The Puzzle Effect – Curse on the Emerald Seas [Review]

“It’s just a flesh wound.”

Location:  Northglenn, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Curse on the Emerald Seas was a particularly difficult, yet fair escape game… and we don’t make that statement lightly. Every single puzzle was clued well and resolved cleanly, but, oh boy, did The Puzzle Effect make us work for the win.

The game itself looked good. Elegant set embellishments really sold the space.

In-game:

If you aren’t a strong puzzler, winning this game without a heap of hints will be a tall order. Respect Curse on the Emerald Seas, matey, and play it if you know the ropes.

For those who know their way around escape rooms, there were some exhilarating solves in this one.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Cursed pirates – arrrrgh
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Brilliant and dastardly puzzles
  • Some beautiful and well-used set pieces

Story

After enduring a storm, our crew had discovered the legendary pirate ship the Emerald Seas. The story went that the ship’s crew had cursed themselves by trading their captain’s heart for treasure. Locals told of the ship rising from the depths for one hour every 20 years. That was all the time that we had to break the curse and seize the treasure for ourselves.

In-game:

Setting

Curse on the Emerald Seas was staged within a pirate ship. From floor to ceiling, the game was paneled in weathered wood. It generally looked sharp.

The puzzles stood out as looking especially escape room-y, but that didn’t take away from the experience.

In-game:

Gameplay

The Puzzle Effect’s Curse on the Emerald Seas was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game:

Analysis

➕ Curse on the Emerald Seas looked pirate ship-y. It wasn’t all wooden planks either. The back deck looked out into the bright night.

➕ The gameplay flowed well from one puzzle to the next, one open to the next.

➕ Curse on the Emerald Seas was a challenging escape room with some complex, layered puzzles. These were well-clued, and especially satisfying solves with multiple “aha” moments.

➖ While some of the cluing was integrated into the world, much of it was on laminated pieces of paper.

➖ Curse on the Emerald Seas needed better lighting for one complex puzzle with small visual cluing.

➕ The difficulty curve worked well. Curse on the Emerald Seas built up to the challenging puzzles. Then we rode that wave back down to the game’s conclusion.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • The Puzzle Effect offers this game in other cities as well, including San Luis Obispo and Phoenix.

Book your hour with The Puzzle Effect’s Curse on the Emerald Seas, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Puzzle Effect comped our tickets for this game.

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

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services – Paradox [Review]

Lightning Ride

Location:  Louisville, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 2 players – $40 per person; 3 players – $35 per person; 4 players & up – $30 per person

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Paradox was another fantastic escape room from Rabbit Hole Recreation Services. Set in a steam-punkish time machine with Tardis overtones, Paradox was puzzley in the best kind of way.

In-game:

Each challenge came with a new interface and tools and asked us to think in a different way. The puzzles were tangible. Solving each felt like an accomplishment.

From a set and tech standpoint, Paradox was about as on-point as Mystic Temple. Rabbit Hole Recreation Services knows how to build an energetic and engaging escape game.

If you’re choosing between Paradox and Mystic Temple, I think that most will prefer Mystic Temple… if only for the ending. If you’re more into puzzle-driven gameplay, I’d go with Paradox. That said, if you’re already visiting, dive all the way down the Rabbit Hole and play both.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A large volume of fun and engaging puzzles
  • The set had some fantastic interactions
  • It was a strong all around experience

Story

As a powerful electrical storm passed over the lab, we had to complete the construction of our time machine and harness the power of lightning to traverse space and time.

In-game:

Setting

Paradox opened in an elegant study that seemed influenced by the video game series The Room. There was a massive device hooked up to barrels by large wires. That device was an appetizer teasing the contraptions that lay ahead.

As with Mystic Temple, the game was loaded with embedded technology. In this escape room, however, the tech was a bit louder as it was supposed to function as a steampunk-ish Tardis.

In-game:

Gameplay

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ Paradox was a standard escape room with an higher level of difficulty.

