Philadelphia, PA: Room Escape Recommendations

Latest Update: December 28, 2017

Philadelphia. So close to our home, yet too far for quick trips… which is a shame because there’s quite a few interesting escape rooms in the greater Philly area. Here are a few of our favorites broken out by category.

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge lit up at night.

 

Market standouts

If you only have time for a few games, play these:

  1. Escape Thai Prison, MindEscape
  2. Escape the 1980s, Steel Owl Room Adventures
  3. The Egyptian Tomb, Escape Room Mystery
  4. Intergalactic Escape, The Franklin Institute
  5. Escape The Hydeout, Mission Escape Games (played and reviewed in New York City)

Historical games

Call it a regional quirk: Philly has a lot of historical games. 

Set & scenery-driven adventures

Puzzle-centric

Newbie-friendly

You are always welcome to contact us if this recommendation list doesn’t answer your specific questions.

Escape Room Challenge – Special Agent [Review]

One day, we’re going to investigate someone for espionage and they will be innocent.

Location: Evesham Township, New Jersey

Date played: June 23, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

While investigating a Soviet agent’s home, we became locked in and had an hour to dig up his secrets and work our way out.

Special Agent put us into a Cold War-era personal office/ study environment. It looked solid, but lacked drama.

In-game: A typewriter on a desk in the foreground. A large wooden bookcase in the background.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Special Agent simply wasn’t all that… special. We found ourselves relying heavily upon our knowledge of how escape rooms work in order to make the last leaps we needed to earn solves.

Standouts

There were a couple of tangible and satisfying puzzles.

The staff was attentive and clearly watching our play through closely.

Shortcomings

Some of the puzzles were ambiguous and the gamemaster even knew this. In one instance, we derived a handful of numbers with no indication of what to do with them. Another significant interaction had a few layers to it, but little to no direction to go along with it. I hope that Escape Room Challenge considers revising their clue structure for a number of the puzzles in Special Agent.

Some of the more interesting interactions didn’t have the proper effect because we didn’t know that we had triggered something, or if we did realize that we triggered a thing… we didn’t know what we had done.

The audio track that played ambient noise also produced tones that sounded like a hint being delivered. This quickly became annoying and concentration-breaking.

Special Agent lacked excitement.

Should I play Escape Room Challenge’s Special Agent?

Special Agent didn’t have much of a story arc. We entered a room, solved puzzles, and escaped.

The escape room looked like it was built with love, but the puzzles felt incomplete and the interactions felt disconnected. There wasn’t the drama that a Cold War spy thriller is supposed to have.

Special Agent is a playable game, but if you’re visiting Escape Room Challenge, I strongly encourage you to brave their Egyptian Tomb. It’s a better, more beautiful, more exciting experience.

Book your hour with Escape Room Challenge’s Special Agent, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Challenge provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Mystery – The Laboratory [Review]

Experimental storytelling.

Location: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 24, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

It was our first day as lab assistants for our new boss, a mysterious Dr. Heisenburg… He had special plans for us. What could possibly go wrong?

Escape Room Mystery’s The Laboratory was as advertised: a sterile lab environment with the assorted props and trappings that one typically expects from such a theme.

In-game: A box displaying a skelaton in the middle of a white lab.

Puzzles

The Laboratory was a puzzle-centric room escape with a broad mixture of puzzles and plenty to accomplish. Only a few of the puzzles were truly memorable, but the memorable ones were pretty entertaining.

Standouts

The Laboratory began as a standard lab escape room and then ratcheted up the intensity of both the game and the puzzling at the halfway mark. The second act of The Laboratory was fantastic.

Escape Room Mystery included a common, and usually flawed, lab escape room interaction, but used components and design that made it work well where most have failed.

Shortcomings

In one strange instance, Escape Room Mystery straight up provided the solution to a significant puzzle in-game. A less heavy-handed approach to clueing would have made this puzzle a lot more satisfying.

One prop was overused. One of the puzzles associated with the prop was not on par with the rest of the puzzles in The Laboratory.

The introduction to The Laboratory seemed like it was setting up the escape room around a cartoonish, evil Nazi doctor. The whole intro was strangely glib, given its subject matter. Then that story, as well as the character, disappeared as soon as the game-clock began counting down. This intro was strange and unnecessary.

Should I play Escape Room Mystery’s The Laboratory?

