5 Wits Foxboro, MA – 20,000 Leagues [Review]

“Trains, like time and tides stop for no one.” -Jules Verne

Location: Foxboro, MA

Date Played: July 15, 2018

Team size: 2-15; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $19.99 per ticket for one adventure, $24.99 for two adventures

Ticketing: Public (contact them for private games)

REA Reaction

20,000 Leagues was beautiful. At times the gameplay dragged. At times the puzzles were surprisingly challenging. Above all else, it was an immersive adventure in a spacious, detailed, elaborate environment.

If you’re familiar with 5 Wits, know that the Foxboro location offers longer, actor-lead adventures. 20,000 Leagues is only offered at the Foxboro location.

5 Wits was more about the adventure than the puzzles. If that’s appealing, and you’re anywhere near Boston, this is worth a visit, especially if you have children with you.

Game exterior: The exterior of the marble walled Jules Verne Nautical Museum.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A magnificent and massive set
  • Great approachable puzzle sequences
  • Family friendly entertainment

Story

Our trip to the Jules Verne museum took a turn for the fantastic when we stumbled upon the long-hidden submarine Nautilus. Once under the depths of the sea, however, we had a lot of work to do. Captain Nemo’s old vessel wasn’t exactly in mint condition.

In-game: a sculpture of the Nautilus in a marble walled museum.

Setting

We entered the Jules Verne museum for our tour of their collection. Through an unexpected accident we ultimately found ourselves 20,000 leagues under the sea in the legendary Nautilus. From there our experience traversed the massive boat.

The set was beautiful, weathered, detailed, and wide open (which didn’t necessarily feel like a submarine, but did help keep things comfortable).

In-game: Interior shot of the Nautilus with weathered and riveted metal walls.

Gameplay

5 Wits’ 20,000 Leagues was a family-friendly adventure guided by an actor with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling and enjoying the large and detailed set.

In-game: a series of glowing green rods and a blue tube with visible electricity.

Analysis

20,000 Leagues was aesthetically beautifully from entrance to exit.

– While the opening sequence in the museum was a cute idea, wandering among paintings and some basic exhibits was far from an exciting opening. It took a long time for the experience to start delivering serious interactive excitement.

+ The transition moment from museum to submarine was surprising, humorous, and entertaining.

In-game: the weathered metal walls and a large sealed door.

+ We enjoyed many of the spatial reasoning puzzles in 20,000 Leagues, some which especially got our brains in gear.

In-game: a tower of interlocking wooden gears against a marble museum wall.

+ There was an honestly challenging puzzle sequence in 20,000 Leagues. Solving this felt especially satisfying.

– One segment relied too heavily on precise color perception. It was more frustrating than engaging.

+/- There were great opportunities for team work throughout 20,000 Leagues… but I certainly would not want to play it with a group of more than 6 engaged players.

? Some of the best puzzles from 20,000 Leagues reemerged in 5 Wits’ newer games at other locations: Drago’s Castle and Deep Space. We genuinely enjoyed solving these again, but it had been a long time since we’d played those other games.

20,000 Leagues surfaced theatrically. It was a dramatic conclusion with exciting effects that engaged the entire group.

Tips for Visiting

  • 5 Wits is located at Patriot’s Place, near the cinema.
  • There are many food options at Patriot’s Place.
  • 20,000 Leagues is entirely wheelchair accessible.

Book your hour with 5 Wits’ 20,000 Leagues, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The Escape Game – Special Ops [Review]

It’s time to kick butt and go shoe shopping.

Location: Nashville, TN

Date Played: July 25, 2018

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Escape Game significantly leveled up their set design, technological capability, and narrative chops in Special Ops. This replacement for one of their original games, Classified, blew its predecessor away.

Special Ops played out in two acts: the first set in a Middle Eastern market and playing like a more traditional escape room, the second set in an evil bunker and focused heavily on narration and adventure. This made Special Ops feel like two games.

We loved the overall experience and preferred the second act, both for how dramatic it was and because the puzzles seemed just a little more refined than in the opening act.

All-in-all, this was an undeniably great game and well worth playing if you’re anywhere near Nashville or The Escape Game’s other locations.

In-game: a colorful Middle Eastern market with spices, fruit, shoes, and bags for sale.
Photo via The Escape Game

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Gorgeous set
  • Fantastic assortment of puzzles
  • Memorable ending

Story

Our team had been assigned to a routine investigation of the Ansar market. Our late night inspection of this criminal hotbed unexpectedly turned into a crisis of global proportions. It was up to us to stop it.

