Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures [Review]

The Sherlock Holmes game we deserve.

Location: at home

Date Played: 2017 / 2018

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 1-4

Duration: 60-120 minutes

Price: $40 for 10 cases

REA Reaction

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures was the finest tabletop mystery game we’ve played to date. It was easy to get into, but an intellectual commitment to complete. It was seriously challenging, but still lighthearted and humorous. We wished the scoring system felt more sensible, but it didn’t really matter as we could judge our own improvement. If you’re seeking a difficult tabletop mystery series, this is the game to play.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Couch detectives
  • People who enjoy reading
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic writing
  • Interactive storytelling
  • Clever mysteries
  • Easy to learn
  • Easy to setup
  • Challenging yet fair

Story

Each chapter cast us as members of the Baker Street Irregulars, child informants working for and learning from Sherlock Holmes. We would team up with a familiar character from Holmes’ canon like Wiggins (the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars) or Dr. Watson.

Each episode presented us with a case. We followed the leads wherever they took us in order to solve the case… and any other mysteries that arose along the way.

Beautiful Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective box art featuring a pipe, and a magnifying glass over a letter that reads, "From Hell."

Setup

The game components were impressively simple and streamlined. They included:

Rulebook / Informant Information

The rulebook was especially lean and the game easy to learn. Once we knew how to play, there wasn’t any reason to return to the rules. The rules weren’t nuanced.

The back of the rulebook listed recurring informants whom we could visit during gameplay for records, investigative details, rumors, and the like. These characters were important for solving cases and added continuity to the world.

The game's map, a case book, a newspaper, the informants list, and the London Directory laid out on the table.
Full game setup.

10 Case Books

(4 Books for the Jack the Ripper campaign and 6 Individual Cases)

Each case book provided:

  • Introduction
  • Narratives for all relevant locations in London (tied to location codes)
  • End-game questions
  • End-game answers
  • Pompous Sherlock Holmes monologue explaining the case

The 4-part Jack the Ripper campaign had a unique game map, special informants, and a connected narrative.

Every other episode stood alone.

A Newspaper from September 19, 1898.

10 Newspapers

Each case had a corresponding newspaper filled with assorted information including obviously relevant tidbits, well-hidden details, and plenty of color.

Map 

The map of London was divided into districts with each building and block numbered. The map allowed us to understand the proximity of places. It also occasionally allowed us to make deductions regarding leads as well.

The London Directory, Informants list, and London map.

London Directory

The directory was the interface. It listed every citizen and legal business in London with corresponding codes to look them up in the case books.

Gameplay

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was a prose-based mystery adventure. With the exception of the map, all components were written… and well written at that.

One player would read the introduction, while another would take notes on people, places, and evidence.

The Hotels directory.

From there, we took turns deciding where we’d visit next. We’d look the location up on the map and in the directory, find the corresponding passage in the case book, and read what happened upon our arrival, taking notes all along the way.

We repeated this process until we either felt confident in what happened with the case or the trail went cold and we decided to see how much of the mystery we had solved.

After answering the questions at the back of the book, we’d read the Holmes’ monologue to determine what had happened and how he solved the case.

Standouts

The stories were interesting and unexpected. They twisted in odd directions, but the twists felt grounded.

The cases didn’t feel like a mediocre version of Sherlock Holmes, or a kids’ edition, or dumbed down deduction. The mysteries were smart, challenging, and well written.

By casting us as the Baker Street Irregulars, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective spared us one of the common storytelling problems in many Holmes-themed escape rooms: who the hell are we supposed to be? Are we collectively Holmes, or Watson, or some random friend? This character choice allowed us to be us and not some hive-mind Watson.

We were allowed to use any information in the game or in our own heads to solve puzzles. Our knowledge of the world was relevant. My favorite example of this was in the Seventh Case, A Question of Identity. At the start of the game, Lisa was reading the newspaper and mentioned to me that there was a column of personals. Without having seen that newspaper I asked, “Is one of them enciphered?” She looked up at me surprised and asked, “How did you know?” It was a little fact that I had picked up about communication in the 1890s from having read The Code Book.

The 5WC location description from a case book: "The cabs don't have anything useful information today. We're almost angry with ourselves for believing they might."

The more we played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and inhabited that London, the more the world felt natural and real. We got a handle on who the informants were and when we should go to them.

The materials felt great. The paper stock was varied and of high quality.

