Escape the Room NYC – Jurassic Escape [Review]

Jurassic Escape

“Life, uh… finds a way.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: October 11, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

As I entered Jurassic Escape, in my head I heard the voice of John Hammond say, “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” This escape room felt like it was heavily inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Escape The Room NYC largely nailed the aesthetic and vibe of the movie. This was straight down to the effects, including one of the most memorable moments in the movie.

As a kid, I loved that movie. I loved that book. I loved all things dinosaurs. I couldn’t wait to step into this world that I had so painstakingly tried to recreate with my toys in my parents’ basement. Did I mention that I was excited?

In-game: The dinosaur pens.

Did it play on that level?

Jurassic Escape was a mixed bag. Its highs soared and its lows were bafflingly disappointing. (How do you make shooting a gun the least intense moment in a puzzle game?) Jurassic Escape constantly shifted between an immersive dinosaur adventure and an average escape game.

In the end, I was thrilled that I got to play Jurassic Escape, but I couldn’t help feeling that this one could have and should have been a curve breaker.

Who is this for?

  • People who love dinosaurs (If you don’t… why?)
  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Dinosaurs!
  • Some fantastic effects
  • Some brilliant setpieces
  • Dinosaurs! 

Story

An evil corporation was cloning weaponized dinosaurs. We had to stop them.

In-game: A close-up of the face of a cage triceratops.
Image by Steve Ewing

Setting

We began our adventure in the dinosaur pens. This set looked fantastic. It was a few animatronics away from feeling like it could have belonged in a Universal theme park.

Late game, we found ourselves in the less inspiring laboratory, which looked a step or two above your standard white-walled lab escape room.

In-game: A hole in a wall, a storage room with crates is beyond it.

Gameplay

Escape the Room NYC’s Jurassic Escape was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The initial set was especially cool. This was exactly what I’d wanted to see in a Jurassic Park-inspired escape room.

➕ Escape The Room built some phenomenal effects into Jurassic Escape. We loved one absolutely amazing and oh-so-memorable moment.

➕ One puzzle directly referenced Jurassic Park. I saw it coming before I even entered the game. I was plenty happy to see it there.

➖ Jurassic Escape had some rough bottleneck puzzles that conflicted with the intense adventure theme. These puzzles stopped all forward progress. While this could be fine in some themes, it didn’t feel natural in Jurassic Escape.

➕ At its best, Jurassic Escape offered thematic puzzles that carried the narrative forward and instilled a sense of adventure.

In-game: a case for a tranquilizer gun.

➖ An early challenge featuring a gun was boring and lacked adequate direction. There was no reason for this to be anything but a quick, intense, and cool moment. It was instead a momentum-annihilating dose of tedium. If Escape The Room NYC only changes one thing about this game, please let it be this.

➕ Mid-game, Escape The Room NYC ratcheted up the intensity and really made Jurassic Escape roar.

➖ Escape the Room NYC never paid off the intensity of the theme or their best moments. When we won, the game ended as if we had found the door key. They forgot to truly end our story… and there was an opportunity to deliver an impactful exit.

❓ The featured dinosaurs in Jurassic Escape were from the late Cretaceous Period. [Pushes glasses up.]

Tips For Visiting

  • Escape the Room NYC is easily accessible by subway.
  • Take the elevator up to the escape room company.
  • We recommend Hill Country Chicken for a bite to eat before / after the game.

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

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

Time of Your Life: An 80s Prom Escape Room [Mini Review]

Livin’ On A Prayer at Hughes High

Location:  New York City, NY

Date Played: October 21, 2018

Team size: 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 – 100 per player (the event was a fundraiser)

Ticketing: Public

In-game: Prom banner reads, "Having the time of our lives at Hughes High!"

What’s Going On?

Time of Your Life: An 80s Prom Escape Room was a hybrid immersive theater/ escape game put on as a fundraiser for EMIT. 

In-game: Prom's Gymnasium, hosting the party.

Educational Mobile Immersive Theatre (EMIT) is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing immersive theatre experiences to all learners.

Upon arriving, we were treated to candy, 80s pop music, and conversation with Susie, an excitable and devoted member of the prom. Once the party was in full swing, Kimberly, the prom queen, informed us how much she hated all of us… and that she had boobytrapped the school. If we couldn’t solve her game and prove that we were smarter than she thought we were, we would die at prom.

In-game: Prom kink & queen crowns

From there, we broke off into teams based on the color of our glow bracelets and started puzzling with one of the show’s characters as our guide through Hughes High. 

