Price: 69€ per team of 2 players, 89€ per team of 3 players, +10€ for every additional player
Story & setting
We were burglarizing an old home filled with ancient artifacts in search of a particular priceless object.
The set of Biggs The Legacy was gorgeous. It looked and felt like an old, lived-in, and ultimately rundown estate. There was an immense amount of detail, but it rarely became confusing.
Where the set of Biggs The Legacy was brilliant, Exit struggled to work puzzles into the space. The puzzles were largely task-based. They felt forced, incomplete, or both.
The gamespace for Biggs The Legacy was intriguing. It was detailed, ornate, and oddly beautiful. It was an enjoyable space.
It was also well player-proofed. Anything that was purely for aesthetics wasn’t going anywhere by accident.
The set offered quite a few fantastic and unexpected surprises.
We enjoyed one particular puzzle that turned what seemed like set dressing into something much more important.
Biggs The Legacy lacked puzzle flow. It didn’t have the necessary clue structure to move the gameplay forward from one puzzle to the next. It continually felt like it was dragging.
The one layered puzzle was entirely too opaque and its solution input mechanism was clunky.
The interactions didn’t give enough feedback. We’d complete puzzles or trigger events and have no idea that we’d opened up new information… or if we had actually solved the puzzle.
By the end of the game, we were so confused by the puzzles and the lack of feedback from the set that we struggled to tell active puzzles from solved puzzles from set dressing.
I’m not sure what the story was, but I do know that there was an attempt to tell one. This was not a language issue.
Should I play Exit’s Biggs The Legacy?
While we fought and struggled through to our escape from Biggs The Legacy, we enjoyed exploring the space the entire time.
Biggs The Legacy had all the components of a great escape room, but lacked connective tissue. It had a set, puzzles, and interactions that fed off each other. It just needed the clue structure and the feedback to create flow.
This was a weird game to play and review because I desperately want to love it. Biggs The Legacy had so much going for it… but it needs to nail gameflow and feedback. The good news is that this escape room is fixable. There is greatness here; it just needs a little more work.
If you’re looking for an aesthetically beautiful escape room experience, you won’t find many more attractive than Biggs TheLegacy. In its current state, however, its gameplay does not achieve its full potential. I truly hope that Exit puts some iteration work into this room escape; it could be world-class.
[At the time of this review, One Night in Hong Kong was called Kowloon Walled City.]
This one won’t be for everyone. You’ve been warned.
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date played: September 2, 2017
Team size: 2-12 (there are two copies of the room); we recommend 3
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 20€ per ticket for 12 players
Story & setting
As members of the dominant Triad family in Kowloon Walled City, a rival family had emerged and was chipping away at our control of the extortion, prostitution, and human trafficking rackets. We had to destroy our competition and reaffirm our control over the region (no actual destruction necessary).
Kowloon Walled City was magnificently staged as a dark and seedy city. There were alleyways, drug dens, and houses of ill repute. The level of detail was phenomenal. The only thing missing was people to populate this imaginary city.
Kowloon Walled City was almost entirely task- and mission- based. There was one segment mid-game where things became puzzle-focused, but it was short lived. Kowloon Walled City generally kept us focused on advancing through the plot.
Kowloon Walled City took place in an interesting, detailed, and varied set. House of Tales manipulated space to make the set feel more expansive than it was.
We enjoyed the theme of this adventure. From the set aesthetic to the puzzles, it stayed on point.
Kowloon Walled City employed an interactive hint system that added depth to the experience. Through the hints, we came to understand the story better. Receiving hints was fun.
Kowloon Walled City was not a puzzle-focused escape room. The puzzles were pretty standard escape room types that in some cases broke the fiction more than contributed to it. At times the technology behind the puzzle interactions was not well hidden, which contributed to this feeling of puzzling for the sake of it being an escape room.
The ending lacked drama. Kowloon Walled City ended abruptly and predictably. We would have liked more excitement to close.
The name “Kowloon Walled City” didn’t indicate “mafia infiltration containing adult content.” When I researched the name post-game, I learned that Kowloon Walled City was a largely ungoverned section of Hong Kong where the mafia ruled until it was demolished in 1993/4. The name did make sense, if you knew what it was… which we did not. The name of the game could have done a better job of conveying what to expect from the experience. We enjoyed the dark, adult-themed game, but I suspect that someone with more delicate sensibilities could mistake it for something it’s not.
Should I play House of Tales’ Kowloon Walled City?
