Looking Glass Adventures – Mystery at Maryweather Mansion [Review]

Study Egypt

Location:  Toronto, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 2-12; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per adult, $20 per child (under 13)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was not designed for me and my group. Looking Glass Adventures’ target market was younger families, as demonstrated by the changing tables in their bathrooms.

Considering their goal of producing family friendly adventures that adults can enjoy, I think that they are doing a lovely job.

In-game: A cartoonish purple and green door.

Did I see anything mindblowing? No. However, Mystery at Maryweather Mansion had solid puzzle and set design with a few creative interactions.

If you’re a family in Toronto looking to introduce your children to puzzle adventures, this is a fantastic choice. If you’re an adult looking for a solid escape room with a few interesting interactions, you can absolutely find fun within Mystery at Maryweather Mansion. We did.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Families
  • Newbies

Why play?

  • Cute, clever puzzles
  • Approachable gameplay

Story

Renowned archeologist/ adventurer Ms Maryweather was off on another one of her journeys when she heard rumor that a rival archeologist was planning to steal her most prized possession from her mansion.

She contacted us, her loyal pupils, to sneak into her home, bypass her security, identify her most prized artifact, and hide it before it could be stolen.

In-game: A purple walled study with a couch flanked by table lamps.

Setting

Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was built around the main character’s study. It looked like a traditional escape room with a few added elements that reminded us that the room was targeted at children.

While most of the game looked typical, the final act had the most interesting aesthetic (and gameplay) twist.

In-game: A wooden desk with locks on the drawers.

Gameplay

Looking Glass Adventures’ Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was a standard escape room with a family friendly level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a coat rack with a pair of hats and a handbag hanging from it.

Analysis

➕ The in-character delivery of hints was delightful.

➕ The story behind Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was light but solid. Above all, it didn’t come with a ton of reading.

➕ There were a couple of creative puzzles. My favorites made clever use of Ms Maryweather’s artifacts.

In-game: A large antique radio beside a couch.

➖ One of the puzzles that I truly enjoyed the mechanics of also felt like it was missing a bit of clue structure. The solution was alluded to, but even after having derived the correct answer for all of the right reasons, we weren’t confident at all until we saw that it worked.

➖ The lighting was too low, especially for the amount of searching required of us. We probably would have had an easier time in this game if we’d had a kid or two searching about.

➕/❓ While the set wasn’t fancy by any measure, Looking Glass Adventures selected an achievable locale and did a fine job. If your game selection is motivated specifically by set design, there won’t be anything that blows your mind.

➖ There were a few locks that had seen a few too many adventures and deserved to retire.

➕ Looking Glass Adventures provided an amusing bonus puzzle after the main game concluded. They do this for speedy teams. This was delivered in-character with the same charm as the hints.

Tips For Visiting

  • Looking Glass Adventures requires at least 2 adults present in the room with a group of children.

Book your hour with Looking Glass Adventures’ Mystery at Maryweather Mansion, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Looking Glass Adventures provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Crypto Escape Rooms – Below Zero [Review]

Cool!

Location:  Newmarket, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Below Zero was a standout game with high quality gameplay, narrative, and puzzling. Crypto Escape Rooms has really jumped out into the forefront of where escape rooms ought to be heading.

Newmarket may be a hike from Downtown Toronto, but it’s well worth the trip. When people ask me why I haven’t gotten bored of room escapes, it’s because of gems like Below Zero. Lisa didn’t play this one with me because I was traveling without her, but I am already trying to figure out how to get back there just so that she can play it too.

Below Zero brought me a lot of joy. If you can play it, you ought to.

In-game: A matrix of glowing dots on a door.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Wonderful character
  • Fantastic set
  • Great puzzles
  • Lots of humor
  • All around strong game

Story

We were among the last surviving humans, cryogenically frozen to protect us from a calamity. The good news was that the deep freeze had worked. The bad news was that we had been thawed hundreds of years early.

We had to figure out how to restore ourselves to cryo-freeze.

In-game: Wide angle shot of a control room.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Setting

Below Zero was set in a sci-fi cryogenics lab overseen by a charming artificial intelligence. The set was gorgeous, with puzzles and effects deeply integrated into the environment.

