Upside Down Escape Games – The Theater [Review]

Master of Puppets

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Upside Down Escape Games caught us off guard with The Theater because it packed some technology that you don’t expect to see in a small-town escape room.

In-game: a boxoffice stand with an owl dressed in fancy clothes sitting within.

When we played, The Theater it felt like it was brimming with potential… but also unfinished. This was confirmed for us after we played. Nevertheless, there was a lot to enjoy here. The things that worked well worked really well and looked great.

The aspects that felt like they needed more work came in 2 varieties: those in need of fairly minor tweaks, and tech that just needs more time and iteration.

The Theater has the potential to put on a hell of a show, and we have a lot of confidence in Upside Down Escape Games’ ability to get it there. Either way, we think this one is well worth seeing, and we’re glad that we did. We hope to revisit this game down the line.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Technophiles
  • Fright fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Surprising technology that you really wouldn’t expect from a small-town escape room company
  • The puppet theater did some really unexpected stuff

Story

Once more, our friend Darryl had dragged us to a strange place for his birthday – and disappeared. This time we entered a horrifying puppet theater with a countdown clock. What was with this guy?

In-game: ominous masks of comedy and tragedy painted in red on a box office.

Setting

Upside Down Escape Games split us into 2 groups. 1 person was brought into the theater; the rest were let in through the box office.

The small theater had all of the right components (but not quite enough seating to feel completely right).

The box office was small, and again, had most of the right components, but this space felt a little unfinished.

The coolest parts of this game weren’t immediately evident. I’ll leave it at that.

In-game: a theater conscession stand.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Theater was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It has a split-team start, with 1 person separated from the rest of the group.

You can choose to play this game on scary mode, which adds jump scares. (They are worth it.)

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

In-game: an "Admit One Ticket" sign flanked by freaky baby doll parts pained black and red.

Analysis

➕ Upside Down Escape Games leaned in to the creepy puppet vibe with this unusual escape room concept and it worked.

➕ We played on scary mode. The jump scares were well timed and delivered great moments. Play it on scary mode. You know you want to.

➕/➖ The construction of this game was uneven. It was a case of extremes, and it was kind of understandable. Some aspects of this game received an incredible amount of creative attention… and other parts were painted black. Upside Down Escape Games made good choices about where to focus their resources, but the disparity was noticeable.

➕Upside Down Escape Games dealt with a malfunction so well that we weren’t confident that something was ever wrong.

➕/➖ We loved an unusual and silly puzzle, with clean execution, but the sticking point was a lack of cluing that yes, we should interact in a way that felt unnatural.

➖ The Theater included some incredibly delicate props that seemed out of place and will surely break. They were more eye-catching than they were relevant.

➖ In one instance, The Theater suffered from a common upside down trap: when a clue is reversed or flipped, do you also reverse the solution?

➕ The hint system was more than a hint system. It was a part of this creepy theater.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games built an extraordinary set piece that eyed the game space from the opening moments, building up dramatic intensity. Then it delivered.

➖ The end fizzled. The show needed a finale.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games truly surprised us with the unique tech that they built into The Theater.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Theater, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Mass Escape – 44 Winterwood Lane [Review]

A broken seal

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

44 Winterwood Lane had strong worldbuilding. A great introduction, a beautiful candle-lit representation of the game clock, and a brilliant scene helped pull it all together.

In-game:

Mass Escape packed quite a few challenging puzzles into this bewitching experience. 44 Winterwood Lane could be improved by pulling those late-game challenges deeper into the story, and using them to tie off the narrative as thoroughly as the beginning opened it up.

Overall, Mass Escape is a fantastic company making unique and flavorful escape games. They have a style unlike anything else we’ve encountered and it’s a style that we truly enjoyed. 44 Winterwood Lane was our least favorite of the 3 games that we played at Mass Escape… and we still liked it a lot.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A few great set pieces
  • An illuminating game timer
  • Memorable, haunting moments

Story

Our estranged aunt had recently passed away. We didn’t know much about her beyond the fact that her daughter had mysteriously died many years ago. Nevertheless, we had an appointment with her estate’s caretaker to claim our inheritance.