REA Reaction

Time of Your Life had humor and heart. 

This event took us through 4 stations where we spent 8 minutes puzzling on each challenge. When the bell rang, we had a couple of minutes passing time in the hallway while we were ushered to the next station.

In-game: Science lab vials of red liquid

Each puzzle presented a good group challenge and solved a portion of the final puzzle. These were real and fair puzzles; it was possible to fail at them.

The biggest issue we encountered in gameplay was an unevenness in the puzzle complexity, which threw off the pacing. A pair of the puzzles could easily take the full 8 minutes. We cracked another puzzle in about a minute. The third puzzle fell somewhere in the middle.

In-game: The library with chairs labeled as bookshelves.

From an aesthetic standpoint, there wasn’t a lot going on. There were 4 spaces (gymnasium, science lab, library, & office). While each space included a few props to represent the set, it was ultimately a collection of bar tables and chairs. If you’re playing escape rooms for the set, this one will be a hard pass.

Finally, the performers were fantastic improvisors. They kept things silly and amusing. They rolled with whatever the players threw at them.

Time of Your Life wasn’t a fancy party; it was a humble and funny performance with a handful of solid puzzles. If that sounds like an alluring combination, and you’re the kind of person who’s happy to buy a more expensive ticket to support a good cause and some lovely folks… then keep an eye out for the next remount. We hear that an encore is in the cards.

If we were going to do it again, we’d probably go in costume. I’m still not sure why we didn’t think to dress the part. 

PanIQ Room – The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash [Review]

Pour me a shot of puzzles.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: September 17, 2018

Team size: 2-7 ; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $22 per ticket to $24 per ticket depending on team size and day of the week

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash set us as wily criminals of the Wild West in a standard search-and-puzzle escape room. While the puzzle flow occasionally stalled, it offered satisfying moments that combined searching with interactive puzzle solves.

If you’re looking for a traditional, beginner-friendly escape room with a solid set in Manhattan, try your hand at this jailbreak-heist.

In-game: wanted posters viewed through a keyhole.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun premise and theme
  • Surprising discoveries

Story

A large sum of cash sat in the saloon awaiting the winner of a high stakes poker game. Instead of trying our hands at cards, however, we were taking a backdoor approach: we’d gotten ourselves arrested. Now we were locked in a cell in the sheriff’s office, next door to the saloon. We needed to break out and get to the cash before the sheriff returned or the poker game began.

In-game: jail cell bars.

Setting

We were locked in a small, barred, and dimly lit cell in the corner of the sheriff’s office. His office had a few pieces of furniture and a wall of wanted posters.

In-game: a wall of wanted posters.

Gameplay

PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the sheriff's office with a desk, his jacket, and a gun rack with two rifles on it.

Analysis

+ The staging of The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash as a jailbreak heist was an amusing premise that, odd as it seemed, justified the gameplay.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash was well themed from floor to ceiling. Although the opening set was sparsely decorated, the second act included more detailing. The set design was solid… not amazing, but strong.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash had a few substantial red herrings including one that we suspect will pull in most players and one that will likely only distract experienced escape room players.

? One early puzzle created a bottleneck that could last quite some time and quickly become quite frustrating, especially for a larger team. We didn’t struggle with it at all. In fact, it was David’s favorite part… but that’s probably because he nailed it on his first try.

– One interaction made it all too easy to accidentally inhale particles… I can tell you first hand that this was uncomfortable. Depending upon the player’s lungs, this could be a hazard. This entire interaction should be reworked; it wouldn’t be a big challenge.

Particle Spoiler

The particles were sawdust.

Sawdust is a carcinogen in large doses, which isn’t the concern for this puzzle.

My concern is for people who are allergic to it or suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses. The amount that I inhaled gave me discomfort for a few days.

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+ PanIQ Room lit up their mid- and late-game opens. This touch added excitement to small reveals and made the clues easier to read.

– We encountered some wear on various set pieces and props.

The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash included multiple rewarding mechanical search puzzles. We enjoyed these moments.

– The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash lacked a finale. Because the final sequence didn’t engage or excite the entire group, it didn’t build energy towards a reveal or memorable moment.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is street parking in this neighborhood.
  • If you’re coming by subway, take the B/D to Grand St, the F to Delancey, or the J/Z to Bowery.
  • We recommend Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a quick meal or Lena for wine and tapas.

Book your hour with PanIQ Room’s The Cage, the Cards, and the Cash, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PanIQ Room comped our tickets for this game.