The game was easy to learn and quick to setup. When we decided that we want to play a case of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, setting up the game took one of us roughly the same amount of time that the other needed to pour a couple of glasses of port.

While the individual cases were not replayable, the box contained 10 different cases and absolutely no reason to write on or otherwise destroy any of the materials. You’re free to share them with friends.

There’s a massive 4-part Jack the Ripper campaign.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was challenging but fair. This game pushed us harder intellectually than any escape game (real life or tabletop). When we nailed the facts of a case we felt incredibly accomplished. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective had no gimmes.

Shortcomings

The cases weren’t of equal quality. Some of them left us feeling unfulfilled, like they weren’t quite complete.

The scoring system was kind of a joke. We mostly ignored it. We acquired points for correctly answering questions about the case. We lost points for each additional lead we followed beyond the laughably low number that Holmes needed. We disliked this scoring system because it discouraged exploring the world and thoroughly investigating the crimes… which just felt wrong.

We found the limited amount of information Holmes ultimately worked with dubious at best. This contributed to our dislike of the scoring system. I worked for a prosecutor’s office for a couple of years and I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking Holmes’ lack of evidence to court. I know he’s essentially a superhero, but when we read Holmes’ deduction process at the conclusion of each case, it felt like a weak and silly conclusion that’s best acknowledged, but not taken to heart.

Tips for Playing

  • Reserve a couple of hours for gameplay.
  • Be ready to tackle a lot of reading, and out-loud reading if you’re playing as a group.
  • Have snacks, drinks, and whatever else that will add to the vibe of the mystery.
  • Play for yourself, not for the scoring system.
  • Take good notes and revisit them.
  • This is the third edition of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective; other versions offer different cases.

Buy your copy of Asmodee’s Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures.

Disclosure: Asmodee provided a free reviewer copy of 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.)

Portsmouth Escape Room – Westower’s Study [Review]

Antiquing in New England.

Location: Portsmouth, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

This was an entry game.

Westower’s Study was a basic escape room of searching, locked compartments, and a few more layered puzzles. It worked well, but didn’t present anything novel or exciting for experienced players.

In-game: A red walled, and wood furnitured old study. The photo is taken just above a sticker-covered trunk.

Who is this for?

  • Beginners
  • People whose day won’t be ruined by a little math

Why play?

  • Cozy, classic escape room gameplay

Story

World traveler and antique dealer Ian Westower had been kidnapped on his latest journey. The kidnappers had demanded a one-of-a-kind necklace from the man’s collection. His family was willing to part with the necklace if only they could find where it was hidden.

Our team of investigators was offered a reward if we could search Westower’s study and find the necklace that could also be the key to its owner’s freedom.

In-game: A map mounted to the wall, a stack of books on a small table, and a arm chair with a locked box.

Setting

The large room contained antique furniture and a travel trunk. Art decorated the walls. The space embodied the classic escape room study aesthetic.

Gameplay

Westower’s Study was a beginner’s search-focused escape room.

Much of the clue structure was well hidden among Westower’s possessions. Everyone could get involved in searching and making connections between found objects. Most puzzles led to a lock with a few more innovative opens.

Standouts

We were shocked by one late-game moment that was as surprising as it was low-tech.

In-game: A broad shot of the whole study gamespace.

Later in Westower’s Study we uncovered more inventive and exciting puzzles.

The puzzles flowed logically to move the escape room forward.

Shortcomings

We spent a lot of time searching a rather large gamespace. When we stalled, we were failing to discover an item.

Search was complicated by the many items marked out of play… which could still have a game component tucked away inside them.

Westower’s Study included a few process puzzles: once we knew how to solve them, it still took a bit of time to work out the solution. One of the more involved process puzzles was a one-person task that felt like homework. It appeared late in the game when there wasn’t anything left for the rest of the team to work on. (At that point, everything had been found.)

Tips for Visiting

  • Don’t forget your order of operations.
  • Google Maps directed us to the entrance of a plaza… that we almost didn’t notice. Turn into the plaza and drive toward the back to find Portsmouth Escape Room. They have a big parking lot, so if you can’t see their door from where you parked, you’re in the wrong place.
  • MoJo’s BBQ Grill & Tavern in the same plaza was pretty good.