In-game: Wide angle shot of a room with access terminals along the walls.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Gameplay

Crypto Escape Rooms’ Below Zero was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, making connections, and interacting with a character.

In-game: A futuristic blue, glowing screen and interface.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Analysis

➕ Bert, the AI, was a wonderful and unique character. His influences were clear, but he proved himself to be far more than just another GLaDOS clone.

➕ Below Zero was a strikingly well-written escape game. I have nothing but praise for the narrative structure, character development, and humor of this game.

In-game: A series of chambers, a radiation symbol on the wall.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

➕ Crypto Escape Rooms made excellent use of choice in Below Zero. With clear options, we made a knowing decision and faced the consequences of our selection.

➕ The set was fantastic.

In-game: A storage device with a red object within it.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

➖ There were a number of moments that were too loud. On the one hand, this added to the ambiance. On the other hand, it happened a bit too often and the impact diminished.

➕/➖ There was a clever take on the laser maze. I loved what Crypto Escape Rooms did with this mechanic. Unfortunately, it was a little too easy to bypass one of the coolest parts of this interaction.

In-game: Close up shot of a control computer.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

➕/❓  Over the course of Below Zero, there were a few occasions where we encountered increasingly challenging renditions of same puzzle concept. I loved the way that this played. I can, however, imagine teams that don’t quite gel with this puzzle type diving deeper into demoralization with each subsequent iteration.

➖ A few props that get handled a lot were showing some wear and could benefit from another coat of paint.

In-game: An input terminal with different disks input into slots.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

➕ I’m a sucker for a strong interface where you know that you’ve done something when you interact with it. Give me some good buttons and my enjoyment of a game will jump immediately. Below Zero had great button-y buttons.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Crypto Escape Rooms has a parking lot.

Book your hour with Crypto Escape Rooms’ Below Zero, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Crypto Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Big Break Hamburg – Time Travel [Review]

Climb and crawl through time

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 10, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 75 € per Group for teams of 2 to 154 € per Group for teams of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As with Insomnia, Big Break Hamburg picked another brilliant theme in Time Travel. By having us traverse a broken space-time continuum, each new space was a completely different place, any of which could have been the setting for an entire escape room. (In fact, each setting in Time Travel was a theme for an escape room that we’ve played elsewhere).

Time Travel’s sets were solid. Its puzzles were strong. It played well from start to finish. This was a truly enjoyable escape room that just needed a memorable moment to pull the plot together and deliver something impactful.

In-game: The interior of a heavy metal vault door. Large gears and a locking bolt in view.

All-in-all, Big Break Hamburg is a company worth visiting if you’re in the region. I suggest playing both Time Travel and Insomnia. If you only have time for one, Time Travel played more cleanly, but Insomnia was a bit more memorable.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Diverse settings
  • Solid puzzling

Story

Many had attempted time travel, but no one had succeeded until Professor Emmerson did. Initially there were celebrations of the incredible accomplishment, until things started changing.

Emmerson had accidentally made minor changes to the timeline that reverberated throughout history. At first the timeline alterations were small. Then as the chaos spread, the changes to the timeline became catastrophic.

We had to repair the timeline before we all disappeared.

In-game: A wall of newspaper clippings, the NY Times piece about Apollo 11 in focus.

Setting

Time Travel opened up in a steampunk-esque time machine, which we used to travel through space and time. Each subsequent set took us to a different locale. Each location could have been its own escape room.

In-game: A strange metal device made from an assortment of objects.

Gameplay

Big Break Hamburg’s Time Travel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A wall of clocks.

Analysis

➕ The steampunk aesthetic of the first set was a strong opening location. There was a lot going on, but the set never felt red herring-y. Rather, it delivered the appropriate time-travel vibes.

➕ The sets each looked and felt distinct. For the most part, they were detailed and polished. Each was an unexpected and welcome next hop through time.

➖ The final set felt sparse. It was too large for the amount of interaction and not quite refined enough to pull off that look.

➕ We enjoyed a few key props, each in a different scene.

➕ Big Break used the layout of the gamespace to facilitate adventurous movement through space and time.

➕ Big Break Hamburg crafted substantial layered puzzles. These were well clued and fun to solve.

