Time of Mysteries – No Trespassing [Review]

Polish title: Wstęp wzbroniony

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 złoty per group (approximately $34)

Story & setting

While hiking through the woods we wandered onto the property of some angry hunters. They locked us in their cabin for trespassing. We had to escape before they decided what to do with us.

In-game: Animal skills and pelts mounted to the wooden walls of a cabin.

No Trespassing was staged in a menacing hunting cabin. The wood-and-earth-tone aesthetic was instantly recognizable and identical to what a North American would expect of a hunting cabin.

Gameplay

No Trespassing was a puzzle game from start to finish. A couple of the puzzles were surprisingly challenging.

Standouts

The aesthetics of the first room captured the evil hunting cabin look.

No Trespassing was a solid puzzle game. There was one especially challenging puzzle that resolved with a good aha moment. We really had to earn it.

The English translations worked well. The story didn’t read perfectly, but it conveyed the information and puzzles well. Everything was translated into English except for the final message, which did not matter as we knew we’d won.

Shortcomings

In one instance, Time of Mysteries relied on color as a critical indicator, but it was far too difficult to differentiate. It became a guessing game.

Aesthetically No Trespassing’s quality dropped later in the escape room.

The story, much like the set, didn’t go anywhere.

There was no finale or memorable late-game moment.

Should I play Time of Mysteries’s No Trespassing?

No Trespassing was an entertaining puzzle game, albeit uneven. I enjoyed myself even while feeling like some aspects of this escape room could be refined into something considerably more special.

No Trespassing is playable by players of all skill levels. There were a few puzzles scattered throughout the escape room that anyone might struggle with, regardless of experience. If you put in the effort and can’t make progress there’s no shame in taking a hint.

If you are up to the challenge, go trespassing.

Book your hour with Time of Mysteries’s No Trespassing, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Escape8 – Gentlemen’s Club [Review]

Polish title: Klub dżentelmenów

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 140 złoty per group (approximately $40)

Story & setting

We thought we were being granted access to a prestigious organization. We were wrong. There were no gentlemen in this club, only perverse desires that we had to escape from.

In-game: A tophat and cane hanging against a white wall.

Gentlemen’s Club started us in the coat check of this deranged institution. Beyond that starting area, it’s difficult to describe what we encountered other than to say that it was both strange and compelling.

Gameplay

The assorted puzzles in Gentlemen’s Club were varied and entertaining. While the theming was loose and the interactions didn’t seem to tell much of a story, the puzzles were satisfying solves.

Standouts

The comical opening moments of the escape room were especially clever. When I realized what Escape8 was doing, I thought it was brilliant.

There were some great set pieces with delightful corresponding interactions.

One key puzzle necessitated teamwork. It was smart.

Shortcomings

One of the most critical late-game puzzles felt weak. It was clear what we needed to do, but it was less satisfying than the puzzles that came before it.

Beyond the opening moments of the game, the story was implied, but it was hard to tell exactly what the Gentlemen’s Club was… other than a place that we didn’t want to be at the end of 60 minutes. This escape game would be improved with a more narrative design.

The first puzzle was a bit difficult to find. It was easy to get distracted by a strange feature of the building.

Should I play Escape8’s Gentlemen’s Club?

I really enjoyed Gentlemen’s Club. The puzzles were satisfying, and the setup was especially entertaining. Escape8 made us really want to get out before time expired, not because we wanted to win… but because the idea of losing was unacceptable.

Gentlemen’s Club would be best for experienced players. Those who know how escape rooms function will likely enjoy it more.

Visit the Gentlemen’s Club. It’s an amusing place… that you’ll want to escape.

Book your hour with Escape8’s Gentlemen’s Club, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Exit19pl – Identity [Review]

Polish title: Tożsamość

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 27, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 120 złoty per group (approximately $34)

Story & setting

In a near future dystopia, war and plague have consumed the city. We had to free our team captain and radio our unit to confirm our identities and location. If not, nobody would ever come to our rescue.

The exit19.pl logo along with the words, "Wanna play a game?"

Identity was a technology-driven escape room with a detailed and carefully designed militaristic set.

Puzzles

All of the puzzling in Identity was built around technological interaction and reveals. Consequently, much of the game revolved around manipulating the set. The serious puzzling arrived late-game.

Standouts

The enjoyable sequence of late-game puzzles fostered teamwork.

The set looked better than most of those I saw in Wroclaw.

The technology worked well; there were some entertaining interactions.

Shortcomings

All but one player was essentially helpless during the opening puzzle. Everyone was restrained and no one knew what we had to do to solve the first puzzle. There weren’t any clues other than finding the correct interaction and doing it. This meant that the first puzzle was entirely reliant upon one player finding the correct thing to do. If that player couldn’t accomplish it, everyone else had to wait.

Cluing was a big challenge in Identity. This extended beyond that first puzzle. Too often we simply had to search every detail of the set in hopes of finding an interaction. Once we triggered an interaction, we frequently didn’t know what it had unlocked or why.

Should I play Exit19pl’s Identity?

Without having seen Exit19pl’s other games, it seemed to me that Identity was an experiment in technology. In doing so, they created some cool interactions, but these were largely unclued. Their focus appeared to be elsewhere. Far too many of the puzzles and solutions seemed random.

Over the course of the game Identity built momentum and finished strongly. In spite of some early frustrations, I was glad to have played this escape room.

If you’re looking for a technology-driven escape room in Wroclaw, this was by far the most techy escape room that I played in the city.

Book your hour with Exit19pl’s Identity, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Fox O’clock – Black Butterfly [Review]

Polish title: Czarny-motylek

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 27, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 140 złoty per group (approximately $40)

Black Butterfly is only available in Polish. Critical puzzles required fluent Polish.

Story & setting

Locked up in a little girl’s nightmare, we had to escape before… bad things happened.

In-game: A dim room lit in red. A doll is impaled in the foreground. A small child chained up in the background.

Black Butterfly was a dark, creepy horror escape room filled with nightmares. The set was detailed, unnerving, and a little bit dirty. It was scary, but never truly horrifying.

Puzzles

Black Butterfly was a challenging puzzle game. That’s not just because I couldn’t read some of the puzzles. Fox O’clock combined fear with intricate puzzles, which produced a difficult escape room for more advanced players.

Standouts

Black Butterfly had a wonderfully dark and messed up vibe.

I generally loved the puzzles. This was traditional escape room puzzling at its best.

Fox O’clock had a cat (in the lobby, not the escape room). While I’m allergic to cats, it was so cute and charming to see it prowling around in search of affection.

Shortcomings

One early puzzle had a strange and unclued twist. When we asked for a hint, the solution made us all groan. While the solution made sense, it was also kind of silly.

There was a dirty crawlspace that desperately needed vacuuming.

Throughout the experience, the dim lights made puzzling unnecessarily difficult. A little more strategic lighting around puzzles would improve Black Butterfly.

Should I play Fox O’Clock’s Black Butterfly?

I loved this dark and twisted escape room. Black Butterfly had great puzzles and an original and creatively messed up environment. I’ve seen many escape rooms that are fancier than this one, but a lot less fun.

For English-speaking tourists, you will need a fluent Polish reader on your team as there are written puzzles that rely on linguistic nuance.

Black Butterfly will be especially challenging for newbies and anyone who struggles to see in low light. Everyone else should go play this escape room. It’s a ton of fun.

Book your hour with Fox O’Clock’s Black Butterfly, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Brain Code – Funeral of Aristocrat [Review]

Polish title: Pogrzeb Arystokraty

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: 160 złoty per group (approximately $45)

Funeral of Aristocrat is only available in Polish. Critical puzzles required fluent Polish.

Story & setting

Funeral of Aristocrat was the middle segment of an escape room trilogy. We were at a funeral… and beyond that I’m not really sure what was happening. Part of this may have been because I only experienced the middle chapter. A lot of it was because I don’t understand Polish. It didn’t matter; Funeral of Aristocrat was fun.

A ceiling of cotton clouds with old lanterns hanging from it. The clouds are illuminated like lightning.
Brain Code’s lobby.

Funeral of Aristocrat took place in an elegant, wood-adorned funeral parlor. This was a beautiful place to puzzle.

Puzzles

Funeral of Aristocrat was a truly challenging and enjoyable puzzle game with a broad range of puzzle types. This escape room hosted the semi-final of the 2017 Polish Escape Room Championship and it was appropriately difficult.

There were a few puzzles that required speed or dexterity. These could potentially stop a team from advancing, so come prepared to work through them.

Standouts

The set looked great.

Funeral of Aristocrat used technology to present challenging, interesting, and unusual puzzles.

There was a sequence of puzzles in the second half of the escape room that I absolutely loved. The interactions felt so satisfying.

There was a fantastic and somewhat crazy late-game moment.

Shortcomings

Prior to the game beginning, one player volunteered for a mystery mission. That player really needed to listen carefully to instructions. If they don’t, they could hurt themselves doing something that is really cool… that you likely won’t see in the United States.

One of the tech puzzles that appeared early in the escape room seemed out of place in the environment.

There were one or two brutally challenging process puzzles that hints could not really assist with. You simply have to do them. I can imagine teams burning a significant amount of time on both. Luckily they were presented at the same time.

We didn’t know when the game had ended. We had won, but we didn’t realize it. This wasn’t just me. My teammates who spoke Polish were equally unaware.

Should I play Brain Code’s Funeral of Aristocrat?

Funeral of Aristocrat was a fantastic escape room filled with challenging puzzles and elegant set design. The physical interactions were the highlight. One such interaction would be unlikely in an escape room North America.

I highly recommend visiting Brain Code and playing Funeral of Aristocrat if you have some experience playing escape rooms. It’s smart, different, and refreshing. If you have limited escape room experience, however, I recommend that you play something easier and more typical.

If you’re a tourist, know that you must have a player who reads Polish fluently. There were puzzles that were written in the Polish equivalent of old English. You won’t be able to interpret them with only minimal grasp of Polish.

Book your game with Brain Code’s Funeral of Aristocrat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Piwnica Quest – Midnight Killer MK II [Review]

Polish title: Midnight Killer MK II

Location: Wroclaw, Poland

Date played: October 26, 2017

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 77 minutes

Price: 160 złoty per group (approximately $45)

Story & setting

A man who went by the pseudonym Midnight Killer was arrested in 2016, convicted of many murders, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The man denied involvement in the killings, but all evidence pointed to him. The slayings have started once again, all following the same pattern established in the Midnight Killer murders. Is this a copycat? Did the killer have an accomplice? Or does he have some means of killing from behind bars? We had to investigate.

In-game: Skulls nested in one another beside a hammer within a fireplace.

Midnight Killer MK II had a large and intricate set; some of it was pretty intense. At the beginning our gamemaster split the team into captives and rescuers. The opening minutes of the escape room differed dramatically for the players depending upon their roles.

Puzzles

The puzzles within Midnight Killer MK II were rooted in the theme and narrative. Some of these puzzles tied in literally; others were more metaphorical.

Piwnica Quest integrated tangible puzzles into the set.

In-game: A street sign.

Standouts

Throughout Midnight Killer MK II, the themed puzzles represented both abstract and literal ideas.

The set design was carefully, deliberately, and cleanly executed.

Piwnica Quest included phenomenal, original illustrations in this escape room. We greatly appreciated this unnecessary detail.

Piwnica Quest implemented technology well in Midnight Killer MK II. The tech interactions facilitated the puzzles. They had purpose.

I’ll never forget one early moment when I looked upon a portion of the set… It was strange, a little messed up, and surprising.

The ending added a lot of depth to the experience. It was as fun as it was unexpected.

Shortcomings

The split beginning was too uneven. One group had a lot to do; the other could accomplish almost nothing until the group reunited.

Our gamemaster warned us before the game that a puzzle would “require patience.” They really understated how much patience we needed. This interaction took a silly amount of time.

The ending, cool as it was, went on for one too many interactions. Piwnica Quest added one final completely unnecessary step that killed the momentum of an otherwise brilliant and dramatic finish.

Should I play Piwnica Quest’s Midnight Killer MK II?

I loved Midnight Killer MK II. Piwnica Quest built this escape room with love and care.

The puzzles were designed with intention. The set was built well. The technology was interesting. The escape room was creative. But above all, the Midnight Killer MK II was fun.

I strongly recommend that experienced escape room players visit Midnight Killer MK II. If you haven’t played any escape rooms, play a few so that you can visit Piwnica Quest and truly enjoy Midnight Killer MK II. This escape room was fantastic.

Book your game with Piwnica Quest’s Midnight Killer MK II, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

WroEscape Video Recap

WroEscape, the Polish escape room conference, has published a video recap of the event.

wro_logo_site

In it, you hear from all of the speakers. They mostly speak in Polish, but there are subtitles. I make an appearance (speaking in English) around the 2:30 mark.

You’ll see the show floor, stages, competitions, and the insane fountain show that concluded the event.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll publish reviews of the seven games that I played during my trip.

In the mean time, I’ve also written my own reaction to WroEscape 2017.

Happy Thanksgiving!