St. Louis City Museum [Reaction]

The finest immersive experience that we encountered in St. Louis wasn’t an escape room; it was City Museum.

I’m as shocked as I am thrilled that this place exists… and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

The exterior of the building, there are castles and airplanes connected by metal mesh bridges.

What is City Museum?

City Museum is an adventure playground for all ages.

City Museum was immersive entertainment unlike any other. Built in, around, and on top of a former 10-story shoe factory that spanned a city block, it was a playground, a museum, a collection of curiosities, an architectural marvel, and a memorable adventure. The place was 600,000 square feet. It was the brainchild of the artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor.

The entrance beneath a massive series of strange structures to climb on.

What do you do in City Museum?

It was filled with slides, things to climb, stuff to traverse, and all sorts of beautiful oddities.

A jungle castle environment with metal tubes for climbing.

Some of the obstacles were elevated high up. Some of the spaces were confined and required crawling through narrow caves. Some of it was simply beautiful or interesting to look at.

Lisa crawling through the jaw of a great stone beast.

Everything – and I mean everything – was delightfully strange.

A strange pickle like sculpture in an art gallery.
Pickle Rick, is that you?

What did I do at City Museum?

After we went down the 10-story slide, I saw an interesting cavernous space. I wondered where it led. I slithered inside… down… around… and into a dimly lit sort of climbing area. In doing so, I completely lost track of David and our other travel companions.

Two 10 story spiral slides.
The dueling 10 story spiral slides.

Sometime later, I found my friends near a fish tank, near these bouncy-twirly things that you could bop around on forever without moving at all… because oddities.

David inside of a fish tank pretending to be a fish.

We visited on a beautiful March day when we could climb outside without jackets. We shimmied our way through meshed crawling spaces reaching off the building like giant tentacles. We climbed through an airplane (yes, a plane, suspended outside the building, just so) and out the other side. We looked down on crowds of people maneuvering through the spaces.

View from a metal climbing tube.

We happened upon a bar/ restaurant in the middle of the place and stopped for a quick refreshment.

A strange stage-like environment.

We uncovered different habitats to climb through, exhibits with unlikely artifacts, and slides of every shape and size. We got lost. We found ourselves in a place we’d already been, unsure exactly how that had happened.

David's legs as he crawls through a tube.

City Museum gives the gift of uninhibited exploration. It was a giant maze to get lost in and not really care where we ended up.

A cavern with a beast-like stairwell viewed through metal bars.

It was life-sized chutes and ladders… except without the moral overtones.

A wooden spiral staircase made from whole trees.

At one point David overheard a mother tell her children to “go have fun and take risks.”

Brendan and Theresa
Brendan and Theresa!

Take Risks

The thing that’s so remarkable about City Museum is that it doesn’t feel like any other amusement or playground that I’ve encountered in the United States.

A giant octopus stairwell.

It’s the kind of place that gives you the freedom to chose what spaces you want to climb or crawl into. It allows you to get a bit banged up… and that’s ok because each individual is in the driver’s seat of their own experience.

An airplane suspended in air, and a bus hanging off the roof of the building.

It never felt like a dangerous place… but it did invite me to take risks… and I loved that. I wish that there were more experiences like this.

A massive art deco sculpture of a man.

Who is this for?

  • Children… who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves.
  • Parents… who are able to give their children the freedom to explore and pick up a couple of bumps and bruises.
  • Adults… with a childlike glee and a bit of flexibility and stamina.
  • Friends… who like to explore together, but don’t mind getting separated here and there until divergent paths cross again.
  • Solos… who are looking for an individual adventure in a sea of people.
Lisa crawling out of the mouth of a stone beast.

Tips For Visiting

  • If you visit on a weekend, it will be crowded. Get there before it opens.
  • Wear athletic clothes and shoes. You will want unrestricted movement.
  • You will get sweaty and dirty.
  • Bring as little with you as possible. You’ll want to check your belongings and you pay by the item.
  • Keep your phone in a zippered pocket/ pouch.
  • Kneepads… bring kneepads or buy them in the gift shop.