➖ While most of the puzzles worked well, there were a couple where the cluing could have used a touch of refinement.

Time Travel didn’t take itself too seriously. In the last scene, we got a laugh out of the goofy and political pop culture jokes.

➖ The “save the world” premise felt bolted onto a set-hopping puzzle game. Time Travel had a story, but it wasn’t a narrative-driven adventure. Although this worked from a gameplay standpoint, we felt it didn’t quite deliver on its ambitions.

➕ Big Break Hamburg hid Easter eggs in the escape room. Ask about these at the end of your play-through!

Tips For Visiting

  • This game involves some crawling and a little climbing.

Book your hour with Big Break Hamburg’s Time Travel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Big Break Hamburg comped our tickets for this game.

EscapeDiem – JigSaw [Review]

An unpretentious yet quality SAW-inspired experience

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 12, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 71 € per group for teams of 2 to 135 € per team for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

EscapeDiem’s JigSaw was a solid SAW-inspired escape game in a sea of generally mediocre SAW-themed games.

In-game: Jigsaw behind chickenwire.

JigSaw was intense with some scary moments, but never overwhelming. It was far more puzzley than we typically expect from a game playing with horror tropes. It did a great job of throttling back the fear when we really needed to think.

JigSaw wasn’t a gamechanger, but it did a good job casting us into a freaky and eerie murder room and making us fight through puzzles while overcoming our nerves. If you’re in Hamburg and this sounds like your kind of fun, then you should absolutely book EscapeDiem’s JigSaw.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • SAW fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Compelling SAW-inspired gameplay
  • Some creative puzzle design

Story

We’d woken up blindfolded in an old bathroom and under the supervision of a serial killer. We had to play his game… or he would skip to the end.

In-game: "I want to play a game" painted in blood on a white tiled wall.

Setting

JigSaw was exactly what we expected from a SAW-inspired game. It began in a rundown, tiled bathroom-like environment with heavy weathering and a foreboding feel.

The escape game moved on to other dark and intimidating settings, continuing a sense of fear that was occasionally stoked by the gamemaster.

This was all tied together by an in-character hint system that was especially well-performed by our gamemaster.

In-game: An iron clawed bathtub in a rundown bathroom.

Gameplay

EscapeDiem’s JigSaw was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: Numbers scrawled in blood all over a white wall.

Analysis

❓ EscapeDiem’s take on a serial killer game was standard. This played out exactly as we would have expected.

➕ EscapeDiem used space well. Jigsaw felt bigger than it was.

➕ There was a standout lighting effect in JigSaw.

❓ The set and puzzle design felt a bit messy. Although the gameplay worked, the look at feel of the space, props, and puzzles was unrefined. That said, this was justified by the theme and set up.

➕ The gamemastering was phenomenal. Our gamemaster justified her existence in our experience. This was well-acted over a walky-talky. This wasn’t her only role.

➕ The puzzles were varied and flowed well, shifting from search-heavy in an uncomfortable environment to more substantial and challenging puzzles.

➕ EscapeDiem did a fantastic job of tuning the fear level of the room to the complexity of the challenges.

➖ The gameplay arc didn’t quite conclude. Because of the choice of final puzzle, our playthrough (and energy level) fizzled rather than rushing to a dramatic conclusion.

❓ We’ve played a number of serial killer-themed escape rooms. This one made no attempt to hide its inspiration. It was conceptually unambitious, but well executed.

Tips For Visiting

  • Minimum age is 16 years old
  • At least one person will have to crawl.

Book your hour with EscapeDiem’s JigSaw, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: EscapeDiem comped our tickets for this game.

Adventure Team – Countdown to Meltdown [Review]

Send in the drones!

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 11, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  from € 99.00 for teams of 3 to € 154.00 for teams of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Countdown to Meltdown was a frenzied game with a Portal-esque vibe brought on by a talkative AI.

Atmospherically, Adventure Team did a great job in Countdown to Meltdown (one space that was too dark notwithstanding). The game space struck the right feel. there was a narrative arc and it all came together.

