Complexity – The Mall [Review]

The Complex City Mall

Location: Farmington, CT

Date Played: June 29, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket on weekdays, $30 per ticket on evenings and weekends

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Mall represented a big step forward for Complexity in a number of categories: puzzle complexity, set design, technology, and humor.

While a few of the puzzles could have benefited from a touch more clarity, and there’s room for additional growth in set design, The Mall was challenging, entertaining, and worthy of a visit if you’re in the area.

In-game: The Pizzeria Pie mall Italian restaurant.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Punny mall store names
  • A humorous and light-hearted justification
  • Some really good puzzles
  • Interesting opportunities for teamwork

Story

Wow… I’m unreliable. After a day of shopping at the mall, we were getting ready to leave when I realized that I had lost my wallet and car keys! According to Google Maps, we had one hour before we had to hit the road to make our dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant.

The stakes had never been higher.

In-game: Sign for "Yellow House Orange Market."

Setting

Complexity created a scaled-down approximation of a mall. Each nook, corner, and room in the space represented another store. Each store was given a punny or joke name referencing common mall-based businesses.

In-game: Sign for "Things Forgotten Art Gallery."

Gameplay

Complexity’s The Mall was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The set was almost like a cartoon. We never felt like we were in a mall, but we always knew exactly what they were striving for. It was charming and engaging.

In-game: The "Daily Specials" white board.

+ Complexity justified our presence in The Mall and our goal to escape with a delightfully humorous backstory.

– While the premise justified the experience, it didn’t justify the puzzles. The justification devolved into a puzzle room pretty quickly.

+ The puzzles were challenging and engaging.

– The Mall had a rough difficulty curve. Some of the earlier puzzles seemed particularly challenging and the balance of effort-to-reward felt a bit off.

– We missed a few tech-driven opens. Added springs and directional audio or light cues would help turn reveals into events, reducing confusion and adding drama.

+ Complexity’s Apple Store was as white as it was enjoyable.

+ Multiple puzzles required teamwork and communication.

The Mall was entertaining. Every time we opened a new space, we delighted in the witty reveal.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot out front.
  • We recommend Cugino’s for Italian cuisine nearby.

Book your hour with Complexity’s The Mall, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Complexity comped our tickets for this game.

Mystified – Rendezvous With The Renaissance [Review]

Leonardo the mystic.

Location: Mystic, CT

Date Played: April 1, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

Rendezvous With The Renaissance was a puzzle-focused, challenge-oriented escape room. While at times the cluing was a bit imprecise, the puzzles generally flowed well. It may not have been a fully immersive environment, but the staging added to the experience.

If you’re in the area and you want to puzzle, give Rendezvous With The Renaissance a try.

In-game: A door with moon cycles painted on it, a clock face around it, and large gears above.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Puzzle quality
  • Puzzle quantity
  • The steampunk, in-character vibe of Mystified

Story

After arriving at our hotel in Victorian Italy, we found that we’d received someone else’s luggage. We snooped, of course. They had a mysterious little notebook and a letter suggesting an impending rendezvous to uncover artifacts. We decided to find these artifacts first.

Setting

Our artifact search began at the church square. We were surrounded by imposing walls with slight ornamentation and a decorated, locked door. Folks had left a few odds and ends in the square for us to poke around in. It was a relatively empty space.

The set design was solid, but fell short of serious immersion.

Gameplay

Mystified’s Rendezvous With The Renaissance was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ We love the name Mystified. We love the pun. Need a name? Check out our Escape Room Name Generator.

Mystified's steam punk-ish lobby.

+ We enjoyed the vibe of Mystified. It had a steampunk flair that carried through to staff costumes. Our gamemaster was rocking one seriously cool corset… I was envious.

+ We enjoyed the challenging, complex, and structurally varied puzzles presented in Rendezvous With The Renaissance.

– A couple of early puzzles suffered from inconsistencies. These differences in iconography and alignment added unnecessary uncertainty. Later in the escape room, one icon symbolized multiple things. Given the number of open puzzles, this icon choice convoluted the gameplay.

