Portsmouth Escape Room – Westower’s Study [Review]

Antiquing in New England.

Location: Portsmouth, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

This was an entry game.

Westower’s Study was a basic escape room of searching, locked compartments, and a few more layered puzzles. It worked well, but didn’t present anything novel or exciting for experienced players.

In-game: A red walled, and wood furnitured old study. The photo is taken just above a sticker-covered trunk.

Who is this for?

  • Beginners
  • People whose day won’t be ruined by a little math

Why play?

  • Cozy, classic escape room gameplay

Story

World traveler and antique dealer Ian Westower had been kidnapped on his latest journey. The kidnappers had demanded a one-of-a-kind necklace from the man’s collection. His family was willing to part with the necklace if only they could find where it was hidden.

Our team of investigators was offered a reward if we could search Westower’s study and find the necklace that could also be the key to its owner’s freedom.

In-game: A map mounted to the wall, a stack of books on a small table, and a arm chair with a locked box.

Setting

The large room contained antique furniture and a travel trunk. Art decorated the walls. The space embodied the classic escape room study aesthetic.

Gameplay

Westower’s Study was a beginner’s search-focused escape room.

Much of the clue structure was well hidden among Westower’s possessions. Everyone could get involved in searching and making connections between found objects. Most puzzles led to a lock with a few more innovative opens.

Standouts

We were shocked by one late-game moment that was as surprising as it was low-tech.

In-game: A broad shot of the whole study gamespace.

Later in Westower’s Study we uncovered more inventive and exciting puzzles.

The puzzles flowed logically to move the escape room forward.

Shortcomings

We spent a lot of time searching a rather large gamespace. When we stalled, we were failing to discover an item.

Search was complicated by the many items marked out of play… which could still have a game component tucked away inside them.

Westower’s Study included a few process puzzles: once we knew how to solve them, it still took a bit of time to work out the solution. One of the more involved process puzzles was a one-person task that felt like homework. It appeared late in the game when there wasn’t anything left for the rest of the team to work on. (At that point, everything had been found.)

Tips for Visiting

  • Don’t forget your order of operations.
  • Google Maps directed us to the entrance of a plaza… that we almost didn’t notice. Turn into the plaza and drive toward the back to find Portsmouth Escape Room. They have a big parking lot, so if you can’t see their door from where you parked, you’re in the wrong place.
  • MoJo’s BBQ Grill & Tavern in the same plaza was pretty good.

Book your hour with Portsmouth Escape Room’s Westower’s Study, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Portsmouth Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Lok’d! Room Escape – The Lost Soul [Review]

The bottom of the uncanny valley.

Location: Manchester, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Lost Soul was a search-heavy, locked-compartment, older-style escape room with a rundown set, tenuous connections, and uncomfortable 3D renderings. Lok’d! Room Escape did present quite a charming twist at the end… but it was not enough to make this a recommendable escape room.

In-game: a old study with a lounging couch a

Who is this for?

  • Diehard M. Night Shyamalan fans

Why play?

  • Weird twist

Story

The ghost of old Alistair Winthrop locked us in his study. He would not let us leave until we brought his soul peace by uncovering the truth about his wife Margaret’s mysterious disappearance.

Setting

The Lost Soul was set in a study with old furniture and a laptop. There was one corner of the room partitioned off and rendered “out of play.”

In-game: Close up of a clock on a bookcase.

Aesthetically, this escape room was uninspiring and drab.

Gameplay

The Lost Soul was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room.

The gameplay largely revolved around searching for hidden items and solving puzzles loosely connected to the story in order to pop combination locks.

Standouts

The Lost Soul included a strange and amusing twist. We never saw it coming.

Some of puzzle solutions and materials foreshadowed the plot twist.

Our gamemaster was attentive and helpful.

Shortcomings

For the most part, the puzzles didn’t have any reason to exist in that gamespace. They were random and disconnected. This was particularly true of the Sudoku and the crossword… which were literally from a newspaper.

At two points we didn’t know whether we had found a clue or trash… They were clues.

The Lost Soul flowed such that we could unlock ciphered material before finding the keys. Given that Lok’d! Room Escape used common ciphers, we could have easily skipped over things and lost the thread of gameplay. I’ve written about this issue in the past.

While lovely and attentive, our gamemaster lacked sufficient camera coverage. The cameras weren’t pointed at the things we struggled with. Her hints led us astray because she couldn’t tell what had been solved.

The Lost Soul included some weird and creepy animation that persisted throughout the experience. This guy presided over haunted our entire game. Fun fact: if you look into his eyes you can see the bottom of the uncanny valley.

 

The Lost Soul was dated and rundown.

Disclosure: Lok’d! Room Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Granite State Escape – What Happened in ManchVegas?! [Review]

What happens in Manchester, stays in Manchester.

Location: Manchester, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

REA Reaction

What Happened in ManchVegas?! offered a gentle onramp and then escalated in puzzle complexity.

This was a fantastic beginner game with moments that enthusiasts will appreciate.

In-game: A hotel room with blue and white walls.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Fans of The Hangover movies

Why play?

  • Interactive set pieces
  • Fun puzzles
  • Great transition

Story

We woke up in our hotel room to a text from our friend. He had racked up a lot of debt in the casino the night before and then fled, leaving us with the tab. Could we settle the debt before someone came looking for it?

In-game: A card table with blackjack in progress.

Setting

Our small hotel room had the essentials: bed, television, and abstract art. When we found the casino, it housed casino game tables. These worked well enough.

The most exciting set was the transition space.

Gameplay

What Happened in ManchVegas?! was a strong puzzle game.

