Immersia – The Piccadilly Cabaret [Review]

A haunting performance.

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 25.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Piccadilly Cabaret was more than the sum of its parts.

The puzzles were completely forgettable, but the overall experience was so very memorable.

In-game: An old bar after closing time.
Image via Immersia

I have a longstanding fascination with simple things executed beautifully; The Piccadilly Cabaret really spoke to that.

With games like The Grand Immersia Hotel, Immersia has greatly advanced the complexity and intensity of their escape experience design. If you only have time for one game with Immersia, it probably should be The Grand Immersia Hotel. That said, their earlier lineup offered so much subtle beauty that I must recommend playing at least one or two of them. Immersia’s roots are strong and deserving of appreciation.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Phenomenal yet subtle atmospheric moments.
  • A brilliant approach to story and set design.

Story

It was the 1930 and we were devoted fans of the late diva Emma Albani. It was the anniversary of her death and the cabaret that she had made famous was scheduled for demolition. We’d decided to take a crack at sneaking into the old, condemned building to see if we could find her dressing room before everything was destroyed.

In-game: the piano and microphone on the stage of an old cabaret.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal yet effective. Everything in this game felt right, even when there wasn’t a lot of detail. This really speaks to how smart Immersia was when deciding upon the setting for The Piccadilly Cabaret.

Additionally, the most memorable moments of this game were born of Immersia’s set design.

In-game: Closeup of an old bar's cash register.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret was a standard escape room with an easier level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The story behind The Piccadilly Cabaret was original and clever.

➕ The set for The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal, but it felt right. It had enough details to sell the scene. The lighting was atmospheric and functional.

➕ Immersia created a character who doubled as a hinting and timekeeping mechanism. The set up made sense with the scenario. While not flashy, it was well-executed. It was also entertaining. Through our interactions with this character, Immersia could also deliver our team a more personalized experience, crafting the interactions to meet our needs.

➕ We enjoyed the transition from act 1 to act 2.

➕ In the second act, Immersia enhanced the atmosphere was a few well-timed interactions. These were subtle, but powerful moments.

➖ Many of the puzzles felt dated. These included multiple searching and counting puzzles that felt “set atop” rather than integrated into the experience.

➖ Although the gameplay worked, the puzzles were largely forgettable. This was in part because much of the cluing was paper-based, rather than a built into the set and props. The puzzles weren’t native to the gamespace.

➖ While The Piccadilly Cabaret didn’t require any outside knowledge, one key late game challenge would have been rough without it.

➕ The final sequence was illuminating.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • For the full experience, players must be able to climb up and over a small obstacle.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Laval Location.

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Vortex – Nightfall [Review]

Shelter Skelter

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  29.99 CAS per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Nightfall was a strong escape room with an interesting approach to hinting.

The set looked good. The puzzles were entertaining and broadly varied.

In-game: A bloodied water well outside of a cabin in the woods.

As hinting, Vortex had included extra information lying around the room in obvious places. If we wanted to access that additional layer of information, we could do so freely at any time. This was interesting because it created as many problems as it solved – mostly because some of the bonus hints were kind of essential. This was needlessly frustrating, but quite fixable.

All in all, Nightfall was one of the strongest games that we played in the city of Montreal (bearing in mind that a lot of the action in the Montreal escape room community is happening in the suburbs). If you’re in Montreal and looking for an escape, Vortex’s Nightfall is a strong option.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun set and prop interactions
  • Puzzle variety

Story

While hiking through the woods in the late 1960s, one of our friends had fallen and broken his leg. We had found refuge in a cabin and radioed back to town. We were told that rescuers would be dispatched if we could determine our location. As we settled in and began looking for the necessary information, we started hearing harrowing noises in the woods around us… and the sounds kept getting closer.

In-game: 2 people operating a chamber occupied by a third person.
Image via Vortex

Setting

We found ourselves outside of a strange cabin in the woods. The setting was dimly lit, but we were able to see what we needed to see. Exterior scenes have generally proven difficult to sell, but Vortex did a pretty good job of building the right vibe. It certainly showed its seams, but felt solid enough.

As we entered the cabin, the scene shifted dramatically and Vortex maintained their level of quality.

In-game: Closeup on a firepit with a fire glowing within.

Gameplay

Vortex’s Nightfall was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Vortex built a compelling outdoor set for Nightfall. It was dark, but with enough light that we could see what we needed to see. It created a sense of eeriness appropriate for the scenario, without becoming scary.

