Escape Game Adventure Books [Overview]

Puzzling happily ever after.

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 2020

Team size: we recommend 1-family

Duration: 15-60 minutes

Price: about $10

REA Reaction

Escape Game Adventure books were family-friendly puzzle books with bold, beautiful illustrations and a light narrative. Each book represented an adventure through time and space to right a fantastical wrong.

The covers of both the Last Dragon & The Mad Hacker Escape Game Adventure books.

We’re in favor of anything that helps kids find a love of puzzling and using their minds to have fun. The Escape Game Adventure books comfortably fit that description.

They weren’t long or challenging. Their thorough approach to hinting and solution descriptions meant that anyone who wants to understand how a puzzle works can learn. Learning is what these books were all about. They would be a fantastic first step on a young puzzler’s journey.

Series Installments

  • The Last Dragon (Buy Now) (Review Coming Soon)
  • The Mad Hacker (Buy Now) (Review Coming Soon)

Who is this for?

  • Kids & families
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Adorable
  • Gorgeous illustrations
  • Kid friendliness
  • Straightforward, but real puzzling

We’re going to publish short reviews of each book in the series. For the sake of simplicity and repetition reduction, we’re covering the basics in this overview.

Setup

Escape Game Adventure books were play-at-home escape games in a book format designed for kids ages 8 to 12.

While the individual Escape Game Adventure books each offered a unique story and puzzle set, they all followed the same structure.

Each book opened with a:

  • 1-page history of escape rooms, that references our data (but doesn’t cite us… we’ll live)
  • 2-page spread with the rules
  • 1-page narrative lead-in

To play, you’ll need:

  • One of the books
  • Something to write with
  • A pair of scissors

Gameplay

The core gameplay of the Escape Game Adventure books revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and scissor skills.

Each book was broken down into pages labeled in 3 colors:

  • Puzzles – Green
  • Hints – Red
  • Solutions – Purple
Green puzzle page indicator.

Puzzles – Green

While this escape room was presented in book format, we didn’t flip through the pages in order like we would with a traditional storybook. Each puzzle resolved to a page number, thus taking us to another page in the book.

Closeup of a graphical dogear.

If a puzzle took up more than one page, this was noted in lower corners with a graphical dogear.

At the back of the book there was an answer validation grid mechanism to verify that we were moving to the correct page, but we didn’t use it after the first puzzle. (Kids probably will use it.)

Hints – Red

Each puzzle had between 2-5 hints (usually 4) presented in order. The hints were well-structured and granular. If you need help, the hints will provide good nudges.

Solutions – Purple

The solution pages were graphical and outlined each puzzle step-by-step. Even if you cannot solve the puzzles, the Escape Game Adventure books will not leave you hanging.

Analysis

This analysis refers to the structure of play, which was standard across the Escape Game Adventure book series. Refer to the individual reviews for the analysis of the content of each book.

Dooz beside a time portal.

➕ We loved Dooz, the robot friend that aided us throughout our escape. His speech bubbles added character to the cluing and the hint pages. Dooz reminded me a lot of Babbage from the original Time Run games.

➖ The books opened with a text-heavy description and light history of escape rooms before leaning into the rules. This felt a little too long for the audience and gave us the bad impression that the books would overwhelm us with prose. Fortunately, they weren’t.

➕ The answer validation grid was an elegant mechanism to help kids confirm that they had solved the puzzle correctly and keep them on the right track.

❓ With the solution always a page number in the book, that limited the structures of answers (and would make back-solving easier.) This wasn’t inherently a problem, but may make the solutions start to feel repetitive over time, as the book series expands.

➖ The graphical dogeared page corner indicator that a puzzle continued on the next page was not eye-catching enough. We regularly struggled to notice them.

➕ The hint system was easy to find and clear to follow. The solution pages were separate from the hint system and just as easy to locate. Both hints and solutions were thorough and clear.

➖ The instructions did not mention that we’d need scissors. We definitely needed them.

➕ The Escape Game Adventure books included vocabulary lessons on many of the pages. A “Did You Know?” bubble told the reader some basic information about a thematic word that will likely be unfamiliar to kids.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pencil, scissors
  • Note that these books are single-use.

Buy Them Now

  • The Last Dragon (Buy Now) (Review Coming Soon)
  • The Mad Hacker (Buy Now) (Review Coming Soon)

Buy your copies of the Escape Game Adventure books, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: we received media samples for review.

Immersia – The Piccadilly Cabaret [Review]

A haunting performance.

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 25.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Piccadilly Cabaret was more than the sum of its parts.

The puzzles were completely forgettable, but the overall experience was so very memorable.

In-game: An old bar after closing time.
Image via Immersia

I have a longstanding fascination with simple things executed beautifully; The Piccadilly Cabaret really spoke to that.

With games like The Grand Immersia Hotel, Immersia has greatly advanced the complexity and intensity of their escape experience design. If you only have time for one game with Immersia, it probably should be The Grand Immersia Hotel. That said, their earlier lineup offered so much subtle beauty that I must recommend playing at least one or two of them. Immersia’s roots are strong and deserving of appreciation.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Phenomenal yet subtle atmospheric moments.
  • A brilliant approach to story and set design.

Story

It was the 1930 and we were devoted fans of the late diva Emma Albani. It was the anniversary of her death and the cabaret that she had made famous was scheduled for demolition. We’d decided to take a crack at sneaking into the old, condemned building to see if we could find her dressing room before everything was destroyed.

In-game: the piano and microphone on the stage of an old cabaret.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal yet effective. Everything in this game felt right, even when there wasn’t a lot of detail. This really speaks to how smart Immersia was when deciding upon the setting for The Piccadilly Cabaret.

Additionally, the most memorable moments of this game were born of Immersia’s set design.

In-game: Closeup of an old bar's cash register.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret was a standard escape room with an easier level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The story behind The Piccadilly Cabaret was original and clever.

➕ The set for The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal, but it felt right. It had enough details to sell the scene. The lighting was atmospheric and functional.

➕ Immersia created a character who doubled as a hinting and timekeeping mechanism. The set up made sense with the scenario. While not flashy, it was well-executed. It was also entertaining. Through our interactions with this character, Immersia could also deliver our team a more personalized experience, crafting the interactions to meet our needs.

➕ We enjoyed the transition from act 1 to act 2.

➕ In the second act, Immersia enhanced the atmosphere was a few well-timed interactions. These were subtle, but powerful moments.

➖ Many of the puzzles felt dated. These included multiple searching and counting puzzles that felt “set atop” rather than integrated into the experience.

➖ Although the gameplay worked, the puzzles were largely forgettable. This was in part because much of the cluing was paper-based, rather than a built into the set and props. The puzzles weren’t native to the gamespace.

➖ While The Piccadilly Cabaret didn’t require any outside knowledge, one key late game challenge would have been rough without it.

➕ The final sequence was illuminating.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • For the full experience, players must be able to climb up and over a small obstacle.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Laval Location.

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Vortex – Nightfall [Review]

Shelter Skelter

Location:  Montreal, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price:  29.99 CAS per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Nightfall was a strong escape room with an interesting approach to hinting.

The set looked good. The puzzles were entertaining and broadly varied.

In-game: A bloodied water well outside of a cabin in the woods.

As hinting, Vortex had included extra information lying around the room in obvious places. If we wanted to access that additional layer of information, we could do so freely at any time. This was interesting because it created as many problems as it solved – mostly because some of the bonus hints were kind of essential. This was needlessly frustrating, but quite fixable.

