LogIQrooms – Napuche [Review]

A fantastic puzzle game with a variant in Las Vegas.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 26, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 12,000 HUF ($46) per team of 2-6 players, student pricing available

Story & setting

We entered an archeological dig somewhere in Central America where we had an hour to explore the artifacts and equipment of the dig site. With some luck and skill, perhaps we could make a discovery of our own.

A massive map on an unusual map table.

Set within an old brick basement in Budapest, Napuche’s unusual location immediately set the stage. The well chosen antiques and custom created props completed the vibe. It was a bit musty and felt especially compelling.

Puzzles

There were a lot of puzzles to solve in Napuche and they were far from trivial. Interestingly, it was easy to see what was relevant, but challenging to determine how to use the various components to move forward.

A stack of crates with a large stone statue atop them.

Standouts

LogIQrooms artfully designed the old space in which Napuche took place to enhance the drama of the experience. The rustic look contributed to our archeological exploration and set up some exciting reveals.

The crux of this escape room was truly the puzzles. Napuche combined layered thinking with prop manipulation. The execution was smart.

Napuche incorporated some outstanding mechanisms into its puzzles.

Shortcomings

We had trouble with some of the props in Napuche. Since some of the objects seemed breakable, we explored them too gently and thereby couldn’t determine how they worked. In one instance we had to use a beautiful antique to solve a puzzle. We would never have explored its functionality enough to operate it correctly without invitation. This could be fixed with a little in-game cluing.

The set sometimes responded oddly, such that we didn’t know whether we’d triggered something or it was functioning on a timer. One puzzle, once solved, only remained solved for a limited period of time. This was confusing.

Napuche was nonlinear and not particularly well gated. It was easy to waste time on puzzles before they were solvable. With a larger team, this would have been less detrimental to gameflow than it was for our team of two, but it would still lead to wasted effort on the part of a least a few teammates at any given time.

Should I play LogIQrooms’ Napuche?

We played a number of escape rooms in Budapest basements and Napuche used that old dingy setting better than any of the other games that we had encountered. The game setting and props looked ancient.

I highly recommend Naupche for experienced players. This was one of the more challenging games that we’ve played in a while and we truly enjoyed it.

Newbies would probably be best served by starting with something a little less difficult to learn their way around an escape room.

A variation of Napuche exists in Las Vegas, Nevada. The US version is known as Curse of Mapuche at Xterious Escape. I have no idea how effectively Xterious Escape compensated for their lack of an ancient Budapest basement, but it’s a shorter trip to Vegas for most of our readers. If you’ve played Curse of Mapuche, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Book your hour with LogIQrooms’ Napuche, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

The Room – Go West [Review]

Escape the crap.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 4, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 24€ per ticket for 5 players

Story & setting

Go West was set in a 1980s Soviet-controlled East Berlin apartment beside the Berlin Wall. Our application to emigrate to the “Golden West” had been rejected and the Stasi was after us. We had received a tip from a secret source about a way out, but we had to hurry or suffer.

In-game: A drab 1980s living room in East Berlin. A stuffed fish named Erich hangs on the wall.

As an American and student of Cold War history, it was immediately clear that Go West captured the look of a 1980s home in Soviet territory. The color scheme, furniture, and props were almost entirely authentic. I have to imagine that any former East Berliners stepping into this set would experience a strange journey back to when their entire city was held prisoner.

Puzzles

Go West was primarily a puzzle game. That said, The Room created puzzles from period-specific props or used puzzles to carry the narrative and message of the escape room.

Standouts

As Americans, we frequently see different types of 1980s escape rooms built around pop culture references. Go West was not our 1980s, but it was a detailed, accurate, and poignant representation of the time period. The gamespace felt lived in, but not distracting.

In-game: A gridded cocktail table with chess pieces on it, and a large 1980s television set in the distance.
Sign me up for that wallpaper.

Go West made a conscious and deliberate political statement through interaction design. The Room used in-game transitions as the primary vehicle for conveying their opinion.

We were particularly fond of one of the mid-game layered, collaborative puzzles in Go West.

Shortcomings

Much of the puzzling in Go West was from an older era of escape room design. It involved significant searching. Many puzzles were for puzzles’ sake rather than narrative-driven.

