Codex – The Reflection of Madness [Review]

Tentacle Time

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28,99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Codex’s approach to designing a Lovecraftian horror adventure in The Reflection of Madness was poetic. With a few pieces of Lovecraft’s deep lore and unusual aesthetic, they built an exciting and surprising world.

The escape game was fairly large, with delightful puzzles that felt at home in this strange universe.

In-game: A portal splitting open reality, a tenticle is vaguely visible beyond the gap.
Image via Codex

Codex built a cohesive experience through neat puzzle artifacts, which we adored. While we enjoyed The Reflection of Madness immensely, there were a few details that felt unfinished, including the conclusion.

Codex is one of Montreal’s must-play companies, and in our opinion, The Reflection of Madness is their premier game. Go play it. The horror isn’t overly intense, so long as you’re ok with the idea of battling evil elder gods from the deep.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Lovecraft fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Fantastic flow and progression
  • Wonderful set design and art direction
  • Incredible, thematic interactions

Story

Our team had been dispatched to a magical dimension. An occultist professor’s work had ripped a breach into the fabric of reality and it threatened to consume not only that dimension, but all others.

In-game: A large tenticle coming from the ceiling of a study.
Image via Codex

Setting

Codex used a large amount of space to create The Reflection of Madness. They were also clever in how they used it.

What began as a fairly mundane, study-like environment spiraled out into wonderful Lovecraftian madness.

In-game: Wide view of a study.
Image via Codex

Gameplay

Codex’s The Reflection of Madness was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a globe in a study.
Image via Codex

Analysis

➕ Whereas at first glance The Reflection of Madness looked competent but banal, as the escape game progressed, revealing Codex’s vision, the intentionality became clear. Each set was decorated completely, from floor to ceiling. As we transitioned through the game, we moved into increasingly chaotic sets that added intrigue and punctuated the story. The final set was especially outrageous.

➕ The gameplay in The Reflection of Madness can be summed up by the phrase “neat puzzle artifacts.” In each act, the gameplay revolved around unique props that we manipulated to unusual ends. These were fascinating, fun, and tactile. The solves were immensely satisfying.

➖ There was room to optimize a few of the puzzles with small tweaks. One process puzzle – built into a neat puzzle artifact – needed additional intermittent feedback. We almost abandoned the correct idea before seeing it through to the solve. Another neat puzzle artifact was located such that it was challenging for the entire team to engage with it. Since it had appeal even to onlookers, it would have been even more exciting if everyone could have been on the same wavelength.

➖ The game’s biggest reveal needed to better mask the technology that was doing the heavy lifting.

➕ Momentum built throughout The Reflection of Madness. From the major reveal, on through the next discovery and the scenic twists, the energy level only intensified as we played.

➖ We wanted more from the conclusion. There was so much tension and it begged for a stronger resolution.

➕ The set and gameplay together supported the story of The Reflection of Madness. Players will appreciate the narrative arc whether or not they know the Lovecraftian lore of Cthulhu. Codex crafted this escape room with a level of cohesion that few can rival.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking in the back of the building near the entrance to the escape rooms.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Codex’s The Reflection of Madness, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Codex comped our tickets for this game.

Breaking Point Escape Rooms – Patient 17 [Review]

The doctor is running out of patients.

Location:  Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Date Played: January 4, 2020

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32-35 per player for public booking; private booking $35-$60 each depending on team size

Ticketing: Public or private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Patient 17 felt like an old-school escape room at heart, but the production design and attention to narrative elevated it above the average escape room. 

The relatively complex story (especially for a crime-themed escape room) subtly followed us through the experience to its conclusion. Breaking Point also developed a strong sense of place through the story, set, and puzzles. Patient 17 felt ominous and confining, but never claustrophobic or scary.

The puzzles were mostly standard escape room puzzles, with nothing particularly flashy to offer experienced players. However, the game felt intuitive and flowed naturally. Some ambiguity slowed us down at first, but once we got going, we were in the zone until the end.

The Secret at Whitmore Estate is Breaking Point’s newer and stronger game, but Patient 17 is also worth playing while you’re there.

