Great Scott Mystery Rooms at The Storyteller’s Cottage – The Dame Disappears [Review]

Where in the world is Agatha Christie?

Location:  Simsbury, Connecticut

Date Played: January 20, 2020

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dame Disappears was a lovely, beginner-friendly escape game in The Storyteller’s Cottage, a Victorian mansion turned escape room/ writers’ workshop/ event space.

Located in a charming small town, we absolutely adored The Storyteller’s Cottage, its programs, and its goals. We wish there was something like this near us.

As an escape room, The Dame Disappears was a strong game for newer players. It was elegant, engaging, and told a story.

In-game: closeup of a nightstand with a book, a lamp, a tea pot and a tea cup.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid, beginner-friendly puzzling
  • The Storyteller’s Cottage is a wonderful place to visit
  • The Victorian charm of the set and setting

Story

Agatha Christie had gone missing and Scotland Yard had sent us to her home to inspect her belongings. Could we solve the case of the missing mystery novelist?

In-game: Wide view of a bed room with large dressers and a makeup vanity.

Setting

We entered a gorgeous historical home that has been repurposed as an escape room/ writers’ workshop/ whatever other crazy and fun ideas the owners and patrons dream up. It was a wonderful place.

The individual escape rooms were set in rooms within this house. In the case of The Dame Disappears, the room was Agatha Christie’s bedroom. The space was simple, yet lovingly built with clear and consistent art direction.

The use of technology was limited, yet imaginative.

In-game: an open trunk with a dress hanging inside beside a fireplace.

Gameplay

Great Scott Mystery Rooms’ The Dame Disappears was a standard escape room with an easy level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Wide view of an old bedroom centered on the bed.

Analysis

➕ Great Scott Mystery Rooms was built into the beautiful Victorian mansion that is The Storyteller’s Cottage. The Dame Disappears took place on the second floor, in a bedroom that hearkened back to the era of the house with its bold wallpaper and antique furniture. The adorable set felt at home in The Storyteller’s Cottage.

➕ The puzzles were well clued. Although the gameplay was search-heavy, we never found ourselves ransacking a bedroom blindly. While at times there was a higher volume of text, we never found ourselves pulling random words or numbers from documents.

➖ Much of the clue structure was on laminated sheets of paper. We’d love to see Great Scott Mystery Rooms pull more of the clue structure into the set and props and find less anachronistic methods of delivering written materials.

➖ The puzzle gating included a number of locked boxes. Locked trunks belonged in The Dame Disappears. Other locked items felt out of place. There was an opportunity to vary the puzzle gating and build it into more set pieces and props, rather than place it atop these items.

➕ We enjoyed stepping upon a nifty reveal.

➕ The hint system was part of the game world. It was helpful and responsive.

➖ The final puzzles lacked excitement. Although they involved fun mechanisms, they were single player solves, and located in a corner such that they wouldn’t really be available for onlooker participation. For a group of more than 2 people, we expect that much of the team would disengage right as they reached the finale.

➕ The narrative had a fun twist for the final act. This added intrigue.

➕ The escape rooms at Great Scott Mystery Rooms are inspired by literature. They incorporated Easter eggs for the Agatha Christie fans.

Tips For Visiting

  • Great Scott Mystery Rooms is located within The Storyteller’s Cottage, an adorable vintage Victorian home that hosts literary events, literary societies, writers’ workshops and retreats, storytelling events, author salons, literary-themed mystery rooms, and much more.
  • You can park on the street directly in front of the house, or anywhere on Hopmeadow Street (on-street parking is free). Additional free parking is available behind the Fiddler’s Green building (where Joe Pizza is located).
  • The Dame Disappears is on the second floor of the house, up a flight of stairs. There is another escape room on the first floor of the house, which is wheelchair accessible.

Book your hour with Great Scott Mystery Rooms’ The Dame Disappears, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Great Scott Mystery Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Wigwam Escape [Review]

A different kind of puzzle hunt.

