Extreme Escape – Trapped Below [Review]

The game that we won 3 times in 10 minutes

Location:  San Antonio, Texas

Date Played:  August 8, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

This is going to be a weird one.

Extreme Escape’s Trapped Below was a mess of contradictions. The near constant clash of high and low quality made this game especially difficult to review.

The set looked beautiful… but it was undermined by confusingly exposed technology and baffling sound design.

In-game: an assortment of mechaical controls mounted to the wall of a mine.
Image via Extreme Escape

The puzzles were well designed and fun to solve… but they were oddly retriggerable. It was a rough game to solve with only one flashlight.

We loved the opening sequence… but the end sequence was botched because multiple gamemasters kept telling us that we hadn’t finished everything when we most certainly had done so (and originally in record time… before we were sent back in to finish the game two more times.) There is truly nothing more confusing in an escape room than standing in a game once you’ve solved every single puzzle, while being told repeatedly that you aren’t finished.

There was a lot to love in Trapped Below… and there were some regrettable oversights (most of which were completely fixable). If you’re looking for a solid adventure and puzzle game, and you’re ok with low lighting and some sloppiness, there’s plenty to enjoy in Trapped Below.

That said, I know that Extreme Escape is capable of making this one great and I hope that they do.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A cool set
  • Fun interactions

Story

We entered an abandoned mine in search of a lost treasure. We had to find the treasure and plot a path out of the mine.

In-game: the approach to a mine shaft, the floor has trunks filled with mining gear.
Image via Extreme Escape

Setting

We entered a mine shaft and stepped into an old elevator to descend into the unknown.

Armed with a single flashlight, we explored a thoroughly designed mine shaft set. Low light frequently hides weak set design. In this case, most of it was beautiful.

The only glaring flaw with the set design was some exposed technology.

In-game: a wood walled mine with a TNT detinator.
Image via Extreme Escape

Gameplay

Extreme Escape’s Trapped Below was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A wood walled mine with assorted mechanical interactions on the walls.
Image via Extreme Escape

Analysis

➕ Trapped Below started off in a pretty convincing elevator. It then opened up into a mine with a detailed set to explore. It was a fun gamespace and it looked great.

➖ The experience would have been far better with a few more flashlights.

➕ The gamespace was beautifully constructed.

➖ The tech wasn’t embedded well enough. There were exposed wires, which looked sloppy and also a little confusing.

➖ One early design decision made us cranky. It was a frustrating mechanic that wasn’t adequate for the puzzle gating at that juncture.

➖ The sounds design was unbalanced. The prop that should have made the loudest noise was quiet compared to other triggers.

➖ It was possible to re-trigger puzzles we’d already solved, which was surprising and confusing.

➖ As noted in the reaction, we won this game 3 times in 10 minutes. In each of the first 2 wins, the hints directed us back into the game upon our exit, telling us we’d left a puzzle unsolved.

When we couldn’t determine what we’d possibly skipped, we solved the game again. After we triggered the ending a third time, we had the opportunity to speak with the staff. At that point, everyone came to understand that after we’d revealed and solved a specific puzzle, we’d moved it back to its starting position because it was in our way. This entire sequence of events deflated the experience.

➕ Although Trapped Below had a rough start, and our playthrough had a less-than-explosive conclusion, the majority of the game played smoothly. The puzzles generally flowed well.

Tips For Visiting

  • There are plenty of food options in Extreme Escape’s plaza.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Extreme Escape’s Trapped Below, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Extreme Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Yoda Games – Pharaoh’s Revenge [Review]

“Do… or do not.”

Location:  at home

Date Played:  July 30, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2

Duration: 60-90 minutes

Price: $24.99

Publisher: Yoda Games

REA Reaction

Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge was fairly standard tabletop escape game written in both English and German.

The puzzles played cleanly and offered a bit of challenge. That said, the hint system was annoying to use and there weren’t any truly special or memorable puzzles that stuck with us after playing the game.

