TwoSet Escape Room [Review]

The Devil’s Violinist

Location:  at home

Date Played: December 15, 2021

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended team size: exactly 2 players

Play Time: 30-60 minutes

Price: free

REA Reaction

I’ll begin with some personal context. In addition to being a writer for Room Escape Artist and a full-time puzzle designer, I’m also a professional violinist and violist. I started learning classical violin as a young child, I studied ethnomusicology and composition in university, and I now play in a klezmer band with multiple albums forthcoming.

I’m just about the biggest classical music nerd you can find. My idea of a fun Friday night (when I’m not marathoning escape rooms) is bingeing Shostakovich or Mahler symphonies. And one of my favorite YouTube channels is TwoSet Violin. Brett Yang and Eddy Chen ‚ÄĒ talented violinists who are also really funny ‚ÄĒ make classical music accessible to their over 3 million subscribers through meme-filled sketches, challenges, and analyses of classical music in popular culture.

Matthew sitting with the creators of TwoSet
I met Brett and Eddy in person at their show in San Francisco in the before-times.

When TwoSet posted a video in early November 2021 of the duo playing an escape room in Australia, I was excited to see what “very special announcement” would be coming soon. Lo and behold, later that month they announced that they’d made their own music-themed virtual escape room!

Designed for two players in a style reminiscent of the asymmetrical information-sharing games from Enchambered, the TwoSet Escape Room was a delightful addition to (or perhaps start of?) the classical music-themed escape room canon. The game was playable by non-musicians as well, but it would be a good degree more challenging and make a bit less sense for players with zero classical music background.

The TwoSet Escape Room distinguished itself from other promotional escape rooms in that it wasn’t really a promotional escape room. Other than a brief plug for the upcoming TwoSet World Tour and a glamor shot of Brett and Eddy, this game truly felt like a gift to the TwoSet fandom, and to classical instrumentalists more generally. The gameplay was smooth and accessible to players with no puzzle background. An amusing story framed the game, though I would have loved to have seen the narrative more directly inform the puzzles.

I don’t mean to string you along, so I’ll get to my key point: I whole(note)heartedly recommend giving the TwoSet Escape Room a play if you have any classical music background, even if you just studied piano for a few years as a kid. I’d love to see more escape rooms designed by folks with domain-specific expertise, and it’s so wonderful to see TwoSet Violin giving back to their community in creative ways like this.

Who is this for?

  • Instrumentalists
  • Fans of TwoSet Violin
  • Puzzle lovers with a basic classical music background
  • Any experience level (with puzzles and/ or classical music)
An intro letter to TwoSets.


We ‚ÄĒ a violinist and a pianist ‚ÄĒ showed up to our backstage practice rooms, but we got locked in. We had to communicate with our respective duo partner to learn who’d trapped us, and escape by the time the concert began.

A portion of a keyboard with the notes labeled.
Continue reading “TwoSet Escape Room [Review]”

Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce [Post Game Reaction]

On May 5th, our team played The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce by Real Escape Games (aka SCRAP) in New York City.

We previously published a review of this game from its time in Los Angeles, California. Our friend and regular teammate Sarah Willson did such an amazing job of guest reviewing it that most of our readers didn’t realize that someone else wrote it.

Looking back at her review, we completely agree with her assessment¬†and will not write an additional review. I’ll add that of the various mass escape events that we’ve played by SCRAP,¬†The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce¬†was the most fun and cohesive.

Mainstream reception

Unlike most escape games, The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce received a lot of media attention. This came in the form of pre-game hype, followed by a lot of mixed and disappointed post game reports:

Kotaku: The Zelda Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

The Verge: We played a real-life Zelda adventure and Ganondorf won

Engadget: Playing Zelda in real life is a lot like doing grade-school homework

Zelda has withstood the test of time, sticking around for 30 years. It has transcended generations. A¬†number of its installments are some of the finest video games ever created.¬†Since¬†Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises in history, this disappointment was inevitable for a number of reasons that I’m going to explore.


