Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game [Review]

Haunted with ads.

Platform: iOS & Android

Release date: November 12, 2016

Price: Free – ad supported

Story & setting

A self-described “escape the room” virtual reality game playable with Google Cardboard or as a standard point and click escape game, Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was straightforward: I was trapped in a haunted house and needed to escape.

In game: a ghost in a hallway holding a chainsaw.

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was broken up into 6 episodes, each playable in less than 5 minutes.

It looked and sounded pretty good:

However, look and sound only carried it so far.

Puzzles

Calling Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game an “escape the room” was a generous description. The puzzles were non-existent.

In game: a piece of paper reads, "5-30-7" above it a message displays reading, "This might be a clue!"
No kidding?

At best this was a virtual scavenger hunt. Items either screamed “USE ME! I’M BRIGHT RED!” or, on a couple of occasions, they required pixel hunting because they were the same drab color as the background.

If I touched a thing that needed “solving” it straight up told me what to do.

In game: a door, a message reads, "It's locked. Maybe I can try shooting it?"
I’m not sure what I should do. Could someone give me a hint?

Standouts

It looked pretty great, especially for a free game.

Shortcomings

There was no depth to the story, puzzles, or frights. It was staggeringly one-dimensional.

The puzzles were lame and would barely even qualify as puzzles.

There were jump scares, but they didn’t impress. These were seriously overused.

Every milestone triggered an ad. Exiting the game triggered an ad. Opening doors triggered ads. (Don’t get any ideas, escape room owners.)

Should I play Rabbit Mountain’s Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game?

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was not an escape room game. It was a reasonably pretty ad-supported tech demo.

This app got a lot of press, so I figured it would be worth playing at the low cost of free. I was wrong. It wasn’t worth my time.

Room Escape Artist 2016 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

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The holidays are around the corner, so we figured we’d make your gift giving experience a bit easier with some creative gifts for your room escaping loved ones.

Enjoy.

Puzzles

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Puzzle Locks

Multi-staged, strange, and layered physical interactions are required to unlock and relock these nutty things.

Two of my favorites have been this ugly bastard, and this beautifully intricate one.

Note that we do not recommend these for use in room escapes. These are for fun puzzling outside of the game.

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Yellow to Red Gradient Jigsaw Puzzle

Are you looking to terminate a friendship this holiday season? Nothing says “you deserve to suffer” quite like a 500 piece gradient jigsaw puzzle.

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Laser cut wooden jigsaw puzzles

Got a jigsaw puzzler in your life who you truly care about? Give them a Liberty or Artifact puzzle.

These beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles are laser cut into intricate and unusual interlocking patterns.

Brace yourself, they are challenging, but rewarding. A 300-piece Liberty Puzzle is far more challenging than most common 600-piece jigsaw puzzles.

While we have less experience with Artifact Puzzles, they are also awesome and have their own charm.

Tabletop games

Mystery at Stargazer's Manor contents.

ThinkFun’s Escape the Rooms

There are a number of wonderful at-home escape room games, but at the moment the two most approachable, affordable, and available ones are produced by ThinkFun.

We’ve reviewed both Stargazer’s Manor and Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.

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Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Lovingly reviewed by Shut Up and Sit Down, Consulting Detective is an intellectually heavy tabletop puzzling experience.

Tools

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Lock Picks

I’ve been picking locks since high school. It’s fun and challenging. There’s always something new to learn. Occasionally it’s also useful.

A small set of lock picks would make a great gift for a responsible and ethical loved one. Don’t go too crazy and buy a massive pick set, beginners only need a few basic picks, rakes, and tensioners to get started.

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iFixit Toolkit

iFixit, the website behind all manner of product teardowns and repair instructions, sells their own toolkits.

I’ve kept this one on hand for years. It has helped me open every strange screw that I’ve ever attempted to remove.

iFixit has a ton of different kits available for every manner of tinkerer.

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Makerspace Membership

Makerspaces are magical places where creators of all sorts of stuff and skill levels gather to share knowledge, tools, and ideas.

From robotics and rocketry to sewing and knitting, most makerspaces welcome all makers. In my experience, most teach classes, have 3D printers, and woodshops.

Each one is a little different in terms of equipment and culture, so find the ones nearest you. I would recommend stopping by a few times before committing to a membership. Find the right fit.

