Escape Games NYC – John Doe [Review]

We identified John Doe, but never really understood who he was.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: June 6, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: ranges from $100 for 2 players to $155 for 6 players

Story & setting

In John Doe, we investigated the home of a mysterious and reclusive neighbor. Upon entering his home, it became clear that he wasn’t just a creep; this was murder mystery investigation.

Many of the game elements conveyed theme or story. Others felt random, but then again, this was “home” and people keep plenty of un-themed objects in their homes.

The set was expertly crafted, but not impeccably polished. It had a rougher feel.

In-game photo: A black haired, and black makeuped manaquin head looks into the camera.

Puzzles

The puzzles in John Doe relied on a variety of player skill sets.

Some of the puzzles advanced the story arc, but without complete immersion.

At its core, this was a puzzle room. There was a lot to enjoy in these puzzles.

Standouts

John Doe included a variety of technologically-triggered interactions. They worked in the framework of the theme.

There was also a particularly brilliant moment, set up such that it confounded our expectations.

Shortcomings

Escape Games NYC designed this game around a dramatic setup. However, as the story unfolded, we never felt a heightened sense of urgency built through the drama. This game attempted to be more immersive, but it didn’t move beyond a themed puzzle room.

Should I play Escape Game NYC’s John Doe?

Escape Games NYC offers four games, each very different from the next. John Doe is their take on the typical. It’s a mystery-themed, light horror, puzzle-centric escape room. It was good fun, but not mind-blowing.

Although it is more typical in setup, it’s not necessary a beginner game. There was real challenge to these puzzles. New players will enjoy the puzzles, but experienced players might enjoy them more, as Escape Games NYC has twisted typical escape room puzzles in their own way.

Since it is lightly horror, this game could be scary for kids.

This was a solid, fun, escape room. We recommend this game, particularly for experienced players more focused on puzzles than immersive story. However, Escape Games NYC offers a variety of play styles, and we recommend some of their other games more highly, as they deliver experiences that are more outside the box.

Book your hour with Escape Game NYC’s John Doe, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Game NYC provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Games NYC – The Experiment [Review]

“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”

― Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

Location: New York, New York

Date played: June 6, 2016

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: It’s complicated

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story & setting

Here’s the setup: “You wake up and find yourselves in a mysterious cube shaped room. Who put you here? How can you get out? What is ‘The Experiment’? As time winds down you will start to wonder if the experiment… is you!”

The story was minimalist. This game was about the puzzles and the unusual The Cube inspired environment.

The room had a great sci-fi insane asylum aesthetic.

In-game: A chain of locks in the foreground, a stark white paneled wall in the background.

Upon first glance, there was nothing in the room but a chain that was all bunched up with locks. With careful examination, we quickly learned that there was more to this room than met the eye.

Puzzles

The Experiment included a great mix of logic, dexterity, and task-based puzzles. The Experiment included a puzzle for everyone.

The puzzle design did an excellent job of ensuring that we always knew exactly where to input our solutions. From a player perspective, I can’t really understate how important this was.

Standouts

The look of the room was badass. I loved the game space.

The Experiment included an excellent mix of puzzles.

Escape Games NYC hand made many of the puzzles in this game; these creations were damn cool. I thought one was so nifty that after I had solved it, I stopped everyone from playing for a moment just to show them how it worked. I usually wait until after the game to do stuff like that.

Shortcomings

The Experiment included a set of dry mathematical puzzles that seemed lazily thrown in. Both the puzzles and their presentation felt out of place in this room escape.

Everything looked great at first glance, but upon closer inspection, many game components lacked polish such that they felt unfinished.

Narrative in generally a good thing. The Experiment, however, could have benefited from dropping the story entirely (there wasn’t much beyond the intro) and instead focusing on creating a completely polished, fully immersive environment.

Should I play Escape Games NYC’s The Experiment?

The Experiment pulled off a cool trick: By using an unusual environment, they created a game where the story didn’t matter anywhere near as much as the environment and the tasks that it demanded of us.

It’s a nifty feat. This is the strongest, most interesting escape room that Escape Games NYC is offering in 2016.

The Experiment is a great game that would be mind-blowing with a little more attention to the rough edges and a few finishing touches. It’s absolutely worth experiencing.

Book your hour with Escape Games NYC’s The Experiment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Games NYC comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Games NYC – Detective Story [Review]

Exactly the escape room you’re expecting.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: July 17, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Price: ranges from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $26 per player for teams of 6

Plot

“Answer a call for help from crime-fighters in a case of underworld corruption. Case File No. 8329 is a mystery not every detective can solve! You will chart the connections and investigate clues from the obscure world of syndicated crime.

You’re the detective here! Only your skills and teamwork can make justice prevail, so be all eyes and ears on this one!”

detective_1_pattern

Confirming expectations

This room looks and feels exactly how one imagines an escape room to be upon first hearing about the concept. New players invariably expect loose theming and a “detective-y” feel. They expect a solid room full of locks and puzzles. They expect to ultimately find the key to the door they came in. This room delivers on those expectations.