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

In-game:

Analysis

➕ Paradox was beautiful. From the opening moments, the set was elegantly designed, intricate, and interactive. Later on, it was breathtaking. We loved exploring the world of Paradox.

➕ Rabbit Hole Recreation Services used effects brilliantly. They felt connected to our interactions and they belonged in the world of the game. They brightened the playthrough.

In-game:

➕ Rabbit Hole Recreation Services minded the details, not just visually, but in every sense of their interaction design. One prop was especially cool to touch.

➖ Given the ingenuity that went into every inch of this set, there was one set piece that we really wanted more from – partially because we loved it – and also because it just didn’t seem to have a significance that matched its coolness.

➕ We’d never seen a radio interaction quite like this one. The puzzle concept worked beautifully. 

Paradox included an unusual reflection of a standard puzzle concept that we especially enjoyed.

➕ The gameplay branched well. We gravitated toward certain puzzles with an understanding of how they would fit together in the end. We reunited for the finale.

➖ In the late-game, we followed written instructions on a sheet of paper. The clarity was appreciated, but that single sheet felt out of place in this world. There was an opportunity to build native cluing.

➕ There were a lot of challenging puzzles in Paradox. They were difficult in different ways and required different skills to solve. We enjoyed the variety.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This game contains flashing lights and strobes.

Book your hour with Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ Paradox, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Rabbit Hole Recreation Services comped our tickets for this game.

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

Mystic Escape Room – The Amulet of Time [Review]

Tick Tock

Location:  Littleton, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $74 per team of 2 to $174 per team of 6

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Amulet of Time was a traditional escape room in a small, yet endearing setting.

Mystic Escape Room built a strong, newbie-friendly game. It won’t blow the minds of experienced players, but I think it’s a great place to have one of your first games. Plus, it’s in an adorable town. If you’re in Littleton, Colorado check it out.

Mystic Escape Room Logo

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Indiana Jones fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Adorable set design
  • Strong puzzles
  • A good reveal or two

Story

In ancient times, two mystical items were created: the Amulet of Light and the Amulet of Time. Their power was so great that wars were fought over them. The Amulet of Light was destroyed in one such conflict. In response, the secret society dedicated to protecting the Amulet of Time decided to hide the item away within the castle of the Order’s eldest member, Sir Rousseau.

Rousseau built a series of puzzles to conceal the artifact so that only the truly worthy could ever rediscover it.

Setting

The Amulet of Time was cute and cozy. Mystic Escape Room converted a house into their escape room facility. They repurposed all the living space into escape rooms, including a few fun reveals. It was a small gamespace with enjoyable decor, which worked for the staging.

Gameplay

Mystic Escape Room’s The Amulet of Time was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The puzzles flowed well. Although the game was mainly linear, we could work ahead a bit to set ourselves up for the endgame.

The Amulet of Time had a smooth on-boarding.

➕ The Amulet of Time had a compact set that wasn’t fancy, but had personality. It worked for the game.

➖ The gamespace was full of clocks, which fit the theme, but there was no game clock. We don’t generally care about the presence or absence of a game clock, and appreciate when it’s removed for immersive design. In this case, however, the experience was justified by solving puzzles against time, so the decision to remove it seemed inconsistent.

➖ We found some of the clock-related decor to be just a bit too red-herringy. We expect this will cause some players to waste quite a bit of time.

➕ We enjoyed the puzzles. We encountered a variety of puzzle types, some more straight forward and others more complex. The gameplay combined searching, observing, communicating, and puzzling.

➖ This was a generally good, low tech-game. That said, we couldn’t shake the feeling that one or two reveals were screaming for some magic.

Tips For Visiting

  • We found street parking nearby.
  • There are lots of cute restaurants and shops in this neighborhood.

Book your hour with Mystic Escape Room’s The Amulet of Time, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mystic Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

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

Time to Escape – Flashback [Review]

Totally rad Dragonlance collection!

Location:  Lakewood, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

Team size: 3-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public or Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Time to Escape’s Flashback was a traditional escape game in a large space.

The puzzles played well and the set was loaded with 80s charm. It was a solid old-school escape room.

