Escape Room Zandvoort – The Gold Mine [Review]

Cave in.

Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €59 per group of 2 players to €119 per group of 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Gold Mine was at its best when we solved collaborative puzzles through interesting and tangible interactions. While we were frustrated by the lighting dynamic that persisted throughout the experience, we generally enjoyed the puzzles in this underground workspace.

If you are in Zandvoort, it’s worth stopping in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo of the team beside mining carts. David and Lisa are peaking out from behind a post.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who are comfortable in dim lighting

Why play?

  • Collaborative puzzles
  • Exciting conclusion
  • The post-game photos

Story

Almost 200 years ago, this Amazonian gold mine had collapsed. Now, however, a persistent archeologist had succeeded in reopening the mine. He believed there would be gold sitting undiscovered in its depths. Despite local superstitions warning us that the mine might not be safe, we ventured in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo with the team riding a mining cart like it's a rollercoaster.

Setting

The Gold Mine was dark and gritty. It felt like an underground workspace, complete with tight spaces and low doorways. We were glad to have helmets.

Gameplay

Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Post game green screen photo of the team in a mine about to detonate dynamite.

Analysis

+ As we solved the puzzles, we furthered our mission in the mine. We appreciated how the puzzles moved the narrative forward.

– Before we entered the mine, the “team leader” received a special helmet-mounted UV light. The rest of us entered with flashlights. While we never enjoy searching an entire space for UV cluing, we were particularly put off by the team dynamic created by the tool imbalance and the room lighting. David, who’d volunteered to lead our expedition, felt like he was constantly asking us all to turn off our lights, or shine them in a different direction. The rest of us felt we couldn’t play freely because we kept having to step aside for the UV searching.

+ The Gold Mine had a great transition.

– We didn’t always know when we’d solved a puzzle. The Gold Mine would benefit from spring-loaded releases or pointed lighting to signal opens.

+ There wasn’t a ton of light in this mine, but sometimes it gave us an interesting perspective.

+ We enjoyed the collaborative nature of the late-game puzzles.

– By the time we escaped, we’d had enough of the looping soundtrack.

+ Escape Room Zandvoort took fantastic postgame photos set against their green screen.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • There are adorable restaurants along the beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the escape room.
  • Do not wear nice clothing. You will get a bit dusty in this mine.
  • The helmets were necessary. Beware of the low doorway.

Book your hour with Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Zandvoort provided media discounted tickets for this game.

PostCurious – The Tale of Ord [Review]

By Odin’s Beard!

Location: at home

Date Played: June 2018

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

Duration: 3-4 hours per package; we recommend splitting each package into multiple sessions

Price: $165 for a total of 4 monthly packages

REA Reaction

PostCurious’ The Tale of Ord wove an epic tale through interconnected narrative and puzzle components, delivered in a series of four parcels. As The Tale of Ord progressed, the density and challenge grew dramatically. We loved the grand vision in this smart, innovative, and tightly-written saga.

While the depth was impressive, PostCurious occasionally struggled to narrow the focus for puzzle play.

We highly recommend The Tale of Ord to puzzlers who welcome a substantial mystery. It’s a worthy commitment. Don’t try to play this one casually or Loki will have a good laugh at your expense.

A notebook reads, "The key in learning is from your mistakes" beside an assortment of items from the box.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some puzzling experience

Why play?

  • Brilliant, challenging puzzles
  • A well-designed hint and answer verification system
  • Efficient narrative storytelling woven into the components
  • A ton of content

Story

Two professors from the Emerens Institute had gone missing. We’d been hired as private investigators to track them down through their research, writing, and study of Norse mythology. Along the way, we found a deeper, supernatural mystery.

Setup

We had received four monthly packages, filled with letters, documents, and mysterious items.

The vast majority of the components were paper-based and carefully designed. The packages also included a variety of unusual components, which culminated in a remarkably clever puzzle box.

In-game: A keychain, a collection of pills, and an engraved wooden medallion.

Gameplay

PostCurious’ The Tale of Ord was a puzzle-focused, narrative-driven at-home puzzle game with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around making connections and puzzling. Completing The Tale of Ord was an accomplishment.

In-game: A card with a complex knot pattern, on top of an unusual paper maze of some sort.Analysis

+ #$%^ Tale of Ord was tightly written. Seriously. When we reread everything after finishing the game, all was revealed. The level of clarity that we had in our second reading was nuts.

+ PostCurious created a broad array of puzzles with shocking precision. There were more than a few instances where we paused to reflect on how well a puzzle design came together.

+ The clue and game instructions were naturally embedded throughout the various letters and readings provided by PostCurious. This technique inspired our approach to the puzzle that we hid in the Escape, Immerse, Explore: New Orleans Tour.

+Tale of Ord balanced puzzles and story. Pure lore flowed seamlessly into puzzles.

+ The props, whether they were made of paper or something more elaborate, were thoughtfully designed. They felt like they belonged.

? We knew we’d need a computer with an internet connection to play. We hadn’t realized the extent to which a computer would be necessary.

Tale of Ord was framed up as 4 chapters, but it felt more like 8. It would have benefitted from additional natural break points. After we found ourselves burning out from solving each chapter in one sitting, we started creating our own breakpoints. The content was great, but the chunks were too big.

+ The hint system was structured and easy to use. The hints asked us questions before bluntly delivering answers, which we appreciated. This allowed us to earn most of a solve, even when we needed a nudge.

+ PostCurious included an answer verification tool with the hint system. This let us know when we were close or had a correct answer. This was a massive improvement over most of the other mail-delivered games that we’ve played, where we’ve frequently found ourselves unsure of our solutions with no easy method of finding clarity. This was so well done; it should be an industry standard.

– We occasionally struggled with expectations. Initially it seemed like each box was self-contained… until it wasn’t. PostCurious generally did a good job of making it clear when we needed to reference back to past materials, but some of them had us tied up in knots.

– Most chapters had a spot or two where the clue structure felt tenuous and weak. Sometimes the puzzles were especially tough to start; others felt like a stretch to extract a solution. These became particularly frustrating, especially when we were at the tail end of a long session and trying to close out a chapter.

+ Box two cautioned us to “solve it during the daytime.” That instruction was worth heeding. The hint system had a bypass for those who cannot play during the day, but you should know that if you bypass that puzzle, you’re doing Tale of Ord wrong.

+ The list of characters was pretty short. After having played other games that were constantly introducing new characters, this narrative simplicity was a gift from the gods.

+ At its best (which was often), Tale of Ord had beautifully layered puzzles providing elaborate challenges that exceeded what we have come to expect from both escape rooms and subscription puzzle games. Solving these puzzles felt so good.

In-game: a beautiful, intricate laser engraved/ laser cut wooden puzzle box.

+ The final puzzle and its components were beautiful. What a way to close the loop on an epic tale.

Tips for Playing

  • Chapter 2 must be played during the daytime. Curious, right?
  • Keep track of all your work and solutions. You will need to visit some of them again.
  • You’ll need a computer; a smart phone just doesn’t cut it.
  • The Tale of Ord was a serious commitment. Don’t approach it haphazardly.

Order your copy of PostCurious’ The Tale of Ord, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PostCurious sent us a complimentary reviewer’s copy of this game.

 

Brainwright – Cat Stax & Dog Pile [Review]

🐈🐕🐈🐕🐈🐕🐈🐕

Location: anywhere

Date Played: June 2018

Team size: 1

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $12 purr box

REA Reaction

Cat Stax & Dog Pile are adorably themed packing puzzles with a three-dimensional twist. As a puzzler who isn’t particularly skilled at packing puzzles, I enjoyed the difficulty curve and found my skills and approach to this puzzle style improve with practice. Plus, I liked the pieces.

Both games follow the same rules and structure, but each contains unique piece shapes and puzzle layouts. Feel free to pick the box that appeals most to you or buy both.

If I had to pick one, I’d recommend going for Cat Stax. I found it easier to work with the piece shapes and it came with a mapping to show how to put the pieces away.

The Dog Pile & Cat Stax boxes.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Dog & cat people
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Cat Stax & Dog Pile are good packing puzzles with a wide range of difficulty
  • The dog and cat pieces are adorable
  • They offer a lot of puzzle play at a low price point

Story

There’s no story here.

Setup

Cat Stax & Dog Pile are two different flavors of packing puzzle with a 3D twist.

Packing puzzles are spatial puzzles where the solver has a grid and a series of pieces that must be fit within that grid. There isn’t really any complexity in the concept. The challenge is in figuring out how to arrange the pieces correctly.

Each Cat Stax & Dog Pile box contains:

  • 12 dogs or cats
  • 48 puzzle challenges
  • a sealable case that measures 5.1 x 3.3 x 1.5 inches

Note that the animal shapes and puzzles are different between the two versions.

Cat Stax & Dog Pile add a twist to the packing puzzle concept in the form of piling/ stacking. These puzzles begin two dimensionally and eventually give way to mind-bending, interwoven, three-dimensional packing puzzles.

The assortment of Cat Stax cat figures.

Gameplay

Brainwright’s Cat Stax & Dog Pile were fairly standard packing puzzles with a wide range of difficulty levels, from “that was simple” to “I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever solve this.” The harder challenges incorporated the piling/ stacking twist.

Core gameplay revolved exclusively around spatial awareness and experimentation.

Analysis

+ The dog & cat figures were super cute.

+ The unusual shapes lent themselves to challenging puzzles.

+ If you’re good at packing puzzles, the third dimension ramped up the difficulty.

– If you’re not great at packing puzzles, the third dimension ramped up the difficulty.

+ The lid of the box made for a good play area.

– For some reason that was unclear, Dog Pile did not contain an image of the right way to pack the figures away. (Cat Stax did include this.) For reference, this is how to pack away the pups.

The assortment of Dog Pile dog figures.
Dog Pile box arrangement for reference.

Tips for Visiting

  • Double check that you have pulled the right pieces out for each puzzle.
  • If you purchase both, don’t mix up your dogs and cats.

Purchase your copy of Brainwright’s Cat Stax or Dog Pile, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Brainwright provided samples for review.

(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.)

Real Life Gaming – Prison Escape (Exclusive English Edition) [Review]

80 actors, 170 players, 1 actual prison.

Location: Breda, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 10, 2018

Team size: up to 400 players; we recommend ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 3 hours

Price: €79.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Very public

REA Reaction

Prison Escape was no escape room; it was a massive and intense roleplaying game with 80 talented actors and a gigantic cast of players. Prison Escape was a living, breathing entity, an organism with systems that impacted one another. A disruption here trickled down to there.

From their extensive prison intake introduction, to the various escape conspiracies, Prison Escape was a factory that produced individual moments for its players to experience. Some of those moments were epic; others were dull snippets of prison life. They all came together to form a story arc for each player.

The planning, coordination, and care that went into Prison Escape was mind-boggling. When we stop to think about what they have achieved, it’s impossible to be anything but impressed.Lisa's Prison Escape mugshot in an orange jump suit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • LARPers or people who are willing to be social
  • Players who are comfortable knowing that they will not experience most of the things that this game has to offer

Why play?

  • Fairly open-ended gameplay where with some luck, you’ll get out of it what you put into it
  • Playing a prison escape game in an actual prison
  • The actors were phenomenal.
  • Prison Escape was truly massive in scope.

Story

We were all new convicts serving 10-year sentences in the Breda Prison Dome. We could either find a way to make a new life behind bars or attempt to escape.

The crowd of 180 players gathered outside of the Breda Prison Dome.

Setting

Prison Escape was played in and around the Breda Prison Dome, the retired prison that also hosted Up The Game. While some key components like prison locks had been removed from the structure, this was an otherwise authentic setting. It would have been impossible to ask more of the set.

The Prison Dome was massive, imposing, and strangely beautiful. While we had just spent two days in this building for the conference, it felt a lot less friendly under these circumstances, devoid of stage lighting, booths, and conference infrastructure.

David's Prison Escape mugshot in an grey jump suit.

Gameplay

Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape was not an escape room at all. Prison Escape was something between a real life game and an immersive theater.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, conversation, and a willingness to take action.

Exterior of the Breda Prison Dome with barred windows and barbed wire.

