Mission: Escape Atlanta – The Hotel [Review]

You can check out any time you like… but you have to leave after an hour.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Date played: April 3, 2017

Team size: 4-9; we recommend 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per ticket

Story & setting

We checked into rooms at the Grandjestic Atlantan, where the hotel’s lonely proprietor sought to trap his guests forever.

Split into three different hotel rooms, we had to communicate well in order to escape.

Thematically, The Hotel was a hotel, with rooms branching off a main hallway. The rooms themselves didn’t attempt realism. Rather, they were small, hotel-inspired escape rooms.

In-game: A hallway of hotel room doors.

Puzzles

Communication was our primary opponent in The Hotel.

The puzzles required teamwork across hotel rooms.

Standouts

Mission: Escape Atlanta went out of their way to design a backstory for the hotel proprietor. It was a solid backdrop for thematic puzzling. It also explained away any need for realism in set design. It was a hotel-inspired fantastical situation that worked.

The puzzles forced teamwork. It was challenging to figure out which pieces connected to what and to whom. It was rewarding when hotel rooms accomplished goals together.

The Hotel created an exciting, almost frantic energy as we raced to make connections between puzzling items we couldn’t necessarily even see. For players in the primary communication roles, the setup fostered a feverish race of puzzling.

Shortcomings

The players who were not in the communication roles sometimes didn’t feel the same sense of excitement.

Not all hotel rooms were created equal. Some were more fun than others. Additionally, if any hotel room’s team members couldn’t pull their weight in puzzles, the entire team would be in for a rough ride.

One particular unclued puzzle relied only on trial and error. The effects of this were amplified by the room that this challenge was placed within.

Should I play Mission: Escape Atlanta’s The Hotel?

Mission: Escape Atlanta crafted a unique and intriguing hotel-themed escape room. Instead of realistic and dramatic, it was lighthearted and imaginative.

The Hotel was unbalanced. Some players focused on communication while others explored the surroundings. Some players found their hotel rooms more intriguing than others did.

However, the puzzling happened through teamwork, the culmination of which was incredibly satisfying.

If you’re a newer player, not well-versed in how escape room style puzzles fit together, The Hotel will be a serious challenge. Please play at least one room escape prior to attempting The Hotel.

If you prefer to experience an entire escape room from start to finish, The Hotel is not the escape room for you.

If you bring a team that cannot communicate well… good luck to you.

In most other circumstances, The Hotel will be a joy to check in to. It was full of good puzzles and lots of fun.

Book your hour with Mission: Escape Atlanta’s The Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mission: Escape Atlanta provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room Ambassadors to First Time Players [Design Tip]

There is an art to introducing new players to escape rooms.

Escape rooms are still new to most players. As such, first time players are precious.

If new players enjoy their first escape room, they add themselves to the player pool and spread the word. The industry will grow. If they have a bad experience, however, they could be turned off from the concept. Should enough new players walk away unhappy, industry growth will slow and eventually halt.

As we’ve noted before, low quality experiences are the biggest threat to the top tier escape room companies.

Types of excellence

Excellent escape room experiences comes in different forms. We recognize some of these games themselves with our Golden Lock-In Award. We’ve given shoutouts to other games in a blog post about innovation.

There are also companies who are deliberately crafting a complete customer experience, and these are the companies that we want everyone to learn from.

Styalized image of the United Nations on a beautiful summer day.

Escape room ambassadors

We would be thrilled if everyone played their first escape room at a company that is designed around the needs of their customers.

These companies bring new players into the fold with a consistently fun and polished experience from start to finish. While frequently less flashy, this design is valuable for the sustainable growth of an industry.

So, what are they doing right?

Website

Most customers’ first impression of an escape room is through the website.

The website clearly explains the activity and who would enjoy it. It’s welcoming and easy to understand. Players will already have a feel for the experience before they arrive.

The product offerings – individual games – are easy to find and book. It displays location, synopsis, team size, game duration, pricing, and rules upfront.

Navigation is clear and the website answers most player questions. Contact information is also readily available. If the player calls the facility, an informed person will answer. If that player emails, they will receive a prompt and helpful response.

Facility

The facility is easy to find. It is a “storefront” on a main street with excellent signage and clear parking or public transportation options.

The entryways and lobbies are inviting, bright, friendly, and comfortable. There is room to sit. There are also amenities including water, restrooms, and sometimes snacks, games or merchandise for purchase.

