Infinity Escape – The Magic Cottage: Sisters Curse [Review]

Crystals and wands and bubotuberpus, oh my

Location:  Fullerton, CA

Date Played: March 6, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $108 per team for teams of 2 players to $216 per team for teams of 6 players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: not recommended for anyone with arachnophobia

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Magic Cottage: Sisters Curse was beautiful (and just so cool!) with a gorgeous set and magical moments. Infinity Escape truly did some incredible things in this game.

Wide view of the magic cottage, the room is covered in herb bundles, and the far wooden wall has a massive carving of a dragon.

Throughout The Magic Cottage we found ourselves vacillating between love and frustration. We loved the set and the interactive props. However, we struggled against low lighting or limited space.

There is a ton to love in the beautiful, magical world in The Magic Cottage, and it is beloved by a lot of folks for good reasons. From my perspective, the greatness was evident throughout the game. All of its issues are fixable, and I hope that Infinity Escape takes a second look at them.

The Magic Cottage is a worthy game. If you’re in Southern California, it’s well worth checking out. The moments you’ll remember from this escape game are fantastic.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Magic & wizardry fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful set
  • Wonderful interactions
  • Solid puzzle content
  • Wands!

Story

Back in the 14th century, we were on a mission to break the magic on “the most haunted cottage in all of Britain.” Two sister witches had engaged in magical battle with one another and they had both lost, trapping themselves within their cottage.

We had to break the curses and determine which witch to assist.

Closeup of a few jars of magical components, including Bubotuber Pus and Gilly Weed.
Continue reading “Infinity Escape – The Magic Cottage: Sisters Curse [Review]”

Trapology – The Institute [Review]

Free your mind

Location: Boston, MA

Date Played: April 17, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $45 per player for teams of 2 to $38 per person for teams of 5

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A few of our friends had strongly recommended The Institute to us… and in the opening scenes, I was a feeling a bit dubious of their opinion. However, the deeper we pushed into The Institute, the more I got it. The Institute was clever, unique, and entertaining.

And I loved the final act.

A wall of security cameras with a yellow sign that reads, "SMILE! You're on camera"
Image via Trapology

It felt like there could be a stronger first act for this game, and I got the impression that the Trapology’s team was still looking for ways to improve the opening. Beyond that, it felt like there was a big opportunity to integrate the hint system into the story.

Trapology is one of the oldest escape room companies in the United States, and I love seeing how they continue to grow and improve; not all of our early companies do this. From my perspective, The Institute is Trapology’s strongest game to-date. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend playing The Institute.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Interesting narrative arc
  • Fun set-based interactions
  • A strong mid and late game

Story

After signing the wrong waiver, we found ourselves in a dubious research experiment conducted by the Trapology Research Institute.

Continue reading “Trapology – The Institute [Review]”

The Ultimate Escape Game – Fallout [Review]

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘nuclear wasteland'”

Location: Dallas, TX

Date Played: March 27, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25.99 – $35.99, depending on the number of players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: One player must crawl

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Fallout offered a combination of classic lock-based puzzles and satisfying physical tasks that all fit within the apocalyptic realm of the Fallout video games. My Fallout-savvy teammate found references to the games everywhere and admired how thoroughly the experience blended those details into both the set and the puzzles. I, a Fallout newbie, could still appreciate the theme, which I processed more generally as a playful forecast of a post-nuclear world.

Aside from the careful theming, the other standout feature of this room was the set layout. A huge metal silo in the middle of a broad alleyway obscured half of the set from every viewpoint. This required us to form a mental model of the space and to refine our communication strategies as we lost track of each other. The space was also open enough to run through it at length, which we did often. This felt liberating and novel in an escape room set, but it also matched the urgency of the scenario.

A corrugated aluminum structure with a sign on it that reads, "Danger Radiation."

The only slight drawback to the scenario was when it obscured whether a prop was unreliable due to the realism of the apocalypse or due to present-day malfunctioning. This happened twice, but our gamemaster offered prompt clarity.

For its attention to detail and unusual game space, Fallout is worth checking out as you play through noteworthy rooms in Dallas.

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Bam Kazam [Review]

Pffff sigh

Location:  Scottsdale, AZ

Date Played: March 10, 2022

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 120 minutes per ticket

Price: $34 per player for up to 2 hours

Ticketing: Your group plays privately, but there are also other groups playing at the same time.

Game Breakage: There were many broken props and interactions.

Accessibility Consideration: This experience requires some agility. At times there are flashing lights.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bam Kazam is a Boda Borg-style venue produced by the folks from Escape The Room… And I left thinking, “Well, they certainly made the Escape The Room of Boda Borgs.”

^ If you aren’t especially deep in escape room culture, let me assure you, that line is funny.

