Bane Escape – Maritime Grave [Review]

This may shock you, but the room only has 60 minutes of oxygen.

Location: Livingston, NJ

Date played: April 23, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $30 per ticket

Story & setting

While we were aboard a submarine-turned-military museum, the vessel experienced a systemwide malfunction. If we couldn’t right the systems, we would sink to an ocean grave.

Maritime Grave looked part submarine, part museum. Bane Escape constructed a set that felt like an imaginative naval vessel and used the museum-ification of the old boat as pretense to incorporate puzzle-laden displays and plaques. The execution was artfully done.

In game: The ornate interior of the vessel has a large bench in the middle and large copper doors with green walls covered in large rivets.

Puzzles

The puzzling took place largely through keen observation, which then translated into tactile inputs. The challenge was primarily in locating information and making the right connections. That shouldn’t give you the impression that Maritime Grave was an easy escape room.

There was ample room for parallel puzzling.

Standouts

Bane Escape committed to this quirky scenario and delivered. The set struck the right balance between naval vessel and museum. Its unified and polished aesthetic was both impressive and fun.

In-game: A glass display with an bronze octopus inside. Beyond the glass, a porthole is illuminated blue.

So much of this game was custom construction. It looked great and functioned well.

The information-meets-input design unfolded across the large gamespace. This facilitated teamwork well.

Shortcomings

At times, the gamespace felt empty, despite ample puzzles. Large spaces held few interactions.

One area of the submarine remained poorly lit throughout the experience. We were expecting some dramatic lighting to turn on when the area became relevant, but it remained dimly lit.

There were a few instances where the removal of clue ambiguity could dramatically elevate the experience.

Should I play Bane Escape’s Maritime Grave?

Bane Escape is a spinoff of Bane Haunted House. Although the designers have a haunt background, Maritime Grave was not a frightening game. It is approachable for a general audience. Furthermore, Bane Escape’s experience building haunts shines in the artistic and durable set of Maritime Grave. 

This would be a fun, but challenging escape room for new players. There are a lot of dots to connect. Teamwork and parallel puzzling are crucial.

Experienced players will find this a worthy opponent and likely appreciate this unorthodox rendering of a sinking submarine scenario.

Book your hour with Bane Escape’s Maritime Grave, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Room New Jersey – S.W.A.T. [Review]

There’s another mad bomber. Call the puzzle SWAT team!

Location: Hackensack, NJ

Date played: March 6, 2017

Team size: up to 18; we recommend 5-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket for an open ticketed game, $22-45 per ticket for private game depending on team size

Story & setting

As the SWAT team assigned to the mission, we entered a terrorist’s apartment to determine the location of a series of bombs and disarm the bomb in the room with us.

S.W.A.T. took place in an apartment. Although furnished with typical desk and dresser pieces, it never felt like an apartment. The hacked-together aesthetic and odd assortment of props to puzzle through made it more a space for a puzzle adventure than a terrorist’s apartment.

In-game: A bomb incased in plastic.

Puzzles

The diverse puzzles relied on different intelligences, including keen observation. There were puzzles for nearly any type of puzzler.

Escape Room New Jersey combined traditional locks with tech-based mechanisms to drive the interactions.

Standouts

S.W.A.T. began with an exciting physical challenge for a single player. Failure to complete this interaction would impede subsequent gameplay. We appreciated how Escape Room New Jersey designed immediate (but temporary) consequences into the interaction.

There was a lot of strong puzzling that kept our team of six engaged until the final seconds. We worked through many of the puzzles collaboratively. A few moments were particularly fun.

Escape Room New Jersey created an “apartment” escape room with intrigue. There was enough of the out of the ordinary to uncover that our team remained energized throughout the experience.

Shortcomings

Although the set was fun to explore, it wasn’t really themed. More than anything else, it was a space for puzzling.

There were a number of game elements that triggered based on player behavior. The puzzles didn’t always give enough feedback to know who had triggered what, leaving us uncertain which elements had been completed.

S.W.A.T. suffered from double cluing. The multiple ways to uncover the same information made us doubt otherwise correct solutions. At one point in particular, when multiple solutions funneled into one complex input, the double cluing proved more challenging than helpful.

One crucial late-game puzzle truly lacked appropriate cluing. More often than not, teams will find themselves guessing at this point in the room escape.

There were a couple of moments that were painfully corny and out of place.