If you visit City Museum, mail us a postcard. Even that mailbox is… well, it fits right in.

Royal Caribbean’s Escape The Rubicon: Player Reaction

Escape Room players Jasmine and Stuart Wheaton from Washington, DC recently played Puzzle Break’s Escape The Rubicon on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. We chatted with them about the experience.

Room Escape Artist: Can you give us a little background about yourselves as escape room players and cruise takers?

Jasmine & Stuart: We’ve done about 40 escape rooms, which includes our first and only escape room marathon in New Orleans last year with Room Escape Artist’s Escape Immerse Explore. We were nervous for that event but ended up having so much fun. We literally doubled our escape room count that weekend! We do escape rooms whenever we can now… but as you know it’s an expensive hobby and so we can’t all do over 700 *cough cough*.

We have been on a handful of cruises, but this one was by far the largest ship… huuuuuge!

Jasmine & Stuart dressed for a night out on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Was the escape room a factor in your decision to go on the cruise?

We were already planning on doing a cruise. Having an escape room on board was a cool novelty that pushed us to choose that particular boat over another.

What was the process for booking the on-board escape room?

There were multiple booking times throughout each day, spaced out by 90 minutes. You could book online through the same web portal where you could purchase all other excursions and events. You could also book at the entertainment desk.

Jasmine Stuart along with their team at the conclusion of Escape the Rubicon.

Whom did you play with? Tell us a bit about your teammates’ backgrounds in escape rooms and how they ended up playing this game.

We played in a mixed group of 8 people, composed of 4 groups of 2.

One group had played a few rooms in Kansas City before coming on the cruise. The other two pairs were completely new to escape rooms.

One beginner couple had heard of escape rooms before and wanted to try it out, since there was one on board.

The couple with experience had the same mindset as us: excited to see what a cruise ship escape room would be like.

One unique aspect about playing with strangers on a confined living space is that we saw them again over the course of the week.

Was that awkward?

Not really… it was such a big boat that we didn’t have to interact again if we didn’t want to. We could just say “hi” and move on.

What were your impressions of the experience? How did this game compare to what you expect from an escape room?

The set design was impressive, given it was on a boat. There was only one room (space is at a premium!) but it had a good look and feel to it, consistent with the theme. It was certainly more scenically impressive than many other escape rooms we’ve played.

In-game: Escape The Rubicon's futuristic spaceship set.
Image via Puzzle Break

The room was advertised in one video as having some of the “best technology in escape rooms.” There were a few big puzzle moments revolving around tech, but we had problems with some things being broken or too confusing. RFID tags and maglocks are standard tech, as far as we can tell. It’s cool tech, but not the “best technology in escape rooms.”

The gameplay was clearly intended to be team-oriented, as many puzzles required multiple people to complete them. We were given “tasks” to complete that fit in with the theme, but in reality we would just do a bunch of puzzles and then be told – either by the game or the gamemeaster – that we had somehow completed the task.

Either the room was extremely challenging, or usually everyone’s day-drunk by the time they make it to the escape room. The gamemaster told us that we were only the 7th group to beat it in 4 months!

Some of the puzzles were decent, but the cluing was poor for most of them. There was also one long, repetitive process puzzle… and the more we did of of it, the more we couldn’t help but think, “come on, why would all the crew members on the ship SPOILER REDACTED?!”

Who was “gamemastering” the experience?

One of the entertainment staff members was the gamemaster. We recognized her from other events around the ship. She stayed in the room the whole time, unenthusiastically giving hints and minor plot progression. Having multiple jobs to do around the ship every day is probably detrimental to quality gamemastering.

It was evident that the gamemaster didn’t have passion, hint-giving skills, or thorough knowledge of the game. (She had to call someone at one point to get the answer for a nonfunctional puzzle.)

Did the gamemaster give the players any background on Puzzle Break, the creators of the game, or other escape rooms?