In-game: Wide shot of the main character's 80s bedroom.

There wasn’t much wrong with Flashback, but there also wasn’t anything truly memorable about it either. If you’re in the area and looking for an escape room fix, it’s a fine option.

Seeing where Time to Escape started and where they are heading, they are clearly on an upward trajectory. After peeking inside, I’d be curious to play their next game when it officially opens.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • 80s lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Fun traditional escape room gameplay
  • Totally rad references

Story

It was 1989 and someone had kidnapped the pioneer of time travel technology. We had to investigate her home and explore her work to find the secret of time travel.

In-game: A dry erase board in pright pastel colors reads, "Totally RAD."

Setting

Flashback was set in the main character’s 1980s teenage bedroom. From a construction standpoint, there wasn’t anything special going on. Where the environment’s design shined was in the details. The room had a lot of personality beyond the standard 80s cliches that most 80s rooms lean heavily on.

In-game: The main character's bed and bookcase.

Gameplay

Time to Escape’s Flashback was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a Ouija board on a desk.

Analysis

➕ Flashback was adorable. We enjoyed the props that harkened back to the ’80s. It also had a great soundtrack; we danced our way through the puzzles.

➖ Flashback felt homemade. The set looked like a home, which wasn’t particularly interesting, and by the end even that look had kind of evaporated.

➕ Our favorite puzzles repurposed period appropriate games and toys into escape room-style solves. Time To Escape also leaned into some more niche 80s props, which was charming. These worked well.

➖ Time to Escape struggled with digit structure. At times, we’d derive a combination and try it in the wrong place because we had too many similarly structured inputs. This hampered momentum.

➕ We enjoyed the final puzzle sequence. It was an interesting, layered solve.

➖ Although it was fun, Flashback wasn’t exciting. It needed a memorable moment or a dramatic turn.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Time to Escape’s Flashback, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Time to Escape comped our tickets for this game.

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

Golden Puzzle Room – The Lighthouse [Review]

  _^_
  |@|
 =====
  #::
  #::
  #::
  #::
  #::
  #::
###::^-..
         ^ ~ ~~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
          \~~ ~~ ~ ~  ~~~~~

Location:  Lakewood, CO

Date Played: September 8, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  A 1 or 2-person team is $54. Additional players are $27 each.

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lighthouse was a solid, traditional escape room. The set was simple but scenic, and the puzzles worked well.

Our biggest gripe with the experience was that it lacked energy. Golden Puzzle Room could transform this game into something considerably more special if they added a little more drama to the experience.

In-game: An old Tandy computre in front of a large window with a ocean view.

If you’re in the area, The Lighthouse is a solid old-school game that can scratch your escape room itch.

If you have younger children, we especially recommend checking out Golden Puzzle Room because they are one of the few companies that has games designed specifically for the age group.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Lighthouse aficionados
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The late game interactions
  • ASCII art!

Story

Stranded in an abandoned lighthouse in the 1980s with a wrecked boat, we needed to get the lighthouse up and running to signal for help.

In-game: closeup of a lighthouse model with a #3 on it.

Setting

The Lighthouse opened in a homey study-like environment. The most special item in this space was an old Tandy computer… which was used to good effect.

The set wasn’t particularly enticing, but there was one nifty set piece in the second act… I just wish that it did more.

In-game: A quaint roob with a chair, fireplace, and lighthouse statues.

Gameplay

Golden Puzzle Room’s The Lighthouse was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Golden Puzzle Room designed scenery to portray the view out the lighthouse. This enhanced the experience.

➕ We loved the ASCII lighthouse art. It was a fun and unusual touch that gave this escape room character.

➖ Although the puzzles solved cleanly, they suffered from a lack of gating and digit structure variety. With so many open puzzles, we spent our time on items that couldn’t be solved yet. When we solved something we’d try to input a solution into many different possible locations. All this overlapping made it challenging to find and follow the thread of gameplay.

➕ The puzzles were generally sound. We especially loved the final puzzle. It was interactive and concluded the narrative.

