Q The Live Escape Experience – Area Q [Review]

Puzzle Gear

Location:  Loveland, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $24.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Area Q was a unique experience. Some of it was brilliant and some of it was a mess (literally and figuratively).

The crux of the game was built around a heist. We were stealing something and needed to navigate the security system as well as the guard. In a lot of ways, it felt a lot like a Metal Gear game.

In-game: A person sneaking around a wooden crage in a dark room.
Image via Q The Live Escape Experience

The cool thing about Area Q was that there were a lot of different ways to play it. If you played Area Q as a straight puzzle room, however, I think that you would find it pretty dull; the puzzles were decidedly subpar. That said, you don’t have to play it that way. It can be what you make of it.

I’m really glad that we played this game because it was different. Q The Live Escape Experience tried some interesting concepts… and they nailed the actor interactions. The catch here was that the puzzles, cleanliness, and finer points of set design felt all but ignored.

If you’re open to a unique experience that is equal parts exciting and flawed, then this is worth checking out. However, if you’re looking for something that is more grounded in escape room tradition and functions more smoothly, The Conjuror was a stronger all-around game.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Actor interactors
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The guard actor was fantastic and gave the character a ton of personality
  • The scenario built a lot of tension

Story

A meteor had crashed into Earth and had been retrieved by a criminal organization. Their scientists had extracted alien bacteria and used it to engineer a plague. Now they planned to auction it to the highest bidder.

Our assignment: infiltrate the facility under cover of darkness, avoid being caught by the guard, steal the plague sample, and plant a bomb to destroy the remaining samples.

Setting

Area Q sent us down into a rustic research lab. The reality of this staging was a game in a large, dusty, and dark warehouse space. Most of the set pieces were large wooden crates behind a chain-link fence. The laboratory portions felt hacked together.

It was spartan.

In-game: A glowing green exit sign over a door viewed through a chainlink fence.
Image via Q The Live Escape Experience

Every 10 minutes, like clockwork, a security guard patrolled the space. The actor was fantastic and really imbued this character with a personality.

Gameplay

Q The Live Escape Experience’s Area Q was an actor-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, hiding, and engaging with the actor.

Analysis

➕ Area Q was an escape room in principle, but the gameplay was open ended. We could play it straight by solving puzzles, or go for a more dramatic, improvisational approach with the actor.

➕ The guard gave this game intrigue. He walked with personality. He was imposing and threatening, but also amusing. He was adaptive too. He would play the type of game that the players wanted to play. When we chose to mess with him, he gave it right back to us. This was a ton of fun.

➖ The puzzles were downright boring. They felt like tedious work we had to slog through. It didn’t help that we had to abandon them and hide every time the guard approached.

➖ The gameplay was largely search-focused. Search was frustrating because the set was large and dark. Although we weren’t bumping into things, we weren’t keen on blind searching, considering the dirt and splintery props.

➕ Although Area Q was a dark space, it needed to be for the premise of the game. We had enough flashlights for each teammate. The space was also devoid of clutter and tripping hazards. We weren’t going to miss these props.

There is a difference between a dirty-looking set and an actually dirty set. Area Q was filthy. After hiding in this set, we were covered in dirt and dust.

➕ Area Q had a laissez-faire approach to solving. There was no definitive way to accomplish something. We could solve the puzzles or find our own means to accomplish our heist. In fact, they’d designed different paths to get teams to the same ending. Depending on how a team approached the game, different things could happen, but none of them would be game-ending. Instead, they would set the team on a different path to a successful ending.

➖ There were opportunities to make the props more interesting. For example, the plague sample we needed to steal could have looked like something we wanted to get our hands on.

Area Q built a ton of tension with the constant hiding and the actor dramatics. Given this build up, the ending fell flat. Our exit from the gamespace was anticlimactic in comparison.

Tips For Visiting

  • Wear closed-toed shoes and clothing that can get dirty.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Q The Live Escape Experience’s Area Q, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Q The Live Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Q The Live Escape Experience – The Conjuror [Review]

Odd Duck Immersive

Location:  Loveland, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019,

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $24.99 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Conjuror was an actor-enhanced escape room. It was teed up to us as more immersive theater than escape room, but that didn’t feel like accurate expectation setting.

This was a solid escape room, with a dramatic (and slightly over-the-top) character overseeing the experience. He was a delight. Additionally, there was one fantastic recurring set piece. It was pretty much worth playing the game for these two things alone.

In-game: a series of glass vials beside a crow.

The puzzle design itself was fine – maybe a little dated – but it got the job done.

One last thing… and this recurred in both games we played at Q The Live Escape Experience. They needed to get a cleaning crew into their games. Both games were unacceptably dusty.

All in all, there aren’t that many escape rooms with a theatrical bent to them and this was a solid one. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then you should check out The Conjuror.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure 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?

  • The seance table
  • A strong introduction
  • The actor interactions

Story

We had tickets to see Malveaux the Magnificent conduct a seance, piercing the veil between life and death to commune with the spirits.

