Mastermind – Bank Heist [Review]

A puzzling withdrawal.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Date played: April 2, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Our notorious crime syndicate was robbing another bepuzzled bank.

Our goals were to steal as much money as we could within an hour and escape.

The set looked like a bank: a bland lobby and teller counter, along with a vault, which was absolutely the highlight of the set.

In-game: a closeup of a bank teller's window with the FDIC insurance sticker in the foreground.
Nothing says “cool” quite like an FDIC sticker.

Puzzles

The Bank Heist was tangled with puzzles and locks. There were plenty of puzzles to solve, but it wasn’t always clear what was a puzzle.

Additionally, once a puzzle had been solved, it wasn’t easy to determine where to input the solution as there were many similar input mechanisms.

Standouts

There was one well designed, dramatic moment.

One repeated interaction was lifted straight from banking hardware and protocol. This was a clever puzzle-esque design.

Something that originally seemed trivial, even out-of-place, turned out to be useful in a particularly satisfying way.

Shortcomings

There were a lot of numbers and all numbers led back to a lock. These locks were almost all identical. It was a lot of similar information to keep track of.

Much of the puzzling in Bank Heist was accessible before we’d derived all of the necessary cluing or components. Strategic puzzle-gating would save teams from spinning their wheels attempting to solve without complete information.

In one area, the puzzles weren’t well distributed across the space. We spent a lot of time tripping over each other in one small corner of a rather large set.

One critical piece of tech was worn and badly beat up. It needed refurbishment.

Bank Heist had a self-service, QR code-based hinting system that was immersion-breaking. Because the QR codes were beside input mechanisms, not puzzles, we had no idea which puzzle a clue would hint at.

We never understood whether it mattered how much money we stole in our heist.

Should I play Mastermind’s Bank Heist?

Bank Heist had a number of great and satisfying moments. It also had a lot of damaged props and weak use of space. It made nearly no effort to help clue players towards the correct input mechanism for solved puzzles.

This was a game that had promise, but was ultimately too choppy.

While there are a number of moments to enjoy, I think that beginners would find themselves pretty lost in Bank Heist and experienced players will be frustrated by its seemingly incomplete execution.

As I reflect back on the game, parts of it make me smile. Other aspects make me wish that Mastermind had seen this design all the way through to something special. It has the potential and I hope that they get there.

Book your hour with Mastermind’s Bank Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mastermind provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Mastermind – Escape the Air Raid [Review]

Sound the alarm. It’s a puzzle raid.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Date played: April 2, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Our squad had received warning of an enemy bomber raid and we had to puzzle our way through our own equipment to trigger the air raid siren and warn the nearby city… The story didn’t make a ton of sense.

The set’s quality was strangely uneven. Some set pieces looked great, while others were simply puzzles and army surplus gear bolted to the floor. The aesthetic, much like the story, lacked logical cohesion.

In game - A wall of sandbags and barbed wire with a rifle.

Puzzles

Escape the Air Raid was loaded with puzzles. Most of them weren’t overwhelmingly challenging, but they were numerous and many were entertaining.

Once again, as with the story and set, the puzzles didn’t come together to form anything beyond a large collection of military-ish themed puzzles.

Standouts

Some of the set design was interesting and well-used.

In game shot of a weathered metal door and corrugated aluminum walls.

There was a lot of content in Air Raid. It was loaded with puzzles.

Shortcomings

The puzzles didn’t fit into a narrative; some of them barely fit the theme. It was simply a mess of puzzles of varying quality. Much of the content was uninteresting. It felt as though it were simply there to fill space.

Late in the experience, we had to contend with poor lighting. It wasn’t clear how to focus ourselves towards turning on the lights, which meant we spent a lot of time frustrated by the environment.

Mastermind relied on a tablet & QR code-based self-service hint system. In this way, you could easily call for a hint that penalized you without giving you any additional information. While this style of hinting reduces gamemaster duties and is probably efficient from a business standpoint, it also results in weak game oversight and completely shatters any immersion.

Should I play Mastermind’s Escape the Air Raid?

If you’re looking for a military-themed room escape filled with puzzles, Escape the Air Raid is just what the commander ordered. It’s a straightforward, by the numbers escape room.

It’s a perfectly solid game for newbies, so long as they aren’t too reluctant to take hints. They will likely be pleasantly surprised by a few moments.

Experienced players should also be able to enjoy Escape the Air Raid, so long as they aren’t expecting to be blown away by anything.

Book your hour with Mastermind’s Escape the Air Raid, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mastermind provided media discounted tickets for this game.