SCRAP doesn’t highlight the fact that their¬†mass escape events bear little resemblance to modern escape rooms in North America (especially the high end). Upon further probing, however, they are quick to point out that their mass events are not “escape rooms.” They call them “escape games.” Ironically, this is the same sort of hair-splitting that makes their mass escape events so frustrating.

Image from Zelda II of Link speaking with another character who has stated,

Painting by Squarepainter

As an escape room player and reviewer who simply wants more people to become aware of all of the magnificent escape rooms out there, this drives me up the wall.

Given Zelda’s popularity, this event was an incredible opportunity to introduce more mainstream players to modern escape rooms… but¬†this event¬†didn’t do that.

My very first escape room review was of a SCRAP mass event, Escape From the Werewolf Village, in mid-2014. I left that game legitimately worried that first-time escape game players would think that a SCRAP escape event was indicative of the larger industry (which at the time was admittedly tiny and underdeveloped). I feel the exact same way about Defenders of the Triforce.

It was a fun¬†mass escape event, more fun than any of the other SCRAP events that¬†we’ve played. It was fun when considered as a short puzzle hunt. However, it was neither a good representation of modern North American escape rooms nor an exceptional Zelda game.

Culture gap

SCRAP was founded in Japan in 2007. They were also the first escape room company in the United States when they opened in San Francisco in 2012.

At Up The Game 2017, Yu-lin Chiu, writer of ASIA.EscapeGames, spoke about the escape room markets in East Asia. She explained how escape room design in Japan differs profoundly from other countries in Asia, as well as from Europe and the United States.

Japanese escape rooms are primarily paper-based events with minimal set design or story. They are more similar to short puzzle hunts than what we in the United States commonly think of as escape rooms.

This has confirmed for us what we have long believed to be a fundamental expectations gap between the games that SCRAP brings to the United States and the general market trends within the American escape room scene.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Possibly the biggest¬†difference between¬†Sarah’s playthrough of¬†Defenders of the Triforce¬†and mine was the release of¬†Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch… the game that¬†Defenders of the Triforce was essentially advertising on its North American tour.

In February, Sarah played SCRAP’s¬†Defenders of the Triforce in anticipation of the release of¬†Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.¬†

By the time we played Defenders of the Triforce¬†in May, I had been playing¬†Breath of the Wild¬†for 6 weeks or so, sneaking it in between work and running Room Escape Artist. I am¬†loving this game and taking my time to milk it for everything that it is worth. Going into¬†Defenders of the Triforce¬†I had¬†been immersed in one of the Zelda franchise’s most magnificent specimens. This greatly elevated my expectations and set¬†Defenders of the Triforce¬†up for failure.

I’m glad that Sarah wrote the review without having just played¬†Breath of the Wild. She could more easily separate SCRAP’s escape event from the video game expectations.

Actual Zelda room escape

I wish that Defenders of the Triforce were not a mass escape event, but a full blown, large-budget escape room. The material lends itself to an incredible escape room and I can think of a number of escape room companies that could build mind-blowing experiences with the concept.

SCRAP put on a fun mini-puzzle hunt. They leveled up their storytelling and set design. They made the puzzling generally more accessible. They navigated logistics well. Defenders of the Triforce was a huge step forward in meshing Japanese-style escape room events with North American preferences. 

That said, SCRAP is simply not equipped to fully realize the potential of this franchise for a North American audience, especially in the mass escape format.

Defenders of the Triforce paled in comparison to the best permanent escape rooms in the cities that it visited; most of them cost less than the $40-50 per ticket price of this game.

For now, Zelda escape rooms will go dormant for some time. I hope that one day the concept is resurrected and able to become the immersive real-life puzzle adventure through Hyrule that escape room lovers know that it can be. That it should be.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale).

Capcom & iam8bit – Resident Evil Escape Experience, New York [Review]

In its defense, it was about as good as most of the past decade’s¬†Resident Evil games.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: February 23, 2017

Team size: 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $41 per ticket

Story & setting

Themed around the popular video game (and movie) series, the Resident Evil Escape Experience was a popup escape game touring the United States, making stops in Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, Portland, and San Francisco.