Kowloon Walled City prioritized adventure and shock over puzzling. This particular style of escape room design was heavily reminiscent of the Russian escape rooms that we’ve seen imported to the United States.
Kowloon Walled City was not a particularly difficult game, but it pushed a few boundaries beyond anything that Lisa and I have seen in the United States. Kowloon Walled City featured graphic depictions of drugs and sex. We found it all funny, but if you think that this might offend your sensibilities, you should skip this room escape.
If a sex-, drugs-, and crime-filled adventure that’s a bit light on puzzles sounds like a good time, then you should absolutely go play it. Check your ego at the door and take hints. So much of Kowloon Walled City’s story was conveyed through their hint system. I’d also recommend that a player who is willing and eager to play with the gamemaster choose to interact with the hint system. You’ll get more out of this escape room if you play it this way.
Professor Moriarty has returned and Sherlock Holmes has gone missing. By order of Scotland Yard, we were granted permission to break into 221B Baker Street and learn the fate of the world’s most famous detective.
Our mystery was staged within a large, grim, wood-furnished apartment-esque space. It looked pretty good, but felt entirely too empty. This barren set, however, excelled at building tension.
In Sherlock Holmes, Escape Berlin wanted us to deduce our way through the room escape. I didn’t realize this until after the fact, but the puzzles were all almost complete, threads dangling and waiting for connection. In its own weird way, Sherlock Holmes felt like a detective game.
All of the puzzles within Sherlock Holmes were effectively deduction games. That felt appropriate.
Sherlock Holmes traversed a large, minimalistic, and foreboding gamespace. Through a combination of lighting, sounds, and space, Escape Berlin created an uneasiness that added tension to every interaction.
Sherlock Holmes included some strange and unexpected puzzles. These were a lot of fun.
You can’t really go wrong with a good Portal reference.
The large gamespace wasn’t particularly intriguing in and of itself. Sure, a lot of players could fit into the space, but it wasn’t well used.
Sherlock Holmes was a linear escape room in a massive space. At times it was challenging to determine where to direct our attention. When we slowed, we ground to a halt.
Should I play Escape Berlin’s Sherlock Holmes?
Sherlock Holmes was an escape room of deduction puzzling. This stylistic choice worked well for the theme and the space.
We haven’t seen too many escape rooms build tension the way Sherlock Holmes did. It was just the two of us in this largely empty space and I was on edge the entire time, in a good way.
While Sherlock Holmes created a particular atmosphere, the set itself was not particularly interesting to traverse or explore.
If you like detective puzzling, and you’re okay with a bit of intensity, I recommend Sherlock Holmes. It would be fun for puzzle-focused players of any experience level.
The roar in the roaring twenties was the sound of the Beast of Berlin.
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date played: September 4, 2017
Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 22€ per ticket for 6 players
Story & setting
The notorious serial killer known only as “the Beast of Berlin” had claimed another life. His most recent victim was found boldly placed within the office of Chief Inspector Ernst Gennat, the man hunting for him. Gennat assembled a special commission to track down this killer and bring him to justice.
Beast of Berlin set us off on our adventure within the latest crime scene, Chief Inspector Gennat’s beautiful office. It looked and felt like a real and functional place.
From a puzzling standpoint, Beast of Berlin played similarly to The Room’s other early game, Go West… but with moderate horror tossed in for intensity.
Beast of Berlin was a puzzler’s room escape. Some of the puzzles carried narrative weight; others were simply good puzzles.
Beast of Berlin began in a compelling and strangely beautiful detective’s office from a bygone era. It was a comfortable but intriguing space to explore.
The Room’s commitment to set detailing showed in every area of the experience. They fully decorated spaces that we barely spent any time puzzling through. This attention to detail elevated the ambiance and intensity of the surrounding experience. In spite of the level of detail, Beast of Berlin was not plagued by red herrings.
We enjoyed most of the puzzles that we encountered in Beast of Berlin.
There were a few puzzles that seemed a bit too opaque or worn down.
This detective’s office included a few gorgeous props that were just… props. We would have liked to see them worked into the puzzles.
We spent the majority of Beast of Berlin moving through the escape room without any urgency. The early gameplay was emotionally level, at times even monotonous, and didn’t foreshadow – or push us towards – the excitement that was to come. Then, after the tension escalated, the ending felt small. It didn’t return adequately on the built tension.
Should I play The Room’s Beast of Berlin?
Beast of Berlin started comfortable and relatively standard, but it became far more interesting than it originally appeared.