The German & English cover for "Pharoah's Revenge an Escape Room @ Home"

The bottom-line on this: I’d be surprised to encounter many players who think it’s their favorite tabletop puzzle game, but I’d be equally surprised to find an experienced tabletop puzzler who thinks it’s abysmal.

If you’re a fan of tabletop escape games, Pharaoh’s Revenge is a solid choice.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • You like puzzling
  • An interesting answer verification mechanism

Story

We’d discovered a new ancient tomb in Egypt. Along with the burial site and treasure… we’d also found a brand new curse! We had to solve the Pharaoh’s puzzle in order to spare our lives from his trap.

Setup

We began by cutting out 5 colored strips of card stock, each a different length; these were used to input and verify solutions.

In-game: an introductory letter on a sealed envelope, a piece of acetate, a dry erase marker, and a small piece of cardboard with 5 different size/color bars on it.

The materials within Pharaoh’s Revenge were double-sided with English and German language components.

The game was a fairly typical tabletop escape game consisting of mostly paper components sealed within envelopes filled largely with paper components.

The most unusual component was a sheet of acetate and a dry erase marker that was critical to some of the puzzle solves.

Gameplay

Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge was a play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The game could be played in either English or German. We played in English; it played cleanly. All written puzzles were double-sided, German on one side, English on the other. This worked well.

➕ The answer verification system was simple, nifty, and unique.

➕ The puzzles were solid and offered enough challenge.

➖ There weren’t any really special, memorable interactions.

➖ The hint system was less than stellar. Yoda Games built their hint system into a website and required us to navigate to specific URLs in the instruction booklet for each individual hint. The hint website had no navigation whatsoever.

➕/➖ Pharaoh’s Revenge could be repackaged for another playthough by a different group, but we couldn’t find instructions for said repackaging. We would have had to keep track of that information from the beginning, but we didn’t know to do that up front.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: scissor, pencil, and paper

Buy your copy of Yoda Games’ Pharaoh’s Revenge, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Yoda Games 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.)

Mobile Escape Room Texas – Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty [Review]

Roll away the Alamo

Location:  San Antonio, TX

Date Played:  August 7, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: contact them for event pricing

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When Mobile Escape Room Texas approached our booth at the escape room conference in San Antonio, we were intrigued by Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty. We’ve generally enjoyed our experiences in trailer-based escape rooms and have been impressed with the ingenuity of these creators.

Mobile Escape Room Texas surprised us, however, by raising the bar. When our gamemaster “locked” us inside this Alamo, we were taken aback by the level of detail and portrayal of the historical space. Whereas most games in trailers lean into the long and thin layout when choosing a theme, Mobile Escape Room Texas did something different, including an unorthodox transition to boot.

In-game: An hourglass sitting on a stack of crates.

Mobile Escape Room Texas designed primarily for a corporate/ party, non-puzzler audience. They can run Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty as a 15-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute game. They can segment the trailer to run two games simultaneously. The versatility was impressive.

If you’re an experienced escape room player, don’t expect especially novel puzzle-play or interaction design. Expect detailed design and solid gameplay with a few minor hiccups.

The novelty is how this game navigated the arduous spatial and audience constraints. From this angle Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty, is especially impressive.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • History buffs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Great set design
  • Solid puzzle play rooted in history

Story

It was 1836 and we had gone to the Alamo to retrieve a letter on orders from Sam Houston. We’d been misidentified as spies and locked up in the small mission right before the famous battle was set to begin.

In-game: a Mexican flag, coats, and a lantern hanging on the wall of the Alamo.

Setting

Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was set inside a mobile escape room trailer: all signage on the outside, another world within.

The exterior of Mobile Escape Room's trailer.

Inside the trailer, the walls evoked the old fortress with detailed weathering. The wooden furniture and props felt like they belonged. The dim space was lit by lanterns. There was no resemblance to the modern trailer and no indication that we were on wheels.

Gameplay

Mobile Escape Room Texas’ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was a mobile escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A musket viewed through cage bars.

Analysis

➕  From the gamespace, you never would have known that Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty was a mobile escape room set inside a trailer. The set was designed and detailed. It looked great. Mobile Escape Room Texas even constructed a transition.

➕ Mobile Escape Room Texas minded the period-specific details of their historical staging. They even crafted custom brass wheels for a word lock.

In-game: The weathered concrete and stone walls of the Alamo.

➕ The puzzles and inputs varied enormously. We enjoyed putting our mark on one puzzle and wrapping up another. If we turned around, we might find a well-hidden input. There were many satisfying solves.

➖ We encountered some severe wear where a puzzle was practically illegible. 

➖ One ghost puzzle marched on.

➕ /➖ Mobile Escape Room Texas triggered a sound to indicate when a puzzle was solved. While we appreciated the feedback, this was frequently lost among the sounds of a team of people in a small space. Spring-loaded doors that pop open would help a team’s forward momentum. 

➕ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty included cut-scene video interludes. We enjoyed how these added background to the game without disrupting gameplay.

➖ In an escape room that offered great moments, the ending fizzled. We wanted to feel the triumph of success more emphatically.

Tips For Visiting

  • Mobile Escape Room Texas can bring the game to you. It’s a trailer. You can also come to them at their regular parking lot in San Antonio.
  • At least one player will need to crawl.
  • Mobile Escape Room Texas can run this game as a 15-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute experience depending on a client’s needs and goals.

Book your hour with Mobile Escape Room Texas’ Alamo Escape: The Race to Liberty, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mobile Escape Room Texas comped our tickets for this game.

Clueless Escape Rooms – Save Tony [Review]

An IV drip of puzzles

Location:  Ann Arbor, Michigan

Date Played:  August 3, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Save Tony was a traditional puzzle-driven escape room with a familiar, but unusual premise. It was bright, inviting, and family-friendly. We needed to find a cure… but it wasn’t for the zombie virus!

With interesting and diverse puzzles that involved a group and solved cleanly, Save Tony flowed well.

In-game: a skeleton hanging and looking into the camera.

Save Tony wasn’t flashy, but the puzzle-play was fun. This is the type of game design that made us fall in love with escape rooms.

While it won’t present anything spectacular to experienced players, if you enjoy escape rooms for the puzzles, and you find yourself in Ann Arbor, you’ll enjoy giving poor Tony 60 minutes of your time.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Lots of engaging puzzles
  • A good looking doctor’s office set
  • A unique premise

Story

A patient had been brought in unconscious with an apparent snakebite. We had to determine which type of snake had bitten him and the proper course of treatment before time – and he – expired.

No snakes (real or plastic) appear in this game.

In-game: A wide angle shot of the medical office. It looks like a doctor's office.

Setting

Save Tony took place in a large, while-walled doctor’s office, with white cabinets and various medical props. Tony lay unconscious on the exam table. It wasn’t the most exciting space, but it was true to the theme. It was also an exceptionally bright gamespace in an industry with far too many dim ones.

Additionally, Clueless Escape Rooms had 2 copies of this game, so competitive teams could race against one another.

In-game: closeup of the "Exam Room 2" sign.
Exam Room 1 was next door.

Gameplay

Clueless Escape Rooms’ Save Tony was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ We loved the premise. In our escape room careers, we’ve saved a lot of unfortunate souls from gruesome demises. This was our first snake bite intervention.

➕ Save Tony looked appropriately sterile, with white walls, medical cabinets, and doctor-y implements. That said, neither Tony or the gamespace looked entirely authentic. We could buy into the fiction, all the while understanding it was a playful, family-friendly, snake-bite situation.

➕ Clueless Escape Rooms created a variety of themed puzzles that worked well within the gamespace and made use of physical props. We especially enjoyed their take on sutures and gifts brought by well-wishers.

➖ One device failed to balance properly. There are more reliable ways to implement this type of tool.

➖ One puzzle showed significant wear, which detracted from solving it.

Save Tony was designed to support a larger group of beginner players. Many of the puzzles could incorporate multiple people piecing things together. That said, for experienced players, nothing required an army.

