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 solid a 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.

– It was limited, but 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 – Flight of the Pandorus Revisited [Review]

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. 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.

Maze Rooms – Magic Kingdom [Review]

Practice good wand form.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 25, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $99 per ticket for teams of 2 to $198 per ticket for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Magic Kingdom was a magical escape room. Set design, props, locking mechanisms, and many of the puzzle concepts all worked magically, and came together to create a really fun world to play in. Because of the magical world, the lack of clue structure was especially pronounced, forcing us to rely in part on our knowledge of escape room game mechanics to solve Magic Kingdom.

If you’re in Los Angeles and you enjoy solving how a room works, try your wand at the fun and playful world of Magic Kingdom.

In-game: a well in an enchanted forest.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Magician wannabes
  • Families
  • Best for players with least some experience

Why play?

  • To perform magic with wands
  • The opening scene

Story

In the Magic Kingdom, the magic tree was dying. We needed to cast a spell in the magic well to bring magic back to the Magic Kingdom.

In-game: the roof a well beneath a large tree and the night sky.

Setting

In their Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms set the magic tree and magic well under a starry night sky in beautiful, glowing light. Beyond the garden sat a quaint windmill with a few rooms of magical props.

In-game: closeup of a mouse in a tiny house.

Gameplay

Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a stairwell and a series of locked boxes.

Analysis

+ In Magic Kingdom, Maze Rooms locked all props magically. Given the magical premise of the gamespace, the absence of combination locks worked really well.

+ Some of the scenery, set pieces, and props were beautiful and captivating.

– Some of the clue structure was really worn, almost to point of incomprehensibility. Other cluing had been fixed shoddily, defacing an otherwise beautiful set piece.

+ The magic wands were phenomenal. They were beautiful, tangible props. We had to puzzle out how to work them. Their interactions charged us up.

In-game: a view of the exterior of a home adjacent to a windmill.

+/- Maze Rooms built puzzles into magical concepts. We found one such concept brilliant after we had solved it, but at the time we attempted it, the clues were weak.

– Some of Magic Kingdom’s puzzles needed additional feedback. We couldn’t always tell what we were triggering or whether something had been solved. This was especially pronounced because the world was magical so anything could trigger… well, anything.

In-game: a strange device in a stone walled room.

+/- Maze Rooms added a surprising moment of physical activity (optional for all but one player) and justified it in the gamespace. It was a fun concept. In order to make sure it would be safe, however, the gamemaster had to intervene with instructions. If Maze Rooms could build in-game cluing that facilitates a safe interaction, it would be a clean sweep.

+ The hint system was adorable and fun.

+ Maze Rooms created a lot of magic through a clever scenery-changing mechanic. It facilitated puzzles and enhanced solves.

+ The final combination of set piece and props delivered a fantastic, magical conclusion for the entire group.

Tips for Visiting

  • Maze Rooms is in a small strip mall with a parking lot.
  • At least one person must be comfortable with physical activity.

Book your hour with Maze Rooms’ Magic Kingdom, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

60 Out – Cartel: DEA Undercover [Review]

I am the danger.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 24, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

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

Cartel: DEA Undercover was at its best when it asked us to MacGyver our way through unfortunate circumstances, using situational clues. Although it sometimes felt hokey, 60 Out built tension through immersive design and delivered an exciting adventure.

If you play escape rooms for the adventure and you enjoy circumstantial puzzling, visit Cartel: DEA Undercover. Know that the scenario has some adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture.

In-game: a white van that protrudes from a steel wall.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Breaking Bad fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sense of adventure
  • Badass moments

Story

We were undercover agents who had built a partnership with the Juarez Cartel. The Cartel took a liking to the product that we were supplying them, and wanted to meet. Things went… poorly.

Our backup was too far away to help us. We had to escape.

In-game: A blood-soaked sheet beside a steel wall with blood and a water spigot.

Setting

Our first impression of Cartel: DEA Undercover was a van that was protruding through a wall in 60 Out’s lobby.