S.W.A.T. prominently featured a game timer. Its only function was as a timer, but it kept incorrect time. Our gamemaster notified us of this, so that we wouldn’t be relying on it, but it was frustrating to look at it and know it was wrong.

Should I play Escape Room New Jersey’s S.W.A.T.?

S.W.A.T.  was a lot of fun. In fact, similarly to Escape Room New Jersey’s first escape room, The Other Side, S.W.A.T. was more fun than the sum of its parts. They’re a bit of an enigma.

This was a largely un-themed puzzling adventure. If you seek immersive set design and storytelling, this won’t be your escape room. However, there was a lot to puzzle through, both in breadth and depth. Overall, these challenges were tangible, interactive, and entertaining.

This would be a challenging escape room for first-time players. The double cluing and lack of feedback made communication more challenging than it needed to be.

All other considerations aside, S.W.A.T. was a lot of fun. If you’re a puzzle lover in northern New Jersey, you’ll enjoy it.

Book your hour with Escape Room New Jersey’s S.W.A.T., and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Last Minute Escape – The Submarine [Review]

It might have been a bit of a dive, but much was hidden in its depths.

Location: Montclair, NJ

Date played: February 27, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $100 per team during the week with additional costs for larger teams & $30.50 per person on weekends

Story & setting

It was 194-blah in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our submarine was under attack and all of the personnel who actually knew how to operate the critical systems were incapacitated. It was up to our ragtag group of know-nothings to figure out how to operate the boat, sink a Japanese ship, and save our crewmen. The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but Last Minute Escape didn’t take the story too seriously either.

In-game: A submarine door with a radiation warning. Through the porthole is a depth controller.

The set design had its up and downs. Everything was handmade and a little hacked together. Many individual interactions looked good, but the rooms themselves didn’t always feel cohesive or part of a submarine. A lot of it was clever… even when it wasn’t convincing.

The Submarine had a great logo.

The Submarine logo has the name in a heavy font with the silhouette of a submarine.

Puzzles

Last Minute Escape truly shined in the puzzling . They assembled a challenging collection of team-oriented escape room puzzles.

Some puzzles were analog while others were tech-driven. Nearly every puzzle demanded multiple people to solve. This is a difficult to achieve and too often overlooked facet of escape room design that Last Minute Escape nailed.

Standouts

The Submarine was built for collaborative puzzling and it truly achieved that.

The puzzles were satisfying, challenging, and fun. Everyone on our team had at least one moment of triumph.

While the room escape didn’t always look amazing or make a ton of sense, Last Minute Escape used what they had to create some honestly triumphant moments.

In-game: The depth controller, a door, with a car steering wheel painted silver.

Epiphany in puzzle design is a tough thing to create, especially in the escape room format. However, I found that The Submarine repeatedly achieved it. Early in the room escape we found so many things that simply didn’t make sense that I actually started off a little frustrated. As the game progressed, however, we started to make the connections. It felt so rewarding to solve these little mysteries that had originally made no sense whatsoever and then in a flash became incredibly clear.

Shortcomings

The Submarine’s soundtrack was loud enough that it interfered with the gameplay.

There were tons of details in The Submarine and managing them relied heavily on labeling, which wasn’t always clear; in one instance it simply wasn’t there.

We encountered a little bit of prop failure, which added a fair amount of confusion into the late-game experience.

In once section of the room escape, we needed to derive a series of answers and administer them all at once. Frequently, there was no way to verify them, short of the gamemaster hinting which one was incorrect. This didn’t present an issue for us, but I can easily imagine a number of scenarios where it could seriously hamper gameplay.

The story didn’t make much sense and there was no attempt to ground the game in any historical reality. The room escape was set on a nuclear sub (which didn’t exist in WWII) and the props were a hodgepodge of anachronistic naval/military items.

Should I play Last Minute Escape’s The Submarine?

The Submarine was fun, weird, and challenging. It was an energizing game for our experienced players. It offered a level of puzzling that we don’t often encounter and that puzzling was implemented with nuance and finesse.

For these same reasons, I do not recommend The Submarine for newbies. The emphasis on challenging puzzles that require careful observation and clever connections could lead to an especially frustrating experience for those who aren’t at least a little comfortable in an escape room environment. Additionally, the lack of focus on story and environmental design would make it more difficult for newbies to even see the brilliance of The Submarine, and there was a lot of brilliance.

Escape room enthusiasts: If you’re in it for the puzzling, I highly recommend you pay Last Minute Escape a visit and see how deep you can dive.