In-game: a high tech militaristic bunker.
Photo via The Escape Game

Setting

Special Ops was an escape room in two acts. Similarly to Classified we began in a Middle Eastern market and progressed into a villain’s lair. With Special Ops, however, the Escape Game has dramatically leveled up their set design and construction abilities (which weren’t shabby in their earlier games).

The Escape Game noted every construction detail. They even chose specific buttons that would enhance the player’s experience.

In-game: an upwards view the the heavily detailed middle eastern market.
Photo via The Escape Game

Gameplay

The Escape Game’s Special Ops was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The two sets of Special Ops were detailed, beautiful, captivating… and so different from one another.

+ One of Special Ops opening interactions brilliantly broke with escape room tradition.

– The accessories for sale in the Middle Eastern market created strangely frustrating interactions. In one instance, we had a puzzle solved long before the input was available. In another instance, the game trained us to interact with it one way and then required us to take a different approach.

+ The first act included some phenomenal, tangible solves.

+ The second act delivered incredible visual feedback for a variety of tech-driven solves.

+ The Escape built clear clue-structure and user interfaces into the second act. The puzzles were challenging for all the right reasons. We felt like knowledgable, badass, world-savers.

– A video segments dragged… enough that we broken out of the moment and felt our time ticking away while we waited to get back to the game.

Special Ops included one puzzle type that repeated across both sets, with completely different implementation. At first we were unimpressed with the repetition. Upon reflection, we were impressed that the game built mastery, as the second implementation was more challenging.

Special Ops started off typically escape room-y, albeit in an atypically beautiful set, and evolved into a story-driven, mission-centric game. Depending on gameplay preferences, you will likely enjoy one half more than the other. This made Special Ops feel uneven… but considering how much different folks like each part, also rather impressive.

+ The Escape Game’s quality of set and interaction design was phenomenal; especially in the second act. There was a keypad that was so satisfying to push. This may seem like a minor detail, but it really underscored how above and beyond they went to produce a deliberate experience.

Special Ops final puzzle was fantastic.

Tips for Visiting

  • Special Ops is at The Escape Game’s East Iris location.
  • There is a parking lot nearby.
  • Check out the map on the wall in the lobby.

Book your hour with The Escape Game’s Special Ops, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Escape Game comped our tickets for this game.

Broken Ghost Immersive – The Bunker [Review]

Legally distinct apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: August 18, 2018

Team size: 8-15; we recommend 8-12

Duration: Between 120 – 150 minutes

Price: $55 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Bunker was a wild ride of an immersive game. It mashed up roleplaying, tabletop gaming, puzzling, and storytelling into a sprawling post-apocalyptic epic that was both compelling and funny.

We loved The Bunker, but caution that people should only book tickets if they are willing to embrace whatever the game throws at them and play. If you’re too uncomfortable or too cool to play in The Bunker’s fiction, then this experience is decidedly not for you.

Similarly, if all you want are puzzles, or an elegant story presented to you… there are plenty of escape rooms or immersive shows that will scratch that itch; The Bunker is not what you’re seeking.

Your mileage will vary based on whom you’re playing with and the choices that you make. By total happenstance found ourselves teamed up with Kathryn Yu from No Proscenium & Michael Andersen of ARGNET, which was the most amazing random teammate assignment possible.

For those that showed up with their imagination and a willingness to play, The Bunker presented countless opportunities to explore within a strange world and build our own unique story.

In-game: David's shirt with a empathy sticker on it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for players who are willing to embrace the game
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every scene

Why play?

  • Fantastic gamemastering
  • Open-ended interactive storytelling that relied heavily on player decision
  • Unique moments for every player who desires them
  • Opportunity to leave your mark on your group’s story
  • Humor
  • Brilliant game mechanics
  • Each group receives a unique ending

Story

As backers of a crowdfunding project to create a series of apocalypse survival bunkers, we had gone for a tour of one of the facilities when the world ended. The bunker had locked down and the shelter’s AI DeBUNK had put us into stasis for over a century.

When DeBUNK revived us, things weren’t so great. The world had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland of familiar yet legally distinct horrors, our bunker’s life support systems were starting to fail, and we were low on food.

In-game: A laptop sitting on a counter in a red lit kitchen.
DeBUNK, our Bunker’s AI.

Setting

The Bunker was staged in Wildrence, a NYC experiential space and consulting studio that helps provide other creators with an immersive space and the tools necessary to bring their experiences to life. Previously this facility has hosted RefugeContagion, and Six Impossible Things (which is an exceptional close up immersive magic performance. Get tickets if you can!).

Our bunker and homebase was staged in the Wildrence kitchen set. Leaving the safety of our bunker required a hazmat suit (holding a hazmat suit card). Outside our bunker, we met a character who facilitated our exploration of the rest of the game’s expansive world.

In-game: A mechanical bug on some papers.

Gameplay

The Bunker was an immersive game with a variety of game mechanics, a tabletop crafting game, some puzzles, and a lot of free-form roleplaying.

In the bunker we could ask questions of our AI DeBUNK (a gamemaster character over Google Hangouts), attempt to build things via the crafting tabletop game, use the tablets that we found across the wasteland to communicate (text) with other bunkers, and manage our resources.

In-game: cards representing duct tape and a hazmat suit.

Resources were drawn playing cards: rations, Twinkies, hazmat suits, tools, medicines, and whatever else we found while exploring the world. Some resources were reusable; others burned as soon as we committed them.

In-game: The world map, revealing the names of different locations.
Our world map.

Exploration involved going out into the wasteland and telling the character which direction we wanted to go. Along the way, he told us which structures we had encountered and we made choices about which to visit. Once we had made a selection, he described the encounter and we decided how to react using only our wits and whatever resources we had on-hand.

When the exploration ended, our gamemaster informed us of how everything had resolved. This included what resources we had found and what terrible physical and psychological afflictions we had picked up along our journey through the hellscape… and some strikingly bad things happened to our people.

In-game: a hobbled sticker, player can't explore as effectively.

When things happened to us, we received stickers depicting our abilities or afflictions. Some stickers gave us additional powers to help us; others represented physical or psychological damage that diminished our abilities. Some of these afflictions could be cured; others couldn’t… and some we simply didn’t want to cure because they were amusing.

Ultimately, each player had to take responsibility for their own good time.

Analysis

The Bunker had a massive amount of story content and opportunities for us to explore, create drama, or stumble into trouble.

+ More than just about any immersive game that we’ve played, the choices that we made in The Bunker had immediate and logical consequences. We were never totally shocked when something happened because it flowed out of a decision that we had made either in that moment, or earlier.

+ The more each of us put into the game, the more the game gave back to us. Many of us had some wild experiences. The Bunker rewarded those of us who embraced the game and its fiction.

+ For us, the best parts were the adventures that we had when we left our Bunker. The game world, the choices, and the implications were endlessly entertaining.

+ The stickers signifying afflictions and abilities were brilliant and amusing. The illustrations on them were funny. It was especially clever that they could be quickly applied or removed (if cured).

+ The gamemasters were interactive, funny, and effective at facilitating the game. Their mastery over their own story and content was perpetually evident.

– There was a 3-person staff managing the entire game. As the scope of the world grew, it became a bit chaotic. They were surprisingly adept at wrangling everything that was going on, but there were times where it was clearly a bit too much.

– Our teammates who hung out in our bunker and made no effort to embrace the experience clearly didn’t enjoy themselves. On one hand, during the game I was annoyed with them because it seemed clear to me that they were doing themselves a disservice and all that they would have needed to do was volunteer to do anything at all to jumpstart a better experience. On the other hand, there truly was no mechanism for pulling these wayward players into the experience if they failed to show initiative. This really was a flaw in the game.

+ Broken Ghost Immersive had created some really smart afflictions to prevent strong personalities from overpowering the game. I saw this happen in real time at least once and knew exactly what was going on. I was dumbfounded by how brilliantly and elegantly our gamemaster used the mechanic.

– While we didn’t have any problems, I am confident that one hyper aggressive player could severely damage the entire The Bunker experience for all involved. Although the same could be said for escape rooms, since The Bunker was entirely social, the human element was even more critical.

– Lisa and a few of our other teammates spent a lot of the game off on their own journey away from the main story. While Lisa enjoyed her experience and the part she played in that narrative, by the time her narrative reconnected with the main story, too much had happened in the bunker for her to even begin to follow what was going on. She was pretty confused by the events of our end game.