A dimly lit hospital exam chair surrounded by medical implements.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Thriller fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Creepy, isolating atmosphere
  • Thematic puzzling
  • The feeling of being part of a larger story

Story

An undercover agent investigating a doctor with connections to several missing women appeared to have blown her cover. We had been sent in to attempt a rescue.

A bulletin board with documents including a newspaper clipping with a headline reading "Doctor Arrested For Unorthodox Practice."
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Setting

Patient 17 took place in a dingy-looking hospital with an appropriately creepy vibe. Foreboding props and dark corners lent the game an ominous feeling, without ever veering towards scary.

A grimy hallway with solid doors, an electrical panel, and a single bare bulb.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

Gameplay

Breaking Point Escape Rooms’ Patient 17 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Breaking Point’s intro videos were among the best we’ve seen. The introduction for Patient 17 provided backstory that gave our mission urgency and emotional heft.

➕ The detailed production design made the escape room feel like a creepy hospital. The gamespace felt confining, but alluded to a larger outside world. This level of detail drew us into the story and heightened our sense of urgency.

A dirty sink splattered with blood.
Image via Breaking Point Escape Rooms

➖ Patient 17 could have used stronger gating early in the game. With so many puzzle elements available at the start, we struggled for a while before making real progress.

➕ The puzzling mostly involved standard escape room puzzles that coordinated well with the setting and the story. Solving them felt like making progress towards our goal.

➕ We were especially delighted when we discovered how to make use of one everyday item that initially felt too unbounded to contain a puzzle.

➖ We kept returning to a certain interesting-looking object that ended up having no bearing on the game. Replacing that object with a puzzle element or a less compelling prop would make it less of a red herring.

➖ The ending felt somewhat abrupt. We found ourselves wishing for a more exciting final scene.

➕ We appreciated the attention to narrative that threaded throughout Patient 17. After the intro, we encountered more information through the set and puzzles that enhanced our understanding of the story world without requiring excessive reading. The story felt original enough to stick in our minds while solving.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is ample parking at the venue.

Book your hour with Breaking Point Escape Rooms’ Patient 17, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

REA Statement on COVID-19

We are hosting two escape room tours and a convention in 2020.

We feel it is our responsibility as event organizers to address concerns around COVID-19.

Last night we published the Reality Escape Convention’s Statement on COVID-19.

We realize that the tours are approaching more quickly than RECON. These are smaller events with less risk of exposure. That said, we are monitoring the situation closely and we will be sharing updates with our attendees as they become available.

In all cases, our sentiment and approach remains the same:

We’re going to do the research and hard work to take care of our attendees. If you were on our New Orleans Tour last year when a hurricane struck, you would have seen how tirelessly we worked to turn that event into a success through dedication, adaptability, and a near total lack of sleep.

We truly appreciate those who have purchased tickets to our 2020 events already. We want the rest of the community to purchase with confidence that those hosting them are attentive, responsive, and alert.

Room Escape Boston – The Boom Room [Review]

More room than boom.

Location:  Chelsea, Massachusetts

Date Played:  January 19, 2020

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Room Escape Boston was an archery tag facility with a couple of escape rooms.

The Boom Room was an old-school escape room. While offered more depth than expected based on the first few minutes of gameplay, it was still a generic escape room experience.

We enjoyed this escape room a lot more than we thought we would, but ultimately it was a forgettable experience. If you’re nearby and you’d like to play a room, go for it.

Personally, I found myself looking at the archery tag and wishing that we had booked that instead; it seemed like it had more going on.

In-game: closeup of a directional lock on an old desk drawer.

Who is this for?

  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Traditional escape room puzzle play
  • A surprising amount of content
  • One cinematic moment

Story

An anonymous tip brought us to the hidden bunker of a suspected serial bomber. Could we defuse his plans for mass destruction?

In-game: A desk with a locked box and an old typewriter atop it.

Setting

The Boom Room had an old school, reading-heavy, lock-centric bunker escape room aesthetic:

  • Old Typewriter ✔️
  • Camouflaging Materials ✔️
  • Ammo Cases ✔️
  • Maps ✔️

There were 2 things that made this space stand out: there was a lot more of it than we had initially expected. It included one well-designed cinematic moment.