The facility feels like a polished and professional business… because it is a polished and professional business.

Staff

Customers are greeted by friendly, welcoming staff. These folks are engaging. They make a point to get to know their customers. They are listening so that from an initial conversation, they can tailor the experience to any group.

There are multiple people on staff at any given time. Staff members each have a job – whether front desk, gamemaster, or something less customer facing. They don’t attempt to be everything to everyone. Players know that at any given time, a particular staff member is focused on their experience.

The staff are knowledgeable about their own games and the local escape room community. They do not bash their competition. They are prepared to recommend other quality facilities in the area.

Room design

The escape rooms are designed for the uneducated consumer, but still a lot of fun for those with experience.

The environment is exciting, but not overly intimidating. The spaces are clean and safe. Players don’t have to abide by tons of detailed rules. The puzzles are approachable. The room escapes flow logically. The props are serviced regularly.

The escape rooms are themed and cohesive.

The room escapes have fun and memorable moments that people will tell their friends about. New players won’t recognize market innovation or design sophistication. They will, however, appreciate a fun and memorable experience.

Where should you send first-time players?

Family and Corporate-Friendly

These companies provide an inviting, polished customer experience as outlined above.

Entertainment for Adults

These companies market their escape rooms to adults seeking intense entertainment. Yet, the same business principles apply. For the right audience, these will also be incredible introductory room escape experiences.

Be an escape room ambassador

Your market isn’t everyone. If you want to be an escape room ambassador to uninitiated escapers, cater to their needs. If they don’t have a good time throughout every aspect of the experience, you are contributing to the industry’s demise rather than its growth.

Locked – Spooky Room 479 [Review]

Considerably less scary than my freshman year roommate.

Location: Astoria, NY

Date played: March 20, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Locked in the dorm room of a missing college girl, we had to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

The room was a compelling college dorm, which wasn’t an inherently exciting environment. What made it interesting were the tech-driven spook effects which were peppered throughout the game. Spooky Room 479 was exactly that: spooky. It never came close to horror and that was good, given the way that the room was marketed.

In-game; A sketch on an easel with bloody hand prints on it.

Puzzles

Clever yet beginner-friendly, Locked did a good job of blending old-school searching and combination solving, with some far less common technological interactions. It offered some challenge but nothing was overwhelming.

Standouts

The puzzle design and flow were solid.

There was some great tech.

Spooky Room 479 had fun and memorable moments.

Shortcomings

The technology was far too overt for the ghostly theme. The tech should have felt magical in a haunted room, but instead it felt a little like Scooby Doo, where it was incredibly clear that someone had built tech to simulate a haunting.

While the intro video was solid, its pacing was comically slow.

Combination locks didn’t feel out of place in a dorm room. However, there were too many locks with similar digit structures. This prevented our team from inherently knowing where to input a correct answer and killed momentum in moments where we should have made progress.

Should I play Locked’s Spooky Room 479?

From the moment we stepped into the lobby at Locked, we could feel their passion for their business. That passion was evident in Spooky Room 479.

It was an incredibly sound game with fun moments and solid puzzle flow… and that’s the beating heart of a good escape room.

Spooky Room 479 looked good, not great. The technology was well executed, but not well embedded into the setting and narrative.

It was a delightful experience, with room for refinement and growth.

Beginners should absolutely give Spooky Room 479 a shot. It had a little bit of everything: searching, puzzles, intrigue, and tech.

While not necessarily a must-play for seasoned room escapers, they can absolutely enjoy Spooky Room 479; we certainly did.

Book your hour with Locked’s Spooky Room 479, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Locked – Spooky Room 479 comped our tickets for this game.

 

What Escape Room Designers Should Learn from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” [Design Tips]

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a childhood favorite of mine, and after I rewatched it recently, I can confirm that it holds up.

BoingBoing shared a video about live animation lessons from Roger Rabbit and I couldn’t help but watch. I also noticed how these lessons translated to escape room design.

Here are a couple of key takeaways for room escape designers:

Live actor film was unchangable

In Roger Rabbit, all of the live action shots were filmed and wrapped prior to animation. They could not do any reshoots, so the animators had to work with what they had. Even with that brutal constraint, the animators managed to maintain eye-lines and the narrative’s internal logic.

I’m always impressed when I encounter an escape room company that is limited by physical space, but succeeds in building a believable world.

