60 Out – Wizard’s Workshop [Review]

Bending the elements of gameplay.

Location: Marina Del Rey, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26-40 per ticket depending upon team size

Story & setting

During our time as wizard’s apprentices, our teacher had made a grave mistake and became lost in time and space. It was our job to recover his body and soul.

Wizard’s Workshop was staged within a wizard’s study with a medieval-magic-meets-steampunk feel.

In-game: A wizard's study with strange books,a wooden desk, stone walls, and a strange telescope.

Puzzles

Wizard’s Workshop was a challenging game. Of the 8 games that I’ve played with 60Out, this was the first one where the connections didn’t come quickly and easily for me. It was all solvable, but a step up in difficulty from 60Out’s usual “experience > difficulty” approach to room escape design.

Standouts

There were a few puzzles that were both challenging and especially satisfying to solve.

The escape room felt large, which added to the sense of adventure.

There were a number of great interactions.

Parts of the set looked stellar.

Shortcomings

The set was a little uneven. Parts of it looked exceptionally compelling, while other bits looked like they didn’t receive quite the same level of attention or budget.

A late-game set piece should have offered better feedback. We burned a lot of time when a correct action failed to register properly. This became frustrating.

We left with a few cuts and splinters. A number of props needed some sandpapering and finishing.

Should I play 60Out’s Wizard’s Workshop?

If you’ve played a bunch of escape rooms with 60Out and you’re looking for their take on a more challenging one, then Wizard’s Workshop is your boss battle. It’s not brutal, but it’s more challenging than their norm.

Wizard’s Workshop will be most enjoyable for players who are at least fairly mobile, as mobility plays a heavy part of one of the more memorable interactions. That said, you only need one smart and mobile person to make things work.

Wizard’s Workshop was a solid escape room made by a reliable company. While I think that 60Out offers other more interesting and innovative experiences, this one was still fun. Play this one for the puzzles; play it because you want to take on the challenge.

Book your hour with 60Out’s Wizard’s Workshop, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 60Out provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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.

60 Out – Doctor Psycho [Review]

I can’t imagine his malpractice insurance rates.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 3, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26-40 per ticket depending upon team size

Story & setting

We were patients trapped by a doctor/serial killer. It was time to make our escape from his gruesome practice.

The doctor’s facility was a large space containing various basic furniture and assorted props, some more medical-ish than others.

In-game: A dark and bloody medical lab with a bag of AB blood hanging in the foreground.

Puzzles

Doctor Psycho relied on observing and connecting more than prolonged puzzling.

Although many of the inputs were locks, Doctor Psycho was largely driven by set-based interactions.

Standouts

From the hallway of 60Out, Doctor Psycho looked enticing. This was an excellent design detail. We’d been wanting to play it since we had walked past the door last year.

One prop required an interaction that made our team jittery, in a fun way. It was a surprising inclusion in an escape room, perfectly safe for all involved, and worked well with the psychotic doctor theme.

The implementation of one late-game puzzle added excitement to a well-themed, fun puzzle.

Shortcomings

In one instance, the order of information distribution, coupled with a particular set of props, led us to spend a lot of time on something that ultimately proved irrelevant.

David and I played Doctor Psycho in different groups. His team experienced a tech failure on one of the more exciting interactions in this escape room. They knew something wasn’t working right and the gamemaster got the room back on track, but this deflated part of their experience.

Should I play 60Out’s Doctor Psycho?

60Out leans heavily into set-based interactions in building their puzzles. Doctor Psycho was grounded in those same design decisions, but relied more heavily on lock inputs and typical escape room puzzles than some of 60Out’s other offerings.

Doctor Psycho was another gritty medical lab / murder scene escape room. While well-executed, 60Out didn’t bring any additional drama or intrigue to this theme… Los Angeles has a lot of these types of room escapes.

Moreover, as with many such escape rooms, Doctor Psycho was a tad gross, a little dark, and sometimes deliberately off-putting, but it wasn’t horror. In Los Angeles, where horror-themed escape rooms excel, Doctor Psycho is an escape room with an identity crisis. It wasn’t really scary and I don’t know if it meant to be.

If you enjoy 60Out’s design style, you’ll enjoy Doctor Psycho. It has solid gameflow and a few fun and surprising moments. I think this is balanced enough to support new players, but also entice more experienced players, for whom it will be a quicker playthrough.

If you like the mad scientist murder lab-type escape room, you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.

