Riddle Room – Forest of Fortune [Review]

Flora and Fauna

Location:  Warwick, Rhode Island

Date Played: December 15, 2019

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per player

Ticketing: Public & Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We had played at Riddle Room before, but stepping into Forest of Fortune demonstrated such a leap forward in game quality that it felt like a completely different company. It was incredible how far Riddle Room has come in 2 years. From the gameplay, to the set, to their hosting, they have substantially leveled up every conceivable element of their business.

It was clear that Riddle Room had put a lot into this build-out and pushed themselves far beyond anything that we had seen from them to date.

In-game: A stone wall with a metal gate.

In addition to the set, Riddle Room built dynamic mechanisms into their gameplay. On more than one occasion, they took an old, stale escape room cliché and morphed it into something unique and incredibly fun.

If you’re in Rhode Island, Forest of Fortune is a must-play escape room. It was fun and funny. On a personal level, we’re truly in awe of how Riddle Room has reinvented itself.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Novel puzzle and interaction design
  • Playful set design
  • Thoroughly fun gameplay

Story

We had received a text from our friend Justin that he needed our help. Justin was lost in the wilds of western Rhode Island, but he’d found a mountain of treasure.

In-game: Forest set.

Setting

Riddle Room set their adventure in an enchanted forest. The set had a whimsical woodland feel. It was almost cartoonish, which helped to sell the detailed, but homemade aesthetic. We liked it.

The stars of the show were some of the larger puzzle set pieces that were clearly the product of a lot of effort and ingenuity.

In-game: A stump with a a fleece hung on it in the middle of the woods.

Gameplay

Riddle Room’s Forest of Fortune was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: View of a a cemetary through a metal gate.

Analysis

➕ The mechanical interactions were dynamic and really cool.

➕ We enjoyed the theme and the set up for this adventure. It was unusual. Although the set looked handmade, it was clearly crafted with care and deliberate design. Everything felt playful.

➖ Forest of Fortune had experienced some wear and tear from players.

➕ We loved when the forest revealed its magic. This lifted our experience and opened up new thrills.

➖ The plot progression wasn’t entirely clear. Midway through the game, we became a bit confused with the story. Because our team split up to solve some of the later puzzles, some players missed some key plot points.

➕ Riddle Room’s outstanding props enabled us to wield magic. These were fashioned out of everyday items and escape room clichés… but crafted into extraordinary tools.

➕ Searching challenges were well-clued.

➖ There was an opportunity to craft more engaging interactions and better incorporate cluing for one star element of the final act.

➕ There was a lot of puzzle content in Forest of Fortune, most of which lent itself to teamwork. The gameplay worked well.

➕ The hint system fit right in with the world. It was fun and engaging to interact with.

➕ The finale was surprising and momentous.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Riddle Room’s Forest of Fortune, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Riddle Room comped our tickets for this game.

Doldrick's Escape Room – Super Bomb Squad [Review]

The Sonic the Hedgehog 2 of escape games.

Location:  Kissimmee, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Super Bomb Squad was fast paced and frenetic. Doldricks Escape Room merged classic video game design with elements of laser tag and escape room gameplay to create a unique beast unlike anything else we’ve encountered.

The story was a riot and the music was fantastic. What really set this game apart, however, was how great it felt to play it quickly. In my experience, once you get past the thrill of setting your first couple of records, most great escape rooms aren’t better when you play them quickly, they are just shorter. Super Bomb Squad made speed feel engaging and necessary.

In-game: A large laser maze in a mirrored room.

There were a few places where the puzzle and tech design threw some unnecessary and frustrating friction into the mix. It was not game breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it did feel like there was some unrealized potential in this otherwise genius creation.

I loved this game. I really did. It sparked a child-like glee in me that few escape rooms ever even flirt with.

If you’re a fan of 8-bit and 16-bit era video games, Super Bomb Squad is a must play. If you’re not so familiar with that era of video games, there’s still tons to love about this game – you just won’t be in on all of the jokes (sorry Lisa). I’d love to see other companies play with some of the ideas that Doldrick’s Escape Room introduced in Super Bomb Squad.

Captain Spoopy Bones is their creation that gets all of the attention and adoration from the escape room player community and that’s really well-earned; Captain Spoopy Bones was freaking fantastic. But don’t ignore Super Bomb Squad. This game wasn’t as refined, but it was startlingly innovative.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Classic video game fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Frenetic action
  • Hilarious characters and story
  • A unique twist on the laser maze
  • There’s nothing else like it

Story

When a weapon of mass destruction must be eliminated, who do you call? The elite group, Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome!

