Escape Room Adventures WNY – Escape from The Raven’s Room [Review]

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Location: North Tonawanda, NY

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22.50 per ticket

Story & setting

It was 1849 and Edgar Allan Poe had just passed away. We snuck into his home to pay our respects and found ourselves locked in his office. Could we escape his final project and puzzle our way to freedom, or remain trapped forever more?

Staged within Poe’s office, the set was simple yet elegant.

In-game; A writing desk set in front of a fireplace.

Puzzles

The puzzling was a series of ciphers and literary references-turned-puzzles, all of which were more than at home in a Poe-themed room escape.

Standouts

Escape Room Adventures WNY did a beautiful job of translating a number of Poe references into puzzles. One early interaction was exceptionally inventive.

The ending was similarly brilliant.

Shortcomings

There was a run of tedious puzzles in the middle of Escape from The Raven’s Room that did not live up to the excitement and innovation of the early- and late-game interactions.

There were too many locks with similar digit structures. This made it occasionally difficult to tell which answers went where.

Should I play Escape Room Adventures WNY’s Escape from The Raven’s Room?

Escape from The Raven’s Room had some of the most elegant literary references-turned-puzzles that I’ve seen to date. There were some brilliant moments within this escape room that I absolutely loved.

That said, Escape from The Raven’s Room also felt incomplete. It left me wanting more of the magnificent literature-inspired puzzling that I know Escape Room Adventures WNY is capable of creating.

If you like Poe’s work, it’s absolutely worth giving Escape from The Raven’s Room a playthrough, regardless of your skill level.

If you aren’t familiar with Poe, you’ll still be able to appreciate some of Escape Room Adventures WNY’s design decisions, but you will miss things.

If Escape Room WNY were to bring the middle section of Escape from The Raven’s Room up to the level of the opening and closing, it would be a truly magnificent experience. I hope that they do it.

Book your hour with Escape Room Adventures WNY’s Escape from The Raven’s Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Adventures WNY comped our tickets for this game.

 

3600 Escape – Mineshaft [Review]

Digging for puzzles.

Location: Buffalo, NY

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Legend said that an expensive diamond had been hidden in a mine in central Pennsylvania. We donned our hard hats and puzzled our way towards the treasure.

From the floor, to the walls, to the lack of space, Mindshaft was a compelling stage for this excavation.

In-game: A wooden mine shaft with a coal-filled mining cart.
Believe the gamemaster when you’re told, “You don’t have to touch the coal.”

Puzzles

Mineshaft was a puzzle-driven escape room in a particularly cool environment. It included an eclectic mix of typical escape room-style puzzles. Most of the puzzles made use of props that we uncovered in the gamespace.

Standouts

Beyond the entrance to Mineshaft we entered a world so unlike the lobby of 3600 Escape. The wood planks, scattered stones, and pieces of coal brought the little mine to life.

The best puzzles were the ones that tied directly into the set.

It was fun to extract clues from within the mine itself.

The puzzling started with the set and props working in tandem to engage the entire team as we got our bearings in the mine.

Shortcomings

While in theory we liked this opening, it focused everyone on the same task, which, coupled with unclear cluing and lack of direction, created a bottleneck right off the bat.

In a few instances, the cluing – and even some puzzle solutions – seemed rather ambiguous. We resorted to hacking our way through parts of this experience with trial and error.

3600 Escape built an outstanding set, but didn’t elevate the puzzling to match. This left us wanting something more.

Should I play 3600 Escape’s Mineshaft?

The most exciting element of Mineshaft was its set, which demonstrated 3600 Escape’s attention to detail in building the staging for this escape room. In this regard, Mineshaft was a leap forward for 3600 Escape.

Despite appearances, Mineshaft was actually a puzzler’s escape room: it was packed with very standard, escape room-style puzzles.

That’s also how it fell short. The game looked so good that we yearned for more integrated and experiential puzzling. We wanted the puzzle design to leap forward with that set. It felt like a missed opportunity.

If you enjoy room escapes for new and exciting environments, you’ll enjoy Mineshaft. If you enjoy escape room-style puzzles, you could also find a lot of like here. If, however, you really want to experience puzzle and set integration, you may not quite be satisfied by this escape room.