Fire code and gamespace idiosyncrasies such as, “there’s a giant fixture that the landlord won’t let me move” are examples of this. The art is in turning those liabilities into actual game features that make sense in the escape room.

Screen clip of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Eddie and Roger are handcuffed together. Eddie is attempting to cut the cuffs open with a hacksaw.

“Bump the lamp”

This concept is brilliantly explained in the YouTube video; it refers to adding extra details into the work that nearly all viewers would never notice. The level of detail in Roger Rabbit is staggering.

In the film, and in escape rooms, the details sell the effect at a subconscious level. Players will never lose themselves in a room that hasn’t truly minded the details. The room can still be fun, but achieving immersion will only come from a gamespace that feels real enough that players stop thinking about it as a gamespace and simply accept it as their world.

7 Lessons from an escape room owner who has opened 7 facilities

Puzzle Break was one of the first companies in the US when it opened in Capitol Hill, Seattle in 2013. Since then cofounder and CEO Nate Martin has opened numerous other Puzzle Break locations, including in San Francisco, CA, Long Island, NY, and aboard multiple Royal Caribbean cruise ships. His newest facility recently opened in Belltown, Seattle.

We recently spoke to Nate about the lessons he’s learned from openings, closings, and experiencing the growth of a whole industry. Here are a few important takeaways.

The massive lock-shaped Puzzle Break sign hanging from the exterior of their Seattle facility.

1 – The lobby matters.

According to Nate, the original Puzzle Break location was in a “bizarre warehouse/basement hybrid.” It was entirely focused on the escape rooms. However, customer experience extends beyond the escape room itself. Not only that, but the staff need the out-of-game space too. The newest Puzzle Break location includes multiple lobbies, dedicated conference space for corporate clients, office space, lots of storage, and a fully equipped workshop.

2 – Tourists like to spend money.

In order to capture the tourists, the newest Puzzle Break location is 3 blocks away from Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Escape rooms are a big draw for tourists and locals alike. Additionally, “escape room tourism is on the rise.” There are now people traveling to Seattle specifically to play escape rooms and they are also likely to appreciate the new location’s proximity to traditional tourism.

3 – A viable business needs more than one product.

When Puzzle Break opened a second location in San Francisco in 2014, they only had one escape room in the facility and no room to build another. “Without multiple offerings, we’d acquire customers only to lose them immediately after they played.” Puzzle Break closed the San Francisco location after only one year because they realized that this wasn’t a sustainable business model.

4 – Hire partners and contractors.

You won’t be the best at everything. Nate tells us that “one of the longest weeks of my life involved building a simple wall (extremely poorly) that an experienced carpenter could knock out before lunch.” While the team behind Puzzle Break could learn every skill, including carpentry, that business model wasn’t efficient, and it certainly didn’t scale. Now Puzzle Break hires talented partners and contractors in the areas where they are weaker.

5- Continue to iterate and improve.

In the past three years, the escape room industry has grown and evolved. Nate says that “to thrive in the escape room industry, you must always be iterating and improving.” While Puzzle Break now maintains multiple locations, that wasn’t always the case. In 2014, it was a challenge to split their focus between Seattle and San Francisco. When you begin to scale the business, you can’t stop improving the core product.

6 – Join the community.

When Puzzle Break opened, they were flying blind, figuring out everything on their own. When Nate says, “there was no roadmap, no resources,” he isn’t just talking about escape room design. They were also on their own for operations, marketing, and everything else. Today, there is a vibrant owner community both online and at the escape room conferences. Join the conversation.

7 – There is opportunity to fill a need.

Today, Nate tells new owners to “find a niche.” In most markets, there are now multiple escape room operators. However, that doesn’t mean your opportunity in this industry is gone. “Identify the gaps in your market and fill a need.” Maybe you have the skills to open an escape room that caters to an untapped market or maybe you have the skills that an established company needs to hire.

We agree with Nate that there is opportunity in the escape room market. In the few years since he opened the first Puzzle Break location and we started playing escape rooms and writing about them, a lot has changed. We expect the industry to continue to change, diversify, and grow. To that end, these 7 tidbits of wisdom ring incredibly true.

Brooklyn Escape Room – The Haunted [Review]

Come play with us!

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: March 13, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket Tuesday – Friday, $35 per ticket Saturday – Sunday

Story & setting

We entered a haunted home to uncover the secret within and the way out.