➖ We felt like the story was missing a key final beat. Once we’d turned on the lighthouse, there was an obvious interaction that could have put a bow on the whole experience.

➖ Our playthrough felt one-note. The Lighthouse needed a memorable moment or two. It lacked energy.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Golden Puzzle Room’s The Lighthouse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Golden Puzzle Room comped our tickets for this game.

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

21 Keys Escape Rooms – Project Iceworm [Review]

Operation Frozen Snake!

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Project Iceworm was a good puzzle-heavy game set in the dark. Armed with headlamps, we puzzled our way through a quality old-school game.

For puzzle lovers, there’s a lot to enjoy in Project Iceworm. We really just found ourselves wishing that 21 Keys Escape Rooms would have built a puzzle that turned on the lights.

In-game: Closeup of of a pair of gas masks.

If you’re seeking a challenging yet fair puzzle game in Colorado Springs, look no further than Project Iceworm.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A challenging mix of puzzles
  • Strong, traditional escape room gameplay

Story

Project Iceworm, a covert 1960s venture by the US military, attempted to hide medium range nuclear missiles under the ice of Greenland. This was planned without the knowledge of the Kingdom of Denmark, of which Greenland is autonomous territory. The intent was to enable secret first strike capabilities against the Soviet Union.

The project was ultimately a failure and cancelled in 1966, its secrets lost beneath the ice… until now.

And yes, Project Iceworm was a real thing.

In-game: The entry way to the game, a restricted area with a lab beyond the door.

Setting

We entered Project Iceworm armed with flashlights or headlamps (our individual choice).

The gamespace was physically small, with an elegant wood and metal makeshift laboratory look. It had a unique aesthetic that was obscured a little too much by perpetual darkness.

In-game: Closeup of mounted box gloves for handling hazardous materials.

Gameplay

21 Keys Escape Rooms’ Project Iceworm was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty compared to other local games.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: Closeup of a control panel.

Analysis

➖ / ➕ Project Iceworm was unnecessarily dark. We wished we could have solved something that would have turned on the lights. That said, 21 Keys Escape Rooms provided headlamps, so we all had hands-free flashlights that illuminated whatever we were working on. This lighting situation, however, bumped awkwardly against a particular search puzzle.

➕ Project Iceworm was a puzzle-driven escape room. It had solid, layered puzzles with satisfying solves. These puzzles rewarded persistence, in a good way.

➖ Much of the clue structure was on laminated paper. Although this worked for the game, we would have liked the cluing to be more fully integrated into the gamespace.

➕ 21 Keys Escape Rooms built an interesting dexterity contraption into this game. It was a fun puzzle and we appreciated the extraction. It was unexpected.

➖ Project Iceworm was grounded in a story, but the story didn’t play a role in the escape room. Our experience didn’t have an introduction, conclusion, or dramatic event. The overall experience felt one-note and too emotionally level.

➕ The set was small, but it looked good.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with 21 Keys Escape Rooms’ Project Iceworm, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 21 Keys Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

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

EscapeWorks – Beyond the Flower Shop [Review]

Prune and fertilize

Location:  Denver, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It gives me no joy to tell you that we didn’t enjoy Beyond the Flower Shop. If I had to encapsulate the experience in one word, it would be “lifeless.”

The set had potential. Much of it looked good, but it had no spark of life… which is not how a speakeasy ought to feel.

In-game: A bar with beers, a mixed drink, and an ashtray laying atop it.

The gameplay felt utterly flat and was mostly a mixture of searching and the kind of static puzzles that show up in my Facebook feed. There was no intrigue, no mystique.

All of this was burdened by weak gating and hints that were only released at the gamemaster’s discretion… long after the death of the little momentum that we’d managed to build.

EscapeWorks was recently under new management when we visited, so I’m not writing them off yet. I think that there is potential in both this game and this company. I hope that it will be fully realized.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Completionists

Why play?

  • You’re looking for a Prohibition-themed scavenger hunt

Story

It was 1926, Prohibition was in full swing, and we had gone off in search of a good time. A friend had told us about an establishment that was hidden behind a local flower shop.

