Escape Games PDX – Portlandia [Review]

The dream of the 90s is alive in this room escape.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Date played: May 21, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Our roommate had locked away his share of the rent money. We needed to find it in time to give it to our landlord or face eviction.

Portlandia was set within an apartment that was loaded with local beer and references to Portland. And yes, we’re talking Oregon, not Maine. The room looked like your typical apartment… although I’ve never seen an apartment with an epic wall of beer.

In-game: A wooden wall with long narrow shelves covered in local Portland beer bottles.

Puzzles

The puzzle mix was broad and offered some layered challenges. There was no shortage of things to do.

Portlandia, more than just about any escape room that I’ve ever seen, rewarded local knowledge.

In-game: A wall mounted bicycle.

Standouts

Somewhere buried in the middle of Portlandia was an excellent moment. If it doesn’t make you at least crack a smile, you might want to consider therapy to work through your broken childhood.

It comically captured the Portland stereotypes.

There were Easter egg Portland references that were largely lost on Lisa and me, but greatly amused our local teammates.

It kept a lot of people engaged.

Shortcomings

Portlandia over-rewarded knowledge of the City of Portland. There were reference materials to look things up, but that would have been tedious. Thankfully we had some locals with us and they knocked out those puzzles.

Some of the puzzles could have been better integrated into the set and narrative.

If you don’t stay on top of documenting what you have derived, and what you have used, this room escape could turn punishing.

Should I play Escape Games PDX’s Portlandia?

Portlandia was a playful and funny puzzle game.

While I wouldn’t be eager to play with 10 people, keeping our team of 6 people busy for most of an hour was no small feat.

If you’re a PDX local looking for a solid puzzle-driven room escape, this would be a great option, regardless of escape room experience level.

If you’re a traveling player who isn’t familiar with Portland, you might consider drafting a couple of teammates who really know the area. I think that we’d feel differently about this room escape if we hadn’t had that local knowledge at our disposal.

There are players who want to experience absolutely every single puzzle and interaction in an escape room. That likely won’t be the case in Portlandia. Things will happen while you’re off solving your own puzzles. I enjoy knowing that my friends are busy having fun and being smart without me. If that sounds like a good time to you, then put down your Voodoo Blue Star Donuts and give Portlandia a shot.

Book your hour with Escape Games PDX’s Portlandia, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Escape Tech Salem – Sherlock’s Mystery [Review]

Mr. Holmes sent his B team to dig up some evidence.

Location: Salem, Oregon

Date played: May 19, 2017

Team size: up to 6; we recommend 2-4 (be mindful of price)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $139 per team

Designed by: Labyrinth, Portland, Oregon

Story & setting

As employees of Sherlock Holmes, we needed to find evidence of the crime so that the captured murderer wouldn’t walk free.

With antique furniture, the set evoked a 19th century office.

In-game: An antique desk with an old magnifying glass, typewriter, clock, and a Sherlock Holmes double brim hat.

Puzzles

Sherlock’s Mystery required observation, deciphering, dexterity, and logic. In many cases, the designer used standard escape room trope in unconventional ways.

Sherlock’s Mystery included a number of more challenging puzzles. They were satisfying solves.

Standouts

The strength of this escape room was in the cohesive puzzling. It flowed smoothly, with each thread unlocking new information or an interaction.

Sherlock’s Mystery was physically involved. We manipulated set pieces as we puzzled.

The puzzles were inventive. They delivered a few great aha moments.

Shortcomings

The story was mainly delivered in longer, written passages, which interrupted the puzzling.

The set looked good, but the environment wasn’t exciting in and of itself.

Should I play Escape Tech Salem’s Sherlock’s Mystery?

If you enjoy interesting tangible puzzles, you’ll enjoy Sherlock’s Mystery. The puzzling flows smoothly, delivering quite a few fun moments.

New players will find a serious opponent here. Bring a team with diverse skills sets. You’ll need them.

More experienced players will likely puzzle through this more quickly, but appreciate a couple of surprises along the way.

While we wouldn’t say you should fly across the country for Sherlock’s Mystery, if you find yourself near Salem, Oregon we recommend you stop in.

Book your hour with Escape Tech Salem’s Sherlock’s Mystery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Escape Games PDX – Amnesia [Review]

Puzzles? Where? When? Why?

Location: Portland, Oregon

Date played: May 21, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Amnesia took place in a stark, white laboratory setting.

We couldn’t remember why we’d ended up there, but we were clearly experiencing some sort of experiment.

In-game: A stark white room with a timer, locked cabinets, and chairs.

Puzzles

Escape Games PDX hid a lot of diverse and satisfying puzzles in Amnesia’s seemingly bare space.

Standouts

The puzzles were great. Some were simple. Some were challenging. They all worked.

While the simplicity of the set could have been terrible, it worked in Amnesia. There were no distractions. The set took a backseat to the puzzles, but it was still integral to the experience.

There was more depth to Amnesia than we initially realized.

Shortcomings

One puzzle type was overused.

In one instance, we guessed the solution to a puzzle before even trying to solve it. It just seemed likely… and we groaned a little when the guess worked.

Should I play Escape Games PDX’s Amnesia?

If you like to solve puzzles, you’ll enjoy Amnesia. Both novices and experienced players alike can enjoy puzzling through Amnesia.

The story didn’t impact the gameplay, but its resolution enhanced an otherwise purely puzzling escape room.

While the white walls might seem foreboding to some, rest assured that Amnesia wasn’t at all scary. To the best of my memory, Amnesia was an approachable and enjoyable room escape.

Book your hour with Escape Games PDX’s Amnesia, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Labyrinth Escape Games – Blitzkrieg [Review]

War is hell.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Date played: May 21, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per ticket

Story & setting

Set in World War II, we sought a purportedly powerful occult item before the Nazis could determine how to harness its power.

This military bunker raid took place at night, so we were in a dark set, each carrying a substantial Maglite to illuminate our progress.

In game: a pile of sandbags

Puzzles

Tech-driven and loosely clued, the puzzles took a lot of exploration to work through.

Standouts

The tech was embedded into the environment well.

In-game, a loked wall-mounted box illuminated by a red light.

The flashlights were substantial and worked well.

We were guided by an in-game actor: Sarge. He was an intense presence in the room while remaining kind.

Shortcomings

The entire room escape took place in low light. While everyone had a flashlight that worked well, these were cumbersome to hold while puzzling. This created situations where someone inevitably functioned as a lamp for other puzzling teammates.

One bit of tech was quite finicky.

There weren’t a lot of puzzles, but many of them became a bit frustrating. This was amplified by access to puzzle components out of sequence. In one instance, we solved something before we were supposed to, which left us confused until things came back together late in the escape room.

It felt like Labyrinth played looser with historical accuracy than necessary.

Should I play Labyrinth Escape Games’ Blitzkrieg?

Blitzkrieg was a confusing game:

It felt like it wanted to be historically relevant, but then it had strange and unnecessary anachronisms and inconsistencies.

It felt like it wanted to be an Indiana Jones adventure, but it never committed to the paranormal MacGuffin.

If felt like it wanted to tell a story, but while the puzzles were well embedded in the set, they rarely carried much narrative.

There were plenty of interesting interactions in Blitzkrieg and I feel like there’s a compelling escape room in it. Mostly, however, I was frustrated by strange causes and effects. I left wishing for more clue structure, more puzzles, and puzzles that carried a complete story arc. That’s what it felt Labyrinth was striving for.

If you’re looking for a challenging room escape and you’re ok with having an in-game actor push you over a few humps, then give Blitzkrieg a try. The set was fun, the actor was great, and there were some solid puzzles… once you figured out what they were demanding.

Book your hour with Labyrinth Escape Games’ Blitzkrieg, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

 

Portland Escape Rooms – Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse [Review]

The devil went down to Louisiana and he was looking for a soul to steal.

Location: Beaverton, Oregon

Date played: May 21, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

We visited a fortune-teller and received some dire news: we were cursed and needed to remove the curse or face our doom.

Set within Madame Neptune’s bayou-based fortune telling establishment, the room looked dark and magical. If the fleur-de-lis didn’t fully sell the notion that we were in Louisiana… Madame Neptune’s accent and presence certainly did.