➕ The gameplay flowed cleanly. We enjoyed the wide variety of puzzles and how they linked together.

➕/❓Nightfall gave clear feedback when we solved a puzzle. We always appreciate this aspect of escape room design. It’s debatable whether Vortex’s choice of feedback notification made sense in this experience. It probably depends on how playful versus realistic your escape game preferences lean… Vortex leaned into playful. Our team was split on the subject.

➕/➖ Players could choose to make this game easier by reading the additional paper cluing that Vortex left within the game. These clues were clearly marked as optional. We appreciated the intent: that players could get the clue structure entirely from within the experience, but could choose to read additional cluing for any given puzzle.

That said, we found a few instances where we couldn’t glean the information we needed without reading the extra papers. It didn’t exist anywhere else. For example, we needed to read the printed material to know that there was a bonus puzzle available within the game. Also, the papers explained how to activate an entire critical sequence.

➖ We found one process puzzle inelegant. It ended up coming down to trial and error.

➖ One large, intriguing set piece built up to an uninteresting reveal. That moment was begging for a more engaging interaction.

➕  Nightfall had a climactic ending. Vortex created a prop that sold the moment. It was campy, but it worked well with the vibe of the set and the game. This ending was unusual, funny, and quite memorable.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking. Download the P$ Montreal parking app to pay the meter.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • All players need to be able to crawl a short distance.

Book your hour with Vortex’s Nightfall, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Vortex comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Vortex Future [Review]

The future is really hard.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Date Played: February 3, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We lost in Vortex Future. It wasn’t even close. That doesn’t mean that it was a bad game.

Like Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past, Vortex Future was a compact, puzzle-centric experience in a beautiful setting. However, stylistically the two games played completely differently from one another. Where Vortex Past felt like solving a puzzle box, Vortex Future felt like solving a puzzle hunt without the meta puzzles.

In-game: Wide view of a futuristic spaceship.

Vortex Future was a puzzler’s game in the purest sense. There wasn’t any searching; each puzzle was presented and labeled at its own station. They varied broadly in complexity. While there were 2 or 3 that we didn’t care for because of execution or style, they were generally high-quality challenges.

So, why did we lose? Well, knowing nothing about Vortex Future, we played too lackadaisically. We burned too much time on a puzzle in the main game before finally taking a much-needed hint. We probably needed 10 to 15 minutes for the final puzzle, which we didn’t have. The final puzzle was totally solvable, but it was also one of the most, if not the most, challenging puzzles that we’ve ever faced in an escape room. As soon as we recognized the challenge for what it was, we knew we were doomed.

If you’re a strong puzzler, there’s a lot to love in Vortex Future. We lost and still enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. I think that we could have won this game if we had realized what we were up against and had approached it with the respect that it deserved.

If you’re a newbie or you’re more into the scenery and adventure aspects of escape rooms and aren’t crazy about games that present heavy puzzling… then try out some of Sauve Qui Peut’s other offerings.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Puzzle hunters
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Experienced players
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Innovative, challenging puzzle design
  • Clean and beautiful presentation
  • If you’re looking for a hard escape game, this was a very hard escape game

Story

It was the year 2089 and we had to board a disabled space station designed to detect threats to Earth. Humanity was counting on us to restore the station’s power and functionality.

In-game: A big red button glowing on the wall of a futuristic spaceship.

Setting

Vortex Future was a beautiful, compact space station lined with cleanly presented puzzle modules. Each station had the same 1 through 8 number inputs and took up the same amount of wall space.

The artistry in Sauve Qui Peut’s design was how they used this same structure to present so many different challenges.

In-game: The power and engine computers in a futuristic spaceship.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling. Every puzzle was clearly presented without any searching. We simply had to figure out how to solve them.

In-game: Two different puzzle stations.

Analysis

❓ Vortex Future was a puzzler’s escape room. This was one of the hardest escape rooms that we’ve ever played.

➕ The spaceship set of Vortex Future looked clean, sleek, and polished.

➕ In Vortex Future, Sauve Qui Peut demonstrated just how much a puzzle designer can accomplish with a simple input interface. While these stations looked similar, and resolved with a consistent interaction, the paths to solve them were incredibly varied.

In-game: A sealed doorway in a futuristic spaceship.