Crux Club – Oddfellow’s Secret [Review]

A set that money can’t buy.

Location: Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Date Played: September 16, 2018

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

Duration: about 2.5 hours

Price: $65 per team of 2, $78 per team of 3

Ticketing: Private

Distance: about 1.5 miles walking

REA Reaction

Oddfellow’s Secret toured us through Greenwich village on a mission to search, solve, and save the world. Although we never felt connected to the grand narrative of world destruction, we enjoyed the gameplay that combined scavenger hunt with puzzle solving.

If you’re looking for an outside puzzle activity in a beautiful Manhattan neighborhood, choose a nice day to explore Oddfellow’s Secret.

In-game: Lisa and our teammate Kellian getting started on Crux Club. An assortment of locked boxes lay on a table between them.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scavenger hunters
  • Players who enjoy walking
  • Folks who want to enjoy New York City’s Greenwich Village
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To stroll through Greenwich Village with an objective
  • The combination of scavenger hunt and puzzle play

Story

When the grandmaster of our secret society was taken hostage, it was up to us to open the 5 boxes he’d left behind. His fate, and the fate of New York City, were in our hands.

In-game: Oddfellow's Secret backpack.

Setting

Oddfellow’s Secret was set on the streets on Greenwich Village, one of Manhattan’s most picturesque neighborhoods.

We carried a collection of small locked boxes and assorted supplies in a backpack provided by Crux Club.

Over the course of Oddfellow’s Secret we walked about 1.5 miles, winding our way through this iconic Manhattan neighborhood.

In-game: 5 locked boxes.

Gameplay

Crux Club’s Oddfellow’s Secret was a scavenger hunt with puzzles. It had a lower level of difficulty.

Similar to escape rooms, it worked puzzles into settings, tangible props, and paper props.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, searching, puzzling, following directions, and navigating the streets of Greenwich Village. (This is one of New York’s more confusing neighborhoods.)

Analysis

+ As we played Oddfellow’s Secret, we observed Greenwich Village. We enjoying looking closely at architectural details as we wound through the neighborhood. Crux Club brought us to interesting landmarks including one of my favorite Manhattan oddities.

– Although we enjoyed strolling through Greenwich Village on a beautiful summer day, the neighborhood felt underused. Greenwich Village landmarks have so many stories to tell, but instead Oddfellow’s Secret told a different, grandiose tale of world domination. The gameplay didn’t reflect the intensity of the story, and we felt dissonance leisurely puzzling and strolling through a mission that was supposed to have life and death stakes.

+ The puzzles worked well. We enjoyed how the scavenger hunt components fed into more layered puzzles with a solution extraction.

– One segment asked us to repeat an identical mechanic at many different locations. Since there was no opportunity to build mastery, this devolved into a long process puzzle. Given that it wasn’t necessary to visit all of these places to solve the extraction at the end of this sequence, whittling this portion down to only the most interesting locales would improve it.

Oddfellow’s Secret was entirely self-contained. We carried our own puzzle materials, supplied by Crux Club. (We needed only our own phone.) The materials added a few more tangible solves without becoming burdensome as we walked.

+ There was a structured, self-service hint system available via mobile phone.

+ Crux Club provided a few business cards to hand out to anyone who stopped us on the street to enquire about what we were doing. We were happy to advertise for them as this simple mechanic kept us from having to seriously explain ourselves to strangers.

Tips for Playing

  • Crux Club operates a seasonal and weather-dependent business. They aren’t always operating and bad weather could result in your game being canceled.
  • You need a charged smartphone with a web browser and data capabilities. An extra battery might not be the worst thing to carry.

  • You will carry a backpack containing puzzle components, provided by Crux Club.

  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Carry your own water, umbrellas, sunscreen, etc.

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. You will walk about 1.5 miles.
  • We recommend il laboratorio del gelato or Amorino for gelato at the end of your adventure.
  • At the completion of your mission, Crux Club hands out a card that recommends a number of other neighborhood eating/drinking establishments.

Book your slot with Crux Club’s Oddfellow’s Secret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Crux Club comped our tickets for this game.

The Best Horror Escape Rooms to Visit near New York City this Halloween Season

The metro New York City area offers a lot of great escape rooms. If you’re looking for a fright this Halloween season, check out these scary escape rooms.

A man in a hoodie with an scary LED mask.

True Horror

In Manhattan, there is one truly terrifying escape room:

Cursed, Komnata Quest – This journey through an abandoned house haunted by the ghost of a little girl delivered tension, story, and puzzles. The practical effects made it both challenging and exciting.

