Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries – Western [Review]

Howdy stranger.

Location: at home (either New York City or Boston area)

Date played: July 30, 2017

Team size: 10; 5 Women, 2 Men, 3 Any Gender

Duration: 90-150 minutes

Price: $40 per guest, $30 per guest student/artist

Story & setting

Eleven folks from all walks of life found themselves in the same Old West saloon right after a murder was committed.

Ghost Ship’s Western was not an escape room. It was an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery game filled with tawdry scandal, plot twists, and betrayal… and all acted out by our friends in our small apartment.

Ghost Ship's logo of a ghostly white galleon set against a black background.
I really like that logo.

Ghost Ship co-founder Dylan Zwickel surveyed us about our friends, assigned roles, sent each person their backstory, and then showed up at our home in character bearing 3 large pitchers of mixed drinks. She set up everything for us.

All we had to do was clean up our home and get into character.

Interaction

The game proceeded over the course of 3 acts. It concluded with a vote to decide whodunit and send them to the gallows.

Each person was given a backstory, a secret, and an objective. From there, the game was a fairly free-form improv experience. Dylan played a character within the game. She provided information to each character at critical times as well as approached players who were struggling to engage, bringing them back into the narrative.

There was also a searching component. During the setup, Dylan hid evidence in our home.

Standouts

The story was engaging. Every character had their own arc and each person was consequential to the narrative.

The gathering of our friends post-game. Each person's costume has varied level of detail.
Sadly some of the best costumes are hidden. We may not have thought this photo through.

The mystery was complex. In the end, we “hanged” the actual killer, but only by a plurality. Not everyone had gathered enough evidence or made the proper connections to conclude what had actually happened.

Ghost Ship kept the backstory lean and manageable for all players.

Dylan’s role facilitated the gameplay effectively without breaking the narrative. The player-gamemaster helped pace the game and keep everyone engaged.

The included mixed drinks were pretty damn fantastic. We’d bought liquor to serve and forgot to even take it out.

As a couple who regularly hosts stuff, it was amazing to not have to worry about the logistics of running the game.

Our apartment is now incredibly clean because we had to make every room presentable for gameplay. I’m not sure that this is really a standout of Western, but it was a great byproduct.

Ghost Ship had a simple series of indicators to mark things and spaces in our home as out of play.

We had a fantastic time. Ghost Ship’s Western is a game where you get out of it what you put into it…

Shortcomings

Our friends who struggled with the roleplaying aspect of Western still had fun, but absolutely didn’t get the same level of enjoyment.

On that note, the person who was the killer in our group truly did not want that role, but was stuck with it. There were other people in our group who would have embraced being the killer, but this individual would have had a lot more fun without having to lie. Ghost Ship could easily fix this by emailing every participant a one question survey: “Would you feel comfortable being the killer and lying to your friends for a couple of hours? Y/N.”

Most of the characters had some level of history with at least one other character and were frequently confused when they learned something about themselves from another player. Ghost Ship did a great job of keeping the backstory lean, but a little more detail could smooth out some of the “Oh… I didn’t know that we did that together” moments that made many of our friends break character.

The searching component got a little strange because all of the items were hidden in our bedroom. This meant that Lisa and I were the only ones who were truly comfortable rummaging. I found things just because I could easily recognize what was out of place.

Should I play Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Western?

We’ve hosted boxed murder mysteries in the past and been disappointed in them. Ghost Ship’s Western did not suffer from the many flaws and shoddy storytelling of those boxed games.

Western was a fun engaging game that gave each participant the freedom to make their character their own.

$40 per player felt more than fair for a multi-hour experience, including great drinks, all of which was delivered to our door.

Since each character is important, it’s key to gather a group of people who are ready and eager to be their characters. There is no passive play in Ghost Ship. Additionally, the game requires exactly 10 players. Remind your friends that flakiness is weakness of character. If someone bails last minute, you’re screwed.

We had a ton of fun playing Western and would eagerly invite Ghost Ship to dock in our home in the future.

