The Escape Game – Nashville [Review]

After years of players asking… we finally played Nashville.

Location: Nashville, TN

Date Played: February 11, 2018

Team size: up to 7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31.99 per ticket

REA Reaction

Since it opened in 2014, Nashville has introduced many players to escape rooms… and gotten them hooked. We are thrilled to have played this escape room that folks have been asking us to visit almost since the we started writing this blog.

Nashville was fun. The puzzles, set, and reveals all contributed to our enjoyment. While some puzzles felt dated, The Escape Game Nashville made upgrades to keep Nashville relevant.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Music fans
  • Tourists
  • Players who don’t mind math
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Nashville introduced so many escape room enthusiasts to escape rooms.
  • Local theme
  • Great old school escape room puzzles


Our up-and-coming band wanted legendary and retired producer Rick Teggen to produce our next record. Rumor had it that Teggen had hidden a contract in his old recording studio and had vowed to work with the band who could follow his clues to find it.

In-game: A massive stack of blonde Marshall amps.


Nashville was one of the earliest escape rooms around and one that got a lot of players hooked on escape rooms in general. If you played this room escape in the early days, you would hardly recognize it today as The Escape Game upgraded it dramatically from their more humble beginnings. (We know this because we had passive teammates in the room who had played it years ago and were shocked by the enhancements.)

Nashville was a recording studio complete with mixing boards, amps, guitars, a recording booth, and memorabilia from famous people who had recorded in the legendary space. It looked sharp.

In-game: A music studio's mixing station.


Nashville was an old school escape room that had been upgraded significantly. It was search heavy. The puzzling was focused on building connections and working through process puzzles.

There was also a bit of math, which was one of those love-it-or-hate-it interactions that used to be common, has fallen out of favor in American escape games, and doesn’t make an appearance in The Escape Game’s newer adventures.

In-game: closeup of a large mixing board.


The Escape Game opened in 2014 with this locally themed escape room. This, their original creation, embodied Nashville. The premise wasn’t entirely predictable either. It came together well.

The reveal. When Nashville opened, I imagine it would have been magical. Since then The Escape Game added just enough noise to maybe throw you off, even if you’ve played their other escape rooms and you’re expecting it.

Nashville clued a search puzzle with unexpected technology. It was a neat concept and far ahead of its time.


This cluing didn’t quite work as seamlessly as we would have liked; the searching was still frustrating.

One puzzle needed to be solved on a flat surface, but we didn’t have an appropriate surface. Our choice of surface disrupted our gameplay.

Nashville leaned too heavily on one “paper puzzle” that could be solved without manipulating the set and props. Given the staging for the clues, a louder, more dynamic puzzle would have better fit the beat of the interaction.

Tips for Visiting

  • Parking: If you aren’t parking at Music City Center for a conference, we recommend the lot under the Metro Courthouse (accessible from Gay Street and from James Robertson Parkway).
  • Food: Demo’s Restaurant and Puckett’s

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

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Nashville, TN from July 27-29, 2018. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Locks and Puzzles – Malus the Elf [Review]

“Malus the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

Location: Lakewood, NJ

Date Played: January 27, 2018

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

One month late, we happily embraced the spirit of Locks and Puzzles’ charming Christmas escape room. Malus the Elf was a challenging puzzle-driven escape room. It could have benefitted from a little more drama, but it offered excellent puzzle value.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas aficionados
  • Players with a least some experience

Why play?

  • The Christmas spirit
  • Challenging puzzles


When Santa rejected Malus the Elf’s request to become a toymaker, the mischievous elf became determined to prove the big guy wrong. Malus created a series of puzzles and toys to show Santa what he could do, but in order to secure Santa’s attention, he also stole something that Santa would need to do his job.

Could we puzzle through Malus’ game and help Santa save Christmas?

In-game: a drafting table with toy designs, mounted to the wall above are toy tools.


Malus the Elf was a puzzle-focused game set in a small room within Santa’s workshop. The set felt like a festive dungeon with most of the scenery either painted or hung on the walls.

