The Official SAW Escape [Review]

I played a game.

Location:  Las Vegas, NV

Date Played: October 24, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5 (both for practical reasons and so you can call yourselves the Fatal Five)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $49.99 per player for a public ticket; private VIP tickets available at other prices

Ticketing: Public, with private VIP ticketing available

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When I started playing room escapes nearly six years ago, non-players would ask “Oh, like the SAW movies?” (uh, no). To finally play an escape room that actually was inspired by SAW was surreal.

The Official SAW Escape Las Vegas logo depicting Jigsaw.
Image via Official SAW Escape

The Official SAW Escape bills itself as an immersive experience that “brings to life twisted games inspired by the blockbuster SAW film franchise.” It seriously delivered. Stepping inside felt like crossing over into Jigsaw’s depraved world.

The Official SAW Escape was a horror-themed escape room featuring traps and puzzles. Players must overcome these obstacles to advance to the next stage of gameplay. The wow factor of life-size props and gamespaces (several pulled directly from the SAW movies) made up for some of the clunky and frustrating puzzle interactions. 

If horror is your thing and you want to feel like you’ve walked onto a movie set, this is one you won’t want to miss. 

In-game: A person crawling through a crawlspace.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Who is this for?

  • Fans of the SAW Franchise
  • Horror game aficionados
  • Players who want to feel like they’re in a movie
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle or interaction
  • Players who aren’t disturbed by horror-themed effects
  • Players who don’t mind actors in the game space

Why play?

  • Impressive set design
  • Large-scale interactions
  • Life-size props and traps that you can interact with (many directly from the SAW movies)
  • The excitement
  • The tension

Story

We thought we were taking an exclusive, after-hours tour of the historic Egan & Co. meat packing plant, only to discover that we were actually pawns in one of Jigsaw’s elaborate games. We had to work together to navigate an abandoned factory full of traps before the clock ran out and we faced our demise.

In-game: The front gates of the experience. a brick wall with an imposing black metal gate.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Setting

The gamespace closely mirrored several spaces Jigsaw and his successors used in the Saw movies to conduct their mischief and mayhem. It was large, ominous, detailed and impressive.

The gamespace toned down the horror of the films by not employing restraints or locked doors/ spaces at any point in gameplay.

In-game: Two people looking into a caged area and some strange artifacts.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Gameplay

The Official SAW Escape was a highly immersive escape room with a moderate level of difficulty, exacerbated by the distractions of standard horror-themed special effects.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing details, making connections and interacting with large props. It was built in a railroad style. Teams moved through the rooms at timed intervals, whether or not they had solved all the puzzles. For fans of the Saw franchise, the flow will likely bring to mind one movie in particular.

In-game: A person in a cage bathed in green light grasping one of the bars.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Analysis

➕ The Official SAW Experience offered an interesting backstory and compelling first sequence of gameplay. These elements set a tone of confusion, frustration and eeriness that laid the foundation for the remainder of the experience.

➖ The puzzling was frustrating at times. It was sometimes challenging to find the thread of gameplay when entering a new room. On a couple of occasions, The Official SAW Escape could have benefited from stronger cluing instead of relying heavily on our team searching.

➕ The transition from the first stage of gameplay to the second stage was startling and well executed. I rarely use the word giddy, but the sequence made me giddy, and it was one of those moments I wish I could play again for the first time.

➖ There were moments where the gameplay seemed unfair. Some puzzles relied on remembering information from previous rooms, yet that information was no longer accessible after leaving those rooms. (The website did warn this was the case.)

➕ The gamespace was large, detailed and highly immersive. It felt like wandering onto one of the Saw movie sets. Many of the traps, props and gamespaces were the same as or similar to ones used in the movies, adding to the immersion.

➖ The gamespace expanded and contracted significantly at points, which created inconsistency in the number of players needed to be successful. Some rooms required a larger group; other rooms bottlenecked.

➕/➖ The experience can be solidly classified as horror; however, it didn’t capture the outright terror of the movies. Depending on personal preference, this may be a positive or a negative.

