Puzzle Room Pittsburgh – The Study [Review]

Reading Between the Lines

Location:  Pittsburgh, PA

Date Played: July 2, 2021

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Stairs, although not necessary for all

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

With a room named The Study, I was fully-prepared to search for puzzle codes given a chapter and page number, to arrange encyclopedias in order on a shelf, or a dozen other consistently-used puzzle formats in a library setting. Instead, we found that Puzzle Room Pittsburgh cleverly sidestepped stereotypical thematic puzzles while introducing unique tech interactions throughout the space.   

An old typewriter in the foreground, a beautiful bookcase wall in the background.

Of particular interest was the layered manner in which puzzles were assembled, allowing us to unpack the storyline from multiple viewpoints in the room. The pacing of gameplay appropriately escalated as we progressed, with one particularly delightful reveal awaiting us at the finale.

Although the room took advantage of non-standard locking mechanisms, enhanced audible or visual feedback would be welcome – we had to search for what had changed within the space after a few successful solves.

The Study was a solid escape room and certainly worth the trip if you are in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Puzzle lovers
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Captured LV Allentown – Murder of 89 [Review]

Retro Inspection

Location:  Allentown, PA

Date Played: June 25, 2021

Team Size: 2-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I may be a 90s kid, but I still enjoy a good adventure back to the 80s. Murder of 89 began with an intriguing narrative premise: murder victim Roxy Warner suspected her life was in danger and, as an aspiring journalist, hid the secret evidence she’d uncovered behind an intricate sequence of puzzles in her bedroom. In order to fully win the game, we needed to not just solve all these puzzles but also identify the correct murderer and murder weapon.

A teen girl's bedroom in the 1980s, posters from various movies and bands cover the walls.

This game was all about the puzzles, hidden throughout various decor and toys you’d expect to find in an 80s teenager’s bedroom. There was a nice variety of puzzle types, and I particularly enjoyed a few puzzles which creatively utilized found objects. The room had lots of padlocks and minimal tech, though this made sense diegetically (and I loved that the story-within-a-story is that Roxy basically built a gen 1 escape room to hide her stuff!). The puzzle sequence felt a bit structurally aimless at times — especially since the game is fully contained in a small, static space — but a light meta element and incrementally revealed evidence about the suspects helped keep things anchored. While the set and props were fairly well maintained overall, I was disappointed to find an enticing ghost puzzle on a prop that shouldn’t be too difficult to modify or replace.

Murder of 89 did an admirable job of worldbuilding, conveyed with just the right amount of reading. It felt a bit like a physical embodiment of a tabletop murder investigation game. I’d hoped the evidence we’d accumulated throughout the investigation — compelling motives and purported alibis for our top 3 suspects — would get used for some final step of deduction, but the final puzzle, though fun and thematic, ended up being more of a straightforward puzzle. Nonetheless, this is a fun game for a lean team of enthusiasts or a slightly larger team of newer players.

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Expedition Escape – The List [Review]

Christmas in June

Location:  Montgomeryville, PA

Date Played: June 13, 2021

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

It’s never too early to revel in some Christmas cheer. If you’re eagerly looking toward December and have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, The List is a good room for you.

Elf workshop with the back of a train caboose.

I would describe The List as a room that has a lot of potential, delivering a few cool moments while falling short in others. Minor refinements to the scenery and gameplay could go a long way to improving the overall experience. For those who haven’t played many (or any) games since early 2020, The List would be a great way to ease back in and brush up on your escape room skills.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas fans
  • Players with some experience
  • Strong searchers
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Expedition Escape – The Candy Shop [Review]

Sweet & Puzzley

Location:  Montgomeryville, PA

Date Played: June 13, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Candy Shop was the kind of escape game that immediately drew me in, put a smile on my face, and kept it there the entire time.

The set was bright, playful, and full of joy.

A checkout counter in a candy shop.

The gameplay was traditional and puzzle-focused, but generally well executed, with some novel interactions. That said, there was one low point in this game, and it was a singular puzzle that dominated most of the play time for one player. While the team loved this game, the person who spent most of their time solving this puzzle wished that they had picked up something else in the opening minutes of the game.

An interesting thing happened to us in The Candy Shop: we unintentionally set a record, completing this game in about 23 minutes. I don’t normally mention record-setting, but in this instance, no one on the team felt like we had only spent a third of our allotted time in the game. In spite of blazing through this, we all felt like we had gotten our time’s worth out of this experience. It was a fun game and we truly enjoyed playing it.

This was the kind of traditional escape room that made us love escape rooms. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, venture out into the suburbs for The Candy Shop.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A delightful theme
  • Puzzle-focused gameplay
  • The set feels happy

Story

Our chocolatier grandfather was searching for an heir to his candy shop. We may have been his favorite grandchildren, but we still had to prove ourselves by solving the puzzles he’d hidden in the shop and uncovering his secret recipe.

A line of barrels filled with candy.
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Olde City Escape Games – A Quest for Freedom [Review]

“Escape rooms are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

Location:  Philadelphia, PA

Date Played: June 13, 2021

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A Quest for Freedom is Olde City Escape Games’ original experience. It’s a good, traditional escape room set against a fantastic theme.

Escape room fans who have visited Philly over the past few years have consistently told us, “You have to go to Olde City to play Midnighters.” While I agree, Midnighters is great fun, I feel like A Quest for Freedom deserves some love.

Closeup of Ben Franklin's writing desk.

With a venue a few blocks from the Liberty Bell, a game themed around Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution is as sensible as it is obligatory… and Olde City did a great job with the concept. It looks the part, has a unique character, and played well.

From a gameplay perspective, A Quest for Freedom was especially non-linear with many puzzle paths opening up more or less at once. This made it a little challenging to figure out where an individual thread of gameplay began, but it was always clear when it had concluded.

There were a few puzzles that felt like they could have been a bit more refined, but overall, this was a strong experience, especially for the region. If you’re near Philadelphia, Olde City Escape Games is a must-visit and I recommend playing everything they have to offer, not just Midnighters.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • An elegant 18th century set
  • Puzzle-focused play with good variety
  • Thematically fits with the character of Philadelphia and the neighborhood that Olde City Escape Games occupies

Story

It was 1776 and Benjamin Franklin had just been appointed ambassador to France. As he embarked on a mission to secure a $10 million loan from France to fund the rebellion, Franklin sought our help. We had to search his office and print shop to help him assemble his argument with 7 American Reasons.

Ben Franklin's secret print shop.
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