In-game:

Setting

We stepped through the doors of an old rundown estate, a shadow of its former glory. It had a high ceiling and imposing antique furniture. An assortment of candles lined the ceiling; every few minutes one would extinguish.

The set looked good and well weathered. However, some portions of the set looked considerably more lived-in and finished than others.

In-game:

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s 44 Winterwood Lane was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Mass Escape set the tone of the experience from the opening moments of the escape room. They minded the details, sealing our fate as we tried to claim our inheritance.

➕/➖ Although we’d come for the money, as the story of this place unfolded, that turned out to be a side quest. Predictable as it was, the twist added intrigue to 44 Winterwood Lane. However, the plot got a bit murky.

➕ Mass Escape integrated an unorthodox gameclock into the set. It felt native to the world. This was set dressing, ambiance, and time keeping all in one.

➖ The scale felt off in one room. Some of the set pieces lacked the estate’s majestic allure. Portions of the game felt empty, but at the same time full of potential red herrings.

➖ We encountered extremely well camouflaged, unclued searching in 44 Winterwood Lane. Granted, this was for a bonus puzzle. In a game where searching was generally well clued, however, this seemed challenging for the wrong reasons.

44 Winterwood Lane hid its mysteries well… and revealed them in turn. We especially enjoyed when an object magically appeared.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s 44 Winterwood Lane, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Red Fox Escapes – The U-Boat [Review]

Crushed it

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 13, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Everything about U-Boat makes it abundantly clear that this escape game was made with love.

The set was meticulously designed with props chosen because they fit the environment, or modified so that they would feel like they belonged.

In-game: a view into the captain's quarters through a pill shaped doorway.

The story was carried throughout the game, and driven home with a brilliant effects sequence.

For us, the puzzles were a mixed bag. We loved a few, were fine with most of them, and felt like a couple of them were too sloggy and similar for our tastes.

Overall, this was a strong escape game that we think it will be a crowd-pleaser for a wide variety of players. We preferred Red Fox’s The Heist, but honestly believe that more players will want to dive into U-Boat. If you’re in Boston, you should check it out. This is a new and mighty company.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A strong set
  • Fantastic and challenging puzzling
  • One killer late-game event

Story

It was 1941, World War II was raging, and a linchpin in the war effort was cracking the German Enigma. British intelligence already had an Enigma Machine, but we needed a codebook… and that’s where we came in.

We had placed a spy on a German U-boat, but the boat was going down, so our spy had hidden the book, and abandoned his post along with the rest of the crew. We needed to sneak aboard the vessel and capture the codebook before it was crushed and consumed by the ocean’s depths.

In-game: a map in the middle of a navigation room.

Setting

Red Fox Escapes built a good-looking submarine. The walls were curved, the doors were ovals, the general aesthetic was steel, and everything felt like it belonged – even if it didn’t actually belong. The prime example of this was the directional lock that Red Fox Escapes had painstakingly modified to make appropriate for the space.

Above all, Red Fox Escapes used their environment to create an iconic and memorable moment in this game.

In-game: A periscope with a red illuminated sign that reads, "enemy vessel detected."

Gameplay

Red Fox Escapes’ The U-Boat was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a large wooden workbench with a light.

Analysis

➕ The set and props looked great. The curvature of the walls really sold the look and feel of the space. Red Fox Escapes went to great lengths to make the hardware and props look like they belonged.

➕ The story of the The U-Boat had depth.

➕ The puzzles solved cleanly. One flowed especially well. We also enjoyed the different interactive mechanisms and their solve-state indicators.

➕/➖ The puzzles were a mixed bag. Although we enjoyed many of the puzzles (we adored 2 of them), some of them were not especially exciting. In a couple of instances, they felt a bit repetitive.

In-game: speed controls.

➕ The U-Boat had an unforgettable moment of transformation. Red Fox Escapes choreographed this impeccably so that every team member was able to experience and appreciate this.

Tips For Visiting

  • Red Fox Escapes is easily accessible by T. Take the Red Line to Central.

