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—it felt precisely like being in a hotel ballroom—but 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.

Puzzles

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.

Standouts

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.

Shortcomings

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’d been laundered between games).

Should I play SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce?

Defenders of the Triforce was lighthearted and not terribly difficult—unlike 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—with 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!

 

2017 New York Puzzle Party Announcement

Come join us at the 2017 New York Puzzle Party!

Colorful filtered image of a collection of physical puzzles. Many wooden puzzle boxes, cubes, puzzles locks, and entanglements.

Puzzlers of all types are welcome to bring puzzles, meet each other, and share a love of puzzling.

There will also be talks on a variety puzzle topics. We will be speaking about at-home room escape games.

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, February 18, 2017
  • Time: 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • Location: Manhattan*
  • Entry cost: $5

At this event last year, we met Rod Kimball, author of Path Puzzles, learned about puzzle locks (and handled some incredible such works of art!), and listened to a talk about testing a puzzle app at the DMV, among other things.

This is an opportunity to purchase puzzles, see interesting creations, and meet new people. We hope to see you there.

*If you would like to attend, please fill out this form in order to RSVP to the event organizer and then obtain the location details.

Club Drosselmeyer [Puzzle Event Review]

Aces!

Location: Cambridge, MA

Date played: December 11, 2016

Price: $45 – 80 per ticket

Story & setting

Set in a 1939 nightclub, attendees had the opportunity to explore dance, take in a variety of performing acts, and puzzle through a story of espionage and intrigue.

The band was incredible. The venue was awesome. The dancers were on fire. The characters were engaging… and damn near the entire audience was decked out in full costume.

About last night #clubdrosselmeyer

A post shared by Kelly Hansen (@keltastic) on

This puzzling event was so much more than a couple of hundred people sitting around tables solving their way through a manila envelope of puzzles. It was a living, breathing, and occasionally chaotic mystery. No one, not even the actors, knew exactly how the evening would unfold.

Lisa and David in costume swing dancing.
A shot of us swing dancing, courtesy of our friend Denise Kuehner.

Puzzles

The puzzles weren’t delivered to the tables; we had to earn them by interacting with the various non-player characters (NPCs). They would send us on quests to gain bits of information or give us things that we had to solve. While some puzzles were straightforward, others involved less-than-usual interactions with the cast.

Every puzzle advanced the story, even if it only added a little depth to a character.

Standouts

The band and Lindy hoppers were of particular note. Both fit beautifully into spectacle of the evening. Let’s be real; in 2016, a swing band and a gaggle of folks Lindy hopping with style and skill isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence.

The setting was amazing.

The audience looked awesome. We were shocked to see so many people fully commit to the evening. My hat is off to everyone in attendance. Such a classy bunch.

The actors were exceptional at improvising with us. We didn’t see anyone break character.

#snowball #💗 #❄️

A post shared by Annaliese Rittershaus Brauman (@vonvalkyrie) on

The puzzling and live action roleplaying were strong. Our team was split into puzzlers and interacters. Lisa and I spent most of the evening playing with the characters, unraveling the interpersonal mysteries, and dancing. Lisa solved two puzzles and I only got around to solving the last one. There was a lot to do.

Attendees who wanted to dance could pretty much go the entire night doing nothing but dancing.

Attendees who wanted to puzzle could puzzle the night away (if they teamed up with some folks who would handle the NPC interactions).

Attendees who wanted to passively watch everything unfold could simply enjoy that.

Shortcomings

We attended opening night and there were a few places where Club Drosselmeyer felt like a public beta test:

  • A lot of players seemed to struggle getting started and finding their place in the narrative.
  • There were moments when we became confused, and therefore baffled the actors a little bit because they didn’t understand what we weren’t getting (and no one was breaking character, us included).
  • One particular character was a bit too necessary and popular. A line formed to interact with him and that slowed the game’s pace and progression.
  • The area around our table was consumed by people waiting on line to meet with the aforementioned popular character.

The stage acting at the end felt very forced. It was cute, but it wasn’t compelling.

The VIP ticket designation didn’t matter. At any ticket level, audience members made their experience what they wanted.

Club Drosselmeyer’s run is only two shows. The final show is tomorrow night (December 16, 2016).

Should I play Club Drosselmeyer?

Club Drosselmeyer was more than I could have ever hoped for from a puzzling event and I couldn’t help but go in with high expectations.

Puzzling, swing dancing, and interactive theater are three of my favorite things.

We worked hard throughout Club Drosselmeyer and left exhausted. It was worth every ounce of effort. Our team was the only one to unravel the main storyline and thus I got to choose the path that the ending would take.

If you’re going tonight, dress up, become a character, team up, and play hard. There are plots and subplots to explore (many of which went unexplored on opening night). There’s more than one evening’s worth of fun at Club Drosselmeyer. I wish I could go back.

Club Drosselmeyer is sold out… as it should be.