Location:  Washington, Connecticut

Date Played: January 20, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player ($20 per student); ticket price includes half off museum admission ticket

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Wigwam Escape was a hidden gem.

In-game: A beautiful authentic wigwam in the middle of the escape room.

Located within a Native American history museum in the wilds of Connecticut, this was probably the most remote game that we’ve ever played. (Put your directions into your GPS in advance; there’s no cell service near the venue.)

There are a lot of things to love at Wigwam Escape. Most notably, the game’s creators put an emphasis on learning through play. Everything in this game had a purpose and intent behind it… and that intent was not always “to have fun” (although we had plenty of it). There were some tedious moments in this game, but they served a larger purpose.

Additionally, there were many novel interactions in Wigwam Escape. We get excited when a game has one thing that we’ve never seen done before. Wigwam Escape had so many creative interactions.

It was not a perfect game. We wished for more variety in puzzle types, and for more audio/ visual feedback from some of the game’s more unusual interactions to coax us along. That said, overall, we smile just thinking about this experience.

If you’re in the region, do yourself a favor and drive back to 1518. Escape rooms were totally different back then.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • History buffs
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Wigwam Escape was unique
  • The experience was driven by history and narrative
  • Tangible challenges that reflected the narrative
  • A beautiful setting

Story

It was 1518 in the woodlands of Connecticut. Our Native American tribe had received a request for medical assistance from the fishing village of Metachiwon. We had to hunt, gather, and prepare for the 7-mile journey.

In-game: A view through the entry way of a wigwam. There is a fire burning inside of it.

Setting

Wigwam Escape had a beautiful, authentic set. The centerpiece was the wigwam. The rest of the gamespace represented different areas of its surroundings: village, garden, stream, etc.

The walls were murals that were painstakingly detailed.

Our favorite set detail was the “game clock” as a day/ night cycle. We had a single day in which to get ready for our journey. We woke up before sunrise and went about our preparations.

In-game: A guarden with corn, sunflowers, and other veggies growing.

Gameplay

Wigwam Escape was an unusual, educational escape room.

In order to solve the puzzles, we needed to think about how people lived off the land that is now Connecticut back in 1518.

Approached with situational thinking, it had a moderate level of difficulty. It can’t be approached as a classic puzzle game.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, thinking practically, and solving puzzles.

In-game: A stream running through the woods.

Analysis

➕ At Wigwam Escape we learned about how people lived in 1518 through play. It was fun with educational material peppered in.

➕ The situation puzzling was well defined. We had to complete 3 clear objectives in order to help the fishing village. These were contextualized for us. We were already learning. It was up to us to use our surroundings to accomplish the set objectives. This was fair, attainable, interesting, and exciting.

In-game: closeup of corn growing with beside a sunflower.

➕ The set was great, with the centerpiece being an actual wigwam. The walls were beautiful, detailed murals. The set pieces looked fantastic. As the light changed, we appreciated it even more.

➖ Some triggers were difficult to notice. There was opportunity for Wigwam Escape to add sound effects that triggered with our actions – in addition to the ambient soundtrack – to make the space come alive that much more.

➕/❓ With the sun as our gameclock, we could feel the passing of time in a genuine way. It added a layer of complexity to the gameplay too, since certain solves would be easier at different times of day. That said, it’s not an exact timekeeping system. While the imprecise system made sense, we can see how this would frustrate some players.

In-game: A view of the sunrise beyond a corn garden.

➕ There weren’t overt anachronisms such as padlocks or written language. It was a search-heavy game, which made sense given that we were a hunter-gatherer society.

➖ We had to complete two instances of what was essentially the same puzzle. If nobody on your team is good at this type of puzzle – and it’s the type of thing that comes more naturally to some – it could sink your game entirely. Take hints if you need them.

In one instance, this puzzle type felt like a logical puzzle-interpretation of the task at hand. It could also be solved in a way that allowed for teamwork.

In the second instance, however, we couldn’t see how it made sense. Given how it was set up this time, only one person could work on it at a time. Additionally, we encountered some misleading cluing.

