SCAM New York [Review]

Magic, comedy, puzzles… and a dollop of vulgarity

Location:  New York City, NY

Date Played: May 30, 2021

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 4-8

Duration: 2 hours

Price: Start at $55 per player

Ticketing: Public… but if you book as a group of 8 you’ll have a mostly private experience

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

New York City’s Society of Conjurers And Magicians (SCAM), blends magic, comedy, and puzzles (more or less in that order).

SCAM is set in a nifty karaoke bar where each room has a unique design. The audience is split between these rooms, and magicians circulate from room to room performing their acts to the small groups. In between the acts, each group has the opportunity to solve a series of puzzles.

The performers are a rotating cast of quality New York City magicians. Some left us dumbfounded, others performed classics with elegance, and they all made us laugh.

Magicians Harrison Greenbaum & Patrick Davis wearing cloaks and dramatically holding candles.
Harrison Greenbaum & Patrick Davis

SCAM was co-created by comedian & magician Harrison Greenbaum (the emcee for our convention RECON). I tell you this both to disclose that relationship, and to give you a sense of SCAM’s style. He is talented, funny, and vulgar. (He tones this last part down a lot for RECON.) To varying degrees, the other performers are cut from the same cloth.

If you aren’t sure whether you’ll enjoy the humor of SCAM New York, I recommend taking a good look at their secret society logo. Study the details, identify the layers… really take it in… because this shit is hilarious…

Society of Conjurers And Magicians logo depicts many people with devil tails arranged in a circle with their heads up one anothers' asses.
While at SCAM, I recommend asking why the logo is designed this way.

If instead you are bothered by it… perhaps Disney’s The Lion King is more your speed and it’s only a few blocks away from SCAM. No judgement from me; I want everyone to have a good time.

SCAM New York was the first show or game that Lisa and I had experienced post-quarantine. I cannot think of a better show for the era. Meeting up with a small group of friends and spending most of the show in a room with them while entertainment came to us was exactly the speed that we were looking for. If you enjoy magic, comedy, or puzzles, there’s something for you at SCAM.

Who is this for?

  • Magic fans
  • Comedy fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • People looking for an unusual night out
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • It’s funny
  • It’s entertaining
  • The puzzles do a good job of filling in gaps between acts

Story

We were invited to an initiation into a magical secret society.

A hand reaching out for a small chest secured with a padlock.
Continue reading “SCAM New York [Review]”

Myss Tic – Ghost Light [Review]

Leave the light on when you depart.

Location:  Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: November 8, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35-60 per player depending on team size and day

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Ghost Light was Myss Tic’s second escape game and it sent us into a unique haunted theater – without horror.

While it was an escape room through and through, with escape room logic, and all of the trappings… there was a lot about Ghost Light that felt fresh and novel. It looked different, told a new story, and incorporated lighting with an elegance that we rarely see.

In-game: Two changing stations backstage. Makeup, perfume, and jewlery are laid out.

I’ll go so far as to say that lighting was the secret weapon in this game. It drew us in, focused our attention on what mattered (and where Myss Tic spent effort and money building), and deprioritized segments that weren’t essential. It felt a little like a magic trick, and served as a constant reminder that truly caring about craft is a superpower in and of itself.

With this and their first game Montauk Project, Myss Tic has established itself as a must-play venue in New York City. If you’re choosing between Montauk Project and Ghost Light, my first question would be, why not play both? If you can’t do that, honestly, pick the one that speaks to you. There are no wrong choices.

It’s also worth noting that we visited in November of 2020 and Myss Tic made us feel about as safe and comfortable as would be possible during a pandemic.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A unique setting & story
  • Some beautiful interactions
  • A well crafted, layered final sequence

Story

Everyone had heard of the Ziegfeld Follies, the Vaudeville era’s most famous theatrical revue. And who doesn’t know about Olive Thomas, the Follies’ most popular star? You don’t?