Book your session with Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Western, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries comped our tickets for this game.

 

Lock Museum of America – Lock Museum Adventure [Review]

They have real treasure chests… and they are so much cooler than in the movies.

Location: Terryville, Connecticut

Date played: July 8, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23 per ticket (adults), $15 per ticket (teens)

The museum

Located at the site of the long-closed Eagle Lock Company, Lock Museum of America is a small non-profit museum dedicated to the history of locking devices.

Eagle Lock King Bee padlock.
Each of those little divots on the lock’s face was added by hand. Think about that.

The Lock Museum of America is a no-frills museum with a pretty amazing collection and a knowledgeable staff. They have well over a thousand padlocks, mortise locks, and safes. They have brilliant demonstrations of the inner workings of some of history’s most important lock designs, a gorgeous collection of bank time locks (which have an incredible and dark history), and a pair of over-500-year-old functioning Spanish Armada treasure chests with some of the most amazing closure mechanisms that I’ve ever seen.

The locking mechanism in the lid of a Spanish Armada treasure chest. It is incredibly complex.
That’s the exposed locking mechanism of a treasure chest lid. Seeing it function in real life and knowing that its mechanisms were made by hand was seriously humbling.

My love of locks and lockpicking is well documented; I loved this little museum.

Within the museum they had an escape room style game… Should you play it?

Story & setting

The initial concept of the pin tumbler lock dates back to Egypt circa 4000 BC and the Lock Museum of America’s ancient Egyptian lock had been cursed. We had to break that curse or the bad things that happen when you don’t break an ancient Egyptian curse within an hour would set in.

The set was the second floor of the Lock Museum. They had set up a table in the middle of the main room which held many game components. The escape room included a series of lock boxes, puzzles, and hidden items within the museum displays.

A century old bank time lock. It's beautifully designed with gold and chrome trim.
The precision and detail in these bank time locks is pretty crazy when you realize that almost no one ever saw them.

Puzzles

Part museum scavenger hunt, part puzzle hunt, Lock Museum Adventure was less an escape room and more a puzzle-driven way to explore the Lock Museum. This was not a fancy room escape by any stretch of the imagination. However, it was fair and reasonably challenging.

Standouts

Lock Museum Adventure included some items that no other escape room in the world could even dream of incorporating. Lock Museum Adventure was at its best when it physically involved items that were part of the museum itself. This came in two different forms:

  • Incorporating locking devices that were part of the museum
  • Creating puzzles from the existing museum displays

The Lock Museum did a good job calling out what was and was not part of the escape room, which was important because there was a lot to look at.

A complex warded key within a cutaway lock. It shows the key passing through the wards.
This is an old warded key set within a warded lock. All of that was handmade.

The setting within the Lock Museum was a ton of fun. I found myself shifting between room escape player and museum observer. The escape room was a great way to help visitors take in the many magnificent items on display.

Shortcomings

While Egypt was significant in lock history, it wasn’t really the point of this Lock Museum. The “curse” story felt forced and disconnected from the space we were actually occupying. I would have loved a story that felt more connected to what we were seeing… or even no story at all. The Lock Museum was nifty on its own.

Most of the lockboxes that made up the core of the room escape were sealed with junky, uninspiring modern locks. It would have been more fun if these had been secured with less valuable older locks or even unusual modern ones.

Lock Museum Adventure gang locked boxes shut with a Master Lock Lockout Hasp. Gang locking kills any sense of forward momentum because solutions don’t reward players with new information.

I left the room escape wishing that more of the history and the space within the Lock Museum had been integrated into Lock Museum Adventure. This escape room could be an incredible way to learn experientially within an unusual museum. It does a little of this, but there is potential for so much more.

Should I play Lock Museum of America’s Lock Museum Adventure?

There are two pieces to parse here: Lock Museum of America and the museum’s escape room, Lock Museum Adventure.

If you’re even remotely intrigued by the design and history of locking mechanisms, Lock Museum of America is pretty damn cool. It isn’t fancy, but they display amazing things. I’ve been to museums that have more photos than genuine artifacts, where an hour or two on Wikipedia is more fulfilling… This isn’t one of those museums. The displays are tangible and the staff knows their stuff. I know this because I geeked out with them and asked all sorts of esoteric questions that probably bored my patient teammates to death.

I thought Lock Museum Adventure was a fun way to interact with the exhibits. It felt more like a scavenger hunt mixed with a light puzzle hunt, but it all worked. It could, however, do more to shine a light on what makes this museum special. I hope that it gets there because it has so much potential.

Between exploring the museum and playing the escape room, we spent about 2 hours in total at the Lock Museum of America and it was well worth the visit. It’s a convenient stop between New York and Boston. We learned a lot, saw some interesting and unusual things, and puzzled. If this sounds like a good time then I recommend a visit. I plan to return.

Book your hour with Lock Museum of America’s Lock Museum Adventure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Lock Museum of America comped our tickets for this game.

(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.)

Pursue the Clues – Lenny Thompkins sold his soul to play the blues [Review]

Poor Lenny Thompkins sold his soul in a decade where few care about the blues.

Location: Torrington, Connecticut

Date played: July 9, 2017

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

Mediocre guitarist Lenny Thompkins went down to the crossroads and sold his soul for talent. With his contract nearly up, we had to find and dispel it to save his life.

Lenny Thompkins sold his soul to play the blues was loosely based on the old legend from the Mississippi Delta of Robert Johnson, one of the fathers of the blues. Johnson recorded one staggering record and then died at the age of 27. His work became legendary and inspired the later icons such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac. Johnson immortalized his own legend in the song Cross Roads Blues:

Which was later reimagined by Cream / Clapton as the blues rock classic Crossroads:

Yes… I’m a little bit passionate about the blues. Thank you for asking. 

The set of Lenny Thompkins had an old music room feel about it. Lined with guitars, keyboards, metronomes, and instrument cases, it had that rugged “a broke musician who spends everything he has on gear” feel. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful set, but it felt reasonably authentic.

Puzzles

Lenny Thompkins was built around music puzzles, but composed in a way that didn’t require a musical background. It also had a mixture of more common escape room puzzles, most of which were a fair bit more challenging than in your average escape room.

Standouts

Lenny Thompkins had a great intro video.

Music puzzles are very tough to create. Frequently, they either don’t provide enough information for folks who have no music background or they give so much away that the puzzles lose their souls. Pursue the Clues nailed their music puzzles, which really mattered in an escape room themed around music.

In-game: A guitar in the foreground in a crappy old apartment. Another guitar rests in the background.

The musical prop selection in Lenny Thompkins was on point.

I loved the theme and story. Can you tell that I loved the theme and story?

Shortcomings

The interactions that were built around search and discovery were underwhelming.

While the musical prop selection was great, there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of set design.

The story’s setup was fantastic and the conclusion certainly escalated, but the ending didn’t work. It felt jarring and unsatisfying. This was one of the rare escape rooms where our entire team (not just the blues lover) wanted more story and better gameplay integration.

Should I play Pursue the Clues’ Lenny Thompkins sold his soul to play the blues?

Lenny Thompkins sold his soul to play the blues was a challenging room escape, especially by 2017 standards. Whereas most escape rooms have gotten easier, this one was a bit of a demon. It was absolutely winnable, but newbies might have to sell their soul to complete it.

I highly recommend Lenny Thompkins for players who have won at least a few games, are in the region, and are looking for a challenging and creative escape room with a fun setup. It was a little gritty and far from flawless… but it left an impression.

Book your hour with Pursue the Clues’ Lenny Thompkins sold his soul to play the blues, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Pursue the Clues provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

MindEscape – Escape Thai Prison [Review]

Not just any prison… Thai Prison.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 25, 2017

Team size: 2-11; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Someone in our travel group was caught smuggling narcotics by police at Bangkok International Airport. We were all subsequently arrested and incarcerated. With a prison riot underway, we had a brief window of time to make our getaway.

