Riddle Room – Vanishing at The Velmont [Review]

Vexing Vacation

Location:  Warwick, Rhode Island

Date Played: December 15, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public & Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Vanishing at The Velmont was a delightful, beginner-friendly escape room filled with clever puzzles and interactions.

In-game: An abstract representation of the hotel's lobby.

The biggest drawback to this escape room was that throughout the game nearly every prop, wall, and surface felt unfinished. It was generally clear where we were and what we were interacting with, but few items were built to a degree that sold Riddle Room’s fiction.

Ultimately, this is a fun game – and for us, that’s what matters most. We’re glad that we played. We think that this would make a phenomenal initial introduction to escape rooms for newbies. The issues of polish didn’t change the fact that Riddle Room crafted some incredibly cool moments. If you’re in Rhode Island, this game is worth playing.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Great, beginner-friendly game design
  • A number of fun interactions
  • Clever and unique puzzle design

Story

We had always wanted to spend a night in the legendary Velmont Hotel, but it was always far too expensive for us. After a series of strange disappearances occurring in a particular room, the rates had come down… so we figured, why not?

In-game: the front desk with an old phone and slots for the room keys.

Setting

Vanishing at The Velmont took us through a few different spaces within the Velmont Hotel. Each space had a unique look and feel and progressed along a logical path.

The overall build quality was heavily variable. The setpieces ran the gamut from really cool and solidly constructed to flimsy and shoddily built. Most everything in this game had a neat concept behind it. We wished that the level of construction was more consistently strong.

In-game: Astatue in the wall of a hallway within a hotel.

Gameplay

Riddle Room’s Vanishing at The Velmont was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

 Vanishing at The Velmont had lot of content, but a progressive difficulty curve. The first act was straightforward and taught us how to play the game.

➕ Riddle Room constructed multiple unique puzzles into Vanishing at The Velmont. They generally involved custom-built mechanisms. They were unusual and satisfying to interact with.

➖ There was opportunity to add finish and polish to many of the props. For example, cut down on handwriting, except where justified by the story, and refine some associated audio in cluing. Additionally, too many setpieces looked unfinished.

➖ Although Vanishing at The Velmont had a lot of excellent puzzle content, it relied a little too much on key-for-key-style solves.

 Vanishing at The Velmont provided opportunity for collaboration and sharing. When we repeated an interaction with an interface, instead of feeling tedious, it was a moment for another teammate to have a go at a nifty prop.

➕ Riddle Room justified a classic hint system with one sentence of story.

➖ In order to follow the story, we needed to read quite a bit. We couldn’t feel the story arc through gameplay alone.

➕ We moved through multiple sets in this game. We enjoyed the variety in layouts, set designs, and puzzle types.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Riddle Room’s Vanishing at The Velmont, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Riddle Room comped our tickets for this game.

Lock & Clue Escape Rooms – The Cellar II: Saul’s Revenge [Review]

The Beast of Pawtucket

Location:  Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Date Played: December 15, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Cellar II: Saul’s Revenge surprised us. Lock & Clue Escape Rooms struck an engaging balance between camp and legitimate scares.

In-game: A table covered in blood, body parts, and a large clamp.

This wasn’t a Party City Halloween props horror game. The Cellar II had some really interesting and unusual set pieces, some elegantly designed puzzles, and a great in-character gamemaster who breathed life into the game. It’s worth noting that the owner played that part for us, but insisted that he has an employee who does it far better.

If you’re in Rhode Island, there’s a lot to love about the The Cellar II, especially if a horror experience appeals to you. Go investigate for yourself.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Memorable interactions
  • Intense actor-driven moments

Story

We had escaped the butcher’s basement, which had seemed to put an end to the murder spree. All seemed right in the neighborhood… until people started disappearing again. Once more, someone had to go investigate The Cellar.

In-game: closeup of an incinerator door, blood runs out from under it.

Setting

The Cellar II was appropriately cellar-ish. It looked like a modestly gory murder basement. I know this because I’ve seen a few.

Lock & Clue Escape Rooms didn’t achieve (or seem to strive for) the grotesque level of detail on the extreme end of the genre. However, neither did they cheap out and make The Cellar II look like it was decorated with leftover Halloween decorations from Party City. They struck a solid, approachable balance, and included a fair bit of detail.

In-game: An old worn on/ off switch.