Go West was emotionally level for much of the experience. The gameplay didn’t instill urgency until deep into the experience.

Should I play The Room’s Go West?

Yes, you should play Go West. This was The Room’s first game and it was a beautiful and interesting experience.

It was one of the few games that I’ve encountered that communicated a political and historical message.

While Go West has been open for a few years now, it has been meticulously maintained. I have to imagine that it was far better than the norm when it first opened. It still played remarkably well, even if some of the gameplay suggested its age.

You will have to crawl to complete Go West. If that isn’t an issue, you should absolutely experience this room escape regardless of your level of experience with escape rooms.

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

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: The Room comped our tickets for this game.

REA Weekly Roundup – October 8, 2017

Greetings from New Orleans… Houston… New Orleans. We’ve covered a lot of ground this weekend as we dodged Hurricane Nate. You can expect reviews from this trip to publish throughout November and into early December.

REA Round Up logo with an up arrow atop the letter d.

Announcements

David will be speaking at WroEscape, the escape room conference in Wrocław, Poland from October 27-29th. Let us know if you’ll be there!

Featured escape rooms

We’ve started publishing reviews of our recent trip to Berlin. We recommend you go to Berlin to play The Lost Treasure at The Room.

In local news, we visited Paradiso’s second chapter, The Memory Roomwhich included a particular design concept that we’ve been waiting for.

Featured products

Journal29 is a brilliant and challenging puzzle book that we’ve been enjoying for the past month. If you love puzzles, this is a great buy.

From the community

A pair of escaped convicts walked into an escape room in Canada. No, that’s not a setup for a joke.

Want to see a padlocked melted with 900 amps? The answer is yes. You want to see this.

Journal29 [Review]

They were here before…

Location: at home

Date played: Summer 2017

Team size: 1 -¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 2-3

Price: $16 per copy

Story & setup

A top secret excavation yielded no interesting results until the team suddenly vanished on the 29th day leaving behind no evidence of their existence except for a mysterious and cryptic journal.

Created by Dimitris Chassapakis, Journal29 was a puzzle book with a narrative experienced entirely through puzzles and illustration.

The Journal29 book, a pencil, and a iPhone with the Journal29 website open.
All that you need to play.
Playing Journal29 required the book, a pencil (seriously, don’t try this with a pen), and a computer or smartphone.

Every 2 pages of Journal29 contained a URL / QR code and puzzle. When we thought we had a solution to a puzzle, we visited the URL, submitted our answer, and the page either told us we were wrong… or rewarded us with a “key” word. The keys from the puzzles would ultimately be plugged into subsequent puzzles.

Puzzles

Journal29 contained 63 individual puzzles. Each one was unique. If a particular method of solving worked once, it would not work again. In the book’s own words, Journal29 required us to “write, draw, search, fold, combine, and more.”

Standouts

While some of the puzzle types were familiar, many were remarkably inventive.

The mix of puzzles was fantastic. These included both simple ones and mindbogglers.

The first 8 puzzles built a elegant on-ramp for the rest of the book.

The website was simple and effective.

The key system was smart. If we solved a puzzle based on incomplete information (we didn’t have one of the necessary keys) and then backsolved that key, it did not spoil the puzzle that was meant to yield the backsolved key. We simply had the key to an unsolved puzzle… not the solution to the puzzle. (I’m looking at you puzzle #28. One day I’ll figure out what the hell you are.)

We loved how some puzzles daisy-chained via keys. This meant that certain portions of the book would bind up until we made progress on an earlier puzzle. In the meantime, however, we had other puzzle tracks and puzzles that required no keys. Because of this design decision, we could be woefully stuck in one segment and simply move on to different puzzles. We’d periodically revisit the puzzle we were stuck on until we had a breakthrough. As a result, every time we sat down with Journal29, we made some progress.

Journal29 was low commitment. It lasted us a few weeks of on again, off again puzzling.

I liked the geometric aesthetic of Journal29’s illustrations.

Shortcomings

The handwriting font used in Journal29 was occasionally difficult to read. This led to transcription errors when we jotted down keys, which later resulted in frustration in the form of unsolvable puzzles.

The QR codes were worthless. It was easier to type into the URL bar to jump between puzzles. This was important because after the first 8 puzzles, we stopped solving them linearly. Also… QR codes are a silly, ugly, and insecure feature for people trapped in 2013.