Book your hour with Last Minute Escape’s The Submarine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Trap Door – Witch Hunt [Review]

“She’s a witch! Burn her!”

Location: Morristown, NJ

Date played: February 13, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Story & setting

With an accused witch waiting at the gallows, we had an hour to search her residence to find evidence of her guilt or innocence.

Set against a fictionalized 17th century witch hunt, the game was staged inside a dark and creepy home. Witch Hunt flirted with horror, but remained approachably intense for all but the most timid of players.

In-game: A close-up of a mantle with candles, a stone bust, and a a copper plate sitting atop it.

The home itself was dimly lit and fairly compelling. There were a few brilliant details, but also a few modern items that stood out a little too strongly. Post-game we learned that the local fire marshal was very assertive in Trap Door’s design process.

In-game: A fire burning in a small cauldron hung by chains.

Puzzles

Trap Door leaned heavily on narrative, but not at the expense of gameplay. The puzzling felt strong and kept our whole team involved.

We’ve knocked Trap Door for issues of gameflow and puzzle design in our previous visits to their Red Bank, NJ location. I am happy to say that those issues were not present in Witch Hunt.

Standouts

Trap Door has always leaned into their exceptional video production skills. This was absolutely true of Witch Hunt. Their use of video was brilliant.

The puzzles largely felt born of the narrative. This was true of the hint system as well.

The set and props had some magnificent details that both brought the room escape to life and tied everything together.

In-game: A table with a cutting board, herbs, and other cooking utensils and ingredients lit by candle.

Witch Hunt instilled a sense of adventure in our team that lasted the entire experience, which ultimately escalated to a wonderful climax.

Shortcomings

Lighting was our greatest foe in Witch Hunt. We were provided with one lantern for our team of 6; dim LED candles could be used for light in a pinch. Making light into a scarce resource slowed the gameplay and created situations where a player’s primary role became light holder… and in the words of Errol of REDivas, “No one wants to be lamp holder.” Witch Hunt could benefit from either more lamps or the addition of some built-in lighting in key locations.

While the hint system was excellent, most of our team had a hard time hearing the hints or even knowing that they were being delivered.

I would love to see Trap Door continue to level up their skills as immersive set designers by finding ways to create smoother physical puzzle interactions and hide their tech a little more. If the wires, magnets, and seams were to disappear, Witch Hunt would have felt considerably more magical.

Should I play Trap Door’s Witch Hunt?

Witch Hunt feels like the game that Trap Door has been trying to make for 2 years. Each time we’ve visited them, we’ve understood their desire to make us feel a story through their room escape, but it just didn’t come together. Until Witch Hunt.

Witch Hunt is a force to be reckoned with in the ever-strengthening northern New Jersey escape room scene. It’s a game that could be enjoyed by both newbies and experienced escape room players as long as everyone is comfortable with the darkness and the intense theme.

Regardless of your skill level, play hard. Witch Hunt is a trial by fire.

Book your hour with Trap Door’s Witch Hunt, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Trap Door comped our tickets for this game.

The Other Tales – The Forgotten Room [Review]

Ready your steamer trunk.

Location: Hawthorne, NJ

Date played: February 6, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

Story & setting

We entered the headquarters of the Amazing Adventure Society to find the treasured artifact hidden within.

The Amazing Adventure Society headquarters had a simple, warm, and cozy grandfather’s study aesthetic. The setting felt homemade yet adorably homey.

In-game: Amazing Adventure Society Departure Points of Expeditions Map

Puzzles

The puzzles in The Forgotten Room were beautiful. In a mix of tech and more traditional components, The Other Tales crafted their own puzzle elements with care and love.

Both tangible and paper-based, the puzzles varied in structure, skills, and difficulty.

Standouts

As we approached the Amazing Adventure Society headquarters, our gamemaster established the story sincerely and reverently. He gave us reason for the adventure we were about to undertake, and even his own role in our experience. It worked.

The room was comfortable. Its atmosphere was heartwarming. It was a fun place to explore.

In-game: Two large trunks locked shut with many destination stickers attached to them.

The Other Tales designed and built the puzzle elements with clear attention to detail and beautiful craftsmanship. Where many companies would cut corners and telegraph their technology, The Other Tales put in the extra effort to hide seams and tech. These pieces, both large and small, were fun to explore.

We loved many little moments. One particular layered decipherment puzzle really caught our fancy.

