Hiding from zombies under your old multiplication table.
Location: at home
Date Played: December 20, 2020
Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-2
Duration: 45 minutes
Price: about $13
From our vantage point, Escape from Dead Town was easily the weakest of the 3 original Quick-Fire Escape Rooms from Professor Puzzle.
Setting aside how tired I was of zombie virus stuff pre-pandemic – and how extra exhausted I am by the theme now – this thematic implementation felt especially shallow. I think it’s hard to convey the urgency, messiness, and chaos of an apocalyptic disaster in neatly packaged tabletop puzzles.
Beyond the thematic disconnect, the puzzles in Escape from Dead Town were neither as fun nor as polished as those in Escape from the Casino of Chaos and Escape from the Mall.
This game wasn’t a disaster, but I can’t really recommend it either. Play Escape from the Casino of Chaos or Escape from the Mall before you play Escape from Dead Town. If you can’t find them and want to try out this format, or you loved those and crave more games in this style, give Dead Town a shot. Otherwise, you can spend $13 elsewhere.
Escape from the Mall was the most straightforward installment of this series from Professor Puzzle.
From a conceptual and narrative standpoint, it was the most original and fun installment of the Quick-Fire Escape Rooms. We approached it first because it looked thematically most interesting.
That said, as a puzzle game, it was the most generic of the Quick-Fire Escape Rooms. The puzzle types were familiar to us, and will likely even be familiar to less experienced puzzlers. That’s not to say they were bad; we enjoyed them well enough, even if we weren’t surprised by any of them.
I’d recommend playing Escape from the Mall if you’ve already played and enjoyed Escape from the Casino of Chaos, or you want something a little more predictable.
Escape from the Casino of Chaos was our favorite of the Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms.
Thematically, it was a casino heist, which is pretty typical escape room fare.
A few of the puzzles stood out. They looked and felt like they belonged in the narrative environment and were generally amusing to solve.
While Escape from the Mall was the most straightforward installment, Escape from the Casino of Chaos was the most interesting. Since all of these games are fairly easy, I’d recommend the more interesting one. To be clear, this won’t blow your mind by any means; it’s just a solid, quick-play puzzle game. I think that it’s worth trying out because we don’t have a ton of low-commitment, quick-hit tabletop puzzle games… and I do think that it’s an interesting and worthy product category.
The Quick-Fire Escape Room series from Professor Puzzle is new and a little different.
First of all, it was a much stronger product than Professor Puzzle’s first foray into tabletop escape games, Escape From the Grand Hotel.
These games are a lower commitment than just about any other tabletop escape room we have encountered. They’re listed as 45-minute games. As a duo we casually played through them in about 25 minutes each. The puzzles were generally solid, with some presented better than others. The hint system was lacking.
These games can be played competitively as a race, but we just ignored that structure because we like to solve puzzles together.
Of the available Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms, without hesitation, we rank them in the following order from strongest to weakest:
If you’re a value shopper, these games are quick, cheap, and sort of repackagable. (Each game has one puzzle that uses up some material unless you go out of your way to avoid this.) Professor Puzzle Quick-Fire Escape Rooms won’t blow your mind. This is a quick, low-commitment, competent product line. They are the fast food of tabletop escape games. Honestly, it really felt good to sit down, play something, and have it end before it overstayed its welcome.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
Can be played collaboratively or competitively
Solid production value for a completely paper- and cardstock-based series
Escape from the Grand Hotel was Professor Puzzle’s first foray into tabletop escape games… and they got a lot right.
The printed materials and package design were beautiful.
The gameplay took some clear inspiration from the ThinkFun tabletop escape games, using location envelopes and paper components to tell a puzzle-driven narrative. Their approach to answer verification was clever.
Professor Puzzle stumbled with hinting and editing. Bluntly, this game felt under playtested. There were too many little problems that were easily fixable. The hint system was innovative, but insufficient.
