The Escape Game Austin – Classified [Review]

Bazaar & puzzling.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 5, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31.99 per ticket

Story & setting

We needed to stop a terrorist cell by gathering intelligence about an impending attack. This was your typical prime-time television counter-terror staging that steered clear of any specific world events.

We entered a Middle Eastern market. It was detailed, vibrant, and original. The initial setting was striking and beautiful.

In-game, a vibrantly colored bazaar market. Rugs hang from the ceiling. Assorted foods and pots sit on the shelves.

As the game progressed, we found ourselves in a dark and far more generic escape room environment.

Puzzles

Classified was primarily linear.

The challenge came from searching and making connections between relevant finds. It was not a puzzle-focused room escape.

Standouts

This was our first gamespace set in a market. The initial set was not only original, but also detailed, and polished.

The first half of the Classifed had silky smooth game flow.

Classified included neat, well-hidden physical interactions with some of the larger set pieces.

Shortcomings

Classified felt disconnected. The second half of the game lacked everything that made the first half special. It wasn’t beautiful, interesting, or exciting. It also lacked the flow of the first half. It became more challenging, but also dull and tedious.

Should I play The Escape Game Austin’s Classified?

Classified had a great first act. The visual impact of walking into such an unusual and beautiful space was energizing. The gameplay was a older escape room style that made it feel more like a scavenger hunt than The Escape Game’s other offerings. While the initial set was creative and exciting, the second act didn’t live up to the expectation set in the first half. That said, it was still more polished than many escape rooms of its era.

The Escape Game Austin has moved forward since designing this game and we recommend that you try their other games first. We visited Gold Rush, Prison Break, and The Heist at The Escape Game’s Orlando location, but took a peek at them in Austin and feel confident recommending them here as well. They’ve done a beautiful job making slight modifications to construct each of their games into the slightly different space in their Austin facilities.

While Classified wasn’t our favorite of their offerings, The Escape Game Austin is a top-notch facility with excellent staff that will deliver a fun, family-friendly experience.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Austin’s Classified, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Austin comped our tickets for this game.

The Escape Game Orlando – The Heist [Review]

The art of the steal.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 11, 2016

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket

Story & setting

In this counter-heist, we were stealing back a stolen painting.

Of the four games we played at The Escape Game Orlando, The Heist had the least exciting setting. It looked like an art gallery and a gallery doesn’t have the same dramatic allure as a spaceship, gold mine, or prison. That said, this was one of the more compelling art galleries we’ve seen. By that I mean that it actually looked like an art gallery.

In-game: It looks like an art gallery. White walls with cleanly framed paintings. A velvet rope sits in front of the painting at the end of the room.

While there was a hint of story, The Heist was mission-centric and straightforward.

Puzzles

The Heist was a puzzle lover’s room escape. There was a lot to find and a lot of solve.

The puzzles were primarily of an older design style. To that end, we saw some common tropes, but each was well executed.

Standouts

The Heist surprised us. We weren’t anticipating one particularly neat early-game interaction.

There were cleverly hidden moments of escalation and The Heist managed to steer far from our early game expectations.

Shortcomings

Some of the search-heavy early puzzles became tedious, which may have been amplified in this particular case because we were only two players at the tail end of a escape room marathon.

The lock variety and cluing led to a fair amount of trying combinations in many different locks before the right one released.

We encountered a group of puzzle components that had become rather smelly over time. These were not fun to handle.

Should I play The Escape Game Orlando’s Heist?

The Heist was designed for puzzlers. There was a lot to do.

The set didn’t hold the same allure as some of The Escape Game Orlando’s other offerings. Because of this, The Heist didn’t feel as exciting as the others, but eventually escalated to a more dramatic conclusion.

After playing four games back-to-back with The Escape Game Orlando, we’d noticed some trends in the puzzles and interaction design. While many of these patterns differentiated them from others in the industry, unless they innovate, over time their repeat customers will be able to read their designs.

While The Heist followed common themes, it still managed to defy our expectations.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Orlando’s Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Note that we played the original version of this game, but The Escape Game Orlando is updating it in each of their locations in early 2017.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Orlando comped our tickets for this game.

The Escape Game Orlando – Prison Break [Review]

A prison game without a Rita Hayworth poster!

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 11, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket

Story & setting

In Prison Break, we found ourselves locked up. The cell’s previous occupant had disappeared, leaving a few clues for how we might follow suit. He may have escaped; we certainly intended to.

While there was a backstory, this was essentially a prison break mission.

This was one of the most visually compelling prisons we’ve been locked in. Cells are cells, but Prison Break presented an exciting adventure between the cells and the exit door.

In-game: A hallway in a prison. It looks intense and heavily weathered.

Puzzles

The puzzles were on theme, but didn’t necessarily build to a compelling narrative.

While the earlier puzzles were more task-based, the late game involved more serious puzzling.

Standouts

The triumph of Prison Break was the progression from bleak prison cells to a compelling adventure. The Escape Game Orlando figured out how to make an exciting and visually appealing prison space. It worked.

Through deliberate design, The Escape Game Orlando took us on a journey and delivered a few wow moments.

The early puzzles made use of some fun and truly funny prop interactions. These props even triggered a more technologically advanced interactions that we wouldn’t have expected in prison.

Shortcomings

Prison Break rewarded observant inmates. Missing just one small detail – of which there were many – could completely stall out the game.