Shortcomings

We weren’t a loud group, but we found it hard to interact with our gamemaster during the room escape. It was hard to hear him over the PA system.

Some of the more paper-based puzzle components could have been worked into the set more thoroughly.

As much as we loved many of the unique puzzle elements, we worry about the durability of these game pieces. That said, The Other Tales has thus far done a spectacular job of maintaining their game.

Should I play The Other Tales’ The Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room was adorable and beautiful. The atmosphere, attention to details, and craftsmanship brought this adventure to life. It wasn’t a fancy game, but it was so cleanly executed.

I worry about the longevity of the props, but that might be the tradeoff for their charm.

This was a fun, exciting, family-friendly room escape that is perfect for its suburban location. It will be challenging, but approachable for newer players.

More experienced players will find some interesting puzzling in The Forgotten Room, much of it memorable.

If you’re in the area, visit The Other Tales and see an example of escape room design on a budget done right.

Book your hour with The Other Tales’ The Forgotten Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Other Tales comped our tickets for this game.

Puzzle Out – Architect’s Studio [Review]

Make it big. Bigger. Bigger still. Ok that will do.

Location: Jersey City, NJ

Date played: January 16, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25-34 per ticket

Story & setting

We were hired by an architect attempting to build the largest skyscraper in the world. We were dispatched to sneak into a rival’s office and determine the height of the skyscraper he was creating. If we were successful, our client’s tower would surely be taller.

Points for originality.

The set was an architect’s studio. It looked like it was going for the minimalist Apple Store aesthetic, but didn’t quite get there.

In-game: A drafting table.

There were 5 building models set atop filing cabinets. Each model presented a unique set of puzzling challenges.

The setup, while relevant to completing the final puzzles, was ultimately more theme than story.

Puzzles

Most of the puzzling in the Architect’s Studio centered on the aforementioned building models. While none of them were simple, they ranged broadly in complexity, and each employed smart counter brute-force elements.

All puzzles ultimately led to a lock and key, but it didn’t matter because the building puzzles that led to the combinations were all compelling, tangible or mechanical interactions.

In-game: A series of filing cabinet pedestals, each with a different building model puzzle atop it.

Standouts

The building puzzles felt heavily inspired by The Room video game series, and they pulled it off well. Everything had weight to it, and solving the individual puzzles felt immensely satisfying.

The puzzles fostered a ton of teamwork and collaboration. Every puzzle had at least two people work on it together.

The overall collection of puzzles was superb.

Shortcomings

There were a few instances where the puzzle construction could have benefited from refinement. One of the buildings had some exposed screw tips that should be ground down, and generally didn’t function as smoothly as it could have. A different puzzle would have benefited from better magnets. Another puzzle had pieces that fit together a little too snugly. I shouldn’t have had to use as much force as I did to make it work.

The layout of the room led to some serious cramping. The puzzle stations all looked good in a row, but moving them around a little could open up the space and allow for more players to get involved with them.

Aesthetically, the space didn’t feel on par with the level of puzzle quality. While the filing cabinets thematically fit with the space, they didn’t add to the experience.

Should I play Puzzle Out’s Architect’s Studio?

Architect’s Studio was Puzzle Out’s sophomore game, and it has come a long way. They shed the throwaway puzzles, and presented an original, unified concept. The puzzles were great, and I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Architect’s Studio should be enjoyable for both experienced and novice players. It was both approachable and had depth to it.

Where Puzzle Out left room for improvement was in aesthetic execution and narrative. The gameplay and flow were excellent. Our team had a ton of fun while playing Architect’s Studio. When Puzzle Out nails the look and construction of their games, they will be one hell of a competitor.

Book your hour with Puzzle Out’s Architect’s Studio, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Puzzle Out comped our tickets for this game.

Quest Zone – Alcatraz Escape [Review]

Where does everyone buy this metal toilet?

Location: Ridgefield, NJ

Date played: November 3, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

Story & setting

We were investigating a prison break from Alcatraz by going back into the escaped prisoner’s cell and recreating his escape.

In-game image shoth through the bars of a jail cell. A small kot and table rest in the room.Scratched into the cell's grey walls are the words, "God will give me justice."

The set had your standard unremarkable office-space turned prison look: barren and uninviting. There were components that were clearly out of place in the set.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Alcatraz Escape relied on standard escape room themes.

While a few of the puzzles presented interesting challenges, the hardest part was making the right connections between components.

