Just Escape – Underworld [Review]

Don’t forget to pack your cement shoes.

Location: Massapequa, NY

Date played: March 26, 2017

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We entered the home of a mob boss to locate a port and container number in order to intercept contraband cargo.

Underworld took place in a sparsely furnished home. The set pieces and overall aesthetic were largely unremarkable.

Just Escape logo

Puzzles

Underworld relied on persistent searching.

The puzzling was your typical varied escape room fare.

Standouts

We appreciated one puzzle in particular for the logical connection Just Escape created that wasn’t readily apparent.

Just Escape’s intro video was sassy… in a good way. We really enjoyed it.

Our gamemaster delivered artful, punny hints that led us indirectly to overlooked information.

Shortcomings

The hint delivery seemed inordinately delayed. Just Escape should have these wonderful hints prepared ahead of player request.

Just Escape hadn’t been open more than a few months, and already many of the props showed signs of wear. In one instance, a written clue was entirely rubbed away. They need to be cognizant of maintenance.

One red herring gobbled up a good chunk of our time and attention.

Should I play Just Escape’s Underworld?

Underworld would be a fun beginner game. The setup worked and the room escape flowed logically. The puzzling was pretty standard, with a few more challenging elements. Most solutions led to a lock, yet the volume of locks wasn’t overwhelming.

While I wouldn’t recommend that experienced players go out of their way to visit this escape room, if you’re new to escape rooms, or you have some friends on Long Island you’d like to initiate, Underworld wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

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

Full disclosure: Just Escape comped our tickets for this game.

 

Just Escape – The Tryals [Review]

I confess!

Location: Massapequa, NY

Date played: March 26, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $30 per ticket

Story & setting

As falsely accused witches about to stand trial, we had an hour to steal a series of fake confessions that our neighbors had created in our names, or burn at the stake.

The room was dark and largely bare with the exception of a few props that suggested old-timey witchcraft. While the gamespace was certainly unusual, even by escape room standards, the room was not much to look at.

In-game: a glowing lantern upon a shelf illuminating a pair of goblets.

Puzzles

The Tryals was incredibly search-centric. There were puzzles to solve, but finding all of the components was the crux of the game.

Additionally, some of the puzzling had fractured clue structure. This became apparent when hints started flowing pretty freely from the gamemaster to help us bridge the gaps.

Standouts

Just Escape did a lot of unusual things with this room. They created honestly different interactions and challenges.

Two late-game moments, in particular, stood out: one for its unexpected arrival, the other for its unorthodox delivery. These were inventive.

The Just Escape facility was well staffed. The blazer-wearing gamemasters were diligent, caring, and on top of their stuff.

Shortcomings

The darkness of the gamespace was the true challenge of The Tryals. It was tedious having only one significant light source for everyone to share.

Aesthetically, the room wasn’t appealing. It felt like a dark basement.

It was often difficult to tell the confessions apart from non-confession clues. We didn’t even realize when we had collected all of them.

The puzzle’s clue structure was frequently fractured and required a few leaps of logic or hints.

Should I play Just Escape’s The Tryals?

The Tryals was an interesting game. It offered a unique experience and unusual interactions. This is admirable, especially considering how many room escapes rehash the same concepts that so many others have already explored.

There was, however, plenty of opportunity to improve The Tryals with stronger in-game cluing, more compelling aesthetics, and strategically placed light sources.

Beginners will likely find The Tryals a challenging game. The darkness adds a lot of complexity to most team dynamics. If you don’t already know your way around an escape room, this can be a mighty big challenge. If this sounds like an appealing challenge, then by all means, dive in.

Experienced players will likely find the game flow issues, lack of aesthetic, and light sharing frustrating. I found myself regularly impressed by the unusual game mechanics and then equally frustrated by some of the glitches in execution.

There is a brilliant game in The Tryals if Just Escape is looking to iterate.

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

Full disclosure: Just Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Can You Escape? Long Island- The Apartment [Review]

The game designed to make college dorm rooms feel good about themselves.

Location: Mineola, NY

Date played: July 10, 2016

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

The Apartment was stark, nearly bare. It included an old, gross couch and not much else.

Our game master presented a story that sort of carried throughout the game. It was more of a theme than a cohesive narrative.

At its core The Apartment was a less than enticing room full of puzzles.

A bland looking apartment with a

Puzzles

While the room looked bare, that was a pretense for hidden clues. A substantial component of the puzzling was searching.

