Brainstorm Escape Games – Area 51 [Review]

We come in pieces.

Location: Norcross, GA

Date Played: March 23, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Area 51 was a standard escape room. The set wasn’t particularly interesting, but one interaction notwithstanding, the gameplay worked pretty well. Newbies might be in for a surprise.

If you’re a local looking to try out escape rooms, this would be a good place to start.

In-game: a cabinet marked with red danger tape and labeled, "Area 51 Restricted Area."

Who is this for?

  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for beginners

Why play?

  • A few fun interactions

Story

The government needed more human body parts to create a human-alien hybrid species. We, however, preferred keeping our parts attached to our bodies.

In-game: A close up of the old Westinghouse logo.

Setting

Brainstorm Escape Games created an office-lab hybrid set. It was mostly office with a touch of lab.

Part of the game was supposed to be in low light. We played the whole thing in low light because mistakes were made. (We still set the record.)

Gameplay

Brainstorm Escape Games’ Area 51 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.

Analysis

Area 51 included a few nifty prop-based interactions. These were fun solves.

– However, many of these didn’t make a ton of sense in either an office or a lab.

– There were also numerous specific “do not touch” signs, especially in one area of the set. It seemed like a great opportunity to simply build something that could be interacted with… or that we couldn’t reach and harm.

– Once prop lacked consistency. Neither the clue structure nor the construction attempted to mitigate this issue. It was incredibly frustrating to use and unpleasant to work through.

+ One we got our bearings, we enjoyed a more challenging layered puzzle.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: There is parking out front.

Book your hour with Brainstorm Escape Games’ Area 51, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Brainstorm Escape Games provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Project Escape – Nautilus [Review]

Keep talking and nobody implodes.

Location: Marietta, GA

Date Played: March 24, 2018

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

Nautilus looked great and played well. It was challenging, and the challenges were interesting. One communication design flaw notwithstanding, it was a ton of fun.

If you’re anywhere nearby, it’s worth a drive to visit to Nautilus.

In-game: A hard helmet diving suit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Jules Verne fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • A great set
  • Surprises
  • Cohesion

Story

A sea monster had attacked our submarine. As the vessel began to come apart, we’d been separated from half of our crew. We needed to make repairs to reunite and regain control of The Nautilus or become sea creature food.

In-game: big metal binary switches.

Setting

We began split between two different rooms: the parlor and the engine room. Each room had an eye-catching hardhat diver suit on display.

The parlor looked like a Victorian living room with book shelves, an easy chair, and soft brown hues. It was relaxing. The engine room had a knobs-and-buttons aesthetic. Everything was very Jules Verne.

In-game: A porthole in the side of the ship.

Gameplay

Project Escape’s Nautilus was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty and a split beginning. Teams were separated into two different rooms at the start of the escape room.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling with a heavy emphasis on communication.

Analysis

+ The opening sets of Nautilus looked as intriguing as they were different. Presided over by hardhat diver suits, the sets felt appropriately submarine-esque and Jules Verne-ian.

+ The gamespace was a part of the experience. The large and intricate space was fun to explore and manipulate. It continued to surprise us as we progressed through the escape room.

– The opening communication puzzle was needlessly frustrating. It was unclear whether a dedicated communication channel was absent or broken, but we had to shout to each other through a wall. With our teammates in the background in each room, solving other puzzles, the communication challenge was primarily in hearing the other person. This opening sequence was challenging for the wrong reasons, and therefore tedious.

? The communication theme persisted throughout this escape room. There was a lot to observe and connect. Our team of 8 experienced players suffered from too many engaged eyes, ears, and hands at once. However, I expect small teams would easily overlook important details. Your enjoyment of this puzzle style will likely vary significantly based on your team composition.

+ Many of the puzzles were tactile, environmental-driven solves. We had to search, observe, and make connections, as well as solve more complex, layered puzzles. The puzzles varied in degree of challenge and type of challenge. The gameplay flowed well. When we won, we felt like we had earned it.

+ This was a cohesive and well-realized design.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: There is parking out front.
  • Note that if you book multiple games at Project Escape, you might have to drive/walk around the building complex between games because they aren’t all located at the same entrance.
  • Food: We enjoyed the Marietta Diner.
  • Accessibility: At least one teammate needs to be able to crawl and maneuver in a small space.

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

Disclosure: Project Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Escape the Netherworld – Nosferatu [Review]

Dracula’s antique lock collection.

Location: Stone Mountain, GA

Date Played: March 23, 2018

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4 or 6 or maybe 8 (an even number)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

Nosferatu put an interesting twist on escape rooms by adding individual roles and goals. The set was visually impactful from the opening moments and maintained the intensity through dynamic interactions. The late-game sequence brought the level of excitement we’d expect from an escape room created by a haunted house.

If you find yourself anywhere near Stone Mountain, GA, go visit this crypt.

Nosferatu team post-game photo.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Creatures of the night
  • Amateur locksmiths
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful sets (and lock collection!)
  • Exciting moments
  • In-character gamemastering
  • Individual goals

Story

In Victorian London, a mysterious man named Van Helsing had hired each of us for a mysterious mission. We had arrived at his designated address, each with our own secret agenda. We learned that if we were to survive, we had to band together and determine how to slay the legendary vampire Nosferatu before he rose and feasted on us.

In-game: An Egyptian sarcophagus in a Victorian setting.
Image via Escape The Netherworld.

Setting

Nosferatu’s unique set looked almost church-like with an unusual mixture of Gothic and ancient Egyptian influences. It looked fantastic.

Gameplay

Escape the Netherworld’s Nosferatu was a standard escape room with a few twists and a higher level of difficulty.

The main twist: we each had an individual goal. While we all won or lost the escape room together, individual players could complete bonus assignments along the way. Some of these assignments put players into passive conflict with one another. This is why we recommend that you play with an even number of teammates.

The second twist: we had to make a choice.

Analysis

+ The set design was top-notch.

+ There were some brilliant effects that added a lot of drama to the immersion. This was especially true of the closing series of interactions.

+ The individual bonus assignments forced us to strategize and solve outside of the regular gameflow. This kept everyone engaged.

– One of the individual assignments was ambiguous.

+ There were a lot of carefully selected locks in Nosferatu. Some were antique; some simply looked the part. All of them fit the aesthetic of the gamespace.

– If you don’t know your way around locks, the volume of them would get annoying.

+ There was a lot to do in this room escape.

– Because there were so many interactions, only one or two people experienced many of the really cool moments.

– There was also a whole lot of reading.

+ The choice was clear. We were able to anticipate the impact of our decision on the outcome of the game.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: There is parking out front.
  • Food: We enjoyed the nearby Metro Cafe Diner.

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

Disclosure: Escape the Netherworld comped our tickets for this game.

Odyssey Escape Game – Towering Inferno [Review]

Fire drill.

Location: Alpharetta, GA

Date Played: March 25, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Towering Inferno was dramatic. It had stakes. Despite some tedious early puzzles, it built excitement.

If you’re in the area and looking for adventure, go put out this fire.

In-game: The Theron Tower office. It looks very corporate.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The unique staging
  • Setting off the fire alarm
  • Escalation

Story

It was the grand opening of Theron Tower, a new skyscraper. As Chief Engineer, we’d detected electrical hazards throughout the tower, but the Chairman of the Board had refused to push back the opening. With the event in full swing, and fires starting throughout the tower, from our top floor office we needed to enable fire suppression, shutdown electrical junctions, and escape to the roof for a helicopter rescue.

In-game: The tower's rooftop.

Setting

We occupied an office on the top floor of Theron Tower. It had white walls, bright lights, and computer stations in cubicles. Our office had various diagrams of the facility as well.

The set nailed the big corporate office aesthetic far better than most of the office escape rooms we’ve played. As the game pushed forward, we found ourselves working through more unusual sets.

In-game: A cubical with a computer desk.

