David Kwong’s Enigmatist [Review]

A Gold Bug

Location:  New York City

Date Attended: January 12, 2019

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $95 / $125 / $150 per ticket depending on seat

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Enigmatist was a night of puzzles, magic, and storytelling. It was as quirky as it was phenomenal.

It was a performance, not an escape room, but it included escape room-style solving.

The Enigmatist has just extended its run of Friday and Saturday evening shows through March 2019. If you read this blog, and you are near New York City, you should purchase tickets immediately.

The Enigmatist sign.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Magic fans

Why Attend?

  • Wonderful feats of magic and word play
  • Good puzzles
  • Lots of hidden layers and meaning

Story

The Enigmatist was a one-man show performed by magician and New York Times cruciverbalist (crossword constructor) David Kwong.

Throughout the evening, Kwong explored the story of Riverbank Laboratories.

The performance was an unusual mixture of magic, puzzles, cryptography, crosswords, and storytelling.

Instructions for how to approach the four initial puzzles.

Setting

The Enigmatist was set on a small stage at the High Line Hotel. Upon arrival we were presented with 4 puzzles to solve in the lobby.

Once we took our seats within the intimate theater, we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the performance and solving the puzzles within it.

A map of the Fabyan Estate Street Car.

Gameplay

David Kwong’s The Enigmatist was a performance with gameplay. There were multiple puzzles to solve throughout the evening. The audience’s ability to solve the puzzles shifted the energy and dynamics of the show.

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

Lisa and David bundled up in front of a tree covered in lights.
Winter is here.

Analysis

➕ The opening puzzles were lovely. They generally struck the right difficulty balance. They set the tone for how to approach the puzzles in the show.

➖ Of the initial 4 puzzles, one was noticeably more involved than the others. Unfortunately it was also the most compact and hardest to see. This led to a an uncomfortable crowd around it. Having an extra copy or spreading it out more would solve the problem.

➕/➖ There were self-service hints available for the opening puzzles. This kept solvers of all levels engaged with the puzzles. That said, more granular hinting would probably have helped alleviate bottlenecks.

➕ Kwong has an impressive gift for sleight of hand. In general, the magical moments of The Enigmatist were really well produced. He put a fresh spin on everything by integrating the tricks into the story. In the process he gave both more meaning.

➕ Kwong played with words a lot… and I don’t mean puns. I mean he manipulated words and letters in mind-bogging ways. My biggest takeaway from the night was to never play a word game against David Kwong.

➕/➖ Throughout the performance, Kwong told an intriguing story of cryptography. He integrated a lot of charm and historical facts. At the end of his tale, however, he made some questionable decisions. I think I get why he did it, but I didn’t like it. I still don’t.

➕ There were layers and layers of hidden meaning and hidden magic. The last few minutes of The Enigmatist were 🤯.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: It’s New York City. Good luck.
  • Food: It’s Chelsea. You’re spoiled with options.
  • Arrive early and enjoy the puzzles.

Book your tickets with David Kwong’s The Enigmatist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Mission Escape Games – Operation End of Days [Review]

Operation End of Days

A new beginning.

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: December 6, 2018

Team size: up to 8 (note that they have two copies of the game, so you could have twice that many and play head to head); we recommend 2-3 per copy

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Operation End of Days looked great and played wonderfully. As the first game in Mission Escape Games’ new Midtown location, it set a high bar.

Mission Escape Games has developed a keen skill for silky smooth gameflow.

Operation End of Days was designed specifically to onboard new players. While the beginning and the ending could be further refined, it was the right amount of not-too-hard. As the current record holder in this game, I can comfortably declare that it was wonderfully fun even when flying through it.

Whether you like escape games, are escape room-curious, or you’re on the fence about them… give Operation End of Days a try. 

In-game: a corner of Operation End of Days.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level (and a great beginner game!)
  • Players who are comfortable playing in low lighting

Why play?

  • Great puzzle flow
  • Sound design
  • Immersive environment

Story

Humanity was facing the end of the world. All previous attempts to end the calamity had failed. We were the last plan, the last hope. We had to create the “final element” to succeed.

In-game: A a series of switches, and a large control panel.

Setting

We entered a detailed, weathered, and beautiful, yet grim bunker. It was filled with machinery and piping. 

Mission Escape Games’ set design has come a long way since the early days of the IKEA-furnished Art Studio, 4 years ago. Operation End of Days ranks among Manhattan’s most elegant escape room sets. 

In-game: a metal box connected by pipes.

Gameplay

Mission Escape Games’ Operation End of Days was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a series of switches. One of them is green, the other 9 are blue.

Analysis

➕ It was intensely atmospheric. The gamespace was dramatically lit, albeit dimly. The sound effects brought the space to life. (Note, it was not scary.) Operation End of Days had a drab (by design) end-of-the-world atmosphere with flairs of color.