Twist

Not to be entirely predictable, the designers incorporate a twist right at the start that could really challenge inexperienced players. Our style of play surmounted this obstacle quickly.

Puzzles

This room offers challenging puzzles. While the game structure may be standard, that isn’t to say that puzzles are easy.

The games includes a variety of puzzle types that will each lend themselves to the skill sets of different players. There are unique puzzles we hadn’t yet encountered.

Theme

Detective Story is only loosely themed to feel “detective-y”; it does not weave a narrative. The puzzle solutions are wonky when considered in the context of a detective mission. Many of the puzzle solutions just don’t fit in the story, and the designers don’t attempt to incorporate them in a meaningful way.

Also, all roads lead to a lock. Although the atmosphere is on point, the theme never soars.

One of us wasn't given enough attention as a child.
One of us wasn’t given enough attention as a child.

Experience

This game is a solidly constructed experience of tangible little victories. The theming doesn’t transport the player to an alternate reality. Nor does the game offer an unexpected, cinematographic, or climactic moment that makes a player feel like the star of their own movie.

This is a room where the excitement derives from solving each element and experiencing the game moving forward. Because there are visible locks, it suffers less from the “automation without indication” problem of Escape Games NYC’s other room. But it isn’t immune.

A tiny surprise

At one point, there is a very small, very unexpected event, and it made David positively giddy.

Should I play Escape Games NYC’s Detective Story?

If you are a new player, I highly recommend it. It’s a solid room with challenging puzzles. It will give you the experience you expect and you’ll have fun.

If you’ve played a lot of these games already, this is a fun room but there aren’t any elements of this puzzle that will blow you away. Try Escape Games NYC’s Outer Space for a unique experience unlike any NYC has to offer.

Book your hour with Escape Games NYC’s Detective Story and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Games NYC – Outer Space [Review]

“Captain, we’ve encountered an anomaly and the ship’s dead in the water!”

“How long will it take us to get running?”

“At least two hours Captain.”

“Get it done in one.”

Location: New York, New York

Date played: July 14, 2015

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Price: ranges from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $26 per player for teams of 6

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Plot

“On the way home from a distant galaxy, your spaceship encounters a serious problem. Even an experienced pilot would find this job demanding! In this game, you have to regain control of the situation to escape the darkness of the universe.

Stay focused and get back on course!”

space_2_pattern

Beautiful

This game is pretty. Really pretty. It looks like no other escape game I’ve ever seen in that it captures the bright and clean Star Trek aesthetic perfectly.

With the exception of one small but significant nook in this game, everything is perfectly themed. The space just feels right.

Lots of technology that works

This game is filled with technology. There are no physical locks; there are a few keypads. All of the mechanisms feel like they ought to be there.

There are a number of different screens on the ship’s bridge. Each has its own interface with art that perfectly fits within the game.

Bad photo: This screen was flashing warning... You can still tell that everything looked really cool.
Bad photo: This screen was flashing warning… You can still tell that everything looked really cool.

Puzzle theme conflict

For a room that leans so heavily into a theme (and does it well), there are a few puzzles that feel a bit forced.

In one instance there is a riddle that while good, didn’t fit within the story of the game.

Similarly there was a puzzle that revolves around Morse code. While I love Morse code as much as the next communication and code geek, it felt like it probably didn’t belong in this far future game.

Automation without indication

This game is very linear. Each puzzle must be resolved in order, and a lot of things are triggered programmatically. Many of these computer-driven effects are obvious (large set-pieces turn on or off or big warning signs flash); some are far too subtle (like small compartments automatically unlocking).

This was the biggest failing of Outer Space.

Throughout the game, players solve puzzles, and things unlock, but there is no way of knowing what you unlocked (or that you unlocked anything at all).

This game desperately needs more audio or visual indication to let a player know that they have earned something.

Deliberately slow

This room is designed to slow your team down. It’s billed as a 2-6 person game, and that’s very fair. Regardless of your team size, the game will likely slow your progress.

Our team was mixed on if this was a good or a bad thing, and this was the first time that Lisa and I had a significantly different opinion on a room. She wasn’t bothered by this style of design; I was. It’s worth noting that our team was split on this as well.

Escape Games NYC - Outer Space - Team Room Escape Artist
“Don’t mind me, I’m just throwing off the balance of the photo.”

Should I play Escape Games NYC’s Outer Space

If you’ve broken out of a few rooms, and want to experience something different, then this is the most interesting room I’ve seen in the New York City area.

We found the room challenging, but narrowly escaped without any hints (we had 3 minutes remaining). I wouldn’t recommend Outer Space to beginners, as I don’t think they will be up for the challenge, and I know that they will not appreciate how different this game is from the norm.

It can get a bit tedious at times, and I think that the room could benefit from a little more iteration, but it’s a special room that deserves to be played.

Book your hour with Escape Games NYC’s Outer Space and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.