Escape Thai Prison was built as a prison set. It had your standard black metal bars and grey concrete look that one would expect from a prison escape room. What set Escape Thai Prison apart wasn’t its aesthetics, but its gameplay.

In game: A jail cell with a wooden bench and a metal toilet.

Puzzles

With rare exception, the puzzles and interactions in Escape Thai Prison were born of the environment and story. It felt like we were MacGyvering our way to freedom.

Standouts

Roughly 90% of the puzzling felt born of the environment and story. This made the puzzling feel like steps in our prison break, not puzzles in a prison escape puzzle game.

There was one incredible reveal.

We had a bad setup and our gamemaster entered in character, ordered us around in character, and resolved the issue without us even realizing what had happened until receiving a post-game explanation. While it would have been better if there was no need for this, it was exceptionally well handled.

The “Thai Prison” branding does a great job of making this particular escape room stand out in a sea of prison break games. However…

Shortcomings

I don’t think that MindEscape did enough with the Thailand setting to justify associating it with a particular culture. The set and story really needed to do something compelling with this and it never came close.

The set looked like a standard prison escape room: gray walls, metal bars, and steel toilets. The setting was competently created, but wasn’t as exciting as the puzzling.

There was a substantial safety hazard in the design of this prison escape. Due to the placement of a rather large prop, and some required maneuvering, it would be easy for a player to get badly bruised. One of us did. Note that the folks from MindEscape were already aware of this and assured us they will be fixing it.

Should I play MindEscape’s Escape Thai Prison?

Yes.

Escape Thai Prison was a strong puzzle adventure with interactions born of the environment.

This room escape involved a little bit of crouching and crawling, so tread carefully if you lack mobility.

Newbies will find an approachable and entertaining escape room. Experienced players will enjoy a take on the prison escape genre that looks like a typical prison game, but plays far better than most.

Book your hour with MindEscape’s Escape Thai Prison, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: MindEscape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Can I Make it in the Room Escape Business?

If a dream is going to live or die, I think it should be based on reason.

It’s a weekly occurrence that a hopeful escape room owner posts on the Escape Room Enthusiast or Startup Facebook groups with something along these lines:

Hi… I played a bunch of escape rooms and I’m thinking of opening one up. What does it take to succeed?

The Facebook communities promptly respond with a series of blunt answers along the lines of, “if you’re asking this question, you probably don’t have what it takes.”

While I understand the community’s reflexive sentiment, I want to help you think things through.

An assortment of locks, keys, pirate treasure, a blacklight, and a cryptex in a stylaized image.

Some of the skills you’re going to need to create a successful escape room business

And by “you” I mean you and your team…

  • Puzzle design
  • Game design
  • Set design
  • Sound design
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Hardware engineering
  • Writing & storytelling
  • Editing & proofreading
  • Lighting
  • Fabrication
  • Graphic design
  • Play testing
  • Web design
  • Web development
  • Accounting
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Finance
  • Contracts & other legalities
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Advertising
  • Public relations
  • Social media management

Each bullet in the list above represents an entire profession. There are tons of books on each subject. You can earn a college degree in most of them and make a fine living only practicing that one. Some of these bullets involve one-off things; others are ongoing within the business. It’s worth noting that different escape room companies excel and fail at each of these in different ways.

A series of questions to ask yourself

  • How much of this process can you honestly take on?
  • How much of this process can you bankroll?
  • How competitive is your market? If there are other escape rooms nearby, will you be able to meet or beat the expectations set by your competitors?
  • What will make your games special? The best companies don’t necessarily excel at everything, but they do know how to shine a spotlight on the things they do better than everyone else, and limit the exposure of their weaknesses.
  • Where are you willing to compromise quality? You’re going to compromise somewhere, you might as well make it a conscious decision.
  • Have you visited a city where you can see truly high-end escape rooms? Do you feel that you’ll be able to get to a place where you can compete with the high-end of the market down the line?  If you can’t compete now, you’ll have to eventually.
  • What are the stakes for you? If you fail, can you survive? Are you going to need to turn a fast profit to feed yourself or your kids?

Only you can answer these questions for yourself, but while you’re reflecting on them, do your homework and read up.

Some resources

We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past 3 years and >550 posts. These are a few good starting places:

There’s a lot more where those came from in our Room Design section.

Additionally, there is a lot of knowledge on the Escape Room Enthusiasts and Startup Facebook groups. Please, please, please do a search before you post a question. The odds are incredibly high that your question has been asked and answered in detail more than once.

Some history

If you’re looking to dive into the escape room business, I encourage you to take a moment to get a sense of where the industry came from and how it has developed:

A Quick History of Escape Rooms

You almost certainly aren’t going to find success in escape rooms with $10,000, a dream, and some gumption. It absolutely used to happen in the distant days of escape rooms (a whopping 3 years ago). Times have changed. Escape rooms have grown more complex. With greater competition, it’s far harder to grab consumer and media attention than it was when escape rooms were this new and mysterious thing.

Some advice

If you’re seriously thinking about taking out a loan or committing your savings towards creating an escape room, take a vacation. I’m serious. Buy a plane ticket to Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Seattle, or New York City (you can come to our tour of NYC!), and spend a few days playing some killer escape rooms. Then go play some terrible games too. Learn what you can from the amazing and terrible things that you experience.

After that trip is over, reflect on the questions that I have listed above. If you think you can do it, draw up a business plan that accounts for the different angles. If the plan seems achievable, start designing your games in your home. Design, build, test, and sort out as much as you possibly can before you sign a lease because that’s the point where things get real.

I can’t tell you if you’ll be able to make it and neither can the various online communities. There is room for success, but it takes the right team in the right location.

Do your homework, and if you open up… Let us know and we’ll add you to the directory. Good luck.

Escape Room Mystery – The Egyptian Tomb [Review]

Puzzle raid.

Location: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 24, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Trapped in an Egyptian tomb, we had to puzzle our way to freedom.

Escape Room Mystery’s The Egyptian Tomb was a bright, friendly, and non-horror take on the Egyptian tomb escape room theme.

In-game: Carvings on the wall of an Egyptian tomb.

Puzzles

The puzzling in The Egyptian Tomb was exceptionally well presented and organized.

There were a number of puzzles to work through and some of the later challenges added an extra layer of satisfying complexity.

It was heavy on deciphering, but clear which cipher elements connected.

Standouts

We loved the set of this particular Egyptian tomb. Escape Room Mystery added a few design touches that made the set more interesting than wall-to-wall sandstone. The hieroglyphs were aesthetically pleasing and not distracting or confusing. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but Egyptian tomb games generally have a lot of visual noise that makes it difficult to even identify what’s part of a puzzle and what’s part of the set.

The Egyptian Tomb had some surprising reveals. We were excited every time.

Overall, The Egyptian Tomb had a well-clued, well-connected, well-varied set of puzzles. We appreciated the fun, fair, and worthwhile implementation of a puzzle type we usually see botched.

Shortcomings

The Egyptian Tomb included a few items that broke the themed environment. These were generally in the form of bright, plastic or laminated objects that worked well in the puzzling, but needed aesthetic refinishing.

There was one puzzle input mechanism that we reused multiple times. It started to get old.

We loved one multistep puzzle, but the input mechanism was finicky enough that it was a separate puzzle to sort out how to operate the thing.

Should I play Escape Room Mystery’s The Egyptian Tomb?

In The Egyptian Tomb, Escape Room Mystery combined an enticing set with challenging and satisfying puzzles. They added in some surprising reveals to create a pretty exciting escape room.

A word of warning for players who are larger or claustrophobic: The Egyptian Tomb contains a brief segment of play that includes a tight space. It doesn’t last long, but if that’s going to be a deal breaker, you might want to check out some of Escape Room Mystery’s other games instead.

We puzzled through this room in a short amount of time, as the connections just clicked for us, but we still felt wholly satisfied with our puzzling experience. For experienced players, you can’t ask for much more.

For newer players, divide and conquer. There’s a lot of to do, but it should be clear which game elements go together, so as to make a challenging but approachable room escape.

Book your hour with Escape Room Mystery’s The Egyptian Tomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure:Escape Room Mystery comped our tickets for this game.

Major Updates to the REA Event – Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017 … Register Today!

Come experience the best of New York City’s escape rooms and interactive entertainment with Room Escape Artist this November!

About Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017

Join us November 3-4, 2017 for a tailored tour through many of New York City’s best escape rooms.

Escape Immerse Explore NYC 2017 logo

Major Updates

Thank you to our pre-sale supporters!

Based on feedback from pre-salers and other interested participants, we’ve slimmed down the event to focus on escape rooms and slashed the price in half.

What’s different?

  • We’ve cut the final day’s big event, Accomplice
  • We’ve added an additional escape room to everyone’s agenda
  • Only VIP ticket holders will have tour guides
  • The unlimited metrocard is no longer included

The Accomplice event and tour guides effectively accounted for nearly half of the ticket price.

We seriously want to host that Accomplice show, but we’re going to have to do it as a standalone sometime in the future.

Sign up today for this escape room exclusive: REA plans your day at the best escape rooms in New York City.

Lisa and David along the Hudson River, New York City in the background.
We would like to welcome you to New York City!

Escape Rooms

As part of the event, you will visit at least five escape rooms from some of the best escape room companies* in New York City including:

*Not every tour track will visit every company.

What else is included?

First Person Xperience’s RED in Long Island City is a 75-minute psychological thriller where guests are immersed in an apocalyptic story, interact with real actors and special effects, and work together to complete an objective. RED is a live action experience where your actions and decisions matter, because in this show, YOU control how the story ends!

Escape Entertainment in Herald Square will be our hosts for a morning of breakfast, networking, and escape games.

Lisa and David will be giving a talk by players for players. Lisa and David have been featured speakers at Transworld’s Escape Room Shows in Chicago in 2016 and Niagara Falls in 2017 and at Up The Game in The Netherlands in 2017. This presentation will be exclusively available to event participants.

Packages

Escape, Immerse, Explore  – $399

This includes RED, networking breakfast at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk… and a booked agenda of at least 5 escape rooms.

VIP Escape, Immerse, Explore – $549

This includes RED, networking breakfast at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk… and a guided tour of at least five escape rooms led by Lisa or David.

Particulars

The event begins on Friday, November 3rd at 5pm. The Friday evening event is in Long Island City, Queens, a short subway ride from Times Square (NOT on Long Island). Note that booking times on Friday evening will vary. You will have the opportunity to request an earlier or later booking time.

The event will wrap up on Saturday evening after a busy day of escape rooms.

Attendees will receive exclusive discount coupons to book their own escape rooms while they are in town.

Also Included

After you purchase your tickets, you’ll receive additional information about:

  • tour customization survey
  • discounted accommodations
  • travel and parking recommendations
  • discounted rates for booking additional escape rooms

FAQ

Are you guys selling out?

Between legal, insurance, food and the cost of sending people to all of the games… this is not an overwhelmingly profitable endeavor. If we were looking to sell out, we’d do something unethical like consult, or design games… and review them on our own site.

We’re hosting this event because we want to bring this community to New York City and share a few of the games we love with you.

Why New York City?

We live here. This city has outstanding escape rooms. We want to show them off!

Why November?

It’s not winter. It’s not summer. And the escape room conferences were back in May.

Why these particular companies?

We selected them because they showcase some of the best in escape rooms and immersive games.

How will we get from game to game?

Walking, subway, or taxi/uber/lyft. Your tour agenda will recommend how to get around.

Can I choose my teammates?

The escape room tours will be groups of 4 or 6. You may select a buddy or put together a full group.

I don’t have a team. Will that be a problem?