Book your hour with 60Out’s Doctor Psycho, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 60Out provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Evil Genius Escape Rooms – Chapter 1: Occam’s Apartment [Review]

Simple and elegant solutions.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket for 2 players, $32 per ticket for 3-6 players

Story & setting

We had arrived at Occam’s Apartment to investigate the resident’s suicide… but it was a set up by the Evil Genius. Now we needed to escape with the evidence before the police caught us at a crime scene.

Occam’s Apartment was a typical gritty bachelor pad. It was dimly lit, with old mismatched furniture, and appliances that had seen better days.

Game exterior: The old white bricked entrance to Occam's apartment.
Occam’s Apartment Exterior

Puzzles

Evil Genius Escape Rooms designed puzzles that utilized the bachelor pad and its contents. Occam’s Apartment rewarded keen observation.

The puzzling wasn’t particularly in depth or labor intensive. It was mostly about making connections and many of these were seriously satisfying.

Standouts

In Occam’s Apartment, Evil Genius Escape Rooms introduced us to their title character, and through him, added drama and a twist on what had seemed like a straightforward mission. Additionally, our hints arrived in character, supporting the narrative and keeping us engaged in an exciting and cohesive story.

There were a few particularly clever puzzles that made use of the space in simple but satisfying ways.

Evil Genius Escape Rooms designed the late game to instill a sense of urgency, even in players who are far ahead of the 60-minute game clock. This added to the drama of the narrative.

For players who booked Evil Genius Chapter 1 & 2 back-to-back, the final moments of Occam’s Apartment were pretty great.

Shortcomings

Occam’s Apartment wasn’t a particularly exciting setting. While it made sense in the story, it was still a dim, gritty room with a couch and a table, which didn’t entice exploration.

Although we enjoyed a few clever puzzles, Occam’s Apartment didn’t deliver any show-stopping, jaw-dropping, memorable moments.

Should I play Evil Genius Escape Rooms’s Chapter 1: Occam’s Apartment?

Occam’s Apartment was an incredibly clean execution of a basic escape room.

It relied on a simple set, typical puzzle styles, and analog technology.

With these basics in place, however, Evil Genius Escape Rooms created an exciting and cohesive narrative that permeated the entire game. Their title character added a plot twist and the additional drama needed to sell the simple escape room. It worked.

We recommend Occam’s Apartment to both newer and experienced players alike. It’s a beautiful execution of the building blocks of escape room design.

Furthermore, we were in for a fun surprise when we escaped Occam’s Apartment… Because we had booked it back-to-back with Evil Genius Escape Rooms’s Chapter 2: Norcross Art Gallery.

Book your hour with Evil Genius Escape Room’s Chapter 1: Occam’s Apartment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Evil Genius Escape Rooms – Chapter 2: Norcross Art Gallery [Review]

Art leaves room for interpretation.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

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

Duration: 60+ minutes

Price: $38 per ticket for 2 players, $32 per ticket for 3-6 players

Story & setting

In Evil Genius, Chapter 1, we investigated the death of Bill Occam and the evidence led us to an art gallery owned by a multimillionaire of questionable repute. We had to investigate further to determine if he was in cahoots with the Evil Genius.

White walled and filled with prints of famous art pieces, from lighting to displays, Norcross Art Gallery accurately captured the stereotypically sterile gallery aesthetic.

In game: A white statue of a nude woman holding a bowl in the middle of an art gallery. Paintings and statues rest in the background.

Puzzles

While Evil Genius’ Chapter 1 was built around padlocks and other low tech interactions, Chapter 2 leaned heavily on technology to drive the puzzles and interactions.

The puzzles required keen observation, visual and auditory.

Standouts

The Norcross Gallery nailed the art gallery aesthetic. This clean look hid surprises well.

When booked back-to-back, the transition from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2 was pretty damn cool.

In Chapter 2, Evil Genius Escape Rooms continued to tell the story of their title character. They again used his presence to build dramatic tension and escalate the urgency of the experience.

There were a handful of brilliant, well-executed interactions.

Shortcomings

In Chapter 1, Evil Genius had a series of simple, but elegantly implemented, interactions. Much of Chapter 2’s puzzling felt bumpier and at times ambiguous.

There was an interaction that focused a couple of players in a specific way, drawing them away from the rest of the team puzzling. It was available too early in the experience, leading to a unnecessary confusion.

The final act had a series of frustrating puzzle design choices converging at the same moment. It seemed poorly thought out.

Should I play Evil Genius Escape Rooms’ Chapter 2: Norcross Art Gallery?

Like so many art galleries, the Norcross Art Gallery contained some things that were my taste and some things that weren’t.