➖ Because there were a lot of locks in this escape room, we occasionally found ourselves trying a single combination in multiple places. Varying the digit structure more would prevent this from stymieing momentum.

➕/➖ Save Tony culminated in a logic puzzle, which was entirely appropriate for the scenario. While we appreciate that this was set up so as not to sink the muggles and instead to send most teams out of the hospital on a high note, as puzzlers we would have liked a meatier challenge, especially since we’d been building to this from the opening moments of the game. Your mileage may vary.

Save Tony played smoothly from start to finish. It was a traditional puzzle-forward escape room, primarily gated with locks. This was the type of escape room that made us enjoy this genre of entertainment.

➕ The final interaction was cute and clever.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Clueless Escape Rooms has two copies of Save Tony. If you have a lot of people, you could play head to head.

Book your hour with Clueless Escape Rooms’ Save Tony, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clueless Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Exit Escape Room NYC – Sugar Rush [Review]

Undercooked

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played:  August 11, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sugar Rush put a new twist on the escape game format for us: our goal was to bake cupcakes. In the end, we received cupcakes.

In-game: 3 decorated cupcakes in a baking pan.

While Sugar Rush shined conceptually, the execution fell short of stellar on every level. The puzzles and gameplay were of spotty quality. The set looked kind of like a restaurant kitchen. The cupcakes were reminiscent of an elementary school bake sale. (Is that a thing that still happens or have we litigated that into oblivion?)

This game was fine, which was disappointing. There were opportunities for great reveals, narrative novelty, and better cupcakes. New York City has some great cupcake bakeries and I’d bet that people would shell out a few extra dollars per ticket if it came with quality dessert.

This was one of those games that I wanted to love. When I heard the concept, I wanted to send all of my friends who are kind of on the fence about escape games. It wouldn’t take a lot more refinement to make Sugar Rush special; I hope it gets there.

Who is this for?

  • Players with a sweet tooth
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The concept was adorable and novel
  • If you win, you get to eat a cupcake

Story

We’d entered the Great NYC Baking Challenge.

Our task: make the best cupcakes ever!

The catch? Someone had hidden all of our ingredients.

In-game: a small oven in a kitchen, above it a box labeled "Recipe Safe."

Setting

Sugar Rush was set in a restaurant kitchen with a strange glass wall dividing the space. The set looked almost as it should. At any given point, if you got up close to something, it looked right, but stepping back and taking in the set in as a whole, it felt off.

In-game: An empty egg carton and a checken in a kitchen.

Gameplay

Exit Escape Room NYC’s Sugar Rush was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Before escape rooms entered my life, I spent a solid three years tasting (and analyzing) cupcakes all around New York City. I have notes on more than 60 bakeries; there’s a big spreadsheet. Don’t pretend you’re surprised. Anyway, it’s an understatement to say I adored the concept for Sugar Rush. I love baking and I love escape rooms! Even for those less enamored with dessert, this was a fun and novel thematic combination.

➕ /➖ In some ways, the set looked like a test kitchen, but it felt just a bit office-y. Individual props looked great, but we weren’t quite sold. It also didn’t have the necessary workspace for frosting our award-winning creations.

➖ The tech need a bit more refinement. It wasn’t entirely well hidden; exposed wires needed housing. It was also a bit glitchy and didn’t always give sufficient feedback.

➕ The props were adorable. We enjoyed how Exit Escape Room NYC build amusing puzzles around the essential cupcake ingredients. It was funny and charming.

➖In the second part of the experience, the puzzles were thematically related, but no longer tied to the narrative.

➖ Exit Escape Room NYC did the cooking show swap, but without trying to convince us that we were decorating the cupcakes we’d baked (with the ingredients we’d found!). We’ve seen this type of swap executed beautifully (and humorously) in escape rooms before. Sugar Rush would have been far cooler if they had gone the extra distance to sell their fiction to us.

➖ The cupcakes were “meh.” We won the game, but I cannot be convinced we won the Great NYC Baking Challenge.

