Clue Carré – French Quarter House of Curiosities [Review]

Dat dollhouse.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date played: October 8, 2017

Team size: up to 7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

After arriving in the French Quarter, we went to meet our friend Selma, the clerk at the local House of Curiosities shop. We found the door unlocked and our dear friend missing. Could we explore the odd store and solve the mystery of the missing Selma?

In-game: An assortment of globes, scientific diagrams, minerals, and tiny objects in the house of curiosities.

French Quarter House of Curiosities had an intricate set filled with little details and an eclectic assortment of objects, most of which factored into gameplay. Every shelf and display featured something new and different to look at. It was a charming, convincing, and entertaining environment.

Puzzles

French Quarter House of Curiosities included some phenomenal and amusing teamwork puzzles. It also included detail-orientated observational challenges and some good old-fashioned deduction.

The puzzles flowed well.

Standouts

We loved many of the puzzles in French Quarter House of Curiosities. These required teamwork and took place in large spaces, or across spaces, such that they were accessible to multiple players. It worked well.

In-game: the interior of an elaborate dollhouse.

The puzzles in French Quarter House of Curiosities were humorous. On multiple occasions, we found ourselves chuckling as we read clues, spotted easter eggs, or solved puzzles.

Clue Carré added a lot of detail to the set. This made it all the more intriguing to explore. It was a random, but beautiful aesthetic that worked.

So many of the puzzles felt especially satisfying to solve and they flowed well from one to the next.

Shortcomings

The gamespace felt uneven. While parts were meticulously designed, other areas felt much more plain. We would have loved to see the aesthetic permeate every corner and nook of the room escape.

While many of the props and set pieces helped tell a story, at times French Quarter House of Curiosities reverted to more random escape-roomy puzzles, where items connected for the sake of connection and didn’t really make sense in a larger narrative.

Should I play Clue Carré’s French Quarter House of Curiosities?

French Quarter House of Curiosities was fun, locally-themed group entertainment.

With an interesting set and strong puzzle flow, it will be approachable and entertaining for newbies, but not boring or basic for more experienced players.

Clue Carré was one of the earliest escape room companies in the United States. As the industry grows and evolves, they are progressing with it. French Quarter House of Curiosities excels in places where their earlier escape rooms struggled. It’s exciting to see this early entrant continually adapt.

Bring your curiosity to New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Book your hour with Clue Carré’s French Quarter House of Curiosities, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Clue Carré comped our tickets for this game.

Escape My Room – Inventor’s Attic [Review]

Rube Goldberg’s bayou punk attic.

Location: New Orleans, LA

Date played: October 7, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

With the DeLaporte annual ball scheduled to begin in an hour, and the estate’s electricity malfunctioning, it fell to us to explore the home and determine the cause of the outages. All wires led to eccentric Uncle Remy DeLaporte’s attic, where he claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine.

In-game: an antique rolltop desk filled with books and trinkets next to a small bed.

Inventor’s Attic was gorgeous and unusual. This room escape took Escape My Room’s eclectic, antique-collection-of-curiosities aesthetic and bumped it up quite a few notches. Uncle Remy’s makeshift inventions were strewn about the space, each one strange and worthy of exploration.

Puzzles

Inventor’s Attic had a lot of nifty gadgets… and of course, these were puzzles. They were interactive and exciting. Inventor’s Attic also required observation and correlation.

Standouts

Escape My Room’s DeLaporte Mansion has an aesthetic like no other. Inventor’s Attic started off with a similar vibrant look similar to Escape My Room’s other escape rooms, but morphed into a more focused look that maintained the feel of the mansion while setting the attic apart. It was beautifully designed.

In-game: A Rube Goldberg machine with slanted shelves with a number of contraptions affixed to it.

We loved the Rube Goldberg-esque theme that ran through Inventor’s Attic. From the first moment of play, we were intrigued by the interconnected oddities.

With Inventor’s Attic, Escape My Room enhanced their spatial reveals. Two moments in particular stood out, where the space changed in surprising and exciting ways.