In-game: The sign for Madame Neptune's Fortune Telling Emporium. Through a window below it a throne of skulls sits in the background.

Puzzles

With a few exceptions, Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse was woven into the set and theme. The puzzles themselves were a fairly standard mix of escape room challenges; the twist was in their presentation.

Standouts

The actor’s presence was delightful, well used, and felt right in the room escape.

The set, lighting, and sound all worked well to create a compelling and entertaining environment.

A lot of the puzzling felt at home within the story and set.

In-game: A metal platter with a crystal ball surrounded by Madame Neptune's Voodoo Curse cards.

Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse began with a tarot reading from none other than Madame Neptune and her bayou accent. It was an awesome way to start the experience.

Shortcomings

The choice of deck for the tarot reading seemed strange and hokey. With a cartoonish look and the game’s logo on the back, the cards didn’t fit with the rest of the room escape’s vibe. This may have been done to counter the superstitions of some players, but for me, it simply felt odd.

One particular puzzle was simple yet laborious. I understand why it was there, and it was clever, but given the time commitment it took to work through it, I could have done without it.

I wish that there was just a little more game and that a few more of the puzzles really played with the magic and mystery of the story and setting.

Should I play Portland Escape Rooms’ Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse?

Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse was a prime example of the elevating effects that light, set, sound, and commitment to theme can have on an escape room. By maintaining a high attention to detail, Portland Escape Rooms made a truly memorable game that will be approachable for newbies, and compelling enough that experienced players will enjoy it.

While Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse was not scary, I wouldn’t bring nervous kids along. There are a few dark moments (which are optional for at least some players) and a handful of appropriately creepy props.

My biggest gripe was that I wanted more of what Portland Escape Rooms was serving up… so consider that a strong endorsement.

Book your hour with Portland Escape Rooms’ Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Escape Corvallis – Dialed In [Review]

At least one circuit is busy.

Location: Corvallis, Oregon

Date played: May 20, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Dialed In was an old-school puzzle room without a narrative or theme. When we “dialed in” the correct code, we’d find the key to our escape.

Escape Corvallis had furnished a former photo studio with odds and ends to puzzle through.

In-game: An assortment of furnature sitting in a white and blue photo studio with curved infinity walls.
That’s not a visual trick; the floor and walls curve into one another.

Puzzles

Dialed In was a basic, old-school escape room. We had to search hard, find the relevant items, and connect the proverbial dots.

Standouts

Dialed In recreated the feel of an old-school point & click escape room game.

Our gamemaster was friendly, attentive, and helpful.

Shortcomings

There were a few serious electrical safety hazards in Dialed In. One puzzle required us to tamper with what appeared to be a standard electrical outlet. While this particular interaction was safe, this puzzle design teaches players unsafe behavior.

Dialed In bottlenecked. In particular, it didn’t provide enough tools for more than one player to participate in key segments of the experience.

One puzzle relied on outside knowledge.

Much of the puzzling took place in one dimension. The puzzles didn’t interact with the space beyond the scavenging. Especially since room’s shape was rather unique, given its earlier incarnation as a photo studio, this seemed like a missed opportunity.

Should I play Escape Corvallis’ Dialed In?

Escape Corvallis was the first escape room in Corvallis and Dialed In, their first game. Dialed In was an older style escape room: find the relevant information within the space and piece it together to get out.

If you enjoy point & click games, you’ll find this an accurate real-life version.

Unfortunately, the escape room industry has moved beyond Dialed In: in puzzle design, the incorporation of physical space, and safety awareness. This simply isn’t an accurate representation of where the industry is in 2017.

We hope that the team behind Escape Corvallis has the opportunity to go experience the growth of escape room design and then bring that back to Corvallis. We’re rooting for them.

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

 

Hour to Midnight – The Secrets of Nibiru [Review]

Masked history.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Date played: May 21, 2017

Team size: 6-10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

William Elshoff, a globetrotting adventurer, had disappeared after supposedly finding the key to Nibiru. We entered his last known location in search of him: his study.

Among the heavy wooden furniture, display cases, and shelves of books we found beautiful artifacts from his worldly travels.

In-game: Shot through a chess board, a beautiful full wall book case.

