Exit Escape Room NYC – The Mission [Review]

Execute Mission.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: February 19, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Mission started off uninspired, but turned into something interesting. While we wished some of the execution was cleaner, The Mission conveyed narrative well and the second half was filled with innovative interactions.

(Interestingly, for the reverse structure, play Exit Escape Room NYC’s High Speed.)

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Novelty hunters
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The second half
  • Unusual interactions
  • Narrative-driven gameplay


Our agency had been infiltrated by a double agent. We had to identify this individual, determine their location, and eliminate the threat.

In-game: A black box with 9 binary switches hung on a wall beside top hats and overcoats.


While the late-game setting for The Mission was unusual and exciting, the initial set was an uninspiring barebones office with an unfinished look.

I can’t spoil the late-game reveal because it was worth being surprised. 


As the name implies, The Mission was mission-based. Our objectives were explained clearly in the pre-game:

Identify the double agent.

In-game: A black suitcase on a desk, the wall behind has 12 portraits of different people.

Track the double agent.

In-game: a world map covering a wall with black dots over select major cities.

Eliminate the double agent.

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While we were following a specific mission plan, the game itself was still an escape room with equal parts searching and puzzling.


The Mission escalated. From set to effects to interactions, it built excitement over time.

The late-game mechanical puzzles facilitated interactive group solves.

As we solved the puzzles, we learned mission-critical information. Both the puzzles and our intel flowed well and flowed together. This made for a cohesive story.

Exit Escape Room NYC included a time-consuming mid-game narrative sequence. They structured their timekeeping to ensure all players receive a full 60 minutes to solve the puzzles. When you reach this sequence, you’ll know it. Relax, you’re off the clock. 


The first act lacked excitement. The mundane office set felt tired. Its puzzles didn’t engage the physical space.

Exit Escape Room NYC installed this escape room in an unfinished space. Despite some interesting set pieces in the later portions of the experience, it felt unfinished.

The final interaction missed the mark. The concept was really cool, but the props and set pieces didn’t breath life into the moment. In addition, they didn’t engage the team. We escaped without fanfare and weren’t even sure that we had won until the door opened.

Tips for Visiting

  • Exit Escape Room NYC is easily accessible on public transportation.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger (across the street) and Thai food at Larb Ubol (on 9th ave).

Book your hour with Exit Escape Room NYC’s The Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Exit Escape Room NYC comped our tickets for this game.


Beat the Bomb [Review]

Play hard or become a Pollock.

Location: Brooklyn, NY (DUMBO)

Date Played: February 27, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend no more than 5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39 per ticket

REA Reaction

Innovation isn’t creating entirely new ideas from scratch; it’s taking existing concepts and refactoring them into something completely new. That’s Beat the Bomb.

Beat the Bomb presented 5 collaborative challenges requiring physical, mental, and communicative skills. Everyone was participating all the time. There was no waiting or watching from the sidelines. Teams win or lose together… and you’ll probably lose, which is part of the fun.

Beat the Bomb was not an escape room, but it drew on escape room concepts. We didn’t enjoy all the challenges equally, but we had a blast! Plus… Beat the Bomb is replayable.

Who is this for?

  • Thrill seekers
  • Players who enjoy some physicality
  • Team players
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t mind getting a tad messy
  • Graffiti artists

Why play?

  • The paint-splosion
  • Team challenges
  • Some awesome challenges
  • Adrenaline rush
  • It’s replayable


This one was pretty simple: there was a giant paint bomb; we had to defuse it.

In-game: The paint bomb with 6 different cannons.
Tick… Tick… Boom.


There were 5 stages within Beat The Bomb. Each stage had its own set. Most of these were dimly lit rooms where the key interactions glowed. The lighting was never an issue.

The bomb room was the most visually impactful, as it had a monstrous paint-spewing contraption and walls covered in layers of paint.

In-game: gif of Lisa, David, and Lindsay getting doused with a paint explosion.


While the overarching goal of Beat The Bomb was to defuse the bomb, the gameplay was rooted in completing other timed tasks and puzzles to earn more time on the bomb’s clock. As we became more familiar with them, the challenges became increasingly difficult. The better we performed, the more time we earned in the bomb room at the end of the game.