There was a video-based introduction to the scenario and standard escape room gameplay (i.e. don’t use force.) We don’t remember any mention of Puzzle Break or the existence of escape rooms outside this one on the ship.

If you were on another Royal Caribbean cruise, would you book another escape room? And will the existence of an escape room on board impact your choice of future cruises?

Yes, we’d book one again… because it was a good deal at $20. It’s more affordable than most escape rooms and a fun thing to do when too sunburned for anything else! However, we would certainly consider it a nice-to-have rather than a selling point for a cruise. The chance to experience a different room aboard another ship would sway our decision only slightly.

Room Escape Artist Conclusion

Thank you, Jasmine and Stuart, for thinking through this unique escape room experience for our readers! We aren’t big cruise-takers… so the odds of us covering this game ourselves are near zero.

Escape rooms are a specialized business and a major undertaking. We respect Royal Caribbean for installing a game at all, let alone investing in something that looks good and adheres with current trends in escape room technology.

On the other hand, gamemastering is as hard as it is essential, especially when there’s a good chance that the players are a few drinks deep. It is a specialized job that necessitates training and requires practice. Maintenance should be assumed.

We love that there is an escape room available on these ships. We wish that the gamemastering and maintenance were more in line with the set design.

Finally… why in Poseidon’s name was the win rate so damn low? It’s on a cruise ship!

Cincinnati, Ohio: Escape Room Recommendations

We spent a few days in Cincinnati at the end of 2018… and then one more afternoon there a couple of months later.

Cincinnati was a puzzle-focused escape room market that felt both traditional and quirky.

Elaborate art deco ceiling of the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Ceiling of the Cincinnati Museum Center

Here are our recommendations for escape rooms near Cincinnati, Ohio:

Market Standouts

  1. The Summons, Seven Forces
  2. Castle Adventure, Escape Room Family
  3. Oval Office, Houdini’s Room Escape

Set & Scenery-Driven

Puzzle-Centric

Beginner-Friendly

Large Group Games

Non-Escape Room Fun

Stream the Themed Entertainment – National Design Competition

Last month I had the chance to run a private webcast for some of the college students participating in the Themed Entertainment Association’s National Design Competition.

These students were given 7 weeks to design and build an original 500-square-foot escape room… and they could only work in teams of 1 or 2.

TEA NextGen's multi-colored logo.

During the conversation, they asked many great questions. I had set aside 45 minutes to talk to them and we ended up talking shop for 90 minutes.

Stream the Event

The presentations will happen on Friday, April 26th at noon Pacific (3pm Eastern). The awards are scheduled for 2:30pm Pacific. (This is a change from the original time of 3:30pm Pacific.)

You’ll be able to stream this on YouTube Live:

I genuinely have no idea what to expect, as based on their questions I only have vague ideas of what some of these students were hoping to create… but I am excited to see what they have produced.

What’s TEA NextGen?

According the organization’s website, “The NextGen Initiative of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) helps students and recent graduates find their way into the themed entertainment/ visitor attractions industry and facilitates TEA member companies’ ability to recruit from this fresh talent pool.”

For more information, check out TEA’s website.

Enchambered – Containment Breach [Review]

Concrete, steel, and puzzles.

Location:  Sacramento, California

Date Played: February 24, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock 

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Containment Breach was Enchambered’s first foray into escape rooms. It was a strong initial outing.

A solid, fairly traditional puzzle game, Containment Breach offered some good group solves in a detailed but dim set. The lighting was especially low, and we couldn’t really do anything without a flashlight… which grew old.

In-game: a large piece of metal machinery in a heavily worn concrete bunker.

Since creating this game, Enchambered has produced some truly outstanding experiences in The Whispering Halls and The Legend of the Skull Witch. Those games are the reason to visit Enchambered. Containment Breach, by comparison, was an optional add-on.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A detailed set
  • Some interesting puzzles and interactions

Story

Decades ago, Doctor Henry Rosenburg had built a device that instantly teleported matter. During his first attempt at demonstrating his creation, it had malfunctioned and Rosenburg had disappeared after the ensuing radiation leak rendered his lab uninhabitable.