The puzzle structure of Prison Break was uneven and with more than 4 people, it would likely bottleneck.

Occasionally this game was painfully linear. While extra eyes might be handy, adding more teammates could lead to stoppages in game flow.

Should I play The Escape Game Orlando’s Prison Break?

If you want to break out of prison, we recommend this particular prison. Far too many prison escape rooms cannot figure out what to do with the players once they have broken out of the cells. Prison Break knew what came next and that’s what made it stand out.

It was a cleverly designed adventure with some fun and funny moments.

Be observant and expect the unexpected.

Both new players and experienced players will find something to enjoy here.

While it is prison, it’s not at all scary or dangerous.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Orlando’s Prison Break, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Orlando comped our tickets for this game… and gave me a sweatshirt because prisons are cold. (Thank you!)

 

The Escape Game Orlando – Mission: Mars [Review]

We have liftoff.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 11, 2016

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per ticket

Note: we played Mission: Mars late in its beta-testing period.

Story & setting

While landing on Mars, our spacecraft sustained significant damage. In order to return home, we needed to repair the compromised spaceship and launch off martian soil.

Mission: Mars looked sharp. It was a sturdy, polished, futuristic spacecraft. It took us to a different world.

In-game: a control console on the ship

The game was essentially a mission to complete, but the Escape Game Orlando crafted a compelling backstory for the narrative.

Puzzles

This was a modular escape room: orderly repair of each section of the ship. The puzzles fit into this staged structure. Each repair offered a different set of challenges.

Mission: Mars’ puzzles relied on making connections between various tactile inputs. Nothing felt even remotely paper-based.

Standouts

The polished set made every interaction in Mission: Mars that much more enjoyable.

The technology delivered in a way that the interactions felt immensely satisfying.

The Escape Game Orlando created some particularly entertaining set pieces. These weren’t necessarily mission crucial, but added to the fun of the world.

They minded the details and there were more than a few.

Shortcomings

The spacecraft was lockless, but couldn’t always deliver the feedback of a physical lock. There were times when we took an action that unlocked something seemingly unrelated and had no real way of knowing that we had triggered a thing to happen.

Mission: Mars escalated nicely, but it didn’t deliver enough of an emotional roller coaster. There was room for the game to leave more of an impact on us than it did.

Should I play The Escape Game Orlando’s Mission: Mars?

We played Mission: Mars in late beta, before it opened to the public. Although this is not our preference, we don’t find ourselves in Orlando all that often, so we opted to experience the game. The Escape Game Orlando was still iterating on a few of the puzzles and accounting for some of the shortcomings described above. We don’t know precisely how Mission: Mars will change before it officially launches, but we know that it will.

Mission: Mars was a tactile, technological, mission-based sci-fi adventure. It successfully combined game flow with a thrilling environment.

Beginners will be pretty shocked by what Mission: Mars has to offer but should enjoy it nonetheless. Experienced players will likely find plenty to enjoy as well.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Orlando’s Mission: Mars, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Orlando comped our tickets for this game.

 

The Escape Game Orlando – Gold Rush [Review]

There’s gold in dem der hills.

Location: Orlando, FL

Date played: November 11, 2016

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $32 per ticket

Story & setting

In this modern story of the California Gold Rush, a successful gold prospector has gone missing and we wanted to uncover his stashed gold before anyone else did. The backstory felt unnecessary, but it was charming. In short, this room escape was a mission to find gold.

Gold Rush started in the cheesiest presentation of northern California woods, but it became rapidly more compelling as the scenery changed.

In-game: A odd looking artificial birch tree beside a log gabin with wilderness painted along the walls.

Puzzles

As Gold Rush progressed, so did the puzzles. They started off easy and relatively uninteresting, but by the final section of the game, we were puzzling against a challenging and interesting opponent.

Throughout the game, the puzzles rewarded the observant player.

The best of the interactions defied our expectations.

Standouts

One exhilarating segment of Gold Rush would never fly in the NYC. It was thrilling to watch David crush this; I would have struggled enormously.

The Escape Game Orlando beautifully crafted the gamespace to allow for the fun and surprising moments. It was a thoughtful, perceptive design. Parts of this set were magnificent.

At its best, Gold Rush executed simple things brilliantly.

Shortcomings

Early on the set was pretty silly.

Not only were the early puzzles easy, some of them were simply annoying.

We experienced a technical failure on a crucial puzzle that really diminished our experience. Our gamemaster was quick to respond, but this failure deflated what otherwise would likely have been the Gold Rush‘s finest moment.

Should I play The Escape Game Orlando’s Gold Rush?

The Escape Game Orlando minds the details. While at times the set was cheesy, it was also deliberately designed and crafted for the experience the company intended. The rough edges were purposeful; the rest was polished.

The game flow of Gold Rush would be an excellent on-ramp for new players. It led us from easy to hard. Both the scenery and puzzling escalated as the game progressed. While we would have loved to see a stronger start, more often than not, escape rooms fizzle as they progress. We’d rather start low and build up than the reverse.

Gold Rush is great family-friendly fun. While it does require a fair bit of mobility and the handling of a heavier object, most of the game offers a less intense path for those who need it.

For escape room veterans, by mid-game, there will be delightful surprises that continue on until you find the gold. And if you’re not from a more left-leaning region, well, you’re in for a treat.

Book your hour with The Escape Game Orlando’s Gold Rush, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: The Escape Game Orlando comped our tickets for this game.