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

Disclosure: Portsmouth Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Mystery Escape Room – Dracula’s Castle [Review]

Sanguine.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Date Played: January 8, 2018

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

REA Reaction

Dracula’s Castle was a search-and-puzzle escape room with a narrative twist: from introduction to conclusion, our gamemaster was an off-stage character in our experience. Mystery Escape Room had some shaky execution, but their inventive and humorous game delivery was impressive.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Dracula fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The puzzles
  • Dramatic moments
  • The gamemaster

Story

Who knew Abraham Van Helsing wasn’t a closer? He thought he had slain Count Dracula, but the legendary vampire continued to draw blood. We were asked to invade Dracula’s castle under cover of sunlight to finish what Van Helsing couldn’t.

In-game: A vase sitting in a glowing stained glass window.

Setting

Dracula’s Castle was dimly lit and lined with stone walls. Most of the light entered from a couple of stained glass window and our lanterns. Count Dracula’s coffin rested in the middle of the space.

In-game: a black stone wall and armoire in the background.

Gameplay

Dracula’s Castle had a standard search-and-puzzle escape room structure with an emphasis on narrative and magical happenings.

All of the gameplay was overseen by our incredibly attentive and hilarious in-character but out-of-room gamemaster. He remained a regular audible presence throughout the experience.

In-game: a large, ornate, silver lever lock.

Standouts

Our introduction to Dracula’s Castle was phenomenal. It was informative, engaging, and humorous.

Our gamemaster was a character in our experience. Although offstage for the duration of the game clock, his verbal interactions were helpful and amusing. He was an integral part of Dracula’s Castle.

The puzzles flowed well.

The dark set was appropriately ominous and felt castle-y.

The conclusion balanced intensity and humor. It worked well.

Shortcomings

The set was too dark. The perpetually inadequate lighting turned otherwise fun puzzles frustrating.

When we solved a puzzle, we couldn’t always find the resulting open. Especially given the darkness, Mystery Escape Room could build more feedback into tech-driven opens, in the form of lighting, sound, or movement.

We had to stop and read a lot. We would have preferred more variety in clue structure and more clueing born of the environment.

One involved puzzle overstayed its welcome.

Tips for Visiting

  • Mystery Escape Room is located in The Gateway. There are a few restaurant options in the complex.
  • There is a paid parking garage in The Gateway complex.
  • Mind your gamemaster for both help and amusement.

Book your hour with Mystery Escape Room’s Dracula’s Castle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mystery Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

Lok’d! Room Escape – The Lost Soul [Review]

The bottom of the uncanny valley.

Location: Manchester, NH

Date Played: December 16, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

REA Reaction

The Lost Soul was a search-heavy, locked-compartment, older-style escape room with a rundown set, tenuous connections, and uncomfortable 3D renderings. Lok’d! Room Escape did present quite a charming twist at the end… but it was not enough to make this a recommendable escape room.

In-game: a old study with a lounging couch a

Who is this for?

  • Diehard M. Night Shyamalan fans

Why play?

  • Weird twist

Story

The ghost of old Alistair Winthrop locked us in his study. He would not let us leave until we brought his soul peace by uncovering the truth about his wife Margaret’s mysterious disappearance.

Setting

The Lost Soul was set in a study with old furniture and a laptop. There was one corner of the room partitioned off and rendered “out of play.”

In-game: Close up of a clock on a bookcase.

Aesthetically, this escape room was uninspiring and drab.

Gameplay

The Lost Soul was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room.

The gameplay largely revolved around searching for hidden items and solving puzzles loosely connected to the story in order to pop combination locks.

Standouts

The Lost Soul included a strange and amusing twist. We never saw it coming.

Some of puzzle solutions and materials foreshadowed the plot twist.

Our gamemaster was attentive and helpful.

Shortcomings

For the most part, the puzzles didn’t have any reason to exist in that gamespace. They were random and disconnected. This was particularly true of the Sudoku and the crossword… which were literally from a newspaper.

At two points we didn’t know whether we had found a clue or trash… They were clues.

The Lost Soul flowed such that we could unlock ciphered material before finding the keys. Given that Lok’d! Room Escape used common ciphers, we could have easily skipped over things and lost the thread of gameplay. I’ve written about this issue in the past.

While lovely and attentive, our gamemaster lacked sufficient camera coverage. The cameras weren’t pointed at the things we struggled with. Her hints led us astray because she couldn’t tell what had been solved.

The Lost Soul included some weird and creepy animation that persisted throughout the experience. This guy presided over haunted our entire game. Fun fact: if you look into his eyes you can see the bottom of the uncanny valley.