Not at all. We’ll put you in a group with other escape room enthusiasts from far and wide.

I’ve played most of the games from these companies. Can I still participate?

Contact us. There might be an opportunity. We’ll try to make it work.

Will I get to choose which escape rooms I play?

No, but you’ll fill out a survey and based on that we’ll put you into games that we think you’ll love. You’ll find out your escape room agenda far enough in advance that you can book additional games for yourself during the rest of your time in New York City.

I’m an escape room owner/employee and/or immersive experience designer. Can I participate?

Yes!

I have nothing to do with the escape room industry. I just want to play all the games! Can I participate?

Yes!

What should I do about airfare and hotels?

Your ticket does not cover travel or lodging. However, we will send you recommended hotel accommodations and information about travel to NYC after you purchase a ticket.

Are meals included in the ticket price?

The ticket includes brunch at Escape Entertainment on Saturday. Saturday’s escape room tour will have a meal break where you can purchase food.

I can’t make it that weekend. Will you run this again?

If it goes well, we’ll consider running it again in New York or elsewhere.

Can I buy a ticket for someone under 18?

Unfortunately, no.

How long have you been planning this?

A very long time. We’re pretty sure we’ve got something great here.

Can I sponsor this event?

Contact us about sponsorship opportunities. We are not accepting escape room companies as sponsors.

What if I have other questions?

Contact us.

We look forward to seeing you in New York this November!

 

Liberty Escape Rooms – Revolution [Review]

When in the Course of human events…

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 25, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per ticket

Story & setting

In the winter of 1777, we embarked on a secret mission to thwart General Howe, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the American Colonies. His men were dangerously close to stealing the Liberty Bell, a prominent symbol of rebellion against Britain. He planned to capture the Bell and melt it into bullets to break the rebels’ morale.

General Howe’s office was built in an actual historic building that was owned by one of the founding fathers of the United States.

In-game: Closeup of a handwritten letter with a quill pen and ink. A red British officer's jacket hangs on the wall in the distance.

Puzzles

In addition to some more standard escape room interactions, Revolution largely featured encoding and enciphering techniques from the latter half of the 1700s. While not 100% historically accurate, Liberty Escape Rooms was clearly committed to historical puzzling and it worked.

Standouts

I normally find office settings stale, but the historical spin changed that. Revolution hid interactions that turned what should have been a mundane gamespace into an exciting one.

In game: A regal red wooden rocking chair beside a painting of King George III.
My deciphering throne.

Liberty Escape Rooms did their homework and used history to create a compelling room escape. Furthermore, they knew where they had deviated from historical accuracy for the sake of game design, and even went so far as to explain this to us in the post-game debrief.

There were a lot of great moments in Revolution that are going to stick with me.

Shortcomings

One critical interaction felt metaphorically forced. As a result, it seemed like many teams, ours included, may have physically forced it a little too much. This one interaction was beat up and should probably be rethought.

I would have appreciated a little more layered complexity in some of the puzzles. Many of Revolution’s puzzles would have benefitted from having an extra step after completing a decipherment.

Should I play Liberty Escape Rooms’ Revolution?

I have a degree in early American history and a passion for the history of cryptography. I was nervous going into this escape room because I thought that my outside knowledge would sour the experience. I was dead wrong; it made a great escape room even better.

Regardless of your experience level, I wholeheartedly recommend Revolution. It’s approachable, interesting, well-constructed, and filled with beautiful, authentic props and good surprises.

Book your hour with Liberty Escape Rooms’ Revolution, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Liberty Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Exodus Escape Room – Sherlock’s Study [Review]

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

-Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Location: Anaheim, California

Date played: June 4, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Sherlock Holmes was kidnapped in the midst of an investigation and it was up to us to find him.

We played in a study/office setting that resembled many other escape rooms with similar themes. The room wasn’t the most exciting, but it was well constructed and hid a surprise or two.

In-game: A large wooden bookcase beside a red wall.