Well, while Thomas was known for her performances, she’s been remembered for being murdered. Poisoned.

To this day, she still haunts Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre. If we don’t figure out how to turn on the stage’s ghost light at night, giving her and her fellow Follies a stage to perform on, they will surely find ways to make our daytime stage performances memorable… for better or for worse.

In-game: A photo of an actress, an hourglass, and opera glasses on a shelf.
Continue reading “Myss Tic – Ghost Light [Review]”

Myss Tic – Montauk Project [Review]

Stranger Rooms

Location:  Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: November 8, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35-60 per player depending on team size and day

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

This was our first real-life escape room since March 7, 2020… and Montauk Project was exactly what we were craving.

Montauk Project was an escape room-y game. While there was an underlying narrative that wasn’t shy about being an homage to Stranger Things, the gameplay was the star.

In-game: A bike, a baseball, and a mailbox in a mulched yard.

There was no shortage of “escape room logic” when it came to the narrative, but while there was an opportunity to build stronger linkages between the puzzles and the plot, it was a fantastic game.

Montauk Project was the type of game that reminds us why we love escape rooms, and we needed that more than ever.

It’s easy to recommend Montauk Project and Myss Tic’s other game Ghost Light (review coming soon). This is one of the top companies in New York City.

It’s also worth noting that we visited in November of 2020 and Myss Tic made us feel about as safe and comfortable as would be possible during a pandemic.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strong set- and prop-based interactions
  • You want to play a Stranger Things-inspired escape game
  • A memorable final sequence

Story

Everyone knew to stay away from the old Montauk Air Force Station. It had been closed back in the 1970s, and it had continued to be the source of unusual happenings. Those stranger things kept getting worse, so we were sent to investigate.

In-game: A 1980s living room with a D&D board, and a big old CRT television with an 8 bit video game style countdown clock.
Continue reading “Myss Tic – Montauk Project [Review]”

Clue Chase – Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle [Review]

Bermuda Triangulation

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: January 27, 2020

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We had a great time in Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle. The set looked great, the puzzles were satisfying, and there were some really amusing interactions.

Clue Chase now inhabits the space previously occupied by Escape Entertainment. Clue Chase’s older games were set in larger spaces. We really loved how they transformed the smaller space in this new venue.

It’s so good to see quality new games finding their way into New York City. If you’re in the Boroughs, put Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle on your playlist.

In-game: View of the pirate ship with a partial map in the foreground and art in the background.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure 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?

  • A strong set – and Clue Chase’s strongest to date
  • Solid puzzle play
  • Multiple tangible interactions
  • A fantastic scene transition

Story

The time travel agency had dispatched us on a mission to acquire another artifact. This time we found ourselves aboard a pirate ship in 1715.

The ship’s crew had mutinied and locked the captain in his quarters, taking all of the valuables. Thankfully they hadn’t understood the power of the artifact and had left it behind.

In-game: A painting of a sea battle.

Setting

We stepped inside of a well-detailed pirate ship. The ceiling was draped in cargo nets and the walls were wood. The builders clearly put a lot of effort into obscuring their anachronisms, filing off paint and brand names from locks.

Clue Chase did a lot with this smaller space to make it feel exciting.

In-game: Wide view of the pirate ship set with cargo netting along the ceiling.

Gameplay

Clue Chase’s Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a barrel labeled "xxx"

Analysis

➕ The set looked strong. From floor to ceiling its wooden walls and overhead netting conveyed sense of place. The props felt like they belonged.

➕ The sound effects in Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle added energy to the gameplay. They created ambiance and added excitement to interactions.

➕ We solved the puzzles by interacting with the items on the ship – touching, turning, tossing, and the like. The interactions were varied.

➖ There were multiple opportunities to brute-force the last bit of a solve in Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle. It would even by possible to brute-force the final solve of the game, which would be a shame, because it was a pretty cool puzzle.

➕ The puzzle flow was non-linear, but then brought us together for the most exciting moments of the game, without bottlenecking.