In-game: A blood-soaked bathroom.

Badass Moment

Take the 7 train to Long Island City for this creepy thriller:

Sanatorium, I Survived the Room – In this game with actors, we were at the mercy of the doctor in this dark, gritty, and creepy asylum setting. If you can puzzle through a nerve-wracking set, intense actors, and a deliberately gross environment, you might just get your hero moment.

A woman inspecting a cabinet of drawers with candles atop it.
Image via I Survived The Room

Actors in October

During October, 13th Hour Escape Rooms lets actors roam through their escape rooms, all of which take place on the premises of the creepy Hayden farmhouse. 13th Hour Escape Rooms is located in Wharton, NJ, about a 45-minute drive from Manhattan.

The Cookhouse, 13th Hour Escape –  The murderous Hayden family cannibalizes their victims and we were about to be their next meal. This grotesque kitchen made us want to both shy away and interact.

The Dungeon, 13th Hour Escape – We started in individual cells and solved our way into a two-story macabre prison/ shrine to infamous American serial killers.

In-game: a stairwell going up in a dark dungeon.

The Great Room, 13th Hour Escape – Locked in the majestic and creepy Great Room of the Hayden farmhouse, we needed to solve a series of challenging puzzles to survive.

In-game: a collection of skulls.

Jersey Shore

Drive 1 hour south to Red Bank, NJ for this frightening escape room:

Bogeyman, Trap Door – In this hide-and-seek-and-puzzle game, the Bogeyman lurked behind any twist in the maze of rooms. Our investigation into a paranormal-influenced disappearance of children turned into a game of challenge and intrigue in the menacing world of the Bogeyman.

Escape room camera image of a team puzzling and a guy cowering and sitting against a door, blocking it.
Game camera image provided by Trap Door.

Happy Halloween 🎃

October 17: REA Talk at the New York City Escape Room Fan Shindig

At this fall’s Escape Room Fan Shindig, we’ll be giving a talk! This is a casual gathering for locals to meet each other and chat about escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Details

  • Wednesday, October 17
  • Carragher’s 228 W 39th St between 7th and 8th (we’ll be on the 2nd floor)
  • Starting at 7pm; talk at 7:30pm
  • Please RSVP on Facebook on by contacting us.
Two smiley face stick figures carrying the final two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place.

Speaking

We’ll be giving the short talk we shared in San Francisco and Los Angeles where we:
  • tell stories about some of our favorite escape rooms from our travels
  • discuss trends in escape rooms
  • share perspective on where we think the medium is going
  • unpack what the changes mean for the players
  • take questions from everyone

Food & Drink

This event is free to attend. We encourage everyone to purchase their own food and drinks from Carragher’s. We’re grateful for their hospitality!

We like conversation

We welcome players, creators, designers, operators, bloggers, podcasters… and anyone else interested in escape rooms and other immersive entertainment. Whether you’re new to the format or entirely obsessed, this will be a gathering of conversations you’ll enjoy.
  • Swap stories
  • Meet teammates
  • Find collaborators
  • Give/ get recommendations

RSVP

Please RSVP on Facebook on by contacting us. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Unreal Escapes – Battleship [Review]

Hit!

Location: Staten Island, NY

Date Played: August 3, 2018

Team size: up to 9; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Battleship had one of the most beautiful sets that you can currently find in the Northeastern United States in 2018. It was detailed, tactile, and largely authentic. The interactions felt weighty and satisfying.

Unreal Escape faltered in the puzzle design and game flow of Battleship. We were intended to experience a clear narrative, but the puzzles were presented largely in a non-linear structure. This meant that we solved everything out of sync because the most enticing interactions were largely tied to the narrative endgame.

Although these flaws made Battleship chaotic, and at times unnecessarily frustrating, they didn’t detract from the fun of the set, props, effects, and overall playground of this Battleship. 

In-game: a view of the captain's desk and a big heavy door.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A gorgeous set detailed from floor to ceiling
  • Fantastic interactions
  • Some incredible effects
  • A handful of strong, narrative-based puzzles

Story

World War III had broken out and the entirety of the US Navy had been destroyed in an attack by an unknown power. Our crew had been assigned to recommission a World War II era battleship-turned-museum and fight back.

In-game: a torpedo in position for loading into a tube.

Setting

Battleship was beautiful. There was an intense level of detail from the floor to the ceiling.

