Lockout – Europa [Review]

By Jupiter’s moons! (not available in English)

Location:  Antibes, France

Date Played: September 30, 2018

Team size: 3-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 20-35 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Europa was a puzzle-focused escape room that offered some unusual interactions and puzzles.

At times this mission felt futuristic and spaceship-y. Other times, it felt like an escape room of locked boxes.

While I enjoyed many of the puzzles, as we escaped, I found myself wishing that the concluding story beats, puzzles, and interactions felt more like they had belonged on this spaceship.

Overall, if you’re in Antibes, France, and looking to play an escape room, this would be a fun choice with interesting puzzles.

In-game: A pilot's chair in front of a computer station in a spaceship.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting and varied puzzles
  • Nifty moments

Story

The European Space Agency had received a signal from a missing ship that was returning with samples from Jupiter’s moon Europa. We had to board the ship and return with the samples.

Setting

Europa was set on a futuristic spaceship.

The set was uneven. Most of the game had a steel and space-y look. Some segments looked like a traditional lock-and-key escape game.

In-game: Closeup of a steel floor.

Gameplay

Lockout’s Europa was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Lockout designed some excellent, layered puzzles.

➖ Europa presented us with a mission and detailed steps to follow to achieve it. It wasn’t clear, however, which puzzles fit with this series of objectives. We played a decent amount of this game in the dark because of this confusion.

➕ We especially liked the use of augmented reality in one puzzle.

➕/➖ One interesting puzzle concept missed a beat. We liked the inventive concept, but the solution was only partially clued.

➕ Lockout executed standard escape room puzzle concepts to facilitate teamwork. This worked well.

➖ Europa was a heavily padlocked spaceship containing a lot of locked boxes. It felt overly locked with props and locks that didn’t aesthetically match the game concept. This contributed to a general feeling that too many items in this game didn’t belong on a spaceship.

➖ The win was anticlimactic. Solving a complex puzzle yielded yet another key. We would have liked to see that solve integrated contextually into the story of this spaceship and our escape from it.

Tips For Visiting

  • You must be able to read and understand French to play Europa.

Book your hour with Lockout’s Europa, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Heyou Escape – La Terrible Affaire Bambell [Review]

The Terrible Bambell Affair (available in English)

Location:  Le Cannet, France

Date Played: September 30, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 24-30 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

I keep telling people about La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

Heyou Escape’s horror thriller was one of the most interesting escape rooms we’ve encountered in our travels. 

All about story and fear, La Terrible Affaire Bambell relied on traditional escape room gameplay to facilitate the narrative and the feelings it created in players.

This escape room worked because of creativity, hard work, and commitment. 

La Terrible Affaire Bambell wasn’t a good or a bad escape room. It was theatrical. It was terrifying. It was a weak puzzle game… hell, it was barely a puzzle game. It was an intense and interesting experience. 

If you’re looking for traditional, puzzle-driven, non-threatening escape room gameplay, do not play La Terrible Affaire Bambell. If you’re in the south of France and you seek something unique that might shift your perspective on what an escape room can be, then Heyou Escape’s first outing is a must-play.

In-game: The hallway of the apartment complex that housed the game.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fiends 
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Frights
  • Worldbuilding
  • Thought-provoking conclusion

Story

We were new police recruits on a risky first assignment. Our sergeant had tasked us with investigating the apartment of a suspected serial killer. 

This man had been monitored by police for some time; they were confident that this was the guy. We need to inspect his residence to determine if he was the killer and how many people he had murdered.

There were two catches: 

  • He had a photographic memory. We had to put everything back exactly as we had found it. Because… 
  • He could return to his home while we were investigating. If he returned, we had to hide. 

Given the dangers, our sergeant would be on the radio supporting us the entire time. 

In-game: A "special police" badge.

Setting

Heyou Escape led us to an apartment in a real apartment building. En route, he improvisationally melded the real life environment with the game world. 

Once our sergeant had “picked the lock” to the apartment, he left us in a dark, creepy living room lit only by a few flashlights (that were chained to the wall). 

In-game: a globe in a dark room.

Gameplay

Heyou Escape’s La Terrible Affaire Bambell was an unusual theatrical horror escape room with a higher level of difficulty (more on that in the analysis).

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and enduring the tension. 

In-game: A skinned stuffed animal in a dark room.

Analysis

➕ La Terrible Affaire Bambell was unique. Its story, rules, and approach to gameplay were unlike anything we’d encountered in more than 650 escape rooms. 

➕ Heyou Escape established their story and world by integrating the real world into the experience. This was brilliant and immersive. 

❓ La Terrible Affaire Bambell was scary. This was the first game that we had ever played where one of our teammates quit in the middle of the game (and no, that wasn’t Lisa!). Heyou Escape told us that 30% of teams have at least one player abandon due to fear. Whether this is amazing or terrible is up to you.

➕ Heyou Escape introduced a game mechanic that I spent more than half of the game thinking was stupid… until it turned into my favorite aspect of the game. I cannot say more without ruining it.

➕/➖ The mediocre puzzles only worked because of the heavy gamemaster involvement (which was well integrated into the game). That being said, the puzzles were never the reason to play La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

➕/➖ The set was creepy. It established the right tone, but it didn’t look incredible. It also lacked believable hiding places (which really were critical to this narrative).

➕/➖ The hiding from the serial killer was intense even if I couldn’t believe that we were effectively hiding ourselves from the killer.

➕ The actor/ gamemastering was fantastic. It made this world feel real, even when we could see the seams. We further commend Heyou Escape for delivering all the dialogue in English. (We later received a behind the scenes glimpse that demonstrated just how hard the staff had to work to make this crazy experience work.)

➖ The ending came too late… or the climax came a little too early. By the time that La Terrible Affaire Bambell had come to a conclusion, the story had begun to unravel. 

➕ Heyou Escape left us with an interesting question about the game… and the more I thought about it that evening over dinner and wine… the more I appreciated the uniqueness of La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

Tips For Visiting

  • This is truly a horror game. Be prepared to be scared.
  • Players need to be fairly mobile.

Book your hour with Heyou Escape’s La Terrible Affaire Bambell, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

I Lock You – Meurtre à Hollywood [Review]

Murder in Hollywood (available in English)

Location:  Nice, France

Date Played: October 1, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 90-144 € per team depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

From the premise to the gameplay of the second half, Meurtre à Hollywood was an unusual escape game. Our goal wasn’t to escape, stop a calamity, or find some special item. We needed to figure out how to arrange the set for filming a television show.

With this unusual setup, I Lock You’s second game started out as a traditional escape room and transitioned into something different. I Lock You used these differences to craft an interesting environment and unique puzzles to match it.

In-game: The chalk outline of a body at movie set of a crime scene around a poker table.

While the puzzle flow and set design quality varied heavily throughout Meurtre à Hollywood, the overall experience was memorable and worthy.

If you’re in Nice and looking to explore an escape room that does something a bit different with the medium, I strongly recommend Meurtre à Hollywood.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Puzzle quantity, quality, and intrigue
  • Amusingly dramatic finale

Story

Our Hollywood careers were taking off; we landed roles on a popular crime drama staring Scarlett J. Unfortunately the crew that was supposed to arrange the set had been fired. If Scarlett were to show up at filming time and find the set in disarray, she would surely quit the show. We had to save our acting career and the production by reasoning out how to assemble the set before its star entered.

In-game: the desk and mirror in a movie star's dressing room.

Setting

Meurtre à Hollywood spanned two spaces: Scarlett’s dressing room and the crime scene set that we had to make right.

The dressing room was simple and plain, but had the right props to indicate its purpose. 

The crime scene was vibrant, with lively lighting. This segment of the game was unusual and interesting. 

In-game: A well lit movie set of a crime scene around a poker table.

Gameplay

I Lock You’s Meurtre à Hollywood was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Meurtre à Hollywood delivered unique gameplay; the concept behind the second half was new to us.

➕ We especially liked the tangible interactions that facilitated deeply layered solves.

➖ The set and prop aesthetics varied a lot. While some elements had charm and quality, the gamespace mostly looked homemade and messy. Additionally, I Lock You included a lot of clue structure on laminated paper.

➕ Some of Meurtre à Hollywood’s best puzzle moments shed new light on the movie set and altered our perspectives.

➕/➖ I Lock You went 1 for 2 on transitions. In one instance, they surprised us with an unexpected open. In another, we wanted to move forward, but the cluing was tenuous for a puzzle that seemed a lame choice of gating.

➖ The puzzle flow was rough. It was easy to derive solutions without a place to input them or a clear way to keep them organized for later use.

➕ I Lock You’s destructible worked well. Their cluing on this was smart. 

➕ The final scene was dramatic and entertaining.

Tips For Visiting

  • This game is available in English.

Book your hour with I Lock You’s Meurtre à Hollywood, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: I Lock You provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Iris Game – L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante [Review]

The Case of the Bloody Trunk (available in English)

Location:  Monaco

Date Played: October 5, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28-35 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

We had a day in the south of France without any plans. When we saw that Monaco’s first escape room company had just opened… we felt compelled to play a room in our 12th country.

L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante was a small search-and-puzzle escape room created with a lot of heart.

At its best, Iris Game created tangible interactions that affected the gamespace. The set was decorated with high-resolution, large-format decals. It wasn’t the most immersive set we’ve seen, but Iris Game did a lot with a little.

We spent a large portion of L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante searching; it was a too much scavenging for our taste. 

If you find yourself in the Principality of Monaco and feel the need to play an escape room, Iris Game is the place to do it.

In-game: A bicycle locked up in an alleyway behind a gate.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A glimpse of local history
  • Charming staging
  • Interesting interactions

Story

Based on a true story: It was 1907 and a Mr. Goold was arrested with a bloody trunk filled with most of the remains of his neighbor Mrs. Lévin. Goold admitted to the murder, but our instincts as investigators told us that he wasn’t telling the full story.

We went to search his neighborhood for evidence and hunt down Mrs. Lévin’s missing body parts.

In-game: A weathered, white door addressed number 8 with a large mailbox hanging beside it.

Setting

L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante was set on the street in front of the crime scene at night. The dimly lit set was decorated with plants, detailed decals, and other items that one would find outside of peoples’ homes.

It was a small game, which wasn’t surprising; Monaco is a fun-sized country and property comes at a premium.

In-game: A hefty wooden door addressed number 10.

Gameplay

Iris Game’s L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: Closeup of the number 8 letterbox.

Analysis

➕ Iris Game based L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante in local history. We had traveled to Monaco for the day and as tourists, we especially enjoyed the escape game’s local flavor.

➕ The tourist in David was also excited to encounter a lock we’d never seen before.

➖ Much of the story unfolded in written materials. We would have liked to have felt the story through the gameplay instead.

➕ Iris Game built a lot into a small gamespace. They staged L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante in an alleyway, which gave them the ability to make it appear like there was more to the space then there actually was. It worked well.

➕ Iris Game used detailed, textured wallpaper to make the space feel bigger and more interactive than it was. This was one of the best uses of wallpaper that we’ve encountered.

➖ We recognized puzzle types quickly, as quite a few puzzles within L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante shared similar design. Puzzle diversity would improve this game. 

➖ L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante required too much searching.

➕/➖ Some of the searching was well clued through solving puzzles. These were satisfying solves. Other times we only knew we were missing a necessary component; we had to search the entire space without any direction. Hints for search fails proved unhelpful, giving us information we already knew or only vague direction as to where to search. This created frustrating moments that slowed our momentum. In one instance we spent close to 15 minutes and 2 hints searching for one item. 

➖ Given that this escape room relied heavily on searching and reading, the dim lighting was especially annoying. I ended up setting up a work station on the floor, in the place with the most light, which led us to continually trip over puzzle elements for the full hour. A spotlit workspace would have been a big improvement.

L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante included interesting interactions. We especially appreciated how these interactions connected within the space.

Tips For Visiting

  • Iris Game is located around the corner from the Starbucks. If you pass Starbucks, don’t start going up and down public elevators. You’re already on the correct level.

Book your hour with Iris Game’s L’affaire de la Malle Sanglante, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Iris Game comped our tickets for this game.