Top Tier Escape Rooms – Outside In [Review]

😡🤝😍😱

Location: Oceanside, CA

Date Played: March 7, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Top Tier Escape Rooms’ Outside In was bursting with personality. From the creative Inside Out-inspired theming, to tongue-in-cheek audio cues, to adorable photos from the game’s creator, it was abundantly evident that this escape room was designed by someone who truly cared. Four primary emotions — anger, trust, love, and fear — were developed through nicely designed sets, thematic puzzles, and some special effects. Most importantly, I was reminded of times I’d experienced these emotions myself.

The gameplay in Outside In was fun and flowed smoothly. Puzzles were presented sequentially, though most were best for just a few players and some spaces in the room were quite small, so larger teams may feel bottlenecked at times. One puzzle solved this by providing materials that could be worked on concurrently in the main space, and this approach might have helped make other points throughout the game feel less crowded.

The ending of Outside In was especially effective in conveying many different types of fears, all in a humorous and not actually fear-invoking manner. We enjoyed inspecting all the details and references in the finale, even after we’d solved the puzzles there.

Outside In was a whimsical and unique escape room from passionate creators who are experimenting and leveling up their skills in exciting ways. If you are near Oceanside, I recommend checking it out.

A tree made of books connected by strands of lights to a representation of a brain.
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Steal and Escape – The Neighbor [Review]

I’m watching you… 👀

Location: San Diego, CA

Date Played: March 6, 2022

Team Size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: some narrow passageways

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Steal and Escape showcased their build skills and technical chops through every surface of The Neighbor. It was a delight seeing the work ethic and creativity demonstrated in Steal and Escape’s owner Jason Richard’s 2020 RECON talk put into practice in this room to great effect.

The Neighbor contained one of my all-time favorite tech moments of any escape room I’ve played. It was subtle in such an insidiously sneaky way… and it had me viewing my real-world surroundings a bit differently for weeks after playing.

Throughout The Neighbor, the puzzles and set design were consistently stellar, though with a noticeable increase in puzzle-narrative integration as the game progressed. We also appreciated a well-designed home AI system that served as an in-world delivery mechanism for both story and hints.

The front door to a house, above it are storm clouds.

If you are choosing amongst Steal and Escape’s rooms, you can’t go wrong — they are all strong standouts within the San Diego escape room scene. The Neighbor included even more memorable moments and was generally more sequential, while The Lost Expedition was a consistently innovative and smoothly honed experience that had a split-team start and parallel puzzling. We also got a peek into The Missing Season, which opened shortly after our visit, and the set looked gorgeous.

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Nomis Piy – Missing [Hivemind Review]

Missing is a puzzle book created by Nomis Piy in Singapore.

Nomis Piy Missing Escape puzzle book cover and demo interior pages printed in a colorful, cartoonish style.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Puzzle book

Who is it For?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

You need an internet connection to check your answers. A pen is necessary to record your answers on the answer sheet. Paper is helpful for notes, but not necessary.

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: There’s no clock. Expect 4-6 hours of play, perhaps more.

Price: S$25 (roughly 18.41 USD) plus shipping from Singapore

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is a puzzle book with a light story and lots of puzzles. As you solve each puzzle, you input the answer online. If correct, you get instructions to fill in the answer sheet in the front of the book. Sometimes you get information you will need for a subsequent puzzle. If incorrect, nothing happens. You need to use different parts of the book in unique ways to solve the puzzles. One section is sealed and only available when you’ve reached that section.

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Not Another Escape Room – Battleship [Review]

💥 BOOM! 💥

Location:  Brea, CA

Date Played: March 7, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36-50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Battleship brought a classic board game to life as an escape room. Players split into two teams and competed in a free-for-all puzzle fest, attempting to earn as many cannonballs as possible. Each cannonball then turned into an extra guess while playing an oversized game of Battleship. As in the real tabletop game, the first team to sink all their opponents’ ships won.

Following in the footsteps of Time Machine, Not Another Escape Room once again strongly demonstrated their ability to reimagine what an escape room can be with Battleship. Though overtly themed around pirates, Battleship felt unlike other pirate-themed escape rooms with its Battleship game-oriented structure. Gameplay was almost fully nonlinear, and each puzzle’s trailhead and input were clearly associated. The game was presented as a competition, but it’s only as chaotic as you choose to make it. The set was simple yet attractive, almost fully tech-free — except for a large interactive set piece that was smoothly constructed and coded.

Battleship was a game for competitive puzzle lovers. If you’re looking for a more story-, discovery-, or set- driven escape room, this might not be the game for you. That said, there were a wide variety of puzzle types that would appeal to many different types of solvers, and plenty of flexibility for players to hop from puzzle to puzzle.

A room with walls covered in different pirate flags, in the middle is a table with a digital display that reads, "SHIP."

If you are in Southern California, Not Another Escape Room is well worth a visit. Time Machine is a sprawling narrative-driven adventure filled with unexpected “wow” moments, whereas Battleship is a more self-contained, puzzle-packed competition. If you have the time, I highly recommend giving both rooms a play.

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The Cari Mysteries – Grandfather’s Fortune [Hivemind Review]

Grandfather’s Fortune is a point-and-click game created by The Cari Mysteries in The Netherlands.

An old black and white photo album with the game's title overlayed, "Grandfather's Fortune: An unforgettable journey." In one of the photos is our teammate Joel.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on demand
  • Point-and-click
  • Includes video segments

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-3

Play Time: about 90 minutes (no timer)

Price: €39.95 per team

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

We were on a quest to interpret our grandmother’s diary as a treasure map to our grandfather’s secret fortune. To do this, we pointed-and-clicked our way through several locations near their house. As we entered codes to solve puzzles, we received additional pages of the diary, revealing more about our grandparents’ lives and other areas to investigate.

The game included a shared inventory among all players as well as an embedded video chat. Players could explore the spaces freely apart from their teammates, but when someone entered a code or made certain discoveries, everyone’s focus was redirected to the relevant part of the environment.

A digital interface with an inventory at the bottom of the screen. In the main view is the front of an old brick home, number 73."
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