+ The puzzles, for those that encountered them, were solid and thematic.

– The level of physical immersion was spotty and required a lot of suspension of disbelief and a willingness to embrace imagination. Broken Ghost Immersive delivered storylines that were clearly less immersive with a wink and a nod and a dose of humor, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily enough.

+ At the end of the game we were given the opportunity to choose a longterm strategy for our bunker. Based on that decision we immediately received an epilogue describing the conclusion to our story. It was intriguing, deeply rooted in the decisions that we had made throughout the game, and sensical. The epilogue put a lovely bow on our apocalypse.

Tips for Visiting

  • Show up willing to interact, explore, and play.
  • Bring a group of people who all want to play.
  • When you’re playing, be bold, imaginative, and decisive. Great and terrible things will happen to your group regardless.
  • It’s not an escape room. Leave your searching skills at home.
  • A few of our favorite restaurants in the area include Russ & Daughters Cafe, Vanessa’s Dumpling House, and Mission Chinese Food.
  • By subway, take the F to East Broadway. Street parking can be challenging in this neighborhood.
  • The Wildrence is located down a flight of stairs.

Book your session with Broken Ghost Immersive’s The Bunker, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Broken Ghost Immersive comped our tickets for this game.

Room Escapers – Organized Chaos [Review]

Accurately named.

Location: Boston, MA

Date Played: July 14, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-6 (more for a different experience)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Organized Chaos was all about collecting evidence of crimes. There was a silly number of crimes to solve and a massive heap of evidence to collect in our attempt to collate the evils of an organized crime family… and doing so was chaotic.

While Room Escapers introduced innovative gameplay and some fun moments, the entire experience felt uneven. The quality of the puzzles, cluing, story, and set were all over the map. Some of it was great. Some of it fell short of what we know Room Escapers is capable of producing.

Organized Chaos is worth playing if you’re looking to keep a large group occupied or are interested in exploring an innovative approach to escape room design… even if some of it doesn’t quite gel.

In-game: the inside of a Boston bar covered in Massachusetts license plates, Red Sox banner, and a Budweiser advertisement.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A massive amount of content
  • Deliberate chaos
  • A couple of memorable moments
  • A few strong puzzles

Story

It was the 1990s and organized crime was running rampant through Boston. Our agency had finally caught a break in our investigation and we had a brief span of time to investigate Spanky’s Pub, a notorious front business. Our goal: find evidence to close as many unsolved cases as we could before we were stopped by the mobster’s lawyers and their rolls of red tape.

In-game: The exterior for Spanky's Pub with a gated window, and no parking signs.

Setting

The starting area of Organized Chaos was split in two. Spanky’s Pub, a Boston bar complete with a beautiful old beer tap and New England sports insignias took up about two thirds of the gamespace. The remaining third of the gamespace was dedicated to evidence collection with a whiteboard-painted wall, evidence bins, case files, and a listing of missing evidence for each case.

In-game: a large game corner covered in white board paint, case files, and goals for each case.

The level of set detail fluctuated depending upon where we looked. Some portions were on point; others were a bit on the bare side.

Gameplay

Room Escapers’ Organized Chaos was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

The goal was to find the evidence needed to close as many cases as possible. There wasn’t a traditional win/ lose scenario. We were given a score based on our case close rate. Closing a case required the recovery of three pieces of evidence per case.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and remaining organized.

In-game: close up of a beautiful old beer tap.

Analysis

+ Room Escapers’ new School Street location had a spacious, comfortable lobby where they opened up the experience.

+ Our objectives were crystal clear and much of what we needed to accomplish was accessible to even the greenest of escape room players.

In-game: criminal case files in the Room Escapers lobby.

– While waiting for our game to start, we were presented with a selection of case files that would be relevant to the gameplay. While more competitive players might want to familiarize themselves with the material ahead of time, many teams will likely find these files dense, overwhelming, and filled with red herrings. We liked the concept, but as it was set up, the pre-game felt like homework and didn’t build up energy for the main event.

+/- There wasn’t any reason to read the case files; we could solve almost all of the crimes with just the evidence checklists. On the one hand, this made the gameplay itself less tedious than if we had had to read the case files. On the other hand, we were sitting on books of needless red herring detail.