The room escape itself was a fairly standard, slightly creepy escape room design in an office/lab/home space. We were entering a simulation created by the villainous Umbrella Corporation, thus explaining the rapid set hopping.

The Umbrella Corporation’s presence notwithstanding, the experience was not deeply rooted in¬†Resident Evil lore. It did, however, have a variety of props that referenced the game series.

Resident Evil Escape Experience 2017 Nationwide Tour: New York Advertisement shows an old television, typewriter, a pair of disembodied hands and a broken vial.


The puzzling was weak. We encountered red herrings, significant prop breakage, and puzzles with frustrating construction.

There were a few puzzles that were well clued, but the Resident Evil Escape Experience was not a satisfying puzzle game.


Aesthetically, the set looked pretty good, especially for a temporary traveling game.

There was an innovative use of space, which could have been excellent had it been clued.


The casual references to¬†Resident Evil were nowhere near enough to justify the game’s title. The name “Resident Evil Escape Experience¬†dramatically oversold the escape room¬†by implying that it would be a high-end survival horror escape room. It never even came close.

The puzzling was frustrating and frequently tedious.

There were many broken lock hasps that had been crazy glued in place. The brittle crazy glue had snapped, leaving much of the game unlocked. On the other extreme, we encountered a lock that had been jammed. Our gamemaster knew it was busted and was standing next to us, ready to hand us duplicate copies of the locked content as soon as we had the solution to the lock.

There were quite a few red herrings. Some seemed like they were puzzles that had been broken and dropped from the experience, but not removed from the space.

The gamespace was cramped with 6 players, but due to the popularity of the escape room, a 6-player team was inevitable.

The ticket price was too damn high.

Should I play Capcom & iam8bit’s Resident Evil Escape Experience?

While your mileage may vary from city to city, I cannot recommend the Resident Evil Escape Experience based on what I saw in New York City.

It wasn’t a satisfying experience¬†for escape room fans because the puzzling was weak.

It wasn’t the experience¬†that¬†Resident Evil fans were¬†looking for because the connections to the series and¬†horror elements were barely present.

Additionally, Resident Evil Escape Experience was incompetently maintained and seemed poorly constructed to begin with. Why was all of the hardware glued together? And why not take a bolt cutter to the broken lock and replace it?

Resident Evil Escape Experience was decidedly low-tech, which I was expecting of a temporary game. While we don’t judge¬†escape rooms¬†based on the presence of technology, the low-tech design made the breakage that much more frustrating.

It seemed to me like this might have been a good escape room¬†when it¬†initially set out on its journey, but it felt like there simply wasn’t enough professional oversight for¬†Resident Evil Escape Experience to survive its trip around the continent.

I expect better at $41 per ticket.

And I expect far better from Capcom & iam8bit. I know that they are trying to promote Resident Evil 7, but in choosing the escape room format to deliver that message, they inevitably attract new people to real life puzzle gaming and this was¬†a sad display of the medium’s potential.

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Defenders of the Triforce – Los Angeles [Review]

It’s dangerous to go alone…but awfully crowded in groups of six.

Location: Los Angeles, CA*

Date played: February 12, 2017

Team size: 6; we recommend 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket early bird, $35 regular price, $40 at the door; might vary by city

Story & setting

The story was reworked from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: As the titular Defenders of the Triforce, our job was to work as a team to find the legendary Master Sword in order to free Princess Zelda and defeat the evil Ganondorf.

SCRAP Zelda Defenders of the Triforce poster featuring silhouettes of Ganondorf and Link.

The gamespace was a hotel ballroom with a couple dozen tables seating teams of six. Stations around the room represented locations in Hyrule, but most of the gameplay took place at the tables.

The decor was minimal‚ÄĒit felt precisely like being in a hotel ballroom‚ÄĒbut staff members were dressed for the occasion and interacted with us in character.