Gameplay

Lock & Clue Escape Rooms’ The Cellar II: Saul’s Revenge was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ With a detailed set, a badass prop, and an interesting character, The Cellar II was clearly made with love and thought.

The Cellar II struck a balance between campy and scary.

➖ The Cellar II was a search-heavy escape room. There were a lot of small details to uncover and a large gamespace in which to find them. One critical item was insanely tiny.

➕ The hinting was fully integrated in the gameplay and the experience. Because of this, Lock & Clue Escape Rooms had complete control over the timing and difficulty of The Cellar II. They chose when and how to push hints to the group. It takes a lot of skill to balance this for each group, providing enough character development along with appropriate puzzle direction. We were an unusual group for them – as a group of 6 highly experienced players – and overall, they did a phenomenal job.

➕ The Cellar II developed the character of Saul throughout this escape room. He had his own voice and writing style.

➕ Lock & Clue Escape Rooms put their own perspective on some of the puzzles. We especially liked how they spun one classic escape room trope.

➖ While many of the puzzles were worked into the setting or theme, some seemed like random escape room-y add ons that didn’t belong in the setting.

➖ We tripped up on an instance of double cluing. This cheapened an otherwise strong puzzle that thematically worked well.

➕ Lock & Clue Escape Rooms set this game in the same physical space as The Cellar, but changed things up quite a bit. We hadn’t played the original, but it was made clear to us that this game was fully redesigned from the original.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Lock & Clue Escape Rooms’ The Cellar II: Saul’s Revenge, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lock & Clue Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Riddle Room – Forest of Fortune [Review]

Flora and Fauna

Location:  Warwick, Rhode Island

Date Played: December 15, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public & Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We had played at Riddle Room before, but stepping into Forest of Fortune demonstrated such a leap forward in game quality that it felt like a completely different company. It was incredible how far Riddle Room has come in 2 years. From the gameplay, to the set, to their hosting, they have substantially leveled up every conceivable element of their business.

It was clear that Riddle Room had put a lot into this buildout and pushed themselves far beyond anything that we had seen from them to date.

In-game: A stone wall with a metal gate.

In addition to the set, Riddle Room built dynamic mechanisms into their gameplay. On more than one occasion, they took an old, stale escape room cliché and morphed it into something unique and incredibly fun.

If you’re in Rhode Island, Forest of Fortune is a must-play escape room. It was fun and funny. On a personal level, we’re truly in awe of how Riddle Room has reinvented itself.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Novel puzzle and interaction design
  • Playful set design
  • Thoroughly fun gameplay

Story

We had received a text from our friend Justin that he needed our help. Justin was lost in the wilds of western Rhode Island, but he’d found a mountain of treasure.

In-game: Forest set.

Setting

Riddle Room set their adventure in an enchanted forest. The set had a whimsical woodland feel. It was almost cartoonish, which helped to sell the detailed, but homemade aesthetic. We liked it.

The stars of the show were some of the larger puzzle set pieces that were clearly the product of a lot of effort and ingenuity.

In-game: A stump with a a fleece hung on it in the middle of the woods.

Gameplay

Riddle Room’s Forest of Fortune was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: View of a a cemetary through a metal gate.

Analysis

➕ The mechanical interactions were dynamic and really cool.

➕ We enjoyed the theme and the setup for this adventure. It was unusual. Although the set looked handmade, it was clearly crafted with care and deliberate design. Everything felt playful.

➖ Forest of Fortune had experienced some wear and tear from players.

➕ We loved when the forest revealed its magic. This lifted our experience and opened up new thrills.

➖ The plot progression wasn’t entirely clear. Midway through the game, we became a bit confused with the story. Because our team split up to solve some of the later puzzles, some players missed some key plot points.

➕ Riddle Room’s outstanding props enabled us to wield magic. These were fashioned out of everyday items and escape room clichés… but crafted into extraordinary tools.

➕ Searching challenges were well clued.

➖ There was an opportunity to craft more engaging interactions and better incorporate cluing for one star element of the final act.

➕ There was a lot of puzzle content in Forest of Fortune, most of which lent itself to teamwork. The gameplay worked well.

➕ The hint system fit right in with the world. It was fun and engaging to interact with.

➕ The finale was surprising and momentous.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Riddle Room’s Forest of Fortune, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Riddle Room comped our tickets for this game.

