Castle of Chaos – The Serial Killer [Review]

I kind of wish we didn’t win this one.

Location: Midvale, UT

Date Played: January 7, 2018

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Serial Killer was all about the gritty and grungy vibe. The gamemaster played a role and losing promised to deliver an intense conclusion. From a gameplay standpoint, this was a beginner game. Castle of Chaos put the focus on searching for items and information rather than puzzling. This wasn’t really our style of play, but we enjoyed it more than most search-centric escape rooms.

Who is this for?

  • Searchers and scavengers
  • Thrill seekers
  • Haunt hunters
  • Best for beginners

Why play?

  • Good creep-factor
  • Thrilling actor / gamemaster interactions

Story

With bags over our heads, we were handcuffed in a grungy murder basement. Could we save ourselves before the killer returned and hacked us to pieces and added our trophies to her ever-growing collection? #Feminism

In-game: chains hanging in a dark room with newspaper-overed windows. A mannequin arm dangles.

Setting

The murder basement was dark and gritty. It was unpleasant by design with a construction-site-meets-basement- meets-SAW vibe.

The low lighting made searching a bit challenging.

Gameplay

The gameplay was search-centric. We needed to uncover small details in a large space. Only one puzzle had substantial cerebral depth, but it was a big puzzle that also carried the narrative.

A blue lit wall with missing drywall revealing wood.

Standouts

Our gamemaster was a character in The Serial Killer. Despite her off-stage role, she communicated with us in character. We had fun with this.

While the grungy and creepy set was minimalistic, it captured the appropriate mood.

The most critical puzzle was positioned mid-game, ensuring that even losing teams understood the story. This was a smart decision.

We’re pretty sure that the ending would have been awesome if we had lost.

Shortcomings

The Serial Killer was more about searching than solving puzzles. I wish that Castle of Chaos had provided a few more puzzles to chew on.

Castle of Chaos needed to replace an $8 lock that had seen better days. We weren’t going to exert the amount of force required to open it in its worn condition.

The Serial Killer would have been more exciting if we’d lost. Castle of Chaos only really designed one ending. Thus our escape was anticlimactic.

Tips for Visiting

  • It would have been more fun to lose.
  • Portions of this game will be challenging if you struggle to see in low light.
  • You will be handcuffed.
  • Castle of Chaos had plenty of parking.
  • There were dining options in the area.

Book your hour with Castle of Chaos’ The Serial Killer, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Escape Room Park City – Mine Trap [Review]

There’s something precious in this mine.

Location: Park City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $37 per ticket

REA Reaction

Mine Trap started off strongly and escalated to an explosive conclusion. While it dragged in the middle, the beautiful set design kept us engaged.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • History buffs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The set
  • The final act

Story

We were on a tour of Park City’s old silver mines when a tunnel collapse sealed us in. Could we find the tools and information necessary to find daylight before running out of air?

Escape Room Park City, UT logo, 4 interlocking puzzle pieces with a black lock over one of them.

Setting

We entered a surprisingly detailed mine shaft filled with wood, stone, and tools. With the notable exception of some carpeting, the set looked phenomenal.

I wish that I could show you a photo or two, but they were forbidden. Don’t let the logo fool you… Escape Park City’s Mine Trap had a set worth seeing.

Gameplay

Mine Trap had three acts to it.

The first act was a basic search-and-puzzle beginner’s on-ramp. It was smooth, well designed, and approachable.

The second act was pure puzzles and combination locks. Escape Room Park City played with interesting concepts, but due to some design decisions, the Mine Trap dragged here.

The final act brought in a little physicality and a ton of innovation. Come for the set, but stay for the third act.

Standouts

Mine Trap opened gently with a puzzle on-ramp. While it was more challenging than Escape Room Park City’s other game, Travel Room, the approachable start opened it to players of all experience levels.

With Mine Trap, Escape Room Park City leveled up their set design. This set would look great in any US escape room market. It’s especially impressive in a city without competition.

We enjoyed the final act. The puzzles were inventive, thematically appropriate, and well clued.

The conclusion blew us away.

I cannot overstate how much I respect Escape Room Park City’s approach to pricing. Mine Trap cost twice as much as their other game, Travel Room. It was worth it. Mine Trap was twice as interesting, twice as complex, twice the size, and more than twice as detailed.

Shortcomings

At any given moment, we confronted a lot of locks, primarily of the same digit structure. While it eventually became apparent why certain codes went to certain locks, for much of Mine Trap we felt like a solution could go anywhere. Dropping 4-digit numbers into half a dozen locks quickly became boring.