In-game: a white table clothed table in a dim seance parlour.

Setting

Billed as a hybrid of immersive theater and escape room, The Conjuror opened with a humorous scripted introduction. From there, we found ourselves in a magical study/ seance chamber. The centerpiece of the game was the seance table, which was quite cool.

The room had a grim, Addams Family vibe. While the game was fairly new, it was pretty damn dusty.

In-game: an assortment of magical items including a skull, and a hand labeled "Poison Ivy."

Gameplay

Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror was a standard escape room with a theatrical bent and a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and bantering with the actor.

Analysis

➕ The Conjuror started with a performance. The actor was engaging and talented. He established a character in the opening act, which set up the rest of the experience.

❓ Although The Conjuror opened with an actor, the experience was an escape room, not immersive theater (as it was framed for us). For the majority of the time, we solved puzzles towards accomplishing a mission. Although it had dramatic flourishes, and allowed character banter, it was an escape room through and through. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but setting expectations is important.

➕ Q The Live Escape Experience kept the character involved throughout the experience. He was amusing. We could choose how much to engage with him. This was fun.

➕ The Conjuror wove narrative and puzzles together. The puzzles were justified and made sense in the space.

➖ The puzzles felt dated. They were largely search based and not all well clued. One seemed like it almost required a hint. There were opportunities to make the puzzles more interesting.

➕ That seance table!

➖ The gamespace was filthy. David didn’t set foot in particular area of the gamespace because his allergies were already acting up, and that section would surely have aggravated them more.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Q The Live Escape Experience’s The Conjuror , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Book

Disclosure: Q The Live Escape Experience comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

Perplexium – Incoming Transmission [Review]

Engage!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Incoming Transmission was a sprawling space epic in the vein of Star Trek.

We’ve learned to count on Austin’s 15 Locks/ Perplexium to produce creative and unusual escape games that tinker with the formula. They did just that with Incoming Transmission.

In-game: The bridge of a space ship with multiple control consoles and many glowing lights.
Image via Perplexium

This space-based escape game was less about discovering a physical space and puzzling through it. It was more about learning the ship’s systems and using them to traverse the universe, completing missions and solving the problems of alien species. This escape room felt more like a giant control panel than a puzzle room.

This structure meant that Perplexium was able to produce a replayable game with plenty of dynamic missions to tackle.

With gameplay that felt more like a hybrid of video gaming and some tabletop gaming, Incoming Transmission could be the perfect game for your team or it could fizzle. We enjoyed ourselves and could imagine going back for a second go at space travel if we’d finished playing out the other escape rooms that interest us in Austin.

If you’re a little intrigued by all of this and near Austin, Texas, then you should beam aboard Incoming Transmission. At the very least, you’ll be in for an novel ride.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • 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?

  • Unusual, replayable game structure
  • Great set
  • A humorous script

Story

As cadets in the fleet, we had been beamed aboard the SS Adventure. We had to get the ship running and then traverse the universe to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly solve intergalactic problems.

In-game: A series of large control toggles.
Image via Perplexium

Setting 

We were beamed aboard a Star Trek-inspired spaceship with an angular, futuristic aesthetic, complete with dozens of blinking lights, buttons, switches, and dials… all of which were active game components.

In-game: A space ship control panel with multi-colored glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Gameplay

Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission combined standard escape room gameplay with atypical elements. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Incoming Transmission could be played in “story mode,” which combined more typical escape room-style gameplay with video game-like elements. It could be replayed in “points mode” which opened up the star system and allowed crews to go off and have a real-life video game-like adventure without some of the more tangible escape room moments.

The gameplay was similar to something like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Core gameplay revolved around figuring out how to interact with the environment, following instructions, and communicating.

In-game: A space ship control panel with glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Analysis

➕ The spaceship set was interesting and beautiful.

➕ As we brought this ship to life and completed missions it reacted with different effects. These upped our excitement about the missions and our feelings of triumph.

➕ There was a heavy video component that involved alien characters appearing on a large screen to ask for help, make demands, or threaten us. It was both Star Trek-y and funny… kind of like The Orville… but without dick jokes.

➕ We enjoyed the escape room-style gameplay of configuring the ship. We especially enjoyed operating the ship’s transporter.

➖ The gameplay often felt more like following instructions than exploring or solving puzzles.

❓ The second act of the game took place at consoles, much like a multiplayer video game. It was fun, but the novelty wore off quickly. We would have liked more puzzle variety or a quicker pace during this segment. Reactions to this segment will likely vary based on individual player preferences.

➖ Incoming Transmission lacked an intense boss flight. The gameplay felt one-note, even as our ship came under fire. We would have liked to build toward the climactic battle.

➕ The replayable “points mode” concept was interesting. There were so many console-based puzzles packed into the game that we could return again and again to play though the challenges from our consoles aboard this intergalactic ship.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This room involves crawling, ducking and tight spaces. At least one player will need to do this.
  • This room includes flashing lights, fog, and loud noises.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Book

Disclosure: Perplexium comped our tickets for this game.

