Escape Artists – NINJA [Review]

Asian Fusion

Location:  Orlando, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape Artist’s NINJA was a bit of a roller coaster. Some portions were attractive, engaging, and funny. Others were finicky, underdeveloped, and tedious. It could change from one moment to the next.

Overall, it was pleasant to experience an atypical escape room scenario, but the great parts left us really wishing that everything was more cleanly executed.

If you’re in the area and are looking for a mixture of puzzles, pop culture references, and an assortment of pan-Asian concepts, NINJA is anything but expected.

In-game: a japanese building with a cherry blossom out front.

Who is this for?

  • Nerds – so many references – so many
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s really different in look and play
  • Some of the set pieces are beautiful
  • The references were as outlandish as they were funny

Story

An evil ninja had been hired to assassinate and sabotage our town. We needed to defeat this ninja and bring proof of our victory to our Shogun.

In-game: a large black and white symbol hung from a wall of bamboo and spotlit in the darkness.

Setting

NINJA had a mostly Japanese – and occasionally pan-Asian – aesthetic. The Japanese architecture and faux cherry blossoms were quite striking.

Every room of NINJA was loaded with nerdy sight gags, some subtle, some overt. These were the highlight of the game for half of our team.

In-game: a lantern hung outside of a japanese building.

Over the course of the game, it became clear that the set design was incredibly uneven with some sections clearly receiving a lot of love and investment. Other sections felt like an afterthought.

Gameplay

Escape Artists’ NINJA 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 puzzle with slots for many disks arranged in a circle.

Analysis

➕ NINJA was goofy. It pulled from all different “ninja” associations, creating an amalgamation of loosely associated themes. The tone was lighthearted and some of the props were especially amusing to read or interact with.

➖ Some of these NINJA associations seemed only vaguely relevant. It was almost as if anything Asian was also somehow “ninja.”

➕ There was a lot of puzzle content, in different styles, which we enjoyed.

➖ Some of the more traditional escape room-style puzzles lacked clarity. There were opportunities to refine the cluing, which was at times ambiguous.

➕ NINJA shined in its physical interactions. We tackled many unusual dexterity challenges. We enjoyed being the ninjas – shooting, punching, tossing, and throwing our way to puzzle solves.

➖ The engineering in NINJA was sloppy. The tolerances on the tech were too tight, which made everything feel finicky. We frequently solved puzzles correctly, but did not receive feedback from the solve.

➕/➖ Parts of the set looked great. In these places, Escape Artists minded the details and added finish. Parts of the set looked hacked together, messy, and unrefined. Even in the low lighting, we could see the seams.

➖ The last gamespace felt especially underdesigned, as if Escape Artists had run out of time or budget.

➕ Escape Artists crafted some most excellent doors within NINJA. We’re always fans of unusual doors; we greatly enjoyed this reveal.

➕ There was one written passage that when read out loud made our jaws drop… before the laughter set in.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking nearby.
  • NINJA is located at Escape Artists’ Orlando location, not their Sanford location.
  • Be advised that NINJA takes place in low light.

Book your hour with Escape Artists’ NINJA, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Artists comped our tickets for this game.

Mind Masters – Strange Magic [Review]

Pulling a solution out of a hat

Location:  Clermont, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32.10 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Strange Magic was a delightful blend of puzzle design, technology, and set design. Everything came together beautifully in a compact but mighty package.

What made Mind Masters’ inaugural game so fantastic was the stage-magic quality of the interactions.

Additionally, some of the technology was so slick that it’s hard to comprehend how great it is… which really is how tech ought to function.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend finding your way to this company. It’s rare to see such a polished first outing from a rookie escape room business. I have a feeling that we’re going to see more great things from them.

In-game: Closeup of the magician's hat.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Great thematic puzzling
  • A fun setting
  • Brilliant and subtle magical tech

Story

In the heart of America, the magician in a traveling circus was using real sorcery to feed on the life force of his audience.