Now that the radiation levels had dropped to tolerable levels, we went in to investigate what had happened.

In-game: A PA mounted near the ceiling of the bunker. There's a sign warning of surveillance.

Setting 

Enchambered’s first escape game was a bunker.

The dimly lit set was filled with the kind of texture and weathering details that showed the environment was created by someone who cared.

In-game: closeup of a desk with strange schematics beside a large piece of equipment

Gameplay

Enchambered’s Containment Breach was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: a large, weathered, yellow metal door with a strange locking mechanism.

Analysis

➕ The dim, detailed, and weathered set looked like a convincing lab/ bunker hybrid.

➖ We spent a lot of time searching in low light. It was annoying to play the entire game with a flashlight in hand.

➕ The props felt bulky and real. The gameplay was tangible. It frequently encouraged collaborative solves.

➖ There were tons of papers that we didn’t need and would likely be needless red herrings to less experienced players.

➕ In one instance, Containment Breach taught use how to use a prop through the gameplay. In a game with solid, yet standard puzzle play, this puzzle was especially well thought out so that players would build mastery and have a sense of accomplishment.

➖ All solves led to a 4-digit lock. There were a lot of locks and they weren’t correlated to the puzzles. We ended up trying every derived code in lots of places, which slowed momentum, especially early on.

➖ While there clearly was a story, we struggled to follow it. The story got lost amid puzzles.

➕ We particularly enjoyed the solves that required teamwork.

➕ We truly respect Enchambered’s tiered pricing. Containment Breach was their oldest game, and tickets for it were less expensive than tickets for their newer games. This improved the value of the experience. More escape room companies should adopt this approach to pricing.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • We recommend Thai Terrace for a meal before/after your game.

Book your hour with Enchambered’s Containment Breach , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Enchambered provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Unreal Escapes – Disco 54 [Review]

Last Dance

Location:  Staten Island, NY

Date Played: March 17, 2019

Team size: up to 11; we recommend 3-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Disco 54 was all about atmosphere and fun. The look. The music. The theme. All of it.

Aesthetically, it looked and felt like a club, and it had a brilliant playlist underpinning it all.

Unreal Escape’s second game was significantly different from their first. It wasn’t as visually arresting as Battleship and it didn’t have the same volume of tech. Instead it felt more focused on gameplay.

In-game: the DJ's mixer.

That said, the party vibe of Disco 54 was occasionally distracting. There were moments when the dance floor and music called to us more than the gameplay did… which, honestly, was fine. We really enjoyed this dynamic.

Unreal is a bit of a hike to visit, but now that they are operating two games it’s an easier decision. For our taste, we preferred Disco 54, but if you’re visiting Unreal, you should play both. They both have something worth experiencing.

Who is this for?

  • Groups looking to party
  • Hustlers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A unique story and set
  • You can dance (don’t worry; it is never required)
  • An unusual and authentic experience
  • Great song selection

Story

The legendary Disco 54 was closing down due to a… disagreement with the IRS. While the owner may have been in debt, that didn’t stop him from stashing cash throughout the club. We went in for one last party and a heist.

In-game: the VIP lounge.

Setting

Taking clear and heavy inspiration from Studio 54, Disco 54’s set was on point. From the dance floor, to the DJ booth, to the bar, to the VIP lounge, to all of the velvet, the escape game felt like a club.

All of this was elevated by a playlist that was as smart as it was fun.

In-game: the DJ booth labeled "Disco 54."

Gameplay

Unreal Escapes’ Disco 54 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and the opportunity to dance.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, observing, and making connections.

In-game: a dance floor with colored lights shining on it.

Analysis

➕ A disco club was one of the more interesting and unique settings that we’ve seen for an escape game. It was refreshing.

➕ The club felt right. It was immediately clear to us just how passionate its creators were about nailing the right vibe.