A few puzzles in Journal29 got a little weird. They all ultimately had reasonable and clear solutions, but it was a grind to get through some of them.

The story was present, but not so compelling.

I really, truly wish that the answer website had accepted minor variations on puzzle solutions. There were times where we derived an answer along the lines of 123-456-7890, but it had to be entered as 1234567890. We lost a lot of time and built up a lot of frustration over minor variance in solution formats.

Journal29 had no built-in hint system. The Journal29 forum, however, did have spoiler discussions for each puzzle. I used this twice and the experience was mediocre because the discussions were unstructured, often giving me more detail than I wanted or requiring me to dig deep because some of the comments were more confusing than the puzzles. Both times that I used the forums, I learned that I had a key transcription error. I wish that the Journal29 simply had a structured and predictable help website; it would have been a better experience.

Should I play Journal29?

If you’re a puzzler, Journal29 is a fantastic purchase. It was more intriguing than a normal puzzle book. It was deeper, more challenging, and more entertaining than a 60-minute at-home escape room.

We’ve been traveling more than normal these past few months and we carried Journal29 with us. We’d pull it out on a train and solve a puzzle or two or focus on it for hours during a flight delay. It was lightweight and low tech. Because most of the puzzles solved with “ah-ha!” moments rather than grinding process puzzling, we could experience it casually.

I recommend Journal29 for small groups of people who spend a lot of time together. As a couple, it was fantastic. We could easily share the book and it was always remarkable when Lisa easily saw a path forward that was completely invisible to me (and vice-versa). If I was going to attempt this book with 3 or 4 people, I’d consider purchasing a second copy just to make sure that everyone could participate.

It is possible to solve Journal29 without destroying it, but you’d have to work very hard and probably photocopy many of the pages to do so. Jorunal29 was designed for destruction and that was absolutely fine with us.

Grab your copy of Journal29, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you to Amanda Harris for giving us a fresh copy of Journal29. You’ve brought us hours of entertainment.

(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.)

 

Enigma – Mission Enigma [Review]

3 floors of adventure.

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Date played: August 27, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 15,000 HUF ($58) per team

Story & setting

Our team of highly trained thieves was breaking into a facility to steal a mysterious object known as Enigma (no, not that Enigma).

In-game: A rope chained a locked in a maze along the ceiling. A world map in the background.

Staged within a 3-story home in a residential neighborhood, Mission Enigma was a heist adventure where we had to improvise our way through the building’s security, steal our objective, and escape with it. The set design was spotty. Some portions looked intriguing, while others simply looked like part of the old building. Some portions were old in an interesting way; others just looked rundown.

Puzzles

Most of the puzzles were deeply integrated into the environment and facilitated the large-scale adventure of Mission Enigma. One segment of the room escape shifted focus to the more traditional search-and-puzzle escape room design.

Standouts

Mission Enigma integrated mental and physical challenges into an engaging adventure. The completion of this adventure – after having finished everything that the 3-story space had to offer – felt like a true accomplishment.

Engima manipulated the gamespace into some exciting and surprising reveals. This was done mechanically, through simple custom-built machines. They created intrigue in what could easily have been an expansive and uninteresting space.

We enjoyed the puzzling in this escape room’s opening set.

When an alarm triggered due to a misstep, it had consequences.

The final act was exhilarating.

Shortcomings

Mission Enigma would benefit from more puzzle gating. It was easy to attempt to move ahead before we’d acquired all the pieces necessary for additional forward progress.

Since Mission Enigma was primarily focused on physical and mental puzzling, the occasional and random searching tasks felt out of place. In a large set where most game elements were presented, searching felt like pixel hunting.

It’s hard to recommend a team size for Mission Engima. In the first half of the experience, the space was too expansive for a team of only 2 players (but we made it work). We spent just as much time traversing it as solving puzzles. Near the end, however, this room escape bottlenecked such that only 1 or 2 players could actively participate at a time. Since these were the types of interactions that necessitate building mastery, it wouldn’t benefit the team to “give someone else a turn to try.”

I came out of Mission Enigma rather banged up.

At 90 minutes in length, Mission Enigma was large but still felt like it could have used another challenge or two.

Should I play Enigma’s Mission Enigma?

The grand scale of Mission Enigma’s gamespace and the breadth of challenges within it – cerebral, physical, mechanical, spatial, and others – made this escape room a formidable opponent. Although we weren’t pressed for time at the end, mission completion truly felt like a triumph. The victory felt earned.

Mission Enigma captured excitement and adventure through puzzling. With a little additional attention to gameflow and set aesthetics and polish, Enigma could take this escape room just a bit further.

Both new players and experienced players alike will likely enjoy Mission Enigma. Work together where you can and be patient where you can’t.

Note that this escape room involved traversing full flights of stairs. Additionally, one teammate needs to be fairly agile.

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

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

Paradiso – The Memory Room [Review]

More than meets the eye.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: September 12, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $35 per ticket

Story & setting

The Memory Room was the second chapter of Paradiso’s saga about the secrets of the elusive Virgil Corporation. We had discovered that Virgil Corporation was researching the human mind and we aimed to save one of their research subjects.

In-game: A dark room with featuring a table lit dramatically with 4 boxes, each with a card greeting a different player.

Upon first glance, The Memory Room looked unremarkable. From the largely blank walls, to the minimalist seating, to the single table set with player greetings, the space appeared practically empty. This stood in sharp contrast to the detailed sets of Paradiso’s first escape room. It turned out that there was far more complexity hiding in The Memory Room than was initially apparent.

Puzzles

The puzzles required astute observation. As the setting transformed and introduced a character and puzzles, we needed to carefully observe, build connections, and make sense of what we were seeing. The Memory Room included more abstract thinking.

While of the most puzzles resolved in a physical lock, there were a few more unusual methods of triggering solutions.

Standouts

While The Memory Room initially appeared unexciting, especially in comparison to the grand staging of Paradiso’s first chapter, The Escape Test, it surprised us. Behind the minimalistic facade, it turned out to be unusual and complex.

The Memory Room introduced a design concept we’d been awaiting for more than 2 years. Paradiso used the unadorned space as a canvas. With technology, they transformed this simple gamespace into a dynamic story and puzzle component.

We’ve never seen another escape room like this one.

In The Memory Room, Paradiso introduced a character whose presence helped build narrative and drive gameplay. The actor in this role was both engaging and withdrawn, intriguing and inaccessible. She was outstanding.

The Memory Room dove deeper into the workings of Paradiso’s Virgil Corporation. The gameplay unlocked a story.

Shortcomings

Although The Memory Room told a story, many of our teammates didn’t fully understand what had transpired. As a standalone experience, The Memory Room didn’t fully communicate to the players what they’d effected and how this connected to the Virgil Corporation.

The set wasn’t particularly well fabricated. More polished construction would improve the stark contrast between the seemingly barren physical space and the complex experience within it.

The Memory Room included one safe-style spinning combination lock that lacked adequate in-game operation instructions. This was incredibly frustrating… and it’s worth noting that spinning safe locks are generally frustrating devices.

Should I play Paradiso’s The Memory Room?

The Memory Room was a unique standalone room escape experience. It manipulated a gamespace, turning a simple setting into an unexpected myriad of environments. We’d never seen anything like it.

The Memory Room had fun and satisfying puzzles, most of which resolved through physical gameplay components.

David and I played Paradiso’s more theatrical Path of Beatrice add-on experience (review forthcoming) in the week leading up to our booking at The Memory Room. The add-on Path of Beatrice enhanced our experience in The Memory Room. Our playthrough included some additional character interaction, which was really exciting. Furthermore, we had a better grasp of the Virgil Corporation, its research initiatives, and our goals.

We didn’t tell our teammates for The Memory Room that we’d been engaged with the Virgil Corporation for few days already. We wondered whether they’d notice that we were executing sneaky side missions. Our friends never realized that anything out of the ordinary had occurred, but they did enjoy the differences once we explained them over dinner.

The Memory Room offered something different in terms of the set and story behind the puzzling and the role of an actor. (Review these tips for playing room escapes with live actors.)

If you’re looking for a grand scale, outrageous set pieces, and large tangible interactions, this won’t be your favorite escape room.

If you’re interested in more cerebral puzzling, as you’re led through an unusual story and a changing environment, visit The Memory Room. It will be memorable.

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

Full disclosure: Paradiso comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment – Revisited

Back in the old, innocent days of February 2016, Lisa and and I were a month away from our wedding when we received a message from Julianna and Ariel, the creators of Escape Room In A Box. They asked, and I’m paraphrasing:

“We’re about to launch a play-at-home escape room on Kickstarter. Will you promote it?”

Now we were not sold on this and thought it seemed like a pretty terrible idea. We’d seen our share of bad escape rooms and the last thing that we wanted to do was blindly promote a pile of garbage, so we responded:

“Nope, we won’t promote it… but we would review it if you could get one to us.”

We thought that would be the end of the discussion, but Julianna and Ariel said “sure” and overnighted the game to us.

We gathered our regular team, plus a newbie (as we generally try to include fresh eyes). While everyone was skeptical at the beginning, no one was at the conclusion. This was the review that I wrote then (in our old, non-standardized format):

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment [Review]

Revisiting The Werewolf Experiment

Some 20 months later we gathered a new group of escape room lovers, cooked them risotto, baked them cookies, and watched them play the Kickstarter First Edition of Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment.

In-game: The stop warning, time will begin as soon as the panel is lifted.

While The Werewolf Experiment was our first attempt at a tabletop escape game, this new group of players had seen many of the at-home escape rooms on the market. We worried it wouldn’t hold up, but they had a great time.

Assorted illustrations and the box tied off with rope.

I’m happy to report that we’re able to let that old review stand with a few additions:

  • The packaging in the Kickstarter edition was dramatically improved from the prototype that we played.
  • The art, illustration, and general presentation of the Kickstarter edition were cohesive and massively improved. (I don’t really remember any in-game art in the prototype.)
  • I didn’t know enough about at-home escape room games to comment on the hint system at the time. Now I can add that the hint system is easy to use and a lot less annoying than most of the tabletop escape game hint systems.
  • We also called out that many of the puzzles were paper based and felt a little homework-y. While I think that style of puzzle is more acceptable in a tabletop game than a real life escape room, I also think that those puzzle types will stand out even more nearly 2 years later.
  • We found a minor typo in the hint & answer booklets.
  • This game still has some of the most brilliant escape room-y moments in all of tabletop escape games.

In-game: 2 locked tins, and one locked antidote bag.

 

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment, Mattel Edition

This November, the retail version of The Werewolf Experiment will hit store shelves as the game was picked up by Mattel.

Box art for Mattel's Escape Room in a Box.

The new edition will cost $29.99 and we will run a test group through it as well.

Kickstarter lateness

Some closing thoughts on the nature of Kickstarter:

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment shipped roughly 7 months late and some folks have expressed resentment to Lisa and me over this. Not directed at us, but in our direction.

I’d like to take a moment to praise Julianna and Ariel for shipping within a year of their expected ship date and handling their Kickstarter with professionalism and grace. They kept in regular contact with their backers and focused on delivering a quality product. They did just that.

Lateness and Kickstarter go together like steel toilets and hidden keys. I backed something in November of 2014 and it was supposed to ship in March of 2015… and in October 2017, the dude is still working on it.

Backing something on Kickstarter is like paying someone in advance to keep a pinky swear. When a Kickstarter ships within a year of its expected date and turns out to be what was promised in the initial description, that’s a win.

While we’re on the subject of Kickstarter, have a look at our analysis of escape room crowdfunding efforts:

Should you Crowdfund an Escape Room? A Data-Driven Look

Final Escape – Prison Break [Review]

Escape Stasi prison.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 3, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 79€ per team Mon-Thurs, 99€ per team Fri-Sun, 20€ discount for 2-player teams

Story & setting

Arrested and locked up by the Stasi, the East German secret police, we had to follow the clues left behind by other dissidents and escape prison.

In-game: A prison cell with a small bed, toilet, and table.

Final Escape’s Prison Break set was mighty compelling. It was a detailed, bleak jail experience with hidden complexity. We’ve often joked about all prison sets looking the same, but some really do stand out, and this was one of them.

Puzzles

Early on, much of the challenge was in determining how to make progress within the minimalist confines of prison. The later potion of Prison Break included more complex and involved puzzling.