– Rendezvous With The Renaissance followed a run book, and a tiny one at that. While Mystified had worked this prop into the narrative, it was still frustrating to follow. Only one person could read it at a time. With a larger team, this frustration would have been magnified.

+ While the narrative only loosely carried the experience, it culminated well with a satisfying final series of solves.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Mystified’s Rendezvous With The Renaissance, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mystified provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape New Haven – The Game Show [Review]

“I’ll take ‘escape rooms’ for $200, Alex.”

Location: New Haven, CT

Date Played: December 18, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

REA Reaction

On the one hand, we loved the innovation in The Game Show. Escape New Haven included more inventive game mechanics in this escape room than most companies have in all of their games combined. On the other hand, The Game Show didn’t adequately onboard players, which could leave even experienced players completely clueless. Its unforgiving nature could be frustrating or exhilarating.

In-game: The neon and reflective Game Show set with puzzle stations along the walls and a pedestal in the middle of the room.

Who is this for?

  • People who like competitive games
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Atypical escape room structure
  • Unusual game mechanics
  • Competitive gameplay
  • Great twist

Story

We were contestants on a new game show. The winners would receive a free trip to sunny New Haven, Connecticut.

In-game: A reflective wall with a box covered in four switches, red, green, blue, and orange.

Setting

Split into two teams, Red and Blue, we were each led into mirror image spaces where we had to use puzzle stations built into the walls to compete with one another for points.

The back wall graphically displayed each team’s score in real time.

In-game: The score rings, a large ring for "Red Points" and a smaller ring for "Blue Points."

Gameplay

The competitive gameplay was built around rapidly learning the rules to each game and outplaying your opponents.

The initial difficulty was more in operating the game’s controls. Once we mastered that, we turned our attention to the competitive puzzles.

Finally, there was a big twist in this game… and explaining it would absolutely ruin the game. So I’m going to leave it at that.

Standouts

The Game Show was different. Its starting split-team competitive segment and the twist that ensued made for a dramatic and unusual experience.

The competitive concept was energizing. Escape New Haven drew inspiration from famous psych experiments, but reinvented the concepts as gameplay. It worked well.

The Game Show made sense, narratively speaking.

The post-twist gameplay was fantastic. I wish I could go into more detail.

Shortcomings

The competitive gameplay lacked instruction or clear feedback. If you get it, it will be exciting. If you don’t get it, it will be painfully frustrating. If it doesn’t click for anyone, you will spend a lot of time in an unforgiving environment, under pressure from the competitive aspect. This could and should be smoothed over.

In terms of build quality and finish, while The Game Show was a step up from some of Escape New Haven’s earlier work, their set design still lacked polish and attention to detail. Everything felt decidedly homemade, even when the creation was impressive.

For example, the video segments seemed haphazardly slapped together. They featured a host standing in front of a white sheet. The elementary look detracted from the aesthetic that Escape New Haven clearly wanted for The Game Show.

Tips for Visiting

  • Use the app Parkmobile to fill your meter on the street in New Haven.
  • There are lots of great restaurants in New Haven.

Book your hour with Escape New Haven’s The Game Show, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape New Haven provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Elm City Escape – The Initiative [Review]

“This isn’t even my final form.”

Location: New Haven, CT

Date Played: December 18, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

REA Reaction

We were pleasantly shocked by the second act after being underwhelmed when we set foot in The Initiative. Narratively, Elm City Escape paid off the banality of the opening sequence and they rewarded us with fantastic gameplay later on. Worth it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi and anime fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The second act
  • Subtle character building and storytelling
  • Three epic puzzles

Story

We made it! It was our first day of our dream job at the OMNE Corporation. Our excitement was swiftly dashed when we realized that we were going to be drones in a corporate machine that seemed like it was up to no good.

If we were going to continue working for this company, we had to meet the boss and learn his intentions.

In-game, a bland corporate office with white walls, computer desks, and motivational posters.

Setting

We entered a large office with a few employee desks, a filing cabinet, and a break room station. Despite the motivational posters on the walls, it was as bland and mundane as a set could get… until the second act, which I simply cannot spoil… but it’s cool.

Gameplay

The Initiative was a standard escape room with a far greater emphasis on puzzling than on search.