Amaze Escape – Art of the Heist [Review]

“9-1-1 this better be good.” -Chief Wiggum

Location:  Arlington, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 15, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

The Art of the Heist was a competent escape game with solid puzzle flow, good humor, integrated history, and a compelling, authentic setting.

Amaze Escape’s creation was held back by two frustrations: an overabundance of interesting red herrings and a painfully underdeveloped late-game sequence. These were serious momentum-killers, but are quite fixable.

Art of the Heist was a strong game that I wanted to enjoy more than I did. It just needed a bit more polish.

If you’re in the area and looking for a solid escape game in a unique and authentic setting, Art of the Heist would be a good choice.

In-game: The police station, featuring an American & Massachusetts flags, a coat hanger with a uniform and a desk with a computer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A genuine setting
  • Solid gameflow
  • An interesting final puzzle

Story

We were members of a syndicate of thieves tasked with stealing the world’s most valuable suitcase. Allegedly the suitcase had found its way into police custody in the town of Farlington, Massachusetts.

The syndicate had created a diversion, giving us an hour to break into the police evidence locker and retrieve our prize.

In-game: Close up of the electronic surveillance system box.

Setting

Amaze Escape was located in a building that formerly housed a municipal justice center. Their earlier game made use of the building’s authentic jail cell. Their latest game was set within the police station.

The concrete walls and generally drab setting was livened by a number of Simpsons references and other jokes. The setting was pretty perfect and was one of those instances where the real thing doesn’t necessarily look like TV or the movies, but feels like the genuine artifact.

In-game: the word "Taxachusetts" painted boldly on the wall.

Gameplay

Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Amaze Escape was located in a former municipal building that housed the court, jail, and police. They stuck to their roots again in their second game, The Art of the Heist, set it in a police station. It was believable.

➕ The puzzles flowed pretty smoothly. The gameplay generally worked well.

➖ We encountered one frustrating section. Ambiguous cluing, lack of necessary light sources, and choice of input mechanism came together aimlessly.

➖ Amaze Escape included substantial red herrings in The Art of the Heist. We kept looking for ways to interact with these significant props, only to find that they were simply ambiance. This was unfortunate because these red herrings were among the most interesting items in the game.

➕ We enjoyed one nifty late-game tech-driven solve. It was an intriguing design and amusingly precise.

➖ While we enjoyed the setup, we didn’t feel the narrative pressure of the heist scenario. The Art of the Heist lacked a moment of intensity and excitement that made our hearts race.

➕ I loved how Amaze Escape worked other bits of Boston heist history into their game, including the infamous Gardner Heist, which I had originally learned about from my favorite podcast, The Futility Closet.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking nearby. Pay the meter.

Book your hour with Amaze Escape’s Art of the Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Amaze Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escapism – Do Not Disturb [Review]

Do Not Disturb

Creepy dolls & good flow.

Location:  Southington, Connecticut

Date Played:  December 17, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It’s great to see a new company come out of the gate with a strong game. Escapism gets escape rooms, and we’re incredibly excited to see where they take their designs.

Do Not Disturb was a fantastic game for less experienced players. It was well designed with strong puzzle flow.

If you’re an experienced player, there was something to enjoy in Do Not Disturb, but it wasn’t a must-play.

If you’re new to escape rooms, this would be a wonderful place to start.

In-game: closeup of a creepy doll.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • An elegant set
  • A great hint system
  • Smart puzzles

Story

Our team of private investigators was called to investigate an abandoned and allegedly haunted apartment. It was up to us to determine the fate of its tenant.

In-game: View through the door of Do Not Disturb into a studio apartment with a creepy doll sitting on a table in the middle of the room.

Setting

We “broke into” a small, grandmotherly apartment with a cohesive aesthetic. It wasn’t a fancy setting, but it looked and smelled right.

In-game: a small table two two unusual wooden locked boxes.

Gameplay

Escapism’s Do Not Disturb was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: An old apartment bedroom's dresser. There are metal boxes with wires running from them.

Analysis

➕ The set looked homey, but slightly creepy. It had a gentle, welcoming aesthetic with just the slightest edge.

➕ Escapism’s set design included visual, auditory, and olfactory ambiance. These extra details added a lot to the experience.

Do Not Disturb had a stellar entry for onboarding escape room newbies.

➕ The puzzles flowed well. Escapism even augmented a few puzzles so that experienced players wouldn’t accidentally (or purposely) bypass parts of the game. It worked well.

