Puzzah! – The Curse [Review]

Puzzah Express

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

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

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Curse felt like a miniature 5 Wits.

This Puzzah! location was in a mall, right by the food court. The Curse was a compact, tech-driven, family-friendly puzzle game. It was bright, colorful, and approachable.

In-game: wide angle view of the Mayan tomb, a pyramid in the middle of hte room, an large wall mounted puzzle beyond it.

The Curse looked good. It played well. It was not deep. This was a game made for a general audience; for that audience, it was great.

If you’re a diehard escape room player, play The Curse to experience something a bit different. This game had solid automation and adaptive difficulty, which was lovely to see, even if the game was not designed for me and my team.

Bring the kids and convince grandma to come too. This one is for the whole family.

Who is this for?

  • Newbies
  • Children
  • Families
  • Technophiles

Why play?

  • A vibrant family-friendly environment
  • Interesting automation and technology
  • Puzzle play that will engage a family

Story

We descended into an ancient Central American temple on contract with industrialist Victor Maragana. Our mission was to reason our way past the temple’s traps and obtain a long-lost coin.

In-game: A sun etched in the wall of the ruins.

Setting

The Curse was a compact, bright, colorful, and tech-driven Central American temple for families.

Calling it kiddie evokes a cheesiness and cheapness that wasn’t accurate. This was a solidly-constructed space that seemed designed to feel like an adventure without sending anyone home with a nightmare.

The adaptive technology was a smart touch to keep things fair and flowing for players of all ages and skills.

In-game: A large cube resting atop a pyramid in inside of bright ruins.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s The Curse was a family-friendly escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a radio and a blacklight.

Analysis

➕ The Curse was designed for families, new players, and casual players stopping by while strolling through the mall. This 30-minute escape room was the right level of not-too-challenging for its intended audience.

➕ Aesthetically, The Curse was “ancient Aztec meets grade-school classroom.” It was thematically a Central American tomb, but it had bright colors for kids to follow to solve the puzzles. It was a bit strange, but it worked well in this context. It felt deliberately designed and looked polished.

➕ The Curse had a gentle on-ramp. It taught players how to interact with the space.

➕ The puzzles were solid. They were fun, team-based challenges. Puzzah! would present additional complexity as teams built mastery.  

➕ /➖ Puzzah! built a lot of puzzles into a small space. On the one hand, we appreciated the different ways they used the same props and input mechanisms. On the other hand, by the end of the game, the use of the same items was feeling redundant and we wanted more to interact with… or even just interplay between different props.

The Curse encouraged teamwork and sharing by design. When puzzles could only be solved by one person at a time, it even told the group that the next person should step up and take their turn at this trial. I can see this working wonders on sibling nonsense.

➖ The Curse lacked a boss fight. We wanted that final puzzle to be a more challenging, epic battle that necessitated teamwork. Also, we couldn’t actually hold the coin. When we won, we left the room empty handed. This seemed like a missed opportunity.

Tips For Visiting

  • Puzzah! Broomfield is located in the FlatIron Crossing Mall. Puzzah! Broomfield is at the South Entrance just beside Old Navy, right next to the food court.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s The Curse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms – Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery [Review]

Puzzle me this.

Location:  Fort Collins, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a sprawling frenzy of puzzles and adventure.

The massive gamespace had been designed by a scenic painter who took the opportunity to give each of the many chambers a unique look and feel.

In-game: A long hallway with a door painted like a jigsaw puzzle at the end of it.

In a lot of ways, this was a traditional lock-and-key escape room. It was, however, exceptionally big, and made smart use of the large space. Additionally, instead of complex puzzles, we encountered wave after wave of quicker solves.

Our knocks against Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery were mostly centered on low lighting and an ending that didn’t adequately pull together this delightful experience.

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms imbued their first escape game with an undeniable energy that we couldn’t get enough of. We absolutely recommend Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery if you’re near Fort Collins.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • High-energy, puzzle-driven gameplay
  • Great scenic painting
  • A massive, sprawling set

Story

Over the generations, puzzle shrines dedicated to an ancient, mischievous trickster spirit known by many different names to different cultures had been found all over the world.

One such shrine to “The Puzzler” had been uncovered beneath a building in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In-game: closeup of a door pained with an eye and two ravens.

Setting

Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was physically massive with tons of different chambers to explore.