In-game image of a combination steel sink/toilet.
I’m serious. Where is everyone buying this thing?

Standouts

One great puzzle culminated in a surprising set-based interaction that felt truly in character with the story.

Quest Zone repurposed some interesting technology into a game component. One of these hacks was at the end of the game. It was pretty funny to realize what they had used to build the interaction.

Shortcomings

Alcatraz Escape had an unusual layout due to the geography of the building. Quest Zone did their best to work with it, but the unusual layout felt like a missed opportunity. It wasn’t used to escalate drama.

The fiction was shaky and Quest Zone didn’t build it out enough to “up the stakes” of our investigation-turned-escape. As Alcatraz Escape advanced, it fizzled into a traditional, lock-heavy game with an uninteresting set.

Some of the puzzles relied on pretty random associations.

Should I play Quest Zone’s Alcatraz Escape?

Alcatraz Escape was a solid introductory game in a suburban market. Although located just 30 minutes outside of Manhattan, this northern New Jersey game caters to a hyperlocal audience. New players will enjoy this generally standard experience, complete with a few fun quirks.

For experienced players, Alcatraz Escape is not worth journeying across the river and through the woods, considering everything that New York City can offer. It was solid, but not outstanding.

Book your hour with Quest Zone’s Alcatraz Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Quest Zone provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Out in 60 – The Pyramid [Review]

“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” – Indiana Jones

Location: Hoboken, NJ

Date played: September 27, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

Our team of Indiana Jones-ian archaeologists were exploring an 8,000 year-old pyramid with dark secrets.

The Pyramid, an entirely lockless game, was almost completely handcrafted. The game’s creators built nearly every prop and piece of decor. This included many 3D printed items and a ton of hidden technology.

As a result of the hand construction, this was a room that looked like no other. Not every component was refined or polished, but it was original, unusual, and clearly built with love.

In-game, image of the wall with a grid of sandstone embossed with hieroglyphs.

Puzzles

The Pyramid was unapologetically inspired by the Indiana Jones trilogy (and that travesty from 2008 with the same cast and director). From the story to the interactions, The Pyramid was clearly designed to make us feel like Indy and his crew. Consequently, the puzzles were physically interactive and linear.

Additionally, The Pyramid rewarded players with keen observational skills more that most escape rooms do (and that’s saying something). Generally, once we found everything and determined which components went together, deriving the solutions wasn’t too challenging.

The hinting was almost entirely automated. Over the course of a puzzle, hints would automagically trigger based on timing and what we had accomplished. The net effect was that as time wore on, each puzzle became easier. Our team was impressed by this feature, but torn on whether we liked or disliked it.

Standout

The unique construction of The Pyramid was an unexpected breath of fresh air from a brand new company.

The level of love, care, and inventiveness was superb.

The lockless design was thematic and surprising.

There were a number of brilliant physically interactive puzzles. In the middle of The Pyramid, there was a run of about five puzzles that truly impressed me . One interaction after another put big smiles on the faces of our entire team.

Shortcomings

While the handcrafted and 3D printed construction was a welcome addition to the game, it would have benefited from additional refinement. All of the 3D prints would have been more compelling with some post processing. While the exteriors of major set pieces generally looked good, their interiors would have been improved by the same love and care.

There was a lot of clue doubling. Most puzzles could be solved through different sets of clues. This over-cluing led to either confusion or oversimplification.

Audio cues were critical, but the speaker system didn’t have enough clarity. We occasionally struggled to hear what was going on.

We accidentally circumvented a major late puzzle due to a bug. It was a shame because the puzzle was really cool and I wanted to solve it.

The ending kind of fizzled out, especially in comparison to some of The Pyramid’s best parts.

Should I play Out in 60’s The Pyramid?

The Pyramid was an unusual game in a number of ways. It was completely lockless, automated, and more handmade than most escape rooms. It was also Out in 60’s first game, which makes its achievements all the more impressive.

That said, it had its bumps, some of which came from the simple fact that the design was more complex than the norm. None of these faults came anywhere close to experience breaking, and many of them could be improved through iteration should Out in 60 choose to do so.

Improvements or not, this is one of the more interesting games in New Jersey and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I think that players who have experienced at least one or two games will get more out of it because they will better grasp what makes it special.

Book your hour with Out in 60’s The Pyramid, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Out in 60 comped our tickets for this game.