➖ While the game started strongly, it lost momentum in the middle. The ending managed to inject some of the fear back and created a sense of urgency, but didn’t match the thrill of the opening.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: There is a parking lot. Pay close attention to the street address.
  • ID: Valid identification is required to enter the room escape.
  • Age: The experience isn’t recommended for anyone under the age of 16, and parental supervision may be required. Check before you book if you have minors in your party.
  • Food: The Official SAW Escape is in a highly industrial area; Uber is your best bet for getting to the closest restaurants.
  • Nearby Major Casinos: Circus Circus is a three-minute drive, Stratosphere is a four-minute drive, and Sahara is a five-minute drive.

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

Musing on Las Vegas Room Escapes

A room escape is a puzzle and a fiction that only has to capture you for 60 minutes.

Las Vegas is famously opulent and frivolous. Everything is large, glittery, and glows. It’s mostly venire, but the illusion doesn’t have to last long or withstand scrutiny.

So much potential

Vegas seems the perfect location for a room escape game. It has a rich history of crime, decadence, hedonism that is the stuff of legend, and the basis for some amazing fiction. Take a stroll down the Strip at any hour, and you can find dozens of things to inspire a puzzle based on this manic town.

This is not what I found during our Las Vegas room escape experiences.

“Live [Name] Escape” Las Vegas!

Sunny Las Vegas, Nevada is home to two room escape companies:

  • Live Game Escape
  • Live Room Escape

I’m not kidding.

Both companies claimed that they were the first to open in Las Vegas.

Really. I’m not joking.

It doesn’t really matter, but I have no idea who is telling the truth.

Passionate game designers

Both of the room escape companies have friendly and passionate designers/owners. I spent a fair amount of time getting to know them. Both of them have designed games that have charm and some unique elements.

They clearly care about their work.

A legal limitation

Las Vegas room escape companies cannot legally lock you in a room; they have to leave a door unlocked for you. It’s the law.

Both companies found reasonable solutions to the problem, but it’s an interesting limitation that they have to work with.

Competition & operating hours

It’s clear to me that both Live Game Escape and Live Room Escape see one another as their competition, and they are correct.

What I don’t think they realize is that they are also competing with everything on the Strip.

Both companies open in the mid afternoon (3 or 4pm) and stay open late. They are 10 to 15 minutes by car off the Strip (and work very hard at customer service to make up for this).

This means they are competing with dinner reservations, shows, casino games, and your debauchery of choice.

This is the core problem with these games. I am about as rabid a room escape fan as you’re ever going to find, and when faced with the choice between seeing Penn & Teller, Cirque Du Soleil, dinner at the SW Steakhouse, or one of Vegas’ room escapes, the room escapes are losing the battle for my time and money.

I had planned to escape another room or two on Monday, but after trying both companies, decided to go see a Cirque show and eat a steak instead. I just didn’t feel like venturing off the strip later in the day when there were so many wonderful things within walking distance of my hotel.

Step it up

As harsh as this sounds, this is not coming from a bad place. I’m pointing this out because I want these companies to step their games up.

When I come back to this town, I want to play some unique, interesting, Vegas themed games.

I so wanted to love these rooms.

Here are the reviews of the two Las Vegas games we played:

Update June 14, 2015 – Live Room Escape has renamed itself, “Countdown Live Escape Game.”

Live Game Escape Las Vegas – White Lie [Review]

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date played: January 23, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Price: $35 per ticket

Plot

“You plan to move to Vegas, and you are looking for houses. Your agent brings your family to an abandoned mansion which is extremely cheap. Yet, everyone is uncomfortable with the atmosphere inside. All of a sudden, a ghost comes out and all doors are locked. OMG you realize you strayed into a haunted mansion! Find a way to escape!”

Light horror

This room has a very light horror theme. “Elementary level,” is how our host put it.

That didn’t stop one of our friends (who has traveled the world eating bugs) from freaking out multiple times from the same barely scary gag.