Let’s start with some history. Boda Borg is akin to an escape room amusement park, but with more physical challenges than an escape room would typically have. You can read all about it in our various pieces on their Boston location. The Boda Borg approach to things is awesome, which is why we are featuring them as part of RECON Boston this year.

Bam Kazam is an overt copy of Boda Borg’s game design and business model, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. Level99 (also part of RECON Boston) took the Boda Borg approach in a different direction to great effect… but that’s not what’s happening here. Bam Kazam feels like someone copied off of Boda Borg’s homework and still managed to get a lot of answers wrong. So let’s explore that, because the failures here are legitimately interesting:

Pop art logo for Bam Kazam! Features a lit bomb.

Price

The first thing that jumped out to me was the price of Bam Kazam: $34 per player for up to 2 hours.

Boda Borg Boston costs $24 per person for up to 2 hours or $36 for up to 4 hours. And it’s just outside of Boston… where I can guarantee that the cost of damn near everything except maybe water is way higher.

Games

Boda Borg Boston has 21 games.

Bam Kazam has 6 games… and while the staff talk about new games “coming next month,” they haven’t arrived. I called and checked just before we published this; nothing has opened since we visited. I also spoke to people who went to Bam Kazam months before us, and they told us the same story. The game offerings are stagnant.

Bam Kazam’s website lists only a couple of games… but laughably includes nonsense “game numbers” implying that there are thousands of Bam Kazam games.

Website screenshot, text reads, "Game #4712 Rat Trap"
Website screenshot, text reads, "Game #2986 Cat Burglar"

This just feels like someone over at Bam Kazam knows just how anemic their lineup is and tried to puff the organization up.

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games for more money than Boda Borg.

Craftsmanship & Upkeep

Boda Borg has been operating for years. On our most recent trip there, everything was working and looking great.

Bam Kazam has been operating for months and seems about as well-maintained as a Russian tank:

  • Broken props were haphazardly taped together.
  • Games felt unfinished. In one case there was an empty room in the middle of a game.
  • Interactions mysteriously failed us, even when we were confident that we had done them correctly.
  • In a facility where you are allowed to climb, set pieces weren’t always fastened to the walls or the floor.
  • And in one incredible moment, another team was let into our game without us having finished it… which felt a lot like having someone walk into the bathroom while you’re using it. Everyone involved knows that a mistake was made, but none of us knew who was at fault. (It was, in fact, Bam Kazam’s fault.)

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games of lower quality for more money than Boda Borg.

Basic Affordances

The thing that really got me was that none of the games in Bam Kazam even had their names over their respective doors. Nor did they give any kind of indication as to whether these games were mental, physical, or both.

Boda Borg does all of this stuff… and honestly, this is the easiest, cheapest thing that Bam Kazam just ignored.

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games for more money than Boda Borg… and they are neglecting the basics.

Should I Play?

Bam Kazam has one thing going for it: the concept is inherently fun… even when it is this poorly executed. So, if you’re in Phoenix, and are able to enjoy physical challenges, there are lots of worse things you could do with 2 hours and $34.

Just know that this place is a shadow of what it could and should be. Given Escape The Room’s resources and experience, it certainly feels like they choose mediocrity. It’s a shame; I used to respect them and I’d like to be able to again someday.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Athletes (for some challenges)
  • Any experience level (but experience certainly helps)

Why play?

  • A wide assortment of mental and physical challenges
Continue reading “Bam Kazam [Review]”

CU Adventures in Time & Space – Revenge of the Cabin [Review]

Quaint abandoned property. Sold.

Location: Urbana, IL

Date Played: March 12, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25-35 per player depending on group size

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: At least one player will have to climb a few stairs and crawl a short distance.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

CU Adventure in Time & Space’s Revenge of the Cabin was a joyful – albeit creepy – experience filled to the brim with character. The game was oozing intricate details. It offered excellent flow, consistent fun, and well-designed puzzles. Our team never had a lack of tasks to do or objects to examine, keeping the game flow consistent and the energy high.

Revenge of the Cabin was flooded with personal touches for each of the players, which added a bit of customized flair to both the gameplay and the puzzles. CU Adventures did a fantastic job leaning into the horror genre without being overly scary. Their use of spooky elements without the cheap scares brought a creative and particularly fun take on a fairly common escape room theme. With the exception of one section requiring more light than was provided, the game otherwise kept our five-player team busy for the full hour.

A necronomicon sitting on a demonic alter.

CU Adventures has seriously stepped up the game for Illinois, and across the board, their games were works of art. These are worth the road trip to check out if you’re ever in Chicago, no question.

Continue reading “CU Adventures in Time & Space – Revenge of the Cabin [Review]”