House of Tales – Kowloon Walled City [Review]

This one won’t be for everyone. You’ve been warned.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 2, 2017

Team size: 2-12 (there are two copies of the room); we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 20€ per ticket for 12 players

Story & setting

As members of the dominant Triad family in Kowloon Walled City, a rival family had emerged and was chipping away at our control of the extortion, prostitution, and human trafficking rackets. We had to destroy our competition and reaffirm our control over the region (no actual destruction necessary).

In-game: A dark alley-way in Hong Kong.
Image via House of Tales

Kowloon Walled City was magnificently staged as a dark and seedy city. There were alleyways, drug dens, and houses of ill repute. The level of detail was phenomenal. The only thing missing was people to populate this imaginary city.

Puzzles

Kowloon Walled City was almost entirely task- and mission- based. There was one segment mid-game where things became puzzle-focused, but it was short lived. Kowloon Walled City generally kept us focused on advancing through the plot.

Standouts

Kowloon Walled City took place in an interesting, detailed, and varied set. House of Tales manipulated space to make the set feel more expansive than it was.

We enjoyed the theme of this adventure. From the set aesthetic to the puzzles, it stayed on point.

Kowloon Walled City employed an interactive hint system that added depth to the experience. Through the hints, we came to understand the story better. Receiving hints was fun.

Shortcomings

Kowloon Walled City was not a puzzle-focused escape room. The puzzles were pretty standard escape room types that in some cases broke the fiction more than contributed to it. At times the technology behind the puzzle interactions was not well hidden, which contributed to this feeling of puzzling for the sake of it being an escape room.

The ending lacked drama. Kowloon Walled City ended abruptly and predictably. We would have liked more excitement to close.

The name “Kowloon Walled City” didn’t indicate “mafia infiltration containing adult content.” When I researched the name post-game, I learned that Kowloon Walled City was a largely ungoverned section of Hong Kong where the mafia ruled until it was demolished in 1993/4. The name did make sense, if you knew what it was… which we did not. The name of the game could have done a better job of conveying what to expect from the experience. We enjoyed the dark, adult-themed game, but I suspect that someone with more delicate sensibilities could mistake it for something it’s not.

Should I play House of Tales’ Kowloon Walled City?

Kowloon Walled City prioritized adventure and shock over puzzling. This particular style of escape room design was heavily reminiscent of the Russian escape rooms that we’ve seen imported to the United States.

Kowloon Walled City was not a particularly difficult game, but it pushed a few boundaries beyond anything that Lisa and I have seen in the United States. Kowloon Walled City featured graphic depictions of drugs and sex. We found it all funny, but if you think that this might offend your sensibilities, you should skip this room escape.

If a sex-, drugs-, and crime-filled adventure that’s a bit light on puzzles sounds like a good time, then you should absolutely go play it. Check your ego at the door and take hints. So much of Kowloon Walled City’s story was conveyed through their hint system. I’d also recommend that a player who is willing and eager to play with the gamemaster choose to interact with the hint system. You’ll get more out of this escape room if you play it this way.

Book your hour with House of Tales’ Kowloon Walled City, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: House of Tales provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

House of Tales – The Executioner [Review]

Welcome to the Pit of Despair.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 2, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 35€ per ticket for 2 players to 22€ per ticket for 5 players

Story & setting

Abducted and restrained within an ancient dungeon by an evil cult, we had an hour to escape before the executioner arrived and carried out his gruesome ritual.

In-game: A torture dungeon filled with bloodied implements of pain infliction.

Puzzles

The majority of the puzzling in The Executioner was in how to interact with the dungeon set and props. By finding and connecting the appropriate objects, we’d eventually open up our escape route.

Standouts

The set of The Executioner was dramatic and exciting; there was a lot more to the world of The Executioner than was immediately apparent.

We loved one particular sequence of puzzles. It was thematically relevant, but still unexpected. House of Tales used technology well to create satisfying interactions.

House of Tales created a character, played by the gamemaster, who delivered both hints and tidbits of story throughout the experience. Our gamemaster excelled at intermingling atmosphere with helpful nudges. She could moved us forward and keep us on our toes.

The ending was phenomenal.

Shortcomings

Early in The Executioner, the gameplay bottlenecked. We ended up waiting for one player to uncover and complete an action. There was nothing for the other players to do except wait.

While many of the puzzles were worked into the set, some of them were more escape room standards that didn’t make sense in the space.

We couldn’t always tell how forceful we needed to be with the game components. At times our gamemaster needed to push us forward because we were hesitant to take an action that might harm the set or props.

Should I play House of Tales’ The Executioner?

The Executioner had one of the most exciting and enjoyable puzzle sequences I’ve ever seen. With a bit of tech, House of Tales used props and puzzles to create narrative and adventure. Not all of the interaction-based puzzling was on this level, and not all of it made sense in this dungeon escape, but overall, it was a lot of fun.

The Executioner leant on adventure and atmosphere over puzzles. To facilitate this, the gamemaster was a character in our narrative. To get the most out of the experience, we needed to accept the hinting as part of the game design. Without hints, we’d have missed an important component of The Executioner.

Note that you need to be relatively nimble to traverse the entire gamespace of The Executioner. Additionally, parts of the gamespace are dark and the entire experience is a bit creepy, but not really scary.

If none of that turns you away, and you’re looking for an adventure through an exciting space, visit The Executioner.

Book your hour with House of Tales’ The Executioner, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: House of Tales provided media discounted tickets for this game.