From a construction and technology standpoint, this experience was fairly typical. The folks behind Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms, however, have a background in scenic paining, which they put to wonderful use. Each of the many chambers had a decidedly different look and feel.

In-game: closeup of a gray door pained like a jigsaw puzzle and chained shut.

Gameplay

Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms’ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: closeup of a doorway chained with a padlock.

Analysis

➕ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery was a sprawling gamespace. It was exciting to continually open up more of the environment. Behind every door, there was more adventure.

➕ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery had a solid on-ramp. It taught us how to interact with the space before it set us loose in it.

➕ The set looked good. It was varied. Each space felt different, by design. We also enjoyed the soundtrack, especially the frenzied music.

➖ The setting was overly dim. We needed portable light sources for much of the solving. We often didn’t have enough of them, so the game became a dance of passing the lights to each other and through the different gamespaces. Some spotlit workspaces would have been a huge help.

➕ Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms built a puzzley game. There was a lot to solve, but the puzzles were largely quick hits. As soon as we had the “aha” moment, we’d be moving forward again. This made for a high-energy experience.

➖ It’s possible for this game to bind up on itself and bottleneck. We experienced some of this when one dexterity puzzle in a small space was taking us a bit too long and there wasn’t anything else for the rest of the team to do.

➖ The final puzzle was a letdown. Although the staging was great, the puzzle didn’t make any sense. Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery would have benefited from a final boss battle that pulled the experience together.

➕ There was a prize hidden in Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery!

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms’ Puzzlers’ Secret Chamber of Mystery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Legendary Adventures Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Mission Escapes – Lunar Escape [Review]

Hit way above its weight class.

Location:  Aurora, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $76 per team for teams of 2 to $184 per team for teams of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Lunar Escape was a fun game that could be transformed into something spectacular with a bit more investment. The puzzles and gameplay were buckets of fun. The set and set pieces’ construction left a lot to be desired.

In-game: Closeup of a maze.

Mission Escape (no relation to Mission Escape Games) has a talent for puzzle and game design. If they level up their presentation, they could build some truly special experiences.

So long as your enjoyment of an escape room isn’t tied directly to set design, we strongly recommend Lunar Escape if you’re in the area; it plays far better than most escape games.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Great early game reveals
  • Some clever, weird, layered puzzles
  • There wasn’t much searching at all
  • A phenomenal final act

Story

A curse had been cast on the earth so that it only received light from the moon. We had to break the curse by completing the Magic Circle.

In-game: a gray-scale clock depicting the Earth

Setting

Lunar Escape had a smart, dramatic dark opening. As the set began to reveal itself, it quickly became clear that most of the set construction was aggressively subpar.

There were bright spots, but overall, looking closely at most items didn’t improve the experience… and there were some set pieces that you didn’t have to look at closely to get a sense that construction wasn’t Mission Escapes’ strong suit.

In-game: Two locked compartments built into a bench surrounded by old shag carpet.

Lunar Escape was fun in spite of its build… and honestly… that was impressive in its own right.

Gameplay

Mission Escapes‘ Lunar Escape was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections and puzzling.

In-game: closeup of a red on/ off switch.

Analysis

➕ Lunar Escape opened dramatically, in darkness. It used lighting as gating, which was elegant, unusual, and safe.

➕ There was essentially no searching. The escape game showed you where to focus.

➖ The build quality was sub-par. Although much of this was obscured by darkness, as we interacted with the set, we could tell that Mission Escapes had a long way to go in construction.

➕ We enjoyed one simple escape room trope executed about as smoothly as we’ve experienced it.

Lunar Escape stalled when we had inadequate tools and the challenge became the execution. In two instances, we knew how to solve the puzzle, but we struggled to succeed at it due to construction or prop quality.

➕ In Lunar Escape, we built mastery through solving, which enabled us to solve a more complex, layered puzzle late in the game. This felt fantastic.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Mission Escape is on the third floor, Suite 390.
  • Lunar Escape is also available is Mission Escapes’ Seattle location.

Book your hour with Mission Escapes‘ Lunar Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Q The Live Escape Experience – The Conjuror [Review]

Odd Duck Immersive

Location:  Loveland, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019,

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

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $24.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Conjuror was an actor-enhanced escape room. It was teed up to us as more immersive theater than escape room, but that didn’t feel like accurate expectation setting.

This was a solid escape room, with a dramatic (and slightly over-the-top) character overseeing the experience. He was a delight. Additionally, there was one fantastic recurring set piece. It was pretty much worth playing the game for these two things alone.

In-game: a series of glass vials beside a crow.

The puzzle design itself was fine – maybe a little dated – but it got the job done.

One last thing… and this recurred in both games we played at Q The Live Escape Experience. They needed to get a cleaning crew into their games. Both games were unacceptably dusty.

All in all, there aren’t that many escape rooms with a theatrical bent to them and this was a solid one. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then you should check out The Conjuror.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The seance table
  • A strong introduction
  • The actor interactions

Story

We had tickets to see Malveaux the Magnificent conduct a seance, piercing the veil between life and death to commune with the spirits.

In-game: a white table clothed table in a dim seance parlour.

Setting

Billed as a hybrid of immersive theater and escape room, The Conjuror opened with a humorous scripted introduction. From there, we found ourselves in a magical study/ seance chamber. The centerpiece of the game was the seance table, which was quite cool.

The room had a grim, Addams Family vibe. While the game was fairly new, it was pretty damn dusty.

In-game: an assortment of magical items including a skull, and a hand labeled "Poison Ivy."

Gameplay

Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror was a standard escape room with a theatrical bent and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and bantering with the actor.

Analysis

➕ The Conjuror started with a performance. The actor was engaging and talented. He established a character in the opening act, which set up the rest of the experience.

❓ Although The Conjuror opened with an actor, the experience was an escape room, not immersive theater (as it was framed for us). For the majority of the time, we solved puzzles towards accomplishing a mission. Although it had dramatic flourishes, and allowed character banter, it was an escape room through and through. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but setting expectations is important.

➕ Q The Live Escape Experience kept the character involved throughout the experience. He was amusing. We could choose how much to engage with him. This was fun.

➕ The Conjuror wove narrative and puzzles together. The puzzles were justified and made sense in the space.

➖ The puzzles felt dated. They were largely search based and not all well clued. One seemed like it almost required a hint. There were opportunities to make the puzzles more interesting.

➕ That seance table!

➖ The gamespace was filthy. David didn’t set foot in particular area of the gamespace because his allergies were already acting up, and that section would surely have aggravated them more.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Q The Live Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Escape from Hellscream – The Elevator [Review]

The elevator to Hell

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 2 – 6 (or elevator weight capacity)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape from Hellscream was about the experience, the setting, and playful terror.

Are you looking for an intellectual puzzle-driven adventure? Go somewhere else.

In The Elevator, the actors struck a balance between fear and humor that managed to amplify both without undercutting the tension.

Additionally, the experience was built around a functioning elevator; we used it to access different floors of the game. This was a nifty gimmick… and it allowed us to traverse a huge set without having to navigate stairs.

In-game:

The biggest annoyances came from a near total lack of lighting in one lengthy segment, which was great at first, but stretched on too long. We were also disappointed in some of the prop selection, which included a lockout safe.

Escape from Hellscream offered “scary” and “not scary” modes. The difference between the two was the presence of scare actors. I’ll be blunt:

There is no reason to visit Escape from Hellscream and play the “not scary” mode. Playing “not scary” would be like watching “not erotic porn.”

If you’re near Colorado Springs and like horror escape games, Escape from Hellscream is a must-visit.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fans
  • Actor-friendly players
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The hilarious and intimating scare actors
  • An imposing set
  • The elevator was cool
  • Adrenaline

Story

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator didn’t really have a story. It was essentially a haunted house with escape room puzzles as gates.

In-game:

Setting

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator was built around a real, functional elevator. The gameflow was controlled by locks and hasps on the elevator control panel.

In-game:

As we navigated the floors, we explored a haunted house filled with scare actors. It is possible to play without the actors, but why bother?

There were multiple settings that seemed entirely unrelated to one another. Each had its own creepy, dingy, haunted house vibe.

Gameplay

Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator was a haunted house with escape room puzzles as gates. Your fear level will adjust the difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved primarily around searching with a few puzzles. Interacting with the actors was also part of the gameplay.

In-game:

Analysis

➕ “Scary mode” means the actors play too. The actors were the life of this experience and clearly had a ton of fun. These guys were simultaneously intimidating and hilarious, creating a vibe unlike any other escape room we’ve played.