A lot of the gadgets within the Inventor’s Attic were, to the best of my knowledge, unique among escape rooms. We enjoyed so many of the puzzles that were the meat of this experience. One in particular was almost mesmerizing to work through and a lot of fun.

For one puzzle, Escape My Room included a player-friendly reset switch, something we’ve rarely seen with this type of challenge.

As a matter of philosophy, Escape My Room wants their players to spend as close to a full hour as possible in each escape room. They present bonus puzzles to speedy teams who win with time to spare. The way they introduced this puzzle was so smart.

Shortcomings

Inventor’s Attic didn’t always give us enough feedback when we’d solved puzzles. We sometimes couldn’t figure out what we’d earned. Additional springs or lighting or audio clues would enhance these little reveals.

One of the more involved puzzles didn’t have adequate cluing. We loved the concept, and how it pulled together the inventor’s aesthetic with that of the overall DeLaporte Mansion, but the puzzle within needed work.

The puzzling at the heart of Inventor’s Attic was largely non-linear. While some will absolutely see this as a boon, we were a little disappointed because many of the puzzles couldn’t really support more than 1-2 players at a time. This meant that each of us completely missed at least one of the amazing interactions in this room escape.

Should I play Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic?

I can’t think of a more cohesive escape room company than Escape My Room. Their entryway, lobby, series of lobby puzzles, hallways, and each of their escape rooms have all been crafted with the same aesthetic and story in mind. Even their gamemasters present themselves in character at all times. Everything they have to offer is built around the DeLaporte family, their estate, and their odd history.

It’s damn impressive… and Inventor’s Attic is a jewel in this beautifully strange collection.

Inventor’s Attic is a must-play for experienced room escapers. Its uniqueness, beautiful design, surprising reveals, and brilliant interactions all combined to make an unforgettable and challenging yet fair experience.

Beginners will certainly be impressed by what Inventor’s Attic has to offer, but they will likely be a bit bewildered by it. I would highly recommend playing at least one or two other escape rooms before attempting Inventor’s Attic. That will make this escape room more approachable and let you more fully appreciate how joyous Escape My Room’s latest creation is.

Book your hour with Escape My Room’s Inventor’s Attic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

13th Gate Escape – The Collector [Review]

“Ooooh that smell…”

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We slowly came to our senses in the bottom of a deep, dark well. The last thing that we remembered was attempting to help a stranded stranger struggling with engine trouble when someone struck us in the backs of our heads. It was life or death. Could we escape?

The Collector was a horror game produced by a haunt company. We started at the bottom of a massive well. I’m not sure what the vertical height was, but this was a tall game. Tall, and detailed, and grim.

In-game: A room lit red with bodies wrapped up and hanging from the ceiling.
Image via 13th Gate Escape.

13th Gate Escape used appropriate and not necessarily pleasant odors to add depth to the experience.

Puzzles

The Collector combined search and observation with more sustained, hands-on puzzling. It included challenges designed for both individuals and teammates.

The Collector was at its very best when it was tactile.

Standouts

The gamespace was magnificent. It was unnecessarily expansive and thus all the more foreboding. By incorporating lighting, sounds, and smells, along with the set construction, 13th Gate created an unforgettable stage and just enough story for The Collector.

The breadth of the set enabled an exciting and memorable mid-game transition. We loved this.

One early puzzle was just tricky enough to be humorous, and also challenging.

We enjoyed a number of late-game puzzles that required us to interact with the eerie set and props. There were multiple satisfying puzzle moments.

The villain in The Collector was injected via audio, and his dialogue was amusing.

Shortcomings

The Collector got off to a slow start, in part because of a lack of gating. We spent considerable time on puzzles before they were truly open to us.

At times, the puzzles in The Collector lacked clue structure. This was more pronounced for less narrative-driven puzzling.

All of 13th Gate Escape’s rooms use Escape Room Boss for automated hints. If you’re curious about the details, feel free to read this post on the subject. Beyond that I’ll say that 13th Gate’s gamemasters were fantastic and I wish that they had more direct control over the experience.

Should I play 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector?