We found ourselves in a large and visually impactful outpost of the Cartel. This was one of those games where the reveals really mattered, so spoiling them would do a disservice to the player.

What you need to know is that it looked great… and in case you can’t tell based on the photos that we took, the subject matter of this game won’t be for everyone.

In-game: coke on a balance.

Gameplay

60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, reaction time, and “hacking” our way through the problems we encountered. Most of the challenges were presented as real-life problems in need of a fix, rather than puzzles in need of a solution.

In-game: a steel door with a series of valves.

Analysis

Cartel: DEA Undercover surprised us early.

+ The adventure-style gameplay required us to make connections as we would in a real-life danger scenario. In these instances, gameplay was at its best.

– The more standard escape room puzzle gameplay was weaker. In one instance we experienced misleading cluing.

– One finicky piece of tech wasted a lot of our time even though we understood the goals of the interaction.

+ One late-game interaction built tension and upped the immersion of the experience as it added a feeling of desperation.

– Cartel: DEA Undercover needed a longer late-game audio track. Each time we heard it loop, it diminished the intensity built by the other interactions in the space. The mood flipped from tense to hokey… and the more we thought about what we were hearing, the worse the stereotype caricature sounded.

Cartel: DEA Undercover concluded with us as the heroes in a remarkably cinematic shot.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a small parking lot.
  • Cartel: DEA Undercover involved adult themes including drugs, violence, and torture. If you can handle a modern cable TV crime drama, then you’ll be fine with this game.

Book your hour with 60 Out’s Cartel: DEA Undercover, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Out comped our tickets for this game.

QUEST ROOM – Red Giant [Review]

It’s a ruby, not a distant star.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 23, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $119 for teams of 2 to $219 for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Red Giant was an exciting puzzle-driven adventure through a detailed Egyptian tomb set. It’s an escape room with a majestic look, filled with exciting reveals and wow moments. QUEST ROOM could transform this into a world-class escape room by refining their tech to make sure each moment hits with the power that it deserves. This was an entertaining puzzle adventure.

If you’re in Los Angeles, we strongly recommend a visit to Red Giant.

In-game: a large torch-lit stature of Anubis with glowing green eyes.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting interactions
  • Fun puzzles

Story

We’d always wanted to find The Red Giant, a valuable ruby hidden deep within an ancient tomb. We believed our team of archaeologists could succeed where previous teams had failed, never to return from the depths of the tomb. With limited oxygen, we had only 60 minutes to retrieve this gem.

In-game: the torch-lit walls of an Egyptian tomb with carvings and hieroglyphics.

Setting

A dim tunnel leading to the tomb’s entrance gave way to a majestic Pharaoh’s burial chamber with high ceilings and Egyptian wall art.

In-game: a small sphinx.

Gameplay

QUEST ROOM’s Red Giant was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a wall of sandstone hieroglyphics tiles.

Analysis

+ The Egyptian tomb set looked great. The high ceilings gave it a majestic feel. It was an exciting space to explore.

+ The opening interaction started Red Giant with a bang.

+ We enjoyed the puzzles in the later sections of Red Giant. QUEST ROOM integrated these well with the set pieces in the tomb. They were tangible, interesting solves.

– One substantial early puzzle felt like filler.

– The tech-driven interactions needed additional in-game feedback. Without this feedback, our gamemaster was continually coming through the walky-talky to tell us we had released something. It would have been far cooler if this was self-evident.

+/- Red Giant had an unorthodox late-game interaction. This was a fun concept and could have been a truly wow moment. However, this was not clued forcefully enough. With more clear in-game cluing… and maybe some infrastructure to facilitate the moment, this interaction would be more powerful and exciting.

+ Our gamemaster’s introduction set the tone for an exciting, high-stakes exploration. This, combined with the exploration gear, upped our energy level before we even entered the gamespace.

Red Giant was at its best during its impressive tech-driven events. There were some incredible moments in this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • QUEST ROOM has two locations. Red Giant is at the 5517 Santa Monica Blvd location.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player needs to be pretty tall.

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

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

Escapades LA – It’s a Doggy Dog World [Review]

Who’s a good room? Who’s a good room?