All in all, Nightfall was one of the strongest games that we played in the city of Montreal (bearing in mind that a lot of the action in the Montreal escape room community is happening in the suburbs). If you’re in Montreal and looking for an escape, Vortex’s Nightfall is a strong option.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Fun set and prop interactions
  • Puzzle variety

Story

While hiking through the woods in the late 1960s, one of our friends had fallen and broken his leg. We had found refuge in a cabin and radioed back to town. We were told that rescuers would be dispatched if we could determine our location. As we settled in and began looking for the necessary information, we started hearing harrowing noises in the woods around us… and the sounds kept getting closer.

In-game: 2 people operating a chamber occupied by a third person.
Image via Vortex

Setting

We found ourselves outside of a strange cabin in the woods. The setting was dimly lit, but we were able to see what we needed to see. Exterior scenes have generally proven difficult to sell, but Vortex did a pretty good job of building the right vibe. It certainly showed its seams, but felt solid enough.

As we entered the cabin, the scene shifted dramatically and Vortex maintained their level of quality.

In-game: Closeup on a firepit with a fire glowing within.

Gameplay

Vortex’s Nightfall was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Vortex built a compelling outdoor set for Nightfall. It was dark, but with enough light that we could see what we needed to see. It created a sense of eeriness appropriate for the scenario, without becoming scary.

➕ The gameplay flowed cleanly. We enjoyed the wide variety of puzzles and how they linked together.

➕/❓Nightfall gave clear feedback when we solved a puzzle. We always appreciate this aspect of escape room design. It’s debatable whether Vortex’s choice of feedback notification made sense in this experience. It probably depends on how playful versus realistic your escape game preferences lean… Vortex leaned into playful. Our team was split on the subject.

➕/➖ Players could choose to make this game easier by reading the additional paper cluing that Vortex left within the game. These clues were clearly marked as optional. We appreciated the intent: that players could get the clue structure entirely from within the experience, but could choose to read additional cluing for any given puzzle.

That said, we found a few instances where we couldn’t glean the information we needed without reading the extra papers. It didn’t exist anywhere else. For example, we needed to read the printed material to know that there was a bonus puzzle available within the game. Also, the papers explained how to activate an entire critical sequence.

➖ We found one process puzzle inelegant. It ended up coming down to trial and error.

➖ One large, intriguing set piece built up to an uninteresting reveal. That moment was begging for a more engaging interaction.

➕  Nightfall had a climactic ending. Vortex created a prop that sold the moment. It was campy, but it worked well with the vibe of the set and the game. This ending was unusual, funny, and quite memorable.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking. Download the P$ Montreal parking app to pay the meter.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • All players need to be able to crawl a short distance.

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

Disclosure: Vortex comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Vortex Future [Review]

The future is really hard.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Date Played: February 3, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We lost in Vortex Future. It wasn’t even close. That doesn’t mean that it was a bad game.

Like Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past, Vortex Future was a compact, puzzle-centric experience in a beautiful setting. However, stylistically the two games played completely differently from one another. Where Vortex Past felt like solving a puzzle box, Vortex Future felt like solving a puzzle hunt without the meta puzzles.

In-game: Wide view of a futuristic spaceship.

Vortex Future was a puzzler’s game in the purest sense. There wasn’t any searching; each puzzle was presented and labeled at its own station. They varied broadly in complexity. While there were 2 or 3 that we didn’t care for because of execution or style, they were generally high-quality challenges.

So, why did we lose? Well, knowing nothing about Vortex Future, we played too lackadaisically. We burned too much time on a puzzle in the main game before finally taking a much-needed hint. We probably needed 10 to 15 minutes for the final puzzle, which we didn’t have. The final puzzle was totally solvable, but it was also one of the most, if not the most, challenging puzzles that we’ve ever faced in an escape room. As soon as we recognized the challenge for what it was, we knew we were doomed.

If you’re a strong puzzler, there’s a lot to love in Vortex Future. We lost and still enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. I think that we could have won this game if we had realized what we were up against and had approached it with the respect that it deserved.

If you’re a newbie or you’re more into the scenery and adventure aspects of escape rooms and aren’t crazy about games that present heavy puzzling… then try out some of Sauve Qui Peut’s other offerings.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Puzzle hunters
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Experienced players
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Innovative, challenging puzzle design
  • Clean and beautiful presentation
  • If you’re looking for a hard escape game, this was a very hard escape game

Story

It was the year 2089 and we had to board a disabled space station designed to detect threats to Earth. Humanity was counting on us to restore the station’s power and functionality.

In-game: A big red button glowing on the wall of a futuristic spaceship.

Setting

Vortex Future was a beautiful, compact space station lined with cleanly presented puzzle modules. Each station had the same 1 through 8 number inputs and took up the same amount of wall space.

The artistry in Sauve Qui Peut’s design was how they used this same structure to present so many different challenges.

In-game: The power and engine computers in a futuristic spaceship.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling. Every puzzle was clearly presented without any searching. We simply had to figure out how to solve them.

In-game: Two different puzzle stations.

Analysis

❓ Vortex Future was a puzzler’s escape room. This was one of the hardest escape rooms that we’ve ever played.

➕ The spaceship set of Vortex Future looked clean, sleek, and polished.

➕ In Vortex Future, Sauve Qui Peut demonstrated just how much a puzzle designer can accomplish with a simple input interface. While these stations looked similar, and resolved with a consistent interaction, the paths to solve them were incredibly varied.

In-game: A sealed doorway in a futuristic spaceship.

➖ One puzzle felt light on cluing. We spent too long thinking we were making progress, only to find that we hadn’t learned anything about the puzzle at all. Coupled with the puzzle’s harsh sound quality, this was especially frustrating.

➖ One puzzle had a misleading visual interface, given the ultimate puzzle resolution. This puzzle really dashed our expectations.

➖ In one puzzle, the only viable solving method (that we found) was tedious and trial & error-y.

➕ Vortex Future required us to learn the logic of the game world, but think outside the box to solve the puzzles. This resulted in immensely satisfying puzzle solves.

➖ In a few instances the inputs were finicky, which caused us some confusion.

➕ While we got hung up on a few puzzles, overall they were fair, inventive, and unusual escape room puzzles that we enjoyed solving.

❓ The final puzzle was probably the most challenging puzzle that we’ve seen in an escape room to date. It was tangible, team-centric, and the type of thing many experienced puzzlers would know exactly how to approach… but it was a beast of a puzzle nonetheless. I think we would have been able to solve it if we got to it with at least 10 – maybe 15 – minutes on the clock.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • This game would be extremely difficult for colorblind players.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Future, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.

Deckscape – Behind the Curtain [Review]

Card magic

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 12, 2020

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about ~$15

REA Reaction

Deckscape games are consistently fun and playfully designed.

In recent installments, the games’ creators have put interesting and engaging spins on the gameplay. That was true of the stage magic-themed Behind the Curtain.

The stage magic box art for Deckscape - Behind the Curtain.

Since their first installment, however, Deckscape has always included a couple of gotcha “puzzles” that feel more like a game of “guess what I’m thinking” than a fair, solvable puzzle. I keep getting the impression that Deckscape’s designer feels that a game needs something that lots of people get wrong. While Behind the Curtain would have been more satisfying if every puzzle felt fair, thankfully we pushed through our early moments of frustration to reveal a truly satisfying play-at-home escape game.

From our perspective, Behind the Curtain was one of the strongest games in Deckscape’s respectable stable.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid puzzle play
  • Clever use of simple concepts from magic
  • This is one of Deckscape’s stronger products

Story

We had received an anonymous envelope with free tickets to a magic show performed by the legendary Lance Oldman in New York City… so we went to the show…

The deck of cards and a mysterious envelope.

Setup

Behind the Curtain followed the same structure as all previous Deckscape games. We explained this in detail in our first Deckscape review of their original games Test Time & The Fate of London.

The only key difference in Behind the Curtain was the inclusion of a mysterious envelope.

Gameplay

Deckscape’s Behind the Curtain was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.

Early puzzle cards introducing the main character, magician Lance Oldman.

Analysis

➕ Deckscape created magically thematic puzzles for Behind the Curtain. They would obscure, change, and misdirect. We appreciated how the gameplay style made sense with the story.

➕ In Behind the Curtain, Deckscape included props that allowed them to do more than they could otherwise have accomplished with only the deck of cards. They employed these in thematically relevant ways to add intrigue and deliver satisfying solves. They stretched these few additional props remarkably far.

➖ We encountered a few puzzles that felt like “gotcha” moments. One early puzzle was so egregiously obnoxious that we thought about quitting. Deckscape always throws in a couple of garbage puzzles and we hate that they do it.

➖ It wasn’t always clear – from the wording or the illustrations – when you needed an object or what you needed to understand about an object in order to solve a puzzle. This led to a couple of choke points where it was difficult to use the hint system to even figure out where to focus our attention.

➖ Although you should be able to solve through multiple stacks of cards at once for the bulk of the game, we broke sequence at one point due to some confusion born from the game’s art.

➕ We enjoyed an artistic late-game solve and the finale.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: just the game

Buy your copy of Deckscape’s Behind the Curtain, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Exit: The Game – The Mysterious Museum [Review]

The Mysterious Time Machine

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 19, 2020

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

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: about $10

Publisher: Thames & Kosmos

REA Reaction

Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum was one of our favorites of the series… and it completely caught us off guard. The name and packaging looked painfully drab and unappealing, so much so that it sat on our shelf collecting dust for about a year. It turned out that this boxed escape game was actually a clever time travel story.

The box art for the Mysterious Museum, depicts the entrance to an exhibit.
The packaging doesn’t reflect the gameplay.

The Mysterious Museum was one of the easiest tabletop escape games that we’ve played, but don’t read that as a criticism. There is an underappreciated joy that comes from playing a beginner-friendly tabletop puzzle game; things just click and flow.

The puzzle style was more about observation and connection than deeper solving. If you are an experienced puzzler, especially one familiar with the Exit: The Game series, your playthrough will likely go by quickly. We may have breezed through this game in under 30 minutes, but we weren’t bothered by that because we found that time so enjoyable.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop puzzlers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • This was one of the smoothest Exit: The Game experiences we’ve played
  • Some clever puzzles that we enjoyed as experienced players, but are straightforward enough for beginners
  • Fantastic low-key Easter eggs for Exit: The Game fans

Story

On a field trip to the Florence Natural History Museum, we had accidentally fiddled with an artifact and found ourselves traveling through time!

Closeup of the initial puzzle's art, depicts a closed museum ticket counter.

Setup

Our first review of Exit: The Game dove deep into their core mechanics. You can visit that review for more structural details.

Gameplay

Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum was a standard play-at-home escape game with an easy level of difficulty.

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

Assorted game components.

Analysis

➕ With The Mysterious Museum, Exit: The Game put an interesting twist on the escape “room” format. We moved through the same room repeatedly, in different time periods. We liked this change in format.

➕ We enjoyed the art direction and illustrations in The Mysterious Museum.

➖ Although we enjoyed the uses of destructibles in this escape game, we think the gameplay would have been cleaner if those destructible puzzles were presented in reverse order, with the destruction as the means to the solve first, and as the crux of the solve second.

➖ One puzzle didn’t speak to us clearly enough. It was a little out there.

➕ We enjoyed Exit: The Game’s twist on “mysterious object” for this game.

➕ Exit: The Game has continued to find ways to innovate while relying on the same core game mechanics. While not unexpected, this game’s innovation was an especially bright spot in our playthrough.

➕ At the conclusion of The Mysterious Museum, Exit: The Game included some amusing little keepsakes. We enjoyed the prizes and an Easter egg.

➖ Looking back at the hint cards after we’d finished, the stage 1 hinting seemed a bit heavy-handed.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: scissors

Buy your copy of Exit: The Game’s The Mysterious Museum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Exit: The Game provided a sample for review.

Escaparium – Bernie Block [Review]

Lego Land

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 2 – a small family

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 29.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bernie Block is the Lego escape room that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

While it never explicitly mentions Lego in any way, the look and feel was all Lego… and it was a delight.

In-game: A lego kitchen
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Escaparium clearly designed Bernie Block for children, but our team of adults still adored it. Sure, it was easier, but that didn’t diminish the joy of the experience.

I would have loved to see a little more drama at the end to match the detail that was poured into the world, but overall, Bernie Block is a must-play for families who are anywhere near Montreal. If you’re an adult player who doesn’t have kids, there’s a lot to love about Bernie Block if you’re willing to embrace the playfulness of this game. I am quite happy that I did.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Lego fanatics
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The cuteness levels are dangerously high
  • It feels like stepping inside of a giant Lego construction
  • Bernie Block is funny in a family-friendly way

Story

Bernie Block desperately needed our help… to convince his crush to go on a date with him.

In-game: A lego chair in front of a TV in a lego house.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Setting

Everything was built from blocks. Everything. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, the furniture – all of it. Bernie Block looked like we had stepped into something made by an 8-year-old in the best way possible.

As an adult, it felt like wonderful nostalgia… and I have to imagine that as a kid, Bernie Block would feel simply awesome.

In-game: A clock built from giant legos.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s Bernie Block was a family-friendly escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A lego bathroom.
Image via Natacha D Photographie

Analysis

➕ Delightful. This describes Bernie Block to a T. It describes the set, story, music, and so many of the in-game interactions.

➕ The block-based set and prop design created a unique aesthetic. It was bright and friendly. Escaparium minded the details, adding lego-y echos in their choice of set decor and props. The story came to life because we really felt a part of this little world.

➕ We met the characters in Bernie Block through amusing videos with stellar voice acting. They added humor and purpose to the gameplay.

➖ Although counting puzzles belong in a family-friendly escape game, the cluing felt messy, which made this sequence more chaotic than it needed to be.

➖ In one case, the trigger tolerances were a bit too tight. We had solved something and it didn’t quite register until we shifted things.

Bernie Block was especially charming because of its scale. The space felt small, but the interactions felt big. Escaparium replicated Lego interactions in their puzzle design, and delivered them at human size.

➖ We loved many of the set pieces in the second act – so much so that we wanted them to be a larger part of the experience. This felt like a missed opportunity.

➖ There was opportunity to do something more energetic with the finale.

➕ The Lego theme had broad appeal. Kids will feel at home in this game. Our group of adults felt nostalgic and no less joyful.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. Bernie Block is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Escaparium’s Bernie Block, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Immersia – The Grand Immersia Hotel [Review]

Fantastic service. Shuttle bus included with your stay.

Location:  Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Grand Immersia Hotel was different beast. It was big, narrative-driven, and incredibly compelling. With this escape room, Immersia has clearly established itself as one of Montreal’s must-play companies.

This ambitious escape game used many wonderful tactics to build intrigue and excitement.

In-game: closeup of the hotel's key display.
Image via Immersia

As you’ll see below, we noticed a few rough edges and opportunities for refinement. That said, they didn’t get in the way of the intensity of this adventure. That’s really what you’re paying for in The Grand Immersia Hotel.

If you’re anywhere near Montreal, check into the The Grand Immersia Hotel. You’re doing Montreal wrong if you skip it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Size and scale
  • Some gorgeous setpieces
  • Brilliant delivery of narrative & adventure

Story

It had been years, but the Grand Immersia Hotel was finally reopening. The opening bash would be the party of the century.

We had been abducted by a man obsessed with revenge. Before he dropped us off at the hotel, he had blackmailed us and given us explicit instructions to follow. He wanted the celebrities and politicians to suffer and we were his instrument.

In-game: The front desk of the hotel.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Grand Immersia Hotel was expansive, with multiple scene changes among vastly different spaces.

As with any hotel, The Grand Immersia Hotel was impressive in the common areas… and the rooms… less so. These were maybe a touch too unimpressive for the purported grandeur of the newly reopening hotel.

The grand parts of the The Grand Immersia Hotel really leaned into the grandeur.

In-game: The hotel bathroom.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Grand Immersia Hotel built excitement and momentum. From the opening moments of this thrilling ride, through each scene change, it kept our hearts racing, and our solving energetic.

➕/➖ Immersia built an incredible juxtaposition into The Grand Immersia Hotel. We entered through the scene of a stereotypically bad escape room, but pretty soon, we could glimpse a later scene, even before we could reach it. Each scene was justified in the story and the collections of scenes worked together beautifully. In a couple of instances, however, that juxtaposition was a little too strong.

➕ The acting in The Grand Immersia Hotel was a lot of fun. We could play into it as much or as little as we wanted. Whether we chose to avoid or engage, it added excitement and the threat of consequence.

➕ We loved one elegant late-game puzzle. Although it was process-y, it was tangible and thematic. The moment we keyed into the aha, we were impressed. 

➖ At times, Immersia leaned heavily on standard escape room tropes.

➖ One late-game puzzle lacked feedback.

➕ We encountered a clear decision point in The Grand Immersia Hotel. We understood our choices and their consequences.

➖ We read much of the narrative cluing from papers rather than felt it through the gameplay.

➕ The plot twist – albeit short – added to the experience. We enjoyed how the final scene played out to wrap up our story.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Codex – The Reflection of Madness [Review]

Tentacle Time

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28,99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Codex’s approach to designing a Lovecraftian horror adventure in The Reflection of Madness was poetic. With a few pieces of Lovecraft’s deep lore and unusual aesthetic, they built an exciting and surprising world.

The escape game was fairly large, with delightful puzzles that felt at home in this strange universe.

In-game: A portal splitting open reality, a tenticle is vaguely visible beyond the gap.
Image via Codex

Codex built a cohesive experience through neat puzzle artifacts, which we adored. While we enjoyed The Reflection of Madness immensely, there were a few details that felt unfinished, including the conclusion.

Codex is one of Montreal’s must-play companies, and in our opinion, The Reflection of Madness is their premier game. Go play it. The horror isn’t overly intense, so long as you’re ok with the idea of battling evil elder gods from the deep.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Fantastic flow and progression
  • Wonderful set design and art direction
  • Incredible, thematic interactions

Story

Our team had been dispatched to a magical dimension. An occultist professor’s work had ripped a breach into the fabric of reality and it threatened to consume not only that dimension, but all others.

In-game: A large tenticle coming from the ceiling of a study.
Image via Codex

Setting

Codex used a large amount of space to create The Reflection of Madness. They were also clever in how they used it.

What began as a fairly mundane, study-like environment spiraled out into wonderful Lovecraftian madness.

In-game: Wide view of a study.
Image via Codex

Gameplay

Codex’s The Reflection of Madness was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a globe in a study.
Image via Codex

Analysis

➕ Whereas at first glance The Reflection of Madness looked competent but banal, as the escape game progressed, revealing Codex’s vision, the intentionality became clear. Each set was decorated completely, from floor to ceiling. As we transitioned through the game, we moved into increasingly chaotic sets that added intrigue and punctuated the story. The final set was especially outrageous.

➕ The gameplay in The Reflection of Madness can be summed up by the phrase “neat puzzle artifacts.” In each act, the gameplay revolved around unique props that we manipulated to unusual ends. These were fascinating, fun, and tactile. The solves were immensely satisfying.