 

The Lost Soul was dated and rundown.

Disclosure: Lok’d! Room Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Alcatraz Escape Games – Prison Bus Escape [Review]

Please take a seat and fasten your handcuffs.

Location: Draper, UT

Date Played: January 7, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

REA Reaction

Prison Bus Escape put a refreshing twist on the prison escape theme by setting it on a bus. While this was an old school game with a lot of recognizable tropes, it still felt exciting because of the actor / gamemaster, strong puzzle flow, and entertaining environment.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • People who are mobile
  • Best for any experience level

Why play?

  • It was on a bus
  • The actor / gamemaster
  • Gameflow

Story

Our crew and some other notorious gangsters were being transferred to another prison. With the bus disabled, we had a brief opportunity to free ourselves.

The Alcatraz Escape Bus. An old Blue Bird school bus pained black.

Setting

Alcatraz Escape Games had a bus parked beside their building. This was Prison Bus Escape. It was an old school bus turned into an escape room. The concept was clever and the space was fun.

In-game: Bus interior, school bus seats, but in the middle of the bus, there's a large metal door mounted in place and locked.

Gameplay

Prison Bus Escape was a fairly standard escape room with solid puzzles and good flow. The key twist (in addition to the setting) was an in-room actor gamemaster who added a lot of flavor.

In-game: David's hand cuffed to the wall of the bus.

Standouts

Prison Bus Escape took place on an actual school bus. This setting enhanced the story. It came together nicely.

The bus was partitioned such that even on this confined set, the escape room had different scenes. This built dramatic tension.

We weren’t alone on the bus. Our prisoner-gamemaster was helpful and amusing.

In-game: Overhead of the driver's seat. There is a rifle mounted to the wall, and a lot of extra wiring.

The majority of the gameplay took place in a heated area of the bus. Given that we visited Alcatraz Escape Games in January, this was really important.

We moved through the puzzles and the bus with ease, not because they were easy, but because Alcatraz Escape Games built clue structure into the bus. It played well, progressed the story, and delivered a finale.

The finale.

Shortcomings

We were confused how to approach the prisoner on the bus. In the introduction, we were told that if anyone touched the prisoner, our game would end. In a tight space, we exerted a lot of energy trying to avoid any contact with him. In truth, this rule only meant that we shouldn’t harm the actor… or his stuff… which was in an area that was in play… and not marked as out of play… This was also confusing.

Prison Bus Escape suffered from expansive search combined with weak search tools. In two instances, the tool we received could barely uncover the information or trigger the response.

Prison Bus Escape included a serious red herring. While likely not intended as such, the puzzle affixed to this prop didn’t look intentional enough to usurp the distraction of the item. This prop will likely be a time sink for many less experienced teams.

There were some exposed wires and out-of-game components that should have been hidden away.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is an actor on the bus: 6 Rules For Playing Room Escapes with Live Actors.
  • Players need to climb stairs (onto the bus) and be mobile enough to move around on a school bus.
  • The bus is parked outside Alcatraz Escape Games. You will have to go outside to start and end this escape room.

Book your hour with Alcatraz Escape Games’ Prison Bus Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Alcatraz Escape Games provided media discounted tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – February 11, 2018

We are in Nashville this weekend visiting every escape room company in the area. That should be 14 games (at 14 facilities) in 36 hours… unless we pick up an extra. It’s been known to happen.REA Round Up logo with an up arrow atop the letter d.

Announcements

The RSVPs keep coming in for our NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig on March 7. We’re looking forward to meeting new friends there!

We are pleased to announce the upcoming Cryptex Puzzle Hunt! Read all about it in this interview.

We’ll be speaking at the room escape conference in Nashville this July. Register today!

Featured Escape Rooms

This week’s escape rooms are each doing something different:

Worcester, MA: The Starship: Space Rescue at Live Action Escapes started off typically and ended with a Star Trek Bridge Commander-style spaceship adventure.

New Haven, CTThe Game Show at Escape New Haven began as a The Game Show and evolved into something else entirely.

Something Different

How many different words can you make on a fixed-disk Master Lock?

REA Classic of the Week

May 28, 2015: Escape Room Design: Step One, Research. This is still our number one design tip.

From the Community

Realistic Escape Rooms

Some will make you laugh, others will make you cry.

Super Bowl Champions Escaping Rooms

Before the Super Bowl, a few Philadelphia Eagles players visited Prison Break at The Escape Game Minneapolis.