While it wasn’t an awe-inspiring room, it was a well-themed, cleanly executed setting with some playful details.

In-game: a wrapped christmas present labeled "To Santa"


Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. Malus really liked puzzles. This was a challenging game that required a fair amount of deduction to piece the right components together, and then a bit more to work through to the correct conclusion.

There were no gimme puzzles in Malus the Elf.

In-game: multiple strands of christmas lights.


Malus the Elf was a charming Christmas-themed adventure. Locks and Puzzles used simple props to create a cozy, winter-dungeonland theme.

Malus the Elf offered serious puzzles. These were balanced with other less complex puzzles, but none of them were cakewalks. The puzzling worked well.

We enjoyed the ending. It was on the nose, but it wasn’t as straightforward as it had originally appeared to be.

Locks and Puzzles have a great game for their price point, which makes it easy to recommend Malus the Elf to puzzle-minded players.


Malus the Elf lacked a clear starting place. The most inviting props and set pieces weren’t in play yet and the initial puzzle was relatively complex. We recommend that Locks and Puzzles start players more gently so that teams are engaged before they stall.

One puzzle seemed a bit too ambiguous. It was layered – which was cool – but it wasn’t clued quite clearly enough.

Malus the Elf was emotionally level. It lacked a story arc as well as a surprising or climactic moment that could deliver an emotional rush to the puzzlers.

Tips for Visiting

  • Locks and Puzzles has ample parking available out front.
  • There are ample food options nearby.

Book your hour with Locks and Puzzles’ Malus the Elf, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locks and Puzzles provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Exit Escape Room NYC – The Mission [Review]

Execute Mission.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: February 19, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Mission started off uninspired, but turned into something interesting. While we wished some of the execution was cleaner, The Mission conveyed narrative well and the second half was filled with innovative interactions.

(Interestingly, for the reverse structure, play Exit Escape Room NYC’s High Speed.)

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Novelty hunters
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The second half
  • Unusual interactions
  • Narrative-driven gameplay


Our agency had been infiltrated by a double agent. We had to identify this individual, determine their location, and eliminate the threat.

In-game: A black box with 9 binary switches hung on a wall beside top hats and overcoats.


While the late-game setting for The Mission was unusual and exciting, the initial set was an uninspiring barebones office with an unfinished look.

I can’t spoil the late-game reveal because it was worth being surprised. 


As the name implies, The Mission was mission-based. Our objectives were explained clearly in the pre-game:

Identify the double agent.

In-game: A black suitcase on a desk, the wall behind has 12 portraits of different people.

Track the double agent.

In-game: a world map covering a wall with black dots over select major cities.

Eliminate the double agent.

Image states, "no image available."

While we were following a specific mission plan, the game itself was still an escape room with equal parts searching and puzzling.


The Mission escalated. From set to effects to interactions, it built excitement over time.

The late-game mechanical puzzles facilitated interactive group solves.

As we solved the puzzles, we learned mission critical information. Both the puzzles and our intel flowed well and flowed together. This made for a cohesive story.

Exit Escape Room NYC included a time-consuming, mid-game narrative sequence. They structured their timekeeping to ensure all players receive a full 60 minutes to solve the puzzles. When you reach this sequence, you’ll know it. Relax, you’re off the clock. 


The first act lacked excitement. The mundane office set felt tired. Its puzzles didn’t engage the physical space.

Exit Escape Room NYC installed this escape room in an unfinished space. Despite some interesting set pieces in the later portions of the experience, it felt unfinished.

The final interaction missed the mark. The concept was really cool, but the props and set pieces didn’t breath life into the moment. In addition, it didn’t engage the team. We escaped without fanfare and weren’t even sure that we had won until the door opened.

Tips for Visiting

  • Exit Escape Room NYC is easily accessible on public transportation.
  • We recommend Black Iron Burger (across the street) and thai food at Larb Ubol (on 9th ave).

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

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


Escape Room Park City – Travel Room [Review]

Book an affordable trip.

