The Partnership behind Level Games in Los Angeles [Interview]

Doggy Dog World has been adopted! 🐶

Two Los Angeles escape room companies, Escape Chronicles and Arcane Escape Rooms, have teamed up to create Level Games, a new company taking over the space that formerly housed ESCapades LA. We were thrilled to hear about this collaboration, which brings so many wonderful creators together.

We recently caught up with Andrew Cefalo and Spencer Beebe, Co-founders/ Designers of Escape Chronicles, and Matt Tye, Founder/ Designer of Arcane Escape Rooms, to learn more about this partnership.

Spoiler… we’re excited about it!

In-game: an oversized doghouse.
Doggy Dog World

How did this partnership come about?

Level Games: Escape room owners in Los Angeles are generally friendly. The community has set the right conditions for a partnership like this. We all respect each other’s work.

We started sharing ideas for our future games and we got really excited about what we could accomplish together. We all wanted to spin traditional game narratives in future projects. The more we talked about it, the more we knew this would be really fun!

Since we are all tackling similar issues by teaming up, we decrease the overhead of running the business so that we can focus on the games.

In-game: a rolltop desk beside a stack of crates and an artest palet.
Escape Chronicles

What inspired you to take the ESCapades LA space?

We were all already discussing sharing a larger space and working collaboratively when the ESCapades LA space became available. We took a tour of the space and it was love at first sight. The space is huge and really freaking cool! The fact that we get to adopt Doggy Dog World and Disrupted Decades for a little while is a big bonus.

What’s your plan for the current games, especially the beloved Doggy Dog World?

Doggy Dog World is the fan favorite so we don’t want to make any big alterations. We’ll only make minor tweaks to adjust game flow and better protect props and electronics from players. If you’ve played the game before, we haven’t changed it enough to warrant a replay.

We’ll continue running Disrupted Decades as well. We bolstered the charm of the room with some tasteful tech, new and tweaked puzzles, and a new narrative on top of the original foundation. Our playtest groups are loving the revamped Disrupted Decades!

If you’ve played Disrupted Decades before, you could play it again. The updated version is about 70% brand new content. We actually added too much and we really liked all of it… so we made it a 75-minute game!

In-game: a dog's view of a wood fence.
Doggy Dog World

We plan to keep Doggy Dog World and Disrupted Decades for at least six months. We’ll aim to build out new rooms to fill in the unused areas of the space before closing down Doggy Dog World. We haven’t purchased the games from ESCapades LA; we are just borrowing them for a while… Doggy Dog World could pop up somewhere else in the future.

Who is designing the new experiences in the space?

The Level Games experiences are all based on ideas that each company had dreamt up individually. Each team’s eyes lit up as they heard the others’ ideas! When we started pooling our creative efforts on the projects, everything just clicked.

Each project will have its own lead, but everyone will be designing puzzles, gameplay elements, story elements, etc. Since we all have different strengths, it’s working out really nicely. Although these started as individual ideas, they have all already become joint ventures.

In-game: A wooden wall with pipes and a big red valve mounted to it.
Arcane Escape Rooms

What is your timeline for new experiences?

We’re spending every waking moment working to complete the designs and construction of the new games and loving every minute of it! Most likely, you can expect to see 1-2 new Level Games experiences in 2019. That said, even though we’ve done a lot of work already, we don’t want to feel pressure to meet dates for no reason, so please don’t hold us to that.

Is anything changing at Arcane Escape Rooms and Escape Chronicles?

Matt: Arcane Escape Rooms is absolutely staying where it is. The Hideout and The Agency are still running and we just opened our new game The Ghost of Mentryville in October. There will be at least one more game from Arcane Escape Rooms in the future.

Andrew & Spencer: We’re out of space to build new games at Escape Chronicles, but our current games Smugglers Tunnels and Testing Facility are still going strong. If we get the sense that interest is falling we’ll most likely look into replacing the rooms with something new, but hopefully that’s a ways off. Right now our creative efforts are focused on Level Games and we have our hands full. Plus, it’s really great to build collaboratively!