In-game: A white walled sci-fi laboratory.
Image via Adventure Team

From a gameplay standpoint, there were lots of great puzzles. For our team, Countdown to Meltdown evoked a chaotic feeling that made us feel stressed and at times as if we weren’t really contributing… even though in retrospect we each contributed quite a lot.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Frenzied gameplay
  • Interesting puzzles
  • Creative repurposing of tech

Story

It was our first day on the job at the most high-tech nuclear power plant in the country. We were greeted by a workflow and security artificial intelligence named AMEE (Artificial Mission Emergency Entity)…

The entry to the game, a steel door labeled 42 with a red wheel.

Setting

Adventure Team’s Countdown to Meltdown had a futuristic, sci-fi aesthetic with an AI voice-over. It was clearly paying homage to Portal and generally did a good job of it.

The thing that really set Countdown to Meltdown apart was its use of sound and light effects to create a frenzied environment.

In-game: a black circular door labeled, "Nucleus Industries"
Image via Adventure Team

Gameplay

Adventure Team’s Countdown to Meltdown was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a padlock on a piece of worn machinery labeled "Emergency Shut Down" in a dark room.
Image via Adventure Team

Analysis

Countdown to Meltdown was a solid puzzle game in a futuristic staging. It played well and looked cool.

➖ While the sets looked good, the final set was unnecessarily dim, which hampered both the gameplay and our appreciation of the space.

➕ There were some great layered puzzles. Adventure Team did some clever things with mastery-building.

➕ Adventure Team made use of some adorable tech. We enjoyed discovering and working with each one, each more complex than the last.

In-game: A computer console labeled "A.M.E.E."
Image via Adventure Team

Countdown to Meltdown relied on a runbook. It wasn’t necessary for every puzzle, but stayed relevant throughout the entire experience. It had small, transparent pages, which made it especially challenging to read, even more so under dim lighting.

➕/❓The escape room’s soundtrack felt frantic. This helped foster a chaotic vibe in Countdown to Meltdown. On one hand, it really did a great job of setting tone. On the other hand,

➖ The gameplay felt non-linear, but in retrospect, it was largely linear. This led to substantial downtime for individual players. We each left feeling that we were non-essential to the escape, but upon further reflection determined that we’d each solved quite a bit.

➕ /➖ Countdown to Meltdown had a lengthy introduction. Through it we met the AI character overseeing our experience. While it did built character and set the playful tone for the escape room, we found it overstayed its welcome.

➖ Although adorable, the AI fell short of the charm and wit of GLaDOS, but spoke in the same voice.

Countdown to Meltdown didn’t take itself too seriously. It was refreshing to play lighthearted sci-fi in the face of nuclear disaster.

Tips For Visiting

  • Minimum age is 16
  • Available in German or English
  • Knowledge of a German keyboard layout will be helpful.

Book your hour with Adventure Team’s Countdown to Meltdown, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Adventure Team comped our tickets for this game.

YouEscape – Demo [Reaction]

It’s like Facetime but with puzzles.

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: April 14, 2019

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $0 per player

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

YouEscape created a free demo to help entice more puzzlers to play their Google Hangouts-based escape games.

It was quick, but emblematic of what YouEscape was all about. If you’re curious about YouEscape, read a review of one of their full games, Elements.

In-game: A hand reaching in and hitting play on a radio.

YouEscape has waded into some interesting waters where they’re creating unusual puzzle games designed for play in-browser.

This style of game is best for people who would love to play escape rooms together, but cannot because they live too far away from one another.

I’d like to see YouEscape continue to push the boundaries of what they’re producing, as I think that there is a lot of untapped potential in this format.

If clever puzzles made from unusual inputs are one of the bigger draws of escape rooms for you, then you should give YouEscape’s Demo a try. It might not be a mind-blowing experience, but I really get a kick out of playing an escape room with friends in London from the comfort of my dining room and pajamas.

Post-game screenshot of all of the boxes opened, a sign reads "REA Escaped April 2019"

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Geographically dispersed friends
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • You can puzzle with friends from afar
  • It’s affordable
  • YouEscape does some clever stuff

Tips For Visiting

  • You will need a computer than can comfortably handle at least 6 browser tabs and a video chat without freaking out, a stable Internet connection, a microphone, and a notepad (physical or virtual, but we found physical to work best).
  • We recommend that each player use their own computer, from their own space, and communicate through Google Hangouts. This allows each player to move between the tabs/ windows as they’d like.

Contact YouEscape to book your session, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Skurrilum – Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman [Review]

Haunted

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 11, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  from €120 per group for teams of 4 to €176 per group from teams of 8

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We did it. We went to Hamburg to play the number one escape room in the world as voted by TERPECA 2018: Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman. In doing so, we completed all of the top 10 games on the TERPECA 2018 list.

In-game: an old dusty organ in a study, the walls are adorned with trophy skulls and taxidermy birds.

We did our best to control our hype and go in with the right mindset to maximize our enjoyment of the game. It was a fantastic escape room filled with many dramatic and unusual moments… but it fell short of our expectations.

Wailing Woman was showing too much wear. It seemed like there may have been some missing puzzles and story beats. We struggled with lighting issues. One moment should have been amazing, but collapsed under the weight of a translation error that sent us wildly off course.

The TERPECA 2018 voters played Wailing Woman in German, with a gamemaster essentially subtitling it. This has me wondering if the game felt fundamentally different under those circumstances. Additionally, I truly think that Wailing Woman suffered from the hype because part of the experience then became trying to understand why so many incredibly experienced players, designers, and owners were so wowed by this game.

The bottom line is that Wailing Woman was an incredible escape room… but it was made and maintained by humans. I highly recommend playing it, but go in expecting to play a great and inventive escape room, not “the world’s greatest escape room.”

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Many unusual and fantastical moments
  • Story-driven gameplay

Story

Ghost hunting celebrity Ernie Hudson was too busy to take on the case of the Wailing Woman so he’d sent us, his students, to investigate the case.

Were there real ghosts or were the disturbances caused by something more pedestrian? It was up to us to discern the truth.

In-game: the inside of Ernie Hudson's mobile home filled with his gadgets, degrees, and ugly print patterns on his couch.

Setting

Wailing Woman opened in a dark room, with a voice-over sequence setting the stage and establishing the story.

Once the lights turned up, Skurrilum sent us into Ernie’s mobile home to gather what we needed to begin investigating the reported paranormal disturbance.

In-game: The exterior of a beautiful old home that shows signs of disrepair.

Gameplay

Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman was a narrative-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A view from the entrance of Ernie Hudson's mobile home. His gear is visible on all sides.

Analysis

➕ Skurrilum told the story of our escape room through voice-over narration. As we played, we listened to a narrator explain our progress. This was an unusual and captivating storytelling style. Ernie was funny and engaging.

➕ Skurrilum built interesting sets for Wailing Woman. They were diverse, well designed, and well constructed.

➖ While the sets looked good, key props were showing too much wear.

➖ We encountered some frustrating puzzle design. In some cases we struggled to read in low light. In other instances, we struggled to internalize the story while solving the puzzle. More often then not, the puzzle content didn’t support the team size.

➕ In Wailing Woman, we conversed with the spirits, as any aspiring ghost hunters would. This lead to a fiery dialog.

➖ While we loved the effect of communicating with a ghost, in practice this didn’t work quite as well as it should have. We think that we ran into a minor English/ German mistranslation that had reverberating effects.

➕ There’s this nifty trick that we’ve only seen a few times in our escape room travels… and Skurrilum swapped it in. It’s always cool when this happens and it worked well with the story of this game.

➖ Despite the ghostly interactions, we felt more connected to Ernie Hudson than to the mission. We didn’t feel invested in the characters we were trying to help. We wished Ernie Hudson had made an audio appearance at the end because he was the most compelling character.

➖ The final act fell flat for us. Some of this was the translation error, but it also felt like something may have been missing. The conclusion felt abrupt.

➕ The ghosts were the stars of this escape room. They delivered the most impressive and entertaining moments in the experience.

Tips For Visiting

  • Minimum age is 14 years old
  • You must be able to climb up and down a few stairs.

Book your hour with Skurrilum’s Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Skurrilum provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Ravensburger – Vampire’s Castle Escape Puzzle [Review]

That last bite sucks…

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

We really wanted to love this puzzle. From a jigsaw puzzle standpoint, this was comfortably our favorite of the 4 Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.