The Collector was imposing. I can’t think of another escape room company that has used vertical height and overwhelming scale like 13th Gate Escape. When mixed with the level of detail applied to every nook of the set, this experience came to life in a way that most “murder basement”-style games do not achieve.

If you like or are even ok with horror experiences, The Collector is worth experiencing simply because there’s nothing else like it. It’s beginner friendly with approachable puzzles, and novel in a way that will appeal to even the most jaded of escape room players.

Note that mobility is a factor in The Collector. At least one or two players will need to crawl, and there are some stairs to climb.

See if you can claw your way out of the well.

Book your hour with 13th Gate Escape’s The Collector, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for this game.

RISE Escape Rooms – Spellbound [Review]

Like True Blood, but with more puzzles and less sex.

Location: Tickfaw, LA

Date played: October 6, 2017

Team size: 6-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Recurring dreams and visions drew us to this rundown and abandoned witches’ den. The High Priestess had summoned us to a forlorn home where we had to gain entry, decipher spells, and discover all that we needed to end the Vampire Patriarch before he arose from his 200-year slumber and reignited his war against the witches.

In-game: An old, dramatically lit house on the bayou. A locked truck sits in the center of the room with a glowing fireplace and lit candles in the background.
Image via RISE Escape Rooms

Spellbound was dark and grim. It never turned into a horror experience, but it also showcased some of RISE Escape Room’s roots in the haunt industry.

The set was beautifully weathered and detailed with tons of nooks to explore. The set design was top-tier.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Spellbound felt magical. When we interacted with the set and props, the escape room responded.

The earlier puzzles were generally self-contained. Spellbound built to multiple complex, layered puzzles.

Standouts

Spellbound was gorgeous. From the eerie outdoor porch, to the mystical inner space, Spellbound was a beautiful, engaging, and immersive space.

The locking mechanisms contributed to the feel of the space. Both the old-timey key locks and the magical tech-driven opens made each interaction – and all forward progress – a part of the world of Spellbound.

RISE Escape Rooms took a common escape room puzzle and put their own dark twist on it, transforming it into something far more compelling. This example demonstrated how it can be beneficial to take an old concept and cast a new light upon it.

Spellbound also used another common escape room trope, but augmented it such that it still presented a challenge even if you thought you knew how to do it at first contact.

RISE Escape Rooms manipulated space such that seemingly normal transitions would then yield exciting reveals and transitions later in the escape room.

Spellbound built to a badass conclusion.

Shortcomings

At times, Spellbound suffered from symbol overload.

In the dim light of Spellbound, it wasn’t always clear when we’d solved something. RISE Escape Rooms could add more feedback, through light and sound, or maybe through more magical effects, which would help keep the puzzling on track and contribute to the ambiance.

Should I play RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound?

Yes… if you have some prior escape room experience.

Spellbound was masterfully designed by a team who really gets escape rooms. It looked amazing, played smoothly, put smart twists on established puzzle types, and created a strong sense of adventure.

The catch here: if you don’t have any prior experience, you’ll get lost and miss everything that’s special about Spellbound. RISE Escape Rooms’ website flat out says, “DO NOT BOOK THIS GAME IF IT IS YOUR FIRST ESCAPE EXPERIENCE.” They are right and I respect their willingness to make this point clear to their customers.

If you’re an experienced player visiting New Orleans or Baton Rouge, it is worth finding a car or some means of transportation to Tickfaw, Louisiana. RISE Escape Rooms will not let you down.

If you’re a newbie, go play a few room escapes and level up so that you can explore the world of Spellbound. RISE Escape Room has two other fantastic games that would be perfect games for building up your skills (reviews to come).

Book your hour with RISE Escape Rooms’ Spellbound, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

5-Minute Escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape [Review]

5 minutes of prime cut escape room.

Location: Tickfaw, Louisiana & Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Date played: October 6, 2017

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

Duration: 5 minutes

Price: $5 per ticket

Structure

There is a little-known attraction open at haunted houses across the country: 5-minute escape rooms.