Video games

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Nintendo 3DS XL

Nintendo’s handheld system is a great platform for puzzle gaming.

Decades of exceptional Zelda games are available:

The Zero Escape games are also available:

There’s plenty more puzzling on the 3DS.

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VR

After decades of failures it looks like it may finally be virtual reality’s time. While we’ve dabbled with three of the big platforms, we’re not picking sides… yet.

We’ll keep an eye on the space and let everyone know which is best for adventure puzzling.

If you have a computer powerful enough to power it (or plan to buy one), the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift both have solid libraries of games available.

PS4 with Playstation VR is less established, but it is easier to set up and use.

Books

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Design of Everyday Things

If you only ever read one book about design, it should be this one. It’s approachable and dead-on. Its lessons apply to literally everything. (Paperback) (Kindle)

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Atlas Obscura

A traveler’s guide to the world’s oddest stuff. This guide to Earth’s curiosities is worth reading even if you never travel to see the strange things it reveals. (Hardcover) (Kindle)

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Path Puzzles

Simple to learn and difficult to master, these puzzles are a ton of fun.

We have an in-depth review of the book.

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The Code Book

A brilliant and approachable walk through the history of code/cipher making and breaking. I am in the middle of reading this one and I learn new and exciting things each time I turn the page. (Paperback) (Kindle)

Movie

Do people still gift movies in the age of streaming? If you do…

tims-vermeer

Tim’s Vermeer

If you know someone who loves the overlap of art and technology, Tim’s Vermeer is a strangely moving documentary about Tim Jenison’s mission to recreate Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s photo-realistic painting “The Music Lesson.” Produced by Penn & Teller, the documentary follows Jenison, a Texas-based tech entrepreneur who had never lifted a paintbrush in his life, through his discoveries, triumphs, and failures as he seeks to uncover a 350-year-old secret.

I may have shed a tear or two while watching. (DVD) (Blu-ray) (Stream)

Stocking stuffers

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Zelda Boss Key Keychain

The only door it opens is a door called “nostalgia.”

A small comination lock used as a keychain.

Master Lock 4688D

This TSA-friendly lock is a joke of a lock… but it’s a convenient keychain.

Room Escape Gear

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The Original Cryptex®

A Cryptex is a common locking mechanism in room escapes, but most use the junkie Da Vinci Code replicas (and yes, both are junk, even the more expensive version).

Justin Nevins, the creator of the first Cryptex, handcrafts this insanely solid Cryptex. They start at $300 for the normal version and become increasingly expensive for exquisite versions inlayed with wood and marble.

They are the perfect escape room prop, conversation piece, or proposal puzzle device. (I considered using this when plotting out my wedding proposal.)

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That dog looks so guilty.

Blacklight

The obligatory blacklight.

Charities

If you’re feeling charitable, these two organizations do wonderful work creating opportunities for children who desperately need to play.

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Able Gamers Foundation

These folks help make video games accessible for people whose disabilities would otherwise prevent them from playing.

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Child’s Play

This charity works to get games and toys into the hands of children who are in hospitals and domestic abuse shelters. You can send the gift directly to the hospital or shelter.

Thank you!

If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.

 

Escape Games Canada – Geist Manor VR Demo [Review]

Frightening, fast, and fun.

Location: played at the Chicago Room Escape Conference, but available in Toronto, Canada

Date played: August 13, 2016

Team size: 1

Price: Free at the conference, pricing TBD by hosting facility

 

Story & setting

Played via the HTC Vive, Geist Manor was a one-player virtual horror escape room experience. I played the 7-minute demo (of a 10-minute game) that was available at the Escape Games Canada booth at the Chicago Room Escape Conference.

This is a game that Escape Games Canada created in partnership with a EscapeVR. The game will be available for players to experience in Escape Games Canada’s facility, as well as a number of other escape room facilities that have purchased the rights to use the game.

Set in a haunted house, the game was dark, creepy, and a little bit freaky. Everything from the staging to the lighting to the sound pushed me deeper into the experience.

In a beautiful way, I felt like I was in a horror movie.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit haunted room.

Puzzles

The puzzles were your basic seek, observe, and input interactions that I’ve encountered in my previous Vive escape room experience.

Standouts

Escape Games Canada likes to toy with their players’ minds and this game was no exception.

It looked great and sounded even better.

Escape Games Canada did a masterful job of throwing off my equilibrium and playing with my senses.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit cabinet. A drawer is open and containing a cup of dice. Beside the dice the words "ROLL THE DICE" appear in blocky chalk writing.

The setting truly enhanced the experience. Lisa was a bit rattled by the horror; during her playthrough she had more trouble focusing on the tasks at hand.

The hinting was heavy handed, but well executed; it was clearly designed to keep the player moving.

Shortcomings

There were some physics problems, both those within the game and those inherent to the Vive.

It wasn’t particularly puzzley.

If you don’t like horror, then that’s going to be a deal-breaker.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit long spooky hallway. A small femine figure stands in the shadows at the opposite end.

Should I play Escape Games Canada’s Geist Manor?

Escape Games Canada put me in an experience that I knew wasn’t real and managed to make it feel intimidating.

This is only for folks who are open to a horror adventure and don’t get motion sick in a VR environment.

If you’re down for an excellent immersive experience that is light on puzzles and heavy on brain-tricking interactions, then this is your game.

It’s brief even at full length, which makes it a great add-on to a room escape outing at Escape Games Canada’s Toronto facility.

Contact Escape Games Canada to book your session with Geist Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Pre-PAX West Interview: Debra and Alex Beardsley, It’s A Trap!

In advance of our upcoming panel discussion on room escapes at PAX West, we spoke with each of the panelists about their experiences as gamers, perspectives on room escapes, and future evolution of their games.

In this interview, we talk to Debra and Alex Beardsley of It’s A Trap! (Winter Park, FL) about how their experiences in gaming and theater continue to influence their escape room designs.

In-game image of a dragon locked behind bars.

Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your games. What’s the style?

Debra and Alex: Our games look at the more comedic side of escape rooms instead of the adrenaline side. A lot of people are nervous about getting locked into a room for an hour, so we like to make sure everyone laughs through the game. We achieve this through a detailed narrative that is delivered through our performers, props and clues. Our performers are masters of puns and will help lighten the mood for the more novice or nervous players.

Explain your concept of “reversible rooms.” How did that come about and how does it work?

A game room is a basically a theatrical set. When you see a play, multiple scenes happen on the same set multiple times throughout the show. So why couldn’t our game rooms work that way? We are able to show two sides of a story within one game room. For instance, one week you will break into the superhero’s apartment as the villain’s henchman. The next week, after we have changed all the clues, disabled/enabled some different tech props, and introduced a different character guide, you can now play as the policemen aiding the superhero (which, chronologically, happens after the henchmen broke in!).

A princess looking at her reflection in a mirror.

It sounds like your escape rooms are heavily influenced by Dungeons & Dragons. How has that game, as well as video games, influenced your escape room design?

Adventure games lend themselves to escape room-style puzzles. We are big fans of point and click puzzle adventures like Zork, Monkey Island, and Myst. Were also huge RPG (role-playing game) fans (Final Fantasy, tabletop Dungeons & Dragons, etc.). When we made our escape rooms, it was obvious we would go for the geeky themes, but we also fed off of the narrative aspect of these games. We didnt create a live action sudoku puzzle or Tetris. We created a game with consequence and motivation that players could lose themselves in for hours, just like the millions of hours weve lost to those RPGs!

On the topic of geeky themes, we have a story about a wizard with nearly 30 pages of backstory describing realms of magic, plight of wizards, royal hierarchy and important NPCs (non-player characters). This enables us to influence our puzzles in a way that is incredibly detailed. Forgotten Realms has nothing on us.

Your game also incorporates live actors. What influence has theater had on your escape rooms?

In NYC and London, immersive theatre is taking off and producing amazing shows that make the audience members part of the story. These shows require you to move through a labyrinth-style space, interact with actors, and search for hidden narratives in props. After working on these shows for a few years, we felt there was an easy mash-up of the immersive theatre concept with the budding escape room industry. With the aid of the actor in the game room, we can help people let go of the outside and keep focused. We can dissolve frustrations with a well-timed joke or a “punny” riddle. Most importantly, we can deliver a richer story since we can tell you parts of it throughout the game instead of having to push it all in during the pregame briefing.

You concept takes video games, theater, and puzzles and meshes them into one genre of entertainment. Where does it go from here? How do you plan to evolve?