Standouts

Prison Break offered more than initially met the eye. The spatial design and progression built drama into this escape room.

Final Escape designed the puzzles to feel like hacking. We had to make use of our limited resources to break ourselves out.

From the puzzles, to the resource management, to the exit itself, we enjoyed how the final act of Prison Break felt plausible.

The final puzzle sequence was fantastic.

Shortcomings

Prison Break was a linear escape room. With only one puzzle to work on at a time, when it slowed, it came to a halt.

Final Escape didn’t build a lot of clue structure into these puzzles. Prison Break wouldn’t have stalled as much if there was just a bit more path between the various interactions.

Should I play Final Escape’s Prison Break?

Prison Break followed a narrative arc. We had to cobble together an escape with only the limited materials in our prison cells. As we moved through the escape room, the set changed, but still required us to work within the confines of a plausible space to craft a breakout. In this way, Prison Break felt more like an adventure than many escape rooms.

On the flip side, the puzzles were in making the connections. In general, they weren’t particularly complex or cerebral. I would have loved it if Final Escape had built more clue structure into this escape room and added another puzzle or two to fill the time.

Prison Break is an escape room for those seeking action and adventure over intense puzzling. Note that you have to crouch and crawl to move about this escape room. If that kind of sneaking around and hacking your way through seems exciting, I fully recommend Prison Break.

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

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Flow Escape Game – Earning the Holy Grail [Review]

Foreign yet familiar.

Location: Debrecen, Hungary

Date played: August 31, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 10,000 HUF ($39) per team of 2, 12,000 HUF ($58) per team of 3-4, 3,000 HUF ($12) for each additional person

Story & setting

We were on a quest for the Holy Grail. We started our quest in a marketplace, from which we would make our way into the castle to retrieve our prize.

In-game: A medieval marketplace with baskets of items and a balance. There is dirt and hay on the ground.

Flow Escape Game built Earning the Holy Grail into the old brick wine cellar of a building in a residential neighborhood. They relied on the building itself for much of the dramatic aesthetic. I left Hungary with the impression that these old wine cellars are fairly unremarkable to locals, but as foreigners we found them both unusual and enjoyable.

Puzzles

Earning the Holy Grail required searching, making connections, and layered puzzling.

Standouts

The majority of the set pieces in Flow Escape Game were custom construction. Most of these housed interesting and sometimes unexpected mechanisms that facilitated fun interactions.

 

We really enjoyed the final act of Earning the Holy Grail. The tangible and interactive puzzles led to fun reveals. The puzzling flowed well and the outcome was exciting.

The basement that housed Earning the Holy Grail included some oddly shaped spaces. Flow Escape Game built interesting puzzles into some of these places. These were creative and unique puzzle designs.

Shortcomings

Earning the Holy Grail also included one rather expansive space. It was mainly outfitted with uninteresting furniture and an assortment of props. There were far too many small details to find in this one massive room.

Earning the Holy Grail included multiple trick locks. These are incredible puzzles unto themselves, but don’t belong in escape rooms without built-in clues. These seemed especially out of place given the custom locking mechanisms that Flow Escape Game built into other parts of this room escape.

While we really enjoyed many of the puzzles in Earning the Holy Grail, they sometimes lacked connective tissue. Just a little more clue structure would make this adventure flow more smoothly.

Should I play Flow Escape Game’s Earning the Holy Grail?

Debrecen is located on the Great Hungarian Plain, about 3 hours east of Budapest by train. We had traveled to Debrecen because I was speaking at a conference about my work as an onomastician. While in town, we visited one escape room.

Earning the Holy Grail included fun puzzles, especially those built into interesting custom construction. We recommend that Flow Escape Game lean into their talents and integrate more large, tangible interactions as well as a bit more clue structure. There is an interesting and exciting escape game here.

While Flow Escape Game does run games in English, the English-speaking gamemaster was unavailable during our short visit to Debrecen. The owner, who only spoke Hungarian, brought in a friend (who had never played, or even seen an escape room) to translate for us. Both the owner and the translator went out of their way for us and we truly appreciate it. It was a wonderfully strange end to the trip’s Hungarian escape room adventures.

If you find yourself in Debrecen, we recommend Earning the Holy Grail.