➕ We could tell that Wigwam Escape went to great lengths to avoid red herrings. When we encountered an item we needed, there was no ambiguity.

➖ One puzzle needed additional feedback. It was necessarily frustrating (yes, you read that correctly)… and we rolled with that because it really did make sense. However, Wigwam Escape could have sparked our excitement as we worked to complete it.

➕ In an early sequence, Wigwam Escape reimagined and reinvigorated a tired escape room trope to force us to appreciate the challenges of 1518. It was brilliant. It was also fun and rewarding.

➕ We encountered at least three significant design elements that we had never seen before in an escape room. There was a ton of innovation crammed into Wigwam Escape.

In-game: a wooden backpack with slots for the objective items.

Tips For Visiting

  • Wigwam Escape is located at The Institute for American Indian Studies.
  • Put the address in your GPS before you start driving. You’ll be winding through small roads to get to the museum and there is no cell service in the area.
  • There is a bit of kneeling and crawling required in some sections of the game. At least 2 teammates should be comfortable with this.

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

Disclosure: Wigwam Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Codeword Escape – Curse of the Golden Touch [Review]

Long live King Midas and his weak grasp of basic economic principles.

Location:  Rocky Hill, CT

Date Played: August 18, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $35 per player for teams of 1-2 to $28 per player from teams of 6+

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Connecticut is peppered with lovely mom & pop escape room shops; Codeword Escape is one such location.

While this isn’t a massive-budget operation, they are doing traditional escape room gaming right. They picked a smart, unique setting (King Midas was a brilliant choice), built solid puzzles into the environment, and then let us players make our own fun. It worked.

Regardless of your experience level, there is something to love in Curse of the Golden Touch. If you’re in the area, you should check it out.

In-game: A golden chandelier hanging from an ornate gold ceiling.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle play
  • An elegant set
  • Cute and clever moments

Story

The King had found a magical lamp and used it to wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. It didn’t take long before he had transmuted his beloved daughter into a golden statue. The King had begged us to find a way to break his magical curse and restore his daughter.

In-game: A red and gold throne room.

Setting

Set within a gold and velvet throne room, Codeword Escape made this space look regal… and they managed to rework the drop ceiling so that it added to the aesthetic.

This wasn’t a complicated build, but Curse of the Golden Touch looked elegant.

In-game: Two shields hung on a wall decorated in red velvet.

Gameplay

Codeword Escape’s Curse of the Golden Touch was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Codeword Escape built an adventure into an office-y retail space in Connecticut. For Curse of the Golden Touch, they augmented the space to give it a castle-y feel. We also appreciated the King Midas theming, which was a new theme for us, and gave them smart design constraints on the “castle” theme. They leaned into this with great results. For a lower budget build-out, it felt appropriately castlesque and regal. We truly appreciated their attention to the details of design.

➕ Curse of the Golden Touch was a puzzle-driven escape game. The puzzles were varied, interesting, and challenging. There was plenty of content to keep a larger group engaged.

➖ Curse of the Golden Touch relied too heavily on laminated paper cluing. There were opportunities to build more clue structure into the set and the props so that it felt more integrated, rather than layered on top of the gamespace.

➖ In the first half of the game, the puzzles weren’t gated enough. Although we appreciated Codeword Escape directing our attention to the “first puzzle,” something that can be especially helpful for new players, we found that plenty of other puzzle paths could have been solved simultaneously. This wasn’t technically a first puzzle; it was a lengthy puzzle. This led some teammates to feel like they’d missed out on a good portion of the game by following the instructions.

➕ Codeword Escape mapped puzzles and locks well to keep the forward momentum of the solver. The challenges were in the puzzles, not the mechanisms; the game flowed well.

➕ /➖ The final scene of Curse of the Golden Touch was unexpected and adorable. That said, we didn’t spend enough time there. There’s an opportunity to shift a bit more gameplay into this segment so that the game feels more balanced and teams can fully enjoy the artfully designed space.

