The Laboratory [Review]

So puzzle. Much solve.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-8*

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket Tuesday – Thursday, $32 per ticket Friday – Sunday

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Laboratory was an unusual escape room, especially in Los Angeles. It was entirely puzzle solving from start to finish. Its unusual structure of multiple, linear puzzle tracks delivered a lot of puzzle content and a largely individual experience as part of a larger group effort. The Laboratory sacrificed environment, narrative, and adventure in favor of puzzle content, much of which was tangible, varied, and interesting.

Puzzles comprised the entirety of the gameplay. If you’re looking for puzzles, play The Laboratory; you’ll be thrilled. If you want adventure, narrative, or really anything else… your princess is in another castle.

In-game: a sealed box filled with glowing green material and mounted gloves.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Pure puzzle play
  • Puzzle progression

Story

This was a puzzle-filled laboratory with a ticking time bomb in the middle. We had 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles and disarm the bomb.

In-game: a sealed bomb beside some puzzles in a green walled room.

Setting

The Laboratory was a largely plain, two-room set. We had complete access to both rooms from the opening moments of the game. Tables and shelves held various puzzle props, most of which were handcrafted.

A board on one wall laid out the puzzle progression to follow including each individual puzzle, its components, and where to input its solution.

In-game: closeup of a bomb with clipped wires.

Gameplay

The Laboratory was an atypical escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

The Laboratory presented multiple, clearly-defined linear puzzle paths that all converged at the final puzzle.

*The number of puzzle paths – and thus the volume of puzzle content – will be based on team size and experience level. We recommend you bring enough players to play a game with at least 4 puzzle tracks. This will ensure that you have access to the most interesting puzzles.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

In-game: 4 human skulls beside a metal device.

Analysis

+The Laboratory was an entertaining puzzle orgy.

– The Laboratory didn’t have a set beyond a standard office space and some quirky props. The gamespace didn’t add anything to the experience. (It didn’t really detract either. It just existed to hold puzzles.)

+ We could see the puzzle paths laid out on a board, delineating our progress through the escape room. This board gave us a feeling of control. We always knew what to work on next. We could also track our progress against the gameclock. This mechanism ensured that we never had to trial-and-error our solutions in different locks.

– Many of the lock codes were guessable even without deriving all the information. It would be easy to shortcut these puzzles to pop the locks.

The Laboratory was customizable by group size and puzzle experience. They can add or remove puzzle tracks to give each team a fair puzzle opponent for a 60-minute game clock.

? If you aren’t playing at least 4 puzzle tracks, you’re missing out on some of the more interesting content.

+ One of our favorite puzzles hooked us with some nifty tech.

– One puzzle path was primarily paper-based. This didn’t make use of the physical space at all.

+ We enjoyed how as each puzzle path moved forward, it built on a concept. Props we picked up along the way frequently stayed relevant as the puzzle path progressed.

– Most of the puzzles could be solved individually. The Laboratory felt collaborative only in so far as the entire team was working and of all the puzzles got solved. Most of us felt like we were puzzling solo. The puzzles didn’t facilitate natural collaboration.

+ The puzzle tracks converged on the final puzzle: bomb disarmament. Although we’d each solved the other puzzles individually or sometimes in small groups, we came together for the final sequence.

Tips for Visiting

  • Bring a large enough team to play with at least 4 puzzle tracks. The 4th track was great.
  • There is street parking.
  • We enjoyed Earth Bean Coffee.

Book your hour with The Laboratory, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Laboratory provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Maze Rooms – Magic Kingdom [Review]

Practice good wand form.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 25, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $99 per ticket for teams of 2 to $198 per ticket for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Magic Kingdom was a magical escape room. Set design, props, locking mechanisms, and many of the puzzle concepts all worked magically, and came together to create a really fun world to play in. Because of the magical world, the lack of clue structure was especially pronounced, forcing us to rely in part on our knowledge of escape room game mechanics to solve Magic Kingdom.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you enjoy solving how a room works, try your wand at the fun and playful world of Magic Kingdom.

In-game: a well in an enchanted forest.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Magician wannabes
  • Families
  • Best for players with least some experience

Why play?

