13th Gate Escape – The Collector [Review]

“Ooooh that smell…”

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We slowly came to our senses in the bottom of a deep, dark well. The last thing that we remembered was attempting to help a stranded stranger struggling with engine trouble when someone struck us in the backs of our heads. It was life or death. Could we escape?

The Collector was a horror game produced by a haunt company. We started at the bottom of a massive well. I’m not sure what the vertical height was, but this was a tall game. Tall, and detailed, and grim.

In-game: A room lit red with bodies wrapped up and hanging from the ceiling.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

13th Gate Escape used appropriate and not necessarily pleasant odors to add depth to the experience.

Puzzles

The Collector combined search and observation with more sustained, hands-on puzzling. It included challenges designed for both individuals and teammates.

The Collector was at its very best when it was tactile.

Standouts

The gamespace was magnificent. It was unnecessarily expansive and thus all the more foreboding. By incorporating lighting, sounds, and smells, along with the set construction, 13th Gate created an unforgettable stage and just enough story for The Collector.

The breadth of the set enabled an exciting and memorable mid-game transition. We loved this.

One early puzzle was just tricky enough to be humorous, and also challenging.

We enjoyed a number of late-game puzzles that required us to interact with the eerie set and props. There were multiple satisfying puzzle moments.

The villain in The Collector was injected via audio, and his dialogue was amusing.

Shortcomings

The Collector got off to a slow start, in part because of a lack of gating. We spent considerable time on puzzles before they were truly open to us.

At times, the puzzles in The Collector lacked clue structure. This was more pronounced for less narrative-driven puzzling.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector?

The Collector was imposing. I can’t think of another escape room company that has used vertical height and overwhelming scale like 13th Gate Escape. When mixed with the level of detail applied to every nook of the set, this experience came to life in a way that most “murder basement”-style games do not achieve.

If you like or are even ok with horror experiences, The Collector is worth experiencing simply because there’s nothing else like it. It’s beginner friendly with approachable puzzles, and novel in a way that will appeal to even the most jaded of escape room players.

Note that mobility is a factor in The Collector. At least one or two players will need to crawl, and there are some stairs to climb.

See if you can claw your way out of the well.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

5-Minute Escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape [Review]

5 minutes of prime cut escape room.

Location: Tickfaw, Louisiana & Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 5 minutes

Price: $5 per ticket

Structure

There is a little-known attraction open at haunted houses across the country: 5-minute escape rooms.

During October, crowds of people flock to RISE and 13th Gate to visit their world-famous haunted houses. While they wait in line (RISE) or near the box office (13th Gate), haunt goers can spend up to 5 minutes in each mini escape room on the premises.

Players are up against a 5-minute game clock with no hints and no gamemaster.

Scenarios & settings

During our recent visit to RISE and 13th Gate, we played (and in one case, viewed under construction*) the following themes:

  • Locked-Up (prison theme), RISE
  • Heist (museum heist theme), RISE
  • Captured (serial killer theme), RISE
  • Voodoo (voodoo theme), 13th Gate
  • Saw (serial killer theme), 13th Gate
  • Abyss (submarine theme), 13th Gate

Each small set was beautifully designed and expertly constructed. The gorgeous sets transported us from the grounds of the haunted houses to these themed adventures.

The exteriors of Abyss, SAW, and Voodoo at 13th Gate Escape. Each exterior is themed, and has a countdown clock.
The outwardly facing countdown clock was a nice touch.

*All 6 5-minute escape rooms are now open.

Puzzles

Each 5-minute escape encapsulated the first scene of an escape room. We observed our surroundings, determined relevant information, and worked together to complete a few interactive – but not particularly involved – puzzles, which culminated in a complete solve.

Standouts

The sets were world class. RISE and 13th Gate construct some of the most outstanding sets we’ve seen. (Reviews of their 60-minute escape rooms are forthcoming.) They did not cut corners for these shorter experiences.

These 5-minute escapes felt like movie trailers for the 60-minute escape rooms at RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape. In each short playthrough, we were exposed to simple, escape room-style puzzling, which felt like a teaser for the more complex and layered challenges in the longer games.

RISE and 13th Gate edited out all extraneous and distracting content. The tight game design was truly impressive.

These 5-minute escapes required minimal reset labor. To increase throughput, these couldn’t be a burden to reset. There was little time in between playthroughs.

For the individual games, these particular details stood out:

  • Abyss at 13th Gate included impressive tech-driven effects that provided story and drama.
  • The Heist at RISE Escape Rooms incorporated a great agility challenge.
  • 13th Gate created progressive clue structure for the most search-heavy game, Saw. As time passed, the clueing became more direct, effectually functioning as a hint system.

Shortcomings

We can see how 5-minute escape rooms could be polarizing. Players who understand how to play will have intense and thrilling playthroughs. Players who are completely out of their element won’t have enough time to make sense of… anything. The same 5-minute escape room could be exhilarating to some and bewildering to others. That’s the nature of the genre.

5-minute escape rooms introduce a good deal of risk for the industry. By virtue of their locations at popular haunted attractions, they have the potential to introduce many more people to escape rooms. They need to be amazing. They need to be the escape room movie-trailer experiences we saw at RISE and 13th Gate. They are incredibly challenging to build well and if executed poorly, they will turn people away from escape rooms.

Should I play the 5-minute escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape?

If you are visiting RISE Haunted House, RISE Escape Rooms, 13th Gate, or 13th Gate Escape this fall, the 5-minute escapes would be a great add-on to your experience.

Each one we tried delivered a exciting complete experience with an incredible set and strong puzzle flow.

Arrive focused. You have to be on for every second of a 5-minute game. If your mind wanders for just 10 seconds, you’ve just wasted more the 3% of your game clock.

For the individual games, note that (1) RISE’s Prison Break split us between two spaces, but we could see and hear each other and (2) 13th Gate’s Voodoo took place in a particularly tight space and would not be comfortable for claustrophobic players.

This season, there are 5-minute escape rooms at multiple haunted attractions throughout the United States. Locally in New Jersey, Brighton Asylum offers 2: The Bomb Squad and The Device. (We haven’t had a chance to try either one yet.)

Note that 5-minute escape rooms are add-on, limited-time attractions, open to guests when the haunted houses are open.

Play the 5-minute escapes when you visit RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for these games.