Gameplay

Odyssey Escape Game’s Towering Inferno was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Despite the office decor, we were energized by the unique theme. We’ve played as Firefighters, but never as engineers fighting fires from our computers, working towards a roof-top helicopter rescue.

+ The escape room gave backstory to the impending disaster. It created our character, as well as the others at Theron Tower, with context and motives. The story made sense and our role in it was clear.

+ Our gamemaster clearly stated that we would have to push the fire alarm as part of the game. I can’t overstate how important this pre-game preparation was.

In-game: A fire alarm push button locked behind a clear plastic casing.

– The firefighting puzzles were computer-based, tedious, uninteresting, and inaccessible to most teammates.

– The computer station puzzles were imbalanced. One could be completed much more quickly than the other. Because of this, the flow was disrupted. We spent a lot of time waiting on our teammates.

– The computers presented repetitive-task puzzles. Once we’d determined how to solve them, we had to play along as the computer continued to present versions of the scenario so that we could repeat the same solve logic. Unlike computer games, however, these didn’t reward mastery with a harder version, nor did they offer a “speed up” button as we set each version to solved. 1 person continued to plod away with this, with 1 other giving input, and the rest of the team looking on. These mini-games dragged.

+ Odyssey Escape Game had built a neat graphic to show our progress through the suppression of the fire.

– While we liked the idea for this escape room, the fire extinguishing scenarios didn’t make any sense in light of human and machine capabilities and fire safety. Narratively, it didn’t hold water.

+ The culminating scene was dramatic and exciting. We enjoyed the set juxtaposition: bright and dark, ordinary and unusual. Towering Inferno escalated well.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Odyssey Escape Game’s Towering Inferno, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Odyssey Escape Game provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Plan GA – Bank Heist [Review]

Puzzle withdrawal.

Location: Loganville, GA

Date Played: March 23, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per adult ticket, $22 per military/police/fire/teacher tickets, $20 per child ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Bank Heist was a challenging search-and-puzzle escape room. Play this one for the puzzles. It was uneven in set design and game flow. Not recommended for newbies.

If you’re nearby and want a challenge, go take it on.

In-game: A lectern that reads, "Next Teller Please."

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players who want a challenge
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some neat moments, especially in the last act
  • A stiff challenge

Story

We were robbing a bank to initiate ourselves into the mob, as one does.

In-game: A bank safe beside a paperwork table.

Setting

The gamespace was fairly tight and crammed a number of different bank-esque set pieces into the room.

Our robbery began in the office-like space in front of the bank vault door. The carpeted room consisted mainly of a large desk, lectern, some wall hangings, and of course, the entrance to the bank vault.

The set design was inconsistent with a few gems, particularly in the late-game, and a lot of stuff that just felt more or less recognizable as belonging in a bank.

In-game: A telephone and calculator on a desk.

Gameplay

Escape Plan GA’s Bank Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

Bank Heist was a difficult search-and-puzzle game, with satisfying finds and solves. It was a challenge, even for our experienced team. We comfortably escaped, but we had to work at it.

– This was a heavily adapted N.E.R.D. escape room. At times, it felt like the clue structure had been edited incompletely, with remnants of previous puzzles remaining in the props. In one case this really tipped the scales a bit too far towards confusion.

– Escape Plan GA didn’t “ask why” quite enough. One of the bigger moments in Bank Heist involved doing one of the few things that I know I would never do if I were attempting a bank robbery… And I don’t know a lot about robbing banks.

+ Escape Plan GA did a fantastic job of selecting some of their locks and staging a number of the later interactions.

– Some of our teammates missed the most visually impactful moments because the most cinematic part of the experience was too closed off for the entire team to view it.

? This was a difficult game (arguably the hardest we encountered in Atlanta). We enjoyed the challenge, your mileage may vary.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: There is parking out front.
  • Escape Plan GA has a comfortable lounge area.

Book your hour with Escape Plan GA’s Bank Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Plan GA provided media discounted tickets for this game.