Prior to entering the game, Beat The Bomb’s staff helped us get suited up in giant white onesies and safety glasses (for those not already wearing glasses). Basically, they turned us into human canvases.

Our team in white onesies with our hands in the air.
Check out dem fanny packs.

The Challenge Rooms

Hack Attack: While the gameplay in Hack Attack was incredibly similar to another popular game, it played fantastically. It was a great first challenge to get the team working together.

In-game: David looking and pointing intently at a touch screen.

Laser Maze: This physical challenge rewarded speed, agility, patience, and pattern recognition. To score, our entire team needed to cross the laser grid and push buttons on the other end. Each crossing changed the laser pattern.

A laser maze.

Echo Chamber: This was a take on Simon.

Floor Grid: The most distinctive puzzle in Beat The Bomb, Floor Grid was really cool. I’m not gonna talk about how it worked.

In-game: Gif of Lisa stepping back and fourth.
Lisa playing Floor Grid and looking like an Oompa Loompa. We’re not sure why she crossed her arms.

Cyberbot: To defuse the bomb, we navigated a robot through a maze, destroying targets along the way. We had as much time to complete this challenge as we had earned in the previous challenges. To even have a prayer of winning here, we needed to have performed well in the first four games.


Beat the Bomb was well paced. These 10-minute challenge rooms gave us enough time to get the hang of the puzzle, but ended before we bored of the challenges. They were ordered such that we changed up skill sets from challenge to challenge.

While many of these challenges seemed familiar, Beat the Bomb spun up new twists. We’ve crossed many laser mazes, but none that required this level of strategic play.

Floor Grid was awesome. We’d both like to play it again.

All 5 challenges invited replay. They were the types of puzzles we could (and did) get better at over the time. Even though they were familiar, they were exciting. We can see people returning – bomb aside – because they want to replay these challenges.

In-game: The team in extra protective gear before the bomb.
The team: Now with extra armor and face shields.

Beat the Bomb was all about Instagram. They encouraged us to take our own pictures, even providing plastic fanny packs to keep our phones safe from the paint. They knew, however, that we’d be focused on the puzzles, so they jumped right in and took action shots. They do this for every team.

A wall covered in layers of paint.
The bomb’s artwork.

Getting doused by a giant paint bomb was fun. It felt very early Nickelodeon.


While the gameplay was basic, each challenge came with new instructions to read. We had to read rapidly and catch any nuance in the instructions. This was challenging and especially so in the challenge that didn’t use a standard screen interface. We’d have to start in on the challenge before everyone had fully comprehended the instructions.

One of the challenge rooms started off approachable, but eventually reached a point where if a team didn’t have someone with the right sensory skills, it became a guessing game.

Cyberbot was frustrating for the wrong reasons. The controls were clunky and didn’t work well; one was pretty close to non-functional.

We wished Cyberbot was a “defusing” challenge. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with bomb deactivation. It felt strangely disconnected from the overall mission.

Tips for Visiting

  • Dumbo is easy to get to on public transportation
  • We recommend Randolph Beer for food and booze.
  • You need to be able to crawl and to move rapidly with some agility to complete all the challenges.
  • The paint washed out. That said:
    • Do not wear shoes or clothing that you 💖
    • Do not wear skirts or heels.
    • Do not wear clothing that is extremely tight or overly baggy.

Book your hour at Beat the Bomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Beat the Bomb comped our tickets for this game.

Thriller City – Da Vinci [Review]

Da Vinci is missing something.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: February 5, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Reaction

Thriller City’s Da Vinci was a harshly difficult escape room with interesting interactions, some great set design, little clue structure, and an inflexible hint system. While there were lots of details to love in Da Vinci, this escape room felt seriously incomplete and in desperate need of improvements that put more of an emphasis on fun rather than frustration.

We’re rooting for Thriller City to succeed, but in its current state, we cannot recommend Da Vinci. 

Who is this for?

  • People who want a challenge
  • Players who don’t mind extensive reading
  • Best for more experienced players

Why play?

  • To try your hand at a game with a less than 5% escape rate
  • The transitions


We were on a quest for the Holy Grail. It seemed that Leonardo Da Vinci knew where the Grail had been hidden and had left a series of clues. With an evil secret society on our tail, we needed to discover the legendary cup before they arrived and used it for their nefarious goals.