From the moment we stepped inside, we were met with a sense of foreboding. The set was dark and ominous.

It was also wide open. The large space was a bedroom, living room, and study all rolled into one (kind of like a New York apartment). It was decorated with antique furniture from an unspecified time in the past.

In-game closeup of an old clock with a lock built in. The clock face is is fogged over.

Puzzles

While the set was interactive, there wasn’t a lot of puzzling in The Haunted. 

We mainly searched for objects and determined how they were connected. This took some trial and error.

Standouts

Some of these object-set interactions initiated exciting, tech-driven responses from the escape room.

Brooklyn Escape Room created a few amusing atmospheric touches that made some of us jump… but it wasn’t ever terrifying.

The Haunted used spaces in ways we didn’t see coming.

Shortcomings

While at times Brooklyn Escape Room manipulated spaces well, other spaces felt underused or incomplete.

The Haunted relied heavily on technology, some of which was finicky. In one instance, we successfully completed an interaction, triggering a response, but we continued to try to complete that interaction for the remainder of the game because the technology didn’t give us enough feedback.

Additionally, especially given the antique props, the wiring needed to be more completely integrated into the construction of the space.

The gamespace was too dusty for my liking. There’s a difference between dirty-looking and actually dirty.

Should I play Brooklyn Escape Room’s The Haunted?

We enjoyed The Haunted. It had some neat tricks that made us both jump and laugh.

If you gravitate toward puzzles, take heed: The Haunted was primarily searching and connecting. There wasn’t too much to puzzle through.

If you prefer atmosphere and set-piece interaction, The Haunted probably won’t melt your brain, but you’ll find a lot to enjoy.

This game would be approachable for newer players. It likely won’t be too challenging for those well versed in escape room technology, but it will still be fun.

Book your hour with Brooklyn Escape Room’s The Haunted, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Escape Zones – The Cabin [Review]

We don’t see games like this in New York.

Location: Auburn, AL

Date played: March 31, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

Story & setting

On our way to our uncle’s remote huntin’ cabin, our friend was bitten by a timber rattler. Without any cellular coverage, we had to break into the cabin and find the antivenom.

The set looked and felt like a cabin. It was kitschy in a compelling sort of way. There were some great twists and clever design.

In-game photo of a cabin's exterior. The door is barred shut. There is a sign that reads,

Puzzles

The Cabin was a puzzle-heavy game. There was a lot to work through, so much so that we kept 8 serious puzzlers busy on parallel tracks.

The puzzles were blended with technology and set design.

Standouts

In escaping The Cabin we re-enacted a true life-or-death situation… with a lot more puzzles than real life usually offers. It was unusual, entertaining, and delightful.

With this escape room, Escape Zones leveled up their set design. One magic moment in particular relied on expertly crafted, well-hidden technology.

Where Escape Zones’ previous games were search-based, The Cabin was a more complex, puzzle-driven adventure.

The ending was adorable.

Shortcomings

While Escape Zones did integrate puzzles and story, The Cabin still contained some standard escape room puzzles that didn’t necessarily make sense in the context of our life-or-death adventure.

Occasionally, Escape Zones’ attempt to combine puzzles and story resulted in the reading of extraneous, long-winded, sciencey babble. It got a little tedious.

We encountered one puzzle that relied on order preservation. Moving props rendered it unsolvable. This could be easily remedied.

Should I play Escape Zones’ The Cabin?

The Cabin was a pleasure to play. The set was compelling, the puzzling good fun, and the story entertaining.

Escape Zones in Auburn, Alabama is a legit escape room company, despite being the only company in town. They have produced an escape room that would hold up in any market.

First timers might find The Cabin a touch overwhelming, as there was a lot to do. If you’ve never played a room escape before, start with one of Escape Zones’ other offerings to get used to how things work. After you’ve finished with those, return for The Cabin. It’s absolutely worth it.

If you’re an experienced room escaper who happens to find yourself near Auburn, I’d strongly encourage you to spend an hour in The Cabin.

Book your hour with Escape Zones’ The Cabin, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Zones comped our tickets for this game and outfitted our team in t-shirts.

Alternative… Puzzle Solutions for Escape Rooms [Design Tip]

Sometimes you can solve a puzzle correctly and still be incorrect. This is because you found an alternative… solution, another perfectly rational solution that wasn’t the one that the puzzle designer had intended.