Escape This Podcast

Finally, Escape This Podcast is kicking off their second season. If you haven’t listened to them before, they are doing something cool.

Master Lock: All Possible 4 Letter Words

Master Lock has many different word combination locks and cable bike locks on the market that have fixed disks. (You cannot swap the order of the disks.)

In the escape room community, the three best known fixed-disk locks are:

Master Lock Model No. 1535DWD

Master Lock letter lock 1235DWD with the word "BOOK" appearing as the combination.

Master Lock Model No. 643DWD

Master Lock letter lock 643DWD with the word "MOCK" appearing as the combination.

Master Lock Model No. 175DWD

Master Lock letter lock 175DWD with the word "TEAR" appearing as the combination.

All of these fixed-disk letter locks have the exact same letter distribution, which made me wonder:

How many 4-letter words can these Master Locks create?

I hope to see more variation in solutions used on these locks in escape rooms. The same half-dozen words show up a whole lot. (I’m looking at you BURY, STAR, & SAND).

Three Master Lock letter locks with the combinations entered as sand, star, and bury.

Letter Distribution

Each fixed-disk letter Master Lock uses the following configuration:

Disk 1: L N B D M J P R S T

Disk 2: O U Y R T L H A E I

Disk 3: C D E O R S T L N A

Disk 4: K Y R S T L N E D H

What Words Can This Distribution Generate?

I asked Rich Bragg of ClueKeeper how he’d determine all the words these locks could generate. A few minutes later he sent me back a spreadsheet filled with words.

Column Explanation

There is no way to generate a single answer to the question “how many English words can this lock create?” English is a constantly evolving language. Words are created, usage shifts, and words fall into disuse.

Column A is the common English word list. This is by far the most useful column. It has 695 words.

Column B is the “ENABLE” word list. These are still words, but they are obscure or old English.

The next three columns are decreasing useful, with the fifth column being words from Wikipedia (which includes acronyms, initialisms and the like).

Each list omits the words found in the previous lists.

I’ve included all of the columns in the spreadsheet because even the less useful columns have some interesting entries… They are just few and far between.

Analysis Methodology

Bragg used TEA Crossword Helper, which is anagramming software on steroids. This is the kind of software that you use if you’re really serious about winning a major puzzle hunt.

From the TEA website:

“TEA comes with a database of over 6 million words and phrases including the title index for the English version of Wikipedia. These answers are classified by their familiarity, so you always see the most likely ones first. You can look up the meanings in the integrated dictionary/thesaurus or on the Internet. TEA is faster and more convenient than word lists in book form such as crossword completers, crossword dictionaries and crossword keys.”

Is There A Better Distribution?

The letters on each disk are pretty curious, especially when you notice oddities like the “J” in the first disk or the “Y” in the second disk.

From a letter frequency standpoint, these are not great letters to drop in those positions.

I reached out to Master Lock to ask how they chose this letter distribution, but they could not be reached for comment.

I suspect that there are more effective letter distributions possible that would generate even more words, but after a quick attempt at doing better, I fell a bit short. If you find one, I’d be curious to see it.

However, whether or not there is a better distribution, this is the one we have on these locks. It’s a lot of options. Feel free to use this list as a tool.

Master Lock Letter Lock Word List

The 2018 Room Escape Conference is in Nashville, Tennessee

The 2018 Room Escape Conference is going to be in Nashville, Tennessee July 27-29.

Transworld Room Escape Conference Logo

Best yet?

Last year’s show made a lot of improvements to the experience. Based on how early and thoroughly everything is being planned for 2018, I get the impression that this one is going to be the best one yet.

Plus… it’s in Nashville!

Review marathon

We are in Nashville this weekend playing many of the escape rooms in the area. We’ll publish reviews of these games throughout March and April. This will help conference attendees find the escape rooms that best fit their interests.

We’ve heard a lot of great things about the Nashville escape room scene. We’re excited to check it out!

Live on stage

We will be giving a talk about the state of the industry in the United States. In 2016 and 2017 we published industry growth statistics on this blog. This summer, hear us announce these numbers live on stage and discuss other trends that we see driving the business all around the world.

Register today

Buy your ticket now. We look forward to seeing you in Nashville this July!