In-game: A concrete wall with strange flags drawn on them surrounded by camouflaging material.

Gameplay

Room Escape Boston’s The Boom Room was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: Closeup of the map room door.

Analysis

➖ Our gamemaster led us into The Boom Room with our eyes closed. There was no grand reveal or payoff in the opening moments of this escape room. The set was standard. (At least we didn’t need to wear blindfolds.)

➕ Room Escape Boston dedicated a large amount of space to The Boom Room. As we solved, we entered new areas of the game, but continued to use game elements from the previous spaces. This added depth to the gameplay.

➖/➕ Room Escape Boston hid tech behind tubing. This made it stand out more, but it did protect it from prying hands. It was an inelegant solution, but the tech was armored.

➕ The gameplay worked. We were able to move logically from one solve into the next puzzle.

The Boom Room included entirely too much inconsequential reading material.

➕ When The Boom Room – a dim but not dark game – required additional light to solve a puzzle, Room Escape Boston made sure a light source was available to the players.

➖ Room Escape Boston used a door lock that was confusing and momentum-killing. Although our gamemaster had given us instructions for its use in the pregame briefing, it was still confusing to operate, and a mistake led to a short lockout.

➖ Room Escape Boston delivered some story over audio, but we missed these moments because the volume was low and it was over by the time we’d realized something was playing and had stopped talking.

➕ We enjoyed when one puzzle landed in front of us. Room Escape Boston staged this so that we were all in position to appreciate the moment.

The Boom Room lacked a finale, or any fanfare upon escape.

Tips For Visiting

  • Room Escape Boston in located next to a Dollar General. Enter as if you are entering the Dollar General and then turn right. You’ll see Room Escape Boston and Archery Games Boston. You’ll pass the archery tag on your way to the escape room.
The doorway for a Dollar General store.
Note that this is the entrance for Room Escape Boston… and the Dollar General.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • There is a Chili’s in the same strip mall.

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

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

REA & the Case of the Impossible Room

We spent a few days staying in an Airbnb with the strangest “feature.” More on that in a moment, but first, a bit of background.

We’re on our way home from an escape room trip to Athens, Greece.

This was a phenomenal, inventive, and unique escape room city… so you can look forward to lots of Greece content over the coming months.

When we arrived at the Airbnb, a couple of our travel companions immediately told us that we had to see “The Mystery Door.”

This was a door embedded into the wall, approximately 8 feet off of the ground.

A mysterious door high up on a wall. It's cracked open with light passing through the crack.

We immediately began speculating about what was beyond the door… and documenting it on Instagram.

When the rest of our travel companions arrived, we came to a consensus: we would lift Lisa up through this mysterious passageway.

Then she filmed the strange space… which was a bit of a letdown.

Then I had a thought. We cannot possibly have been the first people to venture into that bizarre room… and have found disappointment. So I made a little gift and tossed it through the door for some eventual traveler to find.

Maybe they’ll find it funny. Perhaps they will be frightened. Maybe they’ll solve the simple puzzle that I embedded within the letters. We will never know.

I hope that you enjoyed the madness.

You can follow us on Instagram for stuff that we don’t typically post on Room Escape Artist. We don’t go nuts over-posting.

The Escape Room I Didn’t Know I Wanted – Part 3 – Community

Introduction

Lisa: This is the third piece in a three-part series by Diane Kobrynowicz and Sarah Mendez about taking risks and finding community through escape rooms.

In this – the final installment – Sarah and Diane both share thoughts on why this was “The Escape Room They Didn’t Know They Wanted” and what it ultimately gave them, which was far more than 60 minutes of gameplay. They also offer suggestions for anyone else who is looking to expand their community through escape rooms.

Brief Series Recap

Sarah, a fledgling escape room enthusiast, created an elaborate escape room in her garage just for the heck of it.

With the help of REA, Diane, a veteran escape room enthusiast, got to play the escape room and had an absolute blast doing so.

Sarah & Diane: We want to close this series by sharing what’s been possible for us as a result of taking chances. We hope to inspire you to take even more chances with fun, adventure, and creating community.

