The Minnehaha Diamond went missing and everyone at Calhoun Manor was pointing fingers in different directions. As Minneapolis’ most distinguished reporters, we went to the estate in search of a scoop.
The set of Diamond Dilemma was optimized around presenting the puzzles, not aesthetics. It had a bit of an estate vibe going on, but the set never really struck an immersive chord.
The puzzles leaned on observation, dexterity, and deduction. Diamond Dilemma also required more involved logical and layered solving.
Diamond Dilemma was primarily a collection of fun and varied puzzles. They were challenging and enjoyable solves.
Missing Pieces Escape Games created clear puzzle flow. Designed as an entry level escape room, it provided newer players with a fair challenge. The difficulty was in the puzzles, not in the game mechanisms.
Diamond Dilemma included a few unusual custom props.
There came a dilemma… where choice had consequences.
Missing Pieces Escape Games focused on the puzzling in Diamond Dilemma, but not the larger story or setting. Some of the puzzles seemed loosely rooted in the theme; others could have appeared in just about any escape room.
The office setting didn’t create a lot of intrigue, in and of itself.
The narrative was told – through recordings and readings – rather than discovered within the interactions. Neither the set nor the puzzles enhanced the story.
Should I play Missing Pieces Escape Games’ Diamond Dilemma?
As an entry into escape rooms, Diamond Dilemma had a lot to offer.
Missing Pieces Escape Games crafted challenging and fair puzzles, which are the heart of escape room entertainment.
Diamond Dilemma primarily included common escape room puzzle types and interactions. They were well implemented, but will hold more intrigue for newer players. Experienced players should turn their attention to Missing Pieces’ other game, Ruin Raiders, as they will likely move through Diamond Dilemma pretty quickly… unless they get hung up on the dilemma.
It was the closing days of the World War II’s European Campaign and we were given one last mission: break into Adolph Hitler’s bunker and escape with his plans.
The WW2 Bunker’s set looked 1940s bunker-esque with a decisively Nazi flair. There was a historically accurate world map along with a portrait of Hitler and a red Nazi flag. There was a fair amount of attention to detail, but it was clear to us that this escape room was absolutely NOT celebrating Hitler or Nazi Germany. (I feel like it’s important to definitively state this.)
IRL committed to producing a room escape that explored history through puzzling and they largely achieved that. The puzzles were challenging and deeply tied to both the environment and historical facts.
In The WW2 Bunker, IRL Escape paid close attention to the historical accuracy of many of their props and puzzles. This included maps from the era as well as reasonably accurate means of communication and cryptography for the time.
I kind of respect IRL Escape’s boldness in designing a game around Hitler’s bunker and not visually sugarcoating it. Literally the first thing that I saw upon entering was a swastika. It wasn’t welcoming, but in a strange way, I greatly preferred this to being in a generic and sterilized “dictator’s bunker.”
This section is long. It isn’t because The WW2 Bunker was horrible so much as because its flaws were interesting.
Parts of the set needed more upkeep and maintenance. A hot maglock that was attached with an adhesive literally ejected from its housing when a door popped.
Minor Spoiler Warning
This is also revealed by imagery on IRL Escape’s website: The WW2 Bunker used a functionally accurate recreation of the German Enigma machine. This beautiful piece was one of Mark Tessier’s Enigma replicas. He let me borrow one for an evening last year at the Room Escape Conference in Chicago and I saw firsthand how incredible they are. This device was not ideal for an escape room environment. It was complicated. While I think that IRL Escape implemented it almost as simply as they possibly could have, it still came with a lot of written instructions which we misinterpreted… probably because I knew how the thing worked going in. The other issue here was that in simplifying it down so much, the device also lost what made it special in the first place. If you didn’t know how it worked going in, it was just a cool-looking and finicky keyboard cypher tool.
It’s time to address the Reich in the room. I’ve written previously on the subject of politically sensitive topics in general and concluded that if an escape room creator was committed to conveying history, I think that it would be possible to create something special with the escape room medium. The WW2 Bunker got halfway there. IRL Escape built a lot of accurate history into this escape room’s story, but they fixated on incredibly strange minutia about people like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, as well as Hitler’s bunker itself. All of those factoids about their personality quirks were strangely humanizing, but I am 99% certain that this was an accident. All of these nitpicked details were carefully conveyed at the expense of the larger historical context. We were spies seeking to learn Hitler’s plans, which in the game were of global domination… but by the time he was battening down the hatches of the bunker in which he eventually killed himself, he had no global plans. He had already lost war, was under the influence of heavy narcotics, and was giving orders to armed forces that no longer existed.
This is all to say that IRL Escape had and still does have an opportunity to use The WW2 Bunker to show the scale of the damage that the Third Reich did to their own people as well as enemy forces in the final death throes of the war.
Additionally, a number of the puzzles for The WW2 Bunker were buried deep in historical minutia. There were many times where we absolutely could not tell whether we were looking at facts for facts’ sake or in-game puzzles.