➖/➕ Although we found one group solve to be a bit too process-oriented, we found it entertaining to work through together from across the vessel.

In-game: closeup of two black pumps.

➖ Before we entered Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle our gamemaster gave us specific instructions that pertained to the win condition. We listened well, and when the time came, we knew what to do. That said, it would have been more engaging to uncover what to do with this sequence through gameplay. This was a missed opportunity to integrate the gameplay with the gamespace.

➖ The ending fizzled. We wanted more excitement from the acquisition of another artifact.

➕ In Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle Clue Chase created a scene transition that blew their previous games out of the water.

Tips For Visiting

  • Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle is located at Clue Chase’s Herald Square location. They have a different location at Bryant Park.
  • Clue Chase’s Herald Square location is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Take public transit; Clue Chase is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Clue Chase’s Pirates of the Bermuda Triangle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Chase comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Virtuality – Runaway Subway Train [Review]

Fare?

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: December 18, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Runaway Subway Train felt like a scavenger hunt with locks that didn’t work… in a moving train-like space.

This wasn’t a good escape room, but at the onset, it seemed like it had potential.

In-game: Red bench seating in a train car. You can see a gold hinge running along the back of the seat.

The sad reality was that Escape Virtuality just had us identifying codes and putting them into locks. There was almost nothing to solve and half of the challenge that we encountered was struggling against the worn out locks.

We badly want new and amazing escape rooms in New York City. We wanted to be able to tell you that the Runaway Subway Train is worth your time and money… but we can’t. The only people to whom we can recommend this game are potential owners who want a $39 lesson in how to waste potential.

Who is this for?

  • Scavenger hunters

Why play?

  • The game has unrealized potential

Story

Our subway was out of control and about to crash – in an hour!

In-game: A subway map along the back wall of the train car.

Setting

Our team was split up into two adjacent subway cars. We entered through train-like pocket doors. Each car had roughly the same subway car structure of bench seating with advertisements above.

While everything had the right structure, the details weren’t there. It looked like a subway, but only if you haven’t been inside of one with any level of recency, which is unlikely in Midtown Manhattan.

In-game: Double doors between train cars.

Gameplay

Escape Virtuality’s Runaway Subway Train was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and a split-team beginning.

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

In-game: An ad for a plumbing company who's slogan is, "We're #1 in the #2 business"

Analysis

➕ The first few puzzles taught us how this escape room wanted us to play it, for better or for worse.

➖ There were few puzzles in this escape room. The gameplay was almost entirely of the “observe and input” variety. We spent most of our time searching or waiting on our teammates to struggle with an input.

➖ Because this game required us to observe and input, we spent a lot of time trying anything we’d observed in every lock. There was no way to know what would be important. Guess all the things!

➕ There was one challenging, layered puzzle in Runaway Subway Train. This solved well with teamwork. It was the highlight of the gameplay.

➖ We encountered some misleading cluing, which might have been the result of ghost puzzles. These included a switch that triggered nothing and cluing a code to a digital lock when the input went into an analog one. We also encountered puzzles that weren’t clued at all.

➖ The one reveal was a missed opportunity. Instead of adding intrigue, it was hard to see, and looked worse than what had been there before.

➖ The locks in this game were in rough shape. We open locks more often than most players and we struggled repeatedly to open multiple combination locks.

➖/➕ The set design was subway-like. Escape Virtuality built in all the key elements of a subway car, but for New Yorkers who ride the subway everyday – and probably rode the subway to get to Escape Virtuality – they didn’t sell the concept with their build. They did, however, make it feel like our subway cars were moving. This was the best part of the set design.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking is a challenge in Manhattan. Take the subway (1 to 28th Street or the R/W to 28th Street.)
  • There are tons of restaurants in this neighborhood. We enjoy Hill Country Barbecue and Market.

Disclosure: Escape Virtuality comped our tickets for this game.