➖ This was a search-heavy escape room, played primarily in low lighting. We didn’t have enough flashlights to solve the puzzles. While this was intentional to create a mood, it carried on far too long.

➕ Although much of the gameplay was searching, there were some serious puzzles in the first act. These were good solves.

In-game:

➖ One critical interaction had weak feedback. Ultimately one of the actors clarified things, but there was an opportunity for stronger execution.

➕ We enjoyed the gameflow, which Escape from Hellscream crafted around the elevator. With the locks on the buttons, the scare experience was gated by puzzles that we solved in this well-lit space where nobody unexpected would appear. It gave fearful players a break to solve puzzles and changed up the experience. This was a unique design choice.

➖ We didn’t have a clear sense of game progression and timing. We misunderstood the instructions – and I’m not sure if this was on us or on them – so we thought we had a lot more game left to solve than we actually did, meaning we rushed the ending a bit more than we needed to.

➕/➖ We could ask for hints over a walkie-talkie. The hint-giving was part of the gimmick and they toyed with us over it. This was totally in character for the game. That said, the actors controlled the gameflow. They could make things more or less hidden and help or hinder puzzles. There was an opportunity to have smoother gameplay facilitated by the actors and keep more of the experience in-world.

➖ Escape from Hellscream used some generally frowned-upon props including trick locks and a lockout safe. These have the potential to stall gameplay. Swapping these for less frustrating items would make a smoother experience.

The Elevator was a high-energy game. It got our adrenaline pumping.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Escape from Hellscream’s The Elevator, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape from Hellscream comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms – Plight of the Margo Part 2 [Review]

The 3 Hour Escape Game: Part 2

Location:  Fort Collins, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $38 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

In Plight of the Margo Part 2, the real challenges emerged.

At this point we knew the setting, we were immersed within the story, we understood how the ship worked, and we had learned how to play the game. It was time for some cerebral heroics.

In-game: A tall metal Antimatter drive system. It's made entirely of metal and looks imposing.

Over this second 90-minute segment, the value of depth became clear. ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms was able to explore their world and add complexity and challenge that no escape room can create in 60 minutes. It left me with the realization that the value of extended game length isn’t simply that you get more.

The magic of the 3-hour game was that it could demand far more of us as players, adventurers, teammates, and thinkers.

As I said in the reaction to Plight of the Margo Part 1, this is a must-play game for experienced players. Looking back on it, I feel like it was a gift created for me and people like me.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Technophiles
  • Experienced players in search of a challenging game
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The set was unique and badass
  • Challenging puzzles
  • The tech was impressively engineered
  • The story had depth
  • It was essentially a 3-hour escape game

Story

Plight of the Margo Part 2 picked up exactly where Part 1 had left off. I won’t spoil it beyond saying the obvious: something was wrong with the Margo and we had to resolve a Star Trek-style paradox to save the day.

In-game: The steel grated floor and control systems of the ship.

Setting

The setting was identical to Plight of the Margo Part 1, except that during our break the gamemaster had added a few key props that enabled us to solve new puzzles.

In-game: A reflective wall of red hexagons.

Gameplay

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms’ Plight of the Margo Part 2 was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In Part 2, we picked up exactly where we’d left at the end of Part 1. The game saved our team’s previous state. (You can play these chapters in completely different visits to ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms, but I recommend doing it in 1 session if you have the stamina.)

From this point forward, we were playing for the win.

In-game: an iris door with a mechanical automation system.

Analysis

➕ All of the positives from Part 1 still applied in Part 2. The set, puzzles, technology, effects, and atmosphere were all epic.

➖ Going into Part 2, we received a lot of pre-game instruction. It felt like the instruction was an attempt to compensate for concepts that didn’t come across clearly enough in-game.

➕ The interaction design in Part 2 was killer.

➖/➕ It was too easy to make a grave mistake within the narrative. (Luckily, there was a re-do for this and it didn’t detonate our game.) This happened because we were never entirely sure what we were doing, but in an escape room the gut instinct is to just advance and keep doing things. In escape rooms, forward momentum is always good… except in this one instance. While playing, it was difficult to truly comprehend this distinction.

❓ ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms cast us in the roles of people with years of advanced training, but we had to figure out absolutely everything about our vessel while solving the missions. This is a typical escape room narrative paradox and a hard one to overcome.

➕ The hint system was really smart. It was embedded in a computer system. It was difficult to tell the hints from the regular game prompts. This allowed our gamemaster to normalize the difficulty through hinting without making it feel like we were underperforming.