Book your hour with Red Fox Escapes’ The U-Boat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Red Fox Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Mass Escape – Ice Station Zero [Review]

Government jobs are stressful

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Like all of my favorite Cold War anti-nuclear proliferation fiction, Ice Station Zero was funny and grim.

In-game: A very large green computer with many lights, buttons, and switches. It is labeled, "Ice Station Zero."

Focused on a few specific characters and an impending nuclear apocalypse, Mass Escape got really personal. We had to dig into the lives of the people responsible for this base just as much as we had to sort out the operations of an intercontinental ballistic missile… and that’s what made Ice Station Zero shine. Disarming a bomb is normal in an escape room; getting to know the people who made it tick is something special.

This is a nifty game with a flavor and play style that is, in our experience, unique. If you’re in or around Boston and have access to a car, I strongly recommend finding your way to Mass Escape for Ice Station Zero as well as their other games.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The humor and character that underpinned this game
  • Some fantastic setpieces

Story

The world was caught in the grasp of the Cold War and all communication had been lost with the incompetent staff of nuclear missile silo Ice Station Zero. We had been deployed to investigate.

In-game: A metal desk in the middle of an old nuclear bunker.

Setting

Ice Station Zero looked really good – with one small exception – the starting area was pretty weak. Once we had advanced beyond this small dark space, the nuclear silo looked fantastic. Mass Escape struck a balance between Cold War nuclear control room and government bureaucratic hell. We’ve never seen an escape room that looked like this one before.

In-game: a small dim room lit by a red alarm light.

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s Ice Station Zero was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Closeup of a nuclear launch button.

Analysis

 Ice Station Zero had characters and character. (Mass Escape even armed us with a joke.) The place felt lived in, by actual people, whom we learned about. We liked the mechanism for learning more about the plight of the people at this station. It was clear and concise, with a great interface.

➕ Mass Escape commits to their characters. The gamemaster who introduced us to Ice Station Zero really sold himself as a government bureaucrat. He was entertaining and quippy.

➖/➕ We struggled with some input mechanisms. In one case, the mechanism was barely functional. In another the directions seemed ambiguous. Clean and clear inputting would help with game flow. That said, our in-character gamemaster marched in and handled this in a way that actually improved the experience.

➖ At any given time, we had a lot of papers. We were continually referring back to paper instructions, and some of the puzzles were paper-based as well. Although clipboards made sense thematically, it would have been more fun to be interacting more with the room and less with the paper.

➕ The gameplay flowed well. It was challenging, but we could also figure out how to solve our way forward.

➖ One imposing set piece felt underused, we would have liked to play with this thing a bit more.

➕ Mass Escape turned one wall of an office set into something unexpected that also fit right in. They really dialed this set up a notch.

➕ Mass Escape’s method for adding in bonus content truly shined in Ice Station Zero. They use a similar structure in all of their games, but it felt most relevant and engaging in this one.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s Ice Station Zero, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 [Review]

Echos

Location:  Cambridge (Boston), Massachusetts

Date Played: December 13, 2019

Team size: we recommend 2-8 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

Ticketing: Public event

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 was the finale to a 4-part annual saga that was introduced in 2016 (or 1939).

Each December for the past 4 years we’ve traveled to Boston, put on our fancy clothes, and spent an evening puzzling, roleplaying, and swing dancing among friends and characters in Club Drosselmeyer. Each year we’ve been treated to a different reimagining of The Nutcracker as a World War II techno-conspiracy.

It’s kind of sad to say farewell to a show we’ve watched evolve and grow over the years. (I believe that the plan is to loop back to 1939 next year.) The Club and its characters feel like friends that we only get to see at Christmas.

In-game: Two very good looking and brilliant puzzlers standing beside and actress as they all peer off into the distance.

At this year’s Club Drosselmeyer the band was on fire, the stage was gorgeous, the drinks were flowing, and the puzzles were plentiful.

In-game: The band playing on the Drosselmeyer stage.

The most noteworthy change was the stellar quality of the acting and performances. This has improved with each year, but this most recent show felt leaps and bounds better than the previous year. On the negative side, the line for seeing the main characters had reemerged for the first time since year one.