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

It’s a Doggy Dog World was a playful, whimsical, entertaining escape room that didn’t take itself too seriously. At its best, the set design zeroed in on a dog’s perspective and the puzzles asked us to think like dogs. While the build quality varied and sometimes lacked polish, Escapades LA created an adorably entertaining world that was a joy to dig around in.

If you’re in Los Angeles and looking for a game to play with your family… or you still have an inner child, consider this a strong recommendation for It’s a Doggy Dog World. 

In-game: an oversized doghouse.

Who is this for?

  • All ages
  • Dogs at heart
  • Active adventurers
  • Playful puzzlers
  • Scenery sniffers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t take themselves too seriously

Why play?

  • The amazing playful concept
  • Wonderful dog-inspired moments
  • A brilliant ending

Story

The mailman, our arch nemesis, had stolen our favorite ball. With our humans away, nothing could stop us from retrieving it.

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

Setting

We were dogs escaping our home and yard. Everything was staged from a dog’s perspective, putting emphasis on the kinds of things a dog would fixate on.

The set itself had a homemade feel. Some parts looked unfinished; others looked dead-on.

Gameplay

Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World was a standard escape room with an playful premise and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Escapades LA nailed whimsey in It’s a Doggy Dog World. The game was welcoming and playful. It was easy to get in character and know our role in the world.

It’s a Doggy Dog World was at its best when we were taking dog-like actions for dog reasons.

+ The scale and perspective of the set was smart.

– Some of the game shifted focus away from pure dog play. These moments were fine, but didn’t feel as inspired as when It’s a Doggy Dog World was laser-focused on what it was and who we were in the game.

+/- The set was uneven. Parts of it looked great. Parts looked unfinished. If felt like there were opportunities that weren’t fully realized.

– Some of Escapades LA’s tech was exposed and needed housing.

+ The ending was brilliant.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escapades LA has no relation to Escapade Games in Anaheim (the makers of the horror game, Zoe). These companies really couldn’t be more different if they tried.
  • There is street parking.
  • For food we recommend Republic of Pie.

Book your hour with Escapades LA’s It’s a Doggy Dog World, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapades LA comped our tickets for this game.

The Best Horror Escape Rooms to Visit near Los Angeles this Halloween Season

Los Angeles offers many varieties of horror experiences. If you’re looking for horror in escape rooms this Halloween season, these are our recommendations.

A glowing, smoking, menacing jack-o-lantern.

Classic Serial Killer

At THE BASEMENT, Serial Killer Edward Tandy is out to get you. Even if you escape one of his rooms, there’s always another death trap to thwart.

The Elevator Shaft, THE BASEMENT – Our unconscious bodies had been tossed into the body-disposing, Death-Star-trash-compactor elevator shaft. We needed to trigger the override sequence. This dark, detailed, and badass set felt alive. It always doing something different… whether we wanted it to or not.

Close up of the wall, "Are you listening?" is painted in blood.

The Study, THE BASEMENT – As we explored our captor’s home, we stepped into a set that looked great in a dingy, “this is the worst place on earth to die” sort of way. Our escape included a superb solo moment that triggered fight or flight.

Image of the Study. A bookcase with a few books on it, a taxidermied buck, and a boarded up window.

The Courtyard, THE BASEMENT – Next we played Tandy’s murderous game in his fenced-in courtyard, an incredible environment, combining nature with decrepit structures to deliver a sense of continual discovery tinged with foreboding. An actor-driven midgame puzzle sequence was unforgettable.

In-game: an aged porch with a rocking chair.

Truly Terrifying

This is the scariest escape room that we’ve found thus far. It’s worth a drive to Anaheim for this absolutely terrifying game… but only if you’re honestly ready for it.

Zoe, Escapades This was a haunted house with escape room mechanics as gates. We were mind-controlled and at the mercy of Zoe as she paralyzed us with fear… then made us solve puzzles.

In-game: Closeup of heavily damaged piano keys in a dim room.