We time traveled into his tent during his hour-long performance to disrupt his sinister magic.

In-game: A magical prop, a box with constellations painted on it, slits cut in it, and a knife embedded in one of the slits.

Setting

Strange Magic packed a ton of might into a compact space. The room felt like it was inside of a circus tent, with all of the right detailing in the vaulted ceiling. That level of detail followed all the way down through the props and to the floor.

Everything was focused on circus magic.

In-game: The vaulted ceiling of the circus tent.

The set was well lit and an easy setting to enjoy.

Additionally, Mind Masters’ overall narrative for all of their games focused on time traveling, and their use of a time machine as the doorway/ hint delivery system/ storage for the team’s gear was inspired.

Gameplay

Mind Masters’ Strange Magic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: wide view of the citcus tent, a magician's hat on a table, crates lay about.

Analysis

➕ In Strange Magic, the opens felt magical. Mind Masters embedded technology to make us feel like magicians. It worked smoothly and invisibly.

➕ Strange Magic was designed from floor to ceiling. Mind Masters built a space that hearkened back to the Golden Age of Magic.

➕ Mind Masters did some really smart 3D printing work.

➖ Some of the cluing was just a bit too subtle. Thematic, absolutely. Beyond reasonable perception, also yes.

In-game: The time travel machine/ hint system.

➕ Narratively, Mind Masters justified anything that didn’t fit through their time-travel portal. This enabled them to use escape room essentials elegantly.

➖ While most of the tech worked brilliantly and thoughtfully, there was an opportunity for Mind Masters to improve this game by disabling double inputs.

➕ The puzzles flow worked well and many had layered solves. Although the space was smaller, there were enough puzzles open at any one time, spread out across the space, that we didn’t feel cramped and everyone could be involved.

➖ The final sequence was bumpy. Although we’d taken the right action, we didn’t get strong feedback from the game and began to second guess ourselves. Nothing clued us that this interaction required patience. While waiting can add drama, in the case of this puzzle, the slow pace of the prop’s response detracted from an otherwise impressive ending.

➕ The technology in Strange Magic ran far deeper than we understood while playing. At the end of the game, Mind Masters gave us a score, determined by their automated system.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Mind Masters’ Strange Magic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mind Masters provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Goat – The Quest [Review]

Rolled a natural 20

Location:  Winter Garden, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape Goat’s The Quest channeled a Dungeons & Dragons campaign to breathe life into a high fantasy world where a dragon needed defeating. I love this theme and I truly enjoyed Escape Goat’s execution of the concept.

The puzzles felt chunky and tangible. The challenges were thematic. The world had personality… and that last piece seems like Escape Goat’s superpower. They imbue simple things with life and charm that far exceeds what you’d expect.

If you’re near Orlando, I highly recommend visiting Escape Goat and rolling the dice with The Quest.

In-game: The mounted head of a dragon.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Dungeons & Dragons fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A delightful D&D-esque story and setting
  • Fun tangible puzzles
  • Loads of charm – this game has high charisma

Story

The village of Oakenshire had been living under the threat of a great Garzon dragon. We set out on a quest for the knowledge or weapons needed to save the town.

In-game: Wide view of the Quest's set, a wizard's study.

Setting

The Quest looked very Dungeons & Dragons. I can hear a dungeon master describing this wizard’s laboratory filled with books, potions, magical ingredients, and enchanted weapons.

It had a great look and feel about it with the occasional modern combination lock being the only overtly out of place item in the space.

In-game: Closeup of a wizard's potion desk.

Gameplay

Escape Goat’s The Quest was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A book of magical creatures.

Analysis

➕ Escape Goat used voice-over narration and an in-character gamemaster to set the scene and emphasize their fantasy Dungeons & Dragons-esque world. These helped us connect to our role as adventurers.

➕ The set, props, and technology supported the fantasy world. The gamespace looked good and the technology felt magical. Escape Goat used all these tools to enhance the gamespace.