The puzzling was plentiful, and really enjoyable – if you either knew what you were doing or had someone to guide you into the deep end. Club Drosselmeyer has an impossible amount of content, and part of the experience is acknowledging that you’re going to have your own experience, not an all-encompassing experience.

Our night had a funky, entertaining ending that I truly enjoyed as a conclusion for our night… but I didn’t love it as an end to a 4-year journey. Endings are hard, especially variable endings for immersive experiences.

I love Club Drosselmeyer, and if it loops, I’ll probably go back, even if it’s just to dance. At this point it’s a holiday tradition in our family. Viva la Drosselmeyer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jazz lovers
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatics, and magical performances
  • Music
  • 1940-themed party
  • Larping (optional)
  • Dancing (optional)
  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles (optional)

Story

It was 1942 and the American war machine was starting to move forward. Resources were limited and everyone was looking for ways to tighten the proverbial belt and pitch in.

In-game: A table with an illuminated "D", a table number and a Club Drosselmeyer comic.

Industrialist and inventor Herr Drosselmeyer had decided to throw another one of his famous parties. His aim was to sell war bonds and raise money for the nation’s armed forces. As always, Drosselmeyer also intended on using the event to unveil his latest creations from Project Nutcracker.

In-game: David in a suit holding a green glowing object and looking evil.
We wants it; we needs it. Must have the precious.

Setting

We returned for a fourth (and final?) time to Club Drosselmeyer. It was the same night club, the same band, the same bandstands, and many of the characters that we’ve come to know, love, and hate… plus a few new characters.

Club Drosselmeyer was the same decadent party that it has been in past years. Everyone was dressed up and the performative acts were as good or better than ever. The spectacle was in full swing.

In-game: the dance floor is filled with people while the band plays on the Drosselemeyer stage.

Gameplay

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 was immersive game with a high level of difficulty. It required a team effort – with teammates focusing on different types of interactions – to solve the story through to its conclusion.

Core gameplay included solving puzzles, conversing with characters, and watching performances. Individuals could choose to engage in any of these as much or little as they liked.

Club Drosselmeyer goers could also choose to opt out of gameplay, sit back and enjoy the band, or spend an evening on the dance floor.

In-game: A woman sitting at a war bonds stand.

Analysis

➕ Waiting for us at our table, we found a fantastic comic book that got us up to speed on the story. For those jumping in at year 4, this was especially helpful.

Club Drosselmeyer was as beautiful as ever. I don’t think that I’ll ever get tired of that staging. The new additions to the set were lovely.

➕ The performances were noticeably better than in previous years. Back in year one, the acting was cringe-worthy. It has improved each year since. This year the performers were wonderful and entertaining.

In-game: Rhett King shuffling cards at a small table covered in money.
One of our teammates cheated at blackjack against this guy.

➕ The puzzles were varied in approachability. There were some easier game-like puzzles that engaged beginners. There were also challenging solves requiring focused effort from more experienced puzzlers.

➕/➖ Club Drosselmeyer did a lot to onboard first timers and provided some low-skill games, but it was still challenging for true newbies to find their bearings. I don’t think that most of the newbies really understood how hard they had to play if they wanted to complete the main objective.

➖ The puzzles remained paper-based, even in the interactive environment. They leaned heavily into words and logic. There would be opportunity for more dynamic puzzles in Club Drosselmeyer that branched out into more puzzle types and engaged players in the rest of the spectacle as part of the puzzle solving.

➖ The lines for the main characters bottlenecked. Some of these lines were a result of player confusion, rather than something inherent in the game’s script. However, this confusion, combined with Drosselmeyer’s “guard” being a character that players did not trust, resulted in line-management problems, and players focusing their attention on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It was interesting to us how much the character of the “guard” added complexity to this game mechanic.

Club Drosselmeyer has refined its hint system. The waiters were attentive, serving up hints based on the needs of the group and the overall experience.