In-game: A dark cave with cobwebs and a glowing candle.


We began our quest for the Holy Grail in a dark cavern lit with a single LED candle. Once we determined how to leave the cave, Da Vinci opened up into a well-lit library environment.

The set was inconsistent. Some portions looked beautiful, creative, and polished; other parts looked unfinished or empty.

In-game: A wooden bookshelf covered in roped bundles of coverless books and glowing candles.


Da Vinci was brutally challenging. The owner of Thriller City told us that the game had about a 1% or 2% escape rate. I got the impression that we were the first or second team to ever win this game. It’s also worth noting that we deliberately circumvented a few puzzles to earn that victory.

While there were challenging puzzles to solve, the bulk of the gameplay centered on detailed pixel-hunt searching, parsing the clues from the red herrings, and figuring out how to operate the game’s mechanisms.

All of this was complicated by a stingy hint system whereby at the 30-minute mark a monk entered the room to provide us with a single hint. With 10 minutes remaining he returned for a second time to complete a task that none of us could figure out. We could not otherwise request hints, clarification, or support.


Da Vinci hid its secrets well. It was especially thrilling to uncover transitions.

Thriller City built large mechanical puzzles. These were inviting, exciting, and satisfying.

Some aspects of set design were gorgeous. The opening gamespace transported us to another place and time through detailed construction, down to wall finish. Some of the art within the set was magnificent.


Da Vinci was composed entirely of interactions. It didn’t include the clue structure. It lacked puzzle flow. It was impossible to latch onto the thread of gameplay.

In-game clueing consisted of many long passages to read off laminated sheets of paper. This was tedious. These clues were at best ambiguous and sometimes entirely opaque. We’d occasionally make sense of a paragraph retrospectively, after determining the intended interaction by other means.

Some of gorgeous wall art was intended to clue a puzzle, however opaquely. Much of it proved to be red herrings. There was absolutely no way to tell the two apart.

The majority of the set was overly spacious and barren. With large, sparsely furnished spaces, the scale felt off and unlike a library, despite the multitude of books.

We spent most of our time fixated on one puzzle that nobody could solve. At any given point, at least one team member was working on this puzzle. We knew we couldn’t move forward without it. Thriller City couldn’t hint this puzzle and with roughly 10 minutes remaining our gamemaster entered the room and solved it for us. Given the time constraints of an escape room, it felt unfair. It wasn’t a trick lock, but the same concept applied.

Thriller City offered one hint at 30 minutes (and eventually the solution to the aforementioned puzzle as well). We spent too much of our time in Da Vinci stalled. I have to imagine less experienced teams grinding to a complete halt. This wasn’t fun.

Da Vinci had a less than 2% escape rate. It didn’t want to be won. Through a mix of escape room experience, half-clued solves, outside knowledge, and two hints, we escaped with seconds to spare. We didn’t feel skilled; we felt lucky. It wasn’t satisfying.

Disclosure: Thriller City comped our tickets for this game.


Element Quest – The Taken [Review]

Buckle your handcuffs for safety.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: February 3, 2018

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Reaction

On the far side of Brooklyn we found a strong SAW-esque horror escape room. This is an often-attempted theme that doesn’t usually hit the mark. While some of the experience was unevenly executed, Element Quest made it work. This is an escape room for people who can handle uncomfortable situations.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Players who want to escape serial killers
  • Any experience level
  • Players with at least basic agility

Why play?

  • Intense setting
  • Surprising moments
  • One freaky, in-your-face interaction


A serial killer with a preference for elaborate torture machines decided to make us his “apprentices” to instill in us a greater appreciation for life, if he didn’t kill us first.

Split up and restrained, we were given a brief window of time in which to prove ourselves worthy of life.

In-game: a dead body hung by a hook in his mouth hands next to a bloody message,


Half of our team began in a bloody murder bathroom, the other half in dim, furnace-lit space. We were all handcuffed to the floor in a crouching or sitting position.

The detailed spaces were compelling and made our more squeamish teammates feel a bit on edge.

In-game: David's wrist handcuffed to the floor of a bathroom.


Element Quest delivered the kind of puzzles and challenges that we’ve come to expect from both split-team and Saw-esque escape rooms.

We were put in situations where we had to overcome fears, discover, communicate, and solve puzzles. The Taken played well.

