Escaparium – The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts [Review]

Barry Hotter: The Fellowship of the Wands

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: April 7, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was the first in a two-game (maybe more in the future) wizarding series created by Escaparium. We grabbed our wands and set off on a quest to stop evil… and it was delightful.

Escaparium told their own story with the help of many common tropes and a dollop of instantly recognizable pop culture references, giving us players the kind of Harry Potter/ Tolkien-esque adventure that so many of us crave.

In-game: A statue of a wizard holding a crystal ball carved into a stone wall.

The sets were gorgeous. The magic was fun. The effects and puzzles were generally strong.

Some of it was a bit bumpy. It was clear to us that Escaparium was exploring structures for escape room storytelling that became a bit onerous. The wands, while fun, were a bit finicky.

Nevertheless, we were thrilled to have played The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts and even happier after playing its sequel, The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa. If you’re near Montreal, we highly recommend playing both, in order.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The set was beautiful
  • There was an amazing scene transition; it was incredible how much went into it
  • Some great effects
  • A number of strong puzzles
  • Wands are fun

Story

We were fresh out of magic school and we had been summoned to meet with the high wizard. By the time we’d arrived in his hall, however, he and his family were gone, abducted by an evil sorcerer. It was up to us to save them.

In-game: Animated paintings hanging from a stone wall.

Setting

In The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, Escaparium let us loose in a wizarding school and it looked the part.

We explored a great hall as well as the dormitories. Each had depth, texture, and quite a bit to take in. There were points where I basically stopped playing and just enjoyed the environment.

In-game: a shelf full of scrolls.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a standard escape room where players had wands to use as tools. It had a moderate level of difficulty

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

In-game: 8 magic wands hanging from the top of a doorway.

Analysis

➕ We entered The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts with wands in hand. This added an interesting game mechanic. But also… wands!

➖ As nifty as the wands were, their triggers could be finicky, which was frustrating. Still, we liked the wand mechanic and were disappointed when they fell out of relevance in the late-game. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➕ The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was loaded with nods to various wizarding worlds. Fans will enjoy the magical artifacts and references in this escape room.

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts captured the aesthetics of a number of iconic wizarding locales. Each scene looked outstanding. While Escaparium’s sets were always detailed, they went the extra mile here, crafting a scene purely so that we could enjoy our perspective.

➖ Some of the props in The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts had seen better days.

➖ Play stopped occasionally for long audio interludes punctuated with effects. We didn’t find that these added enough depth to the story to warrant the length of the gameplay stoppage.

➕ The middle act had solid puzzles that necessitated a variety of skills sets and magical ability. These flowed well.

➖ We encountered a few puzzles with ambiguous cluing.

➕ Magical artifacts surprised and delighted us as we played. These weren’t by the book.

➖ In a magical escape room, anything was possible. Anything might open from any action. Escaparium needed to better direct players to triggered opens. We couldn’t always tell what we’d affected.

➖The culminating scene felt less triumphant than it should have. The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts lacked its own Mount Doom. (Again, this wasn’t something that this game’s sequel suffered from.)

The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts was a delightful space to play in for an hour.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • You need to be comfortable with stairs to play this game.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Wizard Four and the Book of Black Arts, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.