➖ The cast and players took over the dance floor. It was the easiest place for players to find and approach the characters. This left less room for dancing. Too much of the drama of the show was happening right in the middle of the dance floor.

➕/➖ 1942 was Club Drosselmeyer’s finale. The ending we triggered was fun, but didn’t feel like the conclusion to a 4-year story arc. Because there are multiple ways a performance of Club Drosselmeyer might end, it’s hard to say where the show and characters will be at the end of the final night. That said, when the show wrapped up, we didn’t feel closure to the larger story and these characters.

❓ You can’t see or do everything in Club Drosselmeyer. Your experience is largely what you decide it will be.

In-game: Us with oru friends at in front of the Drosselmeyer stage at the end of the show.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: I encourage taking mass transit, taxi, or ride share.
  • Food: There are ample food options in the neighborhood.

If this show returns to Boston next December, or opens in another city, we hope you’ll book your evening at Club Drosselmeyer, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Trapology – The Boobie Trap [Review]

Glorious hole in the wall

Location:  Boston, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 14, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Boobie Trap was funny, a little sexy, and very racy – relative to most other escape rooms.

Trapology was one of the earliest escape room companies in the US, and in our opinion The Boobie Trap was their strongest game yet. This 18+ sexually charged game was a noticeable deviation from the norm.

In-game: a beautiful hipster coffee bar with all of the correct signage and equipment.

The introduction of an actor was fantastic and under the circumstances of this game, done in a classy, safe, and respectful way.

The sexually-themed puzzles were funny… although I would love to see Trapology push themselves farther to develop the quality of their puzzle and game elements.

How sexy is The Boobie Trap? Well, it really depends on what you’re into. I know some people who will find themselves blushing at this game. I know others who will find it adorable. Whether you’re blushing or smirking, I think you’ll find enjoyment.

All in all, this was a strong and unique addition to the Boston escape room scene. I love it when creators push boundaries and cast escape games in a new light to draw in different audiences. If you’re in Boston and looking for a good time, go spring The Boobie Trap.

Who is this for?

  • Adults open to (or eager for) sexual content
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Sex-themed escape rooms are a rarity
  • Amusing (non-sexual) actor interactions
  • Solid execution

Story

We had a dark desire that we were compelled to explore. It had brought us to a cute little coffee shop that hid a secret BDSM club in the rear.

In-game: Closeup of the Big Beans Coffee Shop logo, EST 2019.

Setting

Having not read Trapology’s website prior to playing, we stepped inside their BDSM club-based game… and found a compelling hipster coffee shop?

It was a great looking coffee shop complete with a barista who struck a true-to-life balance between incompetence and condescension. This was among the finest character acting that we’ve seen in an escape room.

Since everyone knows that the BDSM club is there, I’ll add that it evoked the right imagery, and certainly had some evocative setpieces. It was also adorned with photographs taken specifically for this game by a professional, so … authentic.

In-game: Closeup of two large drums filled with coffee beans attached to a grinder.

Gameplay

Trapology’s The Boobie Trap was a standard escape room with an actor in the opening act. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, and engaging with the actor.

In-game: Closeup of the cash register with a signal that reads "No Sale"

Analysis

➕ The actor/ gamemaster fostered a hilarious opening scene. He was compelling as an incompetent and patronizing barista. Through this persona he was able to hint our group, keeping the gameplay on track, and the mood light, even when we stalled.

➕ The sets and props looked great. The coffee shop felt appropriately hipster. It had just enough sexual innuendo to tease the next act, without going over the top. The BDSM dungeon had stellar photography.

➖ There was opportunity to refine the gameplay in the first act. The first puzzle didn’t prepare us well for The Boobie Trap. It solved in a different style than the puzzles that would follow it. This style was also particularly challenging to engage with, given the distraction of the impatient barista.

❓ At the onset, we were unsure how to approach the gameplay. We didn’t know whether the barista would be integral to puzzle solving or whether he was more flavor for the experience.

➕ In the second and third acts, the gameplay found its rhythm.

In-game: A sign with the coffee shop's cup sizes. The sign reads, "Size does matter" and the sizes are, "Micro, average, & big."