The later puzzles offered more intrigue than the early ones. These involved more tactile props.

Standouts

The Apartment included a few strong puzzles. These particular puzzles were designed such that they were presented early, but not hackable without riding out the game to discover their later components.

Shortcomings

The set was unwelcoming, to say the least. The puzzles hinted at a story, but only delivered theming without narrative.

The puzzles varied in their degrees of creativity and intrigue, but they all lacked polish.

We played this game with two experienced players. Even for newer players, I can’t imagine that a team of 6-8 would have enough to do in the space.

Should I play Can You Escape?’s The Apartment?

We had a good time puzzling through this game just the two of us. However, this game doesn’t offer anything special, especially for experienced players. The game mechanics work, but no greater sum emerges.

That said, newer players will likely be appreciative of the puzzles and various interactions. Because the game mechanics are solid, it’s a good introduction to how these things go.

It’s a fun stop off if you’re in the area, but it’s not worth traveling to.

Book your hour with Can You Escape?’s The Apartment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Puzzle Break Long Island – The Grimm Escape [Review]

“In olden times, when wishing still helped…”
-The Frog King, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Location: Syosset, NY

Date played: July 9, 2016

Team size: 6-12; we recommend 8-10

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Set in a conglomeration of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, we had an hour to break the witch’s spell… because of course there was a witch.

The story and staging in Grimm Escape were reasonably strong. Each game element incorporated something from one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and all puzzles were devoted in some manner towards breaking the witch’s spell.

A log cabin with a big wooden door.

Puzzles

This was one of the most challenging rooms we have ever played because there weren’t many mechanisms to help us understand if we were on the right track. The many logic puzzles and riddles built upon one another without affirmation.

It was possible to make a fatal mistake and have no way of knowing it until time expired… which was exactly what happened to us. We made a mistake of a single letter and solved everything else correctly, but there was nothing we could do to derive the correct answer at the end of the game.

Make no mistake about it: every puzzle was solvable. However, the game offered only subtle clues and the lack of answer verification made amalgamation tricky.

Standouts

The environment was adorable and fun.

There was a tiny bit of magic; it was innovative and compelling.

The volume of puzzles stuffed into this room was impressive.

Shortcomings

The game fiercely bottlenecked at one point where it hinged on a puzzle that was barely clued. It created a weird situation where if we didn’t see the solution quickly, we were stuck hacking at it all together or asking for a hint.

One complex logic puzzle took two of our teammates over half of the game to solve. Lisa was one of these players and felt that she couldn’t write this review because she had played such a narrow portion of the overall game.

The puzzles built on themselves without verifying that we we had correctly solved them. We had a tiny mistake in our puzzling, and the irony of it was that Lisa knew the correct answer, but she was off solving the never-ending logic puzzle. By the time she rejoined the group, our error was buried and impossible to untangle.

In a final twist for our team, we had the exit key in our hand with time to spare, but didn’t win. A teammate was turning the dials on the final puzzle while we were trying to solve it and he opened it despite 10,000 possible permutations. We were told that it didn’t count and the lock was promptly shut by our gamemasters.

Should I play Puzzle Break Long Island’s The Grimm Escape?

The Grimm Escape has a cute exterior but in its heart, it’s sadistic. I’d venture to guess that it is deliberately cruel because Puzzle Break advertises it as their most challenging room.(That is saying something, as all of their games are far more challenging than most escape rooms.)

As with all Puzzle Break games, this was a serious puzzle game with a low probability of success. If that’s the style of game you’re looking to play, then consider this the biggest challenge you’ll find in the New York Metro area since SCRAP closed their doors earlier this year.

Bring a full team of people who really love to puzzle intensely.

Book your hour with Puzzle Break Long Island’s The Grimm Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Puzzle Break Long Island – Escape from 20,000 Leagues [Review]

“Where others have failed, I will not fail.”
-Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Location: Syosset, NY

Date played: July 9, 2016

Team size: 7-10; we recommend 7-9

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Set in a Jules Verne-ian steam punk submarine, we had an hour to restart our vessel or lose ourselves to the depths.

The room was nicely themed. Some portions were more thoroughly themed than others; while there was nothing mind-blowing, there were a few cute details.

In-game: A wall painted to look like oxidized copper with a nautical bell hanging off of it, and a porthole embeded in it.