In-game: A piece of machinery with an illuminated blue biohazard symbol.

Setting

Super Bomb Squad had us infiltrating an enemy base… so of course we began in the elevator. The beating heart of this experience was the crazy laser maze room that looked badass and felt unique from the many, many, many laser mazes we have traversed.

Overall, the quality of the set build was strong. Everything felt like it belonged and the parts that stood out, really looked great.

In-game: A locked refridgerator filled with an unknown substance.

Gameplay

Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Super Bomb Squad was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: An assortment of wallmounted machinery and a flashing red alarm light.

Analysis

Super Bomb Squad was a high energy escape room. With its cheeky, comedic tone, chip tunes music, and video gaminess, we couldn’t help but rush from puzzle to puzzle.

➕ That music. Doldricks, pretty please put your music on Spotify.

➕ The intro video was too damn funny. I loved the characters. Please sell merch!

➕ Doldrick’s modified a favorite relic of my childhood into the thing that my imagination always knew it was.

➕ In Super Bomb Squad the majority of the puzzles required coordinated teamwork, often across different props, and even different gamespaces. This added to the excitement.

❓ At the top of this review, I compared Super Bomb Squad to Sonic The Hedgehog 2, a game that was at its best when played as quick as possible. I don’t think that playing fast improves most escape rooms, but I wholeheartedly believe that it is true of Super Bomb Squad.

There were a couple of moments in this game that ground to a standstill. They didn’t add to the tension; they broke the intensity. I think that this game would be better with fewer points of heavy friction and a shorter game clock.

➖ Doldrick’s Escape Room could cut down on unnecessary frustration by fixing a case sensitivity problem.

➕/➖ Super Bomb Squad had us dodging, searching, and shooting in a high energy segment that brought video gameplay to life. However, without clear feedback, we spent time resolving where we’d succeeded instead of refocusing our efforts on the action. This sequence was at the same time a high point of play, and the point of our greatest frustration with the cluing, feedback, and pacing.

➖ Super Bomb Squad lacked a final boss fight. It wouldn’t take much for Doldrick’s Escape Room to transform the conclusion of this game into a masterpiece. Most of the elements are already in place.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Doldrick’s Escape Room’s Super Bomb Squad, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doldrick’s Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Talking Tables – Host Your Own Escape Room [Review]

“With Interactive Ending” 🤔

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 11, 2020

Team size: 2+; we recommend 2

Duration: 60 minutes (in theory)

Price: about $20

REA Reaction

Talking Tables’ Host Your Own Escape Room was not designed for us. If you’re a regular reader of Room Escape Artist, we can pretty much guarantee that it wasn’t made for you either. This game feels like light entertainment for adults who don’t play or puzzle much.

A lantern, instruction booklet, and welcome information.

Host Your Own Escape Room looked good, but it didn’t have much of anything going on beyond its elegant production.

Including setup time, we finished Host Your Own Escape Room in 20 minutes. There was a light searching component and approximately 3 puzzles (depending upon your definition of puzzle), all of which were incredibly common and basic puzzle types.

That isn’t to say that they were bad (except for the one that demanded a bit of outside knowledge). The puzzles were cleanly executed. However, there simply wasn’t much to it.

Creators in the escape room world are making so many delightful and creative games. Host Your Own Escape Room simply wasn’t representative of where this medium is moving.

Who is this for?

People who want to enjoy the faintest whiff of an escape room from the comfort of their own home.

Why play?

  • The 3 puzzles all solve cleanly
  • High production value

Story

We were trapped inside of a cinema in Tokyo.

Assorted large cardboard Japanese items.

Setup

A host is supposed to open the box, read the rules, and hide a few items in a room within their home.

Once the guests are in the room, said host reads a brief introduction to the setting and so begins the game.

The host can play with the group, provided they didn’t solve the puzzles in advance. They just have to hold back on searching (and maybe provide searching hints if they hid items too well or their friends are lazy searchers.)

If the team requires hints or solutions to any of the puzzles, the instruction booklet contains them in the last few pages.

The red maze box art for Host Your Own Escape Room.

Gameplay

Talking Tables’ Host Your Own Escape Room was a standard play-at-home escape game with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

A welcome letter, part of a sudoku, a folder for clues, a collapsed lantern, and part of a script.