Join us at Boston’s Club Drosselmeyer

Our love of puzzles and immersive theater is well documented.

What you may not know is that we also love music and dancing, particularly swing and salsa.

So… we’re pretty damn excited about attending Club Drosselmeyer in Boston on December 11th.

Image of a nutcracker. Text reads: "Club Drosselmeyer Coming to Oberon December 11th and 16th. An interactive Nutcracker in Swingtime!"

What is Club Drosselmeyer?

Set against the backdrop of The Nutcracker, the website describes it succinctly:

“Puzzle hunt meets vintage cabaret in this immersive, interactive swing-dance extravaganza!”

The website also describes it less succinctly.

Where and when is Club Drosselmeyer?

The festivities will happen at Club Oberon in Boston’s Harvard Square.

There are currently two shows:

  • Sunday, December 11th, at 7:30pm
  • Friday, December 16th, at 7:30pm

Our impression is that there’s a chance that there will be more shows in the future if these two are successful.

Who’s behind this madness?

The folks of Green Door Labs. We haven’t met in person, but we’ve been Twitter buddies for a long while.

Is it good?

We can’t say yet.

Puzzles, immersive entertainment, live music, and swing dancing: worst case scenario is a night dancing and puzzling… so we’re feeling hopeful.

Book now

Get tickets while they’re still available.

If you plan to attend on December 11th, do let us know.

Book your evening at Club Drosselmeyer and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Room and Puzzle Hunt Directories: Interview with Dan Egnor

Dan Egnor’s Escape Room Directory was the first of its kind, an international listing that’s been around for nearly as long as escape rooms have been in North America. We are thankful for his work documenting the global proliferation of this industry. We recently asked Dan to share his insights, both on the growth of these games and the other, more complicated puzzle events he enjoys .

Room Escape Artist: What is the Escape Room Directory? Give us the basics.

Dan: The Escape Room Directory is what it says on the tin — a directory of escape rooms. You can find it at escaperoom.directory. It’s been up since October 5, 2014, so, 20 months or so as of this writing. There aren’t any reviews or maps or details — it’s just a big list of cities worldwide and escape rooms in those cities.

How did you get started?

I was just getting into escape rooms, and they were just starting to multiply, and I wanted some way to keep track of them. Putting every escape room in the world on a website seemed like a reasonable weekend project (ha ha), and seemed like a natural extension of puzzlehuntcalendar (which I also run, but is trivial by comparison).

When I started the Escape Room Directory, I thought it was the first worldwide directory, but it wasn’t; Essa’s Intervirals site came first by a long shot.

And how did you discover escape rooms?

I’ve always been into puzzle hunts. I was working at Microsoft when I got my start with “The Game” (note, the Wikipedia article is a little… exaggerated) which was a weekend-long, no-sleep, team-van-based hunt run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. My first hunt was “ISETV”, an alien-themed game run in Los Angeles in 1998.

Since leaving Microsoft and Seattle, I’ve kept an interest in puzzle hunts — though I prefer them a bit more cerebral than the classic “Game” was. As I noted above, I run a little calendar of puzzle events, which mostly exists so different people don’t accidentally schedule puzzle hunts on the same day!

Anyway, when SCRAP opened “Escape from the Mysterious Room,” which as far as I know was the first North American escape room, we in the puzzle hunt community were naturally intrigued and excited by this amazing new concept. As more rooms opened I organized an “escape crawl” where I and some friends tried to do all the local (SF Bay Area) escape rooms (that we hadn’t already done) in one day. That would be a preposterous idea now! But then, that only meant doing six.

Where are you when you aren’t escaping rooms?

I’m a programmer at Google; I live in Palo Alto, which is a town about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

So, six in one day to jump start this hobby… what’s the count now?

At this point I’ve played… somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 rooms, I think? (I need to update my spreadsheet.) Which is not actually that many. It’s certainly not enough!

Any favorites?

My favorite is probably Time Run in London UK. Actually I’d say overall London has the best rooms I’ve seen overall. Closer to home I’d give a shout out to the Great Houdini Escape Room, which is probably the best in the area.

My taste is the same as most people’s, I think — I like a good mix of inventive puzzles, an immersive experience, and magical technology (that works); I think the rooms I named above hit the spot on all of those dimensions.

Back to the directory… How did you amass this vast amount of data?!

So, originally, I assembled the directory by doing a lot of searching. I’d look for other lists of escape rooms (mostly local), I’d search business directories (like Yelp and TripAdvisor), and I’d just google “escape room <place>”. Like, I’d find that Malaysia has some escape rooms, so I’d just start searching for “escape room <city>” for every city in Malaysia, and copy down everything I saw.

Remember, this was early days. I figured, how many escape rooms can there be in the world? A couple hundred, tops? Even then, that was terribly naive. Anyway, this got old fast as you might imagine. I have a day job after all! And it’s not like I want to make a business out of this or anything. So I put up an invitation to send me mail with listings or corrections.

