. Otherwise, you may get lost in the cabin forever!”

A starter room

X-Rooms is the latest escape games company to open their doors in New York City and The Forest Cabin is the first game of theirs that we attempted. It’s also their easiest room (rated 3 stars out of 6).

If you’re new to real life room escapes, or have children that you’d like to ease into escape games, then this is the room for you.

This is a room that takes its “easiest room in the building” status seriously.

Not devoid of challenge

That’s not to say that this room is devoid of challenge; there are a few solid twists in this room.

There was just enough of a challenge to this room that I didn’t leave feeling unfulfilled (but it was close).

Experienced players

This is a 60 minute game that took us 27 minutes… I screwed up something really simple. If I hadn’t I think we could have been out of there 5 – 10 minutes earlier (the record on this room is 23 minutes).

x-rooms forrest cabin room escape artist

The point is that if you’re experienced this game is the batting cage of escape games. It’s built well, and you’re going to hone some skills, but there isn’t really an opponent to play.

Should I play X-Rooms’ The Forest Cabin?

If you’re new to escape games, or want to bring your children to an escape game, then this is a great room. The “Cabin in the Woods” scenario is a fun setup. It’s sturdy, straightforward, and everything in it works well.

The game gives me hope for the other games offered by X-Rooms.

Book your hour with X-Rooms, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.