2017 New York Puzzle Party Announcement

Come join us at the 2017 New York Puzzle Party!

Colorful filtered image of a collection of physical puzzles. Many wooden puzzle boxes, cubes, puzzles locks, and entanglements.

Puzzlers of all types are welcome to bring puzzles, meet each other, and share a love of puzzling.

There will also be talks on a variety puzzle topics. We will be speaking about at-home room escape games.

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, February 18, 2017
  • Time: 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • Location: Manhattan*
  • Entry cost: $5

At this event last year, we met Rod Kimball, author of Path Puzzles, learned about puzzle locks (and handled some incredible such works of art!), and listened to a talk about testing a puzzle app at the DMV, among other things.

This is an opportunity to purchase puzzles, see interesting creations, and meet new people. We hope to see you there.

*If you would like to attend, please fill out this form in order to RSVP to the event organizer and then obtain the location details.

Escape Room Madness – The Perfect Crime [Review]

The average crime.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 27, 2016

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per ticket

Story & setting

We were in a detective’s office investigating a crime. We needed to determine whodunit, before they got us too.

This was a standard, mundane office setting with locks all over.

A faux rotary phone in the foreground. Wood paneled walls and a bookcase in the background.

Puzzles

Escape Room Madness relied on common escape room puzzle tactics. The Perfect Crime combined a lot of escape room cliches with a few less standard puzzle executions.

Standouts

One particular puzzle’s output was especially elegant.

The game flow was clear.

A line of a dozen "Private Investigator" badges hanging on chains along a wood paneled wall.

Shortcomings

The Perfect Crime’s story arc was flat. At no point did we feel a sense of urgency or heightened stakes.

Escape Room Madness relied on multiple locks with identical input structures, which further flattened the emotional experience of the game.

Tons of details were ultimately useless.

We didn’t need to be in this particular office to solve The Perfect Crime. The escape room could have been equally dramatic, perhaps more dramatic, if it had come in a box for at-home play. The environment was simply a container rather than part of a story.

Should I play Escape Room Madness’ The Perfect Crime?

The Perfect Crime wasn’t a bad game. The puzzles made sense and flowed clearly from one to another. Everything worked.

That said, it wasn’t an exciting room escape either. The environment didn’t contribute to the experience. It never created anything from all that puzzling.

If you’re a new player, looking for an approachable and non-threatening place to start out in Midtown Manhattan, The Perfect Crime is fine. However, there are far more exciting room escapes to experience.

Escape Room Madness is a company with potential. They understand game flow; they got a lot of the basics right. It was clear that they care. If they are willing to push themselves to produce a game that makes a statement, they could grow into a viable competitor in the Midtown Manhattan market.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ The Perfect Crime, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

X-Room – The Mystery in Archeology [Review]

Meh-stery.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: November 7, 2016

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

In The Mystery in Archeology we were archeology students trapped in a collapsed tomb / our professor’s office with only enough air to last 60 minutes. It wasn’t worth trying to make sense of it.

The game started in an unremarkable office and progressed into what was barely a tomb. At no point did the set contribute to a fictional environment.

In-game a photo of a mundane set with a pair of white dressers. A globe and a lockbox rest atop the dressers.

The middle third of the game had the most character in terms of set and puzzles, but we never felt like participants in a story.

Puzzles

The Mystery in Archeology included some challenging puzzles, though at times these were poorly clued.

The puzzles varied the most in the middle of the game, using different input and unlocking mechanisms as well as different types of thinking.

Standouts

We enjoyed interacting with the prop-based puzzles in the middle of the game. There were some fun, tangible pieces, some of which captured the Egyptian theme.

Shortcomings

The poorly clued puzzles were incredibly frustrating. When our gamemaster provided additional hints over walky-talky, he read off a script with no comprehension of how much of the puzzle we had already completed. More often than not, communicating with him added to our frustration, even when he was being helpful.

This game continually suffered from bad lighting with no real purpose, except maybe to obscure the uninteresting set.

We wondered why there were Chinese characters in an Egyptian tomb.

Because of uneven puzzle structure over the course of the sets, this game bottlenecked, especially near the end.

Both the final set and final interaction were major letdowns. When we solved the final puzzle, we didn’t even realize it.

Should I play X-Room’s The Mystery in Archeology?

Due to the uneven game design, it would be hard to recommend an ideal number of players. You only want those extra brains and hands around sometimes.

While X-Room has improved substantially since we reviewed their games a year and a half ago, they are no where near on par with the rest of the New York City market. The middle third of The Mystery in Archeology was a bright spot in the game’s design, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the dreary and frustrating beginning and ending.

There isn’t enough good in The Mystery in Archeology to recommend it to anyone.

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

 

New York, NY: Room Escape Recommendations

Latest update: 18 December 2016

This list will be updated regularly.

We know that a lot of folks are looking for the “best” escape rooms to play. While we think that best is relative, we also realize that people want firm recommendations.

Here are our recommendations for games in New York City (or accessible with a MetroCard). Since we like nuance, they are broken out into categories.

Stylized nighttime image of the Metlife Building in Midtown Manhattan.

The unusuals

These games each offer something truly different. If you’ve come to NYC for games you won’t find anywhere else, try these. You might not fall in love with these games, but you’ll immediately realize that they aren’t like most others and they make a statement:

The tech heavy

NYC’s most technologically interesting games:

The newbie friendly

To help your friends catch the room escape bug, you want a game that looks good and feels safe and approachable:

The big group games

There are plenty of room escapes that allow 10 or 12 players, but these are actually designed for that many:

The small team, private booking companies

Escape rooms in NYC mostly offers ticketed games, but these companies default to private bookings without strangers:

The set & scenery-driven adventures

Want to feel like you’re in another world? Check out these games with great environments:

The puzzle-centric

You’ve come for puzzles? Test your might against these escape rooms:

The spooky & scary

If you think fear is fun, these are the games for you:

The corporate-friendly and family-friendly companies

Mandatory fun has never been so great. These companies have clean, well-run, easily accessible facilities and games that won’t result in a conversation with HR:

The games with actors

Live actors can bring an intensity, uncertainty, and excitement to a room escape experience:

You have a car and want to see something special

If you can get there, it’s so worth it:

You are always welcome to email us if this recommendation list doesn’t answer your specific questions.

I Survived the Room – Club Escape [Review]

In Russia, escape room finds you.

Location: Long Island City, NY

Date played: November 6, 2016

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket on weekdays, $30 per ticket on weekends

Story & setting

In Club Escape, the town’s newest nightclub, we quickly learned that we were trapped by the Russian mafia.

Club Escape started before we arrived at the club as an actress marched us down the street to the building’s entrance and ushered us inside. She dramatically delivered us to the club’s basement office, which was almost typical, but with the intensity dialed up, as half our team was locked not in the office, but in the adjacent torture chamber.

Bloodied cutting implements are mounted to a blood spattered tile wall.

The set was large and fairly detailed.

Puzzles

The puzzles were solid, but they weren’t the stars of the show.

Club Escape included many challenging puzzles, generally in a typical escape room style. They leaned heavily on searching, observation, and communication.

Most puzzles led to a lock.

Standouts

The Club Escape experience wound along unexpected paths. I Survived the Room augmented what could have been a standard escape room with an interesting plot twist, and a set full of surprises.

This was a large gritty set that captured us in the game’s fiction.

A detailed and weathered wall-mounted metal switch box.

The actress bought an intensity to this experience beyond what the puzzles provided. Her dramatic hands-on introduction of the game was at times shocking. She built the fiction early in the game, but didn’t stay on top of us throughout the puzzling. This provided a nice balance and allowed us to puzzle without monologue interludes.

Club Escape brought together acting, technology, and puzzles.

Shortcomings

Club Escape fell short of intertwining all of its elements to elevate each other. There were strong puzzles here, but they were standard and they didn’t contribute to the dramatic moments of the game.

The intensity of the introduction could be a big problem for people who suffer from PTSD. It kind of came out of nowhere, and while we loved it, we know people who would have a big problem with it.

In that way, Club Escape didn’t live up to its own dramatic opening. It kept the intensity high for quite some time, but eventually petered out into an anticlimactic final escape. The late-game puzzles felt like the busywork to get through in order to escape.

We experienced a major technical failure that stopped the game. However, the staff at I Survived the Room was quick to right to situation and gave us back the lost time to make up for it.

If you don’t make it through to the end, you won’t receive a walkthrough.

Should I play I Survived the Room’s Club Escape?

I Survived the Room has a great schtick: you’re brought to a place under false pretenses and then horrible things happen. They introduce you to the game through an actor before you even see the set. Once you step into their world, your heart starts to race and you know you need to escape. They do a great job of making you need to escape.

Note that this game requires physical mobility and players start blindfolded. It could be problematic for young children or people suffering from PTSD.  The set was gritty and at times dark.

Of the two games currently available from I Survived the Room, this is the more approachable game, but The Sanatorium is the stronger game because the drama stayed through to the very end. Neither is an easy game, but if you can puzzle your way to the final third, they are dramatic and surprising.

Be sure to brush up on your rules for playing games with actors in advance of your visit to Club Escape.

Book your hour with I Survived the Room’s Club Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: I Survived the Room comped our tickets for this game.

 

Komnata Quest – Mousetrap [Review]

The first time I’ve been in a phone booth since 2001.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: November 6, 2016

Team size: 1; we recommend 1

Duration: 15 minutes

Price: $15 per ticket for a 15-minute solo game

Story & setting

Mousetrap was a single-player game that locked individuals in a bepuzzled phone booth. Similar to Komnata Quest’s far more extreme Boxed Up, Mousetrap cast me as Sherlock Holmes caught in another of Moriarty’s dastardly schemes.

The gamespace was small and simple: a well-lit box designed to look like a replica London phone booth.

It had a phone, a shelf, and not a whole lot more.

Game exterior, a red phone booth with frosted glass. The silhouette of a person stands behind the glass.

Puzzles

Mousetrap was a remarkably standard room escape experience, albeit for one person. The 15-minute game had your standard searching and solving structure.

It was reasonably challenging, especially considering that each player had to solely rely on themselves to work through every aspect of the game. Four of us played and our completion times were 7, 10, 11, and 13 minutes. My time was the fastest, but it was only because I bypassed a third of the game. Everyone felt the pressure of the clock.

Standouts

There was a lot of game for a single player on a 15-minute timer.

Speaking as a player who never solos room escapes, it was fun and intense to play alone.

Komnata Quest did a lot with a little on this one.

Interior of the phone booth: A pay phone is mounted to the wall.

Shortcomings

While Komnata Quest managed to squeeze a lot of gameplay into Mousetrap using very few props, it got a bit redundant as a result.

One key prop in the game will be subject to heavy wear. By the time I used it, the wear allowed me to bypass a lot of the game by accident. If Komnata doesn’t stay on top of replacing this prop, the quality of the game will suffer.

Even with regular upkeep, Mousetrap as I played it had too much potential for bypassing. It’s possible to make a few small tweaks to prevent what I did, but they need to take the initiative to actually do it.

Mousetrap was expensive for what it was.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Mousetrap?

Mousetrap is not an entree and I cannot recommend that anyone visit Komnata Quest explicitly to play it. It’s either an appetizer or dessert.

It was a fun experience to solo a game and we enjoyed competing for the fastest time in the group. Mousetrap wasn’t incredible and it didn’t push boundaries, but it was a good way to spend a few minutes after playing a larger team game.

The big catch with Mousetrap remains the price. $15 for a 15-minute experience is tough to justify, especially considering that it is possible to win in half the time. More than a dollar per minute is a big ask for what really is an add-on experience.

If you’re a die hard escape room enthusiast, Mousetrap is fun.

If you’re looking for an approachable game to solo, Mousetrap is pretty much your only option in the region.

If you’re going to miss that $15, then I’d suggest skipping Mousetrap. It was a good time, but it’s nowhere near a must-play at that price point.

Book your session with Komnata Quest’s Mousetrap, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.

 

Komnata Quest – Doctor Frankenstein [Review]

The steampunk room that ran out of steam.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: November 6, 2016

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28-$45 per ticket depending on day of the week, time of day, and team size

Story & setting

In Doctor Frankenstein we had to revive Frankenstein’s monster, since the doctor himself had somehow landed in another plane or timeline from messing with electricity. The story was pretty nonsensical.

The room had a steampunk, mystical science vibe. The decor made frequent nods to astronomy and physiology.

A steampunk-ish gear box with a crank. A chain leads out of it.

The monster himself, behind glass but clearly in view, was the primary set piece. He looked a little too cartoonish and Halloween-y for the set.

Puzzles

Doctor Frankenstein was Komnata Quest’s take on a more traditional, puzzle-centric escape room. Until the introduction of this game, Komnata Quest’s New York games have leaned heavily into more extreme themed adventures.

The puzzles were hit or miss. A few made use of interesting props while others were wholly unexciting.

The puzzles generally connected to the theme, disjointed as it was.

Standouts

Komnata Quest relied on some tech-driven props that delivered, enhancing the experience.

Doctor Frankenstein had a dramatic and exciting introduction.