Book your hour with Flow Escape Game’s Earning the Holy Grail, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

 

The Room – The Lost Treasure [Review]

Lived up to the hype.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 4, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 24€ per ticket for 5 players

Story & setting

A construction crew repairing a Humboldt University building had found a mysterious vault that was not in the blueprints. The government had tapped our archeology team to uncover the secrets contained within its depths.

Our Indiana Jones meets Warehouse 13 meets The Goonies adventure ensued after we navigated our way through a narrow maze and entering a mysterious ancient chamber.

In-game: an assortment of steam punkish items, the Philosopher's Stone, and a glowing bowl of purple orbs.

The Lost Treasure’s set was world-class. It was detailed and gorgeous with hidden nooks and interactions laced throughout the gamespace.

In-game: A light passing through a number of focal points and then reflecting off of a mirror as a beautiful hazy beam.

Puzzles

The Lost Treasure was a fantastic puzzle game. We had plenty to solve and the challenges were real, but fair. Additionally, the puzzles were born of the environment and the adventure.

In-game: An ancient chamber with a large ruined turn table, and assorted animal samples, documents, and books.
I wish this came out a little sharper, but the light fog in the space made wider shots a little difficult.

Most puzzles required or encouraged at least 2 players’ cooperation to resolve.

The Room didn’t beat us over the head with exposition and story. They did, however, enable us to feel our own narrative arc as we worked through the experience.

Standouts

Almost everything…

As mentioned above, the set design was world-class. It was hyper-detailed, but it never felt confusing or burdened with red herrings.

In-game: A collection of beautiful crystals, and stones.

The puzzles were challenging, fair, and well executed.

The interactions, reveals, and general use of technology were phenomenal.

The sound design was among the best that we’ve heard… not that there are all that many companies even striving to include top tier audio.

With a small exception below, the lighting was dramatic and useful.

The use of space, select use of darkness, set transitions, and the overall layout of The Lost Treasure were brilliant.

In-game: an ancient map beside a golden bell.

The historical, mythological, and pop cultural Easter eggs in The Lost Treasure were entertaining and fit well in the game.

The entire final act of The Lost Treasure was fantastic. You are going to want to win this game because the sequence of events at the end blew us away.

Shortcomings

There was one interaction that triggered its feedback a little too early. As a result, I didn’t fully complete the interaction which made for a minor complication that Lisa was petite enough to sneak past. If the feedback came upon the absolute completion of the interaction, this would eliminate the issue entirely.

Our flashlight was a little funky and difficult to control in The Lost Treasure. It’s difficult to discuss without minor spoilers, most of which you learn in the game’s briefing:

Minor flashlight spoiler

We had a sort of haunted flashlight that would disable in certain areas of the game and stay dead for a little while. The effect was cool, but when we wanted a flashlight, it almost never worked, and we never truly needed one anyway. We simply abandoned it.

[collapse]

The Room’s The Lost Treasure cannot be enjoyed by all players. The game has many tight spaces and you physically have to pass through a narrow passageway to even enter the game. Their booking website is up-front about this stating:

“All players must

  • pass through narrow passages
  • be fit and healthy
  • not have a fear of darkness
  • not suffer from claustrophobia and asthma”

The sizing issue is real and the narrow passageway at the beginning ensures that people who will get stuck in the game cannot even begin it. There are a lot of great things that happen in The Lost Treasure as a direct result of these design decisions, but it’s also a shame that there are some escape room players who simply will never be able to play it.

Should I play The Room’s The Lost Treasure?

If you can fit into The Lost Treasure and aren’t claustrophobic, then without a doubt, you should go play this escape room.

In-game: An assortment of animal samples with a large stuffed bird staring into the camera.

You’ll need at least one or two players who can crawl and are not afraid of the dark to make it through this adventure.

The Lost Treasure was one of the most hyped games that we’ve played to date; it resoundingly beat our expectations.

Lisa and I played this on our own and we methodically tag-teamed nearly every puzzle, taking our time and milking it for all it was worth. When we won in the final minutes, we didn’t want to leave.

I can comfortably declare that to date, I have never had this much fun in an escape room… and this was my 405th escape game.

If you’re near Berlin, please go play The Lost Treasure.

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

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: The Room comped our tickets for this game.