The Room Escape Games – Asylum of Lost Souls [Review]

Drink, think, outwit a shrink.

Location: Avondale, AZ

Date Played: September 16, 2022

Team Size: 1-9; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $37.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When I walked into The Room Escape Games’ Asylum of Lost Souls, my first thought was: I’m glad there are other people in here. The dark, creepy doctor’s office with several locked doors leading to the unknown was a bit unnerving. The set was moody and immersive, with shadows making ordinary items appear sinister. There were many items to search through that turned out to be extraneous, and while they added to the overall aesthetic of the game, it was also disappointing to search and find nothing useful. 

A cobweb covered chandelier in an old asylum.

The puzzles were approachable and on the easy side; we found it best not to overthink solutions. At one point, we tried really hard to make a puzzle out of a weird set of items that turned out had no purpose other than set dressing. It would have been quite a bizarre puzzle though! While some puzzles were unusual and unique, others were less so, but it was still satisfying when the answer just clicked. Thematic set pieces with well-integrated tech really worked with the story. In fact, the narrative was nicely woven throughout the game and purposefully evident in most of the puzzling. 

We did experience a minor issue when an additional video started playing while no one was actually in the area to see it. Once we noticed, we wrongly interpreted information in the video as a hint pushed by the gamemaster. It was confusing and slowed our momentum late in the game, though we actually solved the puzzle as intended.

The Room Escape Games is unusual in that they allow selfies during the game and sell alcoholic beverages in the lobby, along with snacks and soft drinks. You can even bring drinks in the room or place an order while you play! This was surprising because I’ve heard many stories from gamemasters about crazy things people do while playing after drinking, not to mention the numerous warnings in many waivers and FAQs. I was hesitant to order anything, having been conditioned for so long.

Asylum of Lost Souls is a good game for novices or people who are there for a casual experience (the selfies, drinking, or haunted vibes) rather than for enthusiasts or hard-core puzzlers. If you are in the area and this is describes you and your team, stop by The Room Escape Games.

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EXIT: Advent Calendar – The Hunt for The Golden Book [Review]

24 puzzling days ’til Christmas

Location:  At home

Date Played:  November, 2022

Team size: 1+; we recommend 1-2

Duration: Average 10 minutes per day for 24 days

Price: about $49.95

REA Reaction

When I first heard that Exit: The Game was coming out with a new advent calendar this holiday season, I immediately called my local gaming store to find out the release date. Having played their Mystery of the Ice Cave last year, I knew to expect fun, think-outside-of-the-box puzzles with those special aha moments found in their standalone games. An Exit: The Game puzzle each day for 24 days until Christmas? Yes, please!

Lifting the lid of the rather large box-shaped calendar, I noticed the detailed artwork depicting a snow-covered village under a large, glowing moon. 24 sealed doors, each with a lock icon and 3 mysterious symbols covered the lower half of the scene. I couldn’t wait to find out what puzzles lay behind those doors. I also couldn’t help but check out the rest of the box, wondering what, if anything, might be part of a puzzle!

Large EXIT: The Game Advent Calendar box depicts a book opening to a beautiful and spooky European city lit by moonlight.

Solving Exit: The Game-style puzzles takes creative thinking and looking beyond the obvious. The puzzles ranged from simple to tricky. We solved most within 10 minutes, including the time to read each day’s story page. The simple mechanic of discovering which door to open next worked really well and ensured we didn’t open the wrong one by mistake. We also enjoyed a few unexpected references to well-known holiday movies and real-life people. Though there were a few puzzles that were confusing or overly complicated, and one that referenced information more common in the UK, most were delightful and fun to solve. 

The Hunt for the Golden Book is a fun, family-friendly experience, appropriate for kids 10 and older. Fans of the Exit: The Game series will find a lot to like as well. It’s those unexpected discoveries and seeing puzzle components in a completely new way that keep me coming back for more. 

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Number One Escape Room – The Shed [Review]

Blood, shed & fears.

Location:  Las Vegas, NV

Date Played: September 12, 2022

Team Size: 3-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players need to crawl; there is no bypass 

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Number One Escape Room’s The Shed picked up right where their game The Cabin had left off. After managing to escape from a serial killer’s cabin, we were now hiding in a shed in his backyard.

