Not Another Escape Room’s Time Machine was something special. It embodied the sort of fantastical whimsy one can concoct with a fairly low-budget set, boundless creativity, and some wonderfully impractical ideas brought to life. This game lived up to the company’s namesake and was indeed not just another escape room.
I’ll admit, my confidence in the experience wavered at the start. The time machine felt like what some children might build while playing make-believe as time travelers — a sort of tin foil-coated-cardboard-box-meets-conspiracy theorist’s lair — and it was initially unclear whether this aesthetic was an intentional choice or not.
Yet this ultimately provided effective contrast for what was to come. I was soon met with moment after moment of childlike wonder as the room continuously unfolded in unexpected ways.
Overall, I found Time Machine to be charming, clever, and quite memorable. If you’re looking for a Hollywood-level set, this may not be the game for you. But if you’re open to a unique and lovingly homemade adventure, Not Another Escape Room’s Time Machine was a delight.
Los Angeles offers many varieties of horror experiences. If you’re looking for horror in escape rooms this Halloween season, these are our recommendations.
Classic Serial Killer
At THE BASEMENT, Serial Killer Edward Tandy is out to get you. Even if you escape one of his rooms, there’s always another death trap to thwart.
The Elevator Shaft, THE BASEMENT – Our unconscious bodies had been tossed into the body-disposing, Death-Star-trash-compactor elevator shaft. We needed to trigger the override sequence. This dark, detailed, and badass set felt alive. It always doing something different… whether we wanted it to or not.
The Study, THE BASEMENT – As we explored our captor’s home, we stepped into a set that looked great in a dingy, “this is the worst place on earth to die” sort of way. Our escape included a superb solo moment that triggered fight or flight.
The Courtyard, THE BASEMENT – Next we played Tandy’s murderous game in his fenced-in courtyard, an incredible environment, combining nature with decrepit structures to deliver a sense of continual discovery tinged with foreboding. An actor-driven midgame puzzle sequence was unforgettable.
This is the scariest escape room that we’ve found thus far. It’s worth a drive to Anaheim for this absolutely terrifying game… but only if you’re honestly ready for it.
Zoe, Escapades– This was a haunted house with escape room mechanics as gates. We were mind-controlled and at the mercy of Zoe as she paralyzed us with fear… then made us solve puzzles.
Poking Fun at Horror
Also in Anaheim, you’ll find a cheeky take on high school drama horror.
Hex Room, Cross Roads Escape Games – The Hex Room cast six players as different horror film archetypes. Costumed and locked into separate places, we became these high school drama queens. The set, ambiance, and isolation built fear through anticipation more than any in-game frights.
Krampus, 60 Out – We were investigating the festive yet morbid apartment of the Krampus killer, who murders naughty children on Christmas Eve. It was intense and creepy… and heart-poundingly scary.
Horror of Old
Bloody Elbow, QUEST ROOM – Back in the 14th century, we awaited slow, gory, and creative deaths at the hand of a sadistic executioner by the name of “Bloody Elbow.” His torture devices alone instilled an urgency to puzzle out our escape.
Price: $32 per ticket weekdays, $35 per ticket weekends
The majestic and whimsical set surprised and captivated us.
Red Lantern Escape Rooms created a challenging multithreaded puzzle through an intimate story in a region where we haven’t seen many non-linear, puzzle-centric escape rooms.
Who is this for?
People who skipped their high school reunion due to a lack of puzzles
Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
Any experience level
A surprisingly expansive open set that felt festive
A well-told story
We arrived at our high school reunion (Go Possums!). The reunion committee strangely decided to host the carnival-themed event swamp-side on the Boudreau’s property, the site of a barn fire that had claimed the lives of five of our classmates. What could possibly go wrong?
Red Lantern Escape Rooms built a sprawling party space and boardwalk for Midnight on the Bayou. Upon walking in, the large open space caught us all off guard with its high ceilings and cohesive yet varied design. The space felt just a bit majestic.
In keeping with its large-scale design, Midnight on the Bayou was a non-linear escape room with multiple paths of puzzles to solve. There was a lot to discover about this game.
The event’s bartender, the in-room gamemaster, facilitated the festivities. He largely stayed out of our way and let us enjoy the reunion, only stepping in when he recognized a need.
We were immediately struck by the expansive set of Midnight on the Bayou. It was whimsical and beautiful.
Our reunion bartender introduced the staging elegantly. He directed our attention to specific details. He delivered a backstory that was serious, but playful.
In Midnight on the Bayou, we puzzled through the stories of our high school classmates. Their characters developed through the puzzling and the puzzles supported their characters. This mechanic of separate puzzle paths worked well.
We enjoyed the culmination of one character’s puzzle, which really captured high school memories.
The hint system made sense in the setting. The excellent voice acting provided fun nudges, while further developing the various characters.
Red Lantern Escape Room created puzzling paths where elements connected one to the next and searching was directed. In one instance, we found the searching too vaguely clued. We never would have found – or, given the play structure, even have searched for – that important item without heavy-handed hinting.
One puzzle really bugged us. None of our teammates was able to decode the solution even though we determined the exact solve method immediately. We eventually hacked it with puzzling experience.
We misinterpreted one clue as implying that certain puzzle components would be solved in a specific order, which tripped us up for a while. It turned out that we went through a whole song and dance for nothing. Minor rewording could smooth this over.
Given the parallel puzzle structure of Midnight on the Bayou, it would be possible to achieve a terribly anticlimactic ending… which would be a bummer.
Midnight on the Bayou contained one large set piece that was just a set piece. While Red Lantern Escape Room does have future plans for this construction, in its current form it’s a large and disappointing red herring.
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
-Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Location: Anaheim, California
Date played: June 4, 2017
Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $30 per ticket
Story & setting
Sherlock Holmes was kidnapped in the midst of an investigation and it was up to us to find him.
We played in a study/office setting that resembled many other escape rooms with similar themes. The room wasn’t the most exciting, but it was well constructed and hid a surprise or two.
Sherlock’s Study included typical room escape-style puzzles, executed at varying degrees of difficulty but geared toward a beginner audience. Observation and searching skills were key. Puzzle flow was basic but solid, with some notable areas in need of refinement.
There was one puzzle sequence that made excellent use of the set, leading to an unexpected reveal.
Another puzzle featured a small, easily-overlooked clue that those with keen eyes will find satisfying to solve.
The puzzles in Sherlock’s Study relied heavily on paper props with lots of “whodunit” information printed on them. We became frustrated with multiple team members crowded around all these documents.
The study was predictably filled with books, which necessitated a lot of divide-and- conquer scavenging. One tedious puzzle could have benefited from clearer cluing.
One visually appealing clue lacked a clear connection to anything else. By the time we made the connection, we had already solved the puzzle, which negated the cool factor.
At one point, the use of space was a letdown after a grand reveal.
Should I play Exodus Escape Room’s Sherlock’s Study?
Sherlock’s Study was unapologetically a room for a beginner’s market; the folks at Exodus Escape Rooms were clear on this point.
Beginner players will encounter a solid experience with good puzzle flow that accurately represents room escapes. Experienced players will find exciting moments, but shouldn’t expect to be blown away at any point; Sherlock’s Study was decidedly for newer players.