Location: Park City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

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

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $20 per ticket

REA Reaction

Travel Room was a beginner escape room that didn’t feel like most of the others. What it lacked in decor and adventure, it made up in innovative puzzles and fair pricing.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for beginners

Why play?

  • Beginner room with some innovative puzzle design


A retiring travel agent turned his office into an escape room as a final promotion for his business. We had 45 minutes to determine where in the world he was. There were no stakes, just puzzles.

Escape Room Park City, UT logo, 4 interlocking puzzle pieces with a black lock over one of them.


We entered a bright, fluorescent-lit travel agent’s office. It had a desk, some chairs, and a collection of travel posters from around the world.

While the room didn’t inspire a sense of adventure, the execution was careful and clean.


Travel Room was all about the puzzles. This was an old-school puzzle-your-way-out-of-the-office-game. Travel Room could have been a point & click Flash escape room.

As with the setting, the puzzles weren’t shocking, but they were smart, cared for, and well executed.


The puzzles flowed well. They were well clued and they worked.

One significant interaction seem strangely random… until we understood its message. It was also well designed to engage the group.

One prop wore a lot of puzzles well. It was entertaining.

I cannot overstate how much I respect Escape Room Park City’s approach to pricing. This room is good. It’s worth playing. It’s also priced fairly. Their premium game, Mine Trap, cost twice the price, but it was twice as interesting, twice as complex, twice the size, and more than twice as detailed.


The set was uninspiring. It was an office.

Escape Room Park City had a lot of rules… and their delivery felt combative. This aggression detracted from an otherwise fun experience. Some of those rules got in the way of simply enjoying the gameplay:

Our gamemaster warned us not to flip over certain items as the contents might break. This whole category of rules could have been avoided with a little bit of foam. Instead we walked around the room nervously hoping that this wouldn’t be the game in which we accidentally broke a thing.

Travel Room clued us to improvise a solution to a puzzle. At the same time, it warned us not to take a specific action, which would have been the obvious solution. This felt uncomfortably restrictive and not all in the spirit of the clue we had received.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you’ve never played an escape room before, this is a great on-ramp.
  • The building has a parking garage.
  • Enter the building through the elevator in the parking garage. (This was confusing.)
  • Park City has no shortage of food options.
  • Travel Room costs about half as much as Mine Trap, but Mine Trap is twice as interesting.

Book your hour with Escape Room Park City’s Travel Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

New Orleans, Lousiana: Escape Room Recommendations

We were spoiled in Louisiana. The escapes rooms in this region are a cut above.

In 2017, we gave 3 Golden Lock-In Awards to games on this list… and it was tough to choose among them.

That’s why we’re bringing our escape room tour, Escape Immerse Explore, to New Orleans in 2018. Join us this June for a weekend trip to visit many of the escape rooms on this list.

If you’re interested in escape room tourism, this is the region to visit. You won’t regret it.

A close up of a baby gator.

Market standouts

In New Orleans

Outside of New Orleans

The spooky & scary

You are always welcome to contact us if this recommendation list doesn’t answer your specific questions.

Getout Games – The Heist [Review]

Race for the gold.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 4, 2018

Team size: 4-40 (4 copies of the room, each for up to 10 players); we recommend 3-5 per room

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

We have mixed feelings about The Heist. Getout Games played with some truly brilliant game mechanics in creating a beginner-friendly competitive escape room. Unfortunately the first half of the game was underwhelming and it left us wishing that Getout Games had focused more on the unique elements of this escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Best for beginners
  • Teams looking to compete
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • To race your friends
  • The mid-game puzzles
  • A brilliant final set


Notorious Salt Lake City mob boss Crazy Coz had left his office for the day. We were seeking to relieve him of some of the gold it was rumored he had been trafficking.

Game Door: Door placard that reads "Crazy Coz Mob Boss"


The Heist took place in Crazy Coz’s rented office… which didn’t look all the much like an office, let alone a notorious mobster’s office. It had white walls with a few hangings, a few simple pieces of furniture, and some knickknacks.