– One puzzle couldn’t be solved without either a thorough case file reading or specific outside knowledge. This opened us up to a entire file of red herrings. It also deviated from the pattern learned throughout gameplay that we didn’t need to read the case files.

+ There was a lot to tackle in Organized Chaos. Players were never lacking things to do.

– We didn’t get a sense of the characters or the crimes from the focused search for evidence. Even after solving all the cases, we left with no emotional investment in any of characters or the crimes.

+ Room Escapers provided a dedicated evidence organizing workspace. We especially enjoyed the whiteboard wall.

? Successful teams will likely designate an “evidence cataloguer” to manage the chaos. This person likely won’t experience the rest of the gameplay. Depending on your group, this could be the perfect role for someone… or no one.

+ Room Escapers built a number of fun puzzle interactions and releases into thematic set pieces.

– The point system felt anticlimactic and tacked on because we were only truly introduced to it after the clock had stopped. As a result, the concluding moments of the game felt muddy.

Organized Chaos was aptly named. It could keep a large group busy. It was utter chaos managing all that we needed to do. Organizing it was the goal.

Tips for Visiting

  • Organized Chaos is at Room Escapers’ School Street location.
  • It is easily accessible by subway. Get off at Park Street or Government Center.
  • If you’re driving, the Pi Alley Parking Garage is right nearby.

Book your hour with Room Escapers’ Organized Chaos, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Room Escapers comped our tickets for this game.

Mister and Mischief – Escape from Godot [Review]

A real-life actor’s nightmare.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: June 17, 2018

Team size: 8 tickets per time slot

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket (limited run during the Hollywood Fringe Festival)

Ticketing: public

REA Reaction

At its best, Escape from Godot felt a little like that dream where you’re on stage and you can’t remember your lines… only exciting and fun. A refreshing blend of escape room and immersive theater, Escape from Godot used puzzles and gameplay to drive the stage production forward. The experience was appropriately absurdist… being based on Waiting for Godot (synopsis).

The actors blew us away with their commitment to delivering their lines while managing game flow.

Escape from Godot broke away from escape room conventions. What emerged was fun, engaging, and impressive. We left feeling entertained and energized. If Escape from Godot is revived in another form, it would definitely be worth checking out.

In-game: Three actors performing a scene. One actor looks very surprised.
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Who is this for?

  • Theater fans
  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Quirky puzzles integrated with a live theater production
  • Talented and enthusiastic actors
  • Unique, playful experience
  • Bowler hats

Story

Upon arriving at a theater to attend a friend’s play, we learned that everyone involved in the production was being threatened with a lawsuit if they continued the play without permission – including the audience. We had one hour to fill in for the stage manager and help the actors complete the play before the lawyers arrived to shut it down.

Setting

Escape from Godot was an escape room intertwined with a theater production. Rather than relying on scenery and effects, the immersiveness of Escape from Godot unfolded mostly temporally, via actors and props on the stage. The set, a relatively ordinary theater, was secondary to the puzzles and interactions.

Gameplay

Mister and Mischief’s Escape from Godot was an escape game and theater blend that revolved around theatrical cues, dialogue, and actor interactions. We participated both as audience members watching the actors and as crew members puzzling out how to guide the play (and the escape room) to its final curtain.

Escape from Godot included medium-difficulty escape room puzzles involving logic, observation, and wordplay.

Two actors standing on stage while another actor whispers to a player
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Analysis

+ Escape from Godot was fun for theater buffs and theater newbies alike. Those of us who were more familiar with Waiting for Godot got extra enjoyment from certain details and interactions, but we didn’t need to have seen the play.

+ The absurdist theme meant we weren’t always sure what we were supposed to do, but orienting ourselves was part of the challenge. It felt like being in an actor’s nightmare, with all the chaos and confusion of being thrust on stage without our lines – but in a good way.

+ The puzzles were whimsical and integrated with the theme.

+ Escape from Godot involved actor interaction, but some players were in the spotlight more than others. Shy players didn’t have to worry because interaction was limited and only as involved as each person wanted it to be. Accommodating different audience member personalities made the show approachable to extroverted players as well as people who were less comfortable with interaction.

+ The actors went all out. On top of their solid acting, they delivered hints subtly and seamlessly, right when we needed them. By calibrating our timing with thoughtful cluing, they had the ability to control the flow of the experience and make sure each group felt victorious at the end. This kind of improvisation must have been tricky to pull off. We were impressed with how effortless it felt and how much it added to our enjoyment.