Poking Fun at Horror

Also in Anaheim, you’ll find a cheeky take on high school drama horror.

Hex Room, Cross Roads Escape GamesThe Hex Room cast six players as different horror film archetypes. Costumed and locked into separate places, we became these high school drama queens. The set, ambiance, and isolation built fear through anticipation more than any in-game frights.

In-game, a hallway with a coatrack holding a fedora, and trenchcoat. Clearly the detective's room.
Image via Cross Roads Escape Games

Christmas Horror

Krampus, 60 Out – We were investigating the festive yet morbid apartment of the Krampus killer, who murders naughty children on Christmas Eve. It was intense and creepy… and heart-poundingly scary.

In-game image of a dramatically lit Christmas tree in a dark and creepy home.

Horror of Old

Bloody Elbow, QUEST ROOM – Back in the 14th century, we awaited slow, gory, and creative deaths at the hand of a sadistic executioner by the name of “Bloody Elbow.” His torture devices alone instilled an urgency to puzzle out our escape.

In-game: A dark dungeon environment with a bloody torture table.

Happy Halloween 🎃

Escape Chronicles – Smugglers Tunnels [Review]

Roguish overtones.

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Date Played: August 26, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Smugglers Tunnels was a clandestine, puzzle-focused, point-based heist. The puzzles were the gem of Smugglers Tunnels. We had to solve our way through every part of this operation.

While we felt the role-play aspect was unfinished, we think there’s an opportunity to rework that portion to add depth to this escape room. Regardless, the roles didn’t make or break an otherwise excellent puzzle adventure.

If you’re in Los Angeles, there is art here you’ll want to get your hands on.

In-game: a glowing lantern, flashlight, and lockbox next to a small barred passageway with a chain running through it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Badass moments
  • Interesting puzzles
  • Point-based scoring

Story

The forger in our crew of high-end thieves had double-crossed us. For years this guy had been creating clever forgeries and swapping them out with our rightfully stolen goods. We had reassembled the team to steal back what had been wrongfully taken from us.

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

Setting

The forger kept his artwork underground. We began in two distinct lantern-lit tunnels. We needed to work our way into the forger’s workspace to get our hands on the art. The gamespace was dim with dark, bricklike walls and wooden furniture and props. It had an underground vibe.

In-game: a pegboard with storage for all of the loot gathered in the game.

Gameplay

Escape Chronicles’ Smugglers Tunnels was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

We aimed to steal back the highest possible value in stolen goods to achieve a high score. Points were scored by adding a stolen item to our collection display.

We each had a role on the team (mastermind, safecracker, etc). Our wristband explained what our special knowledge and abilities were, and how to use any role-specific props that we were given.

In-game: close up of a wrist cuff with a series of symbols.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and applying our roles’ knowledge and abilities to the game.

Analysis

+ The point-based heist worked well. The more valuable our theft, the better we scored. The set up, however, was not as straightforward as collecting the most items. There was nuance… which could be solved.

– We each had a specific role on the heist team, but the roles weren’t justified in the experience. We each received additional cluing for our role, but it didn’t feel like outside knowledge, special to the character that possessed it. Instead it felt like reading material that we would have preferred to find baked into the game. This cluing functioned as mini runbook wristbands.

In-game: a locked box displaying the Declaration of Independence.

+ The puzzles were varied and challenging. We enjoyed so many satisfying solves.

– We would have liked to see Escape Chronicles take additional steps to justify the existence of these puzzles in their narrative.

+ Escape Chronicles turned one common escape room process puzzle into an legitimately challenging communication and logic puzzle. It was a much-needed path through an overused escape room trope.

In-game: a glowing lantern resting on a lock box in a stone tunnel.

+ The dimness didn’t bother us. It made sense. We had plenty of lanterns that we could carry around and set next to various props. This setup also culminated in a fantastic puzzle sequence.

– In one instance, Smugglers Tunnels asked us to search for a minute detail. This took us out of the game. In this one instance the lighting irked us.

Smugglers Tunnels had a couple of badass moments that worked well with the underground staging.

Tips for Visiting

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

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