How is your vision for Level Games different from that of your other escape room companies?

Level Games intentionally does not have “escape” in the name. In addition to building escape rooms, we will try some riskier ideas that depart from the escape room formula.

We’re working to change the fundamentals of how the “escape room” works. For example, we’re developing a game that we ourselves can play and have the same experience and challenge as new players.

We also plan to make Level Games a place for the community to hang out. We plan to host tabletop games – we love board games! – and large party games in the space. We want to share lots of kinds of games with the community.


Escape Hotel Hollywood – Escape Room Movie Experience [Review]

Escape the Escape Room escape room.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: January 9, 2019

Team size: Up to 6 (we recommend 2-4)

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: Free (limited run ended January 2019)

Ticketing: Choice of public or private booking

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Escape Room movie live-action experience was a fitting entry point into the world of escape rooms for people whose interest may have been piqued by the movie.

Playing the Escape Hotel Hollywood version after watching the movie could have been a bit of a letdown, since the real-life puzzles were necessarily less cinematic than their movie counterparts. But the live-action experience was effective as an appetizer for the film, and it was entertaining to see a prop or puzzle in the movie and be able to say, “I did that!”

In-game: an old study-like environment with books, paintings, a large red leather chair, and a maze.

We appreciated that this escape room didn’t feel like an overly branded marketing tool. On the other hand, we would have liked to see a bit more of the atmosphere and gameplay drawn from the movie.

The set and puzzles were fairly conventional and there wasn’t much in the way of story. Still, despite a couple of time-consuming puzzles that broke our momentum, Escape Hotel Hollywood fit a good amount of content into this half-length game.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of the Escape Room movie
  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A taste of the Escape Room movie in real life
  • Escape Hotel Hollywood’s atmosphere and special effects
  • It was free

Story

We were locked in an amalgam of the different rooms from the movie Escape Room. We had to solve all the puzzles in order to escape with our lives.

In-game: two paintings next to a shelf with bottles containing liquid.

Setting

We entered through a dimly lit study furnished with the usual escape room trappings. The set design was fairly basic and only thematically related to the movie, but a mid-game transition heightened the experience. Special effects and props reminiscent of the Escape Room movie added tension and excitement.

In-game: a globe and 4 locked boxes.

Gameplay

The Escape Room movie experience was a standard escape room with a linear structure and a low level of difficulty.

The live-action experience recreated a couple of the puzzles from the movie almost exactly, but other puzzles were completely new, or only connected thematically.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, pattern recognition, and dexterity.

In-game: A replica phonograph.

Analysis

➕ The Escape Room live-action experience was enjoyable for a promotional tie-in. The escape room didn’t feel overly branded, but it still gave us a taste of the movie.

➕/➖ The set design wasn’t extraordinary, but lighting and temperature changes added to the immersion.

➕ The cluing was solid. We could almost always piece together what we were supposed to do with the puzzle elements available to us.

➖ We unintentionally bypassed one late-game puzzle by brute-forcing a combination that was easy to guess. Adjusting the gating around this puzzle would have prevented players from accidentally (or intentionally) skipping chunks of the game.

➖ Two different puzzles required prolonged maneuvering of finicky components to move forward in the game. These tasks bordered on tedious.

➖ The most laborious puzzle appeared to have a flaw in its instructions. We knew what we were supposed to do, but this snag (along with the complexity of the task itself) cost us nearly half of our time in the room. If this puzzle had been shorter and/or easier to reset, it would have felt more at home in a 30-minute game.

➖ One puzzle had large, heavy components that slid down quickly, which was startling and had the potential to be painful if our fingers were in the way.

➕/➖ Some of the reveals were telegraphed early on (think visible hinges on a picture frame), but others managed to surprise us, even as seasoned players.