Analysis

➕ For $20, the production value of Host Your Own Escape Room was impressive. All of the materials looked great. They had an elegant red, black, and white aesthetic that demonstrated that someone really cared about the presentation of this game.

➕ The option and instructions for adding a search component into the game were well executed.

➖ The story was only thematically relevant.

➕ The puzzles within this game all solved cleanly, and pulled from Japanese culture and puzzle design.

➖ The puzzles were all common puzzle types without much of a twist.

➖ A large volume of the objects within this game had no purpose other than to look thematic. It’s a shame that these components weren’t worked into the gameplay at all.

➖ One puzzle required outside knowledge.

➖ The phrase, “with interactive ending” literally meant that we needed to use a web browser in the most basic way possible.

Host Your Own Escape Room came with a beefy notepad. It was hilariously large for this game. We’ve kept it and will be using it for some time.

A large notepad that says "Notes" at the top.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a room with a door and a small table
  • Required Gear: an internet-connected device, paper and pencil (or pen if you like to live dangerously)

Buy your copy of Talking Tables’s Host Your Own Escape Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Talking Tables provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

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The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Mass Escape – The Eckstein Experiment [Review]

Steampunk Experimentation

Location:  New Bedford, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Thinking back on The Eckstein Experiment, I’m kind of amazed that it was only 1 hour long. The set was large, packed with detailed and unique spaces. There were a lot of fantastic team-based challenges. The character with whom we interacted was brilliant.

In-game: A brain and eye in a jar.

We have a weak spot for steampunk sets over at Room Escape Artist, and this was one of our favorites. It was tactile and beautiful.

We loved this game… except for the beginning. The initial moments of the experience were great, but the first few minutes of gameplay felt stale, like they belonged in a different world… one we’ve seen many times before. Once we were past the early gameplay, this game soared.

If you’re near Boston with a car, go play The Eckstein Experiment at Mass Escape. While you’re there, play Ice Station Zero as well, if not all 3 of their games. This is a really cool company that is designing creatively.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Tons of content
  • Strong team-based gameplay
  • A cool steampunk set
  • A great hint system

Story

Strange lights had flashed and even stranger noises had come from the medical office of Dr. Eckstein. One day, curiosity got the better of us and we decided to investigate.

In-game: a steam-punk-ish laboratory with glowing beakers and flasks of liquid.

Setting

The Eckstein Experiment opened up in typical-looking escape room jail cells. Once we were free of the bars, things changed quickly. Mass Escape pulled from steampunk and laboratory aesthetics to create something unique.

The opening was fine; it looked good. The mid- and late-game sets were something considerably more special.

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Gameplay

Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: a large electrical contraption made of mostly wound copper wire.

Analysis

➕ Although the opening set was nothing special, The Eckstein Experiment transitioned into a beautiful steampunk laboratory. We loved the aesthetic and the dynamic of the interconnected spaces. There was also a surprising set piece that might creep up on you.

➕ Mass Escape crafts charming characters into their games. Our gamemaster set the tone for the experience, acting as a character in our story. His sincere delivery added to the fun. Mass Escape was able to lean into this antagonistic character because they had a different method of hint delivery. We didn’t need to trust this guy.

In-game: a severed thumb on a surgical tray.

➕ The hint system added a playfulness to The Eckstein Experiment. Mass Escape seamlessly integrated the hints, such that it would have been a lesser game without taking them.

➕ Mass Escape made great use of space.

➖ The first act of The Eckstein Experiment was unbalanced. It was a split-team start where some people had a lot more they could do than others. It also felt too generic in comparison to what came immediately after.

The Eckstein Experiment fostered engaging team dynamics.

➕ Mass Escape combined both escape room-y puzzles with more situational-based solves.

➖ Mass Escapes really needed to dial up the size, lighting, and precision of one key interaction.

➖ Additional gating in one section would prevent teams from blindly burning substantial time on inactive puzzles.

❓ The bonus quests in The Eckstein Experiment weren’t integrated as cleanly as were those in their other games.

➕ Mass Escape devoted a whole section of this game to one gimmick, and transformed it into a communication puzzle. Then they repurposed a space that we didn’t expect to reuse, which was impressive.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • At least 2 people have to crawl.
  • The game has a split beginning. Players will start in different spaces.
  • Mass Escape’s escape rooms all have a main quest and bonus quests. You can choose whether or not to spend your time on the bonus quests; they are clearly delineated as such.