➖ The monitor was excessively bright against the dim gamespace. The font choice was particularly hard to read against the bright background. Softening the screen aesthetics may be a nitpick, but it would significantly improve this escape room by making it easier to read the game clock and clues. 

➕  Operation End of Days was hearty and solidly constructed.

➕ In building Operation End of Days, Mission Escape Games accommodated the oddities of the building, working these into their apocalyptic environment. We never felt that the confines of a New York City office building location compromised the game’s design.

➕ Mission Escape Games used inexpensive components elegantly. They may not have cost a lot, but they looked polished. The construction and design came together wonderfully and supported the puzzle play well.

In-game: A series of pipes connection boxes.

➖ The starting place likely won’t be obvious to new players who don’t know the standard mechanics of an escape room gamespace. Since this game was designed specifically to engage muggles, augmenting this beginning so that it unambiguously called out “start here” to newbies would help get the fun rolling.

Operation End of Days flowed beautifully. The largely linear puzzle design made it accessible for newer players, but no less fun for those with experience. 

➖ One puzzle felt unrefined and bottlenecked. With larger teams, this would likely become immensely frustrating.

➕ We particularly enjoyed a layered puzzle that combined typical escape room inputs in atypical ways.

➖We would have appreciated a meatier final puzzle. There was a distinct final interaction, but it felt a little anemic for a finale. 

➕ We regularly tell creators that a great game designed for newbies can still be immensely satisfying for experienced players. Operation End of Days was one of those games. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Mission Escape Games has moved! They are now located in midtown. Take the A/C/E subway to Penn Station or Port Authority.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger for a post-game meal.

Book your hour with Mission Escape Games’ Operation End of Days, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mission Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Exit Escape Room NYC – Operation Dive [Review]

Dive into the deep end.

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: November 27, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $38 per player

Ticketing: Public & Private options

REA Reaction

Exit Escape Room NYC’s third game, Operation Dive, had a small yet detailed set, and strong challenging puzzles. 

We had access to almost all of the game’s mechanisms from the first moment. We enjoyed unraveling the mystery that was how to operate the submarine, but the incredible level of access also came at a price: this new game showed a lot of wear. I hope that Exit Escape Room NYC is up to the challenge of maintaining it. It’s a lovely game. 

Operation Dive is a wonderful game to play if you feel comfortable playing escape rooms. If you’re a newbie, this one will be a bit bewildering; play High Speed NYC first. Both are high quality games, but the earlier one is quite a bit more forgiving. 

In-game: The bridge of the submarine. A sonar station and periscope are in view.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Puzzles that reveal themselves as you play
  • Satisfying physical interactions
  • Fun submarine environment

Story

With a hostile submarine attempting to attack New York City, the Pentagon had called upon us to fire up a decommissioned World War II-era submarine, identify the target, and destroy it. 

In-game: Main electrical panel, disabled.

Setting

We entered a small submarine set filled with pipes, gauges, maps, and bunks.  The set was compact, but detailed. Some parts looked great. 

In-game: The bridge of the submarine. A map glows green.

Gameplay

Exit Escape Room NYC’s Operation Dive was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

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

The challenge stemmed from a nonlinear design where the puzzle components were mounted into the set and available from the opening moments of play.

In-game: Ballast Tank gauge.

Analysis

➕ The set looked nifty. It was detailed. It had a submarine vibe, complete with gadgets that were interactive, but not overwhelming.

➕ Exit Escape Room NYC hid the puzzles in plain sight. Once we discovered how items intertwined, the level of difficulty dropped a bit. The challenge was largely in understanding how to interact with the game, which we enjoyed.

➖ We couldn’t always tell whether we’d completed an interaction. The addition of more puzzle feedback, to help players understand whether or not they’ve completely solved a puzzle, would significantly improve for Operation Dive.

➖ The set and props showed too much wear. This included some finicky tech and disappointing prop breakage. I suspect that giving players immediate access to a lot of interactions and no knowledge of how to approach the puzzles means that a lot of players are hard on this escape room. Operation Dive hadn’t been open very long when we visited and we couldn’t help but think it was really banged up.

 Operation Dive was well themed. The set and puzzles were submarine-esque.

➕ The small and narrow set worked because it was a submarine. This was a smart setting selection given Exit Escape Room NYC’s spatial constraints. 

➕ There were some lovely thematic puzzles in this Operation Dive. They were tangible, satisfying solves.

➕/➖  Operation Dive attempted to tell a story. This delivered some fun and thematic moments. While some of the nuance of the story came through clearly as we were playing, the most interesting bits only became apparent when we were analyzing the game after we’d escaped. Operation Dive felt more like a thematic adventure than a story-driven experience. Overall, the narrative was of mixed quality, but generally better than most. 

➕ With timed use of tech, Exit Escape Room NYC trigged great moments. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Exit Escape Room NYC is easily accessible on public transportation.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger (across the street).

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

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

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.

[collapse]

+ 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.