Having deep roots in immersive theatre, we plan to create bigger immersive projects that contain both strong narrative and gameplay mechanics. Right now, we consider our escape room to be 75% game and 25% theatre. Wed like to scale up to a full-length production that is closer to 50/50 utilizing all of the gameplay insight weve gathered. We would like to get closer to creating a real-life, fully immersive adventure game complete with a full cast of colorful NPCs and an epic story.

Pre-PAX West Interview: Edwin Tsui, The Locked Room

In advance of our upcoming panel discussion on room escapes at PAX West, we spoke with each of the panelists about their experiences as gamers, perspectives on room escapes, and future evolution of their games.

In this interview, we talk to Edwin Tsui of The Locked Room (Calgary, AB) about his experience as a game enthusiast and game creator/owner.

Photo of Edwin and his partners in one of their horror games. It's dark and there are body parts as well as implements of destruction postioned throughout the room.

Room Escape Artist: How did your enthusiasm for escape rooms turn into a business?

Edwin: When my girlfriend and I first heard of the concept of the escape room, it sounded like an amazingly fun activity. After we played our very first escape rooms in Prague in early 2014, we knew it was fun, and we wanted to bring the activity back to our home city of Calgary.

I met with my two future business partners, Kyle and Adil, while offering them DJ service for their zombie-themed fun run. At the end of our meeting, I casually brought up the escape room idea, which intrigued them. From there, we launched our first two-room facility as a market tester and things just took off.

Your background and interests are in video games and puzzling. Tell us how video games have influenced your escape room business.

My favorite types of video games are RPG and strategy games. Well-crafted games of those genres tend to have good flow, and give players a sense of accomplishment as they progress through the game.

I want players coming through our escape rooms to feel like they have that sense of progression, with a mixture of some easy wins, and some tougher battles. This is accomplished by having a combination of puzzles and activities – some of which are straightforward and intuitive, and others that may require a bit of head scratching before the ‘aha’ light bulb switches on with the correct answer.

It’s important to listen to the players who come through and use their feedback to make improvements and changes. This goes for the games themselves, as well as marketing, customer service, and market conditions, which are equally important as the content in the escape rooms themselves. We always want to ensure that the fun factor is maximized and the frustration factor minimized. Visiting gamefaqs.com (in the olden days of the internet!) to find a walkthrough or tip for a certain boss or game sequence always felt like ‘giving up’!

You’ve played many escape rooms all over the world, but your business partners haven’t played as many escape rooms themselves. How do your design interests align with or differ from those of your business partners?

Part of playing more games is that quality expectations as a player are always increasing. I’m always comparing the puzzles, immersion and overall fun factor of each new room to pre-existing experiences (and also to my own offerings!).

When designing my own escape room games, it’s important to understand my market and to offer puzzles and activities that will be appropriate for that particular demographic (newer players vs. corporate team builders vs. puzzle hunt specialists). What may seem fun or intuitive to me after playing 100 games may be too difficult or non-intuitive for a first-time player. Thus, my partners do a great job of keeping me grounded and finding that balance of challenging, yet fun (without being frustrating), for our target demographic.

As a player, your favorite games cater to enthusiasts. How do you keep the gamer/enthusiast market happy while still executing on a viable business model?

The beauty of the escape room as an activity is that it’s accessible to a wide range of players; there is no steep learning curve, no inherent safety issue (generally), and everybody can share in the fun and adrenaline of the experience.

Gamers and/or puzzlers will have an inherent advantage because of the style of challenges in most escape rooms, but a player with 5-10 escape room games under their belt will already be on par or better at these real-life games than a brand new (but with games/puzzle experience) player.

We try to offer a wide variety of themes and difficulty levels so that everybody has a chance to find the right fit for themselves. Not everybody is going to love every game that they play, but it is our responsibility to provide as much information as possible so that we can manage player expectations heading into an escape room game.

When you started, you wanted to expose your audience to those awesome moments you had first encountered in escape rooms. How do you evolve so that you can continue to produce that wow moment?

There are many ways to achieve the ‘wow’ moments in a game, but as players become more experienced, it takes a bit more thought to find new ways to surprise them! Some of my personal favorites are clever use of ordinary everyday items in MacGyver ways  or hidden objects (or passageways) concealed right under the players’ noses!