Note that Beast of Berlin turned dark, both physically and metaphorically. If that’s not your thing, choose one of The Room’s other escape rooms.
Otherwise, regardless of your experience level, there was an intriguing set along with satisfying puzzling to enjoy in Beast of Berlin. It will be challenging, but approachable and exciting.
Following our visit, The Room closed Beast of Berlin for refurbishing. We expect that some of the heavily worn or less integrated puzzling has now been reworked for future players.
Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 22€ per ticket for 5 players
Story & setting
Abducted and restrained within an ancient dungeon by an evil cult, we had an hour to escape before the executioner arrived and carried out his gruesome ritual.
The majority of the puzzling in The Executioner was in how to interact with the dungeon set and props. By finding and connecting the appropriate objects, we’d eventually open up our escape route.
The set of The Executioner was dramatic and exciting; there was a lot more to the world of The Executioner than was immediately apparent.
We loved one particular sequence of puzzles. It was thematically relevant, but still unexpected. House of Tales used technology well to create satisfying interactions.
House of Tales created a character, played by the gamemaster, who delivered both hints and tidbits of story throughout the experience. Our gamemaster excelled at intermingling atmosphere with helpful nudges. She could moved us forward and keep us on our toes.
The ending was phenomenal.
Early in The Executioner, the gameplay bottlenecked. We ended up waiting for one player to uncover and complete an action. There was nothing for the other players to do except wait.
While many of the puzzles were worked into the set, some of them were more escape room standards that didn’t make sense in the space.
We couldn’t always tell how forceful we needed to be with the game components. At times our gamemaster needed to push us forward because we were hesitant to take an action that might harm the set or props.
Should I play House of Tales’ The Executioner?
The Executioner had one of the most exciting and enjoyable puzzle sequences I’ve ever seen. With a bit of tech, House of Tales used props and puzzles to create narrative and adventure. Not all of the interaction-based puzzling was on this level, and not all of it made sense in this dungeon escape, but overall, it was a lot of fun.
The Executioner leant on adventure and atmosphere over puzzles. To facilitate this, the gamemaster was a character in our narrative. To get the most out of the experience, we needed to accept the hinting as part of the game design. Without hints, we’d have missed an important component of The Executioner.
Note that you need to be relatively nimble to traverse the entire gamespace of The Executioner. Additionally, parts of the gamespace are dark and the entire experience is a bit creepy, but not really scary.
If none of that turns you away, and you’re looking for an adventure through an exciting space, visit The Executioner.
Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 24€ per ticket for 5 players
Story & setting
Go West was set in a 1980s Soviet-controlled East Berlin apartment beside the Berlin Wall. Our application to emigrate to the “Golden West” had been rejected and the Stasi was after us. We had received a tip from a secret source about a way out, but we had to hurry or suffer.
As an American and student of Cold War history, it was immediately clear that Go West captured the look of a 1980s home in Soviet territory. The color scheme, furniture, and props were almost entirely authentic. I have to imagine that any former East Berliners stepping into this set would experience a strange journey back to when their entire city was held prisoner.
Go West was primarily a puzzle game. That said, The Room created puzzles from period-specific props or used puzzles to carry the narrative and message of the escape room.
As Americans, we frequently see different types of 1980s escape rooms built around pop culture references. Go West was not our 1980s, but it was a detailed, accurate, and poignant representation of the time period. The gamespace felt lived in, but not distracting.
Go West made a conscious and deliberate political statement through interaction design. The Room used in-game transitions as the primary vehicle for conveying their opinion.
We were particularly fond of one of the mid-game layered, collaborative puzzles in Go West.
Much of the puzzling in Go West was from an older era of escape room design. It involved significant searching. Many puzzles were for puzzles’ sake rather than narrative-driven.
Go West was emotionally level for much of the experience. The gameplay didn’t instill urgency until deep into the experience.
Should I play The Room’s Go West?
Yes, you should play Go West. This was The Room’s first game and it was a beautiful and interesting experience.
It was one of the few games that I’ve encountered that communicated a political and historical message.
While Go West has been open for a few years now, it has been meticulously maintained. I have to imagine that it was far better than the norm when it first opened. It still played remarkably well, even if some of the gameplay suggested its age.
You will have to crawl to complete Go West. If that isn’t an issue, you should absolutely experience this room escape regardless of your level of experience with escape rooms.