➕ The ceiling was great. They did a really smart thing with their drop ceiling… and there aren’t many companies doing smart things with drop ceilings.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Codeword Escape’s Curse of the Golden Touch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codeword Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Ubisoft Escape Games – Beyond Medusa’s Gate [VR Review]

A VR Odyssey

Location:  at Up the Game in Amsterdam, The Netherlands & at Trap’t in Stamford, CT

Date Played: May 7, 2019 & May 17, 2019

Team size: 2 or 4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per player at Trap’t (consumer pricing varies by licensee)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Beyond Medusa’s Gate was a gigantic, dramatic, and intense journey through the worlds of Greek mythology and the Assassin’s Creed video game series.

Ubisoft Escape Games published a worthy sequel to their first VR escape game by refining and expanding upon the concepts introduced in Escape The Lost Pyramid.

In-game: A gigantic statue of Atlas wrapped in a snake holding up the ceiling of a cave.

Beyond Medusa’s Gate wasn’t the most puzzley game. However, it accomplished what I believe is the key to a great virtual escape game: the gameplay provided experiences that cannot be created in real life escape games.

I wholeheartedly recommend playing Beyond Medusa’s Gate. (We took my parents to play it.) I’d encourage you to play Escape The Lost Pyramid first so that you’re comfortable with the controls and mechanisms that Ubisoft expanded upon in this sequel.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level (with VR, escape rooms, or Assassin’s Creed)

Why play?

  • Fantastic collaborative puzzles
  • Beautiful graphics
  • Massive set pieces
  • Puzzles that aren’t possible in a real-life escape room
  • A cool boss battle

Story

Set in the fantastical ancient Greek world of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, we were off in search of a powerful lost artifact.

The Poster for Beyond Medusa's Gate featuring a stone door with a sculpture of Medusa.

Setting

We boarded the Argo, the legendary ship of the Argonauts, and sailed through a magnificently rendered Mediterranean cavern filled with huge structures and mythological beasts.

In-game: a burning cauldron in a temple.

Gameplay

Ubisoft Escape Games’ Beyond Medusa’s Gate was a VR escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around teamwork, puzzling, shooting, climbing, observing, and making connections.

In-game: The Argo in the Mediterranean.

Analysis

➕ Ubisoft included some additional character customization options allowing us to change the color of our avatar’s clothing.

In-game: a team of avatar's getting suited up.

 Assassin’s Creed factors in minimally. On the one hand, if you’re familiar with the series, there are some lovely nods both in the gameplay and in the introduction. On the other hand, you can enjoy the game almost fully without knowing anything about the Animus.

➖ If you’re completely unfamiliar with Assassin’s Creed, then the introductory exposition will sound something like, “Blah blah blah Ancient Greece. Blah blah blah powerful artifact. Blah blah blah genetic memory.”

➕ The opening puzzle sequence was really clever, both as a standalone puzzle and as an introduction to manipulating the game world.

➕ Beyond Medusa’s Gate had a greater diversity in puzzles and challenges than did Ubisoft’s first escape game, Escape The Lost Pyramid.

In-game: A statue of Athena in a cavern.

➕ As with Escape The Lost Pyramid, Beyond Medusa’s Gate did a wonderful job of providing experiences that could not be created in a physical escape room.

❓ While the puzzles within Beyond Medusa’s Gate were enjoyable, the emphasis was on adventure. If you’re seeking serious puzzle-play, there might not be enough of it for you.

➕ Ubisoft ramped up the opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. There were lots of moments were we solving as either a duo or quartet.

➕ The world of Beyond Medusa’s Gate was gorgeous. There were points where I stopped playing and found myself getting lost in the beauty of the world and all of its detail.

➕ The use of a boat to facilitate movement through the game world was an improvement over the floating blocks from Escape The Lost Pyramid. Not only did it make more sense within the fiction, it also made the game more friendly and approachable for players with vertigo or a fear of heights.

➕ While Beyond Medusa’s Gate incorporated the climbing as well as the archery introduced in Escape The Lost Pyramid, it limited its reliance on them and put some interesting twists on both as the game progressed.