Electronics and technology are also useful tools for creating ‘wow’ puzzle components and, when used appropriately, can help bridge the gap between what can be achieved in real life and what is possible in video games.

 

Pre-PAX West Interview: Nate Martin, Puzzle Break

In advance of our upcoming panel discussion on room escapes at PAX West, we spoke with each of the panelists about their experiences as gamers, perspectives on room escapes, and future evolution of their games.

In this interview, we talk to Puzzle Break’s Nate Martin, an avid video gamer and PAX enthusiast, about the new games he is developing aboard cruise ships.

PAX West logo

Room Escape Artist: There is a panel on escape rooms at the upcoming PAX West in Seattle! How did this come about? And why does it belong?

Nate: PAX West is a conference/festival that grew out of the Penny Arcade comedy and game webcomic. Seattle’s PAX (formerly “Prime”, now “West”) is a full-blown cultural phenomenon celebrating all things gaming. Puzzle Break, the first contemporary US-based room escape company, was founded in Seattle, the home of Penny Arcade and PAX West. I’ve been a fan since the beginning. Giving a talk at PAX and being an ambassador for the industry to the greater gaming community has always been in the back of my head and the escape room industry has now matured enough to introduce it at PAX.

Live-action room escapes are, in many ways, the literal physical embodiment of a video game. Escape room experiences combine the core elements of a genre of video game with real-life elements to provide a gaming experience that is indescribably fun. That’s what PAX is all about.

When I reached out to the organizers, I decided to pitch the idea as a panel discussion. I’ve assembled a diverse selection of industry leaders who will share different perspectives and ensure some great discussion.

You’ve always been a gamer, but your escape room designs lean harder on puzzles. How do we see the gaming influence in your puzzle-focused escape rooms?

I was more or less raised by the Adventure/Point-and-Click genre of video games. The lion’s share of those games were hard. Conquering them was often a significant challenge (especially before the Internet was tremendously ubiquitous), but it felt so good. My co-founder Dr. Lindsay Morse and I feel strongly that it is far more entertaining and satisfying to encounter and hopefully overcome a tough challenge than breeze through a cakewalk.

However, we are extremely cognizant of a tremendously important distinction: There’s a fine line between challenging and unfair. People often forget that many if not most of the best adventure games (Myst, Grim Fandango, etc.) had their fair share of puzzles that were simply too hard or esoteric to be fair. At Puzzle Break, we love throwing challenges at our players, but they must always fall squarely in the “fair” category.

You’ve now taken this concept aboard cruise ships. How do you have to change your approach to design for the cruise ship games?

In many ways, not very much! Royal Caribbean has a seasoned entertainment staff who have a close handle on what their guests want. We’ve had countless discussions with their creative folks on how we might modify our design methodologies to better suit their customers’ desires. In the end, we changed surprisingly little from a design perspective. 

In-game image of the Rubicon. It's a futuristic spaceship lit blue.

One of the biggest draws of the room escape experience on a cruise is making new friends, so we definitely included a healthy amount of content that requires close teamwork. However, we also made sure to have elements for folks who want to work on stuff by themselves.

What are the technical challenges to operating multiple games in multiple locations on the different ships?

The challenges are simultaneously enormously easy and stupendously tricky. Most of the general operational challenges are nothing a massive cruise line doesn’t deal with 1000 times before breakfast. We put together a reference for everything the Royal Caribbean staff could possibly need to setup, run, and maintain the games, and they do it with comparatively few issues.

The real problems are arising with our new Escape the Rubicon room. I’ve famously claimed this is the most technically advanced room escape in existence in many ways, and I wasn’t kidding. We partnered with ShowFX, a stupendously experienced fabrication firm, to create a stunningly beautiful and diabolically complex interactive experience. Maintaining the room’s electronics and mechanics is uncharted territory and we’re figuring out best practices as we go. It ain’t easy.

We’ve recently seen photos of the new room you’ve developed for a cruise ship: Escape the Rubicon. It looks like you’ve really taken design up a notch. What are the challenges to bring that level of design to your Seattle and Long Island locations?

With Escape the Rubicon, we wanted to create a truly blockbuster-quality experience. Our design methodologies may not have changed very much, but through the partnership with Royal Caribbean we now had the resources to craft a Hollywood-caliber set and use professional actors to tell a story with next-level immersion.

The two biggest jumps in Rubicon were budget and technology.