Clocked In Escape Room – Priceless Gift [Review]

Ma chérie

Location:  San Antonio, Texas

Date Played: February 3, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $116 per team of 4 (minimum number), more for larger teams

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Priceless Gift asked us to find a treasured object in our grandmother’s home. This premise and the corresponding gamespace were oddly charming.
In-game: An antique white couch in a white room with paintings of France hanging on the walls.
Clocked In Escape Room built a search-and-puzzle escape room with standard puzzle types. Despite a few bumpy solutions, the puzzles generally made sense and the gameplay flowed well. If you’re in San Antonio and you’re looking for a gentler, puzzle-focused escape room – one that isn’t about saving the world or a fantastical situation – visit Priceless Gift. It won’t blow your mind, but it will deliver competent, classic escape room play.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A tender story
  • Fun puzzles

Story

Our grandmother had passed away. Her will clearly stated that she wanted us to have a diamond necklace that had been in the family since the 18th century. Unfortunately, when she wrote her will, she couldn’t remember where she put the priceless jewelry. The executor of the estate informed us that her house had been sold. We had only 60 minutes until the closing in which to find our inheritance.
In-game: a Singer sewing machine.

Setting

Priceless Gift was set in a bright, white room, with faux stained glass, and antique furniture. Clocked In Escape Room built a visually unusual environment that wasn’t fancy, but still was striking. The inclusion of a few select antiques like a Singer sewing machine added a bit of authenticity.

Gameplay

Clocked In Escape Room’s Priceless Gift was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty. Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Priceless Gift told a sweet story through escape room gameplay. We don’t see enough of this genre of escape room. It was refreshing. ➕ The puzzles were generally sound, satisfying solves that flowed logically. ➖ A few of the puzzles asked for a larger step in logic. ➖ Priceless Gift could have benefited from a little dusting and maybe a couple of lock replacements. ➕ /➖ Clocked In Escape Room attempted an artistic puzzle in this mostly lock-and-key escape room. We liked the concept, but it didn’t quite stick. ➕ I loved seeing the old Singer sewing machine. Personally, if I were associating a single object with my grandparents, that’s probably it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
Book your hour with Clocked In Escape Room’s Priceless Gift, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Book

Boomtown Escape Games – The Saloon [Review]

I was told there’d be smores.

Location:  Georgetown, Texas

Date Played: February 1, 2019

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

Duration: 48 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Saloon placed traditional lock-and-key escape room puzzles in an unconventional set up.

Come for the puzzles, stay for the gamemastering. If you’re looking for straightforward puzzle-play, know that The Saloon is just as much about interacting with your in-character gamemaster as it is about solving puzzles. Embrace the interaction to get the most out of this escape room.

If you’re in Austin and you like puzzle-focused escape rooms, but want to see a twist on that standard, head over to Georgetown for The Saloon.

In-game: A bar top in a wooden room surrounded locked boxes.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • People looking for an experience that’s quirky and cute

Why play?

  • The gamemastering
  • The vibe

Story

While traveling along the Chisholm Trail, we had stopped in a local saloon for a drink. It turned out that we were visiting a dry county and the owner of the establishment had grown mighty lonely… so she had hired a local blacksmith to create a series of puzzles to ensnare patrons in the saloon and force them to keep her company.

In-game: a wooren room with a small card table.

Setting

The Saloon’s set was mostly wood, which gave it a unique look, even if nothing about the gamespace was particularly fancy. It was simple, effective, and on-theme without any bells or whistles.

In-game: A few crates and a basket.

Gameplay

Boomtown Escape Games’ The Saloon was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and interacting with the in-character gamemaster.

Analysis

➕ Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. She was phenomenal. Her energy made this experience more than just a collection of puzzles.

➕ We loved the unique story and set up for this escape room.

➕ The wooden saloon aesthetic worked well. The lock-focused gameplay made sense in the narrative. (Boomtown Escapes could replace the more modern locks with period-esque locks to sell the story.)

➖ Some of the puzzle components were too small for the scale of the gamespace. Better integration of the puzzle’s components into the props would have been an improvement over the many small sheets of paper that held much of the game’s content.

In-game: An ornate covering over the fluorescent light.

➕ The puzzles offered variety in type and difficulty. They were traditional in style, but still offered challenge.

➖ One challenging puzzle seemed unsolvable without requesting a hint or substantial time for trial and error. We burned a lot of time before realizing that we didn’t have enough information.

➖ The gameplay was level. The Saloon lacked a big reveal or otherwise memorable team moment.

➕ The saloon owner was just a bit sneaky. We liked this about her. She made us think a little differently, in terms of escape room gameplay.

➕ Boomtown Escape Games had some lobby mini escape games that were delightful. We played The Loot and truly enjoyed it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is street metered parking.
  • Boomtown Escape Games offers portable / lobby games. We enjoyed The Loot, a 15-minute add-on experience.
  • Embrace the in-character gamemastering to get the most out of your experience.

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

Disclosure: Boomtown Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.