➖ One puzzle could easily become overwhelming depending on the order the players connect various in-game elements. In part, the ambiance contributed to potential sensory overload. This puzzle could benefit from either more gating and/or stronger cluing.

➕ The hint system was designed specifically for Do Not Disturb. This detail added to the overall experience. We didn’t use any hints… but Escapism clearly knew how cool the system was and worked it into our game nonetheless.

➖ Escapism mixed locks with tech-driven opens, but too often the tech was too visible. If they can build housing around the tech and hide it in the decor, it’s effects would be far more effective.

➕Escapism had a beautiful, spacious lobby. Leave yourself a few extra minutes to hang out.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Tavern 42 for BBQ nearby.
  • Leave some time to hang out in Escapism’s gorgeous lobby.

Book your hour with Escapism’s Do Not Disturb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escapism comped our tickets for this game.

The Gate Escape – D.J. Death [Review]

Don’t fear the reaper.

Location:  Leominster, Massachusetts

Date Played:  December 17, 2018

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

Duration: 35-45 minutes depending on play style

Price: $23 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

D.J. Death was The Gate Escape’s introductory Halloween popup game that didn’t die.

With structured puzzle sections, this game was far more directed than your typical escape game. Additionally, it was nonthreatening, even if the theme sounds scary.

Although the set design was a bit uneven – with some puzzle sections looking great and others looking a bit cheesy – it played well and culminated in a delightful conclusion.

D.J. Death would be a wonderful game for newbies. Even as experienced players, we found a lot to enjoy. It wasn’t hard, but it was amusing. If you’re an experienced player, The Gate Escape’s other games are must-plays. D.J. Death is worth adding to your lineup if you’re open to sacrificing some difficulty for a novel game structure.

In-game: a dance floor with DJ Death's skull and cross scythe logo.

Who is this for?

  • Dance party goers!
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Halloween fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Music
  • Dance party
  • Fun puzzles 

Story

Death DJ would host the most exclusive Halloween party of the year. If we wanted to gain admittance, we would have to pass his test and help him build his playlist one puzzle at a time. If we failed, we’d be cut… from the guest list.

In-game: A wall of massive blocks in the middle of the room.

Setting

D.J. Death was a large, open space with 10 smaller puzzle stations along the periphery. Each station had a unique, spooky theme: vampire, voodoo, mad science, etc. (They ranged broadly.)

The level of detail was a little uneven. Some areas looked great; some felt like party-store Halloween. Generally, the visual focus directed us at the puzzle components.

The coolest parts of the set were the dance floor and DJ booth… which were really what mattered.

In-game: closeup of a voodoo shrine.

Gameplay

The Gate Escape’s D.J. Death was an unusual escape room with a low level of difficulty.

This large gamespace was divided into sections, each containing one puzzle. We moved through the space solving the puzzles and collecting tunes from the D.J. himself.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

The Gate Escape offered two play modes. If the entire group traveled between puzzles together, the game clock was 45 minutes. If the group split up to tackle the puzzles separately, the game clock was 35 minutes. (Our group of 4 stayed together so that everyone could experience the entire game. That worked well.)

In-game: An open coffin lit red.

Analysis

➕ D.J. Death was cute and joyous. It didn’t take itself seriously.

➕/➖ The set looked a bit party-store. With the Halloween theme, this generally worked just fine. There were, however, opportunities to improve the aesthetics.

➖Despite the name and the Halloween theming, D.J. Death was not a scary escape room. I have to imagine that this marketing is confusing to The Gate Escape’s customers.

➕ D.J. Death provided a gentle on-ramp to a puzzle game. By wrapping the game in a dance party, encouraging teams to work together, and keeping related puzzle components contained, it would be approachable to new players of all ages and abilities. The Gate Escape is willing to turn the lights on for nervous players.

In-game: 4 large, vertical metal tubes with grates over them.

➕ The Gate Escape built a great mix of puzzle styles into D.J. Death. They were largely tangible and interactive.

➖ Our least favorite puzzles were the less interactive of the lot. The puzzles with larger components generally felt more exciting.

➕ The separate puzzles came together with a meta puzzle. It made the escape room feel whole.

➖ There was opportunity for a more engaging meta puzzle in this space.