❓ Because so many people have asked: We don’t know whether the cupcakes were bought or baked. (I’m guessing baked from a mix.) We aren’t health inspectors.

Tips For Visiting

  • Exit Escape Room NYC has two copies of this game. You could race your friends in this baking competition.
  • Exit Escape Room NYC is easily accessible on public transportation.
  • Note that Sugar Rush is not located at their 38th Street location with most of their other games. It is located a couple of blocks away at 247 West 36th Street.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger (across the street).

Book your hour with Exit Escape Room NYC’s Sugar Rush, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Exit Escape Room NYC comped our tickets for this game.

Michigan Escape Room – Infirmary [Review]

Photogenic

Location:  Clinton Township, Michigan

Date Played:  August 3, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Infirmary was a fantastic escape game.

The puzzles were great, with many novel interactions.

The set looked incredible, and our only real knock against it was that we wished we had a little more light in one space.

The narrative had some intense and eerie twists, without turning into a horror experience. The one thing holding this game back was that there was room for a lot more drama in the conclusion.

Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary was a must-play if you’re anywhere near Detroit.

Post-game: David laying on an operating table, list looking into his eyes with a knife in her hand.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A wonderfully creepy set filled with details
  • A great mix of puzzles

Story

We were investigative journalists attempting to shut down a cruel and unusual medical facility… but in order to tell our story, we needed to survive the ordeal.

In-game: A wide shot of the Infirmary. It's heavily weathered and worn.

Setting

I’m going to sum up Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary in 2 words: beautifully dingy.

This rundown medical facility looked incredible. This was one of those games where I stopped playing a few times and just took it all in, touched all of the textures, and enjoyed the space. Michigan Escape Room has been at this for a long time and it was clear that they’d learned a thing or two about building escape room sets.

In-game: A partially illuminated overhead surgical light.

Gameplay

Michigan Escape Room’s Infirmary was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A worn periodic table of elements hung from the wall.

Analysis

➕ Infirmary looked creepy, in a deliberately designed way. The set was consistently detailed, creating an eerie vibe.

In-game: 2 gross containers each with a human heart within.

➕ The puzzles were creative, diverse, and well integrated into the set and props. We especially enjoyed when the puzzles involved multiple people in a layered group solve. These were especially satisfying. Our favorite example created a high pressure situation.

➕ The interactions of the Infirmary gave feedback. This detail added to the ambiance and helped the gameplay flow smoothly.

In-game: Closeup of the varied wall textures. There is a lot of detail.
A lot of care went into every inch of this set.

➖ In a couple of instances, we were hampered by low lighting. There were opportunities for spotlighting, especially in the late game.

➕ It’s well known that we enjoy doors, but the Infirmary impressed us with a creative twist on door design.

➕/➖ Michigan Escape Room modified a common medical prop, making it perform escape room “magic” in a phenomenal reveal. While this part of the interaction was brilliantly executed, the rest of the puzzle seemed like an afterthought that could have looked more polished.

➕ Escape Room Michigan used technology to enliven Infirmary, pulling us further into the story, and providing necessary clue structure. This was captivating and well integrated.

➖ Infirmary lacked a climax. Once we found the evidence, we wanted a culmination of our story – an unexpected twist or a triumphant escape. The game had many badass moments. In comparison, the end fizzled.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Infirmary is at the Clinton Township location. Michigan Escape Room has another location in Washington Township.

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

Disclosure: Michigan Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Escape the Night Escape Room [Review]

“This is not the afterlife I had envisioned.”

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 14, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $55-85 per player

Ticketing: Public or private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Escape the Night Escape Room was a limited-run experience that provided a memorable hour of adventure for fans of Joey Graceffa’s YouTube Premium series. It didn’t break new ground for escape rooms, but it offered plenty of entertaining interactions and detailed props to play with. Despite a few hiccups with some of the puzzles, we had a fun time and left interested in learning more about the show.

The approachable difficulty level and the in-room gamemaster made the Escape the Night Escape Room accessible to newer players. It wasn’t the best fit for seasoned escapers looking for their next challenge.

