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.
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.
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.
Actors in October
During October, 13th Hour Escape Rooms lets actors roam through their escape rooms, all of which take place on the premise 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 also 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
A gorgeous set detailed from floor to ceiling
Some incredible effects
A handful of strong, narrative-based puzzles
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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
– 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.
+ 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.
Price: $37.50 per ticket for a single ticket, price per ticket drops the more tickets you buy
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.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
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.
Who is this for?
Best for players who are willing to embrace the game
Players who don’t need to be a part of every scene
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
Brilliant game mechanics
Each group receives a unique ending
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.
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 Refuge, Contagion, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
Price: $25 per ticket weekdays, $30 per ticket weekends
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.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
Some fantastic interactions
An intriguing split-team, largely replayable escape room
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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
Price: $30 per ticket on weekdays, $35 per ticket on evenings, $40 per ticket on weekends/holidays
City of Ashes was a search-heavy, pseudo-horror escape room in a dim lighting. It had a few interesting set pieces, and a strong final sequence, but none of that could make up for the general dullness of the game itself.
Having played all of the games that Komnata Quest currently offers in New York City, I can comfortably recommend that you play any of their other offerings ahead of this one. It’s not a disaster, but it’s well beneath Komnata Quest’s potential. Skip it.
Who is this for?
Komnata Quest completionists
A great final puzzle sequence.
Teed up as a Silent Hill escape game, we approached an empty city devoid of life to investigate.
We removed our blindfolds to take in the dim, gritty, and just a bit gory surroundings. We traversed a number of sets, each quite different from the next, but none particularly inviting.
Komnata Quest’s The City of Ashes was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling, with emphasis on searching.
– City of Ashes felt like cheap horror. It was grim, but not really scary. The dimness was more frustrating than fear-inducing.
+ A few detailed set pieces looked great.
– City of Ashes required substantial searching in low light. We continuously tripped up because we hadn’t found the item we needed to complete a puzzle.
– The puzzles lacked clue structure and feedback. There was a puzzle that we solved, but had no idea how or why.
– We couldn’t properly hear the audio track over the ambient noise. If it held any clue structure or story, it was impossible to make out.
– City of Ashes overtelegraphed one of its most interesting moments.
+ The concluding segment was shockingly good.
– I can’t recommend this game at $30 per ticket, and the $35 per ticket during the evenings and $40 per ticket on weekends and holidays is unjustifiable.
Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.
Price: $35 per ticket on weekdays, $40 per ticket on evenings, $45 per ticket on weekends/holidays
Joker’s Cafe was a creepy, but approachable escape room. Although neither the beginning nor the ending hit the mark, the majority of the gameplay was entertaining. The puzzles combined with set design, technology, and effects to deliver energetic solves.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
A lot of square footage for New York
Some strong puzzle moments and effects
The Joker had been luring children into his cafe and using them for his experiments. Since “The Bat” was busy saving other people, our team of GCPD officers had been dispatched to the scene.
We started on a street corner outside the Joker’s Cafe looking to break into the bubblegum pink candy shop. This bright and eerily friendly setting evolved into someplace more sinister.
Komnata Quest’s Joker’s Cafe was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.
+ Jokers Cafe had a large footprint, especially when compared with most other New York City games.
– Komnata Quest had repurposed their former one-person lobby game, Mousetrap, as the opening sequence for Joker’s Cafe. Because this early puzzle structure didn’t engage a larger group, Joker’s Cafe had a lackluster beginning.
+/- Through detailed set design and misdirection, Komnata Quest created a few surprising opens. While we appreciated the concepts, we wished it telegraphed these less.
+ Joker’s Cafe successfully transitioned between different tones. It offered a peek ahead such that more jumpy players could become comfortable with the creepiness to come.
– Joker’s Cafe wasn’t particularly inspiring as a Batman or Joker game. It felt like Komnata Quest could have done a lot more with the theme.
+ Periodically, we’d see interesting puzzle design. One mid-game puzzle had elements that were interesting to combine.
+ Komnata Quest integrated an unusual device into the narrative as a puzzle. This came together soundly.
– In one segment, we searched through quite a bit of unnecessary material. It felt like maybe a puzzle thread had been removed from the game, because these props felt like unresolved puzzles, which led us off the path of gameplay.
– Joker’s Cafe ended anticlimactically. There was a delay before a correct input registered, which left us wondering for just a bit too long whether we’d correctly solved the final puzzle.
– Komnata Quest has become really expensive. Joker’s Cafe was a really good game, but was it $40-$45 per player on evenings, weekends, and holidays good? I’m on the fence about that. New York has a lot of quality games for less money. These prices elevate expectations to heights that Komnata Quest hasn’t delivered.
Tips for Visiting
Accessible by the G subway and the East River ferry. Street parking only.
Next month, together with No Proscenium, we are co-hosting the second Everything Immersive NYC Meetup.
Escape rooms are one form of immersive entertainment. This umbrella also includes immersive theatre, VR/ AR, LARP, site-specific pieces, experiential art & tech, and so many other creations. We encourage you to join us in exploring these other works.
This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within immersive arts & entertainment in New York City. We’re calling all creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, artists, designers, writers, performers, event planners, producers, and more.
If you want to meet other passionate souls and exchange ideas about the future of entertainment and storytelling, join us.
We look forward to seeing you there. Please find us and introduce yourself!
Please note that there is a $25 credit card minimum at Shades of Green Pub… and they really take that seriously. Please bring cash or a big appetite. They are gracious and flexible hosts and we want to respect them.
Please RSVP. We need to provide a headcount to the venue.
RSVP on Facebook or via Email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is a great opportunity to meet other folks who love escape rooms and other forms of interactive entertainment. If you stop by, you’ll be able to: