NorCal Escape Co – Escape Truck [Review]

Cons and Pros

Location:  Yuba City, CA

Date Played: November 14, 2021

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

Duration: 41 minutes

Price: $100 for 2 players, $120 for 3-4 players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [B] Mechanical Release

REA Reaction

The 41-minute-long Escape Truck packed an impressive amount of gameplay into a tiny space.

When approaching a mobile escape room, I look for a game that utilizes clever workarounds to compensate for a compact set and that tells a story appropriate for the mobile vehicle format. Escape Truck checked both of these boxes.

The premise was straightforward: we were convicts being transported to a new facility, and we had a brief window to escape after our truck crashed. When we were first led onto the truck, it felt wholly convincing as a prisoner transport vehicle. We were led to understand our roles in the story before we went on to discover the layers of secrets concealed in this environment.

The gameplay in Escape Truck was subtle yet exciting. A split-team start helped move players around the space efficiently and largely avoided single-player bottleneck puzzles. Escape Truck would be a great introduction to escape rooms for players new to the medium, and with a solid smattering of sneaky little reveals, it would be equally enjoyable for more seasoned enthusiasts.

Note: We played the 41-minute version of the Escape Truck. NorCal Escape Co also offers a different 15-minute version of the game for events, which features an entirely set of puzzles.

Unlocked handcuffs hanging from a metal bar.
Image via NorCal Escape Co
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NorCal Escape Co – Fox Tail Saloon [Review]

Where’s my gold…en lager?

Location:  Yuba City, CA

Date Played: November 14, 2021

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $120 for 4 players to $160 for 8 players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Crawling (for at least 1 player)

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

NorCal Escape Co struck gold with Fox Tail Saloon. This 45-minute beginner-friendly room stood out for its compelling set, slick design aesthetic, and environmentally-appropriate puzzling.

Moreover, the story in Fox Tail Saloon — the search for Billy the Kid’s hidden gold — so wonderfully tied into local history. Yuba City is in the heart of the “Sierra Nevada Goldfields” and is steeped in mid-1800s California gold rush culture. I love when escape rooms pull inspiration from local history, and it’s not a far stretch to imagine this saloon fitting right into this region 150 years ago.

Fox Tail Saloon included a distinctive approach to search-centric gameplay. In many escape rooms, searching can feel arbitrary or out of place for the set. In Fox Tail Saloon, the searching was naturally incorporated into the environment in such a way that I’d totally believe Billy the Kid hid these clues himself. Each time we found something, it felt intentional and loosely supported the story.

The puzzle sequence was parallelizable and felt quite light overall. With a fairly low puzzle count, much of the game was spent wandering around the space until one player discovered something. That said, this game was more about interacting in a cool historic environment than tearing through a large quantity of puzzles.

Closeup of two drink coins for the Fox Tail Saloon beside a 6 shooter.
Image via NorCal Escape Co

NorCal Escape Co has gained the most recognition for CONDEMNED2: The Box, but in my opinion, Fox Tail Saloon is equally worth a play. This game would be a delightful introduction to escape rooms for beginners, and its elegant aesthetic would also be of interest to more experienced players.

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Montreal, Canada: Escape Room Recommendations

Latest update: December 28, 2021

Montreal is an artsy escape room market. In this city you’ll find a range of games: expansive sets, thought-provoking stories, unusual themes, and quirky mechanics. In general, these games pack a substantial amount of puzzle content. However, whatever style of games you prefer, we expect you’ll find something you really love playing in Montreal.

The best escape games in Montreal are not downtown. You’ll have to travel about 30 minutes northwest to the suburbs of Laval, Boisbriand, and Blainville. We also recommend taking a day to visit a single company in the lovely town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which is about 45 minutes southeast.

Image: Montreal bio dome. Text: "Montreal Escape Room Guide"

Market Standouts

In October 2021, we brought our Escape Immerse Explore tour Montreal. The top ranked games in this recommendations guide were ranked as such by the 60 escape room players in attendance.

  1. The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, Escaparium (Laval)
  2. Wardrobe for Sale, Escaparium (Laval)
  3. The Grand Immersia Hotel, Immersia (Boisbriand)
  4. RAIN Corp, Escaparium (Laval)
  5. Salutem Medicina Institute, Immersia (Boisbriand)
  6. Falderon Forest, Sauve Qui Peut (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu)

Set & Scenery Driven

Tells a Story

Puzzle Centric

The best games in Montreal are all puzzle-driven games. Any game on this list offers ample puzzles.

Two games stand out for their focus on puzzles:

Tech Heavy

Newbie & Family Friendly

Something Different

Enchambered – Containment Breach [Review]

Concrete, steel, and puzzles.

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Containment Breach was Enchambered’s first foray into escape rooms. It was a strong initial outing.