In-game: shelves of flowers.

Setting

Beyond The Flower Shop was initially set in a flower shop before moving us into a speakeasy.

The flower shop portion did the bare minimum to set the stage as a flower store. The set was sparse and dominated by stark white walls.

In-game: an antique cash register on a tabletop.

The speakeasy portion was considerably better looking. I wouldn’t have minded having a drink at the bar. That said, it still felt empty and lifeless.

Gameplay

EscapeWorks’ Beyond the Flower Shop was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a small tabletop on a barrel with a drink and lantern atop it.

Analysis

➕ Our gamemaster gave a strong introduction.

➕/➖ EscapeWorks put effort into this set. The brickwork looked brick-y and the music gave it a speakeasy vibe. That said, the space felt empty. It seemed like it was designed without a creative direction beyond generic speakeasy.

➕ One late game open was a fun reveal that brought us somewhere unexpected.

➖ Most of the gameplay resolved around search, observe, and connect. The only puzzle in the space was of the static “gotcha” variety that acquaintances post on Facebook.

➖ Beyond the Flower Shop struggled with gating issues. We spent a lot of time working on puzzles that weren’t fully available to us.

➖ We wasted a lot of time because of a tech-fail. When the obvious solution failed to trigger, we tried absolutely everything else in the space… and then tried to solve things that weren’t open to us yet.

➖ Many of these problems were complicated by the fact that hints were delivered entirely at our gamemaster’s discretion. The effect was that we spent much of our time frustrated and waiting for a hint that we knew we needed and would have asked for far earlier.

➖ The story logic was confusing. If we were looking for a good time. Why were we repairing the boiler? Everything in the space solved according to escape room logic.

➕ EscapeWorks staff was outstanding. Our game intro was especially well presented. 

Tips For Visiting

  • There is nearby street parking and public parking lots.

Book your hour with EscapeWorks’ Beyond the Flower Shop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: EscapeWorks comped our tickets for this game.

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

Made You Think Escapes – Area 51 [Review]

.–. .-.. . .- … . / .-.. — — -.- / .- – / – …. . / .-.. .. –. …. –

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We did it, guys! We stormed Area 51!

In-game: 2 aliens presrved and mounted to the wall.

What we found within the most secretive of facilities was a baffling duality. Everything within Area 51 was extreme. Made You Think Escapes’ hits were bullseyes… and their misses landed in a different zip code.

Half of the set was incredible and half was drab (frequently olive).

Some of the puzzles and challenges were great, while others were confusing or, in one lengthy instance, aggressively frustrating. I cannot recall a puzzle that made me feel this frustrated with teammates that I love.

I’ll add that the game introduction and lobby were categorically fantastic.

Area 51 was a strange game to review. When I think back, the stuff that I liked I loved, and the things that I disliked I hated. It’s difficult for me to understand the disparity on display in this escape game.

There were some really interesting things going on in Area 51. If you’re in Colorado Springs and can take the bad with the good, then there would be something worth playing here. Just don’t hold that first puzzle or two against your teammates.

Who is this for?

  • Communicative players
  • Scenery snobs (the early game notwithstanding)
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The lobby
  • The late-game set design

Story

Due to increased extraterrestrial activity, the governments of the world had been forced to admit the existence of alien life. The US government had decided to open up Area 51 for tours to help us better understand the peaceful beings that had contacted us.

While we were visiting, a sudden attack had commenced on the facility because the aliens had learned that some of our scientists had been experimenting on their brethren.

Caught between both sides, we had to find shelter.

The entryway to Area 51 S-4. The walls are metal, and there is radio active material off to the side.

Setting

Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51 had a confounding set. The two halves felt like they were built by completely different companies.

The lobby and final room were gorgeous, detailed, and unique.

The first actual room looked like the most basic of escape rooms from a few years back. The range of build quality was striking.

In-game: A pair of camo jackets beside an american flag.