➕ Escape Hotel Hollywood designed the lobby and check-in process to feel like part of the evening’s entertainment. Staff members were in character and added drama to the overall experience. We left feeling like we’d experienced more than just a 30-minute escape room.

Tips For Visiting

The Escape Room movie live-action experience had a limited run and is no longer running.

For free branded escape rooms like this one, get tickets early and consider bringing fewer than the maximum number of players (if allowed) for optimal enjoyment.

Escape Hotel Hollywood’s Escape Room movie live-action experience took place from December 2018 to January 2019 and is not currently running.

Escapades LA – Disrupted Decades [Review]

This game has re-opened under new ownership. We hear that the new version is substantially different from the version we reviewed below

Escape the shag carpet.

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Disrupted Decades was a nostalgic journey through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s with a heavy emphasis on pop culture. It put an unusual twist on the flow of an escape room by having each room represent a decade and build to a meta puzzle.

We wanted to love this escape room as much as It’s A Doggy Dog World, but Disrupted Decades felt unfinished in comparison to Escapades LA’s other game. The story felt underdeveloped and the set was underwhelming. While we truly enjoyed the puzzles, it felt light on content.

This could and should be a fantastic game. Escapades LA has a solid foundation to build on. In its current form, however, we only recommend this to puzzle lovers who want to see a new take on escape room structure and players who want a taste of nostalgia.

In-game: a 1970s living room with shag carpet,.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Nostalgic nerds
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Nostalgic props
  • An interesting approach to escape game design
  • Some clever and unique puzzles

Story

Someone screwed with the space-time continuum and we had to traverse the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s hunting down anachronisms and setting things right.

In-game: a wall of CDs.

Setting

Disrupted Decades was a 3-room game where each room represented a different decade. Each individual space had props, furniture, and in some cases, carpeting that was emblematic of the decade we were visiting.

The props were generally authentic.

None of the sets were particularly eye-catching or immersive.

In-game: a 1970s living room with a small TV and Polaroid camera.

Gameplay

Escapades LA’s Disrupted Decades was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

+ Escapades LA produced an interesting escape room in Disrupted Decades. They emphasized exploring the props to determine which were out of place and how they worked together to solve a larger meta puzzle for each room.

– In practice, once we got the hang of how this game worked, it felt light on content.

+ It was enjoyable to take a journey back through the nostalgic items. Some of them stretched the limits of the props to deliver interesting interactions.

+ The ’80s had some high points when it came to puzzling.

– The set was subpar. It didn’t go far enough to convey the time periods. Each era would have benefitted from more details. There were a lot of small props, but the sets felt too bare. A few large and tangible set pieces would go a long way.

– The story felt underdeveloped. There wasn’t much of a beginning, ending, or feeling of consequence. It was just a scenario.

In-game: a franklin electronic dictionary and thesaurus.

+ In the ’90s room they had a Franklin Bookman electronic dictionary & thesaurus. I admit that this is insanely personal and nearly no one will appreciate this prop… but I used to lay in bed with a flashlight every night looking up words and synonyms, and playing word games on one of these things. Seeing one for the first time in over 20 years filled me with joy. Your mileage may vary.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escapades LA’s Disrupted Decades, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapades LA comped our tickets for this game.

60 Out – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle [Review]

The elephant in the room.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket Sunday – Thursday, $40 per ticket Friday – Saturday

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

I was really excited to play Jumanji. It was clear that 60 Out had put a lot of effort into creating this game. I wish I could say that effort correlated directly to quality… but I can’t. I’m pretty sad about it.

The Jumanji escape room was a beautiful mess filled with interesting toys and striking set pieces. Far too many puzzles were broken; the game seemed littered with the remains of removed or adapted puzzles. The character/ special ability feature was too opaque to allow for deliberate character moments. Unfortunately, the problems overshadowed a number of great puzzles and interactions.