Analysis

This is an ever-evolving production so these points may not be relevant. If you’re planning to play Prison Escape, I strongly encourage you to skip the spoiler boxes below as the information contained therein may impact the way you choose to play the game.

Have your own experience first. Then return to read the rest of this review. You’ve been warned. 

+ The Breda Prison Dome was a phenomenal venue. This setting that had felt friendly days before was suddenly foreboding. It was an incredible transformation back to its natural state.

Prison Escape had an imposing introduction. It established the game world. It put us in character and costume. The prison warden delivered a badass welcome to hell speech.

Introduction - Discussion

+ The costumes – both ours and the actors’ – further solidified our characters in this experience. The prison guards had a clever technique for efficiently getting each prisoner into a prison jumpsuit that fit them perfectly, without ever disrupting the intense introductory sequence or breaking the fiction.

– The introduction took a long time. We spent a good portion of the first third of Prison Escape standing at attention. The novelty wore off quickly and discomfort set in.

– The grand introduction didn’t matter all that much. Prison Escape shattered that world just as soon as they had established it. We played the rest of the experience in a much looser, more zany prison world. As players, we had a bit of trouble accepting this transition. For quite some time, we were convinced that the harsh reality of the introduction would return. It didn’t. This dramatically impacted our understanding of the game’s world.

[collapse]

Prison Escape set up epic individual moments. As an individual (or a small group), we’d be dispatched to accomplish a task that would be central to one of the plot threads. We had to come up with our own strategy and proceed. Succeed or fail, Prison Escape created memorable individual moments. For both of us, and most people we’ve talked to, these were the highlights of the experience.

Mid-Game Discussion

+ Prison Escape left a lot of breadcrumbs to lead players into a plot thread of their own. From found objects to the actors, if we observed carefully and made some basic connections, we’d find a plot thread to follow. Prison Escape worked hard to ensure that every player – even those with no experience in this type of gameplay – could engage with it.

+/- The different plot threads affected one another dramatically. When one plot succeeded long before it was intended to, it shattered another plot thread that hinged on an affected character. One group’s win caused another group to fail.

– After a certain point, if a plot thread failed, there was nothing else to do in Prison Escape. There came a point where it was impossible to break into the other storylines. There were no new plots taking shape. When David’s plot was disrupted midway through, there was no more fun to be had at Prison Escape

[collapse]

+/- Many of the escape plots were comically ridiculous. This was a ton of fun. It was strange, however, when juxtaposed with the serious tone established in the introduction.

End-Game - Discussion

– The few dozen people who didn’t escape didn’t get an end to their story. They got to watch another group’s plot resolve, but they weren’t participants anymore, only onlookers. They didn’t get a conclusion. We don’t recommend that everyone win. We do recommend that everyone receive an interactive ending.

– About 80% of the participants in our play-through escaped the prison. This seemed like a high number. It diminished the victory for those who succeed and added insult to those who did not. While the escape was fun, the best moments of the experience weren’t in achieving victory. We don’t think everyone needs to escape to enjoy Prison Escape. There was a missed opportunity to catch some plots in action and bring back the intensity of the introduction.

[collapse]

+ The actors were phenomenal. Furthermore, they were all speaking in their second language. This was the first time Real Life Gaming had run Prison Escape in English. We were seriously impressed with the English and the acting, especially all of the improvisation.

+ In Prison Escape, we were responsible for our own experiences, to a point. If we observed, conversed, played, strategized, and engaged, it could be a truly epic experience.

? In Prison Escape, the game structure was responsible for our experiences, to a point. There was a fair bit of luck involved in getting started. The actions of actors and other players would also affect our experiences, both negatively and positively. We weren’t entirely in control of our own destiny, which made sense in a prison.

Prison Escape is not consistent. It is not a stock experience, David and I had profoundly different experiences. Your game will be unique, as will your individual experiences within it.

The Breda Prison Dome lit at night.

Tips for Playing

  • Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of standing at attention.
  • Do not wear a skirt or dress.
  • Bring as few personal effects as you can. You’ll be locking them in lockers during the experience.
  • Be open to the highs and lows of the experience.
  • Take action. You have to actively play if you want anything to happen.