What is the multi-submitter? How does that fit in?

Somewhere around then, Chris Dickson (then of exitgames.co.uk, now of exexitgames.co.uk) had the excellent idea that there should be a one-stop shop for escape room owners (and others) to post details about a new escape room, so they wouldn’t have to go add their listing to every directory individually. Owners get an easy place to register updates, directories get more updates sent to them, it’s a win-win!

As Chris handed off day-to-day maintenance to other local enthusiasts, I ended up taking over the multi-submitter, and took the opportunity to revamp the form after some conversation with other recipients (such as the owners of this lovely site!). It’s pretty low-tech, just a Google form that fills out entries into a spreadsheet and emails updates to all of us. You can find it at escaperoomsubmitter.com.

We know how much work it is to keep a US map current. How are you doing keeping track of the entire world?

At this point, I mainly just take updates from the submitter, and from whatever else gets sent to me — from the submitter alone, in the last week, for example, there have been 33 reports — almost all of them for new facilities.

I haven’t been doing a lot of proactive research. As a result other directories, especially local/national directories (like this one!) tend to have better data. I occasionally think about retiring my directory, or somehow federating data in a better way, but it’s all work! Meanwhile I hope it provides a good service to people who enjoy its global reach and simple presentation.

After following the global spread, what’s your sense of the growth of the industry?

I really only have subjective impressions, which would be that the industry is continuing to expand rapidly (understatement!). The usual pattern is that a region gets seeded, followed by rapid hypergrowth as the trend is imported, followed by “merely” exponential growth, which is where most of the North American market is at now. You’d expect saturation to follow, and there are anecdotal reports of saturation in some markets, but I haven’t seen the numbers to bear that out.

I am always happy to see escape rooms taking root in new countries, especially when it looks like a local operation rather than a flag planted by some global franchise.

I was super interested and happy to see your post about growth rates. This is something we’re all interested in, and whenever I get interviewed by the press, it’s always something they’re asking. (In fact, if you ever feel like a follow-up post, I’d love to see growth on a regional/metro basis.) I’ve always thought it would be fun to dive into the data to try to get that kind of thing, but there are a lot of challenges, particularly since my data is mostly submitter-based and thus rather noisy (especially around closures and updates and timing).

Room Escape Artist: Stay tuned. We are struggling with some of the same data issues, but we are looking at how best to organize a regional study.

You grew into room escapes from puzzle hunts, while we are expanding from room escapes to other puzzl-y and interactive experiences. Which puzzle hunts do you recommend? For us and for our readers?

Puzzled Pint (a once-a-month puzzle-fest at a local bar or pub) and DASH (a once-a-year walking hunt) are great places to start, if they happen to be where you live! Online from anywhere, Shinteki’s Puzzle of the Month (free) is a monthly puzzle; P&A Magazine (US$10) is a fun monthly puzzle hunt magazine. In all these cases, sample puzzles or back issues are available, so you can get a sense of the style before you dive in. Happy solving!

Our First Puzzled Pint

The New York City Puzzled Pint migrated across the East River out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, so we finally went to one… because Brooklyn was literally a bridge too far.

What’s a Puzzle Pint?

Puzzled Pint is a free puzzle event on the second Tuesday of every month in ~35 cities across the English-speaking world (and Vienna, Austria).

The puzzles are community-created and they are posted online, so if you aren’t near a Puzzled Pint, you can still participate.

To learn the precise location of the bar hosting your local Puzzled Pint, you usually have to solve a location puzzle that is posted on the website the Friday before the gathering. In most cities, the location changes each month.

A photo of hands working on solving a puzzle on a bar table. The puzzle is surrounded by beer glasses and plates of food.
The guiding hand of Brett Kuehner, our friend and guide into the wider world of puzzling.

Not a room escape

Over the past two years, we’ve been wading deeper into the puzzle world; it’s a great time.

Puzzled Pints are decidedly not escape rooms.

At the Puzzled Pint we visited, all puzzles were paper-based (we needed to bring pencils, scissors, and tape). There was no environment (other than the bar). We were timed, but there was no winning or losing. (Note: the events are timed, so you can be competitive if that’s your thing).

A coaster that reads, "Guiness: Competiton on the field. Friendship in the pub." rests in front of a variety of paper puzzles.

This is a pure puzzle event for people who like to solve puzzles.

We had a blast

This isn’t a review, but it’s safe to say, we’ll be back as often as we’re available (so long as they stay in Manhattan).

If you’re the puzzle type, absolutely check out Puzzled Pint. It’s free. It’s fun. And if you cannot attend the events, they are freely available over the internet… along with all of the Puzzled Pint puzzles dating back to July 2010.

Enjoy!

A flock of 7 origami birds.
When all was said and done, Lisa folded a flock from our puzzle pieces.