Book your hour with The Room’s Go West, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Price: 79€ per team Mon-Thurs, 99€ per team Fri-Sun, 20€ discount for 2-player teams
Story & setting
Arrested and locked up by the Stasi, the East German secret police, we had to follow the clues left behind by other dissidents and escape prison.
Final Escape’s Prison Break set was mighty compelling. It was a detailed, bleak jail experience with hidden complexity. We’ve often joked about all prison sets looking the same, but some really do stand out, and this was one of them.
Early on, much of the challenge was in determining how to make progress within the minimalist confines of prison. The later potion of Prison Break included more complex and involved puzzling.
Prison Break offered more than initially met the eye. The spatial design and progression built drama into this escape room.
Final Escape designed the puzzles to feel like hacking. We had to make use of our limited resources to break ourselves out.
From the puzzles, to the resource management, to the exit itself, we enjoyed how the final act of Prison Break felt plausible.
The final puzzle sequence was fantastic.
Prison Break was a linear escape room. With only one puzzle to work on at a time, when it slowed, it came to a halt.
Final Escape didn’t build a lot of clue structure into these puzzles. Prison Break wouldn’t have stalled as much if there was just a bit more path between the various interactions.
Should I play Final Escape’s Prison Break?
Prison Break followed a narrative arc. We had to cobble together an escape with only the limited materials in our prison cells. As we moved through the escape room, the set changed, but still required us to work within the confines of a plausible space to craft a breakout. In this way, Prison Break felt more like an adventure than many escape rooms.
On the flip side, the puzzles were in making the connections. In general, they weren’t particularly complex or cerebral. I would have loved it if Final Escape had built more clue structure into this escape room and added another puzzle or two to fill the time.
Prison Break is an escape room for those seeking action and adventure over intense puzzling. Note that you have to crouch and crawl to move about this escape room. If that kind of sneaking around and hacking your way through seems exciting, I fully recommend Prison Break.
Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 24€ per ticket for 5 players
Story & setting
A construction crew repairing a Humboldt University building had found a mysterious vault that was not in the blueprints. The government had tapped our archeology team to uncover the secrets contained within its depths.
Our Indiana Jones meets Warehouse 13 meets The Goonies adventure ensued after we navigated our way through a narrow maze and entering a mysterious ancient chamber.
The Lost Treasure’s set was world-class. It was detailed and gorgeous with hidden nooks and interactions laced throughout the gamespace.
The Lost Treasure was a fantastic puzzle game. We had plenty to solve and the challenges were real, but fair. Additionally, the puzzles were born of the environment and the adventure.
Most puzzles required or encouraged at least 2 players’ cooperation to resolve.
The Room didn’t beat us over the head with exposition and story. They did, however, enable us to feel our own narrative arc as we worked through the experience.
As mentioned above, the set design was world-class. It was hyper-detailed, but it never felt confusing or burdened with red herrings.
The puzzles were challenging, fair, and well executed.
The interactions, reveals, and general use of technology were phenomenal.
The sound design was among the best that we’ve heard… not that there are all that many companies even striving to include top tier audio.
With a small exception below, the lighting was dramatic and useful.
The use of space, select use of darkness, set transitions, and the overall layout of The Lost Treasure were brilliant.
The historical, mythological, and pop cultural Easter eggs in The Lost Treasure were entertaining and fit well in the game.
The entire final act of The Lost Treasure was fantastic. You are going to want to win this game because the sequence of events at the end blew us away.
There was one interaction that triggered its feedback a little too early. As a result, I didn’t fully complete the interaction which made for a minor complication that Lisa was petite enough to sneak past. If the feedback came upon the absolute completion of the interaction, this would eliminate the issue entirely.
Our flashlight was a little funky and difficult to control in The Lost Treasure. It’s difficult to discuss without minor spoilers, most of which you learn in the game’s briefing:
Minor flashlight spoiler
We had a sort of haunted flashlight that would disable in certain areas of the game and stay dead for a little while. The effect was cool, but when we wanted a flashlight, it almost never worked, and we never truly needed one anyway. We simply abandoned it.
The Room’s The Lost Treasure cannot be enjoyed by all players. The game has many tight spaces and you physically have to pass through a narrow passageway to even enter the game. Their booking website is up-front about this stating:
“All players must
pass through narrow passages
be fit and healthy
not have a fear of darkness
not suffer from claustrophobia and asthma”
The sizing issue is real and the narrow passageway at the beginning ensures that people who will get stuck in the game cannot even begin it. There are a lot of great things that happen in The Lost Treasure as a direct result of these design decisions, but it’s also a shame that there are some escape room players who simply will never be able to play it.