Unfortunately, once we’d assembled the jigsaw puzzle, the “escape room” puzzles were a mess. There were multiple broken or ambiguous puzzles. While it all came together well enough in the end, the mistakes were too numerous and inexcusable for us to recommend this product.

A portion of the puzzle including a few suites of armor.

Pretty much all of the issues could be fixed in a future printing, if Ravensburger gets around to it. I hope that they do.

In the mean time, I’d recommend passing on this one unless you’re keen on doing the jigsaw or you’ve played Space Observatory, Witch’s Kitchen, and Submarine and want to complete the set.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept, mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Closeup of Dracula emerging from his coffin.

Story

While vacationing in Romania, we’d decided to take a hike. Along the way we’d found an old castle; we couldn’t turn down the adventure. As we entered the castle, the door had locked behind us. We slowly realized that we weren’t alone. What could we do to survive?

A portion of the puzzle including vampire bats.

Analysis

➕ From a purely jigsaw puzzle standpoint, Vampire’s Castle was our favorite of Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzles. The image was vibrant, with a lot of color and texture variation. The design kept our momentum going from start to finish.

➕ The puzzle was filled with all sorts of cute oddities and amusing details.

The Vampires Castle Escape puzzle box.

➖ Too many of the puzzles within the puzzle were problematic. A third of the puzzles worked well. A third of the puzzles were too ambiguous for my liking… and a third of them were a total mess.

➖ There was a counting puzzle that was far too fuzzy.

➖ The puzzles that didn’t work properly were baffling, I’m really confused as to how they went to print.

➕ The final puzzle was satisfying.

BUY IT NOW

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Vampire’s Castle Escape Puzzles, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(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. We appreciate the support.)

Big Break Hamburg – Insomnia [Review]

High stakes therapy

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 10, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 75 € per Group for teams of 2 to 144 € per Group for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Big Break Hamburg had us drift off into a dream world for Insomnia. Conceptually dreams are one of our favorite escape room settings because they allow the designers to justify a lot more than a setting in normal reality… and Big Break Hamburg took advantage of this freedom.

Insomnia had a number of otherworldly sights and moments that really stuck with us.

While there were a few interactions that could have used a little more grounding or better cluing, this was a great game. If you’re in Hamburg, you should confront Insomnia.

In-game: a red heart beating in a sea of blood.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Dreamers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A fantastic concept
  • Some great moments

Story

I’d been suffering from insomnia and it was becoming maddening. One sleepless night, I had found an article about an experimental cure for insomnia.

The strange treatment required gathering my friends and having their consciousness enter my dreams so that we could conquer my inner demons.

This procedure came with a catch… if the group successfully defeated my inner demons, I would be cured. If we failed… all of our minds would be lost in my dream.

In-game: A glowing rotary phone ad the foot of a bed.

Setting

Insomnia was set inside of an eerie (not scary) dream world. Centered around a strange tree growing in a bedroom, the dream justified the presence of just about any imaginable object and Big Break Hamburg took advantage of the opportunity.

In-game: a large tree growing out of the wall with a strange hole in it.

Gameplay

Big Break Hamburg’s Insomnia was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ We entered Insomnia just as one usually enters a dream world. This was an amusing and enjoyable opening.

➕ The dream world scenario afforded Big Break Hamburg the luxury of randomness. It can be challenging to pull together unconnected objects into a cohesive puzzle experience. For the most part, they pulled it off. Because of it, we got the opportunity to engage with a shocking prop or two.

➖ Since anything was possible in a dream, we couldn’t necessarily intuit cause and effect. Sound or light clues would help players follow the dream world connections.

➖ Big Break Hamburg introduced a concept that flipped our assumptions. It was nifty, but not entirely consistent, which became confusing.

➖ A few of the puzzles didn’t flow quite smoothly enough, including some momentum-killing search puzzles. A bit of additional gating could add more energy to the escape.

Insomnia included some of our all-time favorite light switches. Through these, the game blossomed and then hit full swing.

➕ Big Break Hamburg hid Easter eggs in the escape room. Ask about these at the end of your playthrough!