Like SCRAP’s other large-scale events, the game was introduced by an emcee and the story was delivered through an intro video, with the gameplay loosely following the story.


In typical SCRAP mass event fashion, we spent most of the hour at the table solving paper puzzles. These were a bit more inventive than past SCRAP pencil puzzles, but familiar to those of us who had played their games before. Some were moderately challenging, but others would not be out of place in a children’s puzzle book.

The more dynamic moments involved basic items reminiscent of the Zelda series, as well as certain tasks that required us to interact with staff members.

At first glance the puzzle flow appeared linear, but it turned out to be more complex. We were given a way to organize our progress, but we still struggled to keep things straight at times.

Solving the puzzles and reaching the ending demanded close attention to the clues we had available. We never had to guess or make logical leaps.


The puzzle flow was elegant. Defenders of the Triforce kept our interest and provided an increasing challenge. The first task was simple enough to be almost like a videogame tutorial, and the hardest tasks were last, which made the ending feel like an accomplishment.

We enjoyed the physicality of wearing Link hats and manipulating various props. The final sequence was fun, especially for Zelda fans. We were all delighted by one particular prop interaction that felt unexpected and exciting even though it was low-tech.

In-game: A ballroom full of seated players all wearing green Link elf hats.

Our success in the game depended on teamwork and attention to detail, rather than an insight that could make or break the ending. This was a welcome departure from past SCRAP games, which have notoriously relied on unintuitive leaps of logic in the final puzzle.


Having approximately 150 people in the same space was a challenge. It was hard to concentrate in a room full of adventurers; waiting in lines to access certain clues created significant bottlenecks.

Because some elements of the game were accessible out of order, we ended up doubling back and uncovering clues we no longer needed. We also spent several minutes fiddling with a (probably) unintentional red herring that could have been prevented with a small design tweak.

We would have appreciated a hint when we got stuck, but there was no discernible hint system.

Due to the venue and the focus on pencil puzzles, we never truly felt like we were adventuring through Hyrule, despite all the references to the Zelda series.

We didn’t get to keep the hats, which was a letdown for some of us (and also made us wonder if they‚Äôd been laundered between games).

Should I play SCRAP’s¬†Defenders of the Triforce?

Defenders of the Triforce¬†was lighthearted and not terribly difficult‚ÄĒunlike most of SCRAP’s large-scale games, the majority of the teams made it all the way to the end.

The more physical elements of the game were especially cool for those of us who were Legend of Zelda fans, but non-fans could enjoy Defenders of the Triforce without a knowledge gap.

Because of the theme and difficulty level, Defenders of the Triforce would be a safe bet for younger players, families, and less experienced puzzlers‚ÄĒwith the understanding that this game format is missing the sense of mystery and exploration of a typical escape room.

Defenders of the Triforce is a fun game with lots of references for Zelda fans, but the videogame series has so many story and gameplay elements that could be great fun in an escape room, and this implementation only scratched the surface.

If you’re looking for an immersive adventure or a puzzling challenge, Defenders of the Triforce is probably not going to be your thing, even if you are a Zelda superfan. At its heart, it was a low-tech opportunity to put ourselves in Link’s shoes (…or hat) and be the heroes of a real-life Zelda legend.

If you’re looking for an hour of Zelda-themed fun (and there are still tickets available in your area), Defenders of the Triforce is worth your time.

Book your hour with SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

*Defenders of the Triforce is coming to Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. The event dates and ticket sale dates vary by city.

Lisa & David will be playing in New York on May 4 at 9PM. Look for them there!


Escape Games at Sony Square NYC – The Blacklist Box & Timeless Lifeboat [Review]

Humbled by advertisements.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: October 29, 2016

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3

Duration: 10 minutes per game

Price: Free; available through December 2, 2016

Story & setting

These two 10-minute games were sitting on the floor of Sony Square NYC, which is Sony’s open showroom to feature its products to the public.