– The venue wasn’t perfect. The space near the stage was a bit cramped, which made it hard for all eight of us to participate equally at times when we were in the audience area.

+ Playing Escape from Godot felt true to the experience of watching a play; it also felt like putting on a play. Even without elaborate sets, the action and the puzzles kept us engaged and immersed for the whole hour.

? Due to the linear gameplay, there were a couple of bottleneck moments. Fortunately, the show was designed so that the least busy of us could always entertain ourselves by watching the actors perform their scenes.

+ The beginning and ending of Escape from Godot were largely unguided, which gave us a feeling of mystery when we entered the theater and triumph when we led the show to our curtain call.

+ Escape from Godot showed that the theater is a natural setting for an escape room hybrid. Solving puzzles to influence the show is a unique and fun game mechanic. We’d love to see more people experimenting with integrating gameplay into stage productions.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escape from Godot had a limited run and is no longer playing. If Mister and Mischief decide to revive it, the venue and other details may change.
  • This experience had live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors. Interaction is minimal if you want it to be; having one or two outgoing teammates should be enough.
  • Since Escape from Godot was an escape room within a play, it was more about enjoying the experience than beating the clock. You might have to wait for the actors to finish their lines before you can progress anyway, so take your time and enjoy the performance.

Escape from Godot took place in June 2018 and is not currently running.

Escapology – Under Pressure [Review]

“Pressure pushing down on me. Pressing down on you.”

Location: Garwood, NJ

Date Played: July 10, 2018

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Under Pressure was a good-looking step up from our experience with early games from Escapology in Orlando. It had an appealing set with some charming details and a variety of puzzles. Under Pressure applied pressure, but not for quite the right reasons. A few sloppy puzzles in early and late segments made this escape room much harder and more frustrating than it should have been.

Given how widely Escapology is proliferating, we’re happy to see them on an upward trajectory and hope they continue to iterate in game design.

If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for more of a challenge, dive in.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of the interior of the bunk. Metal walls and pipes.
Image via Escapology

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Mathy folks
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Puzzley gameplay.
  • A strong set.
  • A lovely lobby.

Story

It was 1944 and we were aboard the Steel Shark, the pride of the US Navy. Our mission to surveil the German battle cruiser Scheer came to an abrupt halt when our engines suddenly failed. With pressure increasing, we had an hour to restore the systems before reaching crush depth.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of of the bunk and nautical flags.
Image via Escapology

Setting

Under Pressure represented a significant aesthetic step up from the early games that we had played at Escapology. We began in a well-detailed bunk and puzzled through to the engine room.

While Escapology built finer sets for Under Pressure and these were fairly consistent, quality still dropped off with each subsequent room that we found. Space became more cramped and props looked a little more homemade. This was less pronounced than in the earlier games we had played with Escapology in Orlando, but it was still noticeable.

In-game: a shiny filtered image of a birthday card with a pinup girl attached to a locked locker.

Gameplay

Escapology’s Under Pressure was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and making some spurious connections.

Analysis

+ We enjoyed a few extra aesthetic touches in the opening set. This included a themed count-down timer as an oxygen gauge.

+ Escapology added effects that enhanced the drama of the experience.

– Under Pressure included a deliberate red herring, meant as a laugh, but no cluing as to how to ascertain the intended approach to the puzzle. It was immensely frustrating.

– Because we encountered this entirely unclued puzzle so early in the experience, everything became suspect. We no longer trusted Under Pressure to supply us with breadcrumbs, leading us to try any and all possible solutions, even if they made no sense, which was a frustrating play style.

+ There was a few larger props that looked and felt great and made sense contextually. We enjoyed how these fit into the puzzling.

Under Pressure offered a few interesting, layered puzzles. These were challenging, satisfying solves.

– One elaborate solve gave us more information than we needed. We were expected to simply use half of it with no explanation of why. We had the right solution, but had no idea it was correct until our gamemaster intervened.

– The final puzzle was infuriatingly incomplete and we burned two hints to bridge the logic leaps necessary to complete the game.

Under Pressure had some brutally frustrating flaws, but they could be easily fixed. We hope the folks from Escapology continue to iterate on this escape room, because from the set details to many of the puzzles, it was a lot of fun.