Live Game Escape Las Vegas - White Lie

Darkness

This game begins in the dark. You’re provided with flashlights; they don’t give you enough flashlights for everyone.

It works reasonably well with the theming of the game. We did it during the daytime, so we ultimately had sunlight in the second half of the game. I imagine that two flashlights would be a lot more frustrating in the second half of the game if you play after dark.

45 minute room

It’s worth noting that this room is a 45 minute game, not the more typical 60 minute room that we have grown accustom to. It’s not a problem, but it is a shorter experience than expected.

By the book

This is a very by the book, linear, lock, combo, and key room escape.

There were two or three unique elements to this game that made it worth playing.

We tore through every puzzle in about 30 minutes. Then killed 14 minutes trying to solve the sort-of goofy final challenge.

Goofy charm

This game has a kind generally goofy charm to it. Throughout the experience there are things that are just adorably homegrown (see the plot description above).

The bottom-line

White Lie never soars, but it’s a solid… typical room escape.

It’s filled with things that break the illusion and make you laugh, but I found them endearing. What I found endearing, I can just as easily see others finding annoying.

If you’ve never done one, this isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s probably not going to blow your mind either.

Book your session with Live Game Escape in advance; they charge more for walk-ins.  Tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Live Room Escape Las Vegas – Trap Room [Review]

Update June 14, 2015 – Live Room Escape has renamed itself, “Countdown Live Escape Game.”

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date played: January 24, 2015

Price: $35 per ticket

Plot

“Once someone enters, the doors lock and the countdown begins. Mr. X was smart enough to hide his work and created several clues. Will you be able to escape from the trap room?”

Aggressive horror

This is a horror themed room. Unlike the horror themed room from Mission Escape Games in NYC, which set a scary tone, but never really crossed the line, this one was actually scary.

They did things that legitimately make you jittery and jumpy.

This was the most interesting aspect of this game. It also made it unique, among room escape games I’ve played.

There is one significant moment in this game that is unique, nerve-racking, and pretty damn cool.

Active employees

The people working the Trap Room really play toy with you.

While you’re in the room, they are working hard.

And for what it’s worth, they are really nice people and passionate about their work; this makes it harder to say that the Trap Room has some serious flaws.

Live Room Escape - Trap Room

Light spoiler warning

Be warned, there are some light spoilers in this review.

I like to avoid them, but I just can’t write about some of the biggest problems in this room without spoilers.

That being said, the reasons to play this game are for the horror elements, not the puzzles.

Puzzle deficit

The room is filled with stuff… But there aren’t many puzzles to solve.

Most of what’s in the room is useless, and the single biggest challenge of the game is sorting out what actually matters.

Sloppiness

When you do encounter a real puzzle in this game, it’s just sloppy.

Generally in a room escape, when you’ve found the answer to a puzzle, you know how to apply it.

Twice in this game we had an answer, and we knew where it went, but we couldn’t figure out formatting.

The fun of solving a puzzle is in deriving the answer, not in determining whether to orient a letter as a “b” or a “d.”

Waivers, breakables & fairness

Before you even start the game, the owner makes you sign your life away, and agree in writing that if you break anything, you bought it.

It was really dramatic.

When you enter the room, there is a computer with a sign on it that says, “Don’t move the computer.”

While the a computer monitor is not “the computer,” it’s a breakable part of one. There shouldn’t have been something hidden under it. I’m including this spoiler mostly because I think the clue they hide under it should be moved. It’s not a fair place to stash a clue. We followed the rules, and we were punished for it.

Similarly, light and darkness are important in this game, yet the men behind the curtain control the lights.

We missed clues that we would have found if we could control the lights.

There’s an element of fair-play that is lost in this game.

The bottom-line

If you’re looking for an experience akin to an interactive haunted house, this is a lot of fun.

If you’re seeking a room escape that’s going to make you feel like you squared-off against a carefully constructed puzzle, then this is not an experience that I would recommend.

If you’re looking to scratch that horror itch, book your hour with Live Room Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.