The Maze – Action! [Review]

I’ll be back.

Location:  Petah Tikva, Israel

Date Played: May 15, 2022

Team Size: 3-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 NIS per player for 3 players to 100 NIS per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Crouching for all players

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Action! opened with a hilariously off-kilter answer to a simple question: what’s the biggest mistake humanity has ever made?

Responding through Hollywood-tinted lenses, The Maze concocted an exciting adventure in a whimsical style that felt akin to what might emerge from an escape room jam, yet executed with stellar production value and puzzle panache. The plot will especially appeal to fans of certain popular 1980s films.

Action! was appropriately action-packed. As we were whisked from film to film, each segment of the game had its own distinct style of gameplay and aesthetic. The puzzles were dynamic and thematic, playing to a range of player strengths. The transitions between segments were especially delightful.

An ancient temple with stone card walls.

To note, Action! is not the only Hollywood-themed escape room in Israel. Hype Esc’s Hollywood 117 also presents a Hollywood montage, yet the two rooms have completely different approaches, puzzles, and featured films. If you have the time, I highly recommend visiting both.

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Hype Esc – Hollywood 117 [Review]

Howdy, chaverim!

Location:  Tel Aviv, Israel

Date Played: May 10, 2022

Team Size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 140 NIS per player for 3 players to 110 NIS per player to 7+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Flashing lights, climbing, abrupt motions

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Hollywood 117 beautifully captured the wonder and nostalgia I associate with many of the classic films that defined my childhood — films like Mary Poppins, E.T., Harry Potter, and so many others. Thinking back to the first times I watched these movies, I remember the sensation of the world expanding. Anything seemed possible, and there was magic around every corner.

Now as an adult, I often turn to escape rooms to reconnect with that feeling.

Hype Esc excels at creating special moments, and they packed a staggering density of utterly delightful interactions into Hollywood 117. The gameplay started off in a classic escape room style, took a turn towards the more puzzly, and ultimately landed in a playground of fun-for-fun’s-sake. On one hand, this felt like a sampler platter of contrasting gameplay styles. On the other hand, every component was incredibly fun and the diversity of interactions only added to the sense of adventure.

Hollywood 117 was full of outside references. Most were especially common pop culture knowledge, yet we didn’t need to get all the references to have fun or successfully solve puzzles. (There were a couple of movies along the way that I’d never even heard of… and I had fun watching them after the game!) Most importantly, the game had its own narrative that was cohesive and fully self-contained.

A large stone entryway labeled, "The Mummy Set"

There were a few elements — puzzles, subtle Easter eggs, over-the-top reveals — in Hollywood 117 that seemed a bit self-indulgent on the designers’ part… and I’m so glad they included them. The game would have functioned perfectly well without these elements, yet their inclusion so strongly reflected the designers’ love and dedication in creating this experience. They were willing to go that extra mile.

This game embodied many of the top traits characterizing Israeli escape rooms — delightful interactions, solid puzzling, and engaging lighthearted stories. If you are visiting Israel, Hollywood 117 should absolutely be on your escape room itinerary.

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The Maze – The Sting [Review]

Escape the Escape Room

Location: Petah Tikva, Israel

Date Played: May 15, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 NIS per player for 3 players to 100 NIS per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Crouching and climbing for all players

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As soon as I realized the full premise of The Sting, I instantly squealed with glee. A version of this concept has long been on my wish list of escape room themes, yet given its potentially niche appeal to escape room enthusiasts, I’d all but given up hope that it would ever actually exist.

The Sting‘s designer, Gai Bosco, described this room as his “love letter to escape rooms.” I’d have to agree with that sentiment — from start to finish, through every detail of the game, it was abundantly clear that The Sting was a heartfelt ode to the escape room industry, to escape room designers, to escape room tropes, and to escape room enthusiasts. It successfully channeled many of the mechanics and emotions that made us fall in love with escape rooms in their many forms.

Inevitably, these meta nuances may only be fully grokked by escape room enthusiasts. But The Sting was thoughtfully designed to be equally playable and enjoyable by newer escape room players. The story and puzzles were straightforward and accessible, occasionally verging on overly simplistic for my taste. The gameplay was greater than the sum of its parts, which would have risked feeling too scattered or random if not for solid narrative justification.

A laser maze in a long, dark, narrow room.

I adored The Sting. Though this game may not have the same effect for all players, I strongly vibed with the story and sense of humor. Moreover, I deeply appreciate The Maze’s willingness to take risks on quirky, uncommon themes across all their rooms. This commitment to experimentation, along with their stellar set builds, establishes The Maze as one of the top escape room companies in Israel.

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PuzzleWorks – The Hospital [Review]

A matter of the heart

Location: Saint Paul, MN

Date Played: May 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player for the first two players, $26 for each further ticket

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I’ve played countless escape rooms in medical settings, and they have almost always been horror themed, with blood-spattered operating tables and ungodly torture tools. PuzzleWorks’ The Hospital was decisively not that. It took the hospital theme more seriously… and did so with a healthy dose of hilarity.

Our objective was simple: break into a hospital to return a heart that a heart surgeon had accidentally taken home instead of his lunch. A reverse heart heist, if you will.

The puzzles in The Hospital were solid, standard escape room fare, appropriately themed around what you’d find in a hospital, with a few fun twists here and there. The set sufficiently conveyed “hospital” yet felt a bit underdressed. But I will most remember The Hospital for its sense of humor, from the initial premise up through the final scene.

A hospital room with a beg and imaging equipment.

If you are visiting PuzzleWorks and only have time for one room, The Dungeon features a much more immersive set and a higher density of dynamic and more fully developed puzzles. But if you have time for both, The Hospital is a stellar game that would make a delightful addition.

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Panica – Eurovision Pizza Party [Review]

Pizza my heart ❤️

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Date Played: May 10, 2022

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 140 NIS per player for 2 players to 120 NIS per player for 5+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players must pass through a narrow doorway

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Panica has discovered the solution to getting hungry while playing escape rooms: culinary escape rooms. In Eurovision Pizza Party, we solved our way through a set of Eurovision- and pizza-themed puzzles, unlocking real dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and other pizza toppings along the way. By the end of the game, we’d baked a delicious pizza, which we were invited to enjoy right there in the room.

A heart-shaped pizza with a pizza cutter on one side and three tomatoes on the other.

The gameplay in Eurovision Pizza Party was simple and delightful. I particularly appreciated how each puzzle that unlocked a food ingredient was clearly themed around that ingredient.

Of note, Panica has a second pizza-themed room, Holy Pizza, that is more singularly pizza-centric. As the name suggests, Eurovision Pizza Party was equal parts pizza and Eurovision.

I’ll readily admit that my exposure to Eurovision prior to playing this room was largely limited to a viewing of the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga a few years ago. As an American, I’d been aware of Eurovision, but it was never a particularly big part of my life. While the room included plentiful Eurovision references that I imagine Eurovision fans will appreciate, it succeeded in authentically channeling the joy, showmanship, and talent that are core to Eurovision without over-relying on the reference as a gimmick.

As a dining experience, Eurovision Pizza Party was reasonably filling. The pizza made for a tasty lunch, especially when split amongst a smaller team. The pricing for this experience was quite reasonable: including the price of the pizza (with a small additional charge for the vegan option), the price stayed around the average for Tel Aviv escape rooms.

Eurovision Pizza Party was the only game at Panica officially available in English, but our team had the opportunity to play a selection of their other Hebrew-language offerings, including Mega Burger, Ice Cream Blast, and Free at the Bar. For our reflections on these games and Panica’s approach to culinary escape rooms, check out our culinary escape room overview (coming soon!)

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