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

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

βž• The Cellar II struck a balance between campy and scary.

βž– 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.

βž• 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.

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

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

βž–Β 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.

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

βž• 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 clichΓ© 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

βž• The mechanical interactions were dynamic and really cool.

βž•Β 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.

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

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

βž– 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.

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

βž• Searching challenges were well clued.

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

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

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

βž• 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

βž• 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.

βž• The puzzles flowed pretty smoothly. The gameplay generally worked well.

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

βž– 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.

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

βž– 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.

βž• 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

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

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

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

βž• 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.

βž– 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.

βž• 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.

βž– 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.

βž•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]

D.J. DeathΒ is one of the best games in Massachusetts. Here are our other recommendations forΒ great escape rooms in Massachusetts.

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

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

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

βž–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.

βž• 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.

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

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

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

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

βž• 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.