Evil Genius Escape Rooms designed one narrative-driven adventure in two parts. It’s absolutely worth playing Chapter 1: Occam’s Apartment, and if you’re already visiting, you ought to play Chapter 2: Norcross Gallery… if only to experience the story and its clever, multi-stage delivery.

Norcross Gallery had some frustrating flaws, but through it Evil Genius Escape Rooms continued to build a character and story that instill urgency. They are doing something different and that in and of itself is exciting.

Book your hour with Evil Genius Escape Rooms’ Chapter 2: Norcross Art Gallery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Countdown Live Escape Games – Pandorus Mission [Review]

That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! … Oh… We won!

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

As mercenaries flying about the galaxy doing work for pay, a new client had hired us to create a weapon that would wipe out a hated parasitic species.

Pandorus Mission was set in a magnificently hacked together starship. Made largely from found objects, the set looked like a gorgeous mixture of technology and biology.

In-game: A cockpit glowing green with red accents. It looks like a mix of technology and biology.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Pandorus Mission were baked into the set and its interactions. They generally required us to make connections that weren’t necessarily easy to see at first, but came together swiftly as soon as we understood.

Standouts

The set was beautiful and otherworldly. I loved how Countdown Live Escape Games constructed it largely from junk materials that combined to make something strangely beautiful.

In-game: Part of the ship with glowing green tendrils. Everything looks like a mixture of technology and biology.

Pandorus Mission was hilarious.

The interactions that were born of the set were the highlights.

Shortcomings

In some instances, the set was so busy that it was difficult to find the puzzles.

There were a number of tech failures that cost us somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes of gameplay.

A couple of puzzles repeated a few times; this was a wasted opportunity.

Pandorus Mission attempted to tell a serious story with consequences. This was completely lost on us until our gamemaster pointed it out at the end of the experience. The humor and some of the muddy interaction design completely undermined the narrative. We made a moral decision in this room escape without realizing that we were making a choice.

Should I play Countdown Live Escape Games’s Pandorus Mission?

Countdown Live Escape Games crafted a beautiful set and strong bones in Pandorus Mission. I love it when an escape room company builds a game from inexpensive parts and makes it look like it cost a fortune.

The downside here is that Pandorus Mission is essentially an incomplete game. It looks great, has a number of excellent interactions, and follows a narrative. It’s missing some content, and parts of the experience need additional refinement so that they can carry the narrative weight that they are supposed to.

As we exited Pandorus Mission with seconds on the clock, we had an unusual, and frankly refreshing, interaction with the owner, who pointed out everything that he knew was wrong with the escape room. It seems that this ship is in the shop for a lot of repairs over the next couple of months.

My advice: Play Pandorus Mission, but wait until after summer 2017. If Countdown Live Escape Games sees their iterations through, this will likely become a truly special escape room. It’s got so much going for it, but this ship needs a little more love if it’s going to soar.

Book your hour with Countdown Live Escape Games’s Pandorus Mission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Exodus Escape Room – Masquerade Manor [Review]

Let’s dance.

Location: Anaheim, California

Date played: June 4, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We had infiltrated a masquerade ball to find a stolen object.

Masquerade Manor looked like a puzzle room, loosely themed on a masquerade ball. The set pieces and props were mostly musical.

In-game: A large gestures mask hangs in the upper corner of a room above a black piano.

Puzzles

Exodus Escape Rooms designed standard, escape room-style puzzles. We searched for oddities within the set pieces and props and followed the clues to the correct connection. Once we made the right link between puzzles pieces, we usually had to reason our way to completion.

Masquerade Manor was a puzzle-driven room escape.

Standouts

Exodus Escape Rooms hid information well and clued it fairly. This created a solid puzzle flow in Masquerade Manor, which was, at its core, a puzzle game.

A few of the puzzles in Masquerade Manor were gems. We really enjoyed one puzzle that made excellent use of the escape room’s theme.

Shortcomings

The series of puzzle rooms did little to build a fiction or make us feel like we’d entered a masquerade ball. While we appreciated the thematic nods, we never really left a puzzle room.

Two puzzles in Masquerade Manor relied on a piece of technology that didn’t seem to belong.

Masquerade Manor never built to a climax.

Should I play Exodus Escape Room’s Masquerade Manor?

Masquerade Manor was a well-designed and executed basic escape room. It was first and foremost about the puzzling and had a few standout puzzle moments.

Exodus Escape Rooms is targeting new players, introducing them to the concept of a themed puzzle room. For that audience, I think Masquerade Manor delivered. It will be challenging, but fair.