Escape Room Mystery’s The Laboratory surprised our team in a number of ways. It started off seeming like it might be a pretty mundane game and then escalated out of nowhere into something far more intense and interesting.

My initial reaction was wrong. There’s something compelling going on in The Laboratory.

Less experienced players will find a solid adventure with a challenging puzzle set.

Escape room veterans who play for the puzzles and teamwork should give The Laboratory a shot. It took a few puzzles to find itself, but once it did, it executed a lot of things well that most escape room companies do poorly.

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

Full disclosure: Escape Room Mystery comped our tickets for this game.

Philadelphia Room Escape – Escape From Alcatraz [Review]

At least there weren’t sharks.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 25, 2017

Team size: 6-14

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28-30 per ticket

Story & setting

Following in the footsteps of Robert Stroud, also known as “Birdman of Alcatraz,” we were attempting to escape the famous prison by uncovering his escape plan.

Philadelphia Room Escape’s Escape From Alcatraz was a metaphorical prison escape at best. The room was a strange mix of worn used furniture and unusual wallpaper designs.

In-game: A wooden jail cell painted black with a wallpaper print of of a jail cell behind it.
Yes, that is giant jail cell-print wallpaper. Put it on your Christmas list now so that you don’t forget it come December.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Escape From Alcatraz was bumpy and built around searching a gamespace that was larger than it should have been. Additionally, Escape From Alcatraz contained trivia with no references in the room escape and decipherments that require guesswork.

Standouts

Our gamemaster was kind and made a very funny joke during his introduction to the game.

Shortcomings

The set was incredibly unappealing, beat to hell, and covered in splinters. When I moved a piece of furniture (which was a necessary action), it turned out that it was propped up on one of its legs and the thing fell on me. I’m fine… but wow.

The puzzling wasn’t fun. It involved too much searching, paper-based puzzles, outside knowledge, and guessing.

Should I play Philadelphia Room Escape’s Escape From Alcatraz?

There are flawed room escapes that need some editing and rethinking, but could work. Escape From Alcatraz was not one of those games.

Skip Escape From Alcatraz.

Full disclosure: Philadelphia Room Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape West Chester – Detention [Review]

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”—Bender, The Breakfast Club

Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 24, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Story & setting

We were held in detention for an hour in Escape West Chester’s Breakfast Club-inspired 1980s classroom.

Detention had the look of a classroom complete with lockers, fliptop desks, and a chalkboard.

In-game: Close up of a school desk with a sticker on it that says, "Don't you forget about me."

Puzzles

Detention’s puzzling was chaotic; it was difficult to find the thread of gameplay. Whenever we thought we had a handle on which components connected or the order in which we should attempt to solve something, we were generally incorrect.

Standouts

There were some fun puzzles for logophiles (word lovers, but you probably already know this if you are one).

Detention was an ode to The Breakfast Club. It was a cute theme that felt right in the space.

The set looked like a classroom.

Shortcomings

A straight classroom without a twist wasn’t an environment that instilled a sense of adventure.

While Detention felt inspired by The Breakfast Club, that source material was nodded to in staging, but didn’t drive the puzzles. This created a lot of red herrings that we continually stumbled upon: details in the props that seemed important, but turned to out to be nothing.

Detention had a lot of gating problems: we regularly had access to portions of many puzzles without any indication of what we ought to work on.

This issue was compounded by seemingly arbitrary connections – ones that existed and ones that didn’t – and occasionally receiving clues to puzzles we’d already solved.

Should I play Escape West Chester’s Detention?

Detention was a lighthearted staging of that room in the school where nobody wants to go. The nods to The Breakfast Club added a bit of intrigue to an otherwise bland environment.

In some ways, this was an escape room for beginners. It lacked the set design or theme and puzzle integration that more experienced players have come to expect.

That said, this escape room would be especially frustrating for beginners because much of the challenge stems from tenuous connections rather than difficult puzzling. I cannot imagine most teams making it through without a lot of hint assistance.

As a result of all of this, I don’t really know who Detention is for. Experienced players could handle the level of challenge, but won’t love this room escape. Inexperienced players are likely to be playing this room escape, but it must be a bumpy experience for them.

I hope that Escape West Chester can continue to improve their games and integrate their inspirations into the puzzles to build a local attraction that is entertaining and sustainably competitive.

Full disclosure: Escape West Chester provided media discounted tickets for this game.