PuzzleWorks – The Dungeon [Review]

We didn’t avoca-do it!

Location: Saint Paul, MN

Date Played: May 31, 2022

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player for the first two players, $26 for each further ticket

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Climbing stairs (at least one player)

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

In The Dungeon, PuzzleWorks showed off their ability to put a slight twist on the mundane to make something hilarious and memorable.

Most of The Dungeon was a standard, solid take on a medieval dungeon theme. The puzzles were joyous and clever, well themed and well tested. The game began with a split start that gave all players something interesting to work on. The set was lightly cartoonish and beautifully constructed β€” amongst the most immersive of escape rooms in the Twin Cities area.

Had this been all there was to The Dungeon, it would have been yet another medieval-themed game with a high density of particularly fun puzzles.

But there was the twist. Why were we imprisoned? Why, because we’d been accused of stealing an enchanted avocado! The choice of an avocado was brilliant in its simple absurdity. As a California-dwelling millennial, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that I have an emotional attachment to the fruit. And it’s most definitely not something I or most associate with medieval dungeons. PuzzleWorks took this gimmick and ran with it to great effect.

A golden hand in a cage holding an avocado.

The Dungeon is a must-play if you are in the Twin Cities. And while you’re visiting PuzzleWorks, I also recommend checking out The Hospital if you have time. Though it’s not quite as pretty as The Dungeon, it’s perhaps even funnier.

Continue reading “PuzzleWorks – The Dungeon [Review]”

Escape Center – The Intervention [Review]

Challenge accepted

Location: Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel

Date Played: May 11, 2022

Team Size: 4-12; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: 135 NIS per player for 4 players to 110 NIS per player for 7+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players must crawl and climb (ask your GM if this is a concern)

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Intervention was an absolutely legendary adventure.

Loosely themed around How I Met Your Mother, the true focus of this game was the character of Barney Stinson. The significance of this theming goes yet a level deeper: Neil Patrick Harris, the actor who portrayed Barney, is a massive escape room fan in real life. (Listen to NPH talk about puzzles, escape rooms, and more on Season 2 of Reality Escape Pod.)

While The Intervention was rooted in the world of HIMYM, the story was original. Through this approach, even players unfamiliar with HIMYM will still experience a cohesive, self-standing narrative arc throughout The Intervention. For me, this is the ideal way in which to pay true homage to source material, without feeling like a cheap knockoff or incoherent patchwork of references.

A full size stormtrooper armor against a green wall.
Image via Escape Center

The Intervention excelled in many dimensions. A sprawling set meticulously rendered each scene with stunning realism. Puzzles and story together drove forward our adventure with compelling, if at times ridiculous, reasons for our being there. Environmental ahas, puzzle ahas, and unexpected transitions were plentiful. Across all these dimensions, the pacing and flow was spot on.

The Intervention is one of the top escape rooms in Israel. Kami Temple is equally a must-play, and which of these two games will be your favorite is but a matter of personal preference. With these two top-notch rooms, Escape Center has established themselves as a rising global escape room destination.

Continue reading “Escape Center – The Intervention [Review]”

Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Witchcraft Alley [Review]

Escapiosa!

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Date Played: May 30, 2022

Team Size: 1-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 per player for 1-2 players to $25.99 per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Witchcraft Alley was a magical journey into a land of dark spells and wizarding consumerism.

As the newest and shiniest of Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ in-person offerings, Witchcraft Alley balanced densely creative puzzles with a myriad of magical effects and cool transitions. Trapped has always seemed to excel in the puzzle department, and this room was no exception. But Witchcraft Alley also provided a genuine sense of exploration and discovery that was somewhat lacking in Trapped’s previous creations and the Twin Cities escape room scene on the whole. Whereas Trapped’s earlier rooms each followed a predictable progression through 1-3 rectangular spaces, Witchcraft Alley played more with the floor plan and achieved a higher level of environmental storytelling.

Prior to visiting Trapped’s Minneapolis and St. Paul brick-and-mortar locations, I was already quite familiar with their work through having played their entire remote catalog: 9 audio escape rooms and 5 tabletop puzzle games, including their recent Kickstarter game Ruff Bluff. If you’ve read my Hivemind reviews of any of those games, you’ll know I’ve been a big fan.

Witchcraft Alley matched the level of wit, polish, and charm I’ve come to expect from Trapped’s virtual offerings. If there were one primary area for improvement, it would be the inclusion and development of some memorable characters β€” which was perhaps the strongest feature of Trapped’s Audio Escape Adventures yet was all but absent in Witchcraft Alley.

A wall of crystal balls, dramatically lit.

I love seeing how escape room companies mature, and Witchcraft Alley illustrated a particularly compelling evolution. Witchcraft Alley might be seen as the spiritual successor to Trapped’s related-in-theme Wizard’s Tower, which Lisa and David reviewed back in 2017. I also played Wizard’s Tower during my visit, and the room has held up quite well; yet Witchcraft Alley has leveled up in almost all dimensions.

Witchcraft Alley is a strong must-play if you are visiting Minneapolis, and I believe it’ll serve as the new benchmark for the local escape room scene.

Continue reading “Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Witchcraft Alley [Review]”

Escape Center – Kami Temple [Review]

Shuriken be a good time

Location: Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel

Date Played: May 11, 2022

Team Size: 2-7 (2 only Sunday through Wednesday); we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 140 NIS per player for 3 players to 110 NIS per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players must crawl (but there is a way around)

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Kami Temple was a masterpiece in escape room puzzle design.

Unabashedly a puzzle-centric experience, Kami Temple served up a multi-course tasting menu of smooth, satisfying ahas. Each puzzle mechanic was distinct, and each was seamlessly integrated within the Japanese temple. Nothing felt trivial. Nothing felt insurmountable. Each and every puzzle in Kami Temple impressively hit that sweet spot right in the middle.

Along the way, a stunning set and moodily colorful lighting strongly supported this puzzle feast.

Two carved stone Kami dragons looking at one another.
Image via Escape Center

Though Kami Temple was a good deal smaller than The Intervention, both rooms had a notably high caliber of set design. This level of polish, intricacy, and budget was a step above any other escape room we played in the country.

Kami Temple and The Intervention are amongst the top escape rooms in Israel. Both are premium, highly memorable experiences in wildly different ways. Absolutely try to play both if you have time. If you have to choose between the two, Kami Temple is better suited for smaller, puzzle-loving teams, whereas The Intervention can accommodate a larger team and has more of a balance between puzzle, narrative, and adventure.

Continue reading “Escape Center – Kami Temple [Review]”

The Detective Society – Trouble in Folklore Falls: Episode 1 [Review]

Just right

Location: at home

Date Played: July 2, 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-2

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: Β£35 plus shipping

REA Reaction

The Detective Society’s Trouble in Folklore Falls: Part 1 told a charmingly punny mystery in a land filled with fairytale characters. To paraphrase Goldilocks: it wasn’t too easy, it wasn’t too hard, it was just right.

As narrative tabletop games go, Trouble in Folklore Falls did almost everything right and succeeded in delivering a polished, cohesive experience. More interactive story than puzzle game, the gameplay mostly centered around reviewing documents and making connections. Though this involved a fair amount of reading, the writing was engaging and well edited, sleekly displayed in a range of formats. The design thoughtfully balanced world-building with restraint: the web of characters and evidence had a satisfying level of detail and depth without ever feeling too overwhelming. Certain puzzles felt a bit too simplistic for my taste, but in context, I was fine with being left wanting more.

This level of design polish also carried over to the game’s non-print materials. The illustration, web design, tech, and voice acting were all top notch. I would readily listen to an audio book or podcast narrated by the voice of the game’s protagonist.

Detective Society box with assorted pieces of evidence, and a map of Folklore Falls.

Above all, Trouble in Folklore Falls excelled at storytelling. The pacing was near perfect, and a tantalizing cliffhanger at the end of Part 1 left me wanting to immediately procure a copy of the next installment.

There were opportunities to tighten up some of the game’s framing logistics. The onboarding spanned more documents than needed, and a solution to phone calls for an international audience left SMS unaddressed. But my frustration with these elements was relatively minor, and the Trouble in Folklore Falls played smoothly overall.

If you are looking for substantive puzzles, Trouble in Folklore Falls may not be for you. But for players who enjoy a lighthearted, humorous story, I highly recommend Trouble in Folklore Falls.

Continue reading “The Detective Society – Trouble in Folklore Falls: Episode 1 [Review]”