During October, crowds of people flock to RISE and 13th Gate to visit their world-famous haunted houses. While they wait in line (RISE) or near the box office (13th Gate), haunt goers can spend up to 5 minutes in each mini escape room on the premises.

Players are up against a 5-minute game clock with no hints and no gamemaster.

Scenarios & settings

During our recent visit to RISE and 13th Gate, we played (and in one case, viewed under construction*) the following themes:

  • Locked-Up (prison theme), RISE
  • Heist (museum heist theme), RISE
  • Captured (serial killer theme), RISE
  • Voodoo (voodoo theme), 13th Gate
  • Saw (serial killer theme), 13th Gate
  • Abyss (submarine theme), 13th Gate

Each small set was beautifully designed and expertly constructed. The gorgeous sets transported us from the grounds of the haunted houses to these themed adventures.

The exteriors of Abyss, SAW, and Voodoo at 13th Gate Escape. Each exterior is themed, and has a countdown clock.
The outwardly facing countdown clock was a nice touch.

*All 6 5-minute escape rooms are now open.

Puzzles

Each 5-minute escape encapsulated the first scene of an escape room. We observed our surroundings, determined relevant information, and worked together to complete a few interactive – but not particularly involved – puzzles, which culminated in a complete solve.

Standouts

The sets were world class. RISE and 13th Gate construct some of the most outstanding sets we’ve seen. (Reviews of their 60-minute escape rooms are forthcoming.) They did not cut corners for these shorter experiences.

These 5-minute escapes felt like movie trailers for the 60-minute escape rooms at RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape. In each short playthrough, we were exposed to simple, escape room-style puzzling, which felt like a teaser for the more complex and layered challenges in the longer games.

RISE and 13th Gate edited out all extraneous and distracting content. The tight game design was truly impressive.

These 5-minute escapes required minimal reset labor. To increase throughput, these couldn’t be a burden to reset. There was little time in between playthroughs.

For the individual games, these particular details stood out:

  • Abyss at 13th Gate included impressive tech-driven effects that provided story and drama.
  • The Heist at RISE Escape Rooms incorporated a great agility challenge.
  • 13th Gate created progressive clue structure for the most search-heavy game, Saw. As time passed, the clueing became more direct, effectually functioning as a hint system.

Shortcomings

We can see how 5-minute escape rooms could be polarizing. Players who understand how to play will have intense and thrilling playthroughs. Players who are completely out of their element won’t have enough time to make sense of… anything. The same 5-minute escape room could be exhilarating to some and bewildering to others. That’s the nature of the genre.

5-minute escape rooms introduce a good deal of risk for the industry. By virtue of their locations at popular haunted attractions, they have the potential to introduce many more people to escape rooms. They need to be amazing. They need to be the escape room movie-trailer experiences we saw at RISE and 13th Gate. They are incredibly challenging to build well and if executed poorly, they will turn people away from escape rooms.

Should I play the 5-minute escape Rooms at RISE Escape Rooms & 13th Gate Escape?

If you are visiting RISE Haunted House, RISE Escape Rooms, 13th Gate, or 13th Gate Escape this fall, the 5-minute escapes would be a great add-on to your experience.

Each one we tried delivered a exciting complete experience with an incredible set and strong puzzle flow.

Arrive focused. You have to be on for every second of a 5-minute game. If your mind wanders for just 10 seconds, you’ve just wasted more the 3% of your game clock.

For the individual games, note that (1) RISE’s Prison Break split us between two spaces, but we could see and hear each other and (2) 13th Gate’s Voodoo took place in a particularly tight space and would not be comfortable for claustrophobic players.

This season, there are 5-minute escape rooms at multiple haunted attractions throughout the United States. Locally in New Jersey, Brighton Asylum offers 2: The Bomb Squad and The Device. (We haven’t had a chance to try either one yet.)

Note that 5-minute escape rooms are add-on, limited-time attractions, open to guests when the haunted houses are open.

Play the 5-minute escapes when you visit RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: RISE Escape Rooms and 13th Gate Escape comped our tickets for these games.

