Arcane Escape Rooms – The Agency [Review]

Curious dystopia.

Location: Newhall, California

Date played: June 5, 2017

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

Duration: 50 minutes

Price: varies based on team size and time of booking

Story & setting

Set in a dystopian future, we had been captured by The Agency, a malevolent group tasked with putting people through a Darwinian test of wits to prove that they were worthy of the limited resources available. We needed to pass their test in order to secure our own survival.

We were trapped in an eclectic, hacked-together puzzle room. It had dark walls, assorted furniture, and puzzle-y odds and ends.

In-game: A wall covered in a torn black tarp and wood scrapes. A clock rests on a small white table.

Puzzles

The meat of The Agency was the puzzles, which wound their way through the assorted decor.

The puzzles were generally tactile and mechanical. They relied more on keen observation and connections than on prolonged unraveling.

Standouts

We loved one unexpected and particularly satisfying mechanical interaction. Arcane Escape Rooms clearly designed the interaction from start to finish and that attention to detail elevated the moment.

The puzzles flowed logically and were largely hands-on, satisfying solves.

In-game: a white sculpture of a strange alien-like face against a black backdrop.

Shortcomings

There wasn’t much of a narrative to follow or even feel within The Agency. While there was a complex backstory, it was irrelevant to our in-game experience. Neither the puzzles nor the set design brought us into that imagined dystopia.

The set was unremarkable.

The final act fell flat. The final challenge felt bolted on and failed to capture the tactile, mechanical feel that makes Arcane Escape Room’s best puzzles feel so special.

Should I play Arcane Escape Rooms’s The Agency?

The Agency focused on tactile puzzling. We touched, positioned, moved, and manipulated items to solve our way through the game.

Beginners will find this room approachable and exciting. It takes puzzling off the page into the real world. For veterans, there will be some common tropes and a few different, truly entertainment moments.

While there was a complex backstory to The Agency, it simply didn’t matter. Visit The Agency for the puzzles… and do make sure that you play Arcane Escape Room’s flagship game, The Hideout.

Book your hour with Arcane Escape Rooms’s The Agency, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Arcane Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

Arcane Escape Rooms – The Hideout [Review]

Step back. I’m about to play with science!

Location: Newhall, California

Date played: June 5, 2017

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

Duration: 50 minutes

Price: varies based on team size and time of booking

Story & setting

A sequel of sorts to Arcane Escape Rooms’ beginner room The Agency (review to publish soon), The Hideout had us on the run from the evil enforcers of dystopian rule that had previously captured us. Now locked up in my brother’s hideout, we had to follow the clues he left in order to throw open the gates to freedom.

The Hideout was a small bunker built from wood, metal, and tubing. It had an unusual unfinished construction site aesthetic that had less to do with establishing setting or carrying narrative than it did with facilitating unusual mechanical puzzling.

In-game: A wooden wall with pipes and a big red valve mounted to it.

Puzzles

Arcane Escape Rooms built The Hideout with two goals:

  • Have no silicon-based technology in the room
  • Use as few locks as possible (there are two keyed padlocks.)

Everything was mechanical and it made for a refreshingly unusual series of puzzles.

Standouts

The mechanical puzzling was a lot of fun and honestly different from the overwhelming majority of escape rooms.

In-game: A close up an an intense barred door held shut by a chain and laminated padlock.

Arcane Escape Rooms packed a lot of intrigue into a small space.

There was a great illusion in the game.

As we puzzled, we worked through training wheels, so to speak, for some of the mechanisms, which made the puzzling more approachable. This also enabled us to experiment with what we found and discover our way through the puzzles.

While the gamemaster delivered hints whenever he thought we should get a nudge, they arrived in such a way that we could ignore them if we chose to do so. (We always accepted them; they were useful and welcome.)

Shortcomings

The story was a little hard to follow.

One puzzle would have benefited from a little more clarity.

The hint system was used to provide verification that we were on the right path, but it would have been far more fun if they could have confirmed our decisions without it feeling like the gamemaster was providing the thumbs up.

Should I play Arcane Escape Rooms’ The Hideout?

The Hideout was fun and refreshing. It’s rare to find a puzzle room that is completely unusual, but playable from start to finish… and Arcane Escape Rooms built just that.

Additionally, because The Hideout deviates significantly from the norm, it is roughly as challenging for newbies as for experienced players. I’d recommend that regardless of experience level, you give it a shot.

The tangible nature of mechanical puzzling made for some seriously satisfying solves. I recommend that you go out and experience them for yourself.

Book your hour with Arcane Escape Rooms’ The Hideout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Arcane Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.