Finally, it looked like a jungle, but it didn’t feel like Jumanji. There weren’t moments of overcoming deep-seated character flaws… nor were there many meaningful references back to the film (the original or the sequel).

In-game: a monkey statue holding a torch flanked by two rhino statues.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A detailed, unusual set
  • Nifty interactions
  • Some beautiful set pieces

Story

This licensed escape room loosely interpreted the story of the recent film sequel Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. Our group had all been sucked into a cursed jungle adventure video game.

Once we were in the video game, we each selected a character and received an ability based on that role.

Finally, we had to complete Jumanji before the game destroyed us.

In-game: a TV and game console in a 90s bedroom.

Setting

Jumanji kicked off with us hanging out in our friend’s bedroom. After we started the video game console and booted up Jumanji, we found ourselves in a jungle environment.

The bedroom was a fairly accurate recreation of Alex Vreeke’s ‘90s room from an early scene of the movie.

While the jungle setting didn’t specifically reference anything that I could recall in the film, it was a solid tropical jungle setting.

In-game: stone walls and pillars beside a collection of tree stumps.

Gameplay

60 Out’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

One key feature was the role-based play. This created situations where only a specific player (or at least their wrist band) could complete a specific interaction.

In-game: a leather bracelet labeled "Dr. SB."

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

Analysis

+ There were some beautiful, eye-catching set pieces.

– An awful lot of interactions were broken, including some key moments that should have been badass. Looking around the set, it seemed riddled with ghost puzzles. This was frustrating.

In-game: a Jumanji board.

+ I kind of wanted to keep the Jumanji board.

– The character superpowers (activated with the wrist bands) were clunky. It was often difficult to tell which bracelet applied to which interactions and why. It was difficult to connect the characters and powers; everything seemed abstract. This whole portion of the game felt hollow.

In-game: a tree in a forrest.

+ The jungle setting looked pretty good. While it wasn’t perfect, wooded environments are some of the most difficult to create and 60 Out clearly put a lot into the set. I have to give them credit for this creation.

In-game: a TV and game console in a 90s bedroom.

– 60 Out put a lot of emphasis on Alex’s bedroom. This was a bafflingly faithful recreation of a set that received about 15 seconds of screen time in the movie.

+ There were a number of fun puzzles and interactions including a teamwork puzzle, a physical interaction, and one that wasn’t particularly challenging, but was beautiful and a delight to complete.

– The finale was overflowing with potential, but it fizzled when it barely worked. I’m still not sure how it was supposed to have functioned.

– To me, the core of any Jumanji story is a group of individuals helping one another overcome their weaknesses to discover their true strengths. It’s supposed to be personal, not just a jungle adventure. This was absent from 60 Out’s Jumanji escape room. I could forgive this if 60 Out had nailed other big moments from the movie, but it didn’t really do that either. Maybe they didn’t get to see the movie before having to design the game, if that’s the case, then this failure is on the studio as well.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

Quest Room – Cannibal’s Den [Review]

Not enough meat on those bones.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 23, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $89.10 for teams of 2 to $179.10 for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Play Cannibal’s Den as if you were desperate to get out of it. If you think of it as a traditional escape room as we’ve come to understand them, it’s missing a lot. If you think of it in a more literal sense, as a room you really want to escape, then it has something to offer.

I get excited when I see games that play differently or offer something new with the escape room format. With that in mind, I didn’t enjoy Cannibal’s Den. It was different, but I didn’t trust the design.

QUEST ROOM played it loose with escape room rule and safety standards, especially early in the game. This made us uncomfortable and perpetually question how far we were supposed to push the boundaries.

Additionally, once we grokked how Cannibal’s Den wanted to be played, we breezed through this game and it felt entirely too short.

I can see some players absolutely loving this game, and there were some great moments… But neither the gameplay nor the volume of content did it for me.

In-game: a bloody and damaged tile wall, a boom box, and a blood soaked table.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror fans
  • Survivalists
  • Any experience level (but newbies should know that this game’s approach to rules and gameplay is atypical)

Why play?