The story, while a great setup, wasn’t particularly relevant. I grew up on Jules Verne, and more specifically, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, so I could have used a little more of that.

Puzzles

Puzzles are Puzzle Break’s strength. They lean hard into challenging, puzzly games designed for large groups. Escape from 20,000 Leagues was no exception.

There were a lot of puzzles and they required careful consideration, far more than is usually required in the current room escape market.

Standouts

The standout feature was absolutely the puzzles: their variety and difficulty. It’s rare to find a game that offers this much resistance to experienced players in 2016.

When the theming was on, it was pretty great.

Shortcomings

Some of the theming felt a bit lazy. Why was there a modern tape measure in our steampunk sub from 1866?

We were explicitly told that there were “no red herrings in the room.” Our game masters were in the game with us and yet, they let us burn a staggering amount of time trying to determine the meaning of something that turned out to be scenery… although it could easily have been a puzzle.

Puzzle Break Long Island had only been open for one week when we visited them. We typically let a company operate for at least a month before we play their games. In this instance, we were in their neighborhood for a wedding, so we visited anyway. There were some bumps with the game mastering, but I do honestly believe that these were rooted in inexperience and will not be a long-term challenge. The game masters were lovely, sharp people who seemed unsure of what they needed to do to facilitate the games.

There was one critical element of the game that greatly upped the difficulty without adding any fun. We appreciated this deliberately challenging game design, but it could have been presented in such a way as to make it less tedious.

Should I play Puzzle Break Long Island’s Escape from 20,000 Leagues?

Puzzle Break offers an old-school style escape: hard puzzles for large groups of people with less focus on story, theme, and scenery.

This is a very valid style of escape room, even if it is growing less common. If this is the style of game you’re looking for, then you won’t find much better (other than their other game, The Midnight Carnival).

Bring a big team. Bring a cooperative team. Bring a smart team. Bring an observant team. Miss a detail and you’re sunk.

Book your hour with Puzzle Break Long Island’s Escape from 20,000 Leagues, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Can You Escape? Long Island – Back to Basics [Review]

“Back to Basics” is the most literal escape game name I’ve ever seen.

Location: Mineola, New York

Date played: April 11, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Price: $28 per ticket

Plot

While babysitting you accidentally got locked in the children’s play room. You have one hour to find the spare key and get out before the parents return! Can You Escape?

Can You Escape the Room LI

Beginner’s Room

Back to Basics is designed for you to win.

It has an escape rate along the lines of a 70%, which makes it the beginnerest room we’ve ever encountered.

That’s not to say that the puzzles lack creativity; this room has some solid and interesting puzzles. They just aren’t very hard, and given the difficulty level, there probably aren’t enough of them.

Between the five people on our team, we had a collective 120+ hours of real life room escape experience, and we cut through nearly every puzzle in less than ten minutes. Tragically, we over-thought one puzzle to a spectacular degree costing us another 10 minutes, and a hint that I will never really be able to forgive myself for taking.

Can You Escape Long Island Back to Basics Room Escape Artist

Non-Threatening, Yet Creepy

In keeping with the beginner theme, this room is essentially a kids’ playroom with children’s toys on one side, and tweeny things on the other. The theming is very strong, and clearly created by parents.

This was by far the least threatening escape game we’ve played since the game that was designed specifically for children.

All of that being said, the chimey nursery music playing in the background throughout the game added an air of creepiness that is usually reserved for horror movies involving evil children. It never becomes threatening, but the music really does augment the experience.

Timer Failure

The timer in the room stopped working almost immediately after we started, and our team didn’t quite realize how fast we were going, so when we got stuck on that one puzzle, the team was worried that we burned more time than we had.

If we had an accurate measure of our remaining time, I don’t think we would have taken the aforementioned hint.

Should I Play “Can You Escape? Long Island’s Back to Basics”?

The game never soars, and it never sinks. It’s a by-the-numbers escape game designed to very gently easy new players into escape gaming. I think it might be too gentle.

If you’ve never played a real life escape game before, and are scared of the concept, then this is your room.

If you want to bring children to an escape game, then this is your room.

The room isn’t badly designed, it’s just way too easy. Its level of ease is excessive, and therefore I cannot recommend it to most adults. However, the potential that I saw leaves me hopeful that the folks from Can You Escape? Long Island are going to produce some solid games.

Book your hour with Can You Escape? The Room LI, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.