➕ There were a number of memorable moments that really stuck with us. This game was weird in a great way.

Tips For Visiting

  • At least one person needs to crawl.

Book your hour with Big Break Hamburg’s Insomnia, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Big Break Hamburg comped our tickets for this game.

Hidden in Hamburg – Neptune’s Curse [Review]

God of the Sea

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 11, 2019

Team size: up to 7; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30€ per player (minimum ticket purchase of 5)

Ticketing: Public Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Neptune’s Curse was the kind of escape room that really highlights what’s fantastic about this whole form of entertainment.

Hidden in Hamburg packed great, tangible puzzles into an incredible, authentic space. Built inside of a ship, this game had a setting that couldn’t be duplicated. It was really cool.

If you’re anywhere near Hamburg and value puzzle quality just as much as the adventure and setting, Neptune’s Curse is a must-play.

In-game: a narrow wooden stairwell the shadow of a trident
Image via Hidden in Hamburg.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Incredible use of space
  • An authentic set
  • Fantastic puzzle play

Story

We boarded the Rickmer Rickmers, a retired ship-turned-museum. As we toured the vessel, we entered the captain’s quarters. There, the angry voice of Neptune, god of the sea, demanded that we return his trident, stolen by the long-dead captain of the ship… or suffer the wrath of a god.

In-game: A wooden ship's comaptment with unusual crates and storage containers built into the walls.
Image via Hidden in Hamburg.

Setting

Hidden in Hamburg was built within the Rickmer Rickmers, an actual ship docked in the Elbe River. Once aboard, we made our way to the actual crew’s quarters. That’s where our adventure began.

The set of Neptune’s Curse was as authentic as it could get. Initially, it seemed quite bland. We were within a fairly cramped ship’s quarters. As the game progressed, however, we began to see how Hidden in Hamburg used the idiosyncrasies of the old ship to present a one-of-a-kind experience.

The front of the docked tall ship, the RICK RICKMERS.

Gameplay

Hidden in Hamburg’s Neptune’s Curse was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

The bow of the RICK RICKMERS.

Analysis

Neptune’s Curse was set aboard the ship Rickmer Rickmers. The ship was a phenomenal escape room setting. The gameplay made use of the space. It was a fun place to move through, and move we did. This added to our sense of adventure in Neptune’s Curse.

➕ Hidden in Hamburg fit a lot of puzzle content into these ship compartments. The puzzles flowed well, making use of the space and often requiring teamwork.

➖/➕ We encountered one instance where Neptune’s Curse lacked necessary gating. We spent too long reaching for one puzzle before it became available. (We loved this puzzle once we were able to properly access it.)

The mast of the RICK RICKMERS.

Neptune’s Curse ramped up the difficulty slowly. The first scene was relatively tame, in both setting and puzzles, giving players a change to find their sea legs before diving into the deep end. The puzzles became substantially more challenging – and the gamespace more challenging to navigate – in subsequent scenes, before tapering off to allow a high-momentum, triumphant conclusion.

➖ With the setting aboard the Rickmer Rickmers, there was opportunity for additional world-building. With a few more details in staging, setup, and storytelling, we would have felt more a part of the world of Neptune’s Curse.

➖ The story lacked an emotional connection. We didn’t feel invested in the characters or their plight.

❓ While the puzzles in Neptune’s Curse were thematic, they didn’t impact the story. Rather than a narrative-driven experience, Hidden in Hamburg built puzzle-driven, adventure-forward gameplay into this vessel.

➕ Neptune’s Curse delivered many theatrical moments. Hidden in Hamburg directed our attention before triggering reveals. While the direction was heavy-handed at times, it enabled everyone to experience the these cinematic, memorable moments together.

A beautiful long wooden table in the middle of the crew's quarters.
Hidden in Hamburg’s lobby.

Tips For Visiting

  • Players must be able to maneuver through tight spaces, down stairs, and over uneven surfaces. This room might not be right for players with balance issues, vertigo, or claustrophobia.
  • Minimum age to play is 12, anyone under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • This game is located on board a ship called Rickmer Rickmers. Note that their other games are located on board a different ship called Cap San Diego.

Book your hour with Hidden in Hamburg’s Neptune’s Curse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.