Book your hour with Mass Escape’s The Eckstein Experiment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mass Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Goat – A Fisherman’s Tale [Review]

A Little Mermaid

Location:  Winter Garden, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

A Fisherman’s Tale is Escape Goat’s new beginner-friendly game. It was approachable, sweet, and comfortable. It’s easy to recommend to first time players.

Escape Goat is the epitome of a family-run escape room business and a lot of companies could learn a ton from them. Their games were brimming with details, love, and personality.

A Fisherman’s Tale was their only game without an in-room character/ gamemaster. They replaced this with a clever hint system.

If you’re an experienced player, The Quest has quite a bit more to offer in terms of depth and complexity. That said, if you’re a fan of what Escape Goat is doing, A Fisherman’s Tale was a delight. We squeezed this one in with some found time and we were happy that we did.

In-game: Inside of a fishing boat, there are crates, and chests.

Who is this for?

  • Newbies
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A hilarious hint system
  • A cute story
  • Approachable gameplay

Story

While walking the beach we had happened upon a message in a bottle begging for help. The note had led us to a boat captained by an obsessive treasure hunter.

In-game: A captain's desk on his boat.

Setting

A Fisherman’s Tale was set within the beachside hut of a fisherman. We explored the small structure, which had a simple yet effective aesthetic.

Few items seemed out of place and few props jumped out at us as truly memorable… except for the genius hint system… and I’m not spoiling that punchline.

In-game: The wood and canvas walls and ceiling of the boat's interior.

Gameplay

Escape Goat’s A Fisherman’s Tale was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ A Fisherman’s Tale told a cute story.

➕ Escape Goat made the most of a small physical footprint with a detailed set. This made spaces distinct and added intrigue to the game.

➕ Although it was an easier escape room, there was still a lot of content to engage with at any given point. The puzzles were thematic, distinct, and well clued. The game flowed well.

➖ Escape Goat could refine the beginning with a gentler onboarding. This segment had potential, but lacked the clarity of some of the more complex, later puzzles.

➖ There was an opportunity to improve sound design in A Fisherman’s Tale. When speakers played, we mostly talked over them by accident. Additionally, not all sounds were accessible to the entire group.

❓ We worry about the durability of some more delicate props.

➕ The ending was fun. The final prop was enticing and although the story didn’t surprise us, Escape Goat made it special.

➕ With the playful tone of A Fisherman’s Tale, Escape Goat could add entertaining touches, like the adorable hint mechanism.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Escape Goat’s A Fisherman’s Tale, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Goat comped our tickets for this game.

Dare 2 Escape – The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind [Review]

Willy Wonka & the Video Store

Location:  Kissimmee, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was compelling. Stepping into it brought back so many memories.

It was cool to see all of the props and mechanics of a video store thoroughly repurposed into an elaborate puzzle game.

In-game: a cardboard cutout of Keanu Reeves beside a shelf of DVDs.
Whoa. A most excellent cameo.

At Dare 2 Escape, everyone loves Halloween. We haven’t played any of their other escape rooms, all of which are set in a single, scary storyline. The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was a break from their tradition (but set in the same universe). It was humorous. The staging fit it into Dare 2 Escape’s world, while delivering a completely different vibe, which was impressive… and especially welcome for our anti-horror teammates.

If you’re in Orlando, and you’re looking for a puzzle-focused escape room in an authentic video store setting, The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was a fun trip down memory lane.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Detailed, clever design
  • Lots of nuanced references
  • It was great visiting a video store

Story

Eccentric video rental store owner Joseph Boddy had decided to retire. Rather than sell his lucrative business, he had decided to award it to someone who would truly appreciate it.

Mr. Boddy had randomly issued golden tickets to members of his store for a series of challenges. The person who could solve them would win the greatest prize of all: the deed to a video rental store. That’s a business that can never fail.

In-game: The Harvest Moon Video logo beside a large sign that reads, "Be kind rewind."

Setting

It was a video store through and through. If you’re old enough to have ever visited one, Dare 2 Escape’s creation looked spot on.

The only thing that was missing was a video game rental section.

In-game: Wide view of a video store with shelves of DVDs.

Gameplay

Dare 2 Escape’s The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, and enjoying the many references.

In-game: a collection of DVDs in the sci-fi section.

Analysis

➕ The Willy-Wonka-meets-video-rental-store setup was genius.