Additionally, it felt phenomenally solid. Many of the props, set pieces, and even door hinges were made from beefy metal. Things had weight.

This was, without a doubt, one of the most aesthetically pleasing games that we’ve encountered in the New York metropolitan area to date.

In-game: the heavily detailed walls and ceiling of the Battleship.

Gameplay

Unreal Escapes’ Battleship was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Battleship was heavily rooted in the narrative of reactivating an old ship and destroying a series of enemy vessels.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, puzzling, and following the narrative arc of the game.

In-game: a captain's wheel and glowing buttons, switches, and indicators.

Analysis

+ From the weight of the set pieces and props to detailed weathering, we felt like we were on a battleship. The set was phenomenal.

+ The interactions felt incredibly satisfying. They were solid, tangible, and scaled up.

+ We loved how the set changed gears.

– Battleship was heavy on exposition and instruction.

In-game: an old, ornate, and worn pressure meter.

Battleship was an opinionated game. Gameplay was technically non-linear; we had multiple puzzles open at any given moment. There was, however, a “correct” order in which to solve the puzzles, for narrative continuity. We didn’t need to play linearly, but Battleship really wanted us to follow its sequencing. I wish that the gameplay did a better job of keeping us on the narrative’s rails.

– We played a large potion of this game in the dark, with flashlights. We had no idea that this darkness was part of the story and if we’d just solved a particular puzzle, we would have restored light much earlier on. This was frustrating.

+ Unreal Escapes built an incredible effect that punctuated an onboard event. It was captivating and exciting.

– Battleship lacked gating. With so much of the game open to us at any given point, we always had something to work on and didn’t feel the urgency we should have from the events taking place aboard the ship. Instead of stressing that our vessel was malfunctioning, we calmly solved our way through battle tactics.

Battleship incorporated a lot puzzle variety into one escape room.

– A couple of puzzle felt incomplete, in one instance it was missing proper cluing.

+ Unreal Escapes committed to narrative, set, and period authenticity. We respect the lengths they went to to mirror reality.

In-game: ammunition chained up.

+ One central, layered puzzle combined props with technology across different gamespaces to facilitate coordinated teamwork. It was a ton of fun scoping out this sequence.

– We struggled with one prop that had us spinning our wheels for far too long. It didn’t function or respond intuitively.

+ The culminating series of interactions delivered an explosive ending.

Tips for Visiting

  • Unreal Escapes has a parking lot.
  • There’s a lot of great Italian food on Staten Island.

Book your hour with Unreal Escapes’ Battleship, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Unreal Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Hour to Exit – Elude the Illusionist [Review]

Abracadabra!

Location: New Rochelle, NY

Date Played: August 4, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $37.50 per ticket for a single ticket, price per ticket drops the more tickets you buy

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Elude the Illusionist was a search-and-puzzle escape room with dramatic reveals and escalation. While Elude the Illusionist would flow better with additional gating and a touch more feedback, we enjoyed the puzzle-focused gameplay and especially the larger-scale, group solves.

If you’re in the area, stop by Hour to Exit and see if you can magic your way out of this one.

In-game: Close up of a glowing lamp illuminating a picture frame collage of playing cards of varying sizes.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fun puzzles
  • Exciting reveals

Story

Famous magicians had been disappearing. Not like they do on stage. Rather, The Great Zoltar seemed to have had a hand in eliminating his competition. We had snuck into his dressing room to see if we could work our magic on this case.

In-game: a magician wall of fame featuring posters of some of history's move famous illusionists.

Setting

Elude the Illusionist took place in Zoltar’s dressing room among his costumes, props, and one of his famous stage-act set pieces. The room was comfortable, with wooden furniture and warm lighting. The loud wallpaper added dramatic effect.

In-game: a wide shot of a large portion of the dressing room set. There is a large box with the silhouette of a woman painted on it.

Gameplay

Hour to Exit’s Elude the Illusionist was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

Elude the Illusionist was clearly designed and constructed with love. It had a homemade – but in a good way – pure energy about it. It was a joy to step into this puzzle adventure.

– The theme and staging begged for a dramatic opening moment to punctuate the gravity of the missing magicians and ignite an urgency to our dressing room turnover.

+ The bigger set pieces delivered tangible interactions that the entire group could enjoy together.

– We wished the the small clues – especially the reading material – had instead been integrated into the set to better facilitate large-scale group solves.

– Many of the opens in Elude the Illusionist lacked feedback. We couldn’t necessarily tell which action had resulted in a open, or sometimes, what exactly had opened. We recommend springs, lighting, or sound cues to help with puzzle flow.