The story, set, and puzzles were all geared toward viewers of the YouTube series, which made it especially exciting for fans. But you didn’t have to be familiar with Escape the Night to enjoy the real-life version, if you didn’t mind the steep ticket price.

Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Fans of Escape the Night
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exciting interactions
  • Elaborate props
  • To play as characters from Escape the Night

Story

Playing as some of the characters who had previously died in Escape the Night, we had been trapped in purgatory by the Collector. We needed to find nine keys in order to recover the cosmic sphere and make our way back to the world of the living, or risk dying for good.

The premise roughly matched the premiere of Escape the Night’s fourth season, which began in July 2019.

A painting of the Collector collecting a soul.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Setting

The gamespace was decorated to represent different episodes of Escape the Night’s fourth season. We started in ancient Egypt, then the game transitioned to various other themes depicted in the show.

We encountered many of the same items used in Escape the Night, some of which evoked particular moments from the series. The detail of the props and puzzles contributed to the room’s sense of mystery and adventure.

The head of a minotaur under glass.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Gameplay

Escape the Night Escape Room was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty. Core gameplay revolved around observation, searching, and basic math.

Escape the Night Escape Room generally emphasized adventure over puzzling, with the tasks split between traditional escape room puzzles and fun large-scale interactions. Though the puzzles tended to be simple, the room was packed with gameplay.

A grid of tiles depicting different hieroglyphics, with several squares lit up.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

Analysis

➕ The Escape the Night Escape Room escape room had plenty to offer fans of the YouTube series. The story, props, and pivotal moments in the game related back to the show. The young superfan in our group could hardly contain himself.

➕/➖ The set design didn’t manage to fully disguise that we were in a pop-up space, but the room was filled with ornate props and set pieces that heightened our experience.

➕ Escape the Night Escape Room gave us a lot to do. The active, hands-on interactions felt adventurous. Whereas most escape rooms have one or two big moments, Escape the Night Escape Room had several.

The hilt of a sword in the foreground, with museum pieces including a bust under glass in the background.
Photo credit: Kirk Damato

➕ Our in-room gamemaster provided guidance throughout and ensured that the game ran as smoothly as possible. The gamemaster triggered certain events once we had solved the corresponding puzzles, and these moments mostly felt natural and seamless.

➖ At one point, when we tried a less obvious but correct answer to a puzzle, nothing happened until the gamemaster realized our answer also worked. More playtesting might have uncovered this alternate solution. Even better, designing the puzzle with just one solution would have prevented any confusion.

➕/➖ The puzzle flow kept us busy and avoided bottlenecks despite its linear structure. However, we noticed a couple of items left over from ghost puzzles and had to bypass another due to a prop malfunction.

➖ Certain interactions required a good amount of handholding. For example, at one point the gamemaster cleared items off a surface just before it popped open, presumably to avoid flinging treasure all over the room. A more self-piloting design would have preserved the surprise and kept us immersed in the game during these moments.

➕ We enjoyed solving one particular riddle that involved themed items in the room rather than outside knowledge or sudden insight.

➖ In another puzzle, we struggled to figure out the order of certain items, but it turned out the placement didn’t matter. This ambiguity caused us to spin our wheels longer than we needed to.

➕/➖ In a few exciting instances, one player took an action alone to move the game forward. At first we decided together who would participate, but for the last of these decision points, the outcome was decided by random chance. If we’d been given an interesting challenge or choice inspired by the show at the end of the game instead, we would have walked away with more to discuss and reminisce about long after the night was over.

Tips For Visiting

For promotional games like the Escape the Night Escape Room, if you’re not familiar with the brand, including at least one fan in your group will add a lot to the experience. If you are a fan, bring money for the merch table, and don’t forget your cosplay for the photo wall.

Escape the Night Escape Room took place in August 2019 and is not currently running.

Disclosure: Escape the Night Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Clue Carré – The Game Museum [Review]

REA in The Game Museum with the Solution

Location:  Metairie, Louisiana

Date Played: July 14, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Clue Carré has three locations around New Orleans. The Game Museum was the only game we played at the Metairie location. We chose it based on the recommendations of many well-traveled escape room players.