➕ While The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was visually busy – such is the aesthetic of a video store – every prop had a purpose. Every item belonged in the gamespace.

➖ We encountered some gating issues. In the middle of the game, we sunk a lot of time into puzzles that weren’t yet solvable.

 The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was a nostalgic escape room, crafted with a devotion to the subject matter.

➕/➖ Dare 2 Escape created multiple strong puzzles around DVDs and other common rental store items. That said, it was challenging to keep track of all the different DVD puzzles.

➖ The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind lacked work surfaces, which exacerbated the DVD organization issue. We had a lot of props to organize and solve, but no work area on which to do so. We spread out across the floor, creating a bit of a tripping hazard.

➕ In The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind outside movie knowledge was an asset, but it certainly wasn’t required. With certain knowledge, we moved more quickly through one segment, but without it, the task wasn’t arduous. The solve was neat. Added bonus: if you know the movies, you’ll feel like a rock star.

➖ Although the early gameplay made sense for staging and story building, it dragged. We were hampered by the dim lighting in the first act. The gameplay worked, but the pacing felt off. The opening would have felt more powerful if it had flowed more quickly.

➕ Dare 2 Escape built a sweet transition into this game.

 The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind was full of Easter eggs: nods to Dare 2 Escape’s other games, the creators’ family and friends, and so many movies.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Dare 2 Escape’s The Video Store: Be Kind Rewind, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Dare 2 Escape comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Artists – NINJA [Review]

Asian Fusion

Location:  Orlando, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape Artist’s NINJA was a bit of a roller coaster. Some portions were attractive, engaging, and funny. Others were finicky, underdeveloped, and tedious. It could change from one moment to the next.

Overall, it was pleasant to experience an atypical escape room scenario, but the great parts left us really wishing that everything was more cleanly executed.

If you’re in the area and are looking for a mixture of puzzles, pop culture references, and an assortment of pan-Asian concepts, NINJA is anything but expected.

In-game: a japanese building with a cherry blossom out front.

Who is this for?

  • Nerds – so many references – so many
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s really different in look and play
  • Some of the set pieces are beautiful
  • The references were as outlandish as they were funny

Story

An evil ninja had been hired to assassinate and sabotage our town. We needed to defeat this ninja and bring proof of our victory to our Shogun.

In-game: a large black and white symbol hung from a wall of bamboo and spotlit in the darkness.

Setting

NINJA had a mostly Japanese – and occasionally pan-Asian – aesthetic. The Japanese architecture and faux cherry blossoms were quite striking.

Every room of NINJA was loaded with nerdy sight gags, some subtle, some overt. These were the highlight of the game for half of our team.

In-game: a lantern hung outside of a japanese building.

Over the course of the game, it became clear that the set design was incredibly uneven with some sections clearly receiving a lot of love and investment. Other sections felt like an afterthought.

Gameplay

Escape Artists’ NINJA 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 puzzle with slots for many disks arranged in a circle.

Analysis

➕ NINJA was goofy. It pulled from all different “ninja” associations, creating an amalgamation of loosely associated themes. The tone was lighthearted and some of the props were especially amusing to read or interact with.

➖ Some of these NINJA associations seemed only vaguely relevant. It was almost as if anything Asian was also somehow “ninja.”

➕ There was a lot of puzzle content, in different styles, which we enjoyed.

➖ Some of the more traditional escape room-style puzzles lacked clarity. There were opportunities to refine the cluing, which was at times ambiguous.

➕ NINJA shined in its physical interactions. We tackled many unusual dexterity challenges. We enjoyed being the ninjas – shooting, punching, tossing, and throwing our way to puzzle solves.

➖ The engineering in NINJA was sloppy. The tolerances on the tech were too tight, which made everything feel finicky. We frequently solved puzzles correctly, but did not receive feedback from the solve.

➕/➖ Parts of the set looked great. In these places, Escape Artists minded the details and added finish. Parts of the set looked hacked together, messy, and unrefined. Even in the low lighting, we could see the seams.

➖ The last gamespace felt especially underdesigned, as if Escape Artists had run out of time or budget.

➕ Escape Artists crafted some most excellent doors within NINJA. We’re always fans of unusual doors; we greatly enjoyed this reveal.

➕ There was one written passage that when read out loud made our jaws drop… before the laughter set in.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street parking nearby.
  • NINJA is located at Escape Artists’ Orlando location, not their Sanford location.
  • Be advised that NINJA takes place in low light.

