60 to Escape – Hidden Temple [Review]

Hello, Mr. Big Stone Face

Location: Gurnee, IL

Date Played: March 13, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $90 for up to 3 players, $30 for each additional player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Kneeling/ crouching required for at least some players

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The set of Hidden Temple was stunning. Stepping from a bland and generic shopping mall hallway into a cinematically lit, vividly textured temple chamber, the contrast was instantaneous as we were immersed in a different world.

As the game progressed, the temple continued to open up in exciting ways. Hidden Temple was as much about exploration and ambience as it was about puzzle-solving, and the puzzles skewed more towards fun process, with the occasional aha in the mix.

A stone temple with a carved face illuminated by sconces.

While Hidden Temple at 60 to Escape’s Illinois location did nearly everything right, it felt like it was playing in much safer territory than 60 to Escape’s Wisconsin location, where the rooms had quirkier themes, endearing characters, and more nonstandard gameplay.

Both approaches are valid. Hidden Temple and the other offerings at the Illinois location would be phenomenal introductions to escape rooms for newer players or families. Enthusiasts would enjoy both locations but likely will especially appreciate the Wisconsin rooms for their showstopper finales and the risks they each take.

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Eleven Puzzles – Parallel Lab [Hivemind Review]

Parallel Lab is a point-and-click adventure game created by Eleven Puzzles in Poland and Scotland.

A comic of two people speaking, discussing the case at hand.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on-demand (i.e. purchase and play any time)
  • Point-and-click

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2

Play Time: 60-120 minutes

Price: $20 per team

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Each player connects from their own computer (via web browser). They proceed to play in parallel, with the each player having access to a set of information and puzzles that the other player does not see. Players must share information verbally and coordinate their efforts to progress, with the story remaining synchronized for both players.

An illustration of a basement hacker's den with many monitors.
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Escape Factor – Ghost in the Graveyard [Review]

Apparitional aspirations

Location: Forest Park, IL

Date Played: March 13, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $140 for the first 3 players, $30 for each additional player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Slight crouching/ crawling required for at least some players

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Ghost in the Graveyard presented a charming investigation at a quaint cemetery.

Keeping in the general style of Escape Factor’s earlier rooms, Ghost in the Graveyard presented creative puzzle-forward gameplay that led us to uncover various secrets subtly hidden throughout the details of the set. We encountered more varied and refined inputs than before, as Ghost in the Graveyard had more tech and was notably less combination lock-heavy.

A cemetery filled with headstones and lit by two hanging lanterns.

Yet while Escape Factor’s previous rooms thrived in their scrappy, quirky humor, Ghost in the Graveyard took on a generally more somber tone. From the tombstone epitaphs at the start to a somewhat dark narrative twist later on in the game, the seriousness of the environment never quite aligned with the light whimsy of the bulk of the gameplay.

Escape Factor tried to refine their craft with Ghost in the Graveyard. In some respects they succeeded — the set was lovely and clean, and the puzzles were enjoyable. Yet going forward, I hope the humor and energy that made some of their earlier rooms so memorable will persist more strongly in their future creations.

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Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) – Mansion Murder [Review]

A family affair

Location:  Dallas, Texas

Date Played: March 30, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: No

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mansion Murder was defined by a hint of luxury, a dab of family intrigue, and a couple of multi-part connections that carried the bulk of its difficulty. It didn’t have many standout moments, however; the puzzles and set elements were fairly standard escape room fair. A detailed family history lesson provided the narrative, but most of it was superfluous to our efforts.

Wide angle view of an old mansion with painted portraits and a large family tree all hung on the wall.

The pacing of this experience was curious. It positioned the most relevant plot points, most difficult puzzles, and most exciting reveals before or near the halfway point. A deeper interest in the story might sustain committed story seekers in the second half. To us, the final puzzles felt scattered and inconsequential.

As a set of puzzles in a pretty setting, there was nothing wrong with this room, and newer players may find it quite challenging. There are, however, other rooms in the Escapology franchise (Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle and Budapest Express, for example) that use more compelling theming, set pieces, and/ or puzzle integration to offer a more interesting experience.

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Passcode Escape – The Secret Lab [Review]

SCIENCE!

Location: Quincy, MA

Date Played: April 1, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Passcode Escape’s Secret Lab was a traditional escape room with solid game flow, clear puzzle cluing, and well-integrated tech interactions.

At it’s best, Secret Lab had a neat mid-game reveal that gave us a glimpse into the rest of the experience. Passcode Escape also cleverly utilized real lab equipment to bring immersive moments to our puzzle journey. Our gamemaster was a joy to interact with.

A science lab with steel tables, scientific equipment, a periodic table, and a Fallout Shelter sign on the wall.

Throughout the game, the puzzles were fair and clear to our team, and the inputs were clearly labeled (good lock mapping). That being said, the gameplay felt a bit dated, with simple puzzles and a lackluster set.

The Secret Lab is one of Passcode Escape’s earliest games, and we’re excited to see what they design in the future.

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