Wicked Escapes – The Hole [Review]

No light is better than low light. Who knew?

Location: Saugus, MA

Date played: April 9, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $20 per ticket

Story & setting

Captured by a madman and locked away in complete darkness, we had 30 minutes to escape his trap.

In-game: A completely black image with nothing visible.
Actual game photo.

The “you’re playing this game in the dark” pitch wasn’t an exaggeration. It was pitch black. The only illumination that we could see was an ever-so-faint emergency exit sign above the door and the LEDs around the gamemaster’s camera.

The Hole was entirely designed around playing in darkness. The puzzles were solvable via touch only. While there were zero jump scares, there were a few things that felt a bit icky.

Although the room escape was a little unnerving, it was exceptionally safe. There were no tripping hazards; it had ample padding along the floors and walls.

Puzzles

The Hole was an adventure through the darkness, not a puzzle game.

While there was plenty to keep our team busy, there was only one interaction that I would call a puzzle.

Standouts

The Hole was a wholly different escape room. It forced us to explore, communicate, and interact in new ways.

It was fair and it was safe.

Opening locks in the dark was strangely satisfying.

Shortcomings

There was only one true puzzle in The Hole. I wished there’d been even one more.

One early challenge greatly overstayed its welcome.

Elements of this exploration were a little more icky than they needed to be. Note that it wasn’t scary or dirty, just a bit gross.

Should I play Wicked Escapes’ The Hole?

If you’re interested in a different sort of challenge, I highly recommend The Hole.

Bring the right team. Everyone needs to be calm and communicative in darkness. You should also be comfortable with each other because you will touch, bump, and awkwardly interact.

If you’re looking to solve intricate puzzles, The Hole won’t be for you.

If you’d rather embark on a story-driven adventure, this room escape won’t be for you. The story is just a setup for the dark escape.

And, of course, if you want to gaze upon a beautiful set, this won’t be your game; there is literally nothing to see.

Beginners can absolutely attempt The Hole, but I’d recommend that they play at least one other game first, just to get a handle on how escape rooms work.

Experienced players should dive in, so long as they aren’t repelled by the darkness, ick-factor, or minimal focus on puzzling.

The Hole takes room escapes somewhere else. It’s a different type of challenge. The puzzle is in exploring, navigating, communicating, and putting all of that together. We really enjoyed it.

Book your half-hour with Wicked Escapes’ The Hole, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Wicked Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Wicked Escapes – The Great Museum Heist Caper Job [Review]

The Great Heist Caper at the Marginal Museum.

Location: Saugus, MA

Date played: April 9, 2017

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Our first night as rent-a-cops guarding the Kuddelmuddel Museum of Marginal Curiosities got off to a rough start: a cat burglar made an attempt to steal the Museum’s most prized artifact, The Sultan’s Lock. After removing it from its display, he stashed it elsewhere in the museum, triggering a security lockdown. We had an hour to find the lock and return it to its display before the crime was pinned on us.

If it’s not clear from the description, The Great Museum Heist Caper Job was a funny room escape. Set within a modest museum, the game looked and felt the part.

In-game: An engraved human skull rests in front of a stone wall with symbols carved into it

Puzzles

The puzzling centered on the various exhibit displays; they looked great. They were large and they felt it. Everything was tangible and responsive.

Wicked Escapes used technology thoughtfully throughout the puzzling and did a great job of breathing life (and humor) into the various interactions.

Standouts

The Great Museum Heist Caper Job was full of hands-on interactions. We picked things up and moved them around. These items had heft, size, and polish.

The puzzles were responsive. With every correct solution, the set revealed new objects or information. This design built forward momentum.

The setup was humorous. Everything from the premise to the exhibit names to the display descriptions made us laugh, if we read closely enough.

Shortcomings

While the reading was entertaining, at times a substantial block of text would halt the flow of gameplay.

The initial set was not particularly impressive or interactive. Fortunately it quickly opened up. The starting area felt like underused space.

Should I play Wicked Escapes’ The Great Museum Heist Caper Job?

The Great Museum Heist Caper nailed so much of what makes for an excellent escape room. The puzzles were big, built into the set, and had gravity. Moreover, accomplishing things felt like an accomplishment.

The Great Museum Heist Caper is a fun and worthy room escape for newer and experienced players alike.

If you play escape rooms because they bring you to new places and give you puzzling you can’t recreate at home, you will enjoy The Great Museum Heist Caper.

Book your hour with Wicked Escapes’ The Great Museum Heist Caper Job, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Wicked Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

Team vs Time – Save the Queen [Review]

God speed.

Location: Berlin, CT

Date played: April 8, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

In 14th century England, we discovered a plot to unseat our beloved Queen. We infiltrated the castle to uncover information and thwart the overthrow.

Team vs Time constructed a space that brought us back in time. From the woodwork to the real church stained glass windows installed in this castle, their attention to detail brought the set to life.

In-game: A beautiful chapel set with incredible stained glass windows.

Puzzles

While the initial puzzles weren’t particularly interesting, as the game progressed, the puzzles became increasingly dynamic.

For most of Save the Queen, we worked through large tangible puzzles that interacted with built-in set pieces.

Standouts

Team vs Time constructed a castle into their run-of-the-mill building. The walls, windows, furniture, and smaller details brought the space to life.

In-game: A closeup of a wooden statue of a king backlit by beautiful orange stained glass windows.

Many of the puzzles made use of the castle decor. We manipulated “ancient” tools and investigated substantial props and set pieces.

A tiny gamemastering detail added a great dramatic moment to Save the Queen.

With Save the Queen, Team vs Time constructed an interactive, engaging, logical, and fun puzzle game.

Shortcomings

The narrative of Save the Queen didn’t carry our experience. In the end, we searched for specific information, as instructed by the game, but without any story-driven understanding of why.

In one late-game puzzle, the input mechanism seemed out of place. Given the historical setting, any modern interaction broke the fiction created by the set design. All tech should to be well hidden and seemingly magical.

Occasional double cluing proved more confusing than helpful.

One set puzzle was completely useless and threw us off track.

While the set looked great, it (and by it, I mean we) suffered from a significant splinter problem. We both picked up wood splinters from the game, and other players whom we have spoken with have as well.

Should I play Team vs Time’s Save the Queen?

Team vs Time creates impressive escape room sets. Save the Queen is no exception. We enjoyed our hour in a 14th century castle.

With Save the Queen, Team vs Time has improved their puzzle chops, designing interactive, challenging, and interesting puzzles into the set pieces. There is room for refinement, but the underlying structure and construction is solid.

As much as we loved puzzling through the castle, we didn’t feel like the hero and heroine of a narrative-driven adventure in the same way as we did in Gangster’s Gamble.

Save the Queen would be an exciting escape room at any level. Newer players will find it challenging, but not unmanageable. More seasoned players will be able to appreciate the experience that much more. If you’re traveling through Connecticut, this one is a must visit.

Book your hour with Team vs Time’s Save the Queen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Team vs Time provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Puzzle Theory – The Missing Doctor [Review]

I see you’ve constructed a new lightsaber.

Location: South Windsor, CT

Date played: December 12, 2016

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We were in the office of mad scientist Dr. X solving the mystery of his disappearance.

The Missing Doctor was composed of standard office furniture with a hint of laboratory. It wasn’t a particularly interesting space, but it was appropriately decorated, with just a bit of character, and inviting enough.

In game: A large wood desk with a light, and rotary phone.

Puzzles

The puzzles were the essence of The Missing Doctor. The room escape included extensive searching, as well as a large assortment of paper-based and fully interactive puzzling.

While the puzzles didn’t convey narrative, they were fun.

Standouts

We appreciated the humorous introductory and post-game videos.

Puzzle Theory thoughtfully designed the puzzle and game flow such that key late game puzzles couldn’t be easily bypassed or brute-forced.

The Missing Doctor surprised us with one particular simple, tech-driven interaction.

Shortcomings

Much as we loved the tech behind this particular puzzle, we recommend that Puzzle Theory subtly refine its implementation to avoid a potential safety risk.

Just a few too many interesting items proved unimportant. It can be disappointing when the best decor is nothing but a red herring.

The Missing Doctor fell into older escape room tropes such as too many locks of the same digital structure and broad searching.

Should I play Puzzle Theory’s The Missing Doctor?

The Missing Doctor was a well-designed introductory game. It relied heavily on common escape room tactics, but added a little bit of pizzazz.

The meat of the game was in the puzzles. There was just enough scenery and story to hold those together, but the gameplay carried this room escape.

If you are just starting to explore room escapes, this would be a good on-ramp with challenging puzzles. For more experienced players who prefer puzzling over set and story, give this one a go.