  • To perform magic with wands
  • The opening scene

Story

In the Magic Kingdom, the magic tree was dying. We needed to cast a spell in the magic well to bring magic back to the Magic Kingdom.

In-game: the roof a well beneath a large tree and the night sky.

Setting

In their Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms set the magic tree and magic well under a starry night sky in beautiful, glowing light. Beyond the garden sat a quaint windmill with a few rooms of magical props.

In-game: closeup of a mouse in a tiny house.

Gameplay

Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a stairwell and a series of locked boxes.

Analysis

+ In Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms locked all props magically. Given the magical premise of the gamespace, the absence of combination locks worked really well.

+ Some of the scenery, set pieces, and props were beautiful and captivating.

– Some of the clue structure was really worn, almost to point of incomprehensibility. Other cluing had been fixed shoddily, defacing an otherwise beautiful set piece.

+ The magic wands were phenomenal. They were beautiful, tangible props. We had to puzzle out how to work them. Their interactions charged us up.

In-game: a view of the exterior of a home adjacent to a windmill.

+/- Maze Rooms built puzzles into magical concepts. We found one such concept brilliant after we had solved it, but at the time we attempted it, the clues were weak.

– Some of Magic Kingdom’s puzzles needed additional feedback. We couldn’t always tell what we were triggering or whether something had been solved. This was especially pronounced because the world was magical so anything could trigger… well, anything.

In-game: a strange device in a stone walled room.

+/- Maze Rooms added a surprising moment of physical activity (optional for all but one player) and justified it in the gamespace. It was a fun concept. In order to make sure it would be safe, however, the gamemaster had to intervene with instructions. If Maze Rooms could build in-game cluing that facilitates a safe interaction, it would be a clean sweep.

+ The hint system was adorable and fun.

+ Maze Rooms created a lot of magic through a clever scenery-changing mechanic. It facilitated puzzles and enhanced solves.

+ The final combination of set piece and props delivered a fantastic, magical conclusion for the entire group.

Tips for Visiting

  • Maze Rooms is in a small strip mall with a parking lot.
  • At least one person must be comfortable with physical activity.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

PanIQ Room – The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash [Review]

Pour me a shot of puzzles.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: September 17, 2018

Team size: 2-7 ; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $22 per ticket to $24 per ticket depending on team size and day of the week

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash set us as wily criminals of the Wild West in a standard search-and-puzzle escape room. While the puzzle flow occasionally stalled, it offered satisfying moments that combined searching with interactive puzzle solves.

If you’re looking for a traditional, beginner-friendly escape room with a solid set in Manhattan, try your hand at this jailbreak-heist.

In-game: wanted posters viewed through a keyhole.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun premise and theme
  • Surprising discoveries

Story

A large sum of cash sat in the saloon awaiting the winner of a high stakes poker game. Instead of trying our hands at cards, however, we were taking a backdoor approach: we’d gotten ourselves arrested. Now we were locked in a cell in the sheriff’s office, next door to the saloon. We needed to break out and get to the cash before the sheriff returned or the poker game began.

In-game: jail cell bars.

Setting

We were locked in a small, barred, and dimly lit cell in the corner of the sheriff’s office. His office had a few pieces of furniture and a wall of wanted posters.

In-game: a wall of wanted posters.

Gameplay

PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the sheriff's office with a desk, his jacket, and a gun rack with two rifles on it.

Analysis

+ The staging of The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash as a jailbreak heist was an amusing premise that, odd as it seemed, justified the gameplay.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was well themed from floor to ceiling. Although the opening set was sparsely decorated, the second act included more detailing. The set design was solid… not amazing, but strong.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash had a few substantial red herrings including one that we suspect will pull in most players and one that will likely only distract experienced escape room players.

? One early puzzle created a bottleneck that could last quite some time and quickly become quite frustrating, especially for a larger team. We didn’t struggle with it at all. In fact, it was David’s favorite part… but that’s probably because he nailed it on his first try.

– One interaction made it all too easy to accidentally inhale particles… I can tell you first hand that this was uncomfortable. Depending upon the player’s lungs, this could be a hazard. This entire interaction should be reworked; it wouldn’t be a big challenge.

Particle Spoiler

The particles were sawdust.

Sawdust is a carcinogen in large doses, which isn’t the concern for this puzzle.