We found one common escape room prop far too early. We had to use it senselessly from that point onward. Escape Room Park City’s band-aid for this problem was a rule that they declared before the game, “Don’t turn off the lights, it won’t help you.” We still lost a lot of time and fun on this prop. A better solution for their gameplay problem could be MacGyvered using some of the existing items in the room.

A few of the puzzles involved pixel hunting. We had to find nit-picky details with minimal clueing to derive solutions. While these puzzles were fine, when mixed with the aforementioned digit structure and prop, the game simply dragged when it could have roared.

There was carpeting in the middle of our silver mine, which was confusing.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mine Trap costs almost twice as much as Travel Room, but it offers twice the value.
  • The building has a parking garage.
  • Enter the building through the elevator in the parking garage. (This was confusing.)
  • Park City has no shortage of food options.

Book your hour with Escape Room Park City’s Mine Trap, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Lockbox Mysteries – Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade [Review]

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” -Sherlock Holmes

Location: at home (in our case, a hotel) in Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 5, 2018

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60-90 minutes

Price: $45 per crate for a 24-hour rental; plus a $50.00 fully refundable deposit (per crate)

REA Reaction

Lockbox Mysteries crammed a ton of gameplay into a crate and briefcase. We’re always a little cautious when approaching a new game format, and Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade made us believers. While we wished that the props felt just a little more of the era, Lockbox Mysteries delivered excellent puzzle content. We loved playing this game from the comfort of our own home hotel room and the price could not be beat.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • You can play from the comfort of your own home
  • It’s affordable
  • A lot of puzzling content
  • A smart final puzzle sequence

Story

It was 1910 and Scotland Yard was stumped. With a dead woman and no leads, they hired the greatest detective in history, Sherlock Holmes, to crack the case. Wearing the hat of Mr. Holmes, we explored evidence and interrogated the behavior of a number of suspects, puzzling and deducing our way to a conclusion.

A locked brief case sitting on a large plastic crate in a hotel room.

Setting

We drove out to a Salt Lake City suburb and retrieved a large box and a briefcase and brought them back to our hotel room.

The plastic crate open revealing an assortment of lock boxes, an envelope labeled "confidential" and a binder that says, "Read First."

When we opened the box we were greeted by a binder that explained the game in careful detail. This included everything from what an escape game is, to the hint system, to basic lock functionality.

Inside of the binder, a hint booklet, timer, and an envelope of extra parts.

We started the included timer and investigated the initially available evidence. From there on it was all puzzles and locks.

Gameplay

Our Lockbox Mysteries experience essentially played like a low-tech escape room without the set. There were lots of locks sealing all sorts of boxes and bags shut. There were even more puzzles.

A pile of locked boxes, and a locked purse.
There was plenty more where this came from.

We needed to deduce the particulars of the murder case before us and rule out suspects. Each suspect had their own branch of puzzles that provided a piece of the overall picture.

Photos and names of 7 suspects and the victim.

All of this culminated in a final deduction puzzle that emphatically punctuated the game with a challenging, creative, and elegant conclusion.

Standouts

Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade played like an escape room. It was less immersive than (most) on-site escape rooms, but more physically interactive than (most) at-home escape rooms that come in the mail. It straddled these subgenres. More importantly, it played well.

Lockbox Mysteries surprised us. With each open, we uncovered substantial game pieces… and more puzzles.

Play money fanned out, a passport, and makeup.

Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade had a lot of puzzle content and the puzzles flowed well. They also broke into parallel plot threads. There was a lot of game and it branched such that it could keep a large group entertained.

The hint system worked. It didn’t give away too much, unless we wanted to get to the solution. Then we could see the solution.

We understood the characters, story, and mystery without working at it. We took it in by way of solving the puzzles. Consequently, the puzzles felt purposeful and the sleuthing felt natural.

The mystery wanted to be solved. It didn’t resolve to some crazy unforeseeable twist. We could play along like detectives, making hypotheses and working towards a conclusion.

Everything was self-contained. We didn’t need an internet-connected device to facilitate the game.

Shortcomings

Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade leaned heavily on decipherments. A few of these overstayed their welcome. Long after the aha moment, we were still deciphering the information.

While we appreciated the many tangible locks in this play-at-home escape room, we would have liked more varied digit structure. At times we’d derive a code that could have unlocked any one of a number of locked items.

Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade was aesthetically uneven. Some props felt of the era, while others felt far too modern or geographically incorrect.

Tips for Playing

  • You do not need a computer, phone, internet connection, or any outside tools for this play-at-home escape room.
  • You will need to pick up the game near Salt Lake City, and return it the next day. Mass transit will not be an option for the travel.
  • If you can, cook up a meal and really make an evening of the game.