Shortcomings

Doctor Frankenstein lost momentum as the game progressed. The latter half of the game felt like a throwaway. There wasn’t enough there.

One of the late-game puzzles was as cliché as it gets. It would have still been a cliché had it been the first puzzle, but its late game position felt especially underwhelming.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Doctor Frankenstein?

Komnata Quest is not known for puzzles, but with this game, they attempted to deliver an approachable room escape in the puzzling style of the majority of the New York market.

There were some great puzzles here, especially through the use of technology, but there was also too much filler and not enough content. In the absence of an extreme situation, Komnata Quest lost a lot of what made their earlier offerings remarkable.

This wasn’t a bad game. When we interacted with elements that captured the steampunk vibe, it was a fun time. Despite what we considered filler, there will be a lot for new players to enjoy.

It’s also worth noting that the variable pricing can make Doctor Frankenstein an expensive game if you play with a small group on a weekend. Choose your bookings carefully as $45 per ticket on the high end is way too much.

Ultimately, for the seasoned player, Doctor Frankenstein probably won’t hold the intrigue of Komnata Quest’s other games. Visit them for their extreme adventure games; it’s an exciting lineup.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Doctor Frankenstein, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our 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-clueing 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.

Escape Games at Sony Square NYC – The Blacklist Box & Timeless Lifeboat [Review]

Humbled by advertisements.

Location: New York, New York

Date played: October 29, 2016

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3

Duration: 10 minutes per game

Price: Free; available through December 2, 2016

Story & setting

These two 10-minute games were sitting on the floor of Sony Square NYC, which is Sony’s open showroom to feature its products to the public.

The first game promoted the new show Timeless, a time travel series. We played a puzzle-based rendition of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego… which was awesome. It was staged in the show’s time machine, the Lifeboat, which looked cooler than its name sounded.

Image of the Timeless Lifeboat time machine play area.

The second game promoted The Blacklist, now in its fourth season. In this game we found ourselves in a TV-style hacking, decoding-type game of tracking down the bad guy. Everything was set within a fancy looking cube, which was clearly from the show; it meant a great deal to one of the other people in attendance.

Image of the Blacklist Box red cube play area.

I haven’t watched either show, so any references were completely lost on me. I cannot report on how well it captured the essence of either fiction. I can say that both games featured recordings from characters in the show, an excellent and unexpected touch.

Puzzles

These games were created by New York City-based Escape Entertainment. Escape Entertainment has historically been one of the region’s most puzzle-centric companies; oh boy did they deliver puzzle-centric games.

Both games had three puzzling stations and each station offered up its own set of challenges. They were tough puzzles, made even tougher by the short 10-minute timers.

Lisa and I played the games as a couple. We approached Timeless Lifeboat calmly because in our past experiences, corporate promotional games haven’t presented a formidable challenge. We lost Timeless Lifeboat by about five seconds. Had we done any number of things slightly differently, we would have won.

Since we screwed up on the Timeless Lifeboat, we attacked the The Blacklist Box… where we lost even worse. We needed at least another two minutes, or more realistically, another teammate. The Blacklist Box beat us.

Both games included serious logic and reasoning puzzles with more layering than we were mentally prepared for. They should not be approached lightly, especially The Blacklist Box.

Standouts

The staging area for each game was awesome. I found the Timeless Lifeboat particularly compelling.

Each game was cleverly engineered for rapid reset. Additionally, their solid construction should also help prevent breakage.

We’ve come to expect high production value from corporate promotional games, and these games were no exception.

Furthermore, these were serious escape games with interesting and fun puzzles. They delivered the challenge we don’t often see in promotional games.

These games were completely free and unlike most of the free corporate games we’ve seen, they will run for over a month.

The Sony Showroom was far cooler than expected. They had free demos of the Playstation VR as well as a gallery of incredible photos captured on Sony gear. They offered some great things out of that space; especially for aspiring photographers.

Shortcomings

Sony’s gear was laced throughout both games and used to drive most of the interaction. In particular, the games relied on Sony’s internet of things adapters, MESH. There were some interesting gadgets in use, but I cannot help but feel like an escape game with a 10-minute timer was the wrong venue for demonstrating MESH’s capabilities. It had a tiny bit of latency, something in the realm of three seconds… but in the context of a rushed game, that time felt like an eternity. That was a shame because the tech was pretty cool.

Both games got pretty wordy, which is ironic coming from a guy who’s writing ~900 words on 20 minutes of combined gameplay. Again, the short game length amplified every moment of the game. Short passages suddenly felt a lot longer.