My concern is for people who are allergic to it or suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses. The amount that I inhaled gave me discomfort for a few days.

[collapse]

+ PanIQ Room lit up their mid- and late-game opens. This touch added excitement to small reveals and made the clues easier to read.

– We encountered some wear on various set pieces and props.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash included multiple rewarding mechanical search puzzles. We enjoyed these moments.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash lacked a finale. Because the final sequence didn’t engage or excite the entire group, it didn’t build energy towards a reveal or memorable moment.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is street parking in this neighborhood.
  • If you’re coming by subway, take the B/D to Grand St, the F to Delancey, or the J/Z to Bowery.
  • We recommend Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a quick meal or Lena for wine and tapas.

Book your hour with PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PanIQ Room comped our tickets for this game.

60 Out – Cartel: DEA Undercover [Review]

I am the danger.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from starting at $40 per ticket for 2 players, to starting at $26.66 per ticket for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Cartel: DEA Undercover was at its best when it asked us to MacGyver our way through unfortunate circumstances, using situational clues. Although it sometimes felt hokey, 60 Out built tension through immersive design and delivered an exciting adventure.

If you play escape rooms for the adventure and you enjoy circumstantial puzzling, visit Cartel: DEA Undercover. Know that the scenario has some adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture.

In-game: a white van that protrudes from a steel wall.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Breaking Bad fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sense of adventure
  • Badass moments

Story

We were undercover agents who had built a partnership with the Juarez Cartel. The Cartel took a liking to the product that we were supplying them, and wanted to meet. Things went… poorly.

Our backup was too far away to help us. We had to escape.

In-game: A blood-soaked sheet beside a steel wall with blood and a water spigot.

Setting

Our first impression of Cartel: DEA Undercover was a van that was protruding through a wall in 60 Out’s lobby.

We found ourselves in a large and visually impactful outpost of the Cartel. This was one of those games where the reveals really mattered, so spoiling them would do a disservice to the player.

What you need to know is that it looked great… and in case you can’t tell based on the photos that we took, the subject matter of this game won’t be for everyone.

In-game: coke on a balance.

Gameplay

60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, reaction time, and “hacking” our way through the problems we encountered. Most of the challenges were presented as real-life problems in need of a fix, rather than puzzles in need of a solution.

In-game: a steel door with a series of valves.

Analysis

Cartel: DEA Undercover surprised us early.

+ The adventure-style gameplay required us to make connections as we would in a real-life danger scenario. In these instances, gameplay was at its best.

– The more standard escape room puzzle gameplay was weaker. In one instance we experienced misleading cluing.

– One finicky piece of tech wasted a lot of our time even though we understood the goals of the interaction.

+ One late-game interaction built tension and upped the immersion of the experience as it added a feeling of desperation.

– Cartel: DEA Undercover needed a longer late-game audio track. Each time we heard it loop, it diminished the intensity built by the other interactions in the space. The mood flipped from tense to hokey… and the more we thought about what we were hearing, the worse the stereotype caricature sounded.

Cartel: DEA Undercover concluded with us as the heroes in a remarkably cinematic shot.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a small parking lot.
  • Cartel: DEA Undercover involved adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture. If you can handle a modern cable TV crime drama, then you’ll be fine with this game.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

QUEST ROOM – Red Giant [Review]

It’s a ruby, not a distant star.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 23, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $119 for teams of 2 to $219 for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Red Giant was an exciting puzzle-driven adventure through a detailed Egyptian tomb set. It’s an escape room with a majestic look, filled with exciting reveals and wow moments. QUEST ROOM could transform this into a world-class escape room by refining their tech to make sure each moment hits with the power that it deserves. This was an entertaining puzzle adventure.

If you’re in Los Angeles, we strongly recommend a visit to Red Giant.

In-game: a large torch-lit stature of Anubis with glowing green eyes.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting interactions
  • Fun puzzles

Story

We’d always wanted to find The Red Giant, a valuable ruby hidden deep within an ancient tomb. We believed our team of archaeologists could succeed where previous teams had failed, never to return from the depths of the tomb. With limited oxygen, we had only 60 minutes to retrieve this gem.

In-game: the torch-lit walls of an Egyptian tomb with carvings and hieroglyphics.