  • Detailed, intense set design.
  • Desperate, survival-based gameplay.
  • A fantastic late-game sequence (if you don’t accidentally skip it).

Story

We had been captured and locked up by a deranged serial killer. A technical malfunction with one of his favorite toys had delayed our execution while he attempted to get it fixed. We had to escape.

In-game: the bars for a cell in a concrete room.

Setting

Cannibal’s Den was staged within the torture/ murder dungeon of our captor. It was dim, dingy, and bloody.

QUEST ROOM does a fantastic job with their sets and Cannibal’s Den was no exception. Every environment we set foot in looked great, in a gruesome sort of way.

Gameplay

QUEST ROOM’s Cannibal’s Den was an atypical escape room that put an emphasis on reacting to the situation and “surviving.” Once we realized how Cannibal’s Den needed to be played, we sailed through it with ease. Figuring out the play-style was the greatest challenge.

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

Analysis

Cannibal’s Den opened dramatically.

– The opening was uneven. The drama wasn’t equally forceful from the different vantage points. Some players could experience and contribute much more than others.

+ The set of Cannibal’s Den was fantastic. It was disgusting in all the right ways.

Cannibal’s Den asked us to think situationally. It offered a different type of gameplay.

+ Our favorite moment refocused our goals. It added a twist that heightened our sense of urgency.

– It would be possible to escape Cannibal’s Den without triggering this fantastic sequence.

– There wasn’t a lot of content within Cannibal’s Den. 

– Cannibal’s Den was full of red herrings. 

– QUEST ROOM really loves including interactions that break the traditional rules of escape rooms. It’s their thing, it seems. Cannibal’s Den pushed this to a place where I didn’t take an action without a hint because it didn’t seem safe, correct, or respectful. This type of interaction design teaches new players the wrong lessons about escape rooms in general, especially since the interaction wasn’t properly clued.

? Cannibal’s Den asked us to come to a few specific conclusions that made sense within the context of the situation and take actions based on those conclusions. Some of the actions felt less than comfortable. Your mileage with this style of gameplay will vary.

– The ending took us by surprise. Cannibal’s Den just kind of ended. We had a lot of time left and it seemed like there must have been other challenges in the space, but there weren’t any.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player needs to be pretty tall.
  • Players must be comfortable starting in individual gamespaces.

Book your hour with QUEST ROOM’s Cannibal’s Den, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: QUEST ROOM provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Chronicles – Testing Facility [Review]

Office Space meets Portal, with a hint of Tiny Toons

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Testing Facility was a puzzle-focused escape room that justified the puzzling with a humorous spin. Although the gamespace was not inherently exciting and it lacked adventure, Testing Facility was a phenomenally strong puzzle game with character.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you play escape rooms for the puzzles, we strongly encourage you to test yourself against Testing Facility.

In-game: breakroom with a table, breaker boxes, and a Pepsi machine.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • People who think that an Office Space-meets-Portal mashup is a good idea
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Humorous AI
  • Many interesting puzzles

Story

We had eagerly accepted Professor Bentham’s experiment and his challenge to outwit his humorously psychotic AI, PAL, and its desire to make us its best friend forever and ever.

PAL’s personality could best be described as Portal’s GLaDOS with the motivation of Tiny Toon’s Elmyra.

In-game: a close up of a CRT monitor with a DOS prompt reading, "breakroom terminal."

Setting

The tests took place in an office-meets-lab environment complete with Despair Demotivation posters. Furniture included a table, a couple of desks, and not much else. The most eye-catching set piece was an old soda vending machine.

Most of the character for Testing Facility came from the voice of the AI, PAL.

In-game: a collection of lockers with a line pattern painted on them and a desk with a CRT monitor.

Gameplay

Escape Chronicles’ Testing Facility was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

In-game: a wide shot of the the break room.

