PuzzlEscape Hudson – Something Wicked! [Review]

Something Wicked! is one of the best games in Massachusetts. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Massachusetts.

A Bewitching Refuge

Location: Hudson, MA

Date Played: April 2, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28-38 per player, depending on group size

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Some motion/ shaking is included; please advise your gamemaster if this is a concern.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

PuzzlEscape Hudson’s Something Wicked! never ceased to surprise, embedding a number of fascinating discoveries as we uncovered that things weren’t always as they seemed deep in the woods. The props, the setting, and the entire production underlined these eye-opening elements, leading us through an adventure designed to keep us wondering what we would uncover next as the cauldron bubbled.

This experience was perfect for 4 people in a solid game flow experience that flew by as we uncovered the magical mysteries of an enchanting cabin. Of particular note was the ending, which built off of a multi-layered finale to ramp up in excitement and leave us speechless with the unexpected conclusion.

Closeup of a mailbox that looks like a bird house.

The only time that the suspense waned was in a particularly search-heavy portion of the experience, pairing ambiguous search targets with low lighting that resulted in multiple fails that swiftly brought down the enthusiasm of our group.

With accessible game design, PuzzlEscape Hudson’s approach would satisfy escape room newbies and more experienced players alike in this fast-paced adventure that left us spellbound.

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The Gate Escape – The Assistant 2.0 [Review]

The Assistant 2.0 is one of the best games in Massachusetts. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Massachusetts.

A second wormhole, a new experience

Location: Leominster, MA

Date Played: April 2, 2022

Team Size: Up to 6 players; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A quick trip through all of time and space awaits players that tackle The Gate Escape’s The Assistant 2.0. In short, this escape room assembles a puzzling playground for those individuals willing to hop into a celestial adventure. Although experienced players will have a leg up in recognizing patterns in these puzzles, the smooth puzzle flow makes The Assistant 2.0 approachable for new players. If you’re new to escape rooms, start here before you tackle Gate Escape’s 90-minute The Observatory. If you’re traveling to the area to play rooms, plan on playing both this room and The Observatory.

The game simply and unapologetically challenges players by laying out puzzles in a straight-forward, non-search-centered manner. Upon entering the space, there are many immediate opportunities for players to dive in and engage in the wormhole world, both with the assistance of others and on solo ventures. Perhaps the most impressive and inherently satisfying aspect of the entire experience is the way that these solves layer together and build towards completion with the intelligent reuse of items found throughout the space.

A strange wall lit in blue and covered in colored dots.

The typically smooth gameplay was briefly interrupted mid-game when one puzzle didn’t come together as naturally as those throughout the rest of the experience. This left us with open questions on the potential solve, and when we were able to advance, credited it more to luck than to skill.

Ideal for a group of friends ready to puzzle, The Assistant 2.0 rewards a keen sense of attention to detail, with layered, multifaceted solves combining nicely with simple surprises to eclipse expectations.

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PuzzlEscape Hudson – The Legend of Pepe [Review]

The Legend of Pepe is one of the best games in Massachusetts. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Massachusetts.

Houdini and Santa and Freddy Krueger, oh my!

Location: Hudson, MA

Date Played: April 2, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28-38 per player, depending on group size

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

PuzzlEscape recently opened a new location in Hudson, MA. There they opened The Legend of Pepe, a game that pays homage to the 12 games they’d created at their original venue. That said, although this game revolved around prior game narratives, it definitely did not require any knowledge of the previous legends of Pepe La Scuzz, our main villain.

The Legend of Pepe was a puzzler’s dream with a lot of content and fantastic puzzle flow. While not every puzzle was mind-blowing, the game offered a huge variety of puzzle types for every player, and most of the puzzles put a refreshing twist on our assumptions of how they would solve. This made what could have been boring interactions into something unique.

PuzzlEscape designed an interesting way to level the playing field for teams by incorporating a difficulty modifier at the midpoint of the game. Teams choose their difficulty and thus the ending to the story. However, this choice mechanic was under-clued in the gameplay itself.

We love what PuzzlEscape is doing, and cannot wait to see their absolutely insane themes (that we got a glimpse of!) come to life in the future.

Note: this review is for the more difficult path. After we played, our gamemaster gave us a walkthrough of the easier path for review purposes. Players can return for half price to play the path they did not take originally.

Closeup of an old, gold cash register with an infinity symbol, beside it is a computer monitor with the same symbol.
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Trapology – The Institute [Review]

The Institute is one of the best games in Boston. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Boston.

Free your mind

Location: Boston, MA

Date Played: April 17, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $45 per player for teams of 2 to $38 per person for teams of 5

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A few of our friends had strongly recommended The Institute to us… and in the opening scenes, I was a feeling a bit dubious of their opinion. However, the deeper we pushed into The Institute, the more I got it. The Institute was clever, unique, and entertaining.

And I loved the final act.

A wall of security cameras with a yellow sign that reads, "SMILE! You're on camera"
Image via Trapology

It felt like there could be a stronger first act for this game, and I got the impression that the Trapology’s team was still looking for ways to improve the opening. Beyond that, it felt like there was a big opportunity to integrate the hint system into the story.

Trapology is one of the oldest escape room companies in the United States, and I love seeing how they continue to grow and improve; not all of our early companies do this. From my perspective, The Institute is Trapology’s strongest game to-date. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend playing The Institute.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Interesting narrative arc
  • Fun set-based interactions
  • A strong mid and late game

Story

After signing the wrong waiver, we found ourselves in a dubious research experiment conducted by the Trapology Research Institute.

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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.