Regardless of experience level, there will likely be both moments of thrill and frustration in Mineshaft. 

We hope the 3600 Escape continues to work their puzzle design into the world of this delightfully compelling little mine. There is gold in this game if they dig just a little deeper.

Book your hour with 3600 Escape’s Mineshaft, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 3600 Escape comped our tickets for this game.

 

The Crux Escape – Clara [Review]

I see metaphors, all the time. They’re everywhere.

Location: Niagara Falls, ON

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 50 minutes

Price: $21-26 per ticket

Story & setting

We entered the mind of Clara, a young girl with a dark past. Could we rescue her from her own trauma by uncovering her experiences?

Clara’s mind was a spacious room with basic furniture around the perimeter. Artwork hung on the walls. The decor was sometimes quirky, but not particularly interesting.

In-game: Image of a large back locked box that reads, "CLARA"

Puzzles

Clara challenged players to make connections between the various props and set pieces that together presented the puzzles.

The Crux used standard escape room concepts, executed at varying degrees of difficulty.

Standouts

We particularly enjoyed one set piece. As the experience progressed, we uncovered more of it and the intricate, detailed artwork within.

There were a lot of locks in Clara, but The Crux clearly connected puzzles with the corresponding locks. Thus the escape room rewarded puzzle completion with more game. The volume of locks never hindered the flow of the experience.

Clara was a basic room escape with a twist. At times, the seemingly standard puzzles tripped up our experienced team, not because they were too challenging, but because they deviated from the norm just enough to trip up anyone jumping to conclusions too quickly.

As the room escape progressed, the puzzles revealed more about Clara and her traumatized past. Upon reflection, the underlying puzzle design and story were artfully intertwined. After we’d learned her story and escaped, we appreciated the links between the puzzle structure and narrative.

Shortcomings

While in retrospect the puzzles and story came together, throughout the game itself the puzzling didn’t build a strong narrative. Clara was primarily a puzzling experience, without a memorable climactic moment.

As we progressed through Clara, we rode a roller coaster of puzzle challenge. The difficulty curve seemed off. Especially given an intended audience of less experienced players, more ramp up and down would help with flow.

Clara was a room of locked furniture and basic wall hangings. Certain props had visual appeal, but it was not an intriguing set to explore.

Should I play The Crux Escape’s Clara?

Clara was a puzzle-focused room escape. If you like puzzles, there is a lot to enjoy here. Additionally, players of all experience levels can enjoy Clara; they will likely be tripped up in different places.

If you are more interested in set design, story, or technology, Clara will not be the right escape room for you.

As Clara’s story progressed, it was always in the background, with the puzzles front and center. It wasn’t until reflecting back that we came to appreciate the subtle connections between the mystery and the puzzles. If you’re looking for a heart-racing, puzzling adventure, we recommend The Crux’s Dead Air, where the story and puzzles were more closely intertwined as you experience them.

That said, there was a simple beauty in Clara.

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

Full disclosure: The Crux provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Queen City Escape – Strange Escape [Review]

Pack some Eggos and don’t split up the party.

Location: Buffalo, NY

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

A sort of parody of the Netflix series, Stranger Things, our group of friends needed to venture into the Upside Down to save someone’s cat.

Loaded with Stranger Things references, Strange Escape was split into the real world and the Upside Down. Aesthetically, this was a fairly simple escape room, but it did a pretty good job of capturing some of the look of both sides of the series, even if you had to squint a little to see it.

In-game: The alphabet drawn on a wallpapered and wood paneled wall. Above each letter is a christmas light. "ACE" are illuminated.

Puzzles

Largely linear, Strange Escape had solid, well-clued puzzles that were satisfying solves.

The puzzles didn’t really carry a narrative, but most were fun references to the source material.

Standouts

The setup and rules delivery was legitimately funny.

As a fan of Stranger Things, I enjoyed finding all of the references that were littered throughout the room escape.

In game; blue Christmas lights illuminate the Upside Down as black tendrils cling to the walls.

I really enjoyed the puzzling in Strange Escape.

Shortcomings

Our whole team struggled to tell different colors apart in the low light.

There were a number of gameflow issues, especially given the linearity and our 7-person team. It was impossible to keep everyone occupied on relevant puzzles.

Similarly, early on we were given access to far too many items that simply weren’t relevant until later in the game. This lead to a lot of unnecessary wheel-spinning. It did keep a number of players busy, but then frustrated these same players when the puzzle they had been working on to no avail was ultimately solved simply when someone else found the missing components a few minutes later.

Queen City Escape built up Strange Escape as scary, but wasn’t. I think it was for the best that it wasn’t frightening, but accurate expectations would have improved the experience.

While the references were fun, it didn’t capture the thrill, adventure, or grandeur of Stranger Things.

Should I play Queen City Escape’s Strange Escape?

This was one of those strange reviews where the shortcomings list is really long, but I still had a great time. Strange Escape was a fun room escape. With fewer people and small adjustments to the lighting and flow, it could be much more fun.

There’s fun for newbies and experienced players alike in Strange Escape. Be mindful of team size, as the space fills up quickly and room around relevant puzzles will always be limited.

Fans of Stranger Things shouldn’t expect a grand adventure, but instead, an intimate, cute, and humorous homage to the series.

Those who haven’t watched Stranger Things… umm… fix that. Now. In addition to missing the jokes in this escape room, you’re also missing out on some of the finest television in recent memory.

Book your hour with Queen City Escape’s Strange Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Enigma Escape Rooms – The Masterpiece [Review]

White bread makes a perfectly fine sandwich.

Location: Buffalo, New York

Date played: April 30, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

After a billionaire art collector died, hundreds of millions of dollars were unaccounted for. We broke into his office to steal the missing fortune.

The Masterpiece took place in a rich guy’s unremarkable office. The paintings on the walls were the single nod to his interests and fortune. He didn’t have expensive taste.

In-game: An office with a computer and a fireplace.

Puzzles

The Masterpiece required different types of thinking as well as some interacting. A number of the puzzles rewarded keen observation.

Standouts

In multiple instances, The Masterpiece relied on standard escape room props and puzzles, with execution well above average. We enjoyed the clarity of a particular visual puzzle and the streamlined used of one technological interface.

The Masterpiece flowed well from start to finish.

Enigma Escape Rooms built a few well-hidden surprises into this office.

Without saying too much, Enigma Escape Rooms included a few items that could easily have been dreadful, but they used them in such a way that they were fair and fun.

Shortcomings

The gamespace for The Masterpiece was an unremarkable office. It did not develop a character or set a compelling stage for this heist. The space was boring.

While many of the puzzles were well designed, they never built energy or tension. The escape room didn’t have a lot of drama, a climax, or memorable moments.

Should I play Enigma Escape Rooms’ The Masterpiece?

Enigma Escape Rooms checked a lot of important boxes: flow, cluing, structure, reliance on observation, and fair puzzle implementation.

Where The Masterpiece fell short, however, was in excitement. Neither the set nor story was compelling. The puzzles – while well designed – weren’t particularly memorable either. Everything worked, but nothing left an impact.

This would be an excellent entry point for escape room beginners. It will be a challenging, but fair opponent. More experienced players will likely appreciate some of the finer points of puzzle design.

There is a strong room escape in The Masterpiece. From this first outing, I can tell that Enigma Escape Rooms understands the escape room building blocks. I hope to see them kick it up a notch with their next adventure.

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

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

 

We’re at the Niagara Falls Room Escape Conference

Hello Niagara Falls!

We’re in town this week for the Room Escape Conference and Tradeshow.

  • Niagara Falls Conference & Event Center
  • 101 Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls, NY, USA
  • Registration is still open
  • Onsite registration starting at $30

Room Escape Conference & Tour logo, an abstract head with a maze, keyhole, and clock.

Escape Rooms

We’re playing 6 escape rooms in Niagara Falls and Buffalo today. Perhaps we’ll run into you around town.

If you haven’t decided which escape rooms to visit yet, read our recommendations for Buffalo and Niagara Falls or ask us about the ones we played today.

Come To Our Talks

We’re delivering a free talk Tuesday morning: Goldi-lock-ing Your Escape Room Business… Learn the Difference between Magnificent, Average, and Tragic Escape Room Design.

  • Tuesday, May 5 at 10:00AM
  • Cascade Room 1

We’re also moderating a panel on Tuesday afternoon. We’ll be chatting with three Louisiana escape room companies about Co-Working, Co-Existing, and THRIVING!

  • Tuesday, May 5 at 2:30PM
  • Cascade Room 1
  • Panelists from Rise Escape Rooms, 13th Gate Escape, & Clue Carré

Visit Our Booth

Please find us at booth 102 on the tradeshow floor and introduce yourself.

We’d love to talk shop.

Niagara / Buffalo, NY: Room Escape Recommendations

Latest update: September 24, 2017

This list will be updated whenever we travel to Buffalo/Niagara Falls.

We know that a lot of folks are looking for the “best” escape rooms to play. While we think that best is relative, we also realize that people want firm recommendations.

Here are our recommendations for games in the Buffalo, NY and the Niagara Falls region. Since we like nuance, they are broken out into categories.

Mosaic photo of 6 buffalo wings sitting atop an ornately decorated plate upon a wood table.

Standouts

These are the escape rooms that are raising the bar for the region.

Intensity

These will get your blood pumping.

Set and scenery driven

These escape rooms take you to another world.

Puzzle-y

These escape rooms demonstrate a puzzling focus.

Beginner-friendly

Bring your inexperienced friends to these welcoming room escapes with solid game-flow and approachable puzzles.

Large Team

This room escape will keep an entire team involved throughout.

Things to know before visiting

Ride share

While Uber/Lyft do operate in Niagara Falls Canada, ride share apps are not available in Buffalo. You will need a car to get around.

Passport

If you’re planning to cross the border between the United States and Canada, you need a valid passport or enhanced drivers license (if you aren’t sure if you have one, you don’t).

Buffalo wings

… they are legitimately better in Buffalo than they are throughout the rest of the country. Hit up Anchor Bar or Duffs.

Captive – Dracula’s Library [Review]

Draining.

Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Date played: January 22, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: 25 CAD per ticket

Story & setting

Set in 1862, we were a team of investigators on the hunt for the most famous of vampires in New Orleans. Could we find the proof we needed to expose Dracula before he learned of our intrusion and ended our story?

The set looked like the vague idea of New Orleans had collided with an Ikea catalogue.

Captive's stylized "C" logo.

Puzzles

The main thrust of Dracula’s Library was hunting and searching. Both times we called for hints, it was because of an obscure search failure. We spent the bulk of our 45-minute time in the room escape hunting for minute details. I think we escaped with 15 seconds to spare.

There wasn’t a lot to find, but it was hard to find everything.

Standouts

Our gamemaster had a wonderful delivery of the rules and story. She was engaging and excellent at her job.

Shortcomings

We had to fully interact with some large pieces of furniture. None of the furniture that required heavy interaction was sturdy, on wheels, or properly secured.

With no in-game monitoring, in order to give us a hint, our lovely gamemaster had to climb a set of stairs and have a conversation with us about our progress.

There weren’t enough handheld lights to go around for the moments that needed them. We found ourselves working harder to choreograph the passing of lights than we did working through puzzles.

The puzzling wasn’t compelling or fun.

Should I play Captive’s Dracula’s Library?

Dracula’s Library seemed great before we entered:

An energetic and engaged gamemaster: ✔

A historical setting in America’s true Sin City: ✔

A mythic mystery to unravel: ✔

High stakes: ✔

Unfortunately Dracula’s Library collapsed within the first few minutes. There was a stunning lack of depth and some bizarre design choices that bordered on safety concerns. Dracula’s Library wasn’t an easy game, but it was hard in all the wrong ways.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

3600 Escape Room – Conspiracy Theory [Review]

Connect the dots.

Location: Buffalo, NY

Date played: January 21, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

In Conspiracy Theory, we were investigating the apartment of a conspiracy theorist friend who had gone missing.

Our friend’s studio apartment had pretty standard furnishing and decor.

It also included a non-standard escape room countdown clock; 3600 Escape Room counted our time down from 3600 seconds.

Puzzles

3600 Escape Room hid puzzles throughout the apartment, making use of standard home goods. They also snuck in a few unexpected objects for more interesting puzzling interactions.

The puzzles were well-structured with generally clear cluing and elegant solutions.

Standouts

Our gamemaster delivered written hints through a mail slot in the wall. This was on-theme and creative. It was also multi-purpose. She paid close attention to us as we puzzled along and even delivered a Capri Sun in answer to a joke one of us made about the Kool-Aid man. We all had a good laugh… and David drank it.

A CapriSun with a post it that reads, "It's no Kool-Aid but I can send it through the wall :)

Conspiracy Theory included a few standout puzzles. We particularly liked one input device and another “destructible” clue. These were both creative and unexpected.

3600 Escape Room made use of some standard escape room puzzle types. They thought outside the box to successfully deliver one of the clearest solutions to something we often see poorly executed.

In-game: A wall of newspaper clippings with circles and strings connecting them.
Image provided by 3600 Escape Room

Shortcomings

In another standard puzzle type, 3600 Escape Room delivered a rather weak tool and a lack of adequate cluing. Fresh batteries matter.

As with most studio apartments, the layout was not spacious. One corner in particular was relatively inaccessible and certainly not accessible for multiple people at one time. This created minor bottlenecking.

There was a hole in the bottom of a set piece that was easily accessible and sharp. It should be permanently plugged for safety.

The apartment was just an apartment and the setting never did anything to up the level of excitement.

Should I play 3600 Escape Room’s Conspiracy Theory?

Conspiracy Theory was a fun play through. While it was a simple apartment and aesthetically not much to behold, the puzzle resolutions were elegant and satisfying. This creativity in puzzle design – along with an attentive and playful gamemaster – made for a great time.

In this game, 3600 Escape Room demonstrated creative design ability and solid puzzle flow. During our visit, we peeked into their next game, still under construction, and we look forward to them incorporating more exciting aesthetics and world building into their next room escape.

They have a beautiful lobby, and a family / corporate friendly approach to the escape room business. I would absolutely recommend Conspiracy Theory to beginner players. This would make for a great first game. Experienced players may want to scope out their upcoming game, which we are looking forward to playing on our return visit.

Book your hour with 3600 Escape Room’s Conspiracy Theory, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 3600 Escape Room comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

 

Escape Room Buffalo – Brewery 2 [Review]

Order some wings and pound a Labatt. Welcome to Buffalo.

Location: North Tonawanda, NY

Date played: January 21, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

In Brewery 2, we needed to puzzle our way out of a bar. Despite the name, the setting was actually more bar than brewery.

The set of Brewery 2 had a homemade bar vibe. It was playful, hacked together, and adorable.

In-game: A beer tap, and cash register. A Coors Light neon sign hangs on the wall.

Puzzles

Escape Room Buffalo designed the puzzles into the structure of the bar and its associated paraphernalia. Through these hands-on puzzles we physically engaged with the different components of the set.

Standouts

Brewery 2 encouraged us to interact with every part of the set. We appreciated the tangible puzzles.

Two puzzles in particular relied on technology that largely worked with the theme.

Shortcomings

There was a puzzle interaction where we received some components far earlier then we earned the cluing that instructed us how to use them. This would have been fine except that there were clear ways to attempt to solve the puzzle and some of those paths could consume the game components. We ended up needing to summon the gamemaster to restock us after permanently losing these game components to a set piece.

Brewery 2 wasn’t refined; it was hacked together.

Should I play Escape Room Buffalo’s Brewery 2?

While we didn’t brew any beer, or even drink any, we had a good time at the bar. It was adorably handmade. It may have been hacked together with a design flaw or two, but it was robust enough to withstand the interactions between players, puzzles, and set.

Brewery 2 would be welcoming for new players. Given the beer theme and low level of difficulty, it would also lend itself to a light-hearted and laid back playthrough for experienced players.

Book your hour with Escape Room Buffalo’s Brewery 2, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Buffalo comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.