Book your hour with Puzzle Theory’s The Missing Doctor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Puzzle Theory provided media discounted tickets for this game.

North Shore Escape – Mystery at the Art Gallery [Review]

An art gallery with original pieces.

Location: Woburn, MA

Date played: December 10, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per ticket

Story & setting

After the disappearance of the art dealer, we entered his gallery to determine what secrets might be hidden within.

The walls of Mystery at the Art Gallery were decorated largely with original artwork created by the game designer. While there were many pieces to take in, the large uncluttered space remained true to the gallery aesthetic.

In-game: a pair of gargoyles, a wall of paintings in the back.

Puzzles

Mystery at the Art Gallery included puzzles that solved quickly and those that unfolded over the course of the experience. While some puzzle threads moved forward, there was always something else to unravel that would be important later on.

The puzzles were varied, entertaining, and of mixed difficulty.

Standouts

The artwork in this game, truly part of the experience, set the tone and feel of the game. The deliberate choices – whether original creations or purchased pieces – made this gallery that much more interesting to explore. This wasn’t another art gallery game with a print of the Mona Lisa next to a dozen others from European art history’s greatest hits.

North Shore Escape created a particular ambiance for this room escape. As the mystery unfolded, they dialed up the intensity without abandoning the original feel of the game. Everything felt like it was part of a larger whole.

Shortcomings

As an individual player, it was possible to puzzle out of Mystery at the Art Gallery while ignoring much of the mystery. While some of the interactions furthered the story, others were simply puzzles in a gallery setting. With smaller or more cohesive teams, it’s likely that everyone will participate in the story experience. However, in our larger group, different players came away with more or less of an understanding of the overarching narrative.

While the art set the tone for the game, the quality of set design was a little more shaky. It did, however, improve over the course of the game.

Most of the puzzling was well thought out, but one in particular jumped out as halfheartedly implemented.

Should I play North Shore Escape’s Mystery at the Art Gallery?

Mystery at the Art Gallery would be a solid introductory game with just a little added flair. The puzzles were standard in style, but also varied and approachable. The art, ambiance, and mystery give the space some intrigue.

Experienced teams will find a fun, yet standard game that is worth the price of admission. We recommend that you bring fewer people, slow down, and cooperate, so as not to skip over the story as it unfolds.

Book your hour with North Shore Escape’s Mystery at the Art Gallery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: North Shore Escape comped our tickets for this game.

 

Puzzled Escape Games – Escape From Escobar’s [Review]

I appreciate a drug lord who keeps his private jail clean.

Location: Easthampton, MA

Date played: December 12, 2016

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

After a series of poor decisions we found ourselves locked up in the basement of a drug lord.

In-game: shot through jail cell bars, the walls are stone and there are a number of barrels against the wall.

Part jail, part warehouse, the set looked fairly compelling. Puzzled Escape Games was located in an old New England mill, so the sets bones were strong and looked great. Their custom construction was solid. It wasn’t the most immersive jail set, but it was more than enough to convey the story.

Escape From Escobar’s story slowly kicked in as the game progressed. The story actually became critical to the gameplay even if it was a bit circuitous.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Escape From Escobar’s were physically interactive and frequently integrated into the set. There was plenty to do and everyone was engaged.

There were a few paper-based puzzles, but they didn’t dominate the game.

Many of the puzzles effectively enforced teamwork and cooperation.

Standouts

It was great having larger challenges that could engage everyone.

There were plenty of puzzles for everyone to stay involved and have their own individual moments.

Escape From Escobar’s set was packed with surprises. There was one incredible moment that completely shocked our whole team. I wish that my face had been caught on camera during it.

Puzzled Escape Games integrated player decision and added consequence to that choice.

Shortcomings

One of the puzzles was pretty dubious and required far too much outside knowledge to complete.

Escape From Escobar’s set generally looked great, but we could feel the build quality dip each time we pushed further into the game.

The final puzzle was a little convoluted because of the difficult-to-follow story.

Should I play Puzzled Escape Games’ Escape From Escobar’s?

If you’re nearby, you really should. There aren’t many escape room companies in the area and Escape From Escobar’s would be a strong game in a far more competitive market.

The set was strong, the puzzles were fun, and there were at least a few memorable moments that will stick with us for a long time.

Escape From Escobar’s was plenty satisfying.

Book your hour with Puzzled Escape Games’ Escape From Escobar’s, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Puzzled Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

 

Complexity – The Pirate Ship [Review]

Raid thee galleon and plunder thee swag!