Setting

A dim tunnel leading to the tomb’s entrance gave way to a majestic Pharaoh’s burial chamber with high ceilings and Egyptian wall art.

In-game: a small sphinx.

Gameplay

QUEST ROOM’s Red Giant was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a wall of sandstone hieroglyphics tiles.

Analysis

+ The Egyptian tomb set looked great. The high ceilings gave it a majestic feel. It was an exciting space to explore.

+ The opening interaction started Red Giant with a bang.

+ We enjoyed the puzzles in the later sections of Red Giant. QUEST ROOM integrated these well with the set pieces in the tomb. They were tangible, interesting solves.

– One substantial early puzzle felt like filler.

– The tech-driven interactions needed additional in-game feedback. Without this feedback, our gamemaster was continually coming through the walky-talky to tell us we had released something. It would have been far cooler if this was self-evident.

+/- Red Giant had an unorthodox late-game interaction. This was a fun concept and could have been a truly wow moment. However, this was not clued forcefully enough. With more clear in-game cluing… and maybe some infrastructure to facilitate the moment, this interaction would be more powerful and exciting.

+ Our gamemaster’s introduction set the tone for an exciting, high-stakes exploration. This, combined with the exploration gear, upped our energy level before we even entered the gamespace.

Red Giant was at its best during its impressive tech-driven events. There were some incredible moments in this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • QUEST ROOM has two locations. Red Giant is at the 5517 Santa Monica Blvd location.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player needs to be pretty tall.

Book your hour with QUEST ROOM’s Red Giant, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: QUEST ROOM provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Nut House Escape Rooms – Cabin in the Woods [Review]

Rafting bro really screwed up.

Location: Rochester, NY

Date Played: September 1, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Cabin in the Woods was a basic search-and-puzzle escape room with a spooky (not scary) vibe. Although the clue structure needed work, and the ending was abrupt, there were some fun solves in this room. The inclusion of some effects elevated the experience and delivered the most fun moments.

If you’re in Rochester and looking for an escape room fix, stop in. Nut House Escape Rooms is a new company that cares about their product.

In-game: boarded up windows in a cabin.

Who is this for?

  • The supernatural-curious
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Surprising moments
  • Spooky effects

Story

Seeking shelter after a whitewater rafting incident left us drenched and cold, we stumbled upon a cabin in the woods. We entered the abandoned shelter… and then the door slammed shut, trapping us inside with whomever or whatever inhabited the place.

In-game: A view from the entry door into the cabin.

Setting

Cabin in the Woods took place in a small one-room cabin with wood overtones and a fireplace in the corner. It had standard furniture essentials including a bed, table, kitchen cabinets, and bookshelf. It was rustic and woodsy.

In-game: a small kitchen in the cabin.

Gameplay

Nut House Escape Rooms’ Cabin in the Woods was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a fireplace and a large comfortable chain in the cabin.

Analysis

+ The exterior of the game was deliberately designed to look like a cabin.

The exterior of Cabin in the Woods. Looks like a log cabin.

Cabin in the Woods was just a bit spooky. It wasn’t so scary as to be horror. It was creepy, yet approachable, which gave it broad appeal.

– Cabin in the Woods lacked clue structure. Much of the challenge came from logic leaps in the puzzle design.

– The cluing for different puzzles overlapped in a strange way that led us to disregard some much-needed cluing as part of another, already-solved puzzle. This led us astray for a good portion of our time.

+ We especially enjoyed when one prop spelled out our unfortunate situation.

– Cabin in the Woods relied on multiple locks with the identical digit structure, all available to us at once. Since puzzles weren’t mapped to locks, we had to try any derived solution everywhere, which became irritating.

+ Nut House Escape Rooms designed some fun effects to deliver on the supernatural story arc. Our team reacted to these and we all enjoyed these moments.

– Cabin in the Woods opened with a lot of unnecessary backstory. Once we entered the escape room, this entire awkward sequence was entirely irrelevant… but we could never be sure it wouldn’t come into play.

– Cabin in the Woods ended abruptly. It was missing a final puzzle to tie everything together and conclude our story.