Analysis

Testing Facility was funny. The AI taunted us throughout the escape room. It added depth and humor to the bland office setting. This was a perfect example of a game that mixed an office environment with something unexpected and turned a tired escape room theme into something entertaining.

– Humor aside, Testing Facility wasn’t an exciting space to occupy. The blandness of an office didn’t energize our group.

+ Escape Chronicles built a lot of puzzle play into minimal props, and in one instance, into one small item. It was impressive.

+ Escape Chronicles printed custom props for one puzzle. This detail created smooth (red herring free!) entertaining gameplay. Many lesser companies would have just made small modifications to existing materials.

+ Escape Chronicles minded the details, delivering interesting and fun puzzles.

In-game: a desk with a National Geographic magazine beside a coffee mug that reads, "World's Okayest Employee."

+ We enjoyed Escape Chronicles’ approach to reuse. We reused knowledge that we had accumulated over the course of gameplay.

– Testing Facility lacked an impactful finale. We would have liked to see or feel a response to besting the AI. Given the character Escape Chronicles had crafted into the experience, there was opportunity to deliver a more exciting or dramatic conclusion.

Tips for Visiting

Book your hour with Escape Chronicles’ Testing Facility, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Chronicles provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Cyph3r Escape Experience – Starship Desolation [Review]

“Game over, man. Game over!” -Private Hudson, Aliens

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $36 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Starship Desolation was an Alien-inspired adventure aboard a spaceship.

The set looked lovely and we enjoyed the progressive discovery aboard the ship. From a puzzle and gameplay standpoint, it felt light on content and needed a few tweaks to clue structure.

If you’re nearby and seeking a solid space adventure, board Starship Desolation .

In-game: the bridge and command console.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sci-fi spaceship set
  • Feeling of adventure and discovery

Story

As members of the crew of Starship Desolation, we were exploring outer space, looking for new alien life forms… when things turned bad.

In-game: a reactor.

Setting

Starship Desolation looked compelling. The wall detailing, door shapes, and panel-driven design gave it a strong sci-fi, spaceship vibe.

In-game: 4 vials of multi-color chemicals.

Gameplay

Cyph3r Escape Experience’s Starship Desolation was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

In-game: the futuristic doorway to Lab 03.

Analysis

Starship Desolation opened dramatically. Its design walked a fine line between exciting and irritating and Cyph3r Escape Experience pulled it off.

-While the sets were generally high quality, a few places in the set felt unfinished and messy. Additionally, props didn’t always fit properly into their mountings.

+ The transitions worked especially well.

+ We enjoyed one clue structure delivery mechanism that added more depth to the experience and plugged us into the story.

In-game: the doorway to the bridge.

– It was easy to miss important clue structure if you weren’t paying attention when it triggered or weren’t in the right part of the ship at the appropriate moment. There was no do-over.

– We would have liked more of the clue structure to have been worked into the gamespace rather than delivered through paper or other media.

– Starship Desolation was light on puzzle content.

– Although the final set was nifty, the culminating sequence felt anticlimactic. Throughout the experience we never felt the presence of important stakes.

+ Starship Desolation looked convincingly starship-y. It was a fun environment to explore through puzzles.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking to the back of the lot next to their building.

Book your hour with Cyph3r Escape Experience’s Starship Desolation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Cyph3r Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

60 Out – Galaxy Quest Revisited [Review]

[At the time of this review, this game was called Flight of the Pandorus.]

Our first ever re-review.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from starting at $40 per ticket for 2 players, to starting at $26.66 per ticket for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

We weren’t planning to replay Pandorus. After hearing that it was essentially a different game within the same set that we knew and loved, however, we decided to give it another shot… and we were glad that we did. The new Pandorus was a significant improvement over its predecessor.

The basic information for this game exists in our previous review. In this re-review, we address the improvements, as well as some new areas to potentially refine.

The bottom-line: Pandorus went from a good game to one of the strongest games that we’ve seen in 60 Out’s substantial collection of games in Los Angeles.