Book your rental with Lockbox Mysteries’ Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lockbox Mysteries provided a media discounted rate for this game.

 

Getout Games – Reactor Room [Review]

We won… and we’re glowing.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 4, 2018

Team size: 4-20 (2 copies of the room, each for up to 10 players); we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

Reactor Room had a great set as well as dramatic and memorable moments. Getout Games could refine this experience by improving the puzzle flow and eliminating some unnecessary confusion that inflated the difficulty of an already challenging escape room. This was a fantastic escape room for experienced players; it wasn’t a yellowcake walk.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Hilarious intro
  • Practical effects
  • Lovely set

Story

With Salt Lake City’s nuclear power reactor in meltdown, our crew was summoned to stop the chain reaction before we crossed the point of no return and all would be lost.

In game: A glass door with a green glowing reactor behind it.

Setting

Reactor Room was a lab setting built around a glowing reactor. Glass walls and doors made the space feel large, while restricting movement and adding intrigue.

Lighting, practical effects, and hilarious sound cues made Reactor Room feel like it had stakes.

In game: An emergency eye wash station.

Gameplay

Reactor Room combined heavy searching with substantive puzzles. It was a challenging escape room.

While most of the gameplay centered on searching and puzzling, a few aspects turned up the adventure. These made Reactor Room memorable.

In game: A barrel labeled "CAUTION Radioactive materials"

Standouts

One prop transformed… This was a reaction we’d never seen before. It was nifty.

Our gamemaster delivered an amusing introduction. It set the tone for the escape room.

Throughout the Reactor Room, we received timing updates by way of hilarious bits of story.

Detailed set and effect considerations elevated the drama of Reactor Room.

Shortcomings

As we entered the room, we were warned not to move a particular prop because it could be messy. Thus we approached this item too cautiously. It turned out to be perfectly safe – and even recommended – to move it.

At one point, we had to search a large space for faint clues. While this worked conceptually, it was frustrating to play though. Getout Games could refactor this segment to deliver a more fun and dramatic reveal.

The puzzles in Reactor Room almost flowed. At times the escape room lacked clue structure. In these instances, our gamemaster readily provided hints. We recommend that Getout Games determine which hints they give most often and incorporate additional cluing for these into the environment.

One prop felt all too random considering the well-themed gamespace and the story of the escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • Getout Games has a large lobby and ample parking.

Book your hour with Getout Games’ Reactor Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Mystery Escape Room – Dracula’s Castle [Review]

Sanguine.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

REA Reaction

Dracula’s Castle was a search-and-puzzle escape room with a narrative twist: from introduction to conclusion, our gamemaster was an off-stage character in our experience. Mystery Escape Room had some shaky execution, but their inventive and humorous game delivery was impressive.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • The puzzles
  • Dramatic moments
  • The gamemaster

Story

Who knew Abraham Van Helsing wasn’t a closer? He thought he had slain Count Dracula, but the legendary vampire continued to draw blood. We were asked to invade Dracula’s castle under cover of sunlight to finish what Van Helsing couldn’t.

In-game: A vase sitting in a glowing stained glass window.

Setting

Dracula’s Castle was dimly lit and lined with stone walls. Most of the light entered from a couple of stained glass window and our lanterns. Count Dracula’s coffin rested in the middle of the space.

In-game: a black stone wall and armoire in the background.

Gameplay

Dracula’s Castle had a standard search-and-puzzle escape room structure with an emphasis on narrative and magical happenings.

All of the gameplay was overseen by our incredibly attentive and hilarious in-character but out-of-room gamemaster. He remained a regular audible presence throughout the experience.

In-game: a large, ornate, silver lever lock.

Standouts

Our introduction to Dracula’s Castle was phenomenal. It was informative, engaging, and humorous.

Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. Although offstage for the duration of the game clock, his verbal interactions were helpful and amusing. He was an integral part of Dracula’s Castle.

The puzzles flowed well.

The dark set was appropriately ominous and felt castle-y.

The conclusion balanced intensity and humor. It worked well.

Shortcomings

The set was too dark. The perpetually inadequate lighting turned otherwise fun puzzles frustrating.

When we solved a puzzle, we couldn’t always find the resulting open. Especially given the darkness, Mystery Escape Room could build more feedback into tech-driven opens, in the form of lighting, sound, or movement.

We had to stop and read a lot. We would have preferred more variety in clue structure and more clueing born of the environment.

One involved puzzle overstayed its welcome.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Escape Room is located in The Gateway. There are a few restaurant options in the complex.
  • There is a paid parking garage in The Gateway complex.
  • Mind your gamemaster for both help and amusement.

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

Disclosure: Mystery Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.