➖ One puzzle felt light on cluing. We spent too long thinking we were making progress, only to find that we hadn’t learned anything about the puzzle at all. Coupled with the puzzle’s harsh sound quality, this was especially frustrating.

➖ One puzzle had a misleading visual interface, given the ultimate puzzle resolution. This puzzle really dashed our expectations.

➖ In one puzzle, the only viable solving method (that we found) was tedious and trial & error-y.

➕ Vortex Future required us to learn the logic of the game world, but think outside the box to solve the puzzles. This resulted in immensely satisfying puzzle solves.

➖ In a few instances the inputs were finicky, which caused us some confusion.

➕ While we got hung up on a few puzzles, overall they were fair, inventive, and unusual escape room puzzles that we enjoyed solving.

❓ The final puzzle was probably the most challenging puzzle that we’ve seen in an escape room to date. It was tangible, team-centric, and the type of thing many experienced puzzlers would know exactly how to approach… but it was a beast of a puzzle nonetheless. I think we would have been able to solve it if we got to it with at least 10 – maybe 15 – minutes on the clock.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • This game would be extremely difficult for colorblind players.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – Bernie Block [Review]

Lego Land

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 2 – a small family

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bernie Block is the Lego escape room that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

While it never explicitly mentions Lego in any way, the look and feel was all Lego… and it was a delight.

In-game: A lego kitchen
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Escaparium clearly designed Bernie Block for children, but our team of adults still adored it. Sure, it was easier, but that didn’t diminish the joy of the experience.

I would have loved to see a little more drama at the end to match the detail that was poured into the world, but overall, Bernie Block is a must-play for families who are anywhere near Montreal. If you’re an adult player who doesn’t have kids, there’s a lot to love about Bernie Block if you’re willing to embrace the playfulness of this game. I am quite happy that I did.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Lego fanatics
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The cuteness levels are dangerously high
  • It feels like stepping inside of a giant Lego construction
  • Bernie Block is funny in a family-friendly way

Story

Bernie Block desperately needed our help… to convince his crush to go on a date with him.

In-game: A lego chair in front of a TV in a lego house.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Setting

Everything was built from blocks. Everything. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, the furniture – all of it. Bernie Block looked like we had stepped into something made by an 8-year-old in the best way possible.

As an adult, it felt like wonderful nostalgia… and I have to imagine that as a kid, Bernie Block would feel simply awesome.

In-game: A clock built from giant legos.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s Bernie Block was a family-friendly escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A lego bathroom.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Analysis

➕ Delightful. This describes Bernie Block to a T. It describes the set, story, music, and so many of the in-game interactions.

➕ The block-based set and prop design created a unique aesthetic. It was bright and friendly. Escaparium minded the details, adding lego-y echos in their choice of set decor and props. The story came to life because we really felt a part of this little world.

➕ We met the characters in Bernie Block through amusing videos with stellar voice acting. They added humor and purpose to the gameplay.

➖ Although counting puzzles belong in a family-friendly escape game, the cluing felt messy, which made this sequence more chaotic than it needed to be.

➖ In one case, the trigger tolerances were a bit too tight. We had solved something and it didn’t quite register until we shifted things.

Bernie Block was especially charming because of its scale. The space felt small, but the interactions felt big. Escaparium replicated Lego interactions in their puzzle design, and delivered them at human size.

➖ We loved many of the set pieces in the second act – so much so that we wanted them to be a larger part of the experience. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➖ There was opportunity to do something more energetic with the finale.

➕ The Lego theme had broad appeal. Kids will feel at home in this game. Our group of adults felt nostalgic and no less joyful.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. Bernie Block is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s Bernie Block, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Immersia – The Grand Immersia Hotel [Review]

Fantastic service. Shuttle bus included with your stay.

Location:  Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Grand Immersia Hotel was different beast. It was big, narrative-driven, and incredibly compelling. With this escape room, Immersia has clearly established itself as one of Montreal’s must-play companies.

This ambitious escape game used many wonderful tactics to build intrigue and excitement.

In-game: closeup of the hotel's key display.
Image via Immersia

As you’ll see below, we noticed a few rough edges and opportunities for refinement. That said, they didn’t get in the way of the intensity of this adventure. That’s really what you’re paying for in The Grand Immersia Hotel.

If you’re anywhere near Montreal, check into the The Grand Immersia Hotel. You’re doing Montreal wrong if you skip it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Size and scale
  • Some gorgeous setpieces
  • Brilliant delivery of narrative & adventure

Story

It had been years, but the Grand Immersia Hotel was finally reopening. The opening bash would be the party of the century.