In-game: a burning furnace in a dark room.


The split-team, handcuffed beginning added dramatic tension to an already dark and foreboding environment.

The Taken startled us, in a good way.

In-game: a hanging red and black portrait of a woman.

We were impressed with one shockingly pointed, tech-driven interaction. It was nifty and freaky.

The set was well padded, as appropriate for a required action.

The Taken provided a good variety of puzzles and fostered collaboration.

While there was a lot of crawling, most of it was well-padded.


The set was neither polished nor clean. Given the starting positions on the floor and the lack of player mobility early on, we couldn’t help but zero in on this.

One prop was constantly in the way. We recommend Element Quest modify this so that players stop bumping into it before someone gets hurt (or the prop gets destroyed).

We struggled with a weak handheld light.

One puzzle necessitated unclued trial and error.

The Taken was unbalanced. One group of players solved along, triggering opens for everyone, while the other group solved nothing. They couldn’t; they had no inputs for much of the first act. Furthermore, given the distribution of key props, The Taken required backtracking, toward only one starting area. The players who started there felt inadequate, but they hadn’t had the tools or knowledge earlier to have played the game any differently.

We communicated over walky-talkies. These crackled the entire game, which added unnecessary challenge and annoyance to the experience.

Tips for Visiting

  • Element Quest is two short blocks from the Kings Highway Station on the Q subway train. (From Times Square, it is about an hour subway ride on the Q to Element Quest.)
  • Many shops in this neighborhood are closed on Saturdays, but the Starbucks and the Chipotle are open.
  • Much of The Taken is played in low light with limited flashlight access.
  • The Taken requires a lot of sitting, kneeling, and crawling. If that doesn’t sound like something your body can handle, you should consider a different game.

Book your hour with Element Quest’s The Taken, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Element Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – Sherlocked [Review]

Professor Holmes’ final exam.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: January 29, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40-$50 per ticket (depending on team size) on weekdays; $50-$60 per ticket (depending on team size) on evenings and weekends

REA Reaction

In the beginning, Sherlocked struck all the right notes. However, Komnata Quest’s interactive style vanished in the latter half of the experience, fizzling into a paper-based observation-and-deduction exam. What started off fun turned into an agitating and frustrating mess.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Any experience level
  • People who want to play as detectives

Why play?

  • To play as a detective
  • The escape room puzzle sequences


A politician has been murdered and our dear friend Sherlock Holmes has been framed for it. We broke into the legendary detective’s home at 221B Baker Street in search of evidence to exonerate him.

In-game: a desk with a typewriter, globe, hour glass, and photo of a beautiful woman.


The flat of Sherlock Holmes was a bright Victorian study. Parts of it felt lived in; other areas seemed sterile and staged. Most of the critical props and set pieces showed signs of wear.

Sherlocked’s set was unusual for Komnata Quest because it was well lit.

In-game: a shelf covered in statues of birds, elephants, mermaids, and other animals.


Sherlocked felt like two games in one escape room.

Initially we played a traditional escape room filled with searching, puzzles, interesting interactions, and a lot of reading.

When we reached the final puzzle, the tone and gameplay shifted.

Final Puzzle Structure

The final challenge was a multiple choice test regarding the facts of the case. The correct answers would secure our freedom as well as that of Mr. Holmes.


In-game: A statue of a raven perched upon a skull.


The opening puzzle sequence struck a chord with us. It was well clued and soundly executed.

The early detective work. The interactive investigating was pretty nifty.

The first portion of Sherlocked, which included about 75% of the gameplay, flowed really well. These puzzles were a ton of fun.


The final 25% of gameplay felt like a standardized test. The gameplay moved away from the environment onto a few sheets of paper. There was far too much to read and some of the questions had ambiguous answers or observational nitpicks. This wasn’t conducive to escape room-style gameplay and it wasn’t fun.

The culminating puzzle sequence involved almost no player action and offered no feedback. Our gamemaster had no means to follow our progress. Any help was clunky at best. (This wasn’t his fault; it was due to the game’s structure.)

The set showed a lot of wear, which was amplified by the lighting. We always try to be respectful players, but especially given the state of the set, we played particularly cautiously… and we got burned by that decision.