In-game: A bare bones room with a lamp illuminating a golf bag and an air purifier.

The initial gamespace was about as uninspiring as escape rooms get. Fortunately as The Heist progressed, the set became increasingly more interesting. Getout Games staged the final act in a really cool manner.


The Heist was a competitive escape room. Multiple teams could simultaneously race for the gold in up to four adjacent sets.

The Heist was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room that improved over the course of the experience. The first half was mundane. The second half offered quite a bit more intrigue.


Getout Games excelled at the transitions in this escape room. Although they used escape room standbys, they delivered. One was impressively concealed. Another was overt, but smoothly executed.

We enjoyed one mid-game puzzle sequence that changed our perspective.

The Heist was a race. We wanted to find the gold before the other team. If we had been neck and neck as we approached our prize, oh wow, would it have been a dramatic conclusion.


As it was, we won decidedly. Because of this, the conclusion was underwhelming. We recommend that Getout Games shuffle the puzzle flow to increase the chances for a dramatic race to the gold. Otherwise, the unique staging is a missed opportunity. While it’s always possible for one team to absolutely blow out another, we suggest stacking the odds in favor of perceived competition, even if one team has a significant edge.

The setting was unimpressive. Getout Games could make the office facade more believable or play up the mob boss character. Either one would give the early game more depth.

Much of this escape room took place in the dark with poor flashlights. There didn’t seem to be any reason for this frustrating game mechanic.

We experienced three reset failures during our one playthrough of The Heist.

Tips for Visiting

  • Much of The Heist takes place in the dark, with flashlights.
  • The Heist could be played by a single team, but you will be missing something if it’s not played competitively.
  • Getout Games has a large lobby and ample parking.

Book your hour with Getout Games’ The Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Beat the Bomb [Review]

Play hard or become a Pollock.

Location: Brooklyn, NY (DUMBO)

Date Played: February 27, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend no more than 5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39 per ticket

REA Reaction

Innovation isn’t creating entirely new ideas from scratch; it’s taking existing concepts and refactoring them into something completely new. That’s Beat the Bomb.

Beat the Bomb presented 5 collaborative challenges requiring physical, mental, and communicative skills. Everyone was participating all the time. There was no waiting or watching from the sidelines. Teams win or lose together… and you’ll probably lose, which is part of the fun.

Beat the Bomb was not an escape room, but it drew on escape room concepts. We didn’t enjoy all the challenges equally, but we had a blast! Plus… Beat the Bomb is replayable.

Who is this for?

  • Thrill seekers
  • Players who enjoy some physicality
  • Team players
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t mind getting a tad messy
  • Graffiti artists

Why play?

  • The paint-splosion
  • Team challenges
  • Some awesome challenges
  • Adrenaline rush
  • It’s replayable


This one was pretty simple: there was a giant paint bomb; we had to defuse it.

In-game: The paint bomb with 6 different cannons.
Tick… Tick… Boom.


There were 5 stages within Beat The Bomb. Each stage had its own set. Most of these were dimly lit rooms where the key interactions glowed. The lighting was never an issue.

The bomb room was the most visually impactful, as it had a monstrous paint-spewing contraption and walls covered in layers of paint.

In-game: gif of Lisa, David, and Lindsay getting doused with a paint explosion.


While the overarching goal of Beat The Bomb was to defuse the bomb, the gameplay was rooted in completing other timed tasks and puzzles to earn more time on the bomb’s clock. As we became more familiar with them, the challenges became increasingly difficult. The better we performed, the more time we earned in the bomb room at the end of the game.

Prior to entering the game, Beat The Bomb’s staff helped us get suited up in giant white onesies and safety glasses (for those not already wearing glasses). Basically, they turned us into human canvases.

Our team in white onesies with our hands in the air.
Check out dem fanny packs.

The Challenge Rooms

Hack Attack: While the gameplay in Hack Attack was incredibly similar to another popular game, it played fantastically. It was a great first challenge to get the team working together.