(Note that The Shed is a standalone game; you do not need to have played The Cabin first before playing The Shed.)

Having played The Cabin during a prior visit, I knew to expect a similar disturbing vibe and I was not disappointed. The game was moody and atmospheric from the start, with minimal lighting, blood-spattered walls, sinister-looking tools here and there, and evidence of missing victims on display. Though the room was quite dark, we were happy to discover flashlights that effectively helped us find our way around. 

A wall of skulls.

Puzzles were appropriately creepy, and while we were initially grossed out by the discovery of a rather grisly item, in a short time we were enthusiastically puzzling with said item as if it were a completely normal thing to do. We even giggled at several unexpected moments, including one thrilling effect that unfortunately could only be experienced by a single player due to the nature of the event. Puzzles were approachable and not too difficult, with solutions that came together easily and made sense. Game flow was smooth throughout, except for one early action that lacked adequate feedback, causing a pause in progress. After retracing steps and asking for a hint, we realized we’d already triggered the event. 

The Shed is a fun horror-themed game for both new and experienced players not upset by a little blood and gore.  If you are in Las Vegas and looking to escape the casinos for a while, stop by and play Number One Escape Room’s The Shed

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Lock & Clue Escape Rooms – Agent Z.E.N. [Review]

There’s no place like Om…

Location:  Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Date Played: August 27, 2022

Team Size: 3-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: One person needs to crawl on the floor.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When I first walked into Lock & Clue’s Agent Z.E.N, I’ll admit I wasn’t impressed. We had just played their game The Sorcerer’s Curse, with an unusual entry and highly immersive medieval game space. The set design for Agent Z.E.N. was high-quality but average, with office furniture, a cabinet with knickknacks and a few pictures on the wall. How could this be their newest room? It just seemed too ordinary. But as we delved further into our search of the agent’s workspace, the set came to life, surprising us and adding depth of character and theme.

Our team of three had plenty to explore, with puzzles ranging from straightforward and logical to clever and definitely different. They all made sense in this covert spy world. One memorable puzzle stood out from the others as a defining puzzle for the game, unique and thematic in its simple execution. But we struggled with another, later in the game, which involved a clue that could be interpreted in different ways and caused our forward progress to stall. We also inadvertently impacted the finale, bringing the game to an awkward end instead of the intended “ta-dah” moment. 

A large Buddha statue sitting against a yellow wall.

Interestingly, this game used a score-based system, allowing us to earn extra points with bonus puzzles to get on the leaderboard. Unlike some rooms with bonus puzzles that are nearly impossible to solve, these were nicely approachable; they were fun and tricky, providing plenty to work on for the whole hour. Solving these mental puzzles was very tempting; in fact, there were a few times I wandered off to continue working on them, to the annoyance of my team who wanted to focus on the main objectives. I just couldn’t resist – figuring out these puzzles was an unexpected personal victory.

We very much enjoyed our time playing Agent Z.E.N. If you are in Rhode Island, stop by Lock & Clue and experience your moment of Zen.

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Ocean State Escape – Mischievous Elves [Review]

When Santa’s away, the elves will play…

Location: Johnston, RI

Date Played: August 25, 2022

Team Size: 2-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player, $28 for 4 or more tickets, $20 for children under 13

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

What better way to get away from the scorching heat of summer than to play a Christmas escape room, themed around the antics of Santa’s little helpers. From the very first moments we were immersed in Christmas, from the cozy set to the festive music and the subtle scent of the holidays. Ocean State’s Mischievous Elves was proof that you don’t need high-tech or a complicated story to create a fun game.

This year-round experience involved just about every Christmas artifact you can think of, and I was tempted to sit for a while and take in the holiday vibe – but there was no time for that, the clock was ticking!

I was impressed with the quality of puzzles, which used familiar items in surprisingly clever ways. Solutions were straightforward but not too obvious, and more than once we needed to rethink our strategy.  Some of the puzzles involved treasured childhood toys, and we actually called dibs on who took lead to solve those. 

A large chair beside a fireplace decorated for Christmas with stockings, a wreath, elves, and a picture of Santa.

There were quite a few combination locks in the game and it was not always clear which code went with which lock, causing some minor frustration. But memorable moments brought smiles to our faces, and even though it was a hot summer night, we each left with just a bit of Christmas spirit.

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