Elm City Escape turned office essentials into puzzles that unlocked… more office essentials.

In the second act, The Initiative offered more inventive, interactive, and intriguing challenges.

Standouts

Throughout The Initiative we uncovered many fun, nerdy references.

The Initiative followed a narrative arc culminating in a great twist.

Elm City Escape designed some phenomenal puzzles. These late-game challenges were the highlights of the escape room. They were brilliant.

The Initiative escalated well.

Shortcomings

The opening set was large and lackluster. Elm City Escape could improve The Initiative with a stronger opening statement.

We suggest that Elm City Escape bolt down one more substantial prop and maybe consider making it easier for shorter players to interact with it.

The Initiative required parallel puzzling. In one instance, we tackled three creative and intriguing puzzles and a fourth typical process puzzle concurrently. The person tackling this fourth puzzle missed out on the most interesting parts of this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • You’ll be underwhelmed by the first room. Puzzle through it, things get more interesting.
  • Use the app Parkmobile to fill your meter on the street in New Haven.
  • Enter the building, pass the security desk, turn left, and go downstairs.
  • There are lots of great restaurants in New Haven.

Book your hour with Elm City Escape’s The Initiative, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

 

AdventurEscape – Raiders of the Lost Room [Review]

Damn treasure hunters!

Location: Windsor Locks, CT

Date played: November 12, 2017

Team size: 2-15; we recommend 5-8

Duration: 60 minutes (can be extended for small groups)

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting.

We embarked on a treasure hunt for pirate gold. We entered a local cabin where we hoped former treasure hunters had left behind enough clues that we would strike it rich.

Raiders of the Lost Room was based on the true story of Pirate David Marteen who, according to legend, buried treasure nearby in East Granby, Connecticut. The folks from AdventurEscape told us that they had been kicked out of the local historical society for asking questions about the legend. (It seems the historical society gets a lot of wannabe treasure hunters.)

In-game: A large escape room space set up as a study.

The large gamespace felt vaguely like a cabin with old eclectic furniture and a fireplace.

Puzzles

Raiders of the Lost Room was an old-school escape room. There was a lot to puzzle throughIn this non-linear room escape, there was a lot available to work through at any given time.

These puzzles involved search, observation, spatial reasoning, riddling, ciphering, and dexterity.

In-game: A large study. There is a sizable metal furnace against the wall.

Standouts

Raiders of the Lost Room was inspired by local Connecticut lore. AdventurEscape built their escape room on top of an existing treasure hunting legend. This was a great idea.

The puzzles in Raiders of the Lost Room would keep a larger team entertained. For the majority of the game, there were plenty of different puzzles to work on, many of which could engage a couple of people working together.

We enjoyed AdventurEscape’s implementations of more common escape room puzzle types. They added intrigue without tedium.

There were some unusual puzzles in here too; they were generally a good time.

We appreciated one late-game puzzle that relied on different skills and contrasted with the earlier puzzling. It was refreshing and exciting.

Shortcomings

While we enjoyed the interaction in this puzzle, it lacked in-game feedback. We continued trying to solve it long after we’d succeeded.

In one instance, Raiders of the Lost Room suffered from a gating problem. One puzzle was open from the first moments of the game and we spent a lot of time approaching it incorrectly before we received enough information to tackle it appropriately.

Raiders of the Lost Room needed polish. AdventurEscape could make interactions more precise, clean up wear, and add more aesthetic flair to the cabin.

Should I play AdventurEscape’s Raiders of the Lost Room?

Raiders of the Lost Room was packed full of fun and challenging puzzles. These were enticing and approachable.

AdventurEscape has continued to iterate and refine Raiders of the Lost Room. While at times this leads to choppiness, it generally means that the clue structure exists if you persist in finding it.

There is a lot of find, as is the nature of most large-team games.

Players of all experience levels can enjoy Raiders of the Lost Room. We recommend that newer players especially bring a larger group and communicate well. For more experienced players who won’t be overwhelmed by the volume of challenges to approach, Raiders of the Lost Room would be a lot to tackle as a small group, but doable.

If you have a large group looking for adventure, we recommend this search for pirate gold.

Book your hour with AdventurEscape’s Raiders of the Lost Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.