There are some interesting ideas and a lot of great execution in Escape from the Grand Hotel. If you really enjoy tabletop escape games, this one had a lot to offer. However, there were too many little flaws and gaps that got amplified by the limited hint system for me to comfortably recommend this to a tabletop escape game newbie.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
Beautiful game materials
The structure and gameflow
The answer mechanic
The opportunity to make an evening of a tabletop puzzle game
The storiedGrand Hotel was once the place for the rich and famous to visit. After decades of disrepair, the mysterious and wealthy Blossom family had restored the hotel to its former glory. We were invited to its grand reopening.
Escape from the Grand Hotel had an interesting structure.
Each player received an invitation. This included character information and encouraged costuming. (We didn’t really use any of this because we didn’t realize it was an option until we already had our friends over and the box open.)
Once we began, we unfolded the beautifully printed cardstock hotel settings. We could observe what was in each space. In many, we also found additional paper items (puzzle pieces).
If we solved a puzzle, it would resolve to a clue to the next location within the hotel for us to visit. Sometimes this meant that we derived a room number. Other times we uncovered a more cryptic clue like the color of one of the doors or some other descriptor.
If we needed a hint, we could unfold one from the location. Interestingly, the hints were usually puzzles in and of themselves… puzzles without their own hints.
Professor Puzzle’s Escape from the Grand Hotel was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate to high level of difficulty. If you’re comfortable with tabletop escape room puzzles, this was moderately difficult. If you aren’t comfortable with the format, the limited hinting could make this game quite challenging.
Professor Puzzle also encouraged making the game into an event by providing character roles.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.
➕ We enjoyed the structure of Escape from the Grand Hotel. Each puzzle led us to another room in the hotel. It was fun to explore the hotel in this way.
➕ The first puzzle worked well for onboarding players. It wasn’t too challenging. Through it we understood how Escape from the Grand Hotel wanted us to play it.
➕ The solution mechanism was fantastic. The idea that the puzzle solutions alluded to the next area of the game was a smart twist on the tabletop escape game format. This approach allowed Professor Puzzle to strip out artificial answer checking mechanisms and keep things in-world.
➖ We encountered some taxonomy inconsistencies within the in-game instructions. The way that it referred to things sometimes shifted. This got confusing.
➕ Professor Puzzle designed a beautiful product with high-quality printed materials. From the box to the game components it looked and felt great. We especially enjoyed the illustrations of the rooms in the hotel. We really loved the box.
➖ Although the artwork was beautiful, it included a visual variance that factored into the gameplay. Cluing needed to match the artwork, or vice versa.
➕ Escape from the Grand Hotel included a variety of puzzles of different types and difficulties.
➖ In some instances, the puzzles needed additional cluing.
➖ In one instance, ambiguous wording turned the final stages of a complex puzzle into trial and error. This got old quickly.
➕ Professor Puzzle provided duplicate copies of one of the more tedious puzzles so that more players could participate.
➖ The hint for each puzzle was concealed in a pocket in each “room” we entered. Although we liked this presentation of hints, Professor Puzzle included only one hint per puzzle, which was insufficient. The hint system needed far more granularity. In some instances, the hints themselves were puzzles and they didn’t have hints for themselves.
➕ The story was hokey, but it came together well enough in the end. It worked for the game and made us smile in the end.
➕ Professor Puzzle encourages players to make an evening of Escape from the Grand Hotel. They included invitations to mail to guests, who can come in character and in costume. This would be a fun way to make a play-at-home puzzle game into a bigger event.
➖ While character roles were fun, they were not relevant to the gameplay.
➖ It wasn’t clear that those character invitations were even an option until we had started the game.
➖ Although the game can be played without destroying any of the components, it didn’t provide reset instructions. We were able to pack it up correctly by referencing the solutions guide, but without instructions, we had to repack one puzzle in the solved state.
➕ Escape from the Grand Hotel required only the materials in the box. It did not require an app download or internet connection.
Tips For Player
Space Requirements: a small table
Required Gear: pen and paper
To make a larger event around this game, mail out the enclosed invitations and have your guests arrive in character and in costume. Note, the character roles are entirely for fun and are not relevant to the gameplay.
Buy your copy of Professor Puzzle’s Escape from the Grand Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.