Book your event with Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Life Gaming provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Adventure Rooms New Jersey – The Hidden Cabin [Review]

Fish’in for Fabergé.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date Played: June 4, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

A fishing and art collecting themed mashup, The Hidden Cabin was an old-school search-and-puzzle escape room set against an unusual backdrop. Adventure Rooms made some big strides towards the current market expectations, but things didn’t come together quite smoothly enough (but a lot of it is fixable). While we wished the puzzles had been more deliberately integrated into the physical environment, we really did enjoy many of the puzzle solves.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can catch some fun puzzles here. If you’re not excited about puzzle-focused gameplay, there are other fish in the sea.

In-game: A small desk in a fishing cabin.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Fishermen (This isn’t really a joke.)
  • Art collectors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strange theme
  • The more interactive puzzles

Story

We were looking for a stolen Fabergé egg in our uncle’s fishing cabin.

A collection of pots hanging from a cabinet in the a rustic cabin.

Setting

This dimly-lit, wood-furnished cabin contained assorted fishing paraphernalia. The set was busy, with a number of wall hangings, and shelves holding various odd and ends. It was fairly convincing in a fishing cabin-meets-Bennigan’s sort of way.

In-game: A cabinet ore, and taxidermied fish hanging on the wall of a fishing cabin.

Gameplay

Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: the LL Bean Fly Fishing Handbook.

Analysis

+ It had been almost 3 years since we’d last visited Adventure Rooms New Jersey. We were delighted to find more attention to set design in The Hidden Cabin, as compared to their original escape rooms.

– The lighting was unnecessarily dim. While we did find small handheld flashlights, we found the lighting more burdensome than atmospheric.

– The theming was strangely dichotomous. The story setup was all about art, but The Hidden Cabin was all about fishing… until it was entirely about art. The puzzles were set against this disconnected backdrop rather than integrated into a cohesive story.

+ Aesthetically, The Hidden Cabin was a massive step up for Adventure Rooms.

– There were a lot of locks with identical digit structures. Each time we solved a puzzle, we’d need to try it in many different locks before anything opened. Varying input digit structure or adding iconography to the locks would improve game flow.

– There was a prop screaming for a puzzle… that puzzle never materialized.

– There was one entirely unclued puzzle.

– Most of the puzzles could haven taken place anywhere, including on sheets of paper. In fact, some of the more time-consuming solves were entirely focused on sheets of paper. The puzzle design didn’t capitalize on the physical environment. All but one of the puzzles in this game could have existed completely in a puzzle book.

– One of the process puzzles looped four times. This was tedious.

? Thematic outside knowledge could help you out… It wasn’t required, but it sure would have made a key puzzle flow more smoothly.

The Hidden Cabin was a puzzle-focused escape room. Despite the small space, there was a lot of content to work through.

? There’s a solid escape room here. These critiques are quite fixable. We hope Adventure Rooms continues to iterate and improve.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Ani Ramen and Cuban Pete’s, but be prepared for long waits.
  • Much of this escape room takes place in low lighting with flashlights.

Book your hour with Adventure Rooms New Jersey’s The Hidden Cabin, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Adventure Rooms New Jersey provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Challenge – The Freakshow [Review]

Step on up. Come one, come all. This is a show that you won’t want to miss.

Location: Delft, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 – €129 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Freakshow was an intense and physical journey through a twisted circus. Escape Challenge created yet another special game that wound us through a wide variety of sets and scenes as we sought our freedom.

This fast-paced game was not for the faint of heart or body, as it required a bit of balance and dexterity that exceeded the typical demands of an escape game.

There was so much to love in The Freakshow; if you’re anywhere near Delft, please do yourself a favor and play this game.

In-game: The ominous entry way to the fortune teller's wooden trailer.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • People without mobility difficulties
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful and heavily varied sets.
  • Physical puzzles and challenges
  • Tons of memorable moments

Story

We had been abducted by the carnies. They would force us to perform in their circus freakshow if we couldn’t escape before their next show ended.

In-game: Advertisements for different freakshow performances including Big Hera and New Spidora.

Setting

Freakshow looked great. It took us through multiple set changes. Each new location established a fresh look and new challenges. It was heavily detailed and remarkably immersive with quite a few memorable settings.