➕ In general, The Booby Trap had plenty of escape room-y plot holes but Trapology always offered a prop to fill each gap.

➕/➖ Trapology played with BDSM concepts, and didn’t push things too far (personally, I think they could have pushed a bit father in an 18+ game). In a few instances, Trapology’s use of BDSM-themed props felt forced. There wouldn’t be any reason to slap these items together.

➕ We enjoyed a puzzle that turned heads.

➖ The story lacked a speakeasy-esque connection between the first act and the rest of the game.

➕ Trapology delivered with the finale. They set up the moment early with strong in-game cluing to deliver a satisfying climax.

Tips For Visiting

  • Trapology is easily accessible by T. Take the Green Line to Boylston St.
  • We recommend Explorateur on the corner for a coffee, drinks, a meal… and some really interesting desserts.
  • This game contains adult content. It is for players aged 18+ only.
  • There is an actor in this game. Review our tips for playing with actors.

Book your hour with Trapology’s The Boobie Trap, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Trapology comped our tickets for this game.

Upside Down Escape Games – The Arcade [Review]

Insert Coin

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Few things make me as nostalgic as arcades. They remind me of my birthdays as a kid, the birthdays that really meant something.

The Arcade packed a lot of great content into a small package. Upside Down Escape Games modified a lot of old equipment into fun and fair challenges. I think that there’s something beautiful about that because all of these classic video games were about making interesting and fun mechanics out of basic technology.

In-game: A few arcade cabinets, the closest one reads, "Nintendowl"

If I were to ask anything of this game, it would be for more of the kinds of interactions that made this game special. I’d love to see it lean a little harder into the gaminess of the setting.

Upside Down Escape Games did a great job of using their technical and artistic chops to pull together something entertaining and unique. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking out The Arcade, especially if this feels like the kind of nostalgia that will put a smile on your face.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Video gamers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The Arcade pushes a lot of nostalgia buttons
  • A good mix of puzzles

Story

Our friend Darryl was hosting his birthday party at the local arcade – but the guy had just disappeared – from his own party. I just wanted to play some games, but the rest of the group figured we really should find him. After all, it was his party.

In-game: the inside of a claw machine, filled with stuffed animals.

Setting

The Arcade was a small arcade complete with a couple of video game cabinets, a claw machine, and Skee Ball.

It was a small approximation, but it felt accurate. I think what really sold it for me was the ridiculous carpet.

In-game: a skee ball machine in an arcade.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Arcade was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and functional arcade games.

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

In-game: The Escape Block arcade cabinet.

Analysis

➕ The Arcade looked authentic. That carpet! Throwback.

➕ The arcade games were real and functional. We didn’t even need any coins to play them. If a player just wanted to play video games or Skee-Ball for an hour, that’s kind of an option.

➕ Upside Down Escape Games worked the arcade games into the gameplay, which was tons of fun. They created fair challenges out of mechanics that could easily have been impossibly difficult. They balanced how much time we spent in front of each cabinet while solving the escape room.

➖ Although the arcade games delivered tangible gameplay, there was opportunity to take other puzzle elements off paper and make them more tangible. 

➕/➖ One great game stole the show. We enjoyed the thematic set pieces, and the different ways it was incorporated into puzzle design. That said, by the end, it felt over-used.

➖ Although Upside Down Escape Games built some surprises into The Arcade, they didn’t all pop. With additional sound and light cues, these reveals could become events.

➕ There are countless obscure and overt video game references in The Arcade… if that’s your sort of thing.

➖ Our exit lacked a boss fight. We wanted a more impactful finale.

➕ As we exited the game, there was a surprise waiting for us.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Arcade and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Mass Escape – The Eckstein Experiment [Review]

Steampunk Experimentation

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Thinking back on The Eckstein Experiment, I’m kind of amazed that it was only 1 hour long. The set was large, packed with detailed and unique spaces. There were a lot of fantastic team-based challenges. The character with whom we interacted was brilliant.

In-game: A brain and eye in a jar.

We have a weak spot for steampunk sets over at Room Escape Artist, and this was one of our favorites. It was tactile and beautiful.