➕ There was a lot of content in The Quest, but the gameplay flowed well and the volume of puzzles never felt overwhelming. Many of the puzzles had layered solutions. They were placed in different tracks and gated in a manner that kept things organized and approachable.

➖ While most of the puzzles solved cleanly, The Quest presented a few opportunities for additional tweaking. One puzzle seemed to solve primarily through trial and error. In another, the cluing wasn’t clear enough within the props themselves. Additionally, the game bottlenecked slightly in one area of the room where a lot of gameplay was crammed into a small space.

➕ The puzzles varied enormously and required different types of thinking. We especially enjoyed the inclusion of a Survivor-style puzzle.

➖ There was a lot of reading in The Quest. Given the other types of storytelling built into this game, there would be an opportunity to incorporate the lengthy written story or cluing into other mediums.

➕/➖ One late-game puzzle required us to wait on a prop to complete an action, which was neat, and belonged in the world, but could easily be frustrating, considering there were no other actions available to us at this point. It would have been excruciating to lose during this segment.

The Quest concluded with a well-designed decision. Our options all felt appropriate and triumphant.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escape Goat’s The Quest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Goat comped our tickets for this game.

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Red Sled Redemption [Review]

When Santa crashed into New Joysey

Location:  Kissimmee, FL

Date Played: November 18, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Red Sled Redemption was the most genius inexpensive and small escape room build that we’ve ever seen.

In-game: Wide view of the sleigh repair shop with Santa's red sled in the middle.

It was small. 70% of the props were repurposed toys. We have to imagine that every escape room creator who plays it will walk out wondering why they didn’t build this game… and the answer to why they didn’t build it is because they aren’t Doldrick’s.

A unique blend of humor, storytelling, and craft goes into Doldrick’s productions… and it’s topped off with a dollop of insanity. They are making magic over there. In this case, it was Christmas magic.

If you’ve ever uttered “I hate single room games” or “I need more than a traditional puzzley escape room” go try Red Sled Redemption to see what this looks like at the top of the craft. Is this game as intense, innovative, or over-the-top as Captain Spoopy Bones or Super Bombsquad (review coming soon)? No, but that’s a high bar. Is it a fantastic escape room? Absolutely.

If you’re anywhere near Orlando, Doldrick’s Escape Room is a must visit escape room company. As far as we’re concerned, if they’ve made it, you should play it. 3 games in, they’ve earned our trust.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • It was equal parts adorable and hilarious
  • A fantastic take on the classic escape room format

Story

It was Christmas Eve and Santa had crash landed his sleigh into the The Holly Jolly Holiday Hubcap Repair.

We had to help Richie and Mikey, the world’s worst sleigh repair elves, get the big man airborne in time for him to complete his deliveries.

In-game: a red pegboard with green toy tools hanging from it.

Setting

Red Sled Redemption was set within an auto sleigh repair shop run by lazy elves on Christmas Eve. The tools were toys… because of course the tools were toys.

Everything about the set was deliberate, silly, and spot-on.

This was a small single-room, old-school escape game done right. It had intrigue, character, and surprise born of the props.

In-game: A toy gas pump painted like a cow.

Gameplay

Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Red Sled Redemption 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 golden raindeer hood ornament.

Analysis

 Red Sled Redemption was jovial, whimsical, and fun. It was ridiculous, and we jingled and laughed all the way.

➕ The intro video was bonkers and set the tone for the experience. We were fully engaged from the moment the video started.

➕ Doldrick’s Escape Room repurposed plastic toys into escape room props. They modified the toys, integrating tech and fitting them into a playful repair shop aesthetic. While the build materials were inexpensive, the overall experience was high quality.

In-game: a toy workbench.

➕ The gameplay flowed well. Although there were a lot of puzzles within a small physical footprint, the signposting kept us on track.

➖ One puzzle had us spinning around, struggling against a little too much precision.