Unlock Escape Rooms – Private Eye [Review]

“Down here it’s just winners and losers.”
-Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City

Location: Linwood, NJ

Date played: August 6, 2016

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Story & setting

We were detectives investigating a crime in Atlantic City. We were presented with an array of suspects and had to rule them out in an escape room version of Guess Who.

Our investigation took place in an office, which could have been located just about anywhere. It included regular office-y furniture.

A boring looking room. A chair sits beside a small table with a lamp resting on it.

Even as we narrowed down the suspects, the story, while present, never became compelling. It simply required detective work.

Puzzles

Private Eye relied on standard escape room puzzles. Within this, there was variety in puzzle type.

At times the puzzles – whether simple searching or complex indexing – were not particularly well-clued.

Standouts

There was a well-designed visual effect puzzle that we particularly enjoyed.

The game included a fun interaction with the world outside the office.

Shortcomings

Private Eye included a lot of reading material. The long passages culminated in an overarching, paper-based indexing puzzle. In the end, we were solving for both a suspect and an accomplice, which made the reading material and indexing that much more confusing and tedious.

The set had nothing special going on.

The gamemaster had trouble delivering appropriate hints, based on how we struggled with the in-game clues.

When we visited, Unlock had been open only one month, but Private Eye was already showing signs of heavy wear and poor maintenance. Unlocked allowed us to write on certain game materials with dry erase marker. We discovered marker residue from past players through the game. Clue elements were worn away and one lock was in such rough shape that even the gamemaster struggled to open it.

Should I play Unlock Escape Rooms’ Private Eye?

This was a basic, detective-themed room escape.

We were excited that the game was set in local Atlantic City. Unfortunately, nothing about the office setting or the clues brought this aspect of Private Eye to life. This felt like a missed opportunity.

Unfortunately, the tedious puzzles, poor clueing, and poor maintenance quickly diminished our fun. We also made some gameplay mistakes, but the staff didn’t help us turn around the experience when we asked for hints.

When we finished, they practically pushed us out the door.

There aren’t a lot of escape games in this area of New Jersey yet, but we can’t recommend this as an introduction to the genre.

Skip this game, hop in the car, throw on some Springsteen and drive farther north in New Jersey or south to Philadelphia to find something better.

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

 

Last Minute Escape – The Mayan Tomb [Review]

“We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot.”
– Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr, PhD

Location: Morristown, NJ

Date played: August 1, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $100 per team during the week & $30.50 per person on weekends

Story & setting

We were adventure archeologists on the hunt for lost Mayan treasures, chasing the trail of an Indiana Jones parody who left video evidence of his exploits behind. The story was playful, fun, and made a bit more sense than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which is now 8 years old… how did that happen?).

The setting had a cheesy but well-executed Legends of the Hidden Temple vibe that was playful and worked well.

The game never took itself too seriously, nor did it strive for realism. As a result, it came together far better than had Last Minute Escape attempted realistic immersion.

Image of a parody Indiana Jones character in the tomb set.
Not Indiana Jones.

Puzzles

The puzzles presented in The Mayan Tomb were strong and varied. There was plenty to do and everyone had an opportunity to have their moment.

There were two puzzles built into larger set pieces that overstayed their welcome; they dragged on for quite some time after we figured out what to do with them. That said, they never crossed into serious tedium territory.

Standouts

Last Minute Escape created a padlock-less game in a small market setting. This is rare and praiseworthy. They used technology to create a magical room and executed it with a wink and a grin.

Their use of video was fun and kept the humor of the situation front and center. Their TV screens didn’t even belong in the setting, but the knowing ridiculousness of the game managed to make it all work.

There was also a brilliant use of a subwoofer.

Shortcomings

Some set pieces looked and felt a bit too homemade and hacked together, even for the comical staging.

One puzzle hinged on a moveable object being kept in the same place.

Eight players is one or two too many for the game space.

Should I play Last Minute Escape’s The Mayan Tomb?

Last Minute Escape, formerly known as Exit Strategy, has been in this business longer than most escape room companies, and they have come a long way since their first game. The Mayan Tomb was, without a doubt, the most fun we’ve had playing an escape room in the State of New Jersey to date.

It’s a fun and playful room, with a solid collection of puzzles and props, and a scale that is far bigger than one typically finds outside of a major city. If you can suspend disbelief in the story and setting, you’ll have a good time.

It could absolutely benefit from a bit more polish and refinement, but this game is a great time and there is nothing on its level in the area.

Book your hour with Last Minute Escape’s The Mayan Tomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.