Puzzle Break is entirely self-funded. As we grow, we put a ton of resources right back into R&D for new rooms and interactive experiences. Each progressive room we make is an evolutionary leap in fit & finish. Additionally, with every project we complete, our team learns more and more about embedded technology and systems. We are continuing to work to elevate the technology, design, and polish in all Puzzle Break games.

Madame Tussauds – Hyper-Reality Ghostbusters Experience [Review]

“Wait, wait, wait! I’ve always wanted to do this…”
– Dr Peter Venkman

Location: New York, New York

Date played: July 18, 2016

Team size: 3, only 3

Duration: ~10 minutes

Price: $49.75 per ticket

Story & setting

Madame Tussauds Ghostbusters Experience wasn’t an escape room, but it was an immersive “hyper-reality” game that absolutely overlapped with escape rooms and where the escape room world is heading.

We were Ghostbusters on a mission to bust ghosts. It couldn’t be more familiar or straightforward.

Image of two players weaing the VR gear.

How did it work

We were outfitted with proton packs on our backs, the corresponding blaster in our hands, and a virtual reality visor on our faces. Once it was turned on, we were in a virtual world where we could walk around, interact with objects, and most importantly wreck everything around us as we shot and trapped ghosts.

As we walked through the physical space of the game, we saw detailed 3D renderings of rooms, elevators, the Manhattan skyline, and ghosts of all shapes and sizes.

When I took my visor off, I could see that the room’s shape mirrored what we saw in the game, but everything was painted flat black.

The Ghostbusters Experience felt like being a ghostbuster, right down to the comically callous disregard for property damage.

Another nifty feature was how we saw each other as ghostbusters. Our heads rendered at the correct height based on the positioning of our visors, and the game programmatically built bodies down to the ground. It was neat.

Standouts

It worked really well. After a brief adaptation to walking in a virtual world while knowing that my body was in an unseeable physical space, things felt strangely natural.

The shooting was so much fun. Seeing the damage and destruction we caused was a riot.

The last half of the game was badass. There was a brief moment that messed with all of our equilibrium and that was uncomfortable, but awesome.

I saw the climax of the game coming a mile away, but it didn’t make it any less incredible to be a part of it.

Shortcomings

It was short… like 10 minutes, short.

While I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison, I think that the HTC Vive’s commercially available VR visor had a better screen and equally good motion tracking.

The visor was incredibly uncomfortable with glasses. The Vive and Oculus Rift are both better for glasses-wearers.

During one of the most dramatic moments of the game, the room was structured in such a way that it encouraged us to move into a space that was a motion tracking dead zone. When I moved into this place, I lost control of myself in the game. (The exact same thing happened to my father during his run after ours.)

On a political level, it was strange that all players were rendered in-game as adult white dudes. My 9 year old cousin Angie looked like a very short 30 year old guy who hadn’t shaved in a couple days. Lisa and I looked like taller versions of the same guy. Given the emphasis that the 2016 remake put on non-sexualized female protagonists, this was odd and disappointing.

Should I play Madame Tussauds’ Ghostbusters Experience?

This game was pretty damn cool, but it was expensive and short. There are a few factors to determining whether the Ghostbusters Experience is right for you:

If you’re a Ghostbusters fanatic, it’s a must-play. While my passion for Ghostbusters has waned over the years, it was my very favorite movie when I was 3-4 years old. There was a moment while playing where my mind wandered back to being a kid chasing “ghosts” around the backyard and basement with my toy proton pack on my back. It was a moving, intimate, and special moment.

$50 per ticket is serious money, especially for approximately 10 minutes of playtime. The Ghostbusters Experience ticket also provides full admission to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. This held no appeal for me, but if that’s your jam, then it certainly expands the value of the ticket.

Finally, the ticket value depends on your access to current gen VR. A proper VR rig is a lot less expensive than it used to be, but it still ain’t cheap. If you haven’t experienced VR lately, this is a good chance to see just how far VR technology has come.

Book your session with Madame Tussauds‘ Ghostbusters Experience, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

VR – Vacate The Room [Review]

It’s like a flashy Flash game.

Platform: play at home on an HTC Vive

Release date: July 15, 2016

Price: $4.99

Story & setting

A good friend recently acquired an HTC Vive virtual reality rig and set it up in his livingroom. Upon learning of this, I encouraged him to acquire the new VR escape room game Vacate The Room.