In-game: David looking and pointing intently at a touch screen.

Laser Maze: This physical challenge rewarded speed, agility, patience, and pattern recognition. To score, our entire team needed to cross the laser grid and push buttons on the other end. Each crossing changed the laser pattern.

A laser maze.

Echo Chamber: This was a take on Simon.

Floor Grid: The most distinctive puzzle in Beat The Bomb, Floor Grid was really cool. I’m not gonna talk about how it worked.

In-game: Gif of Lisa stepping back and fourth.
Lisa playing Floor Grid and looking like an Oompa Loompa. We’re not sure why she crossed her arms.

Cyberbot: To defuse the bomb, we navigated a robot through a maze, destroying targets along the way. We had as much time to complete this challenge as we had earned in the previous challenges. To even have a prayer of winning here, we needed to have performed well in the first four games.


Beat the Bomb was well paced. These 10-minute challenge rooms gave us enough time to get the hang of the puzzle, but ended before we bored of the challenges. They were ordered such that we changed up skill sets from challenge to challenge.

While many of these challenges seemed familiar, Beat the Bomb spun up new twists. We’ve crossed many laser mazes, but none that required this level of strategic play.

Floor Grid was awesome. We’d both like to play it again.

All 5 challenges invited replay. They were the types of puzzles we could (and did) get better at over the time. Even though they were familiar, they were exciting. We can see people returning – bomb aside – because they want to replay these challenges.

In-game: The team in extra protective gear before the bomb.
The team: Now with extra armor and face shields.

Beat the Bomb was all about Instagram. They encouraged us to take our own pictures, even providing plastic fanny packs to keep our phones safe from the paint. They knew, however, that we’d be focused on the puzzles, so they jumped right in and took action shots. They do this for every team.

A wall covered in layers of paint.
The bomb’s artwork.

Getting doused by a giant paint bomb was fun. It felt very early Nickelodeon.


While the gameplay was basic, each challenge came with new instructions to read. We had to read rapidly and catch any nuance in the instructions. This was challenging and especially so in the challenge that didn’t use a standard screen interface. We’d have to start in on the challenge before everyone had fully comprehended the instructions.

One of the challenge rooms started off approachable, but eventually reached a point where if a team didn’t have someone with the right sensory skills, it became a guessing game.

Cyberbot was frustrating for the wrong reasons. The controls were clunky and didn’t work well; one was pretty close to non-functional.

We wished Cyberbot was a “defusing” challenge. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with bomb deactivation. It felt strangely disconnected from the overall mission.

Tips for Visiting

  • Dumbo is easy to get to on public transportation
  • We recommend Randolph Beer for food and booze.
  • You need to be able to crawl and to move rapidly with some agility to complete all the challenges.
  • The paint washed out. That said:
    • Do not wear shoes or clothing that you 💖
    • Do not wear skirts or heels.
    • Do not wear clothing that is extremely tight or overly baggy.

Book your hour at Beat the Bomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Beat the Bomb comped our tickets for this game.

East Coast Escape Room – Summerfield Place [Review]

What monsters wouldn’t let the family finish Thanksgiving dinner before abducting them?

Location: Toms River, NJ

Date Played: January 27, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.50 per ticket

REA Reaction

Don’t be fooled by the mundane initial guise of Summerfield Place. This escape room escalated, adding intensity and intrigue. East Coast Escape Room designed the puzzles to be the star attraction, merging them smoothly with the story.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Puzzle flow
  • The late-game reveal
  • Escalation


A family was mysteriously abducted from their home during Thanksgiving dinner. It was up to us to determine who took them and save their lives.

Summerfield Place entryway, a red brick house with a black door numbered 13.


Summerfield Place let us loose in the home of a family who had recently gone missing. The initial setting was recognizably Thanksgiving day family room and dining room.

In-game: a set dining table with fruit and a turkey in the middle.

The set was well-executed and felt natural, even if it was a touch mundane.

Once we solved the initial mystery, however, East Coast Escape Room dialed up the intensity and the set design along with it.


Summerfield Place played like your standard search-and-puzzle escape room, with a heavy emphasis on puzzling. The escape room also conveyed a full narrative.

In-game: a grim, glowing lab environment with menacing strands of unusual life running along the walls.


East Coast Escape Room delivered a light-hearted take on a classic investigative escape room. The mystery was never scary or horrific. The ambiance and puzzles provided an adorable and playful experience.

The puzzles flowed well.

East Coast Escape Room leaned into less-common puzzles types. They clued these unorthodox interactions well.

Summerfield Place offered us a choice.

Summerfield Place escalated. The set design added intensity without introducing fear or horror. The final act added excitement and intrigue, while staying true to the playful vibe.

There was a hilarious late-game Easter egg.


While it was meant to feel like a home, Summerfield Place felt more like an escape room’s take on a living space. It was homey, but not convincing.

The initial set was mundane. It wasn’t particularly interesting to investigate, even if East Coast Escape Room ultimately paid off the game with an exciting ending.

One segment was a bit heavy on deciphering.

Tips for Visiting

  • East Coast Escape Room is in a plaza with a large parking lot.
  • There are plenty of food options in the area.
  • This is a tough game, and you want to do well in it because the true excitement comes later. Start with an easier game if you’re a newbie.

Book your hour with East Coast Escape Room’s Summerfield Place, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: East Coast Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.


Mystery Escape Room – Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors [Review]

Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

REA Reaction

The writings of H.P. Lovecraft are filled with curious and adventurous minds driven to madness. Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors replicated that. Its design was highly ambitious but bumpy execution and lighting problems kept some great ideas from reaching their potential.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • H.P. Lovecraft fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Because Cthulhu calls
  • Dramatic moments
  • The gamemaster


The Old Ones, the horrors born of H.P. Lovecraft’s mind, slumbered dreaming of their ascendance. We had to puzzle through the madness and lore to prevent them from rising and destroying all.

In-game: A skull on a strange table with a book covered in protruding eyeballs behind it.


We found ourselves in a sporadically lit library amidst skulls and the lore of H.P. Lovecraft.

The set design was uneven. Some of it looked great; other portions were uninspiring.

In-game: a dimly lit bookshelf with a skull and books resting on it.

While there were moments of intensity, this was not a scary escape room.


Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors was a standard escape room with a bit of searching and a heavier emphasis on puzzling and interpreting lore. We struggled to navigate the gamespace without blocking another teammate’s light.

Much like Dracula’s Castle, our in-character gamemaster introduced and vocally oversaw our game… and, oh my, was he a character.

In-game: An old grandfather clock beside a book shelf.


Mystery Escape Room opened Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors with an engaging and hilarious introduction. It added excitement to the adventure ahead.

Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. Although offstage for the duration of the game clock, his verbal interactions were helpful and amusing. He was an integral part of Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors.

Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors included an unusual and entertaining Lovecraft lore manual.

The most thematic puzzle had us accept the madness of Lovecraftian lore and unexpectedly triggered an effect.

I’d been waiting for a Cthulu-themed escape room for a long time now. Mystery Escape Room delivered. I was happy that I got to play it.


In attempting to stay true to the lore, Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors didn’t deliver the intensity that Cthulhu demanded.

The dark gamespace quickly became the most prominent puzzle. We were always in each other’s light… which kind of drove us insane.

There was a lot of reading material, and not within the library books. This was especially frustrating given the lack of lighting.

While Mystery Escape Room built some interesting tech-driven opens, we saw them coming a mile away. To enhance their dramatic effect, we recommend hiding wires and concealing the technology.

We bypassed the final puzzle through a combination of observation and knowledge of Cthulhu lore. We recommend Mystery Escape Room modify the puzzle flow such that teams cannot miss the climax of the adventure.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Escape Room is located in The Gateway. There are plenty of restaurant options in the complex.
  • There’s a paid parking garage in The Gateway complex.
  • At least one or two players will need to crawl a short distance.
  • Mind your gamemaster for hints and entertainment.

Book your hour with Mystery Escape Room’s Cthulhu’s Library of Horrors, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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


Thriller City – Da Vinci [Review]

Da Vinci is missing something.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: February 5, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Reaction

Thriller City’s Da Vinci was a harshly difficult escape room with interesting interactions, some great set design, little clue structure, and an inflexible hint system. While there were lots of details to love in Da Vinci, this escape room felt seriously incomplete and in desperate need of improvements that put more of an emphasis on fun rather than frustration.

We’re rooting for Thriller City to succeed, but in its current state, we cannot recommend Da Vinci. 

Who is this for?

  • People who want a challenge
  • Players who don’t mind extensive reading
  • Best for more experienced players

Why play?

  • To try your hand at a game with a less than 5% escape rate
  • The transitions


We were on a quest for the Holy Grail. It seemed that Leonardo Da Vinci knew where the Grail had been hidden and had left a series of clues. With an evil secret society on our tail, we needed to discover the legendary cup before they arrived and used it for their nefarious goals.

In-game: A dark cave with cobwebs and a glowing candle.


We began our quest for the Holy Grail in a dark cavern lit with a single LED candle. Once we determined how to leave the cave, Da Vinci opened up into a well-lit library environment.

The set was inconsistent. Some portions looked beautiful, creative, and polished; other parts looked unfinished or empty.

In-game: A wooden bookshelf covered in roped bundles of coverless books and glowing candles.


Da Vinci was brutally challenging. The owner of Thriller City told us that the game had about a 1% or 2% escape rate. I got the impression that we were the first or second team to ever win this game. It’s also worth noting that we deliberately circumvented a few puzzles to earn that victory.

While there were challenging puzzles to solve, the bulk of the gameplay centered on detailed pixel-hunt searching, parsing the clues from the red herrings, and figuring out how to operate the game’s mechanisms.

All of this was complicated by a stingy hint system whereby at the 30-minute mark a monk entered the room to provide us with a single hint. With 10 minutes remaining he returned for a second time to complete a task that none of us could figure out. We could not otherwise request hints, clarification, or support.


Da Vinci hid its secrets well. It was especially thrilling to uncover transitions.

Thriller City built large mechanical puzzles. These were inviting, exciting, and satisfying.

Some aspects of set design were gorgeous. The opening gamespace transported us to another place and time through detailed construction, down to wall finish. Some of the art within the set was magnificent.


Da Vinci was composed entirely of interactions. It didn’t include the clue structure. It lacked puzzle flow. It was impossible to latch onto the thread of gameplay.

In-game clueing consisted of many long passages to read off laminated sheets of paper. This was tedious. These clues were at best ambiguous and sometimes entirely opaque. We’d occasionally make sense of a paragraph retrospectively, after determining the intended interaction by other means.

Some of gorgeous wall art was intended to clue a puzzle, however opaquely. Much of it proved to be red herrings. There was absolutely no way to tell the two apart.

The majority of the set was overly spacious and barren. With large, sparsely furnished spaces, the scale felt off and unlike a library, despite the multitude of books.

We spent most of our time fixated on one puzzle that nobody could solve. At any given point, at least one team member was working on this puzzle. We knew we couldn’t move forward without it. Thriller City couldn’t hint this puzzle and with roughly 10 minutes remaining our gamemaster entered the room and solved it for us. Given the time constraints of an escape room, it felt unfair. It wasn’t a trick lock, but the same concept applied.

Thriller City offered one hint at 30 minutes (and eventually the solution to the aforementioned puzzle as well). We spent too much of our time in Da Vinci stalled. I have to imagine less experienced teams grinding to a complete halt. This wasn’t fun.

Da Vinci had a less than 2% escape rate. It didn’t want to be won. Through a mix of escape room experience, half-clued solves, outside knowledge, and two hints, we escaped with seconds to spare. We didn’t feel skilled; we felt lucky. It wasn’t satisfying.

Disclosure: Thriller City comped our tickets for this game.