+ When our attentive gamemaster swooped in with additional clarity, he did so in character, with a creepy flourish. This was unnecessary, but so good.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Nut House Escape Rooms’ Cabin in the Woods, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Nut House Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Crux Club – Oddfellow’s Secret [Review]

A set that money can’t buy.

Location: Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Date Played: September 16, 2018

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

Duration: about 2.5 hours

Price: $65 per team of 2, $78 per team of 3

Ticketing: Private

Distance: about 1.5 miles walking

REA Reaction

Oddfellow’s Secret toured us through Greenwich village on a mission to search, solve, and save the world. Although we never felt connected to the grand narrative of world destruction, we enjoyed the gameplay that combined scavenger hunt with puzzle solving.

If you’re looking for an outside puzzle activity in a beautiful Manhattan neighborhood, choose a nice day to explore Oddfellow’s Secret.

In-game: Lisa and our teammate Kellian getting started on Crux Club. An assortment of locked boxes lay on a table between them.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scavenger hunters
  • Players who enjoy walking
  • Folks who want to enjoy New York City’s Greenwich Village
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To stroll through Greenwich Village with an objective
  • The combination of scavenger hunt and puzzle play

Story

When the grandmaster of our secret society was taken hostage, it was up to us to open the 5 boxes he’d left behind. His fate, and the fate of New York City, were in our hands.

In-game: Oddfellow's Secret backpack.

Setting

Oddfellow’s Secret was set on the streets on Greenwich Village, one of Manhattan’s most picturesque neighborhoods.

We carried a collection of small locked boxes and assorted supplies in a backpack provided by Crux Club.

Over the course of Oddfellow’s Secret we walked about 1.5 miles, winding our way through this iconic Manhattan neighborhood.

In-game: 5 locked boxes.

Gameplay

Crux Club’s Oddfellow’s Secret was a scavenger hunt with puzzles. It had a lower level of difficulty.

Similar to escape rooms, it worked puzzles into settings, tangible props, and paper props.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, searching, puzzling, following directions, and navigating the streets of Greenwich Village. (This is one of New York’s more confusing neighborhoods.)

Analysis

+ As we played Oddfellow’s Secret, we observed Greenwich Village. We enjoying looking closely at architectural details as we wound through the neighborhood. Crux Club brought us to interesting landmarks including one of my favorite Manhattan oddities.

– Although we enjoyed strolling through Greenwich Village on a beautiful summer day, the neighborhood felt underused. Greenwich Village landmarks have so many stories to tell, but instead Oddfellow’s Secret told a different, grandiose tale of world domination. The gameplay didn’t reflect the intensity of the story, and we felt dissonance leisurely puzzling and strolling through a mission that was supposed to have life and death stakes.

+ The puzzles worked well. We enjoyed how the scavenger hunt components fed into more layered puzzles with a solution extraction.

– One segment asked us to repeat an identical mechanic at many different locations. Since there was no opportunity to build mastery, this devolved into a long process puzzle. Given that it wasn’t necessary to visit all of these places to solve the extraction at the end of this sequence, whittling this portion down to only the most interesting locales would improve it.

Oddfellow’s Secret was entirely self-contained. We carried our own puzzle materials, supplied by Crux Club. (We needed only our own phone.) The materials added a few more tangible solves without becoming burdensome as we walked.

+ There was a structured, self-service hint system available via mobile phone.

+ Crux Club provided a few business cards to hand out to anyone who stopped us on the street to enquire about what we were doing. We were happy to advertise for them as this simple mechanic kept us from having to seriously explain ourselves to strangers.

Tips for Playing

  • Crux Club operates a seasonal and weather-dependent business. They aren’t always operating and bad weather could result in your game being canceled.
  • You need a charged smartphone with a web browser and data capabilities. An extra battery might not be the worst thing to carry.

  • You will carry a backpack containing puzzle components, provided by Crux Club.

  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Carry your own water, umbrellas, sunscreen, etc.

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. You will walk about 1.5 miles.
  • We recommend il laboratorio del gelato or Amorino for gelato at the end of your adventure.
  • At the completion of your mission, Crux Club hands out a card that recommends a number of other neighborhood eating/drinking establishments.

Book your slot with Crux Club’s Oddfellow’s Secret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Crux Club comped our tickets for this game.