Book your hour with Escape Artists’ NINJA, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Artists comped our tickets for this game.

Red Fox Escapes – The Heist [Review]

Artfully Puzzley

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 13, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We loved Red Fox’s The Heist. It was quirky, unique, and loaded with great puzzles. To make things even better for an experienced escape room team, there was no searching; the puzzles were confidently on display.

In-game: Wide view of the gallery, many pieces are on display, the two most prominent is a painting of the Queen of England with her eyes closed.

This was a challenging game, in a fair way. While we loved it, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people preferred Red Fox’s U-Boat (also a lovely game – review coming soon). On its surface, this game feels more normal, but if you really look at the details, that’s where this game shines.

If you’re an experienced puzzler near Boston, we highly recommend The Heist. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of an adventure, try out U-Boat first. Either way, Red Fox is a company that we’re looking forward to visiting many more times in the future. They’re off to a stellar start.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Unusual and challenging puzzles
  • There was essentially no searching
  • Beautiful art

Story

A private gallery in the Back Bay was exhibiting the world’s largest diamond, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Naturally, we’d assembled our team of master thieves in our hideout to plan our heist.

In-game: A portrait of Marilyn Monroe made out of pennies beside a geometic sculputre.

Setting

The Heist began inside of our secret hideout [not depicted because it’s a secret]. Once our plan was sorted out, we broke into the gallery… and it really looked like a gallery.

Aside from nailing the art gallery aesthetic, the thing that really set this one apart was that the art looked unique, and like art. It was great to see pieces that weren’t obvious knockoffs of famous art that is housed in specific museums.

In-game: A sculpture of a tree and root system without leaves.

Gameplay

Red Fox Escapes’ The Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: an image of a woman made out of wire mounted to a board.

Analysis

➕ The secret hideout was classic. It looked good and provided a solid on-ramp that warmed us up for the main event.

➕ The artwork was high quality. It was beautiful. Some of the pieces were truly impressive creations.

➖ As beautiful as the set was, a couple of the props we handled felt worn out. They weren’t on the same level as the rest of the space.

➕ The Heist was a challenging, puzzley escape room with fair, well-clued puzzles. Red Fox wove the puzzles through the art unlike any art heist we’ve played to date. The game was challenging for all the right reasons… and there wasn’t any searching.

➕ Red Fox drew on classic heist tropes, but made these their own. We couldn’t maneuver through them in the normal way. This was smart.

➖/➕ Red Fox introduced one concept too early. It had to work this way for the story, but this design decision could easily come back to bite them – or more likely – one of their props.

➕ The juxtaposed sets were incredibly different, but part of one world. The transition scene enabled this really well. A lot of love went into a space that we spent next to no time in. Respect.

➖ The first act couldn’t support as large a team as the second act could, which makes it hard to recommend a group size for The Heist. Strong puzzlers can go with a smaller group. If you bring a larger group, you’ll be crowded early on before the space opens up.

➕ Red Fox can adapt The Heist during the reset to make it easier by swapping in additional cluing for some puzzles. They can do this so seamlessly that players would never know.

Tips For Visiting

  • Red Fox Escapes is easily accessible by T. Take the Red Line to Central.
  • At least 1 person needs to be able to crawl.

Book your hour with Red Fox Escapes’ The Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Red Fox Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Mind Masters – Strange Magic [Review]

Pulling a solution out of a hat

Location:  Clermont, FL

Date Played: November 17, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32.10 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Strange Magic was a delightful blend of puzzle design, technology, and set design. Everything came together beautifully in a compact but mighty package.

What made Mind Masters’ inaugural game so fantastic was the stage-magic quality of the interactions.

Additionally, some of the technology was so slick that it’s hard to comprehend how great it is… which really is how tech ought to function.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend finding your way to this company. It’s rare to see such a polished first outing from a rookie escape room business. I have a feeling that we’re going to see more great things from them.

In-game: Closeup of the magician's hat.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Great thematic puzzling
  • A fun setting
  • Brilliant and subtle magical tech

Story

In the heart of America, the magician in a traveling circus was using real sorcery to feed on the life force of his audience.

We time traveled into his tent during his hour-long performance to disrupt his sinister magic.

In-game: A magical prop, a box with constellations painted on it, slits cut in it, and a knife embedded in one of the slits.