For more experienced players, this isn’t an adventure at a masquerade ball; it’s an escape room. Don’t go in expecting set design, narrative, or any suspension of disbelief. For those primarily interested in puzzles, however, you might enjoy a quick twirl through Masquerade Manor.

Book your hour with Exodus Escape Room’s Masquerade Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

60 Out – Titanic [Review]

I’ll never let go.

Location: Marina Del Rey, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26-40 per ticket depending upon team size

Story & setting

Trapped in steerage aboard the sinking RMS Titanic, we had to escape or lose our lives to the freezing North Atlantic.

Titanic’s set felt industrial and ship-like. The walls looked like metal lined with rivets. The ceiling was deliberately designed. All of the puzzles were born of set-based interactions.

In-game: A hallway with metal walls, doors, and pipes.

Puzzles

Worked deeply into the set, each interaction felt part of the ship. Most of the challenges weren’t all that difficult, but they were satisfying.

Standouts

The set and the interactions built into it were tons of fun.

Each solve felt large and frequently cinematic.

Early in the game I encountered a puzzle that I thought was truly out of place and silly… until later in the room escape its presence suddenly felt brilliant.

In-game: a locked door beside a stack of bunk beds.

Shortcomings

A few props and interactions had too much wear and tear. They could be refreshed with minimal investment.

Titanic felt a little light on content. It would have benefitted from another puzzle or two.

Given the exciting interactions along the way, I wanted a bigger, more intense ending.

Should I play 60Out’s Titanic?

Yes.

Titanic was a lot of fun. The puzzling and large set were wonderfully intermingled and satisfying to solve.

Titanic was a cinematic adventure that put the players in the starring role. We experienced the drama. While it wasn’t the most challenging of escape rooms, the journey was exciting and fun.

When my biggest critique is that I wished Titanic delivered more of what it did so well, it’s a room escape worth visiting.

Book your hour with 60Out’s Titanic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 60Out provided media discounted 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.

Scout Expedition Co. – The Nest [Review]

So many feels.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: June 2, 2017

Team size: 1-2; we recommend 1-2 (see below)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $65 per ticket

Story & setting

As the next of kin for a recently deceased relative that we’ve never met, we were given access to her long-lost storage unit.

Staged within a beautiful and dark storage unit, we explored the life of this stranger. We got to know her through her personal effects and her audio recordings on cassette tapes that narrated most important moments of her life.

In-game: A close up of an old portable cassette player with a tape that is labeled in a child's handwriting: "My 12th Birthday"

Puzzles

The Nest used a variation of the escape room format to tell an intimate and moving story. There were puzzles within this experience, but it was not a puzzle game.

The puzzles were easy obstacles that served as gates between chapters of the story. The puzzles weren’t the point of The Nest.

A row of lockers. The closest locker has the words "Goodby Josie" painted on it and is sealed with a combination lock.

Standouts

The story was painfully moving.

The set was gorgeous and brilliantly designed.

In-game: a closeup of a flashlight illuminating a crumpled piece of paper that appear to be notes from a journalism class.

The puzzles served as clever gates that also made sense within the narrative.

The voice acting on the cassette tapes was magnificent.

Shortcomings

The darkness added to the atmosphere, but necessitated carrying around a handheld flashlight along with the cassette player. This was clunky and distracting.

The flashlight was in bad shape and frequently flickered out on us.

Should I visit Scout Expedition Co.’s The Nest?

Lisa and I emerged from The Nest and couldn’t bring ourselves to speak about what we heard, saw, and felt for hours. The Nest wasn’t a puzzle game and it wasn’t an adventure: it was a journey through another person’s tragedy.

It was powerful and beautiful.

If you approach The Nest as a game to win, you will completely miss the point. Don’t look for clues or meaning in the props as you would in an escape room. The puzzling simply leads you through the experience. You aren’t at risk of losing.

The Nest is incredible, but it’s not for everyone. The content is mature, not in a violent or sexual way, but because it’s emotionally heavy. It’s also an experience that requires some crawling, so if you aren’t up to that, don’t buy a ticket.

Additionally, when you buy a ticket you can choose to go alone or with another person. Both options are viable, but will profoundly change the experience. I have to imagine that a solo experience would be haunting and intense and maybe a little cumbersome when dealing with the flashlight and cassette player. I was happy to experience The Nest with Lisa, but she is the only person that I know with whom I would have wanted to feel those feels.

The Nest left me feeling exposed and I am so happy that I was there. Tickets are limited, but if you can get your hands on one, take as much out of it as you can.

The next wave of tickets go on sale on June 18th at 12pm Pacific.

Book your visit to Scout Expedition Co.’s The Nest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.