There was a ton of ambient noise coming from the game and the surrounding area. This made it difficult to hear key in-game audio.

There was no margin for error. We breezed through some puzzles and died on others. Sometimes this was a factor of having the wrong person start in on a puzzle, but in such a short game, there wasn’t time to switch the teammates’ focuses nor any opportunity to recover.

Should I play Escape Games at Sony Square NYC – The Blacklist Box & Timeless Lifeboat?

I’m shocked to say this, but these are some of the more interesting and challenging puzzle-centric games that I’ve seen.

The 10-minute game timer added challenge and intrigue while also adding new complications and flaws, but these were more than forgivable.

If you’re a room escaper with a love of games that lean heavy on puzzles, then these games are an absolute must. They are free. They are quick. They are in a great neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and easy subway access.

If you’re a fan of either show and you’ve given these games a playthrough, please let us know what you thought in the comments below!

Bring three people and explore the show floor before playing. Be sure to have someone show you how MESH works in the context of the game. It will help. Make every second count; each game only lasts 600.

Both games will run through December 2, 2016.

Book your sessions with Escape Games at Sony Square NYC‘s The Blacklist Box & Timeless Lifeboat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Brooklyn Escape Room – Shelter R [Review]

[At the time of this review, Brooklyn Escape Room was called Claustrophobia and this escape room was called Vault 13.]

The nuclear Fallout bunker.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: October 9, 2016

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket weekdays, $35 per ticket weekends

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story & setting

We had spent a generation living in a vault beneath the earth, the product of nuclear holocaust. The life support systems had begun to fail and we had 60 minutes to escape.

Vault 13 was the escape room version of the video game series Fallout; it was loaded with references.

A vending machine for

On a barely related note, my longtime guitar teacher Billy Roues had a song featured in Fallout: New Vegas and also played our wedding (with very different music).

Vault 13 looked superb. Aesthetically speaking, it was one of the most impressively designed and constructed gamespaces we’ve encountered in New York City. It was filled with solid, beautiful, post-apocalyptically setpieces. Nearly all of it was custom construction.

A view of the Vault. There is an old diner bench, a workbench, and a large radio. On the rusty walls hands a picture of a pinup girl.
This was the most mundane corner of the game… but it doesn’t give anything away.

It’s also important to note that while the company is named “Claustrophobia” their gamespace was not even remotely claustrophobic.

Puzzles

The two games we have played from Claustrophobia leaned heavily on immersive adventure and were decidedly less puzzley than those from most other companies. Every task and puzzle in Vault 13 advanced the narrative.

This ultimately lead to a game that was more about observing, scavenging, and making connections than it was about solving puzzles. That said, making those connections was a generally fun experience and it wasn’t always easy.

Standouts

Vault 13 contained one of the most badass, video-gamey escape room interactions I have ever seen. After we did it, I wanted to do it again. (Sadly, that wasn’t an option.)

It also had one of the most brilliant applications of a reasonably common escape room interaction that I have seen to date. It was elegant and clever.

Countdown clock illuminated with nixie tubes. The clock is part of the
Nixie clocks are too damn cool.

Vault 13’s custom constructed scenery and props were a blast. They allowed – and occasionally encouraged – a bit of destructive behavior, and these setpieces could take a beating.

Shortcomings

Because the set was so sturdy, we were told that there weren’t any special rules and we could pretty much go nuts in the room. That was largely true, until our gamemaster pointed out a section that we had to be careful with. That one delicate section was also Vault 13‘s most confusing and unrefined segment. It would benefit from more polish.

There were some painfully sharp edges in one of the doorways. A little bit of Sugru would soften those edges and protect players.

At times, lighting was kind of a pain in the ass. We had one handheld flashlight between the four of us.

A few of the props were shockingly heavy. While they were awesome, I can easily imagine them being too unwieldy for some groups.

Should I play Claustrophobia’s Vault 13?

Vault 13 is among the most impressive immersive room escapes in the New York City boroughs. It was beautiful, solidly constructed, and a ton of fun to occupy for an hour.

While Vault 13 was open for business when we played, it was still under active iteration. We usually wait until a game has been operating for at least a month before we play it. We didn’t do that this time because we were going to be in the neighborhood. In retrospect, I wish we waited a little while longer because I get the impression that this game will be even better in a month or two.

As long as you aren’t expecting intense puzzles, Vault 13 will deliver a great experience.

Book your hour with Claustrophobia’s Vault 13, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Claustrophobia comped our tickets for this game.