The single-player game had me locked up in a small room searching for objects and determining how to use them to ultimately spring myself from the room.

The experience lasted about 15 minutes per player. It was really only worth playing through once as it would take about 3 minutes to run through if you knew what to do.

Puzzles

Vacate The Room felt like a Flash-based escape room brought into a 3D space. It was heavy on searching and tasks and light on puzzles.

In-game image of a hand holding a glowing object.

Standouts

The Vive in general was cool because you could walk around with it on. Also, the learning curve in Vacate The Room was soft. Lisa has never been a big video gamer and she mastered the controls in minutes.

The graphics and controls were solid and vastly superior to the VR room escape we tried in Los Angeles earlier this year.

It felt like an escape room. If you know what you’re doing in a real life escape room, then you’ll know what you’re doing in this virtual escape room.

It would serve well as a basic escape room tutorial.

The virtual space was a fun place to spend a quarter of an hour.

I found it strangely amusing to throw unneeded objects around knowing that I couldn’t break anything.

Shortcomings

One particular object was hidden in a high place within the virtual environment. At 6’1, I found it easily, at 5’4, Lisa couldn’t see it at all.

The physics of the room were a bit funny. Dropped objects all fell at the same rate, in the same way, and produced identical crashing sounds. This was especially off-putting when I dropped a single sheet of paper.

The physics were also a bit problematic because the objects weren’t solid enough. It was easy to drop items through shelves or desks. You could also drop objects through the floor (never to be seen again) and reach through seemingly solid items. It got a bit weird. I expect that some of these issues will be patched.

Also, there weren’t enough puzzles.

Should I play Vacate The Room on the HTC Vive?

Vacate The Room is a fun, quick, and basic escape room. It’s interesting to play with a group because everyone takes their turn in isolation while being watch (and judged).

At $5 and lasting 15 minutes, if you have a Vive and love escape rooms, Vacate The Room is an easy purchase.

It would be insane to purchase a Vive and computer powerful enough to run it just to play Vacate The Room.

Download it on Steam.

 

Myst Island: Disney’s Forgotten Plans to Create a Puzzle Paradise

In 1999, Disney nearly created the ultimate puzzle adventure: Myst Island.

What’s a Myst?

Myst and its sequel Riven were first person point-and-click adventure puzzle video games that had players exploring an island uncovering its mysteries through puzzles and mechanical contraptions. They were both masterpieces and, without a doubt, make the list of video games that inspired the real life escape game movement.

Image from Myst: A boat floating in a small water-filled urn. Greco-Roman style architecture populates the background.
Myst

The concept

Disney planned to produce a massive puzzle attraction on an isolated island in Walt Disney World Orlando.

Disney was going to create an open-world puzzle game based on Myst & Riven.

Each day, a limited number of people would be taken by boat to an 11-acre puzzle paradise, where they could spend all day interacting with the island, exploring its mysteries, and solving challenges.

In short it was planned as the Jurassic Park of puzzles.

Myst box art featuring the island.

How did Myst Island come about?

Prior to the opening of the Animal Kingdom, Disney had an island attraction loaded with exotic animals called Discovery Island. When the Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, Disney shut down Discovery Island, and was looking to replace it with a high-end attraction where lines weren’t a problem, one that could demand a high price of admission.

They settled on Myst because it had a large and active fan base and the game was set on an island.

Disney secured the rights and the Imagineers teamed up with Myst co-creators Rand Miller, Robyn Miller, and Richard Vander Wende.

How did Myst Island die?

Technologically, the plans were too far ahead of their time, even for Disney.

Additionally, the costs and logistics associated with ferrying construction crews, equipment, and materials to construct a mega attraction on an 11-acre island were too risky.

Discovery Island remains abandoned and unused to this day. However, a bold photographer swam to it under cover of darkness in 2009 and shot some spectacular photos.

For a more detailed history of Discovery Island, check out, Jim Hill Media.

If only Myst Island had been completed

We’ll never know what would have happened if Disney had seen their plans through to completion. Perhaps it would have accelerated the creation of the escape room movement… or maybe the bar would have been so high that no one attempted to create puzzle rooms at all.

However, I cannot think about the concept of Myst Island without wishing it were real; it sounds so damn fun.

Images via Wikipedia