Gameplay

Escape Challenge’s The Freakshow was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, physical activity, and puzzling.

In-game: A series of boxes and props from the freakshow beside a wooden trailer. There is a rabbit in a top hat, and a the image of a fortune teller painted agains the wall.

Analysis

The Freakshow opened dramatically.

+ Escape Challenge expertly built tension with sound and light.

+ As we made our escape, we traversed multiple different sets, each different from the previous ones. These sets captured many different circus aesthetics.

The Freakshow felt unbalanced. We moved quickly through large spaces and spent a long time in smaller ones. While this may have been because some puzzles played more to our strengths than others, we wished our time had been allocated differently.

+ We enjoyed many of the cerebral challenges in The Freakshow. They were mostly thematic and a ton of fun.

+ The physical challenges in The Freakshow added another dimension of challenge. These were exciting. They also involved the entire group.

+/- We felt torn about one late-game segment. It was interesting and appropriately zany… but I’ve rarely wanted to get past a puzzle and a space as much as I did with that one.

– The Freakshow ended abruptly. We were in this crazy, high intensity challenge, in a ridiculous setting. All of the elements for a climax were present… and then we won. And we looked at each other wondering if that was it. The escape felt incomplete. It needed a conclusive reaction from the set, ideally something that punctuated an escape.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 1 hour from Amsterdam city center.
  • There is a parking garage across the street.
  • All players must be at least somewhat agile and able to go up and down stairs. Talk to Escape Challenge if you have balance issues.
  • There is a segment with flashing lights that might not be suitable for all players.
  • Do not wear nice shoes or clothing.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft. This escape room is in Delft.

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

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 6 [Review]

Return of the Jigsaw

Location: at home

Date Played: April 29, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run Box 6 was exciting because it started to wrap up the plot threads from previous boxes in the series. Although we were incredibly frustrated by inconsistencies in website forms, we were eager to see resolution start to take shape.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 6 with a jigsaw puzzle, a scroll, and assorted papers from the box.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Players who have completed the previous On The Run boxes

Why play?

  • You can play at home
  • Because you’re already invested in the story
  • The series starts to conclude

Story

The next stop in On The Run’s globetrotting puzzle conspiracy was Greece. On this leg of the journey we tied off a variety of loose ends, drawing ever closer to a complete understanding of the murder mystery that we’d been exploring for half a year.

Setup

In keeping with tradition, On the Run Box 6 contained an assortment of documents and evidence, with two unusual props: a small scroll and a jigsaw puzzle.

A blue and white jigsaw puzzle.

Gameplay

Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run Box 6 once again deviated from the previous boxes. This episode began with a few traditional puzzles and then shifted its focus to exploring the evidence, deducing, and unraveling the conspiracies that were the impetus for the series.

Analysis

+ The puzzles were clear and well clued.

– I love jigsaw puzzles, but I’m kind of torn on the presence of one in this series. Regardless of whether it belonged, I wish that the jigsaw puzzle was more exciting and aesthetically pleasing as it was a drab puzzle with a lot of visual noise likely to ramp up its difficulty.

– One otherwise fine puzzle suffered from imprecise printing where the font and ink/ paper selection combined to create a situation where it was incredibly difficult to tell + and ÷ symbols apart.

+ I liked the deduction portion of this box. It followed in the footsteps of the closing interactions of the previous box and it finally felt like we were doing detective work.

+ It was fantastic to finally close out some of the storylines and begin to get some closure.

– We had been meeting up with a friend in a convenient Manhattan Panera to work on the previous Dispatch boxes. As of this box, we had too much content to carry around and our friend had to trek over to our home. The On The Run boxes were mostly self-contained, but not entirely, so we felt that we had to have all of the boxes on hand in order to puzzle. This also meant that we were constantly worried that we had missed or forgotten a detail that could have been hidden somewhere among all of the previous content.

– We lost a shocking amount of time because we didn’t include a middle name in a website’s form field. This wasn’t the first time that we’d had the correct answer, but didn’t format it exactly as the website demanded. This had been annoying in the past, but in this instance it was game-shattering. Breakout, please, sort out your naming problems. Upper/ lower case shouldn’t matter. Middle names shouldn’t matter. Or if they do, establish that early and keep things consistent. 