Gameplay

Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51 was a standard escape room with a split beginning and a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around communication, observation, searching, and puzzling.

In-game: Closeup of a communications panel with multiple lights and a big red button.

Analysis

➕ Made You Think Escapes had a large, open lobby from which players could enter any of their games. Each game had a different aesthetic, clearly demonstrated by its door. These doorways were enticing and exciting. We loved how this space was set up.

➕ The intro video for Area 51 was hilarious. It was thematically appropriate and had us engaged in understanding the rules.

➕ Area 51 escalated well. The early sets weren’t much to behold, but it opened up into something otherworldly.

➖ Area 51 had a brutally hard first challenge. There was practically no on-ramp. This was especially challenging considering the split-team beginning. The net effect was that right out of the gate, Area 51 felt like a frustrating slog. (It did recover later.)

➖ Made You Think Escapes gave us tools, and there were so many things we could have taken apart that weren’t supposed to be fiddled with. If you give me a Phillips-head screwdriver, the only Phillips in the experience should be intended for removal.

➖/➕ The set design was decidedly uneven. The beginning of the game was completely uninspired, but the late game looked incredible. It was difficult to fathom how such a significant disparity existed within the same escape game.

➖ There wasn’t a lot to do in Area 51. There were a few puzzley puzzles and one of these had unnecessarily confusing wording, which diminished the fun of an otherwise good puzzle.

➕ We enjoyed one cleverly clued search.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Made You Think Escapes’ Area 51, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Made You Think Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

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

Escaped in Time – Sweet Dreams [Review]

The world’s turned upside down

Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Date Played: September 9, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [B] Emergency Key

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sweet Dreams was an adorable game with a great twist: everything was inverted.

In-game: A girl's dresser and oversized teddy bear all upside down.

Escaped in Time produced a straight forward, traditional escape room with smooth gameplay and a pair of memorable moments.

I would have loved to see a little more depth to the narrative and the interactions to truly round out this experience.

Overall, Sweet Dreams was a solid escape game in Colorado Springs. If you’re in the area and want something lighthearted and fun, check out Escaped in Time.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The room was upside down!
  • Adorable and whimsical

Story

KC, a typical 5 year old girl with a love of kittens, ponies, and unicorns, had an active imagination. Sometimes it got the better of her.

Our job was to lovingly help her through her dreams and prevent the bad thoughts from disrupting her sleep.

In-game: An upside down girl's bedroom with a bed, toys, and a dollhouse.

Setting

These photos weren’t flipped; Sweet Dreams was built entirely upside down. The room looked like it belonged to a little girl. The toys, clothes, and decorations all looked the part.

As the game progressed, the additional effects reinforced the dream like nature of the experience.

If it had been right-side up, it wouldn’t have looked even remotely special. The inversion, however, made Sweet Dreams delightful.

In-game: An upside down shelf with a pair of unicorns and a flower.

Gameplay

Escaped in Time’s Sweet Dreams was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The set was adorable. Escaped in Time created a little girl’s bedroom and perfectly inverted it. It was familiar, but also entirely discoverable.

➕ Escaped in Time committed to their flip. We’ve seen upside down rooms before. While they usually fall victim to inconsistency, Sweet Dreams was entirely upended.

➕ We found unexpected enjoyment in typical escape room tasks such as searching and placing objects “on” other objects. These felt fresh again.

➖ A few of the puzzles felt like key for key puzzles, although perhaps lock for lock would be a more accurate term. These moments felt hollow. There was opportunity to do something more interesting.

➖ Although we thought one puzzle caught the story beautifully, it bottlenecked. Due to a conflation of puzzle type, room layout, tools, and gameflow, too many people ended up waiting around.

➕ Despite foreshadowing some of its best moments, we were still surprised when these dropped. Sweet Dreams had a stellar reveal.

➖ The last interaction seemed tacked on to an escape room that would have been complete without it. This interaction didn’t make sense in the context of anything that came before it. Our story had already ended.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escaped in Time’s Sweet Dreams, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaped in Time comped our tickets for this game.

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

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.