Escape Room 60 – Outbreak [Review]

A charming lab of death.

Location: Williston, Vermont

Date played: August 6, 2017

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

An evil doctor released a humanity-ending plague upon the world. It was up to our team of agents to break into his lab and secure the cure before time ran out.

In-game: Lab setting. A balance with weights resting upon it. Beyond the balance is a piece of wired equipment.

The set had a fairly typical escape room lab aesthetic: off-white walls, bright fluorescent lights, scientific equipment, and lab coats. It wasn’t an intimidating or inspiring space, but it conveyed “lab” and presented the puzzles well.

Puzzles

The puzzles in Outbreak became increasingly involved as the game progressed. Many puzzles had unexpected – and welcome – layers of complexity.

Standouts

Outbreak’s puzzles were well-themed and complex. The puzzles flowed well and created a few terrific moments.

Outbreak included both standard locks with different designs and digit structures and more advanced technology. This variety made each unlock exciting and usually helped us identify which lock would accept a solution.

Two particular puzzles were implemented beautifully. These moments really stood out to our team.

In-game: An x-ray print of a sull wearing goggles.
Boo!

Escape Room 60 didn’t take itself too seriously. The audio introduction to the game was humorous and occasional in-game props included unobtrusive and amusing pop culture references. Our gamemaster was hilarious and witty; she was fantastic. “Feel free to laugh at our rules video… it gives me hope.”

Escape Room 60 had a hygienic, safe, and branded approach to blindfolds.

Shortcomings

Given that the strength of Outbreak was in the puzzles and not the set design, the blindfolds seemed unnecessary. They didn’t add much to the experience because when we took them off, we hadn’t been transported to another world.

While the puzzles were on theme, they didn’t convey narrative or the urgency of our situation.

A couple of moments needed a bit more in-game cluing.

There was an auditory clue that we wished could have been replayed or looped. Thankfully our gamemaster promptly displayed the relevant information on the hint monitor.

Should I play Escape Room 60’s Outbreak?

Outbreak was a fun puzzle game. The puzzles were complex and flowed well. The puzzles created the memorable moments in this escape room.

Outbreak would be a challenging escape room for new players, but doable. More experienced players will have an easier time and will likely find a few of the puzzle implementations enjoyable.

Puzzles are the root of an escape room and Escape Room 60 has got that down. We hope they can take their escape rooms to the next level, integrating more set design and narrative elements into their solid puzzle game. They’re certainly on the right track.

Book your hour with Escape Room 60’s Outbreak, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room 60 comped our tickets for this game.

 

Esc4pe – The Minimalist [Review]

I’ve been training a long time for this moment.

Location: Burlington, Vermont

Date played: August 5, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket, $10 per child under 10

Story & setting

As agents of P.I.T.O.N., the clandestine services group at the center of Esc4pe’s games, we were investigating a missing agent codenamed Glitch. We had to break into his workshop and bypass his mechanical puzzles, logic traps, and hidden codes to determine why he disappeared.

In-game: A strange room with a blue glowing light and latticework.
Confused? This is where you start. It was both strange and cool.

The set of The Minimalist varied enormously. Some portions of the set were fantastic; others were typically office-y. We began our mission in an intriguing and strange space… It was one of the most challenging spaces I’ve captured in a photograph.

Puzzles

While the room escape was built around a hacker narrative, The Minimalist was a series of tangible, physical interactions. Esc4pe cast us as secret agents, so they made us break into things. (Newbies, please understand that I don’t mean physically break.)

The Minimalist required us to pick a lock. Normally I wouldn’t discuss an exciting moment that occurred late-game, but Esc4pe highlighted this in The Minimalist’s description and provided a pregame crash course in lockpicking basics. They also sold an inexpensive pickset for those who are interested in further exploring locksport. (If that sounds interesting to you, I have a detailed post on the subject).

Standouts

The opening moments of The Minimalist were strange, memorable, and fun.

The tangible puzzling in The Minimalist was fantastic; it made us feel like we were hacking the physical space.

“Hacker”-themed escape rooms usually portray a Hollywood depiction of hacking. The folks from Esc4pe used some of the cliches, but generally depicted something a lot more realistic than the norm.

Lockpicking is a puzzle. I really enjoyed that Esc4pe made it a viable component of this escape room.

Shortcomings

Lockpicking takes practice. Escape room players with no lockpicking background and only minimal instruction destroy picks. As a result, Esc4pe cycles through tension bars and picks, using whatever they have from the pick kits that they purchase. Our game provided the wrong tensioner and a less than optimal pick. These worked, but I had to use the tensioner incorrectly to succeed.

So much of The Minimalist was built around unusual tangible interactions that when Esc4