What is an alternative solution?

An alternative solution is another way to correctly solve a puzzle.

Let’s imagine a scenario as follows: a clue directs players to count the number of eyes in a picture.

8 bit painting inspired by Zelda - It says, "It's dangerous to go it alone! Take This. The Spiras 3-12-16." It depicts an old man in a fire-lit cave giving a ring to a couple dressed for a wedding.
Painting by Adam “Squarepainter” Shub, and given to us by Lindsay Froelich, our dear friend and most regular escape room teammate.

Is the answer “6” or “9”? That depends whether the player interprets the letter “I” as another “eye.”

The puzzle designer may have intended the answer to be “6”, referring to the 6 eyeballs (or pixels) in the picture. However, a player could easily think that the letter is equally relevant in the puzzle, thus concluding that the answer is 6 eyeballs plus 3 letter “I’s” and select “9.” And that wouldn’t be an incorrect interpretation.

In this scenario, there is an alternative solution to the puzzle that is equally correct.

How do I discover if I’ve created an alternative solution?

If your players repeatedly try the same incorrect solution to a puzzle, consider whether it may be an alternative solution.

When one player solves the puzzle incorrectly, it’s likely that they are simply incorrect. When multiple players suggest the same incorrect solution, it’s likely that there is a different rationale where this solution is correct.

Observe player behavior to discover instances of alternative solutions.

How do I design around an alternative solution?

There are two options for designing around alternative solutions.

1: Remove the ambiguity.

Determine what is causing players to suggest an alternative solution and remove that element from the room escape.

In the scenario above, if you don’t want some players to think that “9” is the solution, then remove the text from the image. If the text is necessary, put it on a plaque below the picture.

2: Accommodate the alternative solution.

Depending on where the solution is input, you can make both solutions acceptable within the room escape.

In the scenario above, if the solution to the number eyes is the last digit of a four digit combination that begins “1, 2, 3” you can make both “1, 2, 3, 6” and “1, 2, 3, 9” acceptable inputs.

Note that this solution will work well for a digital or software lock, but it isn’t an option for a combination padlock.

If you are able to accommodate alternative inputs, your players will move through the room escape uninhibited without ever knowing that a particular puzzle could have been solved differently.

Attentiveness

Occasionally you might have players who argue with each other over the solution.

In the example scenario above, if two players are working on the puzzle together, they might disagree whether the answer should be “6” or “9.” If you’ve set up your software to accommodate both answers, whoever attempts to open the lock first will be proven correct.

In these situations, it might behoove you to explain the existence of the alternative solution to the group during a walkthrough. At the very least, it will keep peace among team members. It may also give them a fuller appreciation of your attention to detail in room design… However,in order to achieve this, you need a gamemaster who is honestly paying attention.

Player Tip

Alternative solutions can creep up on room escape companies; they may not be equipped to handle them. Always try the most obvious solution first before you start getting creative.

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing [Book Review]

Shift by 23: Wklv xvhg wr eh plolwdub judgh hqfubswlrq.

Author: Paul B. Janeczko

Year: 2006

Page Count: 144

ISBN: 978-0763629724

Price: ~$6 in paperback

Synopsis

I had a realization that most of the ciphers, codes, and hidden messages that we see in escape rooms are essentially ancient intelligence tools that are easily appreciated by older school kids. This isn’t a judgment, but a simple fact of the escape room format. A dozen or so puzzles all designed for rapid solving creates an environment that doesn’t lend itself to complexity.

So I sought out a kid’s guide to codes and ciphers and found Paul Janeczko’s Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing.

Book cover for Top Secret, looks like a brown folder being held by a pair of black gloved hands.

It is exactly as advertised, discussing a little bit about the history and how-tos of simple encryption and decryption.

Written at about a 5th grade reading level, it’s the lightest read I’ve picked up in a long time. Top Secret is cute. It focuses on turning all of these old techniques into fairly straightforward craft projects. The information is good, if dramatically simplified.

Standouts

It’s an excellent and likely empowering book on how to make, transfer, and keep secret messages for kids.

As a light guide to ciphers for escape rooms, it’s a surprisingly solid book. I’ve read quite a lot about the history of cryptography as of late, yet there were a few basic forms of encryption covered in Top Secret that I had neither seen nor heard of.