➕ The finale. D.J. Death had a wonderful ending. It really was the only way this game could have ended.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Take the elevator up and walk down the long hallway to The Gate Escape.
  • 435 Bar & Grille is conveniently located in the same building.
  • D.J. Death is not scary.

Book your hour with The Gate Escape’s D.J. Death, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Trapology – Crush Depth [Review]

Crushed it.

Location:  Boston, Massachusetts

Date Played:  December 15, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

Crush Depth was a great escape room.

It had an intense, detailed, and imposing aesthetic. The puzzles were meaty and entertaining. The story put an atypical twist on a fairly common concept.

While we encountered a bit of ambiguity with puzzle sequencing, and it was occasionally difficult to find what we were supposed to do among the various set details, it still played really well.

We wholeheartedly recommend it for players who are nearby and have a bit of escape room experience.

In-game: overhead shot of a the bunks in the submarine.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Submarine aesthetic
  • Unorthodox story choice
  • Strong puzzles

Story

While we were serving aboard a submarine, the spirit of the boat’s former captain assumed control, and in a final vengeful act, set a course for crush depth. We had to banish the angry spirit and retake control of the submarine before we all received a gruesome physics lesson.

In-game: an axe hanging over a porthole.

Setting

Crush Depth was an aesthetically gorgeous game, among the most beautiful that we’ve seen in the region.

The submarine set was detailed and weathered. It felt right. There was a lot to look at.

Additionally, the layout felt correct. The entire game took place in a narrow series of rooms.

In-game: wide angle of a the bunks in the submarine.

Gameplay

Trapology’s Crush Depth 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 high voltage electrical box.

Analysis

➕ Trapology turned a few rooms of their downtown Boston office building space into a submarine. The set design looked great.

➖ Although the set looked great, not all of the puzzle components were on the same level. Trapology relied on laminated paper for some clue structure.

➖ The submarine set contained interesting knobs, dials, and gadgets. It wasn’t entirely apparent which were in play and which were decor.

In-game: closeup of a axe-head.

➕ We’ve escaped a lot of submarines, but this was the first one that was haunted by a vengeful ghost captain. Trapology twisted two themes together to create something new and exciting. (Note, Crush Depth is not a horror game.)

In-game: closeup of a small metal step.

➕ Crush Depth was a puzzle-focused escape room with many excellent solves. We always had something interesting to work on.

➖ We encountered one clunky mid-game sequence. Some of the cluing felt a bit out of order.

In-game: A shower-head in a small stall.

➖/➕We couldn’t always tell when we’d triggered an open. Trapology could add lighting or sound cues to make tech-driven opens pop. That said, our attentive gamemaster directed us to anything we’d opened without realizing it.

➕ The final sequence of interactions was massive, tangible, and so satisfying. The conclusion was explosive.

In-game: close-up of a wheel/ door handle.

➕ Trapology had a beautiful lobby. We wish we could have lounged there for longer. We loved the cozy, steampunk-inspired aesthetic.

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.

Book your hour with Trapology’s Crush Depth, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Trapology comped our tickets for this game.

Room Escapers – Panacea [Review]

In-game: The sign for the Panacea Apothecary in the hallway of Room Escapers.

Pandemic: Alchemy

Location:  Boston, Massachusetts

Date Played:  December 15, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing:  Public / Private if you book at least 4 tickets

Emergency Exit: Yes

REA Reaction

Room Escapers is at their best when the build large-team, puzzle-focused, humorous adventures. They checked all those boxes with Panacea… and this may be the finest example of their style thus far.

Panacea was visually striking with an elegant color palette and beautiful faux stained glass windows. While the build quality was occasionally lacking, it was a generally wonderful environment.

From a gameplay standpoint, there was a lot to puzzle through. Our entire team was occupied from start to finish. Panacea just needed a culminating puzzle that brought all of us back together for a finale.

All in all, this was a seriously satisfying game, and regardless of experience level, we highly recommend playing Panacea if you’re visiting Boston.

In-game: wide shot of the apothecary. There is a large red chair and a lectern.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Beautiful alchemy-inspired decor
  • Challenging puzzles

Story

With a disease ravaging the world, humanity’s last hope was hidden in an old Boston apothecary. We entered the preserved establishment-turned-museum with one goal: master the 7 principles of alchemy and produce a mythical cure-all.

In-game: a stain-glass window depicting a fire-breathing dragon.
One of my favorite features of this game.

Setting

We stepped out of Room Escapers’ lobby and into a beautiful old bepuzzled apothecary-turned-museum.