We had been abducted by a man obsessed with revenge. Before he dropped us off at the hotel, he had blackmailed us and given us explicit instructions to follow. He wanted the celebrities and politicians to suffer and we were his instrument.

In-game: The front desk of the hotel.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Grand Immersia Hotel was expansive, with multiple scene changes among vastly different spaces.

As with any hotel, The Grand Immersia Hotel was impressive in the common areas… and the rooms… less so. These were maybe a touch too unimpressive for the purported grandeur of the newly reopening hotel.

The grand parts of the The Grand Immersia Hotel really leaned into the grandeur.

In-game: The hotel bathroom.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Grand Immersia Hotel built excitement and momentum. From the opening moments of this thrilling ride, through each scene change, it kept our hearts racing, and our solving energetic.

➕/➖ Immersia built an incredible juxtaposition into The Grand Immersia Hotel. We entered through the scene of a stereotypically bad escape room, but pretty soon, we could glimpse a later scene, even before we could reach it. Each scene was justified in the story and the collections of scenes worked together beautifully. In a couple of instances, however, that juxtaposition was a little too strong.

➕ The acting in The Grand Immersia Hotel was a lot of fun. We could play into it as much or as little as we wanted. Whether we chose to avoid or engage, it added excitement and the threat of consequence.

➕ We loved one elegant late-game puzzle. Although it was process-y, it was tangible and thematic. The moment we keyed into the aha, we were impressed. 

➖ At times, Immersia leaned heavily on standard escape room tropes.

➖ One late-game puzzle lacked feedback.

➕ We encountered a clear decision point in The Grand Immersia Hotel. We understood our choices and their consequences.

➖ We read much of the narrative cluing from papers rather than felt it through the gameplay.

➕ The plot twist – albeit short – added to the experience. We enjoyed how the final scene played out to wrap up our story.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Codex – The Reflection of Madness [Review]

Tentacle Time

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28,99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Codex’s approach to designing a Lovecraftian horror adventure in The Reflection of Madness was poetic. With a few pieces of Lovecraft’s deep lore and unusual aesthetic, they built an exciting and surprising world.

The escape game was fairly large, with delightful puzzles that felt at home in this strange universe.

In-game: A portal splitting open reality, a tenticle is vaguely visible beyond the gap.
Image via Codex

Codex built a cohesive experience through neat puzzle artifacts, which we adored. While we enjoyed The Reflection of Madness immensely, there were a few details that felt unfinished, including the conclusion.

Codex is one of Montreal’s must-play companies, and in our opinion, The Reflection of Madness is their premier game. Go play it. The horror isn’t overly intense, so long as you’re ok with the idea of battling evil elder gods from the deep.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Lovecraft fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Fantastic flow and progression
  • Wonderful set design and art direction
  • Incredible, thematic interactions

Story

Our team had been dispatched to a magical dimension. An occultist professor’s work had ripped a breach into the fabric of reality and it threatened to consume not only that dimension, but all others.

In-game: A large tenticle coming from the ceiling of a study.
Image via Codex

Setting

Codex used a large amount of space to create The Reflection of Madness. They were also clever in how they used it.

What began as a fairly mundane, study-like environment spiraled out into wonderful Lovecraftian madness.

In-game: Wide view of a study.
Image via Codex

Gameplay

Codex’s The Reflection of Madness was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a globe in a study.
Image via Codex

Analysis

➕ Whereas at first glance The Reflection of Madness looked competent but banal, as the escape game progressed, revealing Codex’s vision, the intentionality became clear. Each set was decorated completely, from floor to ceiling. As we transitioned through the game, we moved into increasingly chaotic sets that added intrigue and punctuated the story. The final set was especially outrageous.

➕ The gameplay in The Reflection of Madness can be summed up by the phrase “neat puzzle artifacts.” In each act, the gameplay revolved around unique props that we manipulated to unusual ends. These were fascinating, fun, and tactile. The solves were immensely satisfying.

➖ There was room to optimize a few of the puzzles with small tweaks. One process puzzle – built into a neat puzzle artifact – needed additional intermittent feedback. We almost abandoned the correct idea before seeing it through to the solve. Another neat puzzle artifact was located such that it was challenging for the entire team to engage with it. Since it had appeal even to onlookers, it would have been even more exciting if everyone could have been on the same wavelength.