There’s a lot of love in The Game Museum. It combines two approachable themes – tabletop games and museum – and it’s satisfying to solve puzzles around recognizable, nostalgia-inducing props. Furthermore, it was brightly colored and inviting.

In-game: Exhbits about Dice, Mancala, and Monopoly.

Although there is opportunity for Clue Carré to level up the scale and prop quality in this game, giving it a more polished look, the gameplay flowed well and the solves were fun.

While our favorite Clue Carré games are still French Quarter House of Curiosities at their New Orleans location, as well as Bookie and Alien Encounter inside the Surge Trampoline Park, if you like your escape rooms puzzle-focused and have time to visit Metairie, we thoroughly enjoyed playing The Game Museum; it wasn’t fancy, but it was fun.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop & video gamers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A fun collection of game-inspired puzzles
  • Some clever nostalgic interactions

Story

We entered The Game Museum and had one hour to play through the history of gaming.

In-game: Wide shot of the game museum. The exhibits are laid out in a timeline, with classics such as Clue, Scrabble, and Bingo in view.

Setting

The Game Museum was set in a bright, office-like space with windows letting in natural light. The space had museum exhibits along the walls – each about a popular game throughout history – and a table in the middle of the room.

In-game: A sign for the video game, "8-bit & Beyond" exhibit.

Gameplay

Clue Carré’s The Game Museum was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: the video game exhibit in the game museum.
Image via Clue Carré

Analysis

➕ We enjoyed how Clue Carré built puzzles around familiar tabletop games. This gave each puzzle an added level of excitement. First it was “Hey, it’s dominos!” and then we reached the “Hey, I’ve solved a thing!” moment.

➕/➖ We encountered a nifty communication puzzle where one teammate could look upon the room in a different way. While we enjoyed the concept, the necessary gear made the transition clunky between folks who wanted to share the experience.

➕ Clue Carré’s homage to the point & click adventure game genre was delightful.

➖ There was an opportunity to level up the puzzle components in this game. Along with the game pieces, we encountered laminated paper and some messy modification. Some of these puzzles would have felt more grand if they were built at a larger, escape room-y scale with entirely tangible elements.

 The Game Museum was bright and vibrant. Few escape rooms have windows. Light streamed in and illuminated the colorful props. The space felt joyous.

Tips For Visiting

  • This game is located at Clue Carré’s Metairie location.
  • There is a small parking lot.

Book your hour with Clue Carré’s The Game Museum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carré comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Hour Austin – Lab Rats [Reaction]

We returned for science.

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played:  August 9, 2019

Team size: 8-18; we recommend 9

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Back in January 2017 we played, reviewed, and loved 15 Locks’ Lab Rats.

We were enamored with the Lab Rats’ unusual structure, floor-plan, and technology because it was one of the only games that we had encountered up to that point that could truly handle a team of 10 engaged players. We also hypothesized that it could be replayed by disciplined players.

In-game: The Yellow Room features a variety of interactions colored yellow. A blue locked box is mounted to the wall in the foreground. The Red Room is through a glowing doorway in the background.
The Yellow Room

At the end of 2017 we were eager to bestow a Golden Lock-In Award on Lab Rats.

Two and a half years later we returned to Lab Rats. This time it was under new management, having been acquired by Escape Hour Austin.

In-game: The Blue Room features a variety of interactions. Through a barred window, the Red Room is visible.
Blue Room

I’m happy to report the following:

  • Lab Rats held up. It was in great shape and it felt like the game that we remembered and loved.
  • Our review held up. I’m not going to retread over all of that. I will add that the technology for room transitions seemed simplified and that smoothed over a few of the shortcomings that we had reported.
  • Yes, Lab Rats was indeed replayable… and still a whole lot of fun the second round. Lisa and I stuck to rooms that we hadn’t played before and it worked well.

Lab Rats remains a strong recommendation from us… but only if you can assemble a team of at least 7 communicative players.

