Missing Pieces – Cuckoo’s Clock [Review]

High gear ratio

Location:  Edina, MN

Date Played: May 30, 2022

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Cuckoo’s Clock was a puzzle-forward take on a clocktower theme.

With light narrative framing and a ton of content available to work on in parallel, this style of gameplay would be well suited for medium-to-large teams of newer players.

That said, I played Cuckoo’s Clock solo. I had to work for it and took a few hints, but I made it out in time. More experienced players may also enjoy the extra challenge that comes with a smaller team, as this game’s difficulty comes more from the quantity of puzzles than difficulty of individual puzzles.

A steampunk time machine with lots of large gears.

Most of the puzzles in Cuckoo’s Clock were enjoyable. They involved manipulating physical pieces and had a handmade charm. In the mix, though, a handful of puzzles reflected questionable design choices — red herrings, logic leaps, bits of outside knowledge — that made me lose some level of trust in the game design early on. These puzzles weren’t broken, but they reflected an older style of escape room puzzle design that felt somewhat arbitrary, especially to well-traveled players.

If you are in the Minneapolis area, especially newer players looking for a challenge, give Cuckoo’s Clock a try.

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The Maze – Cube [Review]

“Not all of us are conceited enough to play hero.”

Location: Petah Tikva, Israel

Date Played: May 15, 2022

Team Size: 3-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 NIS per player for 3 players to 100 NIS per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Climbing and crawling on uneven surfaces for all players, not recommended for players with claustrophobia

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I first watched the film Cube a few years ago after seeing it on a list of puzzle- and escape room-related media. It was a before-its-time predecessor to a more contemporary formula for escape room movies: a group of strangers shows up at a mysterious facility and must solve puzzles to save their lives. I’m not generally the biggest fan of this format and the type of publicity it creates for the escape room industry, but I’ll readily admit that I enjoyed Cube‘s surrealist environment and some of its characters.

The Maze paid tribute to this film franchise in their aptly named escape room Cube. Set in a dystopian facility of interconnected cube-shaped rooms, this was one of the more unique escape room sets I’ve experienced. Like in the films, each chamber was an eerily sterile environment that subtly concealed its secrets and its traps.

Cube excelled in its physical transitions, from start to finish. We quickly became disoriented as we climbed and crawled through various lighting conditions. There was a crescendo of impending doom as we progressed, though the game overall wasn’t really horror and there were no jump scares.

Elaborately designed, abstract walls of the cube, lit in green.

With fully linear gameplay, Cube was ideal for a small team. At 2 players, our team had plenty to do. But in a visually sparse environment that revealed its secrets one at a time, more than 3 players would likely leave some players inactive.

Each room at The Maze was a unique standout in the Israeli escape room scene, and Cube was no exception. I highly recommend giving them a visit.

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Bust Out Escape Room – Curse of the Mayan Temple [Review]

Adventure by torchlight

Location:  Albuquerque, NM

Date Played: June 3, 2022

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Curse of the Mayan Temple shouldn’t be a particularly challenging game. It had less content than Bust Out Escape Room’s other experiences. The puzzles were varied in style and well-clued.

That said, two unusual game design decisions make this a rather variable escape room. Either one can sink a team of even experienced players (we’ve seen it happen), causing them to spiral into the depth of frustration.

Our advice for Bust Out: add gating for one early solution so that a team cannot progress to the next unusual section without completing it.

Our advice for players: If the game feels inordinately frustrating, it probably doesn’t need to be. Search harder.

A large human skull surrounded by plants.

We enjoyed Curse of the Mayan Temple because it looked great, played well, and took risks. Although Rattlesnake Bend and Jumanji are our favorite games from this company, if you have time to add on another adventure, we recommend Curse of the Mayan Temple.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Indiana Jones fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who communicate well

Why play?

  • The unexpected mid-game introduction of a new mechanic
  • Momentum-building final sequence

Story

Legend told that the temple had been cursed… but we were determined to uncover the truth of whatever lay within.

A glowing torch hung from the wall.
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The Maze – Action! [Review]

I’ll be back.

Location:  Petah Tikva, Israel

Date Played: May 15, 2022

Team Size: 3-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 NIS per player for 3 players to 100 NIS per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Crouching for all players

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Action! opened with a hilariously off-kilter answer to a simple question: what’s the biggest mistake humanity has ever made?

Responding through Hollywood-tinted lenses, The Maze concocted an exciting adventure in a whimsical style that felt akin to what might emerge from an escape room jam, yet executed with stellar production value and puzzle panache. The plot will especially appeal to fans of certain popular 1980s films.

Action! was appropriately action-packed. As we were whisked from film to film, each segment of the game had its own distinct style of gameplay and aesthetic. The puzzles were dynamic and thematic, playing to a range of player strengths. The transitions between segments were especially delightful.

An ancient temple with stone card walls.

To note, Action! is not the only Hollywood-themed escape room in Israel. Hype Esc’s Hollywood 117 also presents a Hollywood montage, yet the two rooms have completely different approaches, puzzles, and featured films. If you have the time, I highly recommend visiting both.

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Hype Esc – Hollywood 117 [Review]

Howdy, chaverim!

Location:  Tel Aviv, Israel

Date Played: May 10, 2022

Team Size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 140 NIS per player for 3 players to 110 NIS per player to 7+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Flashing lights, climbing, abrupt motions

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Hollywood 117 beautifully captured the wonder and nostalgia I associate with many of the classic films that defined my childhood — films like Mary Poppins, E.T., Harry Potter, and so many others. Thinking back to the first times I watched these movies, I remember the sensation of the world expanding. Anything seemed possible, and there was magic around every corner.

Now as an adult, I often turn to escape rooms to reconnect with that feeling.

Hype Esc excels at creating special moments, and they packed a staggering density of utterly delightful interactions into Hollywood 117. The gameplay started off in a classic escape room style, took a turn towards the more puzzly, and ultimately landed in a playground of fun-for-fun’s-sake. On one hand, this felt like a sampler platter of contrasting gameplay styles. On the other hand, every component was incredibly fun and the diversity of interactions only added to the sense of adventure.

Hollywood 117 was full of outside references. Most were especially common pop culture knowledge, yet we didn’t need to get all the references to have fun or successfully solve puzzles. (There were a couple of movies along the way that I’d never even heard of… and I had fun watching them after the game!) Most importantly, the game had its own narrative that was cohesive and fully self-contained.

A large stone entryway labeled, "The Mummy Set"

There were a few elements — puzzles, subtle Easter eggs, over-the-top reveals — in Hollywood 117 that seemed a bit self-indulgent on the designers’ part… and I’m so glad they included them. The game would have functioned perfectly well without these elements, yet their inclusion so strongly reflected the designers’ love and dedication in creating this experience. They were willing to go that extra mile.

This game embodied many of the top traits characterizing Israeli escape rooms — delightful interactions, solid puzzling, and engaging lighthearted stories. If you are visiting Israel, Hollywood 117 should absolutely be on your escape room itinerary.

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