An incredibly important moment didn’t reveal emphatically. We didn’t even know that we had triggered something. Komnata Quest could make that open pop so that players don’t miss the moment.

One puzzle invited MacGyvering… but only as intended by the game designer. We were chastised for finding another similar “tool” within our environment.

Sherlocked cost between $40 and $60 per ticket depending upon team size and day of the week. For an escape room with maintenance issues and a lengthy, weak finale, that was too much money.

Tips for Visiting

  • For upscale dining nearby, we recommend sushi at Haru.
  • For casual dining nearby, City Acres Market offers Vanessa’s dumplings.
  • There are not a lot of dining options open late in this neighborhood.
  • Parking is a challenge, consider a subway or ferry for transportation.
  • Book during the week with a larger team for a more reasonable price.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Sherlocked, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.


Escape Room Madness – Apocalyptic Mission [Review]

An appetizer of puzzles before the apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: January 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per ticket

REA Reaction

Escape Room Madness’ second escape room was a step forward, especially in terms of set design. That said, Apocalyptic Mission lacked the polish, scale, and excitement that we’ve come to expect of new escape rooms in Manhattan. It’s a fine escape room, but it won’t blow your mind.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players who don’t mind using flashlights for the whole game
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The villain in the opening video
  • Some interesting mechanical puzzles


Disgraced medical researcher Dr. Semias Vexx had been forced out of the community for unethical practices. If we could not solve his puzzles, he would release a deadly virus around the world to exact his revenge.

In-game: a blackboard covered in equations and molecules diagrams. There is a locked and worn first aid kit mounted to it.


We were given flashlights and set loose in a dimly lit, gritty, hacked-together lab.

The set was a big step up from Escape Room Madness’ first game, but not particularly refined.

In-game: A lab measuring cup filled with yellow liquid. A blackboard covered in equations sits behind it.


Apocalyptic Mission was a small-team, puzzle-centric escape room.

The gameplay was built around searching for information and puzzling in low lighting.

In-game: 3 jars filled with mysterious fluids, all labeled with biohazard stickers.


Apocalyptic Mission’s humorous intro video set an appropriately dramatic yet playful tone for the escape room. The actor playing the mad scientist nailed the Joker-esque monologue.

With Apocalyptic Mission, Escape Room Madness had leveled up their set design from their initial escape room offering. The set contributed an ambiance that augmented the experience.

We enjoyed one puzzle and its input mechanism that elicited physical reactions from a large set piece.


While some of the puzzles related to science-y props, many felt disconnected and contrived. They were a bit too escape room-y – where puzzles and solutions only made sense in the context of a puzzle game – and lacked cohesion. This escape room-y feel conflicted with the narrative that was presented at the onset of the game.

Although some puzzles incorporated larger, more tangible set pieces, we still read a lot of puzzles and clues off laminated sheets of paper. We encourage Escape Room Madness to make the clue structure more experiential and more connected to the environment.

While Escape Room Madness certainly stepped up their set design from their first game, the construction in Apocalyptic Mission was rough and imprecise.

One puzzle suffered from continual iteration that left red herrings in its wake. Now that Escape Room Madness has achieved the desired implementation of this puzzle, it would be greatly improved if they eliminated the earlier clues that are no longer meaningful.

Apocalyptic Mission lacked a climax. Our gameplay didn’t feel connected to the story and when escaped, we didn’t feel like we had done what the characters claimed we had accomplished.

Tips for Visiting

  • There are 2 other escape room companies in this building. Go to the correct one.
  • Escape Room Madness is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Colorblind players may struggle at one or two points in the game.
  • Take public transit; Escape Room Madness is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ Apocalyptic Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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


8Players [Review]

A wild 90s teen murder mystery.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: January 17, 2018

Team size: 8; tickets are purchased in singles and pairs only

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $75 per ticket

REA Reaction

8Players is a LARP. Anticipating and obfuscation blew 8Players out of proportion. It became something larger than it could possibly pay off. We had a great time; we made ourselves a pretty fun show. However, we would have had a lot more fun if we’d approached the evening with accurate expectations. 8Players‘ intrigue was its own worst enemy.

Who is this for?

  • People who like to act
  • People who can think on their feet
  • People who are excited to participate
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Over-the-top 1990s teen horror drama
  • Anticipation
  • Nonstop involvement


Each of us privately received an email describing our character’s age, gender, and style.