 

Panel Discussion: Co-Working, Co-Existing… and Thriving!

Last year we made it clear that we believe that top escape room businesses should be collaborating with one another.

The panel

So, we’re delighted to moderate a panel at the upcoming Room Escape Conference and Tradeshow in Niagara Falls on this very topic. We’ll be speaking at length about how Louisiana escape room owners Mindi Plaisance (Rise Escape Rooms), Dwayne Sanburn (13th Gate Escape), and Megan Mouton (Clue Carré) support each other’s businesses.

Co-Working, Co-Existing, and THRIVING! will be held on Tuesday, May 2 at 2:30PM in Cascade Room 1.

This panel will cost $50 per person if you pre-register or $55 per person if you register at the conference.

What to expect

During our pre-interviews (we do our homework), we covered a lot of ground with Mindi, Dwayne, and Megan. Attendees are in for a fantastic discussion.

We’ve heard a lot of great things about all three of their games and these images speak for themselves.

As far as the panel discussion is concerned, you can expect to hear about how collaboration

  • creates awareness
  • improves game design
  • generates a market
  • builds a support structure

We’ll also address some of the individual challenges these companies face… from space constraints, to traffic crises, to market size, to drunk players. They might not have the same operational concerns, but they all have the same goal: to create a thriving puzzle entertainment business in southern Louisiana.

There will be plenty of opportunity for audience questions, so come on over if you’re looking for a dynamic discussion… and no PowerPoint slides.

Get your tickets today!

If you haven’t already purchased them, get your tickets for the Room Escape Conference in Niagara Falls. Come to our talks, visit our booth, and generally enjoy a few days of learning and networking.

Be sure to checkout some escape rooms while you’re there. Buffalo / Niagara Falls have some great ones.

Escape My Room New Orleans – Mardi Gras Study [Review]

Escape My Room was as delightfully strange as New Orleans.

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Date played: May 11, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

As soon as we stepped through Escape My Room’s door, we were in their world. The game hadn’t yet begun, but their waiting room was as immersive as I’ve ever seen. It served as a teaser for things to come: a costume closet, and a sort of bizarre museum of strange antiques, and even stranger taxidermy.

We were met by a hostess who was in character. She introduced us to the story and our mission:

“The year is 1990, and Odette DeLaporte has invited you to her study. As the last remaining heir in New Orleans to the DeLaporte fortune, she needs your help locating a treasure which went missing a long time ago. The reclusive matriarch has not been seen in public for quite some time, yet she has agreed to meet with you with the hope that you can recover what’s been lost.”

The room was as lushly decorated with curios as the lobby.There were more than a few breakables, but the room did not seem broken at all. Escape My Room was not a new company; they were expertly maintaining their set.

Team photo
Costumes. So many costumes.

Puzzles

The puzzles were pretty standard escape room interactions. They kind of fit within the story, some a bit awkwardly, but everything worked.

There were two sets of puzzles in the room: one to lead the team out and the other to find what Odette DeLaporte had lost. Escaping was job one and finding what she lost was the secondary win condition. Unfortunately, with this structure there was no way to know which puzzles were tied to which task.

Standouts

The look and feel of the entire facility was bizarre and beautiful.

Everything about Escape My Room New Orleans tied back to the region’s unique history and eccentricities.

The lobby was a trip.

Shortcomings

The dual tracks of puzzles were impossible to tell apart. This was needlessly frustrating.

Some of the puzzles were very clunky and didn’t quite fit with what was going on within the game space.

The story was largely carried by long, cursive letters. They were perfectly in-theme and in-story, but they were hell to read. Note, our whole team was old enough to know cursive.

Should I play Escape My Room New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Study?

Escape My Room New Orleans is a quirky company that does its own thing.

The Mardi Gras Study’s mechanisms were a solid execution of a standard escape room, but everything surrounding the game was strange and fun.

We frequently preach that companies should lean into their strengths and give their games personality. I can’t think of many companies that have done that quite as profoundly as Escape My Room New Orleans.

Book your hour with Escape My Room New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Study, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.