Puzzles

Sherlock’s Study included typical room escape-style puzzles, executed at varying degrees of difficulty but geared toward a beginner audience. Observation and searching skills were key. Puzzle flow was basic but solid, with some notable areas in need of refinement.

Standouts

There was one puzzle sequence that made excellent use of the set, leading to an unexpected reveal.

Another puzzle featured a small, easily-overlooked clue that those with keen eyes will find satisfying to solve.

Shortcomings

The puzzles in Sherlock’s Study relied heavily on paper props with lots of “whodunit” information printed on them. We became frustrated with multiple team members crowded around all these documents.

The study was predictably filled with books, which necessitated a lot of divide-and- conquer scavenging. One tedious puzzle could have benefited from clearer cluing.

One visually appealing clue lacked a clear connection to anything else. By the time we made the connection, we had already solved the puzzle, which negated the cool factor.

At one point, the use of space was a letdown after a grand reveal.

Should I play Exodus Escape Room’s Sherlock’s Study?

Sherlock’s Study was unapologetically a room for a beginner’s market; the folks at Exodus Escape Rooms were clear on this point.

Beginner players will encounter a solid experience with good puzzle flow that accurately represents room escapes. Experienced players will find exciting moments, but shouldn’t expect to be blown away at any point; Sherlock’s Study was decidedly for newer players.

Book your hour with Exodus Escape Room’s Sherlock’s Study, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Team vs Time – Cure of the Alchemist [Review]

Turning puzzles into a cure.

Location: Berlin, Connecticut

Date played: July 8, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Infected with the Black Death and seeking a cure, we approached the home of a mysterious alchemist. The rumor was that he had the ability to cure the disease, but he would only share this knowledge with those who could prove their wits and worth.

Staged in an ancient cabin in the woods, the set was compelling. It started off strong and the aesthetics only improved with each progression in the escape room.

In game - A strange wooden contraption beside a bench made of vines.

Puzzles

Cure of the Alchemist contained tangible puzzles that generally required manipulation of the set pieces and props.

The puzzles escalated in difficulty and complexity over the course of the room escape culminating in a serious deductive challenge.

Unlike Team vs Time’s other escape rooms, they offer no hints in Cure of the Alchemist. We had to prove ourselves to the alchemist or die trying.

Standouts

When we walked into Cure of the Alchemist, we felt like we were in a different world from the lobby at Team vs Time. The set was captivating.

In game - a series of vines in the foreground, the moon shines in the background.

Many of the puzzles felt on theme, as if they belonged in that environment.

We enjoyed a variety of puzzles, both simple and complex. We experienced quite a few fun moments of satisfying realization.

Shortcomings

At one point, Cure of the Alchemist bottlenecked both in gameplay and physical layout. This stoppage of play was frustrating for the players who were boxed out.

Cure of the Alchemist was set up as a medieval escape room and the set supported that feeling… except that some of the locks were decidedly modern. The addition of a few older-looking lever locks would have eliminated some of the anachronisms.

Team vs Time set up a rather complex backstory, but it was ultimately irrelevant to the gameplay. Throughout our quest for the cure, we never felt the dramatic stakes of our mission. The completion of our quest was anticlimactic.

Should I play Team vs Time’s Cure of the Alchemist?

Cure of the Alchemist was a puzzle-driven escape room in an impressive medieval staging. The puzzles relied on the set pieces and the set was augmented by the puzzle components.

While not as suspenseful or dramatic Gangster’s GambleCure of the Alchemist delivered more cohesive puzzle and set integration.

While Cure of the Alchemist was not as challenging as some of Team vs Time’s other escape rooms, we do not recommend it for brand-new players. Since players are proving themselves to the alchemist, Team vs Time does not give any hints. To that end, we recommend that you play at least a few other escape rooms before attempting this one. You should also probably play Team vs Time’s other games to get a feel for their unique style of gameplay prior to taking on the alchemist’s challenge.

Book your hour with Team vs Time’s Cure of the Alchemist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Team vs Time provided media discounted tickets for this game.