In-game: The Red Room features a variety of interactions pained shades of red.
Red Room

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escape Hour Austin’s Lab Rats, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Hour Austin provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Decode Ypsilanti – The Aurora Society [Review]

Not weather dependent

Location:  Ypsilanti, Michigan

Date Played:  August 3, 2019

Team size: 3-15; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Aurora Society was a standout escape game in a market that far exceeded expectations.

The suburbs of Detroit were a delightful place to play escape rooms… and please don’t crack a joke about “Detroit being an escape room.” I’ve heard enough of those over the past few weeks to last me a lifetime.

Decode Ypsilanti struck a balance between adventure, story, puzzle, and technology that all came together into a cohesive world.

In-game: wide shot of the room, a strange game sits on a table in the middle of the room.

If there’s a Holy Grail of words used to describe escape games, “cohesive” might be it; Decode Ypsilanti clearly knows this.

We loved spending a day playing around Detroit and we truly encountered zero duds on the journey. (I’m sure they exist; we just chose wisely). That said, if you only have time to play one game, make it The Aurora Society.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Good storytelling in a fully themed facility
  • Entertaining puzzles
  • A beautiful set
  • Strong effects that served the story

Story

We arrived as potential new recruits for the magical and mysterious Aurora Society. We had to harness the power of the aurora borealis to earn our place among their membership.

A painting of an aurora.

Setting

As we entered the lobby of Decode Ypsilanti, we stepped into the world of The Aurora Society. We were greeted by in-character staff and addressed in the context of the world.

The hallways, games, and bathrooms were all in-world as well.

When we entered the game, the set was gorgeous. The woodwork, drapes, placards… everything felt like it was part of a cohesive magical world that existed long before we arrived and would continue long after we left.

In-game: A beautiful hourglass, a mape of council positions beyond it.

Gameplay

Decode Ypsilanti’s The Aurora Society was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a beautiful set of balances containing dangling precious stones.

Analysis

➕ Decode’s Ypsilanti location was fully themed around The Aurora Society. The lobby, the game, and the new game that’s in the works were all set in the same world.

➕  The Aurora Society was warm and elegant. The set had its own aesthetic and felt like it had been there for a long time. All of the set pieces, props, and puzzles looked authentic, like they belonged within this world.

In-game: A collection of candle sticks on a table.

➕ The Aurora Society used a lot of technology, but the technology didn’t steal the show. Decode Ypsilanti integrated it nearly seamlessly into the experience so that it simply felt magical.

➖ In what we believe was an effort to hide anything out of place in the world, Decode Ypsilanti used a mundane construction material and it felt far too subtle for a world of magic.

➕ The gameplay flowed well. We were never wanting for items or things to do. When we solved something, we opened something else. We received in-game feedback to understand our forward progress. This built momentum.

➕ The puzzles fit the world.

➕/➖ We also encountered our favorite escape room Sudoku implementation to date. It was aesthetically beautiful and we had to stop and think to realize this architecture was built upon Sudoku. The downside was that this puzzle was way too similar to a lesser implementation at Decode Ypsilanti’s other location, Decode Ann Arbor.

➖ The Aurora Society lacked an onramp. It started with a challenging puzzle where more minds added complexity, yet there wasn’t anything else to work on.

➕ The hinting came from a beautifully presented character who added depth to the world.

➖ The final scene was dimly lit. While there was some payoff for the low lighting, we struggled to fully appreciate the gameplay in this segment.

➕ The folks from Decode Ypsilanti understand the importance of narrative structure. In The Aurora Society, this took place in its own scene. While the narrative arc may not have been surprising, this playful interlude was unexpected.

➕ Decode Ypsilanti was committed to the world of their game. Upon completion of our mission, they closed an open plot thread. This was an unnecessary detail that most escape room companies would ignore.

Tips For Visiting

  • We found metered parking on the street and in a nearby lot. You’ll need coins to feed the meter.

Book your hour with Decode Ypsilanti’s The Aurora Society, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Decode Ypsilanti comped our tickets for this game.