The build quality varied from item to item. Some of the game was beautifully constructed, while other portions were a little more finicky or flimsy.

The most beautiful feature of the room a set of fluorescent office lights that were converted into faux stained glass.

In-game: a large hourglass in the middle of the apothecary.

Gameplay

Room Escapers’ Panacea was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A chest with the depiction of an ouroboros; a snake eating its own tail.

Analysis

➕ Panacea was beautifully themed, down to the game clock. It was an inviting space in which to solve puzzles.

➕ The stained glass windows were awesome.

➕ The story flowed through the puzzles. It became apparent early on how working through the puzzles would resolve the story. We had a good sense of our progression as we played.

In-game: sign reads, "7 principles of truth: he who knows these will find the Panacea."

Panacea offered many hands-on, challenging puzzles. It kept our entire team busy. There was a lot to do and most of it was pretty great.

➖ We encountered one ghost puzzle that led us far afield. This puzzle needed to be entirely refactored, rather than partially reskinned.

➕/➖ In Panacea we worked through a lot of puzzles in a relatively confined space. On the one hand, puzzle elements were well labeled so that we didn’t struggle to connect this astrology with that… astrology. The challenge was in the puzzle. On the other hand, it felt less organic to rely on labeling. Additionally, larger groups will likely struggle stepping around each other.

➖ Some of the tech-driven interactions were finicky. This added unnecessary frustration after we’d solved the puzzles.

➕ The hint system made sense with the story and the space. It added to the experience. (In fact, we recommend asking for a hint, even if you don’t need one.)

In-game: wide shot of the apothecary. There is a large red chair and a phrenology bust.

➖ In Panacea, we spread out, working on different puzzle tracks. Although we enjoyed the finale, we felt it lacked a culminating puzzle that brought the team back together for the conclusion.

➕ There was some really funny wordplay going on in Panacea.

➕ Room Escapers has upped their reveal game. In Panacea, the reveals worked wonderfully.

Tips For Visiting

  • Panacea is at Room Escapers’ School Street location.
  • It is easily accessible by subway. Get off at Park Street or Government Center.
  • If you’re driving, the Pi Alley Parking Garage is right nearby.

Book your hour with Room Escapers’ Panacea, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Room Escapers comped our tickets for this game.

North Shore Escape – The Cursed Caravan [Review]

The Cursed Caravan

This escape room is in tents.

Location:  Woburn, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 15, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

North Shore Escape balanced mystical cheesiness with a gritty homemade mystique. The Cursed Caravan came together into far more than the sum of its parts.

The Cursed Caravan was designed as a popup game… that never popped down. While this was evident in its construction, the silly vibe, unusual story, solid puzzles, and fantastic flow made it work.

We really enjoyed this escape room. If you’re looking to experience the stranger, more creative side of the escape room world, and can appreciate that good game design doesn’t require a large budget or fancy props… visit The Cursed Caravan.

In-game: view through the tent entrance.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  •  A fortune teller’s tent is a fun gamespace
  • Solid puzzles

Story

A strange fortune teller had set up shop and squatted in an escape room business venue. The owner had asked us to investigate her tent and see if we could dig up some dirt that he could use to evict her.

In-game: The poster for "The Cursed Caravan at North Shore Escape."

Setting

We entered a tent just off of North Shore Escape’s lobby. The space was essentially a tent made of bedding. By some force of will and smart theme selection, it worked remarkably well.

The Cursed Caravan had been originally designed as a temporary game, but it had stayed on.

In-game: two seats on either side of a table with a crystal ball.

Gameplay

North Shore Escape’s The Cursed Caravan was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: bookshelf with two locked boxes.

Analysis

➕ The story was interesting. There was a lot to follow, but it paid off.

The Cursed Caravan was well themed as a fortune teller’s tent. The eclectic mix of wall hangings and tchotchkes felt at home in the environment. It was an inspired thematic choice for a low-budget escape room.

➖ Although the tent looked appropriately fortune teller-esque, it also looked less than stable. We worried about accidentally breaking the set, props, or tech. The construction lacked refinement.

➕ The game flowed well. It was a small space, but we were able to move freely around it, rather than linearly through it, which made it feel bigger than it was.

In-game: Tent entrance.

