Winchendon Escape Room – Secret Society [Review]

Be sure to ask about the tea party.

Location: Winchendon, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

As hopeful members of the mysterious The Moonlight Club secret society, we were up to our final test. We had to solve the Club’s test to learn the names of its members and leader in order to prove our worth.

In-game: A beautifully set breakfast table beside a massive window and a grandfather clock.

Winchendon Escape Room is part of Winchendon Historical Society and stages escape rooms within their beautiful grounds. Secret Society was set in the lounge of a beautiful mansion. (The rest of the building is preserved as a museum that we were free to wander after the game.) It had real stained glass windows and was largely composed of antiques. It didn’t look authentic… It was authentic.

Puzzles

Winchendon Escape Room captured textbook escape room puzzling in Secret Society. It included a mix of well-designed beginner-friendly puzzles with plenty to explore and discover.

Standouts

Winchendon Escape Room was an amazing value: $25 per ticket for 2 to 6 players to explore a game for 90 minutes… plus we could explore a beautiful estate staged as a museum.

In-game: A loung in an old mansion. There's a beautiful fireplace, and a cabinet filled with locked boxes.

Winchendon Escape Room staged Secret Society in a beautiful room full of interesting props.

Secret Society was well-designed and beginner-friendly, but still offered a challenge. As experienced players, we didn’t need the 90-minute game clock (we escaped in about 40 minutes moving at a comfortable pace), but that extra time allows beginners to work through puzzles rather than get dragged via hints.

The final puzzle was really smart.

All of the proceeds from Winchendon Escape Room go back to the Winchendon Historical Society.

Shortcomings

There was a lot to search for and look at early on in Secret Society. It was a little cumbersome to find a good starting place. Over the course of the game, puzzle flow became linear with a crystal clear progression. I think that if Winchendon Escape Room were to instead start with a funnel that opened into the rest of the room, the game would flow beautifully. It would ramp up the challenge later in the game, after players had become more comfortable with the escape room.

Having no concept of local history, I left a little confused whether the story and characters were entirely made up or based on something real. It would be amazing if the game conveyed a little local history through play.

While the final puzzle was great, there wasn’t much of a climax. Secret Society didn’t built any tension.

Should I play Winchendon Escape Room’s Secret Society?

Winchendon Escape Room was really surprising. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting a great experience from a $25 per person, 90-minute escape room, set up on the grounds of a local historical society. I worried that we would find a well-intentioned, low quality, amateur-designed game. I was dead wrong.

The price and game clock were deliberate. Winchendon Escape Room wants to offer a lot of value to their local audience while giving them the time to really work through the puzzles and learn how an escape room works.

Secret Society played well. It was a solid escape room.

Furthermore, Secret Society was lovingly staged in a gorgeous manor. We play a lot of games that attempt to capture that manor aesthetic, but I can tell you: there’s nothing like the real thing.

Winchendon Escape Room is among the best deals in escape rooms that I know of and one the finest places to start playing escape rooms. If you’re a beginner who’s on the fence about this “locked-in-a-puzzle-room” thing, know that Winchendon Escape Room won’t lock you in, and playing their games will help you build the core skills necessary to enjoy puzzling adventures all over. Massachusetts has a ton of fantastic escape rooms and this is a phenomenal place to get started.

Book your hour with Winchendon Escape Room’s Secret Society, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Curious Escape Rooms – Escape The Video Store [Review]

Rewind.

Location: Fitchburg, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket, student discounts available

Story & setting

We stepped back in time to the year 1999 to investigate strange happenings at a local video rental store. Could we dig up the evidence we needed to figure out what was going down in this relic of the not-so-distant past?

In-game: The comedy section of a video rental store. Murder By Death and My Cousin Vinny are clearly staged.

From the cash register to the racks of VHS tapes, Escape The Video Store tossed us back a couple of decades and into a fixture of every American community: the independent video rental store. The set was loaded with nostalgia and pop culture (not references).

Puzzles

When we played Curious Escape Rooms’ first game, The Dollhouse, we sped through it. Escape The Video Store was a considerably more challenging game with layers of complexity, team-based puzzles, and a lot to accomplish.

In-game: A cash register at the checkout station of the video rental. There is a big cardboard pop up for Pinocchio.

Standouts

Curious Escape Rooms outfitted Escape The Video Store with authentic props. I’m hard-pressed to think of things in the escape room – aside from hidden mechanisms and electronics – that were not born of the 1990s.

In-game: A shot of the the TV on VHS section. The Doctor Who videos are most clearly visible, along with a poster for Twin Peaks.

The puzzling in Escape The Video Store was challenging and fair… and there was a lot of it.

While the set was busy and searching was a core component of this escape room, we weren’t bogged down with endless searching drudgery. Whenever we were searching, we had well-defined targets, and we knew when we had found them. In a set that could have housed endless red herrings, the game flowed well.

Shortcomings

Curious Escape Rooms could dramatically improve Escape The Video Store with cleaner, more precise construction and execution. If they were to hide housed technology, make cuts, and finish materials with a little more care, their set design could start to shine.

Escape The Video Store relied heavily on paper. Although well presented, this escape room could be so much more if the puzzling were more deeply embedded into the set and interactions.

Should I play Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store?

Anyone who has ever said to us “I don’t have a massive budget so I can’t make good games” has heard about Curious Escape Rooms. They have been our go-to example for a small team, operating on a low budget, in a small town, that produces interesting and worthy escape rooms by steering into their strengths. Escape The Video Store was another example of this type of design and a surprisingly different experience from the previous escape room we played with them.

In Escape The Video Store, Curious Escape Rooms built a nostalgia-fueled challenging puzzle game that I absolutely recommend for experienced players.

Newbies could take on the video store, but I think that they would enjoy it more if they weren’t learning escape room basics at the same time. I’d recommend picking up a little experience before stepping into this time warp.

If you were born after 2000… prepare to experience bewilderment at what passed for technology in the not-so-distant past.

Book your hour with Curious Escape Rooms’ Escape The Video Store, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

The Gate Escape – The Assistant [Review]

The lab assistant job comes with health insurance… If the experiment works, you won’t need it.

Location: Leominster, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Dr. E. R. Bridge was reasonably certain that he had discovered a means to open a wormhole. As a group of hopeful lab assistants, we applied for a job working with the renown astrophysicist. Our interview and the final test of his wormhole generator were one in the same. What could go wrong?

In-game: A metal wall covered in pipes and electronic circuitry.

 

The Assistant had an eclectic aesthetic. It was a mixture of interesting doors and features from the building’s past as well as the unusual creations of The Gate Escape. Each segment of The Assistant had a decidedly different look about it. This may have been a mad science lab, but it did not have the standard doctor’s office vibe that we’ve come to expect from this theme.

Puzzles

The Assistant flowed well, while offering a strong search and puzzle game.

The searching in The Assistant was a bit unusual. There was a lot to find, but we also had a clear idea of what we were looking for and when to stop looking.

The puzzles were satisfying solves that came with great ah-ha moments.

Standouts

The Gate Escape created one of the most unusual applications of a cipher that I’ve seen in an escape room and I absolutely loved it.

In-game: Black walls and furniture covered in white writing of mathematical symbols and equations.

The gamespace was eclectic and largely made from recycled materials. It never felt cheap. The diversity in design also made the set feel both strange and intriguing. From the moment we stepped into it, I wanted to engage with it.

The searching was oddly fun… which is not a thing that you frequently hear from me.

The puzzles flowed well.

The Gate Escape gave more than enough writing implements and calculators.

In-game: A large safe door labeled, "MAIN LAB."

Spinning safe locks can be hell to operate. The Gate Escape provided clear and decisive clueing to operate this one.

The Assistant built intensity later in the game and had a great climax.

Shortcomings

At times, we solved puzzles in partial darkness. There was also a large black metal set piece smack in the middle of the area that was relevant in the dark. We were a little nervous about crashing into this thing. Moving it or illuminating it would help a great deal.

There were a few metal props with rough edges that we were a little nervous we could cut ourselves on. Rounding these out or sealing them would make them more comfortable to touch.

A lot of The Assistant’s clues were handwritten. It seemed like the game’s clue structure had been added ad hoc as it was developed. By the time we played, the clue structure had been nailed down. Swapping handwritten clues and props for more polished items would make this escape room shine.

Should I play The Gate Escape’s The Assistant?

The Gate Escape really nailed the standard escape room with The Assistant. This was a puzzle room with a just a bit of story. It came together really well.

This was a prime example of a company doing a lot by leaning into their existing skills and working with the space that they have. It looked good and played even better… and above all, it was unique.

The Assistant would make a fine first game for those looking to explore an escape room. I’d also highly recommend it for experienced players who like puzzle-driven adventure that plays like a standard escape room with a uniquely Gate Escape twist.

Go see if you can open a wormhole.

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

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

 

Room Escapers – Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship [Review]

The search for more booty.

Location: Boston, MA

Date played: October 2, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

In this sequel to Room Escapers’ first game, Pirate’s Booty, a disgruntled former employee of the Cape Cod Treasure Hunters hired us to plunder a recently rediscovered pirate ship. With a hurricane bearing down on New England, we had an hour to liberate an estimated $1 billion in gold or face the wrath of the storm.

In-game: A shot in the ships galley, a table full of candles, a skeleton in the background.

Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship was largely set on a pirate ship. While portions of the set were recycled from Room Escapers’ first game, this was an entirely new experience. New puzzles. New narrative. New game.

Puzzles

Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship upped the puzzle difficulty. We had made fairly quick work of Room Escapers’ earlier games, but in this one, we really earned our victory.

Additionally, there were bonus bags of treasure hidden throughout the escape room.

Standouts

Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship got the action going quickly using a technique that Room Escapers pioneered last year in Naughty or Nice. It’s a good trick. The encore wasn’t a bad thing, but if you’re familiar with their most recent offering, you’ll also see it coming.

In-game: A shot in the ships galley of a skeleton.

The set was a big step up from their previous room escapes.

There was whole a lot to do. Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship kept us busy.

The hurricane game clock fit right in.

The in-character hint system was effective and well integrated into the escape room.

We particularly enjoyed the more tangible and thematic puzzles, of which there were many.

Finding gold was an entertaining way to expand the adventure and encourage participation without requiring every team to solve the game to 100% completion.

This was a funny escape room. Room Escapers has an enjoyably unsophisticated sense of humor and they are not afraid to use it.

Shortcomings

A few puzzle flow and gating issues sprang from having access to puzzle components and clues related to them too early. With a large team, someone inevitably wasted a lot of time investigating an item that was completely useless at that moment. This was frustrating.

In the escape room briefing, our gamemaster introduced us to a guide book. He flat out told us to read it from cover to cover. The guide book game mechanic generally causes frustration, especially in large team games. Room Escapers did it better than most by giving us multiple copies and thus avoiding the usual guide book bottleneck. That said, we still had to read and retain information that we might want to apply later, which wasn’t particularly fun. We also continually had to retrieve guide books as we progressed throughout the ship. Every time I encounter one of these guide books, I find myself wishing that the clues were more integrated into the set, rather than tacked on with a book.

There was a climax to Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship, but it fizzled a little. There’s opportunity to do more with it.

Should I play Room Escapers’ Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship?

Room Escapers has come a long way since they set sail with the original Pirate Booty. Each subsequent room escape from them has been more interesting and ambitious. Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship continued that trajectory.

This escape room was fun, funny, and kept us busy until the very end.

Newbies should go in ready to make use of the well-integrated hint system and experienced players should attack this ship humbly yet aggressively. There was a lot to do. It was fair, but it was not easy.

Puzzle hard or you’ll walk the plank.

Book your hour with Room Escapers’ Pirate’s Booty II: The Lost Ship, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Room Escapers comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Games Worcester – Fallout [Review]

Nuclear winter is coming.

Location: Worcester, MA

Date played: September 21, 2017

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket

Story & setting

The Cold War had turned hot and the bombs had fallen. Now, decades later, we returned to the site to explore an old fallout shelter.

In-game: A dramatically lit, metal bunker with a red pipe in the foreground.

Escape Games Worcester produced a creative and detailed gamespace that wasn’t a shelter so much as it was a foreboding and malevolent site. Fallout wasn’t scary, but it felt like something had… or maybe still could… go wrong.

Puzzles

Fallout followed a linear puzzle structure born of tactile interactions. Nearly everything seemed to belong in the environment.

In-game: A wide angle image of the bunker. Doors and interactions lining the walls, a chainlink fence dividing part of the room.

Standouts

Escape Games Worcester built a top-notch set. Through this, they created an exciting but disquieting atmosphere that instilled an urgency in our exploration.

In-game: A metal door beside a tube glowing blue.

The puzzles were well integrated into the set interactions. These were fun and flowed well.

We especially enjoyed the culminating puzzle, which engaged us as a team.

Shortcomings

Fallout struggled with unnecessary bottlenecking throughout the escape room. As an entirely linear team game, there were stretches when any given player could only watch and wait to see what would come next.

The first puzzle was not intuitive, which made it hard to find where the game began. Fallout lacked an onramp.

One important late-game puzzle sequence involved penalties in the form of play stoppage. While we like failure to have consequences, the halted gameplay killed the intensity of the moment. For teams with hardly any time on the clock at this point, it would be a discouraging way to lose the game.

Should I play Escape Games Worcester’s Fallout?

Fallout was a series of fun puzzle interactions in an intense and exciting environment. There were interesting creations to look at and explore in the gamespace.

Everything had a purpose, which wasn’t always obvious. Once untangled, everything resolved in a tangible manner.

We recommend Fallout to players of all experience levels. It was a neat gamespace. Newer players might struggle to get their bearings, but once you get moving, the room escape flows well.

There’s plenty of room for friends, but Fallout engages only 1-3 people at any given moment with an active and solvable puzzle. Be patient.

Book your hour with Escape Games Worcester’s Fallout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Games Worcester provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Trapology – The Retreat [Review]

Camping is in-tents.

Location: Boston, MA

Date played: September 20, 2017

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per ticket

Story & setting

We were staying in an Airbnb-ed tent in the woods when we learned that previous guests had gone missing. We needed to determine their fate and escape it ourselves.

The Retreat captured the woodsy feel of a rugged weekend getaway. Trapology staged this adventure at night, which made for a dramatic, low-light setting.

In-game: Two women in a dark candle-lit tent nervously peering out of the flap.
Image via Trapology.

Puzzles

The puzzling was linear. It started off simply and became increasingly complex. The Retreat had a remarkably smooth difficulty curve.

Standouts

The puzzle flow with the incrementally escalating complexity worked really well.

The set was varied. We enjoyed the thematic transition.

In-game: Two women cautiously opening a shed door in the middle of the woods.
Image via Trapology.

Trapology crafted mild horror, avoiding kitschy and childish props. The Retreat was approachable; it set a scary tone, but wasn’t truly horrific.

The Retreat was amusing. We especially loved the humor incorporated into one of the late-game puzzles.

Shortcomings

The Retreat took place almost entirely in low light. While on-theme, this could also be frustrating. We relied a little too heavily on flashlights.

Although entertaining and thematically appropriate, the puzzles felt born of the escape room genre rather than created to convey the narrative.

Should I play Trapology’s The Retreat?

The Retreat was a well-designed, small-team game in downtown Boston. We don’t usually see this type of escape room in a major city and it was refreshing.

We recommend The Retreat to newer players looking for an on-ramp and the comfort of their own group. The smooth difficulty curve makes this escape room a good starting place.

Experienced players will likely play through The Retreat pretty quickly, but once it gets going, there are some fun puzzles to chew on.

We are delighted that The Retreat offers a small-team experience. Because it is built for 2-3, and could even be enjoyed by a solo traveler, we recommend that Trapology use private bookings (maybe with tiered pricing) so that players don’t inadvertently get crammed together. It’s an intimate game and best enjoyed that way.

Grab a close friend or two and go exploring Trapology’s Retreat.

Book your hour with Trapology’s Retreat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Trapology comped our tickets for this game.

 

PuzzlEscape – King Arthur’s Quest [Review]

King Arthur’s to-do list

Location: Hudson, MA

Date played: September 21, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

King Arthur had been captured. We needed to free him, assemble the Knights of the Round Table, and retrieve Excalibur as well as The Holy Grail.

The set felt medieval-inspired and lovingly handmade. There was more going on within that castle-y room than it originally appeared.

In-game: An ornate hourglass sitting on a table in the foreground. A suit of armor flanked by shields in the background.

Puzzles

King Arthur’s Quest was rooted in puzzles. It leaned heavily on riddles, reasoning, ciphers and logic. The puzzles were more traditional, which isn’t to say simple; they were complex and challenging.

Standouts

King Arthur’s Quest included layered and complex puzzles. These were challenging, engaging, and rewarding.

PuzzlEscape clearly put thought into puzzle design. They put their own twists on traditional puzzles and considered gating, feedback, and pivotal puzzle points. We especially liked the execution of decipherments and the large, layered, late-game puzzle.

PuzzlEscape paid attention to locks and keys. These were well selected to fit the theme and exciting to engage with.

Shortcomings

PuzzlEscape relied too heavily on one particular prop and its corresponding interaction. It was not compelling enough or large enough to be anything except a bottleneck.

King Arthur’s Quest involved substantial reading in a challenging typeface. This quickly become frustrating.

In one instance, the room aesthetics created puzzle ambiguity.

One pivotal puzzle of King Arthur’s Quest involved a large set piece. It was spatially difficult to access. It was also hacked together and a bit too wobbly.

Should I play PuzzlEscape’s King Arthur’s Quest?

King Arthur’s Quest was a fun, puzzle-driven escape room. If you’re looking for challenging and layered cerebral puzzles, you’ll enjoy King Arthur’s Quest. PuzzlEscape worked the challenges around fun themed props and led you to conquer their quest.

If you’re looking for detailed sets or grand adventure, those weren’t the focuses of King Arthur’s Quest.

If you’re excited to solve puzzles, King Arthur’s Quest has a lot to offer, regardless of experience level. Newer players will find a lot of puzzling they likely haven’t seen before and escape room veterans will see some artful executions of some standards.

Go see if you’re worthy of pulling a sword from a stone.

Book your hour with PuzzlEscape’s King Arthur’s Quest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: PuzzlEscape comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room 60 – Outbreak [Review]

A charming lab of death.

Location: Williston, Vermont

Date played: August 6, 2017

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

An evil doctor released a humanity-ending plague upon the world. It was up to our team of agents to break into his lab and secure the cure before time ran out.

In-game: Lab setting. A balance with weights resting upon it. Beyond the balance is a piece of wired equipment.

The set had a fairly typical escape room lab aesthetic: off-white walls, bright fluorescent lights, scientific equipment, and lab coats. It wasn’t an intimidating or inspiring space, but it conveyed “lab” and presented the puzzles well.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Outbreak became increasingly involved as the game progressed. Many puzzles had unexpected – and welcome – layers of complexity.

Standouts

Outbreak’s puzzles were well-themed and complex. The puzzles flowed well and created a few terrific moments.

Outbreak included both standard locks with different designs and digit structures and more advanced technology. This variety made each unlock exciting and usually helped us identify which lock would accept a solution.

Two particular puzzles were implemented beautifully. These moments really stood out to our team.

In-game: An x-ray print of a sull wearing goggles.
Boo!

Escape Room 60 didn’t take itself too seriously. The audio introduction to the game was humorous and occasional in-game props included unobtrusive and amusing pop culture references. Our gamemaster was hilarious and witty; she was fantastic. “Feel free to laugh at our rules video… it gives me hope.”

Escape Room 60 had a hygienic, safe, and branded approach to blindfolds.

Shortcomings

Given that the strength of Outbreak was in the puzzles and not the set design, the blindfolds seemed unnecessary. They didn’t add much to the experience because when we took them off, we hadn’t been transported to another world.

While the puzzles were on theme, they didn’t convey narrative or the urgency of our situation.

A couple of moments needed a bit more in-game cluing.

There was an auditory clue that we wished could have been replayed or looped. Thankfully our gamemaster promptly displayed the relevant information on the hint monitor.

Should I play Escape Room 60’s Outbreak?

Outbreak was a fun puzzle game. The puzzles were complex and flowed well. The puzzles created the memorable moments in this escape room.

Outbreak would be a challenging escape room for new players, but doable. More experienced players will have an easier time and will likely find a few of the puzzle implementations enjoyable.

Puzzles are the root of an escape room and Escape Room 60 has got that down. We hope they can take their escape rooms to the next level, integrating more set design and narrative elements into their solid puzzle game. They’re certainly on the right track.

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

Full disclosure: Escape Room 60 comped our tickets for this game.

 

Esc4pe – The Minimalist [Review]

I’ve been training a long time for this moment.

Location: Burlington, Vermont

Date played: August 5, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket, $10 per child under 10

Story & setting

As agents of P.I.T.O.N., the clandestine services group at the center of Esc4pe’s games, we were investigating a missing agent codenamed Glitch. We had to break into his workshop and bypass his mechanical puzzles, logic traps, and hidden codes to determine why he disappeared.

In-game: A strange room with a blue glowing light and latticework.
Confused? This is where you start. It was both strange and cool.

The set of The Minimalist varied enormously. Some portions of the set were fantastic; others were typically office-y. We began our mission in an intriguing and strange space… It was one of the most challenging spaces I’ve captured in a photograph.

Puzzles

While the room escape was built around a hacker narrative, The Minimalist was a series of tangible, physical interactions. Esc4pe cast us as secret agents, so they made us break into things. (Newbies, please understand that I don’t mean physically break.)

The Minimalist required us to pick a lock. Normally I wouldn’t discuss an exciting moment that occurred late-game, but Esc4pe highlighted this in The Minimalist’s description and provided a pregame crash course in lockpicking basics. They also sold an inexpensive pickset for those who are interested in further exploring locksport. (If that sounds interesting to you, I have a detailed post on the subject).

Standouts

The opening moments of The Minimalist were strange, memorable, and fun.

The tangible puzzling in The Minimalist was fantastic; it made us feel like we were hacking the physical space.

“Hacker”-themed escape rooms usually portray a Hollywood depiction of hacking. The folks from Esc4pe used some of the cliches, but generally depicted something a lot more realistic than the norm.

Lockpicking is a puzzle. I really enjoyed that Esc4pe made it a viable component of this escape room.

Shortcomings

Lockpicking takes practice. Escape room players with no lockpicking background and only minimal instruction destroy picks. As a result, Esc4pe cycles through tension bars and picks, using whatever they have from the pick kits that they purchase. Our game provided the wrong tensioner and a less than optimal pick. These worked, but I had to use the tensioner incorrectly to succeed.

So much of The Minimalist was built around unusual tangible interactions that when Esc4pe leaned on the more common escape room tropes, the room didn’t convey the same sense of adventure.

The end was anti-climactic, especially when juxtaposed with the opening.

Should I play Esc4pe’s The Minimalist?

The Minimalist was a bold escape room. Esc4pe stuck with a design decision that others have either abandoned or failed… and they made it work. They put their own twist on common tropes and produced an escape room that felt fresh.

Esc4pe are in a fantastic neighborhood in downtown Burlington, surrounded by amazing restaurants (Monarch & the Milkweed… is wow) and a block away from a bar/ arcade called The Archive… we had a wonderfully tasty, puzzley, and video-gamey afternoon.

The Minimalist was newbie friendly, and included more than a few interesting interactions to entertain experienced players. Puzzling aside, the lockpicking challenge will likely be a difficult for anyone who hasn’t done it before, but it is doable. If you’d like to learn some lockpicking basics before you visit, watch this video:

Book your hour with Esc4pe’s The Minimalist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Esc4pe comped our tickets for this game.

Riddle Room – Murder Mystery [Review]

Quick! Throw the switch!

Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Date played: July 15, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

As investigators, we were reviving a cold murder case at a local asylum that had been decommissioned due to illegal experimentation on patients.

In-game: A chalk outline of a body in the middle of a lab-esque crime scene.

While the setup and subject matter were grim, the room was about as non-threatening as it could possibly be. At its most intense, there was a chalk outline on the ground and a few Halloween-y “danger” signs on the walls. Beyond that, the room had a vaguely lab/ office feel about it. There was not a lot of ambiance.

Puzzles

Murder Mystery included an assortment of lab-esque items turned puzzles. These ranged from more traditional paper-based puzzle types to a few more mechanical interactions.

Standouts

The most interesting parts of Murder Mystery were the few mechanisms to manipulate.

The gameplay in Murder Mystery flowed well.

Shortcomings

Murder Mystery lacked ambiance. It felt cobbled together.

There was a hodgepodge of vaguely themed items in Murder Mystery, but they didn’t add depth to the interactions. The escape room relied on paper-based puzzling and unlocking.

One of the more visually interestingly set pieces turned out to be practically irrelevant to the gameplay.

While it wasn’t a red herring, we waited a long time to open a lock on a hefty switch. When we flipped it we were expecting a significant reveal… and what we got was anything but significant.

Should I play Riddle Room’s Murder Mystery?

Murder Mystery was Riddle Room’s first escape room. It was an older style of room escape where the puzzling wasn’t particularly connected to environment. There was a bit to find, solve, and unlock, but there wasn’t a lot of depth to the experience. Murder Mystery was fine. Its flaws were born from a lack of polish and intrigue, not from outright bad design.

New players looking to explore a puzzle room will find some fun and challenge, but we preferred Captain’s Curse, which is no longer open. We are curious about what Riddle Room will develop in its place.

Full disclosure: Riddle Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.