Diane and Sarah with their significant others.
Left to Right – Tony, Diane, Jonathan, Sarah

Previous Experience with the Escape Room Community

Sarah: Prior to this experience, my husband Jonathan and I lived in our personal escape room bubble. We had played most of our 38 games as a date activity, dragging friends along on less frequent occasions. Although I was eager to entertain our friends with my garage escape room, I didn’t realistically expect anyone to be nearly as excited about it as I was. In short, we were oblivious to the possibility that there might be a broader audience for my creation. By extension, we had no idea that there could be value to a broader audience.

Diane: Tony and I had become knitted into the escape room community, first by taking a recommendation from David for our first experience of an escape room in New York City about 4 years ago, and then by participating in 3 of REA’s Escape Immerse Explore Tours. We’ve had the pleasures of joining David and Lisa when they’ve come to the greater Austin area to play games, and of pointing newbies to the Room Escape Artist as a resource for orienting themselves to this new world. Indeed, it was an email from Lisa that connected us to Jonathan and Sarah.

The Community’s Role in This Story

Our connection wouldn’t have happened without the existence of a broader, accessible network of escape room enthusiasts. There were three elements to this connection:

Reaching Out

Sarah: My husband Jonathan, an Asker, tapped into REA’s treasure trove of knowledge by asking if they might happen to be in the area and interested in checking out the room. To any Guesser, like me, this immediately sounded like an outlandish question (“Hey, world-renowned escape room reviewers, do you want to fly to the far reaches of outer Austin to see our garage?”). Who would humor such a suggestion?

Getting Connected

Sarah: REA – Community Builder Extraordinaire – that’s who! They could have ignored this request. Instead, they responded in a wiser and more useful way by serving as a matchmaker. They shared some local contacts who might be interested in and could more practically pursue such an experience.

Completing the Handshake

Sarah: Local contacts doesn’t guarantee making a connection. We could extend our hand, but would anyone reach back? Fortunately, Diane and her fiancé Tony’s open, adventure-seeking personalities made them the perfect pioneers for the experience. They not only jumped on the opportunity, but they promoted it to the rest of the local group. Ultimately, through their enthusiasm and unsolicited advocacy – Diane said it was “not to be missed” and that comment was what made one local couple take the plunge – seven more deeply experienced players came over to play the game.

Connections Matter

Ease of Connection

Sarah: We lived in a bubble, playing escape rooms ourselves. This experience showed us that escape rooms could actually connect us to other people. When each team of enthusiasts arrived, we immediately knew we had something to talk about – what rooms we had done, our puzzle preferences, our approaches to clues, etc. – and all these things helped us immediately connect with strangers. We had absolutely no idea that (1) we would be excited to talk about escape rooms for hours on end and that (2) other people would share that excitement.

Audience for Niche Creativity

Sarah: As I made my room, I felt more and more that designing an experience is an art form. I found myself wanting to share it with others who would appreciate it.

Future Collaboration

Sarah: Now that we have connections with people who share our love of escape rooms, we have all sorts of new possibilities ahead of us. Most obviously, we have new friends to play rooms with who are enthusiastic enough to potentially travel to do so! Beyond that, we’ve discussed opportunities to jointly create wider experiences beyond just my garage. I never would have even considered thinking about this as more than a hobby, and I still might not, but what a fun, unexpected result of exploring a hobby from another angle.

Support for the Industry

Diane: As our escape room experience deepened, we came to appreciate the uniqueness of and challenges with this form of entertainment.

We want to play more escape rooms! We want more escape room companies to exist and thrive! We share our love as self-defined “Escape Room Ambassadors” by introducing escape rooms to anyone and everyone. How else will this unique form of immersive entertainment continue to exist for all of us to enjoy, unless we all take on helping it grow?

Because most escape rooms aren’t replayable, it can be challenging for these businesses to establish a consistent customer base. Word-of-mouth advertising is the most persuasive kind, so we can all help the escape room world by recommending our favorites.

Integrating Newbies

Diane: Not everyone is enthusiastic about experiencing with a new type of entertainment, particularly one with a premium price. Escape rooms are so individual that it’s easy to imagine a newbie might have one bad experience and never go back. We provide context and encouragement to newbies to maximize the likelihood that they will have a good experience. That’s one reason we are so grateful to REA as a central hub of this mission.

How To Connect

It might seem that this just boils down to basic networking, but it is really so much more.

Maybe, like Sarah, you hadn’t realized the potential of applying networking skills to a hobby like this.

Maybe, like Diane, you find people fascinating and you find escape rooms fascinating, so combining the two make for more fun, more adventure, and more opportunities.

Here are some tried-and-true techniques for connecting with each other:

Be a Community Member

Diane: Be inspired by this 3-part guest article series to define yourself as an unofficial “Escape Room Ambassador.” Take on sharing the escape room experience in a way that works for you. In fact, consider taking more risks by reaching out to others, especially to escape room-loving strangers, and forming new connections.

Introduce the concept of escape rooms to your friends. Mix up your team sometimes to expose new people to the experience. The more people who discover and enjoy escape rooms, the broader the market, and the more fun we can all have together!

Research Resources

Sarah: Search online or ask at the escape rooms in your town if there are meetup groups, blogs, Facebook groups or relevant events that draw escape room enthusiasts. If there are none in your area, you could host your own.

Support Escape Room Businesses

Diane: Creating an escape room is often a labor of love, so the people behind a new escape room business are a part of the community and need your support. If you play the room and believe the business has potential, take the time to write them reviews. Spread the word to your friends. When a business has a quality product and customer experience, help to get it off the ground with word-of-mouth marketing so that it can deliver more fun experiences to you in the future.

Read REA’s FAQ

Diane: The REA FAQ is a good place to start, if you want to connect with their community.

Given REA’s mission, they have some fabulous ways to connect with others. These include:

Be an Asker

Diane: The crux of our experience rested on several sparks of connection, none of which would have happened if we’d all assumed that there was nothing to be gained. Be open to possibilities. Imagine best-case scenarios. Someone has to reach out their hand first, so make it you.

Epilogue

Sarah & Diane: The coda to our story is that as a result of this pop-up-escape-room-in-a-garage experience, we two couples went on a destination escape room trip weekend to Houston that was anchored by Strange Bird Immersive, voted the top escape room company in the North America. We followed that up with an escape room triple date adding the couple who “took the plunge” to experience Sarah’s escape room. Our continuing adventures are just beginning!

Escape room post-game photo - Diane & Sarah with their significant others and friends

In a world of disconnection or virtual connections, there is something uniquely meaningful about real-life escape game experiences, real-life friendships, and community.

Reader Stories

Lisa: “Reader Stories” is a series we started back in 2016. Included in REAs mission statement is “we strive to grow the community of amazing people who love solving the puzzles together.” We think sharing stories in one avenue for growth.

If you feel inspired by Diane and Sarah’s story, we hope you’ll create new adventures of your own around your love for escape rooms.

Do you have an escape room-inspired personal story? We’d love to hear from you.

The RECON 2020 Schedule

We’ve been pouring ourselves into planning RECON 2020. We’ve announced a few speakers already (here and here) with more to come over the next few weeks.

RECON eye & penrose triangle logo.

The Schedule

We’re excited to show you the structure of RECON. We’ve designed a schedule that differs from previous industry events.

The schedule for the Reality Escape Convention

Why This Structure?

Typical Conventions

At a good convention, you walk away from the first session feeling inspired. You’re looking forward to going home and using your newfound knowledge. Then you go to a few more sessions and overdose on inspiration. After lunch, you can barely remember what inspired you back in the first session.

This is because most conventions are one-directional, like a classroom. They don’t provide attendees with an opportunity to truly engage with the ideas or each other.

At a week-long convention, you just hope that one or two speakers inspires anything in you.

The RECON Approach

We’ve designed RECON as an immersive event in its own right.

We are carefully selecting speakers, working with them to hone the presentations, and then ensuring that each session has time to breathe.

We’re planning the time in between the sessions too. This time is structured to help you reflect on what the message of the talk means to you, your creations, and your business.

At RECON, the speaker sessions will be followed by with table discussions. With these randomly-assigned, facilitated, small-group conversations, RECON will provide more than networking opportunities. We aim to give our attendees the tools that they need to get to know one another – creating space for serendipity – and enabling attendees to engage far deeper with one another and the subject matter of the session than we’ve ever seen before.

After years of speaking at more than a dozen conferences in 6 countries, we’ve learned from the strengths and weaknesses of each one. We’re building RECON as the convention we’d like to attend.

Get Your Tickets Today

Tickets are selling.

If you want to join this community, please act now.

RECON won’t be a massive event; attendance is capped. We are seeking creators and business owners who want to shepherd escape rooms and immersive games into the next decade.

We aren’t just putting on an event. We’re building a community.

Visit RealityEscapeCon.com to secure your ticket.

Escaparium – The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen [Review]

I’m on a ship!

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: 37.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was an ambitious game.

Escaparium built a massive nautical escape with a beautiful, sprawling set, and strong interaction design.

In-game: A view through a long, old, wood ship. A treasure chest sits on the floor.

From a puzzle and gameplay standpoint, there was a lot to love in The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, especially in the second and third acts. The opening had great ideas, but some rocky execution muddied the waters.

If you are plugged into the broader escape room world, then you’re likely wondering how it compares to 13th Gate’s famed Cutthroat Cavern. Comparing things to a beloved game like Cutthroat Cavern is pretty dangerous when it comes to expectation setting. It’s been so long since I personally played at Cutthroat Cavern that I don’t know that I can truly make a fair comparison. The passage of time does funny things to memory, accentuating the things that you love and hate about a game, while the middle kind of evaporates. But what I’ll say is this:

If you love big budget, blockbuster escape rooms, then The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen should be on your list. I can’t tell you whether you should like it more or less than any other game. I can say that Escaparium crammed a lot of love, technology, and detailing into this ambitious game… and it’s absolutely worth going out of your way to play it.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • It’s massive, gorgeous, and so impressive
  • Surprising and delightful moments

Story

The Admiral had ordered us to find the Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen. Once we found it, we needed to do whatever it took to learn the secrets that the Voodoo Queen had to offer.

In-game: A desk with a lantern, compass, and skull resting on it.

Setting

The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was gorgeous. We boarded a ship to begin our adventure. When I say, “we boarded a ship,” I don’t mean that “it looked like the interior of a ship,” I mean it was basically a ship. I saw the exterior. It was kind of crazy… and that was just the first act.

Escaparium built an ambitious, sprawling world for The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and it was loaded with wonderful set-driven moments.

In-game: Shelves inside of a ship containing lanterns and pots.

Gameplay

Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A caged area inside of an old ship.

Analysis

➕ The set of The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was breathtaking. It was gigantic and detailed. It induced a child-like urge to explore and discover. From the opening moments through multiple set changes, it delivered on adventure.

➖ With an enormous and inviting gamespace, but linear gameplay, Escaparium needed stronger cluing in the opening moments to route our attention toward the gameplay. We struggled to pick up momentum early on because almost every other aspect of our new environment was more captivating than the opening puzzle sequence.

➕ The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen included a variety of tactile puzzles. In the second and third act, these were especially well integrated into the set and props, which made them that much more engaging and satisfying to solve.

➖ A few of the puzzles needed stronger feedback. In one instance, we believed that we had completed two puzzles simultaneously and when the game reacted, we couldn’t tell which puzzle was correctly completed and which one needed another look.

➖ There was opportunity to more thoroughly connect the solves with the story. While the puzzles felt thematically connected, they didn’t feel integrated into the narrative.

➕/➖ We adored one layered sequence that required coordinated teamwork in the face of adverse conditions. It was challenging, but exciting. It was also needlessly frustrating because of a lack of feedback and some ambiguous cluing. With a few adjustments, this would be a smoother ride, and likely become the most memorable solve of the game.

In-game: A book with an embossed face.

➖ In this detailed world, any breakage easily becomes a red herring. It wasn’t always clear when an object moved freely whether we were meant to interact with it, or whether it had become detached.

➕ Escaparium used practical effects to enhance the staging and the story.

➕ Each scene change was dramatic, right up through the finale, which felt like a worthy culmination of our efforts. From start to finish, The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen was quite the ride.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that Escaparium has multiple venues around Montreal. The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen is in Laval at the Boul. Rossignols location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • There is some motion in this game. At any point a player may request for this motion to stop.

Book your hour with Escaparium’s The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escaparium comped our tickets for this game.

Sauve Qui Peut – Vortex Past [Review]

Big, ancient puzzle box.

Location:  Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 3, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Vortex Past was a unique escape room that felt like solving a giant puzzle box. There were no words because we had traveled to a pre-writing time. Each puzzle required us to play with it, interpret the feedback that we received, and determine what to do from there. This was progressive discovery in its purest form.

I love solving puzzling boxes. I mean, I proposed to Lisa with a one-of-a-kind puzzle box that I helped design… so I’m stating my stylistic bias up front.

In-game: an effervescent blue and yellow rock structure with water running through it.

Additionally, the beautiful set of Vortex Past rivaled its gameplay in uniqueness. At times, I completely stopped playing just so that I could take in the beauty of my surroundings.

I can also easily imagine some disliking Vortex Past. The small set didn’t have tons of puzzles. If everything clicks, you could find yourself winning quite quickly. If the puzzling style isn’t one that works for you and your team, then you might be in for a bumpy ride.

The magic of Sauve Qui Peut is that none of their games feel even slightly similar in style, design, or gameplay. From a gameplay standpoint, Sauve Qui Peut easily ranks among the most innovative escape room companies that we’ve ever encountered. Part of what comes with that incredible diversity is that not everyone will feel the same way about the individual, wonderful games at this company. My recommendation is to play a few games at Sauve Qui Peut and try to embrace each for what it’s striving to achieve.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • We’ve never played a game like it
  • Compact, yet stunning set
  • Vortex Past was one massive progressive discovery puzzle. It felt like a giant puzzle box.

Story

An unknown element unlike anything found elsewhere on Earth had been identified inside of an equatorial cave. The planet had endured a series of natural disasters that seemed to stem from this mysterious element.

We were sent back in time to attempt to neutralize the element when it first arrived to prevent future calamities.

In-game: a stone sundial beside a firepit in a cave.

Setting

Vortex Past was a gorgeous cavern filled with stalactites, iridescent stone, and running water. This was the definition of a small, yet mighty set.

Additionally, the puzzles were completely baked into the environment, so we weren’t just looking at the set, we were engaging with it throughout the experience.

In-game: stalactites hanging from a red walled of a cave.

Gameplay

Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past was an unusual escape room because the gameplay was more reminiscent of a puzzle box than a classic escape room. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.

In-game: closeup of an effervescent blue and yellow rock structure with water running through it.

Analysis

➕ The gorgeous set had the water glistening against the rocks. We felt transported back to an ancient cave.

➕ The gameplay was progressive discovery. As we explored our surroundings, triggering responses from the set, we felt as though we were solving our way out of a life-sized puzzle box. Vortex Past required us to reframe our thinking, the result of which was immensely satisfying discoveries.

Vortex Past gave feedback when we interacted with its puzzles. Interpreting the feedback was a natural part of solving the puzzle.

➖ Although Vortex Past gave immediate feedback to our actions, it didn’t provide enough by way of light and sound cues for its own responses, which were at times delayed, and not always exactly where our attention had been focused.

➕ In the ancient land of Vortex Past, we encountered symbols, but no written words. The puzzle style felt natural within the gamespace and the story world. The puzzles were also well themed.

➖ The handwritten symbols were sometimes faded, and in one instance, a bit messy.

➕ We especially enjoyed divining a solution.

➖ One sequencing issue stalled our momentum as we completed the final interaction in the game.

➕ The finale was wholly unexpected and unexpectedly joyous.

➕ I want to call out the chlorinated water feature in Vortex Past. Almost no escape rooms chlorinate, but they absolutely should. Water features can become breeding grounds for bacteria and I am pleased to see that Sauve Qui Peut recognized this and handled it appropriately.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • Players must be able to duck through a very low doorway for the full experience.

Book your hour with Sauve Qui Peut’s Vortex Past, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Sauve Qui Peut comped our tickets for this game.