Elude the Illusionist included a disappearing act. It was a well-crafted solo moment: amusing for the solo player, but not to the extent that other players felt they’d missed out. The rest of the team was entertained.

Elude the Illusionist had a few dramatic reveals. We especially enjoyed when standard set decor transformed into something else entirely.

+ The visual styling escalated to dramatic effect.

– Elude the Illusionist wanted for a dramatic conclusion that every player could experience from their vantage point at the culmination of the final puzzle sequence.

– When we won, we’d certainly solved something important… but didn’t know enough about the disappearances to have brought the story fully around to its conclusion.

+ Elude the Illusionist entertained us with set decor, puzzles, and dramatic reveals. It was a lot of fun to work our magic in this escape room.

Bonus Cupcake Review

We’d mentioned to Hour to Exit that our team would be looking to get dessert locally after the game. They surprised us with beautiful cupcakes from Smallcakes in Scarsdale.

The chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were thematically decorated with keys and clocks. These larger cupcakes were moist and flavorful. They had a generous allotment of super sweet frosting, which was a bit much on its own, but beautifully balanced the more subtly sweet cupcakes.

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Tips for Visiting

  • Purchase all the tickets for the group in a single purchase to save money.
  • Use the app Parkmobile to fill your meter on the street in New Rochelle.
  • We enjoyed lunch at The Wooden Spoon.
  • We recommend cupcakes from Smallcakes in Scarsdale.

Book your hour with Hour to Exit’s Elude the Illusionist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Hour to Exit comped our tickets for this game.

Broken Ghost Immersive – The Bunker [Review]

Legally distinct apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: August 11, 2018

Team size: 8-15; we recommend 8-12

Duration: Between 120 – 150 minutes

Price: $55 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Bunker was a wild ride of an immersive game. It mashed up roleplaying, tabletop gaming, puzzling, and storytelling into a sprawling post-apocalyptic epic that was both compelling and funny.

We loved The Bunker, but caution that people should only book tickets if they are willing to embrace whatever the game throws at them and play. If you’re too uncomfortable or too cool to play in The Bunker’s fiction, then this experience is decidedly not for you.

Similarly, if all you want are puzzles, or an elegant story presented to you… there are plenty of escape rooms or immersive shows that will scratch that itch; The Bunker is not what you’re seeking.

Your mileage will vary based on whom you’re playing with and the choices that you make. By total happenstance found ourselves teamed up with Kathryn Yu from No Proscenium & Michael Andersen of ARGNET, which was the most amazing random teammate assignment possible.

For those that showed up with their imagination and a willingness to play, The Bunker presented countless opportunities to explore within a strange world and build our own unique story.

In-game: David's shirt with a empathy sticker on it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for players who are willing to embrace the game
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every scene

Why play?

  • Fantastic gamemastering
  • Open-ended interactive storytelling that relied heavily on player decision
  • Unique moments for every player who desires them
  • Opportunity to leave your mark on your group’s story
  • Humor
  • Brilliant game mechanics
  • Each group receives a unique ending

Story

As backers of a crowdfunding project to create a series of apocalypse survival bunkers, we had gone for a tour of one of the facilities when the world ended. The bunker had locked down and the shelter’s AI DeBUNK had put us into stasis for over a century.

When DeBUNK revived us, things weren’t so great. The world had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland of familiar yet legally distinct horrors, our bunker’s life support systems were starting to fail, and we were low on food.

In-game: A laptop sitting on a counter in a red lit kitchen.
DeBUNK, our Bunker’s AI.

Setting

The Bunker was staged in Wildrence, a NYC experiential space and consulting studio that helps provide other creators with an immersive space and the tools necessary to bring their experiences to life. Previously this facility has hosted RefugeContagion, and Six Impossible Things (which is an exceptional close-up immersive magic performance. Get tickets if you can!).

Our bunker and homebase was staged in the Wildrence kitchen set. Leaving the safety of our bunker required a hazmat suit (holding a hazmat suit card). Outside our bunker, we met a character who facilitated our exploration of the rest of the game’s expansive world.

In-game: A mechanical bug on some papers.

Gameplay

The Bunker was an immersive game with a variety of game mechanics, a tabletop crafting game, some puzzles, and a lot of free-form roleplaying.

In the bunker we could ask questions of our AI DeBUNK (a gamemaster character over Google Hangouts), attempt to build things via the crafting tabletop game, use the tablets that we found across the wasteland to communicate (text) with other bunkers, and manage our resources.

In-game: cards representing duct tape and a hazmat suit.

Resources were drawn playing cards: rations, Twinkies, hazmat suits, tools, medicines, and whatever else we found while exploring the world. Some resources were reusable; others burned as soon as we committed them.

In-game: The world map, revealing the names of different locations.
Our world map.

Exploration involved going out into the wasteland and telling the character which direction we wanted to go. Along the way, he told us which structures we had encountered and we made choices about which to visit. Once we had made a selection, he described the encounter and we decided how to react using only our wits and whatever resources we had onhand.

When the exploration ended, our gamemaster informed us of how everything had resolved. This included what resources we had found and what terrible physical and psychological afflictions we had picked up along our journey through the hellscape… and some strikingly bad things happened to our people.

In-game: a hobbled sticker, player can't explore as effectively.

When things happened to us, we received stickers depicting our abilities or afflictions. Some stickers gave us additional powers to help us; others represented physical or psychological damage that diminished our abilities. Some of these afflictions could be cured; others couldn’t… and some we simply didn’t want to cure because they were amusing.

Ultimately, each player had to take responsibility for their own good time.

Analysis

The Bunker had a massive amount of story content and opportunities for us to explore, create drama, or stumble into trouble.

+ More than just about any immersive game that we’ve played, the choices that we made in The Bunker had immediate and logical consequences. We were never totally shocked when something happened because it flowed out of a decision that we had made either in that moment, or earlier.

+ The more each of us put into the game, the more the game gave back to us. Many of us had some wild experiences. The Bunker rewarded those of us who embraced the game and its fiction.

+ For us, the best parts were the adventures that we had when we left our Bunker. The game world, the choices, and the implications were endlessly entertaining.

+ The stickers signifying afflictions and abilities were brilliant and amusing. The illustrations on them were funny. It was especially clever that they could be quickly applied or removed (if cured).

+ The gamemasters were interactive, funny, and effective at facilitating the game. Their mastery over their own story and content was perpetually evident.

– There was a 3-person staff managing the entire game. As the scope of the world grew, it became a bit chaotic. They were surprisingly adept at wrangling everything that was going on, but there were times where it was clearly a bit too much.

– Our teammates who hung out in our bunker and made no effort to embrace the experience clearly didn’t enjoy themselves. On one hand, during the game I was annoyed with them because it seemed clear to me that they were doing themselves a disservice and all that they would have needed to do was volunteer to do anything at all to jumpstart a better experience. On the other hand, there truly was no mechanism for pulling these wayward players into the experience if they failed to show initiative. This really was a flaw in the game.

+ Broken Ghost Immersive had created some really smart afflictions to prevent strong personalities from overpowering the game. I saw this happen in real time at least once and knew exactly what was going on. I was dumbfounded by how brilliantly and elegantly our gamemaster used the mechanic.

– While we didn’t have any problems, I am confident that one hyperaggressive player could severely damage the entire The Bunker experience for all involved. Although the same could be said for escape rooms, since The Bunker was entirely social, the human element was even more critical.

– Lisa and a few of our other teammates spent a lot of the game off on their own journey away from the main story. While Lisa enjoyed her experience and the part she played in that narrative, by the time her narrative reconnected with the main story, too much had happened in the bunker for her to even begin to follow what was going on. She was pretty confused by the events of our end game.

+ The puzzles, for those that encountered them, were solid and thematic.

– The level of physical immersion was spotty and required a lot of suspension of disbelief and a willingness to embrace imagination. Broken Ghost Immersive delivered storylines that were clearly less immersive with a wink and a nod and a dose of humor, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily enough.

+ At the end of the game we were given the opportunity to choose a long-term strategy for our bunker. Based on that decision we immediately received an epilogue describing the conclusion to our story. It was intriguing, deeply rooted in the decisions that we had made throughout the game, and sensical. The epilogue put a lovely bow on our apocalypse.

Tips for Visiting

  • Show up willing to interact, explore, and play.
  • Bring a group of people who all want to play.
  • When you’re playing, be bold, imaginative, and decisive. Great and terrible things will happen to your group regardless.
  • It’s not an escape room. Leave your searching skills at home.
  • A few of our favorite restaurants in the area include Russ & Daughters Cafe, Vanessa’s Dumpling House, and Mission Chinese Food.
  • By subway, take the F to East Broadway. Street parking can be challenging in this neighborhood.
  • The Wildrence is located down a flight of stairs.