➕ The music was perfect.

In-game: a disco ball

➕ Our gamemaster asked us what volume we wanted the music set to. We could request to turn the volume up or down at any time. We were quite content with our selection of “medium.”

Disco 54 flowed fairly well.

➖ There were some opportunities for stronger clue structure in a couple of puzzles.

➕ The open-ended goal of finding as much money as we could before escaping left plenty of reason for us to keep searching… we might find another way to earn more money.

➖ Not all parts of the set delivered the same scenic quality. The decisions made sense, but we felt when it lacked of grandeur.

➖ There was a missed opportunity that could have floored visitors.

➕/➖ There was some great use of tech within Disco 54. We wish that there had been better feedback and in-game notification of what we had accomplished. We had been instructed to “double check” things after we thought we solved something… and this was ok, but less than ideal.

➕ We really enjoyed taking a break from puzzling and dancing.

Disco 54 would make a great venue for a party.

Tips For Visiting

  • Unreal Escapes has a parking lot.
  • There’s a lot of great Italian food on Staten Island.
  • Unreal Escapes will reskin this escape room for bar and bat mitzvahs.

Book your hour with Unreal Escapes’ Disco 54, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Unreal Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

3D Escape Room: Frequency Podcast [Review]

An escape room for your ears.

Producer:  The Owl Field

Date Played: April 13, 2019

Team size: Potentially unlimited, but we recommend playing solo

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: Free

REA Reaction

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an audio drama with escape room puzzles built in so listeners could solve along at home. It felt a lot like playing a tabletop escape game, but with podcast tracks instead of envelopes and tactile puzzles.

Closeup of Apple Airpods.

Unlike most podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency was comprised of a set of tracks meant to be navigated in a certain order to reach the end of the game, with decoy tracks thrown in to obscure the correct answers.

The Owl Field’s 3D sound design was immersive and engaging. Some of the puzzles depended completely on the audio format, which felt novel and intriguing.

Though 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played with a larger group, playing solo seemed like the ideal experience. The puzzles didn’t involve collaboration, and it was more convenient to listen through one set of headphones. If you typically enjoy playing puzzle games solo, try this one by yourself.

3D Escape Room: Frequency probably won’t stump veteran solvers, but it’s still worth checking out, especially considering that there’s zero cost or travel barrier.

It was exciting to experience an escape room in this new format, and we’d love to see The Owl Field (or other podcasters) create more games like this.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of podcasts and audio entertainment
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Innovative audio format
  • Exciting storyline
  • The convenience of playing anywhere you want

Story

Madison and her friends go off the grid to check on Lenny, a reclusive conspiracy theorist who’s gone missing. They find themselves locked in his trailer full of old radios and recording devices, and they must solve his puzzles to escape… and maybe save the world.

3D Escape Room Frequency's staticy logo.

Setting

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an escape room built into a podcast format. The story and puzzles were conveyed through the voice actors and the audio clips the characters found.

The sound was binaural, so the action seemed to be coming from all directions through the headphones. The audio design was elaborate and well produced, adding ambience to this at-home escape adventure.

Structure

3D Escape Room: Frequency had 40 separate audio tracks: 10 puzzle tracks and 30 decoy tracks. Each puzzle’s solution code matched the name of the next track players needed to access in order to find the next puzzle and advance the story. The game proceeded in a linear fashion through each puzzle track to the conclusion.

As each puzzle track progressed, the hints became increasingly transparent. As soon as we determined the solution to the puzzle, we could advance to the next corresponding track. Listening through to the end of the track ultimately revealed the solution to the puzzle.

The total runtime of all the puzzle tracks is greater than 60 minutes; final solving time depends on how quickly the player finds the codes within each track and moves on to the next.

Gameplay

3D Escape Room: Frequency was an interactive podcast escape room with a linear structure and an approachable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around listening, pattern recognition, and simple math. Some of the puzzles could have been presented in written text but were transformed by the audio format. Others completely relied on sound.