The first game promoted the new show Timeless, a time travel series. We played a puzzle-based rendition of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego… which was awesome. It was staged in the show’s time machine, the Lifeboat, which looked cooler than its name sounded.

Image of the Timeless Lifeboat time machine play area.

The second game promoted The Blacklist, now in its fourth season. In this game we found ourselves in a TV-style hacking, decoding-type game of tracking down the bad guy. Everything was set within a fancy looking cube, which was clearly from the show; it meant a great deal to one of the other people in attendance.

Image of the Blacklist Box red cube play area.

I haven’t watched either show, so any references were completely lost on me. I cannot report on how well it captured the essence of either fiction. I can say that both games featured recordings from characters in the show, an excellent and unexpected touch.


These games were created by New York City-based Escape Entertainment. Escape Entertainment has historically been one of the region’s most puzzle-centric companies; oh boy did they deliver puzzle-centric games.

Both games had three puzzling stations and each station offered up its own set of challenges. They were tough puzzles, made even tougher by the short 10-minute timers.

Lisa and I played the games as a couple. We approached Timeless Lifeboat calmly because in our past experiences, corporate promotional games haven’t presented a formidable challenge. We lost Timeless Lifeboat by about five seconds. Had we done any number of things slightly differently, we would have won.

Since we screwed up on the Timeless Lifeboat, we attacked the The Blacklist Box… where we lost even worse. We needed at least another two minutes, or more realistically, another teammate. The Blacklist Box beat us.

Both games included serious logic and reasoning puzzles with more layering than we were mentally prepared for. They should not be approached lightly, especially The Blacklist Box.


The staging area for each game was awesome. I found the Timeless Lifeboat particularly compelling.

Each game was cleverly engineered for rapid reset. Additionally, their solid construction should also help prevent breakage.

We’ve come to expect high production value from corporate promotional games, and these games were no exception.

Furthermore, these were serious escape games with interesting and fun puzzles. They delivered the challenge we don’t often see in promotional games.

These games were completely free and unlike most of the free corporate games we’ve seen, they will run for over a month.

The Sony Showroom was far cooler than expected. They had free demos of the Playstation VR as well as a gallery of incredible photos captured on Sony gear. They offered some great things out of that space; especially for aspiring photographers.


Sony’s gear was laced throughout both games and used to drive most of the interaction. In particular, the games relied on Sony’s internet of things adapters, MESH. There were some interesting gadgets in use, but I cannot help but feel like an escape game with a 10-minute timer was the wrong venue for demonstrating MESH’s capabilities. It had a tiny bit of latency, something in the realm of three seconds… but in the context of a rushed game, that time felt like an eternity. That was a shame because the tech was pretty cool.

Both games got pretty wordy, which is ironic coming from a guy who’s writing ~900 words on 20 minutes of combined gameplay. Again, the short game length amplified every moment of the game. Short passages suddenly felt a lot longer.

There was a ton of ambient noise coming from the game and the surrounding area. This made it difficult to hear key in-game audio.

There was no margin for error. We breezed through some puzzles and died on others. Sometimes this was a factor of having the wrong person start in on a puzzle, but in such a short game, there wasn’t time to switch the teammates’ focuses nor any opportunity to recover.

Should I play Escape Games at Sony Square NYC – The Blacklist Box & Timeless Lifeboat?

I’m shocked to say this, but these are some of the more interesting and challenging puzzle-centric games that I’ve seen.

The 10-minute game timer added challenge and intrigue while also adding new complications and flaws, but these were more than forgivable.

If you’re a room escaper with a love of games that lean heavy on puzzles, then these games are an absolute must. They are free. They are quick. They are in a great neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and easy subway access.

If you’re a fan of either show and you’ve given these games a playthrough, please let us know what you thought in the comments below!

Bring three people and explore the show floor before playing. Be sure to have someone show you how MESH works in the context of the game. It will help. Make every second count; each game only lasts 600.

Both games will run through December 2, 2016.

Book your sessions with Escape Games at Sony Square NYC&, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.