Book your session with Broken Ghost Immersive’s The Bunker, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Broken Ghost Immersive comped our tickets for this game.

I Survived The Room – The Order [Review]

Go to the Mask-for-aid.

Location: Long Island City (Queens), New York

Date Played: June 28, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4 or 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket weekdays, $30 per ticket weekends

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

I Survived The Room has been quietly creating unusual escape games in the basement of an indoor extreme sports facility. The first reaction of any diehard escape room player upon entering their lobby is something along the lines of, “this must be a terrible cash grab,” but that cannot be further from the truth.

The Order was an actor- and puzzle-driven split-team game that could be fairly comfortably replayed once.

The gameplay was bumpy and the experience uneven… but if you’re the kind of player who is willing to forgive some sins in the quest for unique experiences, there was a lot to love in The Order.

In-game: A dungeon with a dead body gripping a scroll mounted to the wall.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Some fantastic interactions
  • An intriguing split-team, largely replayable escape room
  • The actor

Story

The Order, an ancient secret society, had issued us an invitation to join their ranks. If we could pass their tests, we would be granted access to their wealth of hidden arcane knowledge. If we would fail, we would pay a dire toll.

In-game: The Knight of the Order cloaked in black, red, and white with an ornate gold and red mask reading a book.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Setting

The Order was an actor-driven split-team game. A costumed knight of The Order escorted us around the block, blindfolded us, and led us into one of two rooms: a dungeon and a library.

The dungeon was detailed, dim, and imposing. The library was bright, less beautiful, but far more inviting. These two sets converged in a steampunk-ish laboratory.

Each area of the game was distinctive.

In-game: A self in the library with an augmented skulls, brain, and heart.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Gameplay

I Survived The Room’s The Order was a split-team escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A wooden table with strange medallions mounted to it.
Photo by Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium

Analysis

+ The knight of The Order introduced the game, fully in character. He set the tone for The Order and stayed true to the world of the game in every interaction.

+ The sets had different tones and styles, but all felt more or less part of a cohesive world. We liked the countdown timer.

+/- The sets were uneven. One was ominously detailed; another was mostly bare and unexciting.

+ We bartered with the knight for our hints. Hint delivery bled into the story.

– We needed 3 hints on the same puzzle. While we enjoyed the in-character hint-delivery, things really ground to a halt when we got stuck and didn’t fully grasp the subtleties of the hints.

+ We were drawn to one puzzle. Even after solving it, we kept playing with it.

– The tech-driven opens needed more feedback. We solved multiple puzzles without knowing what we’d unlocked.

+ We enjoyed one dramatic release that built tension.

– We read much of the clue structure from long passages. We would have liked these elements to be further incorporated into the environment. Reading was especially frustrating in low lighting.

– For much of The Order, we played split in two groups, in two separate spaces — for all intents and purposes, playing separate escape rooms in one world. At times we were unsure whether audio was relevant to us, or the other group. The reunification of the group was clunky. Whichever group finished first had to “help” the slower group before the entire team could move to the next scene. By entering a mostly solved space with no context, the other group seriously disrupted play.

The Order asked us to make a choice, but it was at best a blind choice, and could easily be an unknowing choice. Depending on the order the team found, read, and solved various clues, it would be possible to – and we did – accidentally choose an ending before realizing we were making any choice at all.

+ By starting in different spaces, and offering a choice of ending, The Order was replayable. The team could return a second time and each individual would see almost entirely different puzzles. This was an interesting innovation.

– A few too many interactions didn’t trigger as expected, resulting in our in-character gamemaster having to hobble out and fix them or re-input our correct solution.

– The final gamespace was crowded. Neither the physical space nor the puzzle flow lent itself to the full group coming together in one room.

+ I Survived the Room introduced many great ideas in The Order. While these innovative concepts didn’t all come together perfectly, they offered new experiences. We hope I Survived the Room continues to refine the flow in this game because this is a society players will want to join.

Tips for Visiting

  • I Survived the Room is accessible by public transportation: take the 7 Subway to 33 St – Rawson St.
  • There is street parking in this area.
  • We recommend Doughnut Plant for a post-game snack.
  • All players must be able to walk down a flight of stairs.
  • Half the players must be comfortable playing in dim lighting.
  • For an additional take on this game, with a bit more spoilers, read our friend and teammate Kathryn Yu’s review over on No Proscenium.

Book your hour with I Survived The Room’s The Order, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: I Survived The Room comped our tickets for this game.