A solid, fairly traditional puzzle game, Containment Breach offered some good group solves in a detailed but dim set. The lighting was especially low, and we couldn’t really do anything without a flashlight… which grew old.

In-game: a large piece of metal machinery in a heavily worn concrete bunker.

Since creating this game, Enchambered has produced some truly outstanding experiences in The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch. Those games are the reason to visit Enchambered. Containment Breach, by comparison, was an optional add-on.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A detailed set
  • Some interesting puzzles and interactions

Story

Decades ago, Doctor Henry Rosenburg had built a device that instantly teleported matter. During his first attempt at demonstrating his creation, it had malfunctioned and Rosenburg had disappeared after the ensuing radiation leak rendered his lab uninhabitable.

Now that the radiation levels had dropped to tolerable levels, we went in to investigate what had happened.

In-game: A PA mounted near the ceiling of the bunker. There's a sign warning of surveillance.

Setting 

Enchambered’s first escape game was a bunker.

The dimly lit set was filled with the kind of texture and weathering details that showed the environment was created by someone who cared.

In-game: closeup of a desk with strange schematics beside a large piece of equipment

Gameplay

Enchambered’s Containment Breach was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large, weathered, yellow metal door with a strange locking mechanism.

Analysis

➕ The dim, detailed, and weathered set looked like a convincing lab/ bunker hybrid.

➖ We spent a lot of time searching in low light. It was annoying to play the entire game with a flashlight in hand.

➕ The props felt bulky and real. The gameplay was tangible. It frequently encouraged collaborative solves.

➖ There were tons of papers that we didn’t need and would likely be needless red herrings to less experienced players.

➕ In one instance, Containment Breach taught use how to use a prop through the gameplay. In a game with solid, yet standard puzzle play, this puzzle was especially well thought out so that players would build mastery and have a sense of accomplishment.

➖ All solves led to a 4-digit lock. There were a lot of locks and they weren’t correlated to the puzzles. We ended up trying every derived code in lots of places, which slowed momentum, especially early on.

➖ While there clearly was a story, we struggled to follow it. The story got lost amid puzzles.

➕ We particularly enjoyed the solves that required teamwork.

➕ We truly respect Enchambered’s tiered pricing. Containment Breach was their oldest game, and tickets for it were less expensive than tickets for their newer games. This improved the value of the experience. More escape room companies should adopt this approach to pricing.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s Containment Breach , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Enchambered – The Whispering Halls [Review]

The Haunted Mansion

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

From the theme to their approach to set design and construction, Enchambered’s Disney influences were on display in The Whispering Halls.

As with The Legend of the Skull Witch we were thrilled by The Whispering Halls. While there were some opportunities for additional refinement and drama, overall this was a high quality escape game.

If you’re anywhere near Sacramento, we highly recommend The Whispering Halls. If you’re looking to choose between The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch, you can’t really go wrong… so flip a coin, or better yet, play both.

In-game: an ominous metal door knocker.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Ambiance born of a detailed set
  • Puzzle progression
  • Interaction design
  • Density of content

Story

The caretaker of an old Victorian manor had hired us to investigate paranormal happenings within the home that he was charged with maintaining.

In-game: a bookcase

Setting

Creepy but never terrifying, The Whispering Halls was beautiful and filled with subtle homages to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, but never felt like it was ripping off the famous haunted house. Enchambered used time-tested techniques to make the space feel both haunted and larger than it actually was.

In-game: glowing candles mounted to a red wall.

Gameplay

Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Whispering Halls was an enchanting space. Enchambered built vertically, affording them space to add details without red herrings and an expanse without barren space. It was deliberately designed and atmospheric, setting the tone for an exciting escape room.

➕ Enchambered used a variety of effects to create exciting moments inside The Whispering Halls.

➖ The gamespace showed a bit of wear and not all the wiring was completely hidden.

➕ Enchambered built interesting puzzles into unusual interactions. These were a ton of fun.

➖ One puzzle had an overly tight tolerance.

➕/➖ Enchambered provided a step to help shorter players participate in higher puzzles. It would have been helpful to affix this to the floor, or label it, so that it wouldn’t be confused as a puzzle component.

➕ The puzzles flowed well. We could see the different puzzle paths emerging and build mastery of the room as we played. This made similar solves – and even multiple locks with the same digit structure – less arduous. It also built up anticipation for opens.

➖ One moment of individual isolation could have really shined, but felt underwhelming.

➕ Your ticket to The Whispering Halls buy a lot. As this escape room revealed its secrets, it also unveiled more densely packed puzzle content. There was a lot of game within these walls.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s The Whispering Halls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

… when you come out to San Fransisco this June for Escape, Immerse, Explore: The Palace. Enchambered would make a lovely day trip add-on to your time in California. Today is the last day to book tickets to our Palace Games tour. Don’t miss your chance!

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.