Reason – Reactor Escape [Review]

Mini Mini Maker Faire

Location: San Francisco, CA

Date Played: August 21, 2018

Team size: 10-16; we recommend less than 10*

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $500 per team

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Reason tag-lined Reactor Room “test drive the future.” It was a fitting bit of marketing as the experience felt like a tech demo for a variety of gadgets. Some of these made for interesting gameplay moments. Many of them felt like an opportunity to see some expensive tech in action.

At $500 per private group, the staggeringly expensive Reactor Room was targeted towards corporate groups. With its large capacity and focus on gadgetry, I think it could make for an interesting outing on a corporate credit card. If you’re a regular escape room-playing civilian, you’ll likely want to pass on this game. Reason did something different, but the gameplay and puzzles fell short of what we’d expect at such an exclusive price point.

In-game: a pair of monitors mounted to a wall.

Who is this for?

  • Corporate groups
  • Technology aficionados
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The gadgets

Story

We had been in the control room of our spaceship when the reactor was sabotaged. Now we were trapped there. We needed to puzzle through the tech-laden control room to shut the thing down.

In-game: a doorway between two rooms.

Setting

Reactor Escape was a dramatically lit environment with an assortment of gadgets, buttons, switches, screens, and the like lining the walls of the gamespace.

It had a space-travel science-fiction vibe. Many of the props and set pieces felt like they belonged; others felt anachronistic or otherwise out of place.

In-game: A wall with buttons.

Gameplay

Reason’s Reactor Escape was an atypical escape room with a heavy reliance on techie gadgets and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections, puzzling, and operating gadgets.

Analysis

? Reason tag-lined Reactor Escape “test drive the future.” The escape room incorporated VR, drones, a 3D printer, a hologram, and a terminal, among other devices. This escape room felt like a collection of guided tech demos. It was atypical for an escape room. Whether this is good, bad, or neutral will be in the eyes of the player.

Reactor Escape was puzzle-dense. There was a lot to accomplish, spread throughout the gamespace. The puzzle types and difficulties varied enormously.

– Labeling was inconsistent. While we appreciated additional connective tissue to keep puzzle paths straight and streamline gameflow, it wasn’t evenly incorporated. It appeared slapped on as an afterthought rather than integrated into the set and props.

– It was rarely clear when a puzzle had been solved.

+ The most cerebral puzzle had some incredibly clever aha moments that we loved.

Reactor Escape incorporated elements we’d never before seen in an escape room. Some of these lent themselves to puzzling and enhanced the experience.

– The more interesting the tech, the less interesting the puzzle. In one instance, the puzzle consisted of pushing a button to start a machine. In another, the puzzle consisted of viewing a piece of information. These weren’t particularly inspired ways to incorporate these devices into a puzzle game.

– One gadget required hands-on teaching. Our gamemaster appeared in the room to walk one player through how to operate the device. The puzzle for it had clearly been scaled back due to the challenge of the gadget and was hardly a puzzle at all anymore. While nifty, this gadget didn’t make sense in a timed puzzle game. It wasn’t satisfying for the player, who felt dragged through using it. Using this thing detracted from playing the game.

+ We enjoyed Reason’s spin on how to open a padlock.

– The tech was finicky. We had one nifty component fail to accept correct solutions for a good while.

+ The puzzle paths came together in a satisfying endgame.

– This was the most expensive escape room that we’ve ever visited. At $500 per team, most normal non-corporate groups will be priced out of even entertaining the notion of visiting Reason.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is street parking.
  • We recommend a short walk to SOMA StrEat Food Park.
  • You must be able to walk upstairs to get to the escape room.

Book your hour with Reason’s Reactor Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

The Crux Escape Rooms – The Clinic [Review]

The puzzle clinic.

Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario

Date Played: September 2, 2018

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

Duration: 50 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

With The Clinic, The Crux Escape Rooms has delivered another amusing, puzzle-focused escape room. The Clinic put their own spin on “medical lab” and it was a light-hearted take that invigorated the theme.

The Crux Escape Rooms built The Clinic on a low budget, but it didn’t show. They stayed true to their aesthetic vision, hiding the puzzles, refining the flow, and writing in little winks and nods to their other games (and escape rooms in general). Although the conclusion could have been more dramatic, The Clinic was an impressively entertaining puzzle-centric escape room.