Analysis

➕ The Owl Field created a slick product out of a unique idea. This audio escape room format could easily be repeated with all sorts of themes and still be fun and exciting, just like live escape rooms.

❓ Technically, 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played in a group, but it makes more sense as a solo experience. The puzzles were relatively simple and unfolded one at a time, which precluded the teamwork element of most escape rooms. Plus, it would be hard to communicate with others while concentrating on audio puzzles.

➕ The 3D audio design was surprisingly cool. It added to the immersion, and it made the overlapping dialogue easier to understand. The binaural effect also provided certain puzzles with extra depth.

➕/➖ 3D Escape Room: Frequency used some of its puzzles to reveal bits of the story, and hinted at a larger narrative through snippets of dialogue and sound. Though the dialogue was sometimes a bit goofy and certain plot elements remained unexplained, the voice acting and audio design carried the game and the story well.

➕ The characters periodically reported how many puzzles they had left to solve. These regular progress reports felt natural and helped track progress through the game.

➖ The introduction instructed players to write down which tracks they’d listened to in case they made a mistake and needed to backtrack. Since most of the decoy tracks appeared to be tied to a particular puzzle, it would simplify the gameplay if the decoy tracks indicated which track to return to.

➕ The puzzle tracks repeated the pertinent information multiple times, with the characters providing subtle hints, then increasingly less subtle hints, and eventually revealing the solution at the end of the track. This in-character hint delivery felt authentic and seamless. Listening to the characters attempting to solve the puzzles provided gentle nudges towards the solutions.

➕ The answer confirmation also worked smoothly. The 30 decoy tracks made it counterproductive to guess at an answer until it was 100% clear. Also, since the decoy tracks revealed incorrect guesses after 30 seconds, each track was padded to the same length. This obscured which tracks were relevant and which were decoys.

❓ Distortion was a key element of certain puzzles. Some players might find this frustrating; others might enjoy this particular sensory challenge.

➖ The ending felt a bit abrupt. Considering the format, it would have been cool to receive different endings for the win and loss states.

➕ In a podcast-based escape room, the additional dimension of time could easily have created chaos if players decided to skip around searching for clues. 3D Escape Room: Frequency’s linear design avoided this potential confusion. It kept things simple, and it worked.

Tips For Listening

  • For best results, listen with headphones in a quiet room. It’s not 100% necessary to use headphones, but the overlapping dialogue and distorted puzzles will be much easier to understand. Plus, it is an audio drama, so immersion is part of the experience.
  • If you’re playing with others, make sure to sync up the tracks at the same time, and use a podcast player you’re familiar with to avoid technical issues… Or use a headphone splitter.
  • Unlike other podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency requires your full attention, so don’t plan on multitasking while you listen. As the introduction says, a pencil and paper for taking notes is key. And keep a timer handy if you’re feeling competitive.
  • This podcast contains some instances of swearing, but otherwise it’s totally kid-friendly.

Add 3D Escape Room: Frequency to your podcast queue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Room Family – Castle Adventure [Review]

Fun for all ages.

Location:  Cincinnati, Ohio

Date Played: February 25, 2019

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23.43 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We had a ball in Castle Adventure. This family-friendly game worked for all ages and experience levels.

We energetically worked through puzzles to earn balls that we had to toss into a goal to earn points. Our objective wasn’t to win or lose, but to earn enough points to land ourselves a medal. (We won gold!)

Escape Room Family provides fun for all ages. The challenges in Castle Adventure varied widely in difficulty… which was great because there was so much to do.

In-game: An assortment of puzzles and armaments in Defend The Castle.

Escape Room Family was a testament to the power of structure. By splitting the game into 2 30-minute segments, shifting the objective, and putting a us in a bright and friendly environment, Castle Adventure felt like an entirely different experience… even though it was very much an escape room.