➖ The game’s biggest reveal needed to better mask the technology that was doing the heavy lifting.

➕ Momentum built throughout The Reflection of Madness. From the major reveal, on through the next discovery and the scenic twists, the energy level only intensified as we played.

➖ We wanted more from the conclusion. There was so much tension and it begged for a stronger resolution.

➕ The set and gameplay together supported the story of The Reflection of Madness. Players will appreciate the narrative arc whether or not they know the Lovecraftian lore of Cthulhu. Codex crafted this escape room with a level of cohesion that few can rival.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking in the back of the building near the entrance to the escape rooms.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Codex’s The Reflection of Madness, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codex comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen [Review]

I’m on a ship!

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

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

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: 37.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was an ambitious game.

Escaparium built a massive nautical escape with a beautiful, sprawling set, and strong interaction design.

In-game: A view through a long, old, wood ship. A treasure chest sits on the floor.

From a puzzle and gameplay standpoint, there was a lot to love in The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, especially in the second and third acts. The opening had great ideas, but some rocky execution muddied the waters.

If you are plugged into the broader escape room world, then you’re likely wondering how it compares to 13th Gate’s famed Cutthroat Cavern. Comparing things to a beloved game like Cutthroat Cavern is pretty dangerous when it comes to expectation setting. It’s been so long since I personally played at Cutthroat Cavern that I don’t know that I can truly make a fair comparison. The passage of time does funny things to memory, accentuating the things that you love and hate about a game, while the middle kind of evaporates. But what I’ll say is this:

If you love big budget, blockbuster escape rooms, then The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen should be on your list. I can’t tell you whether you should like it more or less than any other game. I can say that Escaparium crammed a lot of love, technology, and detailing into this ambitious game… and it’s absolutely worth going out of your way to play it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • It’s massive, gorgeous, and so impressive
  • Surprising and delightful moments

Story

The Admiral had ordered us to find the Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen. Once we found it, we needed to do whatever it took to learn the secrets that the Voodoo Queen had to offer.

In-game: A desk with a lantern, compass, and skull resting on it.

Setting

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was gorgeous. We boarded a ship to begin our adventure. When I say, “we boarded a ship,” I don’t mean that “it looked like the interior of a ship,” I mean it was basically a ship. I saw the exterior. It was kind of crazy… and that was just the first act.

Escaparium built an ambitious, sprawling world for The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and it was loaded with wonderful set-driven moments.

In-game: Shelves inside of a ship containing lanterns and pots.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A caged area inside of an old ship.

Analysis

➕ The set of The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was breathtaking. It was gigantic and detailed. It induced a child-like urge to explore and discover. From the opening moments through multiple set changes, it delivered on adventure.

➖ With an enormous and inviting gamespace, but linear gameplay, Escaparium needed stronger cluing in the opening moments to route our attention toward the gameplay. We struggled to pick up momentum early on because almost every other aspect of our new environment was more captivating than the opening puzzle sequence.

➕ The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen included a variety of tactile puzzles. In the second and third act, these were especially well integrated into the set and props, which made them that much more engaging and satisfying to solve.

➖ A few of the puzzles needed stronger feedback. In one instance, we believed that we had completed two puzzles simultaneously and when the game reacted, we couldn’t tell which puzzle was correctly completed and which one needed another look.

➖ There was opportunity to more thoroughly connect the solves with the story. While the puzzles felt thematically connected, they didn’t feel integrated into the narrative.

➕/➖ We adored one layered sequence that required coordinated teamwork in the face of adverse conditions. It was challenging, but exciting. It was also needlessly frustrating because of a lack of feedback and some ambiguous cluing. With a few adjustments, this would be a smoother ride, and likely become the most memorable solve of the game.

In-game: A book with an embossed face.

➖ In this detailed world, any breakage easily becomes a red herring. It wasn’t always clear when an object moved freely whether we were meant to interact with it, or whether it had become detached.

➕ Escaparium used practical effects to enhance the staging and the story.

➕ Each scene change was dramatic, right up through the finale, which felt like a worthy culmination of our efforts. From start to finish, The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was quite the ride.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • There is some motion in this game. At any point a player may request for this motion to stop.

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Vortex Past [Review]

Big, ancient puzzle box.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 3, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Vortex Past was a unique escape room that felt like solving a giant puzzle box. There were no words because we had traveled to a pre-writing time. Each puzzle required us to play with it, interpret the feedback that we received, and determine what to do from there. This was progressive discovery in its purest form.