The Escapology steampunk lobby filled with leather couches and ample seating.
Image via Escapology

+ Escapology has a beautiful and spacious lounge. It’s a comfortable space to hang out for groups of any size. For larger events, the facility is equipped with a party room.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escapology’s Under Pressure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapology comped our tickets for this game.

Complexity – The Mall [Review]

The Complex City Mall

Location: Farmington, CT

Date Played: June 29, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket on weekdays, $30 per ticket on evenings and weekends

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Mall represented a big step forward for Complexity in a number of categories: puzzle complexity, set design, technology, and humor.

While a few of the puzzles could have benefited from a touch more clarity, and there’s room for additional growth in set design, The Mall was challenging, entertaining, and worthy of a visit if you’re in the area.

In-game: The Pizzeria Pie mall Italian restaurant.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Punny mall store names
  • A humorous and light-hearted justification
  • Some really good puzzles
  • Interesting opportunities for teamwork

Story

Wow… I’m unreliable. After a day of shopping at the mall, we were getting ready to leave when I realized that I had lost my wallet and car keys! According to Google Maps, we had one hour before we had to hit the road to make our dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant.

The stakes had never been higher.

In-game: Sign for "Yellow House Orange Market."

Setting

Complexity created a scaled-down approximation of a mall. Each nook, corner, and room in the space represented another store. Each store was given a punny or joke name referencing common mall-based businesses.

In-game: Sign for "Things Forgotten Art Gallery."

Gameplay

Complexity’s The Mall was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The set was almost like a cartoon. We never felt like we were in a mall, but we always knew exactly what they were striving for. It was charming and engaging.

In-game: The "Daily Specials" white board.

+ Complexity justified our presence in The Mall and our goal to escape with a delightfully humorous backstory.

– While the premise justified the experience, it didn’t justify the puzzles. The justification devolved into a puzzle room pretty quickly.

+ The puzzles were challenging and engaging.

– The Mall had a rough difficulty curve. Some of the earlier puzzles seemed particularly challenging and the balance of effort-to-reward felt a bit off.

– We missed a few tech-driven opens. Added springs and directional audio or light cues would help turn reveals into events, reducing confusion and adding drama.

+ Complexity’s Apple Store was as white as it was enjoyable.

+ Multiple puzzles required teamwork and communication.

The Mall was entertaining. Every time we opened a new space, we delighted in the witty reveal.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot out front.
  • We recommend Cugino’s for Italian cuisine nearby.

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

Disclosure: Complexity comped our tickets for this game.

Clue Carré – Vampire Hunter Room [Review]

Bloodlines.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date Played: June 22, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Vampire Hunter Room was a puzzle-driven escape room. With a fairly standard study-like set, and dim lighting, the intrigue was in the puzzles. These offered a number of fun solves.

If you’re in the area and looking for puzzles over environment, we recommend stopping by.

In-game: An old parlor with a red clothed table, couch, and a painted portrait of a vampire.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Some cool puzzles

Story

Antoine Devillier, an ancient, wealthy, and powerful vampire, had but one weakness: the stake of Van Helsing. Devillier had acquired and hid his one weakness away. Our plucky band of vampire hunters set out to find the legendary weapon and give it a new home in Devillier’s chest.

In-game: The aged and worn fireplace in the parlor.

Setting

Vampire Hunter Room was slightly dim and study-like. The initial set was functional, but lacked excitement and polish. The escape room gave way to a more interesting set later in the adventure.

Gameplay

Clue Carré’s Vampire Hunter Room was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

Vampire Hunter Room was a puzzle-driven escape room. It had a lot of content. We enjoyed many of the puzzles.

– The decor was standard study fare with a vampiric twist. It was not particularly inspiring.

– Vampire Hunter Room was unnecessarily dim. While the dim lighting provided some ambiance, it made solving puzzles more frustrating than they should have been. The trade-off didn’t seem worth it.

+ We enjoyed how Clue Carré wove the bloodlines into the escape room.

Vampire Hunter Room was a solid, themed escape room, but nothing more. We hope that Clue Carré can build on this in the future to develop a cohesive world of puzzles, set, and story.

Vampire Hunter Room came to a pointed conclusion. It was predictable, yet enjoyable.

Tips for Visiting

  • We recommend Victory for post-game cocktails.

Book your hour with Clue Carre’s Vampire Hunter Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carre comped our tickets for this game.