In-game: the cockpit of the ship with green and red glowing lights and a countdown timer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A brilliant sci-fi set cobbled together from unlikely and recycled components
  • Humor
  • Memorable sci-fi interactions

Analysis

+ We still loved the unique aesthetic of Pandorus. This time around, the game had been modified such that we always knew what was set dressing and what was an active set piece.

+ Gone were the repetitious activities from the previous game. There was one larger process puzzle, but it was brilliantly designed and didn’t stick around long enough to grow old.

In-game: a strange contraption with tubes running to it.

+ We had been a little perturbed last go around when we had unwittingly made a moral decision. 60 Out had cleared that up. Now we clearly understood our options.

– We encountered muddy audio. The various aspects of the soundscape clashed. This was particularly challenging when we received hints.

In-game: a small robot.

+ The tiny hint robot was adorable and strangely compelling.

– The diminutive droid’s scale was off for the room; it was easy to forget about him. This was a problem because talking with the robot was integral to both the gameplay and the humor of Pandorus.

In-game: green lasers emerging from the ship.

+/- 60 Out kept the best puzzle from the earlier version. We were thrilled to hang back and watch our teammates solve this one. Watching with another year’s worth of experience, however, we realized that this puzzle could have benefitted from some visual feedback.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you’ve already played Pandorus in an earlier version, it is now different enough that you can play it again. Bring some teammates who haven’t played the earlier iteration so that they can solve the 2 or 3 puzzles that reappear.
  • There is a parking lot around back.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Flight of the Pandorus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

LA Dragon Studios – Knights of the Round Table [Review]

The Sword in the Puzzle

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $90 for teams of 2 to $280 for teams of 8, 15% discount for Monday – Thursday bookings

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Knights of the Round Table was a family-friendly adventure. Although the gameplay and the set design were uneven, the more tangible interactions delivered fun solves.

If you’re looking for a solid, traditional, family-friendly puzzle game near Los Angeles, check out Knights of the Round Table.

In-game: the entrance to Camelot.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Family-friendly adventure
  • The final interaction

Story

A darkness had fallen over Camelot. We took on the roles of Knights of the Round Table to save the kingdom.

In-game: a bridge over a moat.

Setting

We started our quest outside the castle: a facade crafted to look like the exterior wall of a medieval fortress. There were stone walls, a wooden door, and a drawbridge over a glowing moat. On the other side was the forest, largely represented by wallpaper, some cut wood, and fake hay.

Inside the castle, the sets looked less dramatic as we explored the rooms.

In-game: a sword, axe, shield, and wood.

Gameplay

LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The intro video to Knights of the Round Table foreshadowed some of the more exciting set pieces in the experience. Because it was filmed in the gamespace, the video added intrigue before we entered the escape room. We were excited when we encountered these set pieces in the experience.

– The beginning sequence didn’t instill energy in the group. Although we enjoyed exploring the initial set, the gameplay was too slow paced, especially as an opening.

+ LA Dragon Studios crafted some more hefty, tangible interactions that felt satisfying to engage with.

– The set design was uneven. LA Dragon Studios made some enticing details, but left other areas of the gamespace underdesigned.

– While some decor was simply decor, much of it functioned as red herrings. It was frequently hard to differentiate set dressing from puzzle components.

+ We enjoyed finding a path through one substantial, late-game puzzle. It was challenging and fun.

– Two of the main puzzles in Knights of the Round Table were brute-forceable. It was too easy to bypass much of the gameplay, either on purpose or accidentally.

– Knights of the Round Table would benefit from additional clue structure and tighter puzzle design.

Knights of the Round Table delivered a satisfying finale. It was an entertaining culminating action, even if it was primarily enjoyed by one player.

+ LA Dragon Studios markets Knights of the Round Table as a family-friendly adventure. From the props, to the interactions, to reveals, it delivered on that marketing. Families will find a lot to enjoy here.