❓ There’s a learning curve to staying within the play area. If you’re comfortable playing video games and VR, you could acclimate almost immediately. If you aren’t comfortable with the technology, it could be a game-long process .

➖ When one player struggles to execute, the game can grind to a halt and provide little for idle players to do… aside from break pots and look at the beautiful world. (I have a high capacity for breaking pots from years of Zelda.)

➖ If you are the struggling player and you’re holding your team back, you’ll quickly feel a lot of additional pressure.

❓ We played this game twice, once with a wire (at Up The Game), and once wireless (at Trap’t in Stamford, CT). It was a substantially better experience playing wirelessly.

In-game: a massive ballista mounted to the side of a ship.

➕ The boss battle was a strong conclusion.

➕ Ubisoft added a delightful post-game photo system.

Tips For Visiting

  • I would strongly encourage you to play Ubisoft’s first VR escape game, Escape The Lost Pyramid, prior to playing this sequel.
  • Yes, you can wear glasses with the VR headset.
  • If you have a fear of heights or are prone to vertigo, there will be one section that you might want to skip, but you should be fine playing most of this game.

Book your hour with Ubisoft Escape Games’ Beyond Medusa’s Gate, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

If you’re interested in licensing this game, you can learn more from Ubisoft Escape Games:

Disclosure: Ubisoft Escape Games offered free play-throughs of this game on the show floor at Up the Game.

Disclosure: Trap’t comped our tickets for this game.

Escapism – Do Not Disturb [Review]

Do Not Disturb

Creepy dolls & good flow.

Location:  Southington, Connecticut

Date Played:  December 17, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It’s great to see a new company come out of the gate with a strong game. Escapism gets escape rooms, and we’re incredibly excited to see where they take their designs.

Do Not Disturb was a fantastic game for less experienced players. It was well designed with strong puzzle flow.

If you’re an experienced player, there was something to enjoy in Do Not Disturb, but it wasn’t a must-play.

If you’re new to escape rooms, this would be a wonderful place to start.

In-game: closeup of a creepy doll.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • An elegant set
  • A great hint system
  • Smart puzzles

Story

Our team of private investigators was called to investigate an abandoned and allegedly haunted apartment. It was up to us to determine the fate of its tenant.

In-game: View through the door of Do Not Disturb into a studio apartment with a creepy doll sitting on a table in the middle of the room.

Setting

We “broke into” a small, grandmotherly apartment with a cohesive aesthetic. It wasn’t a fancy setting, but it looked and smelled right.

In-game: a small table two two unusual wooden locked boxes.

Gameplay

Escapism’s Do Not Disturb was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: An old apartment bedroom's dresser. There are metal boxes with wires running from them.

Analysis

➕ The set looked homey, but slightly creepy. It had a gentle, welcoming aesthetic with just the slightest edge.

➕ Escapism’s set design included visual, auditory, and olfactory ambiance. These extra details added a lot to the experience.

Do Not Disturb had a stellar entry for onboarding escape room newbies.

➕ The puzzles flowed well. Escapism even augmented a few puzzles so that experienced players wouldn’t accidentally (or purposely) bypass parts of the game. It worked well.

➖ One puzzle could easily become overwhelming depending on the order the players connect various in-game elements. In part, the ambiance contributed to potential sensory overload. This puzzle could benefit from either more gating and/or stronger cluing.

➕ The hint system was designed specifically for Do Not Disturb. This detail added to the overall experience. We didn’t use any hints… but Escapism clearly knew how cool the system was and worked it into our game nonetheless.

➖ Escapism mixed locks with tech-driven opens, but too often the tech was too visible. If they can build housing around the tech and hide it in the decor, it’s effects would be far more effective.

➕Escapism had a beautiful, spacious lobby. Leave yourself a few extra minutes to hang out.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Tavern 42 for BBQ nearby.
  • Leave some time to hang out in Escapism’s gorgeous lobby.

Book your hour with Escapism’s Do Not Disturb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapism comped our tickets for this game.