If you only have time for one escape room at The Crux Escape Rooms, we have a deep love of Dead Air. That said, if you’re in the area, we highly recommend making time to play their full complement of games, especially the Clinic. It’s fantastic.

The "Herring Clinic" logo, it's a red pill with an "H" on it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Escape room players*

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • Amusing tidbits

Story

We had volunteered as test subjects at The Clinic. We needed to solve our way out of this experiment.

In-game: The door for the Herring Clinc's office of Katrina Herring.

Setting

This medical waiting room had a large receptionist’s desk on one side and a semicircle of waiting room chairs on the other. There were plants, wall hangings, and pharmaceutical advertisements.

It was a convincing clinical environment. As the game progressed, we experienced other equally convincing medical environments.

In-game: the clinic's waiting room. It looks like a convincing medical waiting room.

Gameplay

The Crux Escape Rooms’ The Clinic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

*While the gameplay would be approachable and entertaining for players of any experience level, players with experience in escape rooms will appreciate additional nuance in The Clinic.

In-game: A poster that reads, "4 out of 5 doctors recommend you exercise your brain daily."

Analysis

+ Behind The Clinic’s bland facade, it was incredibly amusing. When we looked closely, we found lots of puns and jokes. The background music also set a playful tone. These details enlivened an otherwise easily stale theme.

+ The Crux Escape Rooms locked a lot of drawers in this escape room with standard combination locks. They did this, however, without defacing their aesthetic with an abundance of locks. It was a small detail that added a lot to the look and feel of the space.

+ The opening act flowed really well. The puzzles worked so well with the gamespace.

– The momentum waned in the second act. With different puzzle paths crossing in a small space, the flow wasn’t as clean.

– The conclusion needed more drama.

+ We had to earn our solves in The Clinic. The puzzles were generally challenging, layered, and interesting.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • The Crux Escape Rooms is also a board game cafe.

Book your hour with The Crux Escape Rooms’ The Clinic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Crux Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escapades LA – It’s a Doggy Dog World [Review]

Who’s a good room? Who’s a good room?

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

It’s a Doggy Dog World was a playful, whimsical, entertaining escape room that didn’t take itself too seriously. At its best, the set design zeroed in on a dog’s perspective and the puzzles asked us to think like dogs. While the build quality varied and sometimes lacked polish, Escapades LA created an adorably entertaining world that was a joy to dig around in.

If you’re in Los Angeles and looking for a game to play with your family… or you still have an inner child, consider this a strong recommendation for It’s a Doggy Dog World. 

In-game: an oversized doghouse.

Who is this for?

  • All ages
  • Dogs at heart
  • Active adventurers
  • Playful puzzlers
  • Scenery sniffers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t take themselves too seriously

Why play?

  • The amazing playful concept
  • Wonderful dog-inspired moments
  • A brilliant ending

Story

The mailman, our arch nemesis, had stolen our favorite ball. With our humans away, nothing could stop us from retrieving it.

In-game: a dog's view of a wood fence.

Setting

We were dogs escaping our home and yard. Everything was staged from a dog’s perspective, putting emphasis on the kinds of things a dog would fixate on.

The set itself had a homemade feel. Some parts looked unfinished; others looked dead-on.

Gameplay

Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World was a standard escape room with an playful premise and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Escapades LA nailed whimsey in It’s a Doggy Dog World. The game was welcoming and playful. It was easy to get in character and know our role in the world.

It’s a Doggy Dog World was at its best when we were taking dog-like actions for dog reasons.

+ The scale and perspective of the set was smart.

– Some of the game shifted focus away from pure dog play. These moments were fine, but didn’t feel as inspired as when It’s a Doggy Dog World was laser-focused on what it was and who we were in the game.

+/- The set was uneven. Parts of it looked great. Parts looked unfinished. If felt like there were opportunities that weren’t fully realized.

– Some of Escapades LA’s tech was exposed and needed housing.

+ The ending was brilliant.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escapades LA has no relation to Escapade Games in Anaheim (the makers of the horror game, Zoe). These companies really couldn’t be more different if they tried.
  • There is street parking.
  • For food we recommend Republic of Pie.

Book your hour with Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapades LA comped our tickets for this game.