Puzzles

Most of the puzzles and interactions in The Secrets of Nibiru were born of the set and props, relying heavily on keen observation skills and decipherment.

Standouts

Hour to Midnight built a story that unfolded over the course of the escape room. It was grounded in myth, but reimagined for this medium.

The set pieces and props in The Secrets of Nibiru were hefty, detailed, polished, and cohesive. They made sense in the space, added intrigue, and supported the narrative.

In-game: A wooden club next to an intimidating black fanged mask.

The Secrets of Nibiru used technology to great effect. The room’s responses felt magical and helped sell the adventure. These technological interactions also brought drama.

Hour to Midnight included a lot of props that could easily have become red herrings, but they built the set in such a way as to greatly limit confusion.

The puzzling culminated late in the game, integrating the narrative and the different puzzling threads, and involving the entire team. The Secrets of Nibiru followed well-designed puzzle flow.

Shortcomings

One puzzle overstayed its welcome. Once we knew how to solve it and had all the pieces, it still took substantial time and effort to complete.

Despite the narrative resolution, due to a set design decision, the ending left us wanting more. This could have been avoided with a little reworking.

Should I play Hour to Midnight’s The Secrets of Nibiru?

Yes.

The puzzles, set, and story were all fun in their own right and wove together neatly into a cohesive group experience.

For newer players, The Secrets of Nibiru will be a serious challenge. Bring a larger group and communicate well.

For more experienced players, if you plan to tackle The Secrets of Nibiru with a smaller group, work quickly and efficiently.

Whether you play room escapes for the puzzles, stories, technology, or the artistic creations that bring these together, there’s something for everyone in The Secrets of Nibiru.

Book your hour with Hour to Midnight’s The Secrets of Nibiru, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Hour to Midnight comped our tickets for this game.

 

60 Minutes to Escape – Spark of Resistance [Review]

Location: Portland, Oregon

Date played: January 11, 2015

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 6-8

Price: $30 per ticket

REA Golden Lock-In Badge
2015 Golden Lock-In Winner

Plot

An agent is missing, and you and your team been activated to locate him.

Spark of Resistance

Dramatic from the start

This room is exceptional from before you even begin.

You start by descending into the dark basement of a Portland warehouse, and passing through a pair of dramatically lit doors.

Your puzzlemaster then gives you a briefing, loosely in character, hands you a few clues, and tells you that you have to negotiate your way into the room. This sets the game’s story in motion, and that story carries throughout the entire game.

Storytelling

This room succeeds where so many fall short by telling a cohesive story through the puzzles.

It’s a tale of adventure, espionage, and sabotage with your team pushed into the role of resistance fighter, set against the backdrop of a 1980s-ish, Eastern-Block-ish, communist dictatorship-ish.

Best of all, the story gives you a good reason for being in the room in the first place, as well as a reason why you need to exit it within 60 minutes.

Staging

This has the best staging that I’ve encountered. There’s all manner of lighting, sound, and practical effects. They all work, and they’re tons of fun.

The room feels believable in a way that I wish more rooms would.

Spark of Resistance Portland Staging

Puzzles

The puzzles each offer a unique challenge, and there are no throw-away puzzles. Each one both advances the plot, as well as solve something new.

We brought, by far the most random team we’ve ever had of mostly people we had just met. Our team worked very well together in spite of that fact, but the room was ultimately too much for us. This was our most decisive room escape loss.

I think the puzzles were mostly fair, and there were enough things that you could actually have everyone on the team working on things at all times.

60minutes_jan11_3pm

What could have been better?

There’s only one thing that I think they missed the mark on with this game, and that’s the post-game.

As I mentioned, we lost this one. When the game concluded, we had to ask for a walkthrough of what we missed. It turned out that the last moments of the game were amazing. Even if you already lost, they are worth experiencing.

The puzzlemasters seemed confused that we wanted a walkthrough, and weren’t really prepared to give us one (but they did).

This game has about a 20% success rate, and I think that everyone should be able to walk out having seen how great the end-game is.

This is relatively minor, and easily fixable.

Should I play this game?

Absolutely. If you’re into room escapes, I will go so far as to say that this is a must play.

It’s fun, challenging, creative, and unique.

Book your tickets with Spark of Resistance, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.