➖ The final challenge was confounding. It felt too complicated. We followed that instinct and overthought it. In the end, we solved it, but we weren’t sure that we had won. There was opportunity to tighten up this conclusion and make it feel more definitive and triumphant.

➕ The overall experience of Plight of the Margo was breathtaking. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least 1 player needs to crawl.
  • Play both parts back to back if you can.

Book your hour with ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms’ Plight of the Margo Part 2, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms – Plight of the Margo Part 1 [Review]

The 3 Hour Escape Game: Part 1

Location:  Fort Collins, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $38 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Plight of the Margo felt epic. Part of this was the length; we played it back-to-back in 2 90-minute segments. However, it was so much more than the game clock.

The puzzles and gameplay were deep, challenging, and rewarding. It felt almost like a really good puzzle hunt in that it was fun and a little stressful.

In-game: The ships helm beside and iris door.

The set was unique and beautiful. The technology was solid and craftily engineered. This was one of the geekiest games we’ve encountered and it was devoid of overt pop culture references… which meant that we weren’t breaking world to appreciate cultural callbacks.

Then there was the story, which felt inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wasn’t particularly violent or bloodthirsty. It was thoughtful and grappled with ideas and paradoxes.

I loved this game.

In my opinion, if you’re doing this right, you’re playing both segments back-to-back as one big 3-hour escape room adventure (with a short break in the middle).

For newbies, this is the kind of game that is worth training for. Build your stamina. Once you can comfortably play 3 60-minute escape games back-to-back-to-back, take on Plight of the Margo.

If you’re an experienced player, Plight of the Margo is a must-play. If you are anywhere near Fort Collins, Colorado, make the pilgrimage and test yourself against this magnificent beast.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Technophiles
  • Experienced players in search of a challenging game
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The set was unique and badass
  • Challenging puzzles
  • The tech was impressively engineered
  • The story had depth
  • It was essentially a 3-hour escape game

Story

Our crew had received a distress call from the spaceship Margo. We had to identify its location, journey through the stars to find the wayward ship, and learn what had disrupted its journey.

In-game: an unusual device with glowing buttons and large tube protruding from it.

Setting

The beauty, durability, and uniqueness of Plight of the Margo was instantaneously apparent. ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms built a spaceship set unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Two things struck us about this set:

First, near as I can tell, it wasn’t really riffing off of pop-culture spaceship aesthetics… or at least any that I’m aware of. The reflective gold walls, steel grate flooring, and industrial components felt unique to this game world.

In-game: A strange mechanical device in the middle of the ship, the walls are gold and reflective.

Second, the build quality and the components used within this set seemed genuine. The game didn’t feel like an escape room or even an amusement; it felt like an industrial construction.

Everything was so solid… like it might just blast off… or if you wanted to try to break this set, it might break you instead. (Please don’t try to break anything.)

Gameplay

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms’ Plight of the Margo Part 1 was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling

The key difference was that instead playing to win, we were striving to achieve at least 38% completion to position ourselves for success in Plight of the Margo Part 2.

In-game: ship's helm with screens in front of it.

Analysis

➕ ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms built an impressive spaceship. This was an industrial grade set. There was no facade. It was robust enough to wear well and it might even look cooler with wear.

➕ The technology powering Plight of the Margo was as real as the set.

➕ So many of the interactions were real. Pneumatic tubes were pneumatic tubes. If our spaceship did a thing, it usually wasn’t simulated.

➕ ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms balanced the difficulty curve. The most challenging puzzles were in the middle of the games.

➖ The first puzzle was the weakest segment of Part 1. We’d been briefed on our mission, but the first puzzle was 100% escape room-y. It didn’t make sense in the world. After this, most everything else was justified by the narrative, which made this an especially confusing start. It didn’t teach us how to play the rest of the game.

➕/➖ The puzzles were challenging. Solving them tended to feel chaotic. We weren’t always entirely sure what we were doing, even as we were solving. This made for choppy flow. Atmospherically, and given the narrative, the chaos worked. We weren’t bothered by feeling a bit in over our head.

➖ We encountered some long bricks of text. This stalled forward momentum.

➕ The puzzles were challenging, interactive solves. Our favorite puzzles required us to interact with different contraptions aboard our ship.