Los Angeles: Meet us at an Escape Room & Immersive Entertainment Shindig

We’re hosting a get-together in Los Angeles later this month.

This is a casual gathering for folks to meet each other and chat about escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Details

  • Thursday, August 23
  • Hatch Escapes (1919 3rd Ave, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Starting at 7pm; talk at 8:00pm
  • Please bring food or drink to share
  • Hatch Escapes recommends ride shares as parking in the area can be challenging
Photo of Lisa and David of Room Escape Artist in their wedding clothes dramatically escaping a bank vault.
Photo by Michael Zawadzki

Who should attend?

Escape room players, bloggers, podcasters, designers, owners, operators… and anyone who is even just a little bit escape-room curious.

We also welcome other immersive entertainment goers and creators. You don’t need to be escape-room focused to join this conversation.

If you’re in Los Angeles, come on out, we’d love to meet you!

Speaking

We’ll be giving a short talk during the get-together.

We’re going to:

  • tell stories about some of our favorite escape rooms from our travels
  • discuss trends in escape rooms
  • share perspective on where we think the medium is going
  • unpack what the changes mean for the players

RSVP

Please RSVP on Facebook.

Boxaroo – Conundrum Museum [Review]

The best security in escape rooms!

Location: Boston, MA

Date Played: July 1, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Boxaroo is back in business after a long hiatus. Conundrum Museum was a puzzle-driven escape room that one of our teammates described over drinks as, “the most challenging escape room that I’ve ever played.” This was a difficult escape room in an elegant, but not particularly exciting, environment.

If you’re in escape rooms for the puzzles, Conundrum Museum is top-notch and worth playing if you’re anywhere nearby.

In-game: An art gallery with three framed Jackson Pollak-like non-objective paintings behind a red velvet rope.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Good opening
  • Challenging and interesting puzzles
  • A great late-game reveal sequence

Story

We were framed! We had been visiting a renowned art museum when a number of pieces went missing. Thankfully the police response time left us an opportunity to unravel the mystery before we could be arrested.

In-game: an art gallery with a very large wooden crate in the middle.

Setting

Conundrum Museum was an art gallery escape room with the white walls and assortment of art displays-turned-puzzles that we’ve come to expect of the genre.

The aesthetic twist: Boxaroo added a massive and intriguing crate in the middle of the room, along with a number of hidden interactions and technology.

In-game: closeup of two crates, one labeled, "Universal Shipping and Crating," the other, "Handle with care."

Gameplay

Boxaroo’s Conundrum Museum was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

Conundrum Museum had a strong opening sequence that established the story.

+ One set piece grabbed our attention from the early moments. Late game, it delivered on built up intrigue.

– Conundrum Museum started off slowly. Although the majority of the gameplay was nonlinear, there was only one starting puzzle. It would be easy to flail around for a while before figuring out how to start in on anything.

+ Boxaroo designed a variety of puzzles, many of which required or benefitted from teamwork. This dynamic was the heart of Conundrum Museum.

+ At its best, Conundrum Museum brought about fantastic aha moments where it felt like the lights suddenly turned on and everything suddenly made sense.

– One puzzle felt a bit too dense. We took multiple hints on this puzzle, each hint confusing us more.

+ While Conundrum Museum included a lot of locks, it was generally clear where to input any derived code.

+ Our team enjoyed – and I loved – the inventive meta puzzle. It has forever secured a place in my heart.

? While not a problem for us, one significant sequence of Conundrum Museum required above-average command of English. There was a mechanism by which people could learn the necessary words… but if one were resorting to it, then they probably wouldn’t enjoy it all that much.

– Conundrum Museum was emotionally level. The grand reveals and more intriguing moments struggled to get our hearts pumping because we were still in a white-walled, calm, environment.

+ Our gamemaster was a character in our story. Even when we experienced some technical difficulties at the start of our game, our gamemaster remained in character and improvised. Boxaroo handled the technical troubles as gracefully as possible.

Conundrum Museum was puzzle-driven adventure. It was not epic or overly dramatic, but it was a cerebrally satisfying team experience.

Tips for Visiting

  • Boxaroo is easily accessible by subway. Get off at Park Street or Government Center.
  • If you’re driving, the Pi Alley Parking Garage is right nearby.
  • At least 1 teammate needs to be able to crawl a short distance.

Book your hour with Boxaroo’s Conundrum Museum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Boxaroo provided media discounted tickets for this game.