Early on, the gameplay was pretty typical with a straightforward search-and-puzzle rhythm popping locks. The hotel room played as a perfect on-ramp for escape room-style puzzling.

As we opened up a larger gamespace, the puzzles became more layered and interesting. Additionally, in the later portion of What Happened in ManchVegas?!, the puzzling involved the larger set pieces, facilitating more varied types of opens.

Standouts

What Happened in ManchVegas?! started out gently, and once we were puzzling, it escalated in difficulty.

What Happened in ManchVegas?! flowed well from one satisfying solve to the next. There was quite a bit to tackle here.

We enjoyed the mid-game transition segment. It used space well to move the narrative forward and amp up the environment.

Shortcomings

The biggest set piece would have benefited from additional instruction on how it worked. Pushing the buttons felt like gambling on its functionality. The puzzle wasn’t supposed to be in how to manipulate it.

Much of the clue structure came on bits of paper. While some of these made sense, especially early on, Granite State Escape could find ways to embed more of the late game clue structure into the set itself, which would be more exciting.

We settled the debt, but I’m not really sure why or how. We left unsure why the premise resolved.

Tips for Visiting

  • You can’t miss it. Granite State Escape has the most straightforward signage ever.
  • They have ample free parking.

Book your hour with Granite State Escape’s What Happened in ManchVegas?!, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Granite State Escape comped our tickets for this game.

 

Key to Escape – Cuckoo’s Nest [Review]

“He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum.” One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 

Location: Nashua, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

REA Reaction

Cuckoo’s Nest was so much more than it appeared to be. Key to Escape turned very little into an impactful set and satisfying puzzle sequences.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Creative puzzles
  • Surprises

Story

It was 1948, a particularly cruel time in the history of psychiatric treatment, and we were wrongfully locked up in an asylum. We had to escape or suffer the rest of our lives under the care of cruel and misguided doctors.

In-game: A padded cell with a bed. One of the walls has a purple door drawn on it.

Setting

We were locked in a small padded room. It contained only minimal furnishings and some wall drawings. There was far more than met the eye.

Gameplay

Cuckoo’s Nest was a standard escape room with a heavy emphasis on puzzling and a light emphasis on searching.

Cuckoo’s Nest combined standard locked-compartment gameplay with tech-driven opens. Many of the puzzles were layered challenges.

Standouts

Cuckoo’s Nest’s unassuming staging gave way to more intrigue.

With few props and a simple set, Key to Escape conveyed atmosphere and emotion.

We enjoyed the puzzles in Cuckoo’s Nest. Key to Escape put their own twists on some standard puzzle types.

Key to Escape devoted a lot of physical space and detail to their most memorable puzzles. They weren’t afraid to turn a common escape room trope on its head to produce interesting content.

Shortcomings

Many solutions led to a lock. While it was generally clear where to input solutions, only some of these unlocked interesting reveals.

One important clue was easily destructible and seemingly invited destruction. In fact, one of our enthusiastic teammates very nearly destroyed it. Key to Escape should affix this permanently.

Tips for Visiting

  • Key to Escape is in an industrial park. There is ample free parking.

Book your hour with Key to Escape – Cuckoo’s Nest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Key to Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Portsmouth Escape Room – The Roswell Incident [Review]

“I think that there’s better evidence in this room than the documents.” -Lisa Spira

Location: Portsmouth, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Roswell Incident was a fun puzzle game with a few too many (marked) red herrings. While it had a pretty typical beginning, it came into its own in the second act.

In-game: A red box mounted to the wall and locked shut. Above it a sign reads, "Danger: Laser radiation avoid eyes or skin."

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Alien conspiracy fans

Why play?

  • The puzzles, interactions, and props of second act
  • The evidence

Story

It was July of 1947 and our crew of investigative journalists wasn’t buying the official “weather balloon” story being told by officials from Roswell Air Force Base. Fortunately we had a guy on the inside who had snuck us into the lab for an hour to uncover proof of what was really going down.

In-game: A stark white desk with a filing system and a skull resting upon it.

Setting

The set looked like a sterile white and steel lab that is fairly common among escape rooms. It was cleanly built with little drama. As the game progressed, things became more intense in terms of both set design and gameplay.

Gameplay

The Roswell Incident was a standard escape room game.

As alluded to in the setting section, The Roswell Incident began as a typical escape room. As the plot progressed, this escape room became quite a bit more interesting.

Play The Roswell Incident for the puzzling in its second act.

Standouts

I loved a few of the puzzles in this game. Portsmouth Escape Room put some bright twists on puzzle types and warmed our hearts.

In-game: A strange metal glass, and cork contraption.

The Roswell Incident’s larger props and set pieces contributed to tangible puzzling. These varied interactions stood out.

The puzzles flowed well throughout the entire experience. While the first half relied heavily on locks, Portsmouth Escape Room made it pretty clear which solutions should go into which locks. The escape room progressed smoothly.

Shortcomings

Portsmouth Escape Room marked “out of play” items so that they wouldn’t be misleading, but we spent most of the first half searching for the items that were actually part of puzzles.

The environment was bland and uninspiring, especially early on. This escape room needed an opening statement.

The Roswell Incident never conveyed adventure or intensity. There were no stakes other than winning or losing.

Tips for Visiting

  • Google Maps directed us to the entrance of a plaza… that we almost didn’t notice. Turn into the plaza and drive toward the back to find Portsmouth Escape Room. They have a big parking lot, so if you can’t see their door from where you parked, you’re in the wrong place.
  • MoJo’s BBQ Grill & Tavern in the same plaza was pretty good.

Book your hour with Portsmouth Escape Room’s The Roswell Incident, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Portsmouth Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.