Should I play IRL Escape’s The WW2 Bunker?
Neither Lisa nor I found The WW2 Bunker offensive. It was clear to us that IRL Escape created this escape room with devotion to conveying history. There was nothing malicious about it whatsoever and it has potential. It needs a ton of editing and a little rethinking about the larger historical context of Hitler’s bunker at the end of the War. I believe that IRL could get there. There is value in using gameplay to explore dark periods in history.
In its current state, The WW2 Bunker is an interesting game for experienced players who are not turned off by the subject matter. This was an escape room loaded with unique design decisions, some of which worked and some of which could use some work.
The puzzle flow, subject matter, and quirks of the game are a little too rough to recommend that new players visit The WW2 Bunker.
Choose your team carefully, as there are people in our lives that we know for certain would not be thrilled to play a game in the shadow of Hitler and a swastika.
Book your hour with IRL Escape’s The WW2 Bunker, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: IRL Escape comped our tickets for this game.
If you are a wealthy eccentric who wants to hide your fortune in an escape room… please call us. Seriously.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date played: August 20, 2017
Team size: 1-6; we recommend 3-5
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $26 per ticket
Story & setting
Wealthy Mr. Abernathy hated his lazy children, so he willed his fortune to the first people smart enough to solve the mystery he had left in his home.
Inheritance looked like an elegant but stuffy Victorian home. The dark wood surroundings felt compelling and matched the condescension that oozed from Mr. Abernathy in his video will.
The puzzling in Inheritance required keen observation and attention to detail. We needed to closely examine everything within the set and determine how to draw meaningful connections between objects.
The set of Inheritance felt like a mansion in which some distinguished old guy could have hidden his fortune. The space had a presence.
We especially liked the more layered puzzling later in this escape room.
Throughout Inheritance, we were surrounded by multiple locks of similar digit structure. Especially early on, as we worked to determine which details might be relevant, this led to a lot of time spent inputting possible solutions around the room, rather than forward progress.
In some instances, a little more cluing would have been helpful to avoid the search and re-search that can become frustrating. Inheritance would be a more engaging room escape with an extra puzzle or two and less scavenging.
Should I play Mission Manor’s Inheritance?
For Inheritance, we stepped into the Mission Manor’s manor. We enjoyed the gamespace and the gameplay as we puzzled our way to a hidden fortune.
Inheritance relied on many common escape room tropes and game mechanics. We observed, searched, connected, and unlocked our way through.
We recommend Inheritance primarily to newer players who will likely find a few delightful surprises. It will be challenging, but approachable.
Mission Manor scores each team, win or lose, so you can see how well you did at different aspects of the escape room gameplay.
Considering the more traditional escape room structure and the scoring opportunity, more seasoned players might enjoy attempting an Inheritancespeedrun.
Update August 2022: Professor Jones’ Office is now located at Lock and Key Escape Rooms’ other facility, St. Cloud Escape Rooms, in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
He’s a famous archeologist, but not *that* famous archeologist.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date played: August 21, 2017
Team size: 6-8; we recommend 4-6
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $25 per ticket
Emergency Exit: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Story & setting
Professor Jones had gone missing and we went on a treasure hunt of our own in his artifact- and puzzle-laden office.
Professor Jones’ Office was a study/ trophy collection. The set was filled with many familiar and unfamiliar relics from the past work of Professor Jones. Parts of the set were detailed while others were fairly bland or bare.
The puzzles were both big and small, some used more robust set pieces while others relied on finding minute details. In either case, the puzzles worked though the objects at hand.
We enjoyed multiple exciting actions and reveals. This included one cinematic callback and continued throughout the game in unexpected ways. We particularly enjoyed the final act.
Lock and Key Escape Rooms co-opted familiar tropes of the adventure-archeology genre and made these their own. What could easily have been a straight homage was instead a new adventure.
Professor Jones’ Office included a few larger interactive set pieces that gave the space character.
Professor Jones occupied a huge office and with few exceptions, he furnished it with unassuming pieces and a multitude of knickknacks. Because of this, the scale of the experience felt off.
While thematically relevant, Professor Jones’ notebook hampered game flow. It was yet another small object, and in this case one in rough shape, for dedicated individuals to pore over, one person at a time. We would have rather seen a creative nod to the archeologist’s journal and more integrated clueing.
Looks can be deceiving. There’s an interaction that could be dangerous to tall players, especially those focused on the gameplay.
Should I play Lock and Key Escape Rooms’s Professor Jones’ Office?
There was an adventure to uncover in Professor Jones’ Office. We experienced quite a few unusual and exciting moments in and around these artifacts.
We recommend this escape room to both newer players and more experienced players alike. Professor Jones’ Office flows well; newer players will likely find it challenging but approachable. More experienced players may have encountered more remarkable gamespaces of the adventure-archeology variety, but not always the same excitement in interactions.