Escape Room Madness – Apocalyptic Mission [Review]

An appetizer of puzzles before the apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: January 22, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per ticket

REA Reaction

Escape Room Madness’ second escape room was a step forward, especially in terms of set design. That said, Apocalyptic Mission lacked the polish, scale, and excitement that we’ve come to expect of new escape rooms in Manhattan. It’s a fine escape room, but it won’t blow your mind.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players who don’t mind using flashlights for the whole game
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The villain in the opening video
  • Some interesting mechanical puzzles

Story

Disgraced medical researcher Dr. Semias Vexx had been forced out of the community for unethical practices. If we could not solve his puzzles, he would release a deadly virus around the world to exact his revenge.

In-game: a blackboard covered in equations and molecules diagrams. There is a locked and worn first aid kit mounted to it.

Setting

We were given flashlights and set loose in a dimly lit, gritty, hacked-together lab.

The set was a big step up from Escape Room Madness’ first game, but not particularly refined.

In-game: A lab measuring cup filled with yellow liquid. A blackboard covered in equations sits behind it.

Gameplay

Apocalyptic Mission was a small-team, puzzle-centric escape room.

The gameplay was built around searching for information and puzzling in low lighting.

In-game: 3 jars filled with mysterious fluids, all labeled with biohazard stickers.

Standouts

Apocalyptic Mission’s humorous intro video set an appropriately dramatic yet playful tone for the escape room. The actor playing the mad scientist nailed the Joker-esque monologue.

With Apocalyptic Mission, Escape Room Madness had leveled up their set design from their initial escape room offering. The set contributed an ambiance that augmented the experience.

We enjoyed one puzzle and its input mechanism that elicited physical reactions from a large set piece.

Shortcomings

While some of the puzzles related to science-y props, many felt disconnected and contrived. They were a bit too escape room-y – where puzzles and solutions only made sense in the context of a puzzle game – and lacked cohesion. This escape room-y feel conflicted with the narrative that was presented at the onset of the game.

Although some puzzles incorporated larger, more tangible set pieces, we still read a lot of puzzles and clues off laminated sheets of paper. We encourage Escape Room Madness to make the clue structure more experiential and more connected to the environment.

While Escape Room Madness certainly stepped up their set design from their first game, the construction in Apocalyptic Mission was rough and imprecise.

One puzzle suffered from continual iteration that left red herrings in its wake. Now that Escape Room Madness has achieved the desired implementation of this puzzle, it would be greatly improved if they eliminated the earlier clues that are no longer meaningful.

Apocalyptic Mission lacked a climax. Our gameplay didn’t feel connected to the story and when escaped, we didn’t feel like we had done what the characters claimed we had accomplished.

Tips for Visiting

  • There are 2 other escape room companies in this building. Go to the correct one.
  • Escape Room Madness is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Colorblind players may struggle at one or two points in the game.
  • Take public transit; Escape Room Madness is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ Apocalyptic Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Madness comped our tickets for this game.

 

Interview with Justin Nevins about the upcoming Prexcyt Quest (a Cryptex Puzzle Hunt)

We are pleased to announce the Cryptex Hunt.

Cryptex Hunt is a puzzle hunt created by many distinguished members of the escape room player community and presented by Justin Nevins, the creator of the Cryptex Security Box, the hands-down winner of our Cryptex Review Extravaganza.

We recently connected with Justin to learn more about this event and how to get in on all the fun.

REA: What is the name of the puzzle hunt?

Justin: Prexcyt Quest, The Lure of the Dragon.

Prexcyt Quest Cryptex hunt promo image, looks like the cover to an old RPG campaign book.

When will the puzzle hunt take place?

February 24 – 25, 2018: This is the warm-up weekend, where you can learn the hunt format through qualifying puzzles to get an idea of what to expect.

February 26 – March 2, 2018: The Daily Challenges will be released Monday through Friday.

Saturday March 3, 2018: Final Challenge (think “boss monster fight”) begins. It will last as long as it takes for someone to complete the challenge and win.  However, you must complete all of the Daily Challenges before you can start on the Final Challenge.

You can continue to play the hunt as long as you want. This way people who find out about it late can still be a part of the fun. We hope to keep it up and running maybe as long as a year or until we release another one!

Does it cost anything to play?

No, it is entirely free. We encourage as many people as possible to play and enjoy it. All time, efforts and costs have been donated in order to keep it free to anyone who wants to play.

What is the structure of the puzzle hunt?

Errol Elumir of Room Escape Divas fame designed a unique structure that none of us had ever seen for a puzzle hunt… and I won’t divulge anything else. It’s puzzles wrapped in a Cryptex, inside an RPG!