The story – our story – took place the night after a massacre at a high school party in the mid 1990s. Each of our characters played some part in a campy 90s high school horror murder mystery.

The only question bigger than who did it was why.

8Players roleplaying experience logo.
Like an idiot, I forgot to get a picture of us decked out in costumes. I blame the cold weather.


We were given a secret address a few days prior to the game. The location was in Brooklyn, not too far from a subway line.

We played 8Players seated around a small table in a nifty library / classroom environment. I know exactly where we were, but I’m going to withhold that bit of information because it seemed like the folks from 8Players wanted it to be a mystery.


Each player took their character notes, showed up in costume, and played the experience.

8Players didn’t divulge the gameplay structure. Out of respect for this, we’ve hidden it behind a spoiler. That said, we know at least a couple of people in our group wouldn’t have attended if they’d known how this would play out.

Structural Spoiler

After we were gathered and seated around our table, we were each given an opening statement about our character that we read aloud to the group in a pre-determined order.

From there we were given two-sided pieces of paper with our character information. One side contained information about ourselves that we needed to divulge over the course of the act. The other side had personal secrets that we would have to reveal if pressed by another player, but otherwise should be kept to ourselves.

We were given a few minutes to read everything to ourselves. Then our costumed, in-character facilitator began facilitating dialog by instigating conflict between the various characters. We sat around the table taking turns divulging each other’s secrets and deflecting or confessing to our own.

Each act followed the same structure. The key difference from act to act was our level of comfort with the game. This wasn’t a competition. The gameplay was improvisational role play. The objective was to collaboratively generate fun dialog. As a personal sub-game, I tried to say funny things that would make the facilitator crack.

8Players concluded when we were all given a closing confessional statement about our character and their part in the evening’s mayhem that we read aloud in order.



8Players excelled at anticipation. Their website, pre-show communication, costume notes, and meeting point/ tactic piqued our curiosity. The lack of any additional information kept us curious. We were intrigued.

8Players nailed our roles. They sent a pre-show survey and relied on our answers to assign us characters. They pegged everyone correctly. The role assignments also allowed our quieter players to hold back a little bit.

Throughout the performance, we received written information about the characters (our own and the others). The written material was concise and digestible.

One actress guided the evening’s interaction. She was a moderator in character. She expertly guided us through the narrative. She also kept us from awkward or quiet moments. This was a well-honed moderation style.

Our group: Everyone went for it. This included both friends and strangers (who, as it turned out, read this website). We were hilarious. We made our own show.

Due to the mysterious and controlled beginning, we entered the game in-character. While we were in the experience, we were our characters. The structure forced us to keep our true identities hidden throughout the event.


In 8Players, we were the show. Our mysterious moderator didn’t perform for us, she instigated dialog. If we failed to pick it up and run with it in a satisfying way, we were going to have a disaster of an experience. There was no room for passive play.

Pre-show communication made a big deal of mandatory costuming, but our efforts felt like a waste. Almost every player in our group went to great lengths to put together a themed getup from head to toe. The show, however, took place around a table. Anything below the chest didn’t matter at all. We couldn’t incorporate any props. We were enormously frustrated… I was especially annoyed because I had lugged a guitar across two rivers because it fit my character perfectly.

We attended 8Players on a January evening. We approached the meeting point at exactly 7:53, as instructed. Then we waited outside, in costume, in below freezing temperatures… for a least 10 minutes. We were not thrilled.

Although we had a lot of agency to affect 8Players – to speak, joke, conspire, and point fingers – we couldn’t maximize this freedom because we didn’t know enough about our characters. If we invented the unknown, we’d later find out we’d invented incorrectly and be left backpeddling.

In the end, our agency was only perceived. We could not change the outcome of the show. Our participation affected the moment, but not the narrative.

The conclusion was so preposterous and over the top that even those of us who had suspended disbelief throughout the experience were left bewildered by the end of our tale.

8Players cost $75 per ticket. That was a steep price for this gameplay structure. Even though we had a lot of fun, given what else is out there, we don’t think it was worth it.

Tips for Visiting

  • 8Players is currently sold out for its winter 2018 run.
  • The facility is walkable from a subway line.
  • There are ample food and drink options in the area.
  • This is not a puzzle game, nor is it theater. Attend if you want to role play with friends and strangers.