I love solving puzzling boxes. I mean, I proposed to Lisa with a one-of-a-kind puzzle box that I helped design… so I’m stating my stylistic bias up front.

In-game: an effervescent blue and yellow rock structure with water running through it.

Additionally, the beautiful set of Vortex Past rivaled its gameplay in uniqueness. At times, I completely stopped playing just so that I could take in the beauty of my surroundings.

I can also easily imagine some disliking Vortex Past. The small set didn’t have tons of puzzles. If everything clicks, you could find yourself winning quite quickly. If the puzzling style isn’t one that works for you and your team, then you might be in for a bumpy ride.

The magic of Sauve Qui Peut is that none of their games feel even slightly similar in style, design, or gameplay. From a gameplay standpoint, Sauve Qui Peut easily ranks among the most innovative escape room companies that we’ve ever encountered. Part of what comes with that incredible diversity is that not everyone will feel the same way about the individual, wonderful games at this company. My recommendation is to play a few games at Sauve Qui Peut and try to embrace each for what it’s striving to achieve.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • We’ve never played a game like it
  • Compact, yet stunning set
  • Vortex Past was one massive progressive discovery puzzle. It felt like a giant puzzle box.

Story

An unknown element unlike anything found elsewhere on Earth had been identified inside of an equatorial cave. The planet had endured a series of natural disasters that seemed to stem from this mysterious element.

We were sent back in time to attempt to neutralize the element when it first arrived to prevent future calamities.

In-game: a stone sundial beside a firepit in a cave.

Setting

Vortex Past was a gorgeous cavern filled with stalactites, iridescent stone, and running water. This was the definition of a small, yet mighty set.

Additionally, the puzzles were completely baked into the environment, so we weren’t just looking at the set, we were engaging with it throughout the experience.

In-game: stalactites hanging from a red walled of a cave.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past was an unusual escape room because the gameplay was more reminiscent of a puzzle box than a classic escape room. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.

In-game: closeup of an effervescent blue and yellow rock structure with water running through it.

Analysis

➕ The gorgeous set had the water glistening against the rocks. We felt transported back to an ancient cave.

➕ The gameplay was progressive discovery. As we explored our surroundings, triggering responses from the set, we felt as though we were solving our way out of a life-sized puzzle box. Vortex Past required us to reframe our thinking, the result of which was immensely satisfying discoveries.

Vortex Past gave feedback when we interacted with its puzzles. Interpreting the feedback was a natural part of solving the puzzle.

➖ Although Vortex Past gave immediate feedback to our actions, it didn’t provide enough by way of light and sound cues for its own responses, which were at times delayed, and not always exactly where our attention had been focused.

➕ In the ancient land of Vortex Past, we encountered symbols, but no written words. The puzzle style felt natural within the gamespace and the story world. The puzzles were also well themed.

➖ The handwritten symbols were sometimes faded, and in one instance, a bit messy.

➕ We especially enjoyed divining a solution.

➖ One sequencing issue stalled our momentum as we completed the final interaction in the game.

➕ The finale was wholly unexpected and unexpectedly joyous.

➕ I want to call out the chlorinated water feature in Vortex Past. Almost no escape rooms chlorinate, but they absolutely should. Water features can become breeding grounds for bacteria and I am pleased to see that Sauve Qui Peut recognized this and handled it appropriately.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • Players must be able to duck through a very low doorway for the full experience.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.

Escaparium – The Blind Tiger [Review]

Puzzles on tap

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: April 6, 2019

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Blind Tiger was the most traditional escape room that we played at Escaparium. It looked good, played cleanly, included great swing music, and had at least one memorable moment.

In-game: An array of provocative pinup girls.

From our perspective, a hallmark of Escaparium’s game design is their willingness to take risks in their gameplay and sets… to make things that we haven’t seen anywhere else. Sometimes this delivers a big payoff and sometimes it’s a little bumpy, but it’s always interesting.

The Blind Tiger doesn’t have that risky intrigue that we saw in the other 5 Escaparium games that we played on our recent trip to Montreal. There’s nothing wrong with that (especially from a company with so many games); it might even be a good thing for them.

We absolutely recommend The Blind Tiger if you’re in Montreal and looking for a solid speakeasy experience that plays really well. If you’re looking for something out of the box, however, Escaparium has plenty of other games that might not play as smoothly, but offer something unique.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Great music
  • Strong speakeasy touches
  • Some good puzzling

Story

The Blind Tiger was the most popular speakeasy in Chicago. Our boss, the leader of a rival crime family, had sent us to sneak into the Blind Tiger to steal its owner’s ledger. There would be something juicy contained within it.

In-game: A roulette table.

Setting

The Blind Tiger was a speakeasy. It looked like a compelling underground drinking and gambling establishment.

While it wasn’t the fanciest set, little details made it feel real. These included liquor labels, pinup art, and cigarette displays.

In-game: A sales display for LUCKY Cigarettes on an old wooden bar.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Blind Tiger was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A view behind the bar at a wall of liquor.

Analysis

The Blind Tiger had a lively soundtrack of swing music and a beautiful, polished set. We enjoyed the vibe of the gamespace.

➖ Although the gamespace was spacious, one area lacked adequate room to maneuver. It was easy to scrape oneself on doors, once opened, and hard to work together in this area.

➖ We encountered a ghost puzzle within the set decor.

➕ The voice-overs were clear and well acted. They added character to the game.

➕ The puzzles were thematic and largely tangible. They flowed well.

➕/➖ One substantial puzzle was well integrated into the gamespace. The cluing was varied and included physical props, which made this puzzle more engaging than this style tends to be. That said, it was a long process puzzle for a timed escape game.

In-game: closeup of some liquor bottles. one reads, "Red's Pure Old Panther Piss."

➕/ ➖ We enjoyed assembling… what would then become another puzzle. It was a nifty prop, but a bit too finicky. It also needed a touch more cluing.

➖ Although the puzzles worked well, they generally weren’t novel or exceptionally memorable.

➕ A thematic meta puzzle helped us gauge our progress instead of having to rely on a gameclock.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Blind Tiger, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – The Underground Bar [Review]

Putain and other French wordplay.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: April 8, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Underground Bar was all about sex, drugs, and booze… and let’s just say… it didn’t beat around the bush.

What opened as a fairly traditional puzzle-focused escape room in a bar transitioned into something considerably more outlandish. It was a great time… until the final minutes.

In-game: a back-alley behind a bar.

The quality of the closing set and puzzle were well beneath the rest of the game, causing an otherwise wild ride to fizzle.

Did it ruin the game? Not at all.

Would it have been way better if the closing of this game were on the level of everything else that we played at Sauve Qui Peut? Absolutely.

If you’re over 18, near Montreal, into playing an adult game, and you’re with a group of people whom you’re open to playing this kind of game with… then you absolutely should.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Strip club goers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Beautiful and detailed set
  • Unexpected reveal
  • It’s 18+ for alcohol, drug, and sexual content

Story

Our department had suspected this Manhattan bar of being an epicenter for crime. We were dispatched to investigate it and learn what kind of criminal was calling this bar home.

In-game: an electrical box in a back-alley.

Setting

We began The Underground Bar outside of the bar before progressing inside. It was a good-looking space that made use of wall-sized murals that actually added depth and character to the environment.

From there, things got a bit seedy… which was how it was supposed to get.

In-game: a grafitti's dead face.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s The Underground Bar was a standard escape room with a section that had 18+ theming. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The opening scene of The Underground Bar set the tone for a clandestine operation. The puzzle flow worked elegantly.

➕ The wall art in The Underground Bar was phenomenal. It was beautiful and gave the set some depth without ever creating red herrings. We’re not usually big on murals, but this one worked.

➕ The puzzles were well themed for the setting.

➖ The final act was a letdown. The gamespace was crowded and uninteresting. The gameplay felt dry, especially considering the previous act. Our momentum ground to a halt.

➖ While most of the clue structure was built into the set, one complex, layered puzzle relied almost entirely on a journal. While not exactly a runbook, it had a lot of the same problems. It was too compact to engage the entire team in the only available puzzle. The game bottlenecked at this point.

➕ One puzzle initially posed a stiff challenge, but after trying a few different angles we quickly came to a satisfying conclusion.

➕ Sauve Qui Peut hid its secrets well. The Underground Bar included some phenomenal opens.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • You can most of this game in English. You will need French (or hints) for 2 puzzles.
  • You must be 18 years old to play this game. The theming is sexual. Choose your teammates wisely.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s The Underground Bar, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.