➖ There was room to optimize a few of the puzzles with small tweaks. One process puzzle – built into a neat puzzle artifact – needed additional intermittent feedback. We almost abandoned the correct idea before seeing it through to the solve. Another neat puzzle artifact was located such that it was challenging for the entire team to engage with it. Since it had appeal even to onlookers, it would have been even more exciting if everyone could have been on the same wavelength.

➖ The game’s biggest reveal needed to better mask the technology that was doing the heavy lifting.

➕ Momentum built throughout The Reflection of Madness. From the major reveal, on through the next discovery and the scenic twists, the energy level only intensified as we played.

➖ We wanted more from the conclusion. There was so much tension and it begged for a stronger resolution.

➕ The set and gameplay together supported the story of The Reflection of Madness. Players will appreciate the narrative arc whether or not they know the Lovecraftian lore of Cthulhu. Codex crafted this escape room with a level of cohesion that few can rival.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking in the back of the building near the entrance to the escape rooms.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Codex’s The Reflection of Madness, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codex comped our tickets for this game.

Breaking Point Escape Rooms – Patient 17 [Review]

The doctor is running out of patients.

Location:  Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Date Played: January 4, 2020

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32-35 per player for public booking; private booking $35-$60 each depending on team size

Ticketing: Public or private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Patient 17 felt like an old-school escape room at heart, but the production design and attention to narrative elevated it above the average escape room. 

The relatively complex story (especially for a crime-themed escape room) subtly followed us through the experience to its conclusion. Breaking Point also developed a strong sense of place through the story, set, and puzzles. Patient 17 felt ominous and confining, but never claustrophobic or scary.

The puzzles were mostly standard escape room puzzles, with nothing particularly flashy to offer experienced players. However, the game felt intuitive and flowed naturally. Some ambiguity slowed us down at first, but once we got going, we were in the zone until the end.

The Secret at Whitmore Estate is Breaking Point’s newer and stronger game, but Patient 17 is also worth playing while you’re there.

A dimly lit hospital exam chair surrounded by medical implements.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Thriller fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Creepy, isolating atmosphere
  • Thematic puzzling
  • The feeling of being part of a larger story

Story

An undercover agent investigating a doctor with connections to several missing women appeared to have blown her cover. We had been sent in to attempt a rescue.

A bulletin board with documents including a newspaper clipping with a headline reading "Doctor Arrested For Unorthodox Practice."
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Setting

Patient 17 took place in a dingy-looking hospital with an appropriately creepy vibe. Foreboding props and dark corners lent the game an ominous feeling, without ever veering towards scary.

A grimy hallway with solid doors, an electrical panel, and a single bare bulb.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Gameplay

Breaking Point Escape Rooms’ Patient 17 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Breaking Point’s intro videos were among the best we’ve seen. The introduction for Patient 17 provided backstory that gave our mission urgency and emotional heft.

➕ The detailed production design made the escape room feel like a creepy hospital. The gamespace felt confining, but alluded to a larger outside world. This level of detail drew us into the story and heightened our sense of urgency.

A dirty sink splattered with blood.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

➖ Patient 17 could have used stronger gating early in the game. With so many puzzle elements available at the start, we struggled for a while before making real progress.

➕ The puzzling mostly involved standard escape room puzzles that coordinated well with the setting and the story. Solving them felt like making progress towards our goal.

➕ We were especially delighted when we discovered how to make use of one everyday item that initially felt too unbounded to contain a puzzle.

➖ We kept returning to a certain interesting-looking object that ended up having no bearing on the game. Replacing that object with a puzzle element or a less compelling prop would make it less of a red herring.

➖ The ending felt somewhat abrupt. We found ourselves wishing for a more exciting final scene.

➕ We appreciated the attention to narrative that threaded throughout Patient 17. After the intro, we encountered more information through the set and puzzles that enhanced our understanding of the story world without requiring excessive reading. The story felt original enough to stick in our minds while solving.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is ample parking at the venue.

Book your hour with Breaking Point Escape Rooms’ Patient 17, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.