Location: Farmington, CT

Date played: December 12, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

With the crew ashore for the evening, celebrating the commandeering of a new ship, we  snuck back aboard to search for any treasure left by the previous captain.

The Pirate Ship took place aboard the deck of a ship, under the cover of nighttime. The ship itself was a handcrafted, wooden-planked “vessel” built into a room at Complexity. It looked great and felt like a pirate playground.

In-game: The side of the deck of a pirate ship. Large ropes weave through the posts.

Puzzles

The puzzles were thematically sound, designed around items that belonged aboard a ship, and included lots of locked loot boxes. They didn’t convey a story arc, but they felt at home in the environment.

Complexity made great use of their space by custom building large-scale puzzle interactions into their set pieces.

Standouts

There were a few interactive pirate ship components that solved in incredibly satisfying ways. We appreciated when the set and the puzzles came together.

The Pirate Ship was clearly handcrafted with care, love, and attention to detail. It was a fun place to inhabit.

Shortcomings

Despite the details, the room escape sometimes felt rough around the edges.

Late in The Pirate Ship, we encountered a section that wasn’t up to the production level we’d come to expect from the experience. It felt like Complexity ran out of steam.

We opened a lot of locked boxes aboard The Pirate Ship. This felt like a missed opportunity to unlock the ship itself, perhaps by way of compartments constructed into the deck rather than an assortment of boxes.

Should I play Complexity’s The Pirate Ship?

The Pirate Ship was more than a puzzle room; it was a treasure heist aboard the deck of a pirate ship. The puzzles and the environment worked in tandem to deliver a strong experience.

Although it had some rough edges, it was clearly constructed with passion and skill.

Our experienced team blew through this room escape. We would have loved a little bit longer aboard. However, newer players and smaller teams will find quite a bit here to sink their anchor into.

Book your hour with Complexity’s The Pirate Ship, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Amaze Escape – Escape from Death Row [Review]

Sixty minutes of hard time.

Location: Arlington, MA

Date played: December 10, 2016

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Amaze Escape was located in a former municipal building that used to function as the local jail. Escape from Death Row was set in the retired jail cells. The walls, bars, and locks were real.

There wasn’t a story, but there was a goal: get out.

In-game, a jail cell with a handcuffs strapped to one of the bars.

Puzzles

Escape from Death Row‘s puzzles started strongly. They were fairly typical escape room-style puzzles, and they were fun, especially when mixed with the setting.

As the game progressed, the puzzle quality degraded. By the time we opened the exit door, our team was literally chatting about other things.

In-game: closeup of the jail cell's locking mechanism.

Standouts

The set was truly amazing because it was real. It seemed like Amaze Escape only had to make minor tweaks to gamify it.

I may have fallen in love with the jail cell lock & key; everybody has a weakness.

Giant jail cell key
One big key

In this room escape, the goal-based setup with minimal story worked well.

The early puzzling was good fun.

Shortcomings

Escape from Death Row fizzled hard.

The late game interactions were weak and at times confusing. It was “I’m not sure if I should do this” confusing, not “this is a challenging puzzle” confusing. There’s a difference.

Amaze Escape leaned too heavily on the drama coming from the set and failed to do much of anything to heighten the experience.

Should I play Amaze Escape’s Escape from Death Row?

Escape from Death Row’s set was unique and the puzzling started strong. This set the game in a great direction. As time wore on, the puzzles became less interesting and the novelty of the jail cells diminished.

I found myself wishing that the folks from Amaze Escape did a little more to capitalize on their exceptionally cool location. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it could be so much more.

Escape from Death Row was a solid game for beginners. The intensity of the set wasn’t overwhelming and there was plenty for newbies to sink their teeth into.

Experienced players will need to decide if escaping from a real jail cell is enough of a draw when the puzzle and gameflow are not, but I am happy that I decided to play.

Book your hour with Amaze Escape’s Escape from Death Row, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Escape 101 – The Widow’s Room [Review]

Death… it might be preferable.

Location: Danbury, CT

Date played: December 3, 2016

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.95 per ticket on weekends, $24.95 per ticket on weekday, child pricing available

Story & setting

“A doctor has been discovered lying dead in his study and your team has been dispatched to investigate. Upon discovering inconsistencies in the evidence, things take a turn for the worst. Will you solve the murder before it’s too late?”

Escape 101 followed the script of the early days of escape rooms:

  • Used furniture
  • Cheap props
  • Lots of locks

The room looked about as generic as possible and the story never culminated into anything cohesive.

Puzzles

The puzzles relied on tenuous connections, heavy searching, red herrings, and low feedback.

Escape 101 advertised The Widow’s Room as highly difficult with a low escape rate. It was certainly difficult, but the challenge came from a lot of pointless deception, frustrating gotchas, and some red herrings that subtracted value from the overall experience.

When the puzzles were intuitive, they were boring.

When the puzzles were hard, they were boring and tedious.

Standouts

The Widow’s Room included a beautiful chess set.

In-game: A pretty chess set sits in the foreground. A mundane room escape in the background.

Our gamemaster was kind throughout the entire experience. I am quite certain that she knew that we weren’t enjoying ourselves and handled that gracefully.

Shortcomings

There was a string of puzzles that demanded some logic leaps and offered zero feedback. One slightly incorrect answer was enough to cast doubt on the whole string of puzzles. This was made even more frustrating by the integration of a red herring that seemed deliberately placed to add confusion.

The puzzling simply wasn’t fun. Easy or hard, it was boring. From time to time, I looked up at the clock hoping to see less time remaining.

When requesting a hint, Escape 101 paused the game clock until the hint was delivered. Some of our teammates liked this feature. I found myself wishing that the gamemaster had a hint at her fingertips.

We were missing 2/5 of the pieces to a key puzzle. During our walkthrough at the end, our gamemaster seemed confused about the missing pieces, but ultimately just shrugged and suggested that the pieces may have fallen behind some furniture.

Should I play Escape 101’s The Widow’s Room?

The Widow’s Room feels like a bad game from 2 years ago.

It was one of the weakest games that I have played in a while and I was happy when it was over.

Full disclosure: Escape 101 provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Trap’t – Abducted: Escape from the Madman [Review]

Lighthearted conglomerated horror flick.

Location: Stamford, CT

Date played: December 3, 2016

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We were abducted by a murderous madman and shut into his closet. The only thing to do was escape.

Although we were escaping our own demise, this wasn’t a scary game. Anything “gory” in this murderer’s home was campy enough to be neither scary nor unsettling. The setting was bright and a few cotton cobwebs away from being a haunted house for children.

In-game: Closeup of a clean work bench with three jars on it. One with plastic spiders, a second with yellow stones, and a third with something that looks a little gross.

Instead of scaring players, Trap’t made nods at horror, adding little Easter eggs that referenced famous movies.

Puzzles

Abducted: Escape from the Madman included many puzzles that flowed logically, one to the next.

The room escape front-loaded the more intense puzzling. While unusual, this worked well.

Standouts

Trap’t designed a game that flowed artfully through a massive set. In this way, Abducted: Escape from the Madman intensified the experience through sheer depth and size without instilling fear.

We really enjoyed a few of the more technologically-triggered interactions and their construction around horror film props. The best parts of this game leaned into horror cliches.

The Easter eggs were a cute touch.

Shortcomings

Some of the cluing was incomplete and demanded a logic leap or two.

While expansive, the set was ultimately bland. The closet gave way to a scarcely furnished house with little ambiance. Trap’t missed an opportunity to instill emotion.

With the name Abducted: Escape from the Madman, it would be easy to make incorrect assumptions about this game. It danced around horror-y themes, but it was never scary nor emotional; it wasn’t the thrill one would expect. Abducted: Escape from the Madman didn’t really know what it was trying to be or how to market itself to the right audience.

Should I play Trap’t’s Abducted: Escape from the Madman?

This was a room escape in the style of elementary school horror. It was a nod to the concept, but it wasn’t actually an embodiment of the genre. It was a game for those who don’t like to be scared, but those folks won’t get the jokes. Ultimately, this escape room was all chuckles and no adrenaline.

Although the set wasn’t much to behold, Trap’t designed the puzzles that kept us racing through to the end. The puzzles truly carried this game. Genre sentiments and expectations notwithstanding, this was a game for people who like to solve puzzles.

The problem is, how do the players understand what this game really is? It seems like those who go in expecting horror will leave disappointed, while those who want to play a solid puzzle game but aren’t keen on frights will outright disregard a game named “Abducted: Escape from the Madman.”

There were some good interactions and puzzles, but this was a game with an identity crisis.

Book your hour with Trap’t’s Abducted: Escape from the Madman, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Trap’t provided media discounted tickets for this game.