The historian in me would have loved to see more detail in the book. However, it is likely more useful for those interested in creating escape games because it glosses over the historical context and focuses on how to create and use the basic ciphers

The table of contents is detailed and useful.

Illustrator Jenna LaReau’s art is adorable, warm, and humorous.

Book illustration for the "code breaking" chapter. A spy chopping a code book like a martial artist chopping wood.

Shortcomings

Janeczko’s writing is a little uneven. At times Top Secret is matter-of-fact, but then it can shift into a decidedly condescending tone that I think would have irked me even at age 10.

Should I read Paul B. Janeczko’s Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing?

Retailing around $6.00 and taking nearly no effort to read, Top Secret was worth both my time and money. I learned a few concepts that I hadn’t yet come across.

If you’re looking to really understand the history, intricacies, and application of cryptography from antiquity to the present, then you should read a book like Simon Singh’s The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum CryptographyTop Secret is simply too light and airy to develop a serious understanding of the subject matter.

If you are looking to create an escape room and aren’t well versed in simple codes, ciphers, and methods of hiding messages, then Top Secret might be the most useful and easy-to-read $6 reference book you’ll ever buy.

Order your copy of Paul B. Janeczko’s Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing from Amazon using this link, and a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting Room Escape Artist.

 

Escape the Room NYC – Submarine [Review]

We all live in a puzzle submarine.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: March 27, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

While exploring a deserted island with our friends we happened upon an old diesel submarine. We climbed aboard the boat and found ourselves locked in and descending. We had an hour’s worth of oxygen left to figure out how to surface the sub and save ourselves.

The set looked fantastic. The entirely custom construction blew away older Escape The Room NYC sets. The shape of the room, the doors, and the manner in which they made us feel like there was a world outside of the room was superb.

SS Escape - Submarine exterior shot. It looks like weathered metal.

Puzzles

Even with the impressive set, the puzzling remained front and center.

The early puzzling consisted of fairly standard but well-executed escape room-style puzzles. With the late game puzzles, we moved through a story-driven adventure.

The puzzles kept most of our large team engaged at any given point throughout the room escape.

Submarine focused more on exploration and discovery than on scavenging through the set.

Standouts

The set was exceptional. When I had some downtime in the middle of the game while my teammates puzzled, I wandered around taking it all in. There were tons of dials, buttons, and gauges that were merely part of the set. While upon an initial glance I had internally freaked out because it seemed that the scenery overload could lead to confusion, it was actually easy to tell the important controls from the unimportant ones.

In-game, and detailed submarine door.

The puzzling was good fun. The solutions felt rewarding. We could witness the results of our progress as we moved through the room escape.

There were some great puzzles, expertly crafted to require the involvement of multiple players.

One recurring task was both compelling and kind of annoying; it was deliberate and it worked well in spite of its repetitious nature.

While trapped in the Submarine we actually felt like there was an exterior world. Brilliant.

Shortcomings

We experienced a major technical malfunction: many of the excellent puzzles lacked feedback. We solved at least two of them purely by lucky timing. In this tech-driven adventure, feedback is crucial and should be checked with every reset.

Much of the second half of Submarine followed a narrative arc where the puzzle solutions furthered the story… except for one puzzle that shifted back to non-narrative “escape room logic.” Had this puzzle been in an escape room without a narrative, or even appeared before the story had kicked in, it would have been fine. In this case, it felt out of place and strangely disappointing.

That same puzzle centered on a prop that felt cheap and out of place in the otherwise gorgeous set. There was one other prop that felt like it had been carried over from an older escape room and didn’t belong in this artfully designed and constructed world.

There was some 3D modeling that could have looked a bit more compelling, especially in comparison to the set’s beauty.

Should I play Escape The Room NYC’s Submarine?

Submarine introduced the next level of set and puzzle design from New York City’s first escape room company.

After our most recent experiences at Escape the Room NYC, we had started to count them out. They might have been first, but newer players had surpassed them. With Submarine, Escape the Room NYC is back in the picture and we welcome this return to form.

If you enjoy puzzles, teamwork, adventure, and how these can come together to serve a purpose, in a craft so unlike a room in the Manhattan building you entered from the street, I recommend Submarine.

This will be a challenging escape room for newer players, but it is well designed and conquerable at all experience levels.

Bring a full team, I wouldn’t recommend taking this plunge with strangers.

Book your hour with Escape The Room NYC’s Submarine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape The Room NYC provided media discounted tickets for this game.