Tips for Playing

  • Items from the previous boxes were required for solving On the Run, Box 6.

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complimentary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

The Great Escape – The Experiment [Review]

The doctor will see you now.

Location: Zwolle, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2018

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €135 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Experiment balanced horror with silliness. The Great Escape deliberately designed every moment of this escape room. While the puzzles were not narrative driven, they were fun to solve and they worked with the decor and the acting to deliver an exhilarating experience.

It’s worth traveling out of your way – and it probably is out of your way, if you’re a tourist to Amsterdam – to Zwolle to play the experiment.

In-game: the entry way for the "Wester Clinics national institute for mental health," beyond it is a lobby.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Intense actor-driven moments
  • Immersive gameplay
  • Fun and unusual interactions

Story

One of our friends had asked us to accompany him to an experiment he’d signed up for. As soon as we settled into the waiting room, we realized that this experiment was something more sinister… and we need to escape.

In-game: the lobby with a magazine wrack, chairs, and a stack of in-take forms.

Setting

We entered a medical waiting room. Chairs lined the walls. The waiting room was decorated with the typical plants, wall hangings, toys, and reading material that we would have expected. (I guess the cliched medical waiting room aesthetic is transcontinental.) All of this foreshadowed the medical theming of the rest of the experience.

Gameplay

The Great Escape’s The Experiment was an escape room that included elements of interactive theater. It had a higher level of difficulty and a high level of tension.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling, with a bit of improv as well.

In-game: a stack of intake forms in the lobby.

Analysis

+ Through acting, set design, and scent, The Great Escape built the world of The Experiment elegantly and effectively.

+ As we entered the gamespace, we were greeted with a new environment. More than the look, the smell alerted us to the nature of this experience. It worked brilliantly.

+ In the first scene, we got to know the characters. In the scripted part, the actors played off each other. This enabled The Great Escape to develop a menacing character without alarming the players. Interjected throughout the scene were the less scripted interactions with us, which further developed the characters’ roles as well as our place in the game’s world.

– While the puzzles played well, many of them felt arbitrary. They were more escape room-y than mechanisms to drive the plot forward.

+ That said, we enjoyed solving these tangible, large-scale puzzles, and their silliness contributed to the absurdity that balanced the horror-vibe.

– In one scene of The Experiment, we encountered multiple combination locks with identical digit structure. We recommend more variety to make this scene play more smoothly and not stifle forward momentum.

– Height was an advantage. One late-game puzzle presented a lot of information just slightly too high for me to comfortably work with it. The irony was that, given the type of puzzle it was, I was the natural person to solve it… and my three +6-foot (182cm) teammates looked on.

+ The hint system was charming. It worked with the staging.

+/- The Experiment built to a dramatic escape. Our teammates had differing opinions about this ending depending on the roles we took in accomplishing it. From my vantage point (which I shared with David), our clandestine escape operation delivered a dramatic conclusion. Our teammates in another role would have liked more threat of danger/ failure at this juncture. Their ending felt too soft for the experience.

+/- For people who are afraid of the concept of an escape room, The Experiment embodied exactly what they fear: being trapped in an uncomfortable setting that’s just a bit scary. These feelings can be off-putting. For the right players, however, these feelings can also be energizing and exhilarating.

The Experiment was silly-scary. It wasn’t overly horror, but it was intense. The acting, environment, and puzzles came together really well to deliver a deliberately crafted experience.

+ Hats off to the actors who delivered The Experiment to us in their second language. They did a phenomenal job.

Tips for Visiting

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

Disclosure: The Great Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

2018 Escape Room Player Survey

We’ve teamed up with Lee-Fay Low, Ken Ferguson of The Logic Escapes Me, and Errol Elumir of the Room Escape Divas to circulate the 2018 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey.

Stylized photo of a land surveyer in a parking lot.

We’re excited to support the expansion of an ongoing data set of player desires and trends.

Please take 20 minutes to fill it out. We’re really curious to see how the player-base is evolving over time. The results and raw data will be published when the survey closes.

2018 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey