Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce [Post Game Reaction]

On May 5th, our team played The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce by Real Escape Games (aka SCRAP) in New York City.

We previously published a review of this game from its time in Los Angeles, California. Our friend and regular teammate Sarah Willson did such an amazing job of guest reviewing it that most of our readers didn’t realize that someone else wrote it.

Looking back at her review, we completely agree with her assessment and will not write an additional review. I’ll add that of the various mass escape events that we’ve played by SCRAP, The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce was the most fun and cohesive.

Mainstream reception

Unlike most escape games, The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce received a lot of media attention. This came in the form of pre-game hype, followed by a lot of mixed and disappointed post game reports:

Kotaku: The Zelda Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

The Verge: We played a real-life Zelda adventure and Ganondorf won

Engadget: Playing Zelda in real life is a lot like doing grade-school homework

Zelda has withstood the test of time, sticking around for 30 years. It has transcended generations. A number of its installments are some of the finest video games ever created. Since Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises in history, this disappointment was inevitable for a number of reasons that I’m going to explore.

Misconceptions

SCRAP doesn’t highlight the fact that their mass escape events bear little resemblance to modern escape rooms in North America (especially the high end). Upon further probing, however, they are quick to point out that their mass events are not “escape rooms.” They call them “escape games.” Ironically, this is the same sort of hair-splitting that makes their mass escape events so frustrating.

Image from Zelda II of Link speaking with another character who has stated,

Painting by Squarepainter

As an escape room player and reviewer who simply wants more people to become aware of all of the magnificent escape rooms out there, this drives me up the wall.

Given Zelda’s popularity, this event was an incredible opportunity to introduce more mainstream players to modern escape rooms… but this event didn’t do that.

My very first escape room review was of a SCRAP mass event, Escape From the Werewolf Village, in mid-2014. I left that game legitimately worried that first-time escape game players would think that a SCRAP escape event was indicative of the larger industry (which at the time was admittedly tiny and underdeveloped). I feel the exact same way about Defenders of the Triforce.

It was a fun mass escape event, more fun than any of the other SCRAP events that we’ve played. It was fun when considered as a short puzzle hunt. However, it was neither a good representation of modern North American escape rooms nor an exceptional Zelda game.

Culture gap

SCRAP was founded in Japan in 2007. They were also the first escape room company in the United States when they opened in San Francisco in 2012.

At Up The Game 2017, Yu-lin Chiu, writer of ASIA.EscapeGames, spoke about the escape room markets in East Asia. She explained how escape room design in Japan differs profoundly from other countries in Asia, as well as from Europe and the United States.

Japanese escape rooms are primarily paper-based events with minimal set design or story. They are more similar to short puzzle hunts than what we in the United States commonly think of as escape rooms.

This has confirmed for us what we have long believed to be a fundamental expectations gap between the games that SCRAP brings to the United States and the general market trends within the American escape room scene.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Possibly the biggest difference between Sarah’s playthrough of Defenders of the Triforce and mine was the release of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch… the game that Defenders of the Triforce was essentially advertising on its North American tour.

In February, Sarah played SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce in anticipation of the release of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. 

By the time we played Defenders of the Triforce in May, I had been playing Breath of the Wild for 6 weeks or so, sneaking it in between work and running Room Escape Artist. I am loving this game and taking my time to milk it for everything that it is worth. Going into Defenders of the Triforce I had been immersed in one of the Zelda franchise’s most magnificent specimens. This greatly elevated my expectations and set Defenders of the Triforce up for failure.

I’m glad that Sarah wrote the review without having just played Breath of the Wild. She could more easily separate SCRAP’s escape event from the video game expectations.

Actual Zelda room escape

I wish that Defenders of the Triforce were not a mass escape event, but a full blown, large-budget escape room. The material lends itself to an incredible escape room and I can think of a number of escape room companies that could build mind-blowing experiences with the concept.

SCRAP put on a fun mini-puzzle hunt. They leveled up their storytelling and set design. They made the puzzling generally more accessible. They navigated logistics well. Defenders of the Triforce was a huge step forward in meshing Japanese-style escape room events with North American preferences. 

That said, SCRAP is simply not equipped to fully realize the potential of this franchise for a North American audience, especially in the mass escape format.

Defenders of the Triforce paled in comparison to the best permanent escape rooms in the cities that it visited; most of them cost less than the $40-50 per ticket price of this game.

For now, Zelda escape rooms will go dormant for some time. I hope that one day the concept is resurrected and able to become the immersive real-life puzzle adventure through Hyrule that escape room lovers know that it can be. That it should be.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale).

Refuge: Prologue [Review]

“Oh shit! We’re competing against each other… and I know how smart my friends are.”

Location: New York, NY

Date played: April 14, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $38-43 per ticket

Story & setting

Refuge: Prologue was an immersive, narrative-driven, competitive puzzle game.

Set in a dystopian mirrored reality where humanity’s decisions have caused an environmental apocalypse, we were competing for coveted spots in billionaire Alex Ayers’ prosperous Refuge. Our lives depended on proving our worth.

Refuge: Prologue took place in The Mist, an immersive entertainment space in Chinatown. The various rooms were staged for different challenges, each stylized, some more intriguing and involved than others.

At any given point, our group was divided up, competing against each other in different challenges. As Alex’s recorded voice narrated the instructions for various activities, we also learned the extent of the plight of Earth and human society, a narrative that unfolded over the duration of the experience.

In-game: a player looking upon a picture hung on a wall in a hallway.
Image via Refuge.

Puzzles

Refuge: Prologue pitted us against each other as we each vied for a future in Alex’s Refuge.

The puzzles took different forms: understanding the objective and context of any given contest, puzzling our way through, and strategizing against each other.

During the various puzzle challenges, we used logic, riddles, math, intuition, deductive reasoning, reaction time, agility, luck, strategic thinking… and more.

In-game: A hand interacting with glass bottles containing rolls of paper.
Image via Refuge.

Standouts

Refuge: Prologue painted a compelling dystopian parallel reality. Its message provoked thought about our world.

Refuge: Prologue meticulously designed printed materials and set dressing. It was deliberately crafted and looked polished.

The puzzles and games were challenging. For most interactions, each individual had to rely on their own understanding, make quick decisions, and continually strategize.

My favorite challenge was physically involved and lots of fun. The story unfolded through the escalating complexity of the puzzle. It was clever.

Without spoilers, the website for Refuge: Prologue was as clear as possible about what this experience entailed.

Shortcomings

The tech in Refuge: Prologue was repeatedly buggy. Even before we accidentally knocked something a little too forcefully, it was finicky. The set was delicate, and the tech even more so. Much of the set and technology needs modification in order to stand up to repeated use.

It wasn’t entirely clear how points were calculated, and therefore which actions and decisions mattered most. It also seemed like luck played a substantial role in some of the games.

The challenges varied in quality. One slow-paced game seemed to drag on. In another puzzle, the order of activities seemed to create a markedly unfair situation for the players.

Throughout the experience, there was a lot of information to take in in short amounts of time. Sometimes it was reading on top of audio instruction. Other times it was comprehensive reading while searching for other information. While this was part of the challenge, it was also more frustrating than it needed to be.

Should I attend Refuge: Prologue?

Refuge: Prologue was not a room escape, but it was an immersive, narrative-driven puzzle adventure. It was challenging and interesting.

In Refuge: Prologue, you will be competing against the others in your booking. You will be alone, vying for your own spot in a better future. If you usually count on others to pull some of the weight, you’re in for a rough ride.

Your adversaries are the others who’ve booked into your session. We recommend that you bring a group of people you know are equally competitive, skilled, and engaged. All the better to strategize against them… Also, leave the sore winners and losers at home.

While the technology implementation and set design had flaws, the folks behind Refuge: Prologue were attentive to detail.

Note that the website gives the following warnings, all of which matter: Don’t be late. Wear comfortable shoes. Also, one puzzle uses the full spectrum of color; colorblindness will be problematic.

If you like quick-paced puzzle competitions where you work on your own against opponents, and you don’t mind that the game, the rules, and the points will be a bit opaque, then we recommend visiting Refuge: Prologue.

If you’d rather work as a team or you don’t want to compete without a clear picture of what’s going on, you might want to sit this one out.

Win or lose Refuge: Prologue offers a new form of immersive puzzle adventuring. We’ve seen a lot collaborative gaming, and a little head-to-head team-based gaming, but Refuge is its own beast. Battling your friends by yourself offers a new style of interactive intrigue.

Book your spot in Refuge: Prologue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Accomplice The Show – The Golden Spork [Review]

Like the spork, this event was a hybrid.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: March 25, 2017

Team size: 7-30; we recommend 7-8

Duration: ~2.5 hours

Price: $185 per ticket

Story & setting

We embarked on an interactive dinner theater and puzzle adventure though Greenwich Village. We’d been invited by Mysterio to become members of the Secret Dining Society. If we could solve our way through dinner, we would be initiated in the presence of the Society’s precious Golden Spork.

The humorous pretext for the excursion set the tone that lasted throughout the show.

At each location, we enjoyed one course of the meal. Before leaving, we puzzled out our next destination. We’d occasionally run into actors who interacted with us in both alarmingly natural and ridiculously strange ways.

The Society of the The Golden Spork Logo

Puzzles

Against the background of a secret society initiation, Accomplice could put more emphasis on the puzzling than in some of their other productions. We spent more time puzzling as a group and less time bantering with actors.

The puzzles were mostly challenging enough for us to mull over through a course, but not so challenging as to keep that treasured Golden Spork out of our grasp.

Along the way, we unlocked information from various tangible objects, the majority of which were set out as centerpieces, or delivered through an interaction. We didn’t need to investigate every oddity in Greenwich Village.

Standouts

The Golden Spork was an engaging and humorous production. We enjoyed the light-hearted mission, complete with its jokes and puns.

This show balanced theater with escape room-style puzzling and time with friends. While we were sometimes interacting with an actor, more often we were interacting among ourselves. We puzzled intensively and collaboratively, but without a strong sense of time pressure. We were relaxed and enjoyed a meal as a group of friends.

The actors were skilled at blending seamlessly into their environments. In that way, the restaurant setting too became part of the show.

A have eaten plate of food including varies cheeses, greens, fruit, and meat.
I don’t usually take photos of my food… so I got to it a little late.

The food and wine were delicious.

Shortcomings

We’re dessert people and the dessert course left us wanting more. While tasty, it didn’t live up to the rest of the meal in terms of experience.

Two of our guests do not consume alcohol. They missed the final toast with the cast while someone looked for an alternative beverage. This made the end fizzle for them as they felt left out.

The show was marketed for 7-30 people, but the puzzling wasn’t optimized to engage such a large audience. The puzzling couldn’t even stretch enough for our group of 10. Whereas a skilled actor can command an entire theater’s attention, it’s a different challenge to design puzzles that do the same, even more so to make puzzles that rely upon numbers. With small changes, Accomplice could iterate on the puzzles such that they engage more of the audience.

Should I play Accomplice The Show’s The Golden Spork?

The Golden Spork is a hybrid puzzle / immersive theater / dinner theater / walking tour. It’s a lot of experiences rolled up into one and it works. It does this by rotating through phases of puzzling, theater, dining, and walking. It’s also an excuse to enjoy dinner in the company of friends.

If you expect the show to entertain you with puzzles and actors the entire time, you’ll be disappointed. If you understand those elements are a revolving door of entertainment through your dinner, you’ll be quite pleased.

While $185 per ticket felt high, upon reflection, The Golden Spork was almost a deal. Manhattan ain’t cheap. Here, three courses with a fair amount of wine could easily cost over $100 per person. Given the few hours worth of actors, puzzles, and entertainment, that price felt fair to our group.

We truly enjoyed our quest to behold the revered Golden Spork. It was an honor to bask in its untarnished radiance.

Contact Accomplice at info@accomplicetheshow.com for a private booking of The Golden Spork, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Accomplice the Show provided media discounted tickets for this experience.

Locked – Spooky Room 479 [Review]

Considerably less scary than my freshman year roommate.

Location: Astoria, NY

Date played: March 20, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Locked in the dorm room of a missing college girl, we had to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

The room was a compelling college dorm, which wasn’t an inherently exciting environment. What made it interesting were the tech-driven spook effects which were peppered throughout the game. Spooky Room 479 was exactly that: spooky. It never came close to horror and that was good, given the way that the room was marketed.

In-game; A sketch on an easel with bloody hand prints on it.

Puzzles

Clever yet beginner-friendly, Locked did a good job of blending old-school searching and combination solving, with some far less common technological interactions. It offered some challenge but nothing was overwhelming.

Standouts

The puzzle design and flow were solid.

There was some great tech.

Spooky Room 479 had fun and memorable moments.

Shortcomings

The technology was far too overt for the ghostly theme. The tech should have felt magical in a haunted room, but instead it felt a little like Scooby Doo, where it was incredibly clear that someone had built tech to simulate a haunting.

While the intro video was solid, its pacing was comically slow.

Combination locks didn’t feel out of place in a dorm room. However, there were too many locks with similar digit structures. This prevented our team from inherently knowing where to input a correct answer and killed momentum in moments where we should have made progress.

Should I play Locked’s Spooky Room 479?

From the moment we stepped into the lobby at Locked, we could feel their passion for their business. That passion was evident in Spooky Room 479.

It was an incredibly sound game with fun moments and solid puzzle flow… and that’s the beating heart of a good escape room.

Spooky Room 479 looked good, not great. The technology was well executed, but not well embedded into the setting and narrative.

It was a delightful experience, with room for refinement and growth.

Beginners should absolutely give Spooky Room 479 a shot. It had a little bit of everything: searching, puzzles, intrigue, and tech.

While not necessarily a must-play for seasoned room escapers, they can absolutely enjoy Spooky Room 479; we certainly did.

Book your hour with Locked’s Spooky Room 479, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Locked – Spooky Room 479 comped our tickets for this game.

 

Brooklyn Escape Room – The Haunted [Review]

Come play with us!

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date played: March 13, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket Tuesday – Friday, $35 per ticket Saturday – Sunday

Story & setting

We entered a haunted home to uncover the secret within and the way out.

From the moment we stepped inside, we were met with a sense of foreboding. The set was dark and ominous.

It was also wide open. The large space was a bedroom, living room, and study all rolled into one (kind of like a New York apartment). It was decorated with antique furniture from an unspecified time in the past.

In-game closeup of an old clock with a lock built in. The clock face is is fogged over.

Puzzles

While the set was interactive, there wasn’t a lot of puzzling in The Haunted. 

We mainly searched for objects and determined how they were connected. This took some trial and error.

Standouts

Some of these object-set interactions initiated exciting, tech-driven responses from the escape room.

Brooklyn Escape Room created a few amusing atmospheric touches that made some of us jump… but it wasn’t ever terrifying.

The Haunted used spaces in ways we didn’t see coming.

Shortcomings

While at times Brooklyn Escape Room manipulated spaces well, other spaces felt underused or incomplete.

The Haunted relied heavily on technology, some of which was finicky. In one instance, we successfully completed an interaction, triggering a response, but we continued to try to complete that interaction for the remainder of the game because the technology didn’t give us enough feedback.

Additionally, especially given the antique props, the wiring needed to be more completely integrated into the construction of the space.

The gamespace was too dusty for my liking. There’s a difference between dirty-looking and actually dirty.

Should I play Brooklyn Escape Room’s The Haunted?

We enjoyed The Haunted. It had some neat tricks that made us both jump and laugh.

If you gravitate toward puzzles, take heed: The Haunted was primarily searching and connecting. There wasn’t too much to puzzle through.

If you prefer atmosphere and set-piece interaction, The Haunted probably won’t melt your brain, but you’ll find a lot to enjoy.

This game would be approachable for newer players. It likely won’t be too challenging for those well versed in escape room technology, but it will still be fun.

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

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

Escape the Room NYC – Submarine [Review]

We all live in a puzzle submarine.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: March 27, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

While exploring a deserted island with our friends we happened upon an old diesel submarine. We climbed aboard the boat and found ourselves locked in and descending. We had an hour’s worth of oxygen left to figure out how to surface the sub and save ourselves.

The set looked fantastic. The entirely custom construction blew away older Escape The Room NYC sets. The shape of the room, the doors, and the manner in which they made us feel like there was a world outside of the room was superb.

SS Escape - Submarine exterior shot. It looks like weathered metal.

Puzzles

Even with the impressive set, the puzzling remained front and center.

The early puzzling consisted of fairly standard but well-executed escape room-style puzzles. With the late game puzzles, we moved through a story-driven adventure.

The puzzles kept most of our large team engaged at any given point throughout the room escape.

Submarine focused more on exploration and discovery than on scavenging through the set.

Standouts

The set was exceptional. When I had some downtime in the middle of the game while my teammates puzzled, I wandered around taking it all in. There were tons of dials, buttons, and gauges that were merely part of the set. While upon an initial glance I had internally freaked out because it seemed that the scenery overload could lead to confusion, it was actually easy to tell the important controls from the unimportant ones.

In-game, and detailed submarine door.

The puzzling was good fun. The solutions felt rewarding. We could witness the results of our progress as we moved through the room escape.

There were some great puzzles, expertly crafted to require the involvement of multiple players.

One recurring task was both compelling and kind of annoying; it was deliberate and it worked well in spite of its repetitious nature.

While trapped in the Submarine we actually felt like there was an exterior world. Brilliant.

Shortcomings

We experienced a major technical malfunction: many of the excellent puzzles lacked feedback. We solved at least two of them purely by lucky timing. In this tech-driven adventure, feedback is crucial and should be checked with every reset.

Much of the second half of Submarine followed a narrative arc where the puzzle solutions furthered the story… except for one puzzle that shifted back to non-narrative “escape room logic.” Had this puzzle been in an escape room without a narrative, or even appeared before the story had kicked in, it would have been fine. In this case, it felt out of place and strangely disappointing.

That same puzzle centered on a prop that felt cheap and out of place in the otherwise gorgeous set. There was one other prop that felt like it had been carried over from an older escape room and didn’t belong in this artfully designed and constructed world.

There was some 3D modeling that could have looked a bit more compelling, especially in comparison to the set’s beauty.

Should I play Escape The Room NYC’s Submarine?

Submarine introduced the next level of set and puzzle design from New York City’s first escape room company.

After our most recent experiences at Escape the Room NYC, we had started to count them out. They might have been first, but newer players had surpassed them. With Submarine, Escape the Room NYC is back in the picture and we welcome this return to form.

If you enjoy puzzles, teamwork, adventure, and how these can come together to serve a purpose, in a craft so unlike a room in the Manhattan building you entered from the street, I recommend Submarine.

This will be a challenging escape room for newer players, but it is well designed and conquerable at all experience levels.

Bring a full team, I wouldn’t recommend taking this plunge with strangers.

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

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

Accomplice The Show – The Village [Review]

Find some characters.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: March 4, 2017

Team size: 10; we recommend 10

Duration: ~2 hours

Price: $65 per ticket

Story & setting

We had received an amusing email informing us of… a situation, so we swooped in to save the day.

Accomplice The Village walked us through the streets of Greenwich Village, introducing us to entertaining characters and interesting places along the way.

As we followed the bread crumbs to right the aforementioned situation, we became part of a theater piece, searched for clues, solved puzzles, and had many good laughs.

Accomplice the show logo

Interaction

This was an interactive show. There were specific tasks to accomplish and a fair amount of walking involved. We engaged with conversationally energetic characters.

Accomplice The Village was not a passive experience.

Standouts

The actors brought Accomplice The Village to life. With few exceptions, they were engaging, humorous, and witty. They expertly balanced a scripted narrative with improv. Their characters may have been ridiculous, but they managed to be believably ridiculous.

The show kicked off with an email that set the tone for the entire experience. It never deviated from this. Each character we met fit right into the world.

As the show progressed we started to notice subtle references on a theme. These ultimately escalated into the finale. It was beautifully orchestrated.

There were some hilariously serendipitous moments, my favorite being when a couple of passersby joined our little group out of curiosity. We were pretty confused when they approached, but nowhere near as confused as they were.

In-game: An empty cup of hot chocolate in a small New York cafe.
Warmth in a cup

Accomplice the Village introduced us to some incredible neighborhood gems. In addition to the actors, these places helped create just enough spectacle to make Accomplice The Village something out of the ordinary.

Shortcomings

Because the actors truly brought this show to life, when we encountered a dud, the entire scene fell flat. That section was disappointing.

On any given day, multiple teams of 10 play the game, starting in the same location an hour apart. Our group was moving particularly swiftly and caught up with the group in front of us just before the finale. While the show did have a stalling tactic in place, it was poorly executed, and by someone not at all in character. This broke our rhythm and took us out of the experience.

Two consecutive scenes took place entirely outside. Weather could certainly put a damper on the experience.

Should I play Accomplice The Village?

Accomplice The Village should be approached as interactive theater with some light puzzling. It was, first and foremost, a theatrical excursion through an iconic Manhattan neighborhood.

If you like comedy, improv, and a bit of scavenger hunt, this will be a blast.

If you’ve already played Accomplice New York, this will be a new experience. The mission was different and so was our place in it. While we were still exploring Manhattan, the show was less about its setting. Instead, these characters turned up the dial on absurd and hilarious, but still managed to fit everything into their ludicrous scenario.

For tourists, we recommend Accomplice New York. New York itself was a character in that show; in Accomplice The Village it was simply the setting.

For those new to Accomplice, we recommend Accomplice The Village. This was an approachable show. We walked outside, but not nearly as much as in Accomplice New York. It was also shorter and less expensive.

We enjoyed this experience immensely, even on a brutally cold day. That’s saying a lot.

Book your hour with Accomplice The Village, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Brain Xcape – The Old Prison [Review]

Punch-drunk prison.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: February 20, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $31-60 per ticket depending on team size and day of the week

Story & setting

Shut inside an old, grim, and foreboding prison, we had to work through its dark mysteries and find our way out. From the walls to the larger props, Brain Xcape crafted an intense and detailed prison set.

In-game: A weathered concrete and brick wall with a gross old toilet and sink.
Possibly the first prison escape game that doesn’t involve shoving your hand down a toilet!

The setup was simple. There wasn’t a complex narrative or backstory explanation prior to beginning the puzzling.

Puzzles

The puzzle types varied, but within typical and expected escape room tropes.

Early on, many of the puzzles in The Old Prison lacked sufficient cluing. As the game progressed, the logic flow improved.

Standouts

Our adventure in the Old Prison began rather unusually. We welcomed this deviation from the norm.

In-game: A weathered metal prison door with an alarm bell mounted to the concrete wall beside it.

Brain Xcape focused on immersive set design and it showed. This was one of the most intense and captivating prison sets we’ve experienced. Brain Xcape hired Punchdrunk, the team behind Sleep No More, to work on this set, to great effect. We appreciated stepping out of a Manhattan building into another world.

Shortcomings

On their website, Brain Xcape claims to be “NYC’s Most Immersive Escape Room Experience.” While the set was captivating, it lacked support in the form of action – the searching, puzzling, and reveals – to be a truly heart-racing, blood-pumping immersive prison experience.

The weakest puzzles centered around props that did not wear well. The puzzling, sloppily forced onto them, was poorly clued and difficult to uncover. One early puzzle of this type was as frustrating as it was unsatisfying.

A 4 digit Masterlock 178 padlock with a text bubble that reads, "Don't forget to push!"

The later portion of the escape room, in particular, was riddled with identical Masterlock 178 padlocks. While a few of them wouldn’t have been out of place in a prison, the sheer volume broke our rhythm at every turn. We had to continually try every possible combination absolutely everywhere until we found a pattern to the gameflow.