+ Yes, Knights of the Round Table made some of the Monty Python jokes you’d expect.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot behind the building.
  • LA Dragon Studios is in a medical facility. So don’t be baffled by that… you’re in the right place.
  • LA Dragon Studios also has a small arcade with some classic cabinets.

Book your hour with LA Dragon Studios’ Knights of the Round Table, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: LA Dragon Studios comped our tickets for this game.

The Laboratory [Review]

So puzzle. Much solve.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-8*

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket Tuesday – Thursday, $32 per ticket Friday – Sunday

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Laboratory was an unusual escape room, especially in Los Angeles. It was entirely puzzle solving from start to finish. Its unusual structure of multiple, linear puzzle tracks delivered a lot of puzzle content and a largely individual experience as part of a larger group effort. The Laboratory sacrificed environment, narrative, and adventure in favor of puzzle content, much of which was tangible, varied, and interesting.

Puzzles comprised the entirety of the gameplay. If you’re looking for puzzles, play The Laboratory; you’ll be thrilled. If you want adventure, narrative, or really anything else… your princess is in another castle.

In-game: a sealed box filled with glowing green material and mounted gloves.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Pure puzzle play
  • Puzzle progression

Story

This was a puzzle-filled laboratory with a ticking time bomb in the middle. We had 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles and disarm the bomb.

In-game: a sealed bomb beside some puzzles in a green walled room.

Setting

The Laboratory was a largely plain, two-room set. We had complete access to both rooms from the opening moments of the game. Tables and shelves held various puzzle props, most of which were handcrafted.

A board on one wall laid out the puzzle progression to follow including each individual puzzle, its components, and where to input its solution.

In-game: closeup of a bomb with clipped wires.

Gameplay

The Laboratory was an atypical escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

The Laboratory presented multiple, clearly-defined linear puzzle paths that all converged at the final puzzle.

*The number of puzzle paths – and thus the volume of puzzle content – will be based on team size and experience level. We recommend you bring enough players to play a game with at least 4 puzzle tracks (3-4 players). This will ensure that you have access to the most interesting puzzles.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

In-game: 4 human skulls beside a metal device.

Analysis

+The Laboratory was an entertaining puzzle orgy.

– The Laboratory didn’t have a set beyond a standard office space and some quirky props. The gamespace didn’t add anything to the experience. (It didn’t really detract either. It just existed to hold puzzles.)

+ We could see the puzzle paths laid out on a board, delineating our progress through the escape room. This board gave us a feeling of control. We always knew what to work on next. We could also track our progress against the gameclock. This mechanism ensured that we never had to trial-and-error our solutions in different locks.

– Many of the lock codes were guessable even without deriving all the information. It would be easy to shortcut these puzzles to pop the locks.

The Laboratory was customizable by group size and puzzle experience. They can add or remove puzzle tracks to give each team a fair puzzle opponent for a 60-minute game clock.

? If you aren’t playing at least 4 puzzle tracks, you’re missing out on some of the more interesting content.

+ One of our favorite puzzles hooked us with some nifty tech.

– One puzzle path was primarily paper-based. This didn’t make use of the physical space at all.

+ We enjoyed how as each puzzle path moved forward, it built on a concept. Props we picked up along the way frequently stayed relevant as the puzzle path progressed.

– Most of the puzzles could be solved individually. The Laboratory felt collaborative only in so far as the entire team was working and of all the puzzles got solved. Most of us felt like we were puzzling solo. The puzzles didn’t facilitate natural collaboration.

+ The puzzle tracks converged on the final puzzle: bomb disarmament. Although we’d each solved the other puzzles individually or sometimes in small groups, we came together for the final sequence.

Tips for Visiting

  • Bring a large enough team to play with at least 4 puzzle tracks. The 4th track was great.
  • There is street parking.
  • We enjoyed Earth Bean Coffee.

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

Disclosure: The Laboratory provided media discounted tickets for this game.