Paradox Project – The Bookstore [Review]

Stacks

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 3, 2020

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4

Duration: 200 minutes

Price: from €30 per player for teams of 4 to €27 per player for teams of 7

Ticketing: Private

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

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

From the actual storefront, through the finale 3.5 hours later, The Bookstore was massive and mighty.

In-game: The exterior of the bookshop, from the street. It appears as a real bookshop.

Each individual scene within The Bookstore could have been an entire 60-minute escape game at the vast majority of escape room companies that we’ve visited around the world. I’m not kidding; I could easily imagine this game being sold as 5 or 6 different games. Moreover, each scene change shifted the play style, which prevented the length from becoming monotonous.

Paradox Project’s opus was truly incredible, but it wasn’t perfect. Not all of the scenes or puzzles were created equally. There were a few puzzles that were begging for iteration. While the finale had some fantastic moments, it also had some shockingly dated and sketchy elements that throttled the momentum.

Overall, The Bookstore was a standout game in a wonderful escape room scene. If you go to Athens and you don’t play it, you did Athens wrong.

Who is this for?

  • Escape room lovers
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Walking into a bookshop off of the street especially cool
  • It was epic
  • The set was beautiful
  • There were many satisfying and diverse puzzles

Story

With the consequences of our experiences in The Mansion behind us, we had attempted to go on with our lives… until we received a mysterious invitation to a bookshop. Someone seemed to know of our Bitter Truth.

In-game: Walls filled with books and African art.
Continue reading “Paradox Project – The Bookstore [Review]”

Paradox Project – The Mansion [Review]

Crazy Uncle

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 2, 2020

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 4

Duration: 180 minutes

Price: from €25 per player for teams of 3 to €19 per player for teams of 7

Ticketing: Private

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

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Mansion was designed in 2014. At 3 hours in length, it played like the most epic escape room imaginable at that time. If you asked us to dream up the ultimate escape room back then, it would have looked a whole lot like Paradox Project’s The Mansion.

The Mansion was a massive, classic escape room. It was search-heavy and filled with puzzle content. The set was overwhelmingly realistic, especially given its age.

In-game: the bar in the mansion, illuminated by stained glass.

If we had played The Mansion when it was new, it would have completely redefined how we thought about escape rooms in quite a few ways… but context is profound and we played it in 2020.

Escape rooms have evolved a lot since The Mansion opened. Playing it with today’s perspective, the first half dragged and squandered a few opportunities for magical moments. It picked up in the latter portion. The entire game also suffered from wear… the result of 6 years of players loving this game.

As it stands, The Mansion is among the strongest games of its era; few 5+ year-old games pulled off as much in scale, detailing, and ambition. If you’re in Athens, Paradox Project’s The Bookstore is an absolute must-play. The Mansion was a lovely narrative addition, but not essential. If we were to do it all again, we’d still play The Mansion, but we’d go in with less hype.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • If you’ve ever wanted to play an “escape house,” this is it
  • It honestly looked like a home
  • Tons of puzzle content

Story

Our long-lost uncle had emerged after years of us wondering whether he was even alive. He had invited us to his mansion to tell us of his travels through Africa and reveal “the Bitter Truth.”

In-game: The livingroom of an old mansion.
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Field Report: Greek Escape Rooms

Every strong escape room market has its own flavor, norms, and style. This is especially true of the top tier games in a given region.

Of all of the cities that we’ve visited, Athens, Greece, had the most pronounced style that we’ve ever seen. Of the 10 games that we played, every one exhibited a collection of traits that were unique to the Greek escape room scene.

There were 6 different traits that were on display in many, if not most, of the escape rooms that we played in Athens:

  • Length
  • Scale
  • Storytelling
  • Mode Setting
  • Safety
  • Water

Length

Greek games are long.

The shortest games we played in Athens were 90 minutes. In most other places, 90 minutes would be quite a lengthy game.

The longest game that we played was upwards of 3 hours. And yes, there was a snack and drink break in the middle of that escape room.

In the past, we’ve played games with long clocks that weren’t necessary or that we won with 30+ minutes remaining. That didn’t happen in Greece. These were long, active games.

Pie chart of escape room lengths in minutes. less than have were 60 minutes or less. A quarter was 80-90 minutes. And a noticiple portion exceeded 100 minutes.
Chart via Paradox Project

By Paradox Project’s estimation more than half of the games in Athens have clocks that run longer than 60 minutes, and more than a quarter of them have clocks that run upwards of 90 minutes. It’s worth noting that when we visited, all of the top-rated escape games in the region had 90+ minute game clocks.

The biggest shock to me throughout this trip was that I almost never felt like the games were dragging or carrying on too long. Sure, there were moments that could have been edited out or down… but they were few and far between.

Continue reading “Field Report: Greek Escape Rooms”

Deadlocked Escape Rooms – The Time Machine [Review]

There’s no such thing as too much Energen

Location:  Reading, United Kingdom

Date Played: March 7, 2020

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

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: £25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Great Scott! This game was fun.

Structurally, Deadlocked did something utterly genius with Time Machine. While it was functionally a 90-minute escape room, narratively it was a 60-second escape room. Because time travel. It’s the kind of idea that’s so good that I know tons of creators will read this and wish that they had come up with it.

In-game: A spaceship's interior, through the window a sun burns bright.

From a gameplay standpoint, Time Machine was delightful. Experienced teams won’t need anywhere close to 90 minutes to complete this game, but the lengthy clock was a lovely affordance for newer teams.

The set was a mixed bag. It looked really good for a homemade set, but it looked noticeably homegrown. The power of Deadlocked was in what they did with their sets to create magic, surprise, and drama… which they did regularly from the moment we entered the door.

If you’re in London, we highly recommend hopping a train to Reading for a game or two. Deadlocked’s Time Machine was a fantastic game crammed with love and ingenuity.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The intro
  • The core conceit of the game
  • Smart and smooth scene transitions
  • The primary gameplay loop was super clever

Story

The crew of the Wexell Corporation’s Time Machine had vanished during its maiden voyage. To make matters worse, they had also created rifts throughout the timeline, profoundly altering history.

Along with our trusty robot sidekick Wexie, we had to traverse the timestream and right the wrongs of the previous crew.

In-game: Wexi overseeing the timeship.

Setting

The Time Machine had a crafty and innovative set. The magic of this game was in its transitions and scene changes.

Upon closer inspection, the seams and reclaimed materials didn’t look sharp. It had a decidedly homegrown look about it that still worked, even when there were ample opportunities for more refined construction.

In-game: Closeup of a homemade looking spaceship made from tubing and reminant hardware.

Gameplay

Deadlocked Escape Rooms’ The Time Machine was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Energen tubes, the "Next Generation of Energy."

Analysis

➕ At Deadlocked Escape Rooms, we were greeted in character. The introduction to The Time Machine was high energy and hilarious. The acting was phenomenal.

➕ The Time Machine was a 60-second escape room, but we had 90 minutes to solve it. Brilliant concept. We loved this little twist on the escape room format, which was explained clearly and humorously. The gameplay supported the concept. Although we encountered some looping game mechanics, they never grew old or tiresome. The setup added pressure, which upped our energy.

➕/➖ The set did a number of incredibly cool things. However, while we appreciated that Deadlocked Escape Rooms built The Time Machine with reclaimed materials, the set construction was sloppy. The seams showed.

➕ Overall, we enjoyed the puzzles and the gameplay.

➖ The puzzle flow of the final act felt a bit choppy relative to the smoothness of the rest of the game.

➕ Deadlocked Escape Rooms minded the details of the scenario they’d dreamed up, which built cohesion in the game world. These were small details that made us smile.

The Time Machine used a small physical footprint well. As the game progressed, Deadlocked Escape Rooms build in new intrigue with personal touches and fun reveals. One late-game reveal was game-changing.

➕ Our robot helper Wexie was adorable and entertaining. She joked with us, establishing her own character. Her hints were a lovely part of the experience.

Tips For Visiting

  • The Time Machine is at Deadlocked Escape Rooms’ Reading location.
  • One teammate needs to be able to crawl.

Book your session with Deadlocked Escape Rooms’ The Time Machine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Book The Time Machine

Disclosure: Deadlocked Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.