Should I play Brain Xcape’s The Old Prison?

If you’re most interested in set design, The Old Prison would be an excellent choice. You will find that you step into another place and time.

Brain Xcape’s commitment to set design is truly impressive. There are other sets that are on par with theirs, but you won’t find objectively better sets in NYC.

In-game: A weathered wall with some tally marks on it.

That said, while Brain Xcape has mastered one aspect of escape room design, to build a complete immersive experience they have a ways to go on other fronts.

If you’re more interested in narrative, puzzle design, or technology, The Old Prison won’t be your idea of a good time. It was old-school escape room gameplay in an outstanding set.

We believe that Brain Xcape is interested in beefing up these other areas to deliver a more complete escape room experience. If they can commit to puzzles and gameflow as thoughtfully as they’ve committed to set design, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Book your hour with Brain Xcape’s The Old Prison, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Brain Xcape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Komnata Quest – Maze of Hakaina [Review]

Demons, intrigue, and answers hide in the shadows.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: January 30, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $28 per ticket

Story & setting

The samurai warriors once tested themselves against the demons of the Maze of Hakaina. Centuries later, a boy found the maze and became trapped within it. When we entered its dark corridors to save him, we found ourselves in a battle of wits with its ancient terrors.

The video-gamey labyrinth was dark with high ceilings, creating a foreboding atmosphere.

While the set was absolutely a maze, getting lost in the Maze of Hakaina wasn’t a risk. Progress within the game allowed for access to new segments and challenges. It felt a little like an early Metroid game, but with a feudal Japanese vibe; that is a compliment, to say the least.

In-game: A red glowing demon's face in the shadows.

Puzzles

Exploration was the biggest challenge in The Maze of Hakaina. There was a lot to find and it wasn’t all strongly clued. This escape room rewarded keen observation.

Like many room escapes from Komnata Quest, this experience was task-centric, but certainly offered its share of puzzles.

In-game: Close up of a wall with Japanese writing all over it and a small scroll rolled up and tied to the wall.

Standouts

The Maze of Hakaina was actually a maze. Doors opened up new passageways. Komnata Quest manipulated the gamespace to create an expansive adventure with exciting reveals.

Komnata Quest minded the details. Our gamemaster’s introduction set the tone and the set took over from there.

There were a few brilliant uses of space, light, and trigger design.

The presence of multiple win conditions made the game’s closing act far more dynamic. While we couldn’t win without escaping, along the way we could accomplish additional goals. Depending upon how we had played the game, these additional tasks may or may not have been achievable in the end. It was truly fulfilling to have accomplished them all.

There was an utterly unforgettable and theatrical moment.

Shortcomings

At times the cluing was tenuous. We needed a few hints to help us find and connect in game elements. After a few months, Komnata Quest still hadn’t had a team escape without any hints. These moments felt like great opportunities to transform obscure search tasks into clued puzzles.

Maze of Hakaina hadn’t been open that long, but already, many of the props and set pieces showed signs of wear in the form of chipped and faded paint. Without continual upkeep, this escape room will become increasingly easy and decreasingly immersive as the wear gives away the game’s secrets.

The lighting was incredibly dim and there was no shortage of reading material. We strained our eyes to read information and input lock combinations. Komnata Quest should add light strategically so that these tasks don’t become insurmountable challenges to some teams.

Should I play Komnata Quest’s Maze of Hakaina?

Maze of Hakaina was an exciting and memorable adventure.

While it was more puzzley than many of Komnata Quest’s room escapes, this was a task-centric experience. The challenge was in observing and making connections.

Experienced players can enjoy the additional challenge of layered win conditions. Veteran players will truly appreciate unconventional use of space and the drama that it creates.

Newer players will still thoroughly enjoy this experience, but will likely need a bit more guidance from their gamemaster.

Note that the lighting will be incredibly challenging for some players and that there are truly tight spaces that can’t be avoided. If you are comfortable with that, then this is a must play.

Play hard and play to win. You do not want to miss the ending.

Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Maze of Hakaina, 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.

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.