➕/➖ There were some surprising, slick effects. Although they added a lot at the onset, they overstayed their welcome.

➕ Three words: automated iris doors.

Transition to Part 2

➕/➖ We’d never played an escape room where our progress after Part 1 was saved and we could pick up in Part 2 and continue. This was really cool. The downside in this instance was that Part 1 had no climax; it just stopped.

Come back tomorrow to learn about the exciting second chapter of this massive game.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least 1 player needs to crawl.
  • Play both parts back-to back if you can.

Book your hour with ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms’ Plight of the Margo Part 1, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Puzzah! – KAZAM! [Review]

Automagical

Location:  Denver, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

KAZAM! was a puzzle-driven escape game with a collection of generally high-quality challenges.

Additionally, Puzzah! had an interesting approach to automation that seamlessly injected bonus content into the experience, based on team performance.

In-game: another view of Kazam's study, the wall is covered in clocks and a strange mechanism is mounted to the wall.

That said, we felt the limitations of hint automation rear their head from time to time. Also, a recurring visibility obstacle was cool at first, but grew way too old by the end of the game.

As puzzlers we really enjoyed KAZAM! and absolutely recommend it to puzzle- and tech-minded players.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Technophiles
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting automated puzzles
  • Strong team-based gameplay
  • Adaptive difficulty

Story

We entered the attic of famed and missing stage magician Kellar Kazam. The question at hand: where did his final disappearing act take him?

In-game: A computer with a white screen on a desk in a strange old study.

Setting

KAZAM! was built as a quirky space. It was an office. It was decorated and themed against the golden age of stage magic… and there was a modern computer. I have no idea what year it was supposed to be in the game world.

Now all of that might sound negative, but it wasn’t; it worked. I attribute this to the fact that Puzzah! clearly put a lot of effort into the space. That was evident from the unusual ceiling as well as the integrated tech.

As with all of the Puzzah! games we played on this trip, Kazam! had tech-driven adaptive difficulty piloting the game.

In-game: a bird cage with a glasses wearing skull.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s KAZAM! was a linear escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It was unusual in that a computer interface gated all the puzzles.

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

In-game: wide view the Kazam's study, clocks, and other items hang on the walls.

Analysis

➕ The puzzles were the star of KAZAM! Puzzah! took familiar concepts and added clever twists.

➕ KAZAM! had one of our favorite searching puzzles of all time. Puzzah! used riddles and puns to clue a finite amount of searching.

➕ While ciphers can drag on in escape rooms, Puzzah! dodged this in KAZAM! by integrating an entertaining mechanism into an alternating cipher.

➖ As much as we enjoyed the puzzles, at times we felt that Puzzah! could have added cleaner cluing.

➕ KAZAM! had an enticing magical study vibe to it. It was a fun place to explore.

➖ For a game set in the golden age of magic, it relied heavily on a computer. This seemed out of place. (I’m not sure what year it was supposed to be.) It also slowed the pace of gameplay.

➕/➖ KAZAM! opened with a gimmick that added intrigue to the opening moments of the game. We expect this will be novel for most players. We appreciated how this forced teamwork. We felt, however, that as the game progressed, this mechanic overstayed its welcome and became annoying.

➕ Puzzah!’s games are automated. KAZAM! will present more puzzles to players who move through the game quickly. We appreciated the “bonus” content. It seemed integrated well enough that players who aren’t presented with it won’t miss it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is nearby street parking and public parking lots.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s KAZAM!, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Locked In Escapes – The Infected [Review]

Steampunk Zombie Apocalypse

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Infected was a traditional escape room with a couple of theatrical twists and a clever theme: the steampunk zombie apocalypse.

In-game: A broken steampunk clock.

Locked In Escapes did a lovely job on this game and it felt strong for Colorado Springs. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Steampunks
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A clever twist on the zombie apocalypse escape game
  • Solid puzzles
  • Some really fun effects
  • A strong introduction and conclusion

Story

Within a steampunk London, an outbreak had been driving the population mad. The roaming hoards of infected had transformed the city into a violent wasteland.

An urgent letter from a family member and colleague had begged us to visit her lab and complete her work; it might be the only way to control the disease.

In-game: steampunk bookshelves.

Setting

The Infected was a good-looking traditional escape room with a strong steampunk vibe.

Locked In Escapes paid special attention to the ceiling and it really paid off.

In-game: ornate copper ceiling.

Additionally, the gamemastering made the opening and closing moments of this game special.

Gameplay

Locked In Escapes’ The Infected was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: A faux rotary phone encased in glass and chained shut.

Analysis

➕ We loved the steampunk twist on a zombie apocalypse theme. It was unusual, and it came together well. We enjoyed the set and prop details that supported this world as well.

➕ Locked In Escapes delivered an entertaining introduction. It was theatrical and ridiculous, and they sold it. It added intrigue and energy to the escape room.

➕ The puzzles were solid. There was adequate cluing at potentially frustrating junctures. The game flowed well.

➖ A few puzzles solved less than cleanly. In one case, subtle imagery blew us off course. In another, we encountered multiple solutions that seemed equally correct. A third instance had faint cluing.

➖ The second act was dark and although Locked In Escape provided enough flashlights (and the flashlights were cute), we would have appreciated spotlighting for workspaces.

➕ The climactic moment of The Infected turned into a wonderful reveal. It was exceptional.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Locked In Escapes’ The Infected, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locked In Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Themescape – The Gate [Review]

STARGΛTE-ish

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

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

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Gate blended sci-fi and ancient Egypt into an escape room environment unlike any we had seen; it was really smart.

In-game: Wide angle view of the tomb's doorway surrounded by contianment tech.

Themescape did a lot of cool stuff with this game, but the experience was hampered by one laughably weak user interface (that we had to return to repeatedly) and some generally clunky tech. If Themescape fixed these elements, this game could be a lot stronger.

In the state that we saw it, The Gate had a lot of personality and charm that made up for some of its more frustrating elements. Additionally, the sci-fi elements fixed some of the inherent struggles with ancient Egyptian escape game design. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Stargate fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The sci-fi/ ancient Egypt mashup led to fun set design

Story

A team of researchers exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb had found a gateway to another realm. In response, a team of government scientists had built a containment unit around the passageway.

With every passing moment, the containment tech grew weaker. We had to study the tomb and determine how to remedy the situation as it failed.

In-game: A sealed stone doorway to an ancient Egyptian tomb flanked by king cobra statues and asurrounded by strange technology.

Setting

Themescape’s The Gate evoked a Stargate aesthetic, blending technology with an ancient Egyptian tomb. This felt fresh and justified a lot of the tech that we typically find in Egyptian tomb-themed escape rooms, without feeling out of place.

Overall, this was a good-looking set with a flavor all its own.

In-game: Closeup of a king cobra statue surrounded by technology.

Gameplay

Themescape’s The Gate was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of containment technology, there are buttons and knobs.

Analysis

➕ The Gate looked different from most of the Egyptian games we’ve played. It combined futuristic sci-Ffi with ancient Egypt to create a novel gamespace.

➕ The unusual set looked compelling. We were intrigued by the gamespace and its puzzles.

➖ The “central nervous system” of the game made no sense in the experience. It was also only half an interface, with no visual cue or visual prompt.

➖ We tripped up on a red-stickered lock that was actually in play. While this was certainly on us as players – Themescape didn’t tell us to avoid stickered items – it seemed an unnecessary design decision, especially since it conflicted with the norms of escape room design.

➕ The puzzle concepts were solid. Once we found everything we needed, the puzzles were quick as long as the tech worked.

➖ We encountered one extremely clunky puzzle. The clue only sort of made sense. It highlighted something unrelated to the puzzle components, it was extremely hard to read, and the tech was finicky to use. (It had clearly been repaired multiple times, but didn’t really work as intended.) These things, combined with aggressive timeouts, made us think we were solving this thing wrong, when in fact, we were doing it exactly right.

➖ The tolerances on the tech were too tight. We repeatedly solved puzzles correctly, but our timing was just a hair off. We learned not to disregard a solution we thought was correct before fiddling with every prop just a bit, in case we were right and the tech just hadn’t responded to us.

➕ The Gate included one stellar reveal that worked well with the set concept.

➕/➖ The transition was exciting. The visual indicators amped up intensity. That said, triggering the transition went on for far too long.

The Gate ended with a favorite Egyptian tomb trope, but delivered in a different context, and for effect rather than as a puzzle. We liked this atypical take on the concept.

The Gate felt like it was set up to be a narrative-driven escape room, but it played like a traditional puzzle-driven game. 

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

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

Disclosure: Themescape comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.