Setting

Strange Magic packed a ton of might into a compact space. The room felt like it was inside of a circus tent, with all of the right detailing in the vaulted ceiling. That level of detail followed all the way down through the props and to the floor.

Everything was focused on circus magic.

In-game: The vaulted ceiling of the circus tent.

The set was well lit and an easy setting to enjoy.

Additionally, Mind Masters’ overall narrative for all of their games focused on time traveling, and their use of a time machine as the doorway/ hint delivery system/ storage for the team’s gear was inspired.

Gameplay

Mind Masters’ Strange Magic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: wide view of the citcus tent, a magician's hat on a table, crates lay about.

Analysis

➕ In Strange Magic, the opens felt magical. Mind Masters embedded technology to make us feel like magicians. It worked smoothly and invisibly.

➕ Strange Magic was designed from floor to ceiling. Mind Masters built a space that hearkened back to the Golden Age of Magic.

➕ Mind Masters did some really smart 3D printing work.

➖ Some of the cluing was just a bit too subtle. Thematic, absolutely. Beyond reasonable perception, also yes.

In-game: The time travel machine/ hint system.

➕ Narratively, Mind Masters justified anything that didn’t fit through their time-travel portal. This enabled them to use escape room essentials elegantly.

➖ While most of the tech worked brilliantly and thoughtfully, there was an opportunity for Mind Masters to improve this game by disabling double inputs.

➕ The puzzles flow worked well and many had layered solves. Although the space was smaller, there were enough puzzles open at any one time, spread out across the space, that we didn’t feel cramped and everyone could be involved.

➖ The final sequence was bumpy. Although we’d taken the right action, we didn’t get strong feedback from the game and began to second guess ourselves. Nothing clued us that this interaction required patience. While waiting can add drama, in the case of this puzzle, the slow pace of the prop’s response detracted from an otherwise impressive ending.

➕ The technology in Strange Magic ran far deeper than we understood while playing. At the end of the game, Mind Masters gave us a score, determined by their automated system.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Mind Masters’ Strange Magic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mind Masters provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Upside Down Escape Games – The Gingerbread Cottage [Review]

Solve, solve as fast as you can

Location:  Taunton, Massachusetts

Date Played: December 12, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 1- a small family group

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $18 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Gingerbread Cottage was an adorable, family- and newbie-friendly seasonal game. It was one of the nicer temporary games that we’ve encountered.

The story was cute, the hint system was clever, the puzzles were fair, the props were well-selected, and there was a tiny bit more tech than we’re accustomed to finding in a limited run escape game.

In-game: gingerbread house wall covered in gumdrops.

This game was meant for families and small groups of new players. The recipe included short and sweet puzzles and it was iced with a touch of humor.

If you’re a seasoned escape room player, this one isn’t really made for our kind, but we still enjoyed nibbling on it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas aficionados
  • Great for families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Adorable premise
  • Solid puzzle game
  • Christmas cheer

Story

Peeled from a baking sheet, we had gained sentience as we were placed in our gingerbread home. From beyond the walls of our candy cottage we’d heard that Darryl was coming home in 45 minutes… and he was going to be hungry.

In-game: A fireplace decorated with stockings, a rocking chair, and a giant - partially decorated gingerbread cookie on the wall.

Setting

The Gingerbread Cottage was a small, humble, and adorable little popup Christmas game. Most of the props were artfully selected Christmas decorations meant to build the fiction of the inside of a gingerbread house.

The game itself was constructed around the decoy gingerbread man, a simple, but effective piece of tech.

In-game: A white christmas tree shelf covered in gingerbread cookie ornaments beside a fireplace decorated with stockings.

Gameplay

Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

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

6 homemade gingerbread owls.

Analysis

➕ The Gingerbread Cottage had an adorable, playful premise.

➕ The gameplay was approachable and entirely non-linear. It was easy to dive in and clear how to play. The gameplay was smooth.

➖ Maybe we were seeing it in the wrong light, but one puzzle felt a little off to us.

➕ Although Upside Down Escape Games had a small footprint and low budget for this holiday popup escape game, they created a lot of cheer. It didn’t feel cheap or temporary.

➖ There was an opportunity to more evenly use the space. The majority of the puzzle elements were a bit on top of each other.

➖ The Gingerbread Cottage lacked a finale. With a final puzzle or some fanfare, the win would have felt like more of an event.

➕ The hint system was thematic and cute.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Upside Down Escape Games’ The Gingerbread Cottage, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Upside Down Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.