➕ North Shore Escape balanced searching and puzzling to prevent late-game hangups. The puzzle flow was laid out such that we’d find puzzle elements before we needed them. Thus the puzzle solves moved more quickly. It was elegant design.

➕/➖ The tech looked clunky. This kind of worked. We could interpret it as weird fortune teller magic. At the same time, it felt like messy craftsmanship.

➖ Tech opens needed to pop. Especially when we’re being careful with a delicate set (and at one point we even encountered a “do not pull” sign), it would go a long way if “magical” opens were always evident.

➕ The story was available in readings and played as audio recordings. We appreciated that each player could take it in the way that worked for them.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with North Shore Escape’s The Cursed Caravan, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: North Shore Escape comped our tickets for this game.

The Gate Escape – The Observatory [Review]

A revolution & revelation

Location: Leominster, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 17, 2018

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

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Don’t let the description of The Observatory fool you. This wasn’t just another room escape. This was something special.

The Gate Escape designed The Observatory for experienced players; it presented a stiff but fair challenge. They managed to nail this rare combination while putting a unique spin on their game.

This game made us feel so smiley.

If you find yourself in Boston, and you love escape rooms, it’s worth the hour drive to The Gate Escape. The Observatory is a must-play.

If you’re a newbie, we suggest starting with The Gate Escape’s other delightful games before you attempt The Observatory. This is a special game, and you’ll want to level up your skills so that you can truly appreciate it.

In-game: the wood walls of an observatory with orange galaxy paintings on the wall.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Ridiculous design choice… that works so well
  • Strong puzzles
  • High value (90 minutes for your $33!)

Story

The Observatory was a sequel to The Gate Escape’s first game, The Assistant.

While at a conference, Dr. E R Bridge had called upon us, his trusty assistants, to enter his lab and retrieve his hidden research notes. He needed us to get them to him before he made a fool of himself on stage before his peers in the scientific community.

In-game: a desk with assorted items and a strange wire running from it.

Setting

Nothing was as it seemed.

We entered a seemingly mundane office-like environment. The space was sparsely decorated with graffitied notes and equations left behind by Dr. E R Bridge.

This was one of those rare times where I want to tell you what’s special about the set of a game. I want to paint a picture that sells you on it… but you’re going to have to take me at my word that it’s special. Once you see it, you’ll understand why spoiling it would be tragic.

In-game: a star chart with unusual mathematical notation on it.

Gameplay

The Gate Escape’s The Observatory was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

In-game: The number "2 5 8" mounted to the floor.

Analysis

➕ With The Observatory, The Gate Escape introduced a unique twist on the escape game format. When it dawned on us what was happening, we turned giddy.

➕ As we played The Observatory, we built mastery over the game flow. This escape room taught us how to play it without ever feeling heavyhanded. We were enthralled as we discovered how this game wanted to be played.

➕ At first glance, The Observatory felt overwhelming. As we became comfortable with the puzzle design, however, we recognized instead a creative thematic aesthetic choice.

❓ If you aren’t comfortable puzzling, this will be an especially challenging game.

➕/ ➖ The Observatory looked handcrafted. There was a charm in this aesthetic that worked with the setting and story. We could tell how much love went into this build. That said, we expect some players will find handwriting variation challenging, or simply less appealing. There was opportunity for aesthetic refinement.

The puzzles flowed beautifully from one to the next. They were largely tangible, satisfying solves. For the most part, we had to work process puzzles through to completion before seeing the solution, but these didn’t feel tedious. They felt like continual discovery. There was never a boring moment.

➖ One pivotal moment could have used additional cluing to refocus the players on… well, it’s an observatory.

➕ There was an incredible late-game teamwork-driven sequence.

➖ We didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters. There was a villain in this story, but that plot point was completely lost amongst the rest of the experience. The Gate Escape could also add character building to the protagonist to more fully connect the story and the puzzling.

➕ The Gate Escape brought us down from the climactic sequence with a humorous little puzzle that brought the escape room full circle.

➖ Although this escape room was fantastic, its marketing was not enticing. The Gate Escape’s website and game description simply don’t do it justice. If one were to casually look at The Gate Escape’s website, it would be easy to write this off as “just another escape room” and it isn’t.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Take the elevator up and walk down the long hallway to The Gate Escape.
  • 435 Bar & Grille is conveniently located in the same building.

Book your session with The Gate Escape’s The Observatory, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Gate Escape’s comped our tickets for this game.