If you’re anywhere near Cincinnati, Escape Room Family’s Castle Adventure is a must play, whether or not you’re with your family.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Approachable, interactive puzzles
  • Tangible interactions
  • The scoring mechanism
  • To win a medal

Story

Castle Adventure was a two-part game. In one segment, we defended a castle from within its walls; in the other we attacked a castle from the outside.

These two acts could be played in either order.

In-game: A shot of Attack The Castle's set, a painted castle wall behind a tent.

Setting

Castle Adventure consisted of two different 30-minute escape games: Attack The Castle & Defend The Castle. We had a short break between the two to grab a cup of water or buy candy and juice boxes in the lobby.

Both castle environments were bright and friendly containers for puzzles and challenges. The sets were covered in props and set dressing that abstractly and non-threateningly conveyed the notion that we were playing a medieval castle game.

In-game: Some of Attack The Castle's colorful physically tangible puzzles.

Gameplay

Escape Room Family’s Castle Adventure was an atypical escape room. The two-part staging with the break in the middle – designed to cater to children and families – was unusual.

It had a score-based system. Teams don’t need to complete all the puzzles to succeed at Castle Adventure. It’s less about winning and losing and more about achieving a high enough score to earn a medal.

Solving puzzles earned us foam balls that we had to then toss into the scoring basket.

In-game: The score track with a large basket at the top between two thrones.

Castle Adventure had a varied level of difficulty. While there were certainly challenging puzzles, there were also fun tasks that weren’t hard at all.

In-game: Closeup of the score track filled to 500 points with balls.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, unlocking, and tossing balls into the goal.

Analysis

Castle Adventure was bright, open, and welcoming. It had minimal set decor, but it was definitely a castle. The abstract look worked well.

➕ The puzzles in Castle Adventure encouraged teamwork. We usually needed or wanted multiple people to work together on a puzzle. Escape Room Family built some unusual mechanisms to facilitate this.

➖ Escape Room Family built a lot of custom props and set pieces for Castle Adventure. Some of these lacked durability. Higher build quality would go a long way to making sure these games continue to look good and play well over time.

➕ It was fun to unlock a solve in Castle Adventure with the beautiful, hefty keys. We loved this unlocking mechanic. With each key open, we could experience the excitement of solving a puzzle twice.

➕ We increased our score as we solved puzzles. The scoring mechanic added physicality for high energy kids and a familiarity for kids who might be shy to approach the escape room puzzles. We could track our progress as we played.

➕ When you win at Escape Room Family, you get a medal. You can return and play again to try to win a medal of another color. These prizes were a nice touch.

In-game: Closeup of the schore track showing how many points we needed to earn a silver or gold medal.

❓ Escape Room Family was a part of The Seven Forces, which also operates Cincinnati Escape Room and The Summons. Some puzzle types repeated across the different games we played at these companies. While the solutions may be different, the aha moment didn’t exist a second time. Since The Seven Forces targets different audiences at their different locations, most players won’t encounter this issue.

Castle Adventure was almost entirely non-linear. We could approach almost any puzzle at any time. Escape Room Family didn’t offer hints, but they didn’t need to. There was always plenty to work on and teams don’t need to solve every puzzle to win a medal. (We didn’t solve one puzzle and its corresponding metapuzzle).

➖ We found a particular portion of Defend The Castle especially challenging and would have preferred to play it as our second round.

➕ We loved the frantic moments that Castle Adventure dropped on us. It was frenetic, silly, and a delightful way to close out each round.

➕ The break between the 30-minute rooms made a lot of sense. A hour can be a long time for kids. Escape Room Family games build in a snack and bathroom break. This structure also enables Escape Room Family to entertain larger groups, such as birthday parties, by splitting the group between the two episodes and then swapping them for the second half. Escape Room Family also has a video feed of the games in their lobby so that additional family and friends can watch from outside the room. I imagine it’s exciting to be hanging out in the lobby as a group plays the final minute of Castle Adventure.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • While Escape Room Family is geared toward kids and families, we played as 4 adults and we had a ton of fun. You don’t need to be a family to enjoy this style of escape room.

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

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