In terms of timing, the qualifying puzzles will be released on Saturday, February 24. You will find a number of qualifying puzzles to solve throughout that weekend. Once you complete the qualifying puzzles, you will be able to play the five daily puzzles, released from February 26 – March 2. The daily puzzles will be released at 8:00 pm Eastern each day.

Once you solve the fifth and final daily puzzle, released on March 2, you will have access to the Finale Puzzle Challenge when it is released at noon Eastern Saturday, March 3rd.

The first person or team to complete the Finale Puzzle Challenge will be declared the winner!

Do you recommend playing as an individual or a team?

We encourage small groups to play together for the camaraderie, but this hunt can be done as a solo event as well. A small group will help insure a wide variety of skills and still allow everyone to participate in each puzzle. Think D&D party size with players having different skills and talents.

You will register as one “player” and will not be able to split up to work on different puzzles in parallel. Teams will not have a major advantage over solo players.

Please note that there will be only one prize available per challenge. If you work as a team and win a prize, you will have to decide who receives the prize.

What are the prizes?

Everything is more fun with prizes and there are some nice ones for this puzzle hunt!

Grand Prize – The first person/ team to complete Prexcyt Quest will win a custom Nevins Line Cryptex Security Box, handcrafted by me from real stone and brass with 23k gold inlay (estimated value $3,500). This box has been specifically designed for this puzzle hunt and will be thematically appropriate.

2nd Prize – This will be determined by a random drawing of all people/ teams who complete Prexcyt Quest within a certain period of time. They will win a standard line Cryptex Security Box replica of the Grand Prize. This box will be made with polycarbonate and brass instead of real stone (estimated value $650).

Locked cryptex beside a $10 bill for size reference, it's a few inches longer and a little wider.

Daily Prize Winners – We plan on having daily prizes for the first person/ team to solve each of the daily puzzle challenges. (Note that each person/ team can only win one daily prize.)

How did the idea for this hunt come about?

A friend asked me if there was a “Cryptex Day” holiday to which I replied “Sure… it’s March 1st!” This was the day I created the first Cryptex back in 2004.  It became a running joke that I had declared March 1st “International Cryptex Day,” (Hey, if you are going to make up a holiday, think big. Why limit it to just “National Cryptex Day?”)

Then Errol said, “You should make a puzzle hunt for International Cryptex Day!” When I agreed that that would be awesome, he said “I’LL DO IT!!!” He gathered a group of really talented people and convinced them to volunteer their time. Together, I think we’ve all created a pretty cool and unique puzzle hunt!

Who is the team behind Prexcyt Quest?

Errol Elumir, Darren Miller, and Dan Egnor are the primary hunt creators and puzzle designers. David Lewis provided technical assistance. I provided Cryptex wrangling/ training and Cryptex technical consulting, as well as design and creation of the prizes.

Several other people contributed to this hunt as game testers, creatives, and consultants including Tyler Goen, Kari Maaren, Julie Nevins, Debbie Ridpath-Ohi, Mags Storey, Lizette Tanner, Alex Wai, Manda Whitney, Margaux Yiu, Michael Yuan, and Ruby Yuan. To them we owe huge thanks!

Why did you decide to create this hunt?

I wanted to give back to all the really awesome escape room owners and enthusiasts, puzzle hunters, and fans of the Cryptex. This industry and community has been so great to work with and I’ve personally had so much fun playing escape rooms and puzzle hunts. I wanted to be a part of developing something fun for you!

Who would this puzzle hunt be good for?

We think it will appeal to anyone who likes to solve puzzles.

If you enjoy escape rooms puzzles, but you’ve never tried a puzzle hunt, this will be accessible. It will be challenging, but since the puzzles are released at 24-hour intervals, you can spend a lot of time working through these puzzles without feeling behind.

Experienced puzzle hunters will likely solve the daily puzzles more quickly, but that will not diminish the fun of the puzzles.

How do I start playing?

Keep your eye on cryptexhunt.com.  We will reveal information there as the start date approaches.

Will there be future Cryptex hunts?

I certainly hope so! I’d love to make this an annual event, but it will really depend on how well this one is received and if people are willing to donate their time to help create more of these in the future (so we can keep it free). It’s been a real joy to work with the development team, testers, designers, coders, writers, artists etc. Everyone has been super generous with their time and efforts to make something I think will be really cool and fun to play!