Book your session with 8Players, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.


The Puzzle Parlour – The Heist Part 1 [Review]

Don’t piss off the Chief.

Location: White Plains, NY

Date Played: December 18, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $90 for teams of 2 up to $199 for teams of 8

REA Reaction

Puzzle Parlour made subtle changes to a popular escape room theme to deliver more drama, adventure, hidden technology, and consequences than most. While we wished Puzzle Parlour had built a more captivating environment, they justified the setting and scenario through gameplay. The brilliance of The Heist Part 1 will be lost on most players, but maybe this doesn’t matter.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Adventure seekers
  • People who like to banter in a bad British accent
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interactive gamemaster
  • Great puzzle flow
  • Gameplay shifts based on player action (or inaction)
  • Silky smooth, practically invisible tech


We were robbing a crooked cop who had stashed a whole lot of loot in his locker at the London Police Station. We had to break in, cut the power, and steal our prize without getting caught by the Chief.

In-game: A pair of handcuffs beside a keyboard, dramatically lit with computer monitor lighting.


As explained in our pre-game briefing, we targeted the Chief’s office and the adjacent locker room.

The office set was largely as expected… but a bit more realistic than typical escape room offices. It looked office-bland, but not like a lock-riddled escape room-y office.

While the locker room wasn’t a heart-poundingly adventurous environment, it justified the existence of the locks and it offered up a few creative puzzles that we never saw coming.


Puzzle Parlour presented us with a cleanly executed, well-thought-out standard escape room with a break-in twist.

Puzzle Parlour designed subtle, yet impactful game mechanics: We had a job to do. Our proficiency (or lack thereof) resulted in 1 or 2 meaningful differences in gameplay.

Depending upon how you play, there are at least 3 different paths in The Heist Part 1 and 3 different outcomes. The crazy thing is that most players will likely never even know about the variance. 

In-game: a police hat and attaché case on a desk.


Puzzle Parlour created an energy that lasted the entirety of The Heist Part 1. This was a lot of fun.

Our gamemaster was a character in this clandestine mission. His interactions – a combination of hints and narrative progression – kept us on edge, in a good way.

Our actions in The Heist Part 1 had consequences that changed the nature, tone, and challenges within the escape room.

The Heist Part 1 included fun puzzles, a few of which solved in exciting, atypical ways.

Puzzle Parlour’s technology was subtle, smart, and stable.

The office looked like the creator had seen a real-life office before.


While realistic, the office didn’t instill drama. We would have liked the set to work in tandem with the gamemastering and game mechanics to up the excitement.

While some of the puzzles worked through the environment, others were more escape room-y and disconnected from the mission.

Near the end of The Heist Part 1 we were able to solve a puzzle before we had an input for the solution, which confused us and screwed with the pacing.

The win was anticlimactic. Especially with our gamemaster as a character, we would have liked a more dramatic ending as a culmination of our covert operation.

Tips for Visiting

  • Puzzle Parlour has a lovely lobby.
  • Park in their lot and use the app ParkWhitePlains to refill your meter.
  • There is plenty to eat and do in the area.

Book your hour with Puzzle Parlour’s The Heist Part 1, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzle Parlour comped our tickets for this game.


Exodus Escape Room – Exodus [Review]

Behold the service elevator of Anubis.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 28, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Reaction

Exodus was a beginner’s puzzle game.

It was cute and family friendly. Exodus Escape Room creatively optimized a downright horrible space into a solid escape room, which was impressive.

Who is this for?

  • Beginners

Why play?

  • Puzzles
  • Humor


Trapped within the ancient Egyptian exhibit at the New York History Museum, we had to explore the artifacts and determine how to appease an angry Pharaoh or suffer his curse.

In-game: The New York History Museum's Egypt exhibit. A large glass display case filled with artifacts.

Whereas most Pharaoh’s curse games lean towards intense adventure, Exodus was more playful.


Set within the oddly shaped room that formerly housed 59:59 Room Escape NYC’s Chamber of Dreams, Exodus Escape Rooms created a small museum exhibit displaying assorted artifacts from ancient Egypt. Therein were the puzzles.


Exodus was a beginner game built around searching and learning the basics of escape room puzzling. It was straightforward and flowed well.