Red Sled Redemption included many layered solves that required coordinated teamwork. One was especially scrumptious. Another jacked up our excitement. Doldrick’s Escape Rooms got a lot of mileage out of their main set piece, as we continued to unwrap fun interactions.

➖ The workshop lighting made it hard to read small fonts. We struggled when tight areas of the set were especially dim. Stringing up a few more lights would add more holiday cheer and improve the usability of the space.

➕ One of the toy-based puzzles was an impressive feat of engineering. We’d love to know how they made it work consistently.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • At least one player needs to be relatively agile.

Book your hour with Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Red Sled Redemption, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doldrick’s Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Captain Spoopy Bones [Review]

And The Magnificent Quest For Some Other Pirate’s Treasure

Location:  Kissimmee, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

Team size: 2-12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: $39.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Captain Spoopy Bones at Doldrick’s Escape Room in Orlando has been the most requested review of 2019… and it lived up to the hype.

Captain Spoopy Bones was a riot. If you don’t laugh during the opening video, you’re dead inside. Consult a doctor.

In-game: the brig inside of a wooden ship.

The gameplay, set, and tech were refined and fantastic. Interestingly, from a gameplay standpoint, a few of the puzzles weren’t anything special… but the execution of those puzzles made them feel mighty.

And the ending was a ball.

Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but if you’re in Orlando, Doldrick’s should be in the mix with your visit to Disney and Universal. I’d encourage you to play all of their games, but if you only have time for one, make it Captain Spoopy Bones.

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?

  • Clean execution of escape room gameplay
  • An exciting reveal
  • The humor… especially in the intro video
  • Highly polished

Story

Our comically cursed leader Captain Spoopy Bones needed help on his magnificent quest for some other pirate’s treasure.

In-game: The ceiling of a ship. A lantern hangs above cargo nets.

Setting

Our adventure began within the brig of a cursed pirate ship. Our dearly departed and then delightfully undead Captain Spoopy Bones introduced us to our situation with hilarity… and then we were off to escape our cells and explore the old ship.

The ship was quite elegant. As things progressed, they also escalated in wonderful and childish ways.

This was one of those sets where I stopped puzzling at one point and just walked around taking everything in.

In-game: The wooden interior of a ship, a large barrel in the middle of the shot.

Gameplay

Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Captain Spoopy Bones was a standard escape room with a split team beginning and a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The introduction was amazing. Captain Spoopy Bones was a strong and an entertaining character. It set quite the tone.

➕ The story of Captain Spoopy Bones was ridiculous, funny, and charming. Doldrick’s Escape Room combined the typical “jail cell” with the popular “pirate ship”… and then layered on comedy to chart an unusual course to a different adventure.

➕ There was a ton of content in Captain Spoopy Bones. With our team of 4 players, we were solving with all hands on deck. We needed to be observant and communicative to tackle the majority of the puzzles. When we did this, it was smooth sailing through solves.

➖/➕ Although the puzzles were funny, thematic, and enjoyable, there was room to make them more story-driven. Many of them didn’t have any narrative elements. That said, given the cheeky tone, the gameplay didn’t feel like puzzles for puzzles’ sake. It felt like a part of Captain Spoopy Bones’ odd world. We frequently got a chuckle out of how things came together.

➕ Doldrick’s Escape Room used a lot of common puzzle types and props. The artistry was in their execution. One early puzzle was a type that we’ve long hated every other time that we’ve seen it, but Doldrick’s managed to make it fun. In another instance they took a pretty tired concept and executed it so perfectly that it was like it was the first time that we were seeing it.

➖ We struggled with the UI for one more explosive puzzle. Additional feedback should clarify function. Another modification to the tech would improve solution input.

Captain Spoopy Bones had an impressive late-game reveal that added energy and set up the exciting finale.

➕ The difficulty curve worked well, culminating in a fantastic conclusion.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Captain Spoopy Bones, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doldrick’s Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.