Should I play The Room’s The Lost Treasure?
If you can fit into The Lost Treasure and aren’t claustrophobic, then without a doubt, you should go play this escape room.
You’ll need at least one or two players who can crawl and are not afraid of the dark to make it through this adventure.
The Lost Treasure was one of the most hyped games that we’ve played to date; it resoundingly beat our expectations.
Lisa and I played this on our own and we methodically tag-teamed nearly every puzzle, taking our time and milking it for all it was worth. When we won in the final minutes, we didn’t want to leave.
I can comfortably declare that to date, I have never had this much fun in an escape room… and this was my 405th escape game.
If you’re near Berlin, please go play The Lost Treasure.
Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-6 (but if you go over 3, choose an even number)
Duration: 44 minutes
Price: from 69€ per team of two on weekdays or 79€ on evenings and weekends to 129€ per group of 3 vs 3 on weekdays or 139€ on evenings and weekends (detailed breakdown)
Story & setting
We strapped a computer to our backs, put on an HTC Vive and entered the year 3007. We were among the last human survivors living on a space station above an Earth that was devoid of life. Our crew had received a message from the barren planet below: “My name is HUXLEY and I need your help!”
Huxley’s virtual Earth was a magnificently rendered WALL-E-esque wasteland where we met a WALL-E-esque robot who was a bit angrier than Pixar’s cute creation. No detail was overlooked… and I looked.
Huxley was a 2- or 3-player game. It was also setup so that a pair of teams could race. We each wore an HTC Vive and a computer mounted to an XMG Walker harness that hung comfortably like a backpack. We each played in an isolated 4 x 6 meter space with dedicated motion tracking.
Huxley was a fantastic puzzle game. It had unusual puzzles that took advantage of the virtual world and allowed us to do, see, and solve things that are impossible in meat space.
Additionally, these puzzles required teamwork.
It really worked. The motion tracking was perfect. Lisa did not get even slightly motion-sick. Every other time she has ever put on a VR visor, she has become queazy within minutes. She spent 45 minutes in this world without the slightest issue.
The puzzles were smart. There was one puzzle in particular that I desperately want to spoil because I want to talk about it. I won’t spoil it… but I want to. It involved something that is physically not possible in real life.
Huxley was a truly collaborative escape room. Whereas our past VR escape room experiences were either solo games or didn’t include satisfying group interaction, Huxley required teamwork and made it feel natural.
We each selected a cute avatar. These were initially a little off-putting, but successfully eliminated the issues that usually arise in VR from having false, non-representative, and non-reactive bodies.
The gamespace was gorgeous. This wasn’t some homebrew virtual world made of purchased and slightly tweaked renderings. Huxley was professionally designed.
Huxley used the substantial physical space in the virtual one. The world was big and open and the mechanism for traversing it was brilliant.
Because we wore all of the gear – including the computer – on our persons, there weren’t wires in the way.
There was a little too much exposition from Huxley’s title character. He spoke a lot, but observing the game’s world was simply more interesting… so we tuned him out.
One late-game puzzle revolved around a task that felt strange in a virtual world where nothing had weight. We eventually got the hang of it, but it seemed like there could be a better interaction that would downplay some of the idiosyncrasies of VR.
There are a few things about the current generation of VR technology that were simply out of Exit VR’s control, but affected Huxley nonetheless:
The weight of the Vive put some strain on the neck over a 45-minute play session.
While the laptops on our backs were surprisingly comfortable, we started noticing them more as the game progressed.
We needed a battery swap mid-game (Update – per comments, this does not happen in every game).
While the battery swap was handled swiftly and efficiently, I think it could have been possible to work this into the game itself such that it didn’t feel like we’d paused.
Should I play Exit VR’s Huxley?
Absolutely. If you can play Huxley, you should go play it.
We’ve played a number of VR experiences over the past few years and they have been a mixed bag. Until I entered the world of Huxley, I never believed that I would truly want to play VR… not in the current generation anyway.
Huxley was a virtual escape room done right: it limited the impact of the weaknesses of VR, while creating gameplay that wouldn’t be possible in the physical world. It was a great escape game.
Huxley is available for licensing. I know nothing about their pricing, but I would love to see this game proliferate. That said, please do not license it unless you have the space and will to do it right. Don’t cut corners. This game is too much fun for a hobbled experience.
Go play Huxley and join Lisa and me among the other converts who now believe in the power of VR.
Book your hour with Exit VR’s Huxley, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.