The introduction video was unexpected and kind of adorable.

The puzzles and gameplay worked well.

In-game: Another display case with a small pyramid and an Anubis bust.

One puzzle involved manipulating some strange material that we had never encountered before. It was certainly memorable.

Given the small and unchangeable space that Exodus Escape Rooms had to work with, the Egyptian museum exhibit theme was a smart choice. They never would have been able to produce a believable pyramid set in their location.


The space was rough. It was awkwardly shaped. They lost a lot of wall space to immovable plumbing and a service elevator. While the museum set up covered this as well as possible, it’s still a tough space.

The adorable intro video was a little too long.

A critical late-game interaction that required player precision could benefit from additional visual cluing.

Tips for Visiting

  • There are 2 other escape room companies in this building. Go to the correct one.
  • Exodus Escape Room is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.


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

Full disclosure: Exodus Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Komnata Quest – Cursed [Review]

Don’t split the party.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 20, 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket on weekdays, $40 per ticket on evenings and weekends

Story & setting

We entered an abandoned house that was haunted by the ghost of a little girl. After she had been killed, each of her 6 sisters had been found dead mysteriously, one by one. We wanted to uncover the horrible truth of what had happened to this family.

This house was dark and creepy. It had multiple rooms. Some spaces were cramped; others were ominously wide open.

In-game: A blood-soaked bathroom.

Cursed was a horror escape room. It included practical effects and jump scares, but no live actors.


In order to solve the puzzles, we needed to engage with the set and props. In Cursed, that could take a fair bit of courage.

Cursed included both straightforward observational interactions and more sustained puzzle challenges.

The mystery of what had happened in this house was, in itself, a puzzle to solve throughout the length of the experience.


The practical effects in Cursed were phenomenal. They were thematic, entertaining, and surprising. They delivered the dramatic tension that really made this escape room what it was.

While Cursed took place in atmospheric low lighting, the darkness didn’t hamper most of the gameplay. Komnata Quest strategically placed just enough lighting to facilitate puzzling.

As we solved puzzles, we received bits of story. The delivery was thematically appropriate and well written. We appreciated that additional layer of puzzle woven throughout our investigation of this haunted house.

We particularly enjoyed Cursed’s dexterity challenge.

The hint system was well integrated into the gameplay.

Cursed did a good job of instilling fear early and throughout much of the escape game.


For a horror game to stay scary throughout the experience, participants need to continually fear the unknown. In Cursed, we backtracked through the gamespace often enough that we became too comfortable with it. By the end, we weren’t on edge anymore.

If fear and linear flow had pushed us to travel as a group, we would each have experienced a more complete experience. As we became more comfortable, we separated from one another. In one instance, David tripped an effect before anyone else was in the room. The rest of us missed a great moment. Being separated also made it harder to parse bits of story, which were triggered by events, from gameplay nudges.

The clue structure supporting the puzzles was uneven. Some worked far better than others.

The climactic sequence was a letdown, relative to the experience that had preceded it. From the decor to the puzzle to the choice of effects, it was a lackluster conclusion.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Cursed?

Cursed is one of only a handful of horror escape rooms in and around New York City… and it is by far the scariest to date. It offered tension, story, and puzzles. This is a hard trio to balance and Cursed succeeded.

Players of any experience level can enjoy Cursed. The puzzles will be more challenging for newer players or anyone who freezes up in tense environments. That said, the hint system is well integrated with the storytelling. I expect you could still enjoy Cursed even if you needed quite a bit of nudging through the puzzles.

As with other horror games, ideal team size depends on how scared you want to be. The fewer people, the more you have to interact with the environment to solve the puzzles.

Note that if you struggle with low lighting, you will struggle in Cursed. While we felt that the strategic lighting worked, know that it won’t work for everyone.

Komnata Quest imports their room escapes from Russia. Of the many Komnata Quest escape rooms offered in New York City, Cursed is the first one that is substantially different from its Russian counterpart. The New York owners of Komnata Quest changed the story so that it would resonate with American audiences, and in doing so, had to refactor much of the rest of the experience. They did a fantastic job.

Cursed was a lot of fun. It was an exciting, dramatic, and puzzle-driven adventure. The practical effects created a tension that made it both challenging and enjoyable.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Cursed, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.