We loved this game… except for the beginning. The initial moments of the experience were great, but the first few minutes of gameplay felt stale, like they belonged in a different world… one we’ve seen many times before. Once we were past the early gameplay, this game soared.

If you’re near Boston with a car, go play The Eckstein Experiment at Mass Escape. While you’re there, play Ice Station Zero as well, if not all 3 of their games. This is a really cool company that is designing creatively.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Tons of content
  • Strong team-based gameplay
  • A cool steampunk set
  • A great hint system

Story

Strange lights had flashed and even stranger noises had come from the medical office of Dr. Eckstein. One day, curiosity got the better of us and we decided to investigate.

In-game: a steam-punk-ish laboratory with glowing beakers and flasks of liquid.

Setting

The Eckstein Experiment opened up in typical-looking escape room jail cells. Once we were free of the bars, things changed quickly. Mass Escape pulled from steampunk and laboratory aesthetics to create something unique.

The opening was fine; it looked good. The mid- and late-game sets were something considerably more special.

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Analysis

➕ Although the opening set was nothing special, The Eckstein Experiment transitioned into a beautiful steampunk laboratory. We loved the aesthetic and the dynamic of the interconnected spaces. There was also a surprising set piece that might creep up on you.

➕ Mass Escape crafts charming characters into their games. Our gamemaster set the tone for the experience, acting as a character in our story. His sincere delivery added to the fun. Mass Escape was able to lean into this antagonistic character because they had a different method of hint delivery. We didn’t need to trust this guy.

In-game: a severed thumb on a surgical tray.

➕ The hint system added a playfulness to The Eckstein Experiment. Mass Escape seamlessly integrated the hints, such that it would have been a lesser game without taking them.

➕ Mass Escape made great use of space.

➖ The first act of The Eckstein Experiment was unbalanced. It was a split-team start where some people had a lot more they could do than others. It also felt too generic in comparison to what came immediately after.

The Eckstein Experiment fostered engaging team dynamics.

➕ Mass Escape combined both escape room-y puzzles with more situational-based solves.

➖ Mass Escapes really needed to dial up the size, lighting, and precision of one key interaction.

➖ Additional gating in one section would prevent teams from blindly burning substantial time on inactive puzzles.

❓ The bonus quests in The Eckstein Experiment weren’t integrated as cleanly as were those in their other games.

➕ Mass Escape devoted a whole section of this game to one gimmick, and transformed it into a communication puzzle. Then they repurposed a space that we didn’t expect to reuse, which was impressive.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • At least 2 people have to crawl.
  • The game has a split beginning. Players will start in different spaces.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mass Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Red Fox Escapes – The Heist [Review]

Artfully Puzzley

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 13, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We loved Red Fox’s The Heist. It was quirky, unique, and loaded with great puzzles. To make things even better for an experienced escape room team, there was no searching; the puzzles were confidently on display.

In-game: Wide view of the gallery, many pieces are on display, the two most prominent is a painting of the Queen of England with her eyes closed.

This was a challenging game, in a fair way. While we loved it, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people preferred Red Fox’s U-Boat (also a lovely game – review coming soon). On its surface, this game feels more normal, but if you really look at the details, that’s where this game shines.

If you’re an experienced puzzler near Boston, we highly recommend The Heist. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of an adventure, try out U-Boat first. Either way, Red Fox is a company that we’re looking forward to visiting many more times in the future. They’re off to a stellar start.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Cat burglars
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Unusual and challenging puzzles
  • There was essentially no searching
  • Beautiful art

Story

A private gallery in the Back Bay was exhibiting the world’s largest diamond, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Naturally, we’d assembled our team of master thieves in our hideout to plan our heist.

In-game: A portrait of Marilyn Monroe made out of pennies beside a geometic sculputre.

Setting

The Heist began inside of our secret hideout [not depicted because it’s a secret]. Once our plan was sorted out, we broke into the gallery… and it really looked like a gallery.

Aside from nailing the art gallery aesthetic, the thing that really set this one apart was that the art looked unique, and like art. It was great to see pieces that weren’t obvious knockoffs of famous art that is housed in specific museums.

In-game: A sculpture of a tree and root system without leaves.

Gameplay

Red Fox Escapes’ The Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: an image of a woman made out of wire mounted to a board.

Analysis

➕ The secret hideout was classic. It looked good and provided a solid on-ramp that warmed us up for the main event.

➕ The artwork was high quality. It was beautiful. Some of the pieces were truly impressive creations.

➖ As beautiful as the set was, a couple of the props we handled felt worn out. They weren’t on the same level as the rest of the space.

➕ The Heist was a challenging, puzzley escape room with fair, well-clued puzzles. Red Fox wove the puzzles through the art unlike any art heist we’ve played to date. The game was challenging for all the right reasons… and there wasn’t any searching.

➕ Red Fox drew on classic heist tropes, but made these their own. We couldn’t maneuver through them in the normal way. This was smart.

➖/➕ Red Fox introduced one concept too early. It had to work this way for the story, but this design decision could easily come back to bite them – or more likely – one of their props.

➕ The juxtaposed sets were incredibly different, but part of one world. The transition scene enabled this really well. A lot of love went into a space that we spent next to no time in. Respect.

➖ The first act couldn’t support as large a team as the second act could, which makes it hard to recommend a group size for The Heist. Strong puzzlers can go with a smaller group. If you bring a larger group, you’ll be crowded early on before the space opens up.

➕ Red Fox can adapt The Heist during the reset to make it easier by swapping in additional cluing for some puzzles. They can do this so seamlessly that players would never know.

Tips For Visiting

  • Red Fox Escapes is easily accessible by T. Take the Red Line to Central.
  • At least 1 person needs to be able to crawl.

Book your hour with Red Fox Escapes’ The Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Red Fox Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Upside Down Escape Games – The Gingerbread Cottage [Review]

Solve, solve as fast as you can

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 1- a small family group

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $18 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Gingerbread Cottage was an adorable, family- and newbie-friendly seasonal game. It was one of the nicer temporary games that we’ve encountered.

The story was cute, the hint system was clever, the puzzles were fair, the props were well-selected, and there was a tiny bit more tech than we’re accustomed to finding in a limited run escape game.

In-game: gingerbread house wall covered in gumdrops.

This game was meant for families and small groups of new players. The recipe included short and sweet puzzles and it was iced with a touch of humor.

If you’re a seasoned escape room player, this one isn’t really made for our kind, but we still enjoyed nibbling on it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas aficionados
  • Great for families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Adorable premise
  • Solid puzzle game
  • Christmas cheer

Story

Peeled from a baking sheet, we had gained sentience as we were placed in our gingerbread home. From beyond the walls of our candy cottage we’d heard that Darryl was coming home in 45 minutes… and he was going to be hungry.

In-game: A fireplace decorated with stockings, a rocking chair, and a giant - partially decorated gingerbread cookie on the wall.

Setting

The Gingerbread Cottage was a small, humble, and adorable little popup Christmas game. Most of the props were artfully selected Christmas decorations meant to build the fiction of the inside of a gingerbread house.

The game itself was constructed around the decoy gingerbread man, a simple, but effective piece of tech.

In-game: A white christmas tree shelf covered in gingerbread cookie ornaments beside a fireplace decorated with stockings.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

6 homemade gingerbread owls.

Analysis

➕ The Gingerbread Cottage had an adorable, playful premise.

➕ The gameplay was approachable and entirely non-linear. It was easy to dive in and clear how to play. The gameplay was smooth.

➖ Maybe we were seeing it in the wrong light, but one puzzle felt a little off to us.

➕ Although Upside Down Escape Games had a small footprint and low budget for this holiday popup escape game, they created a lot of cheer. It didn’t feel cheap or temporary.

➖ There was an opportunity to more evenly use the space. The majority of the puzzle elements were a bit on top of each other.

➖ The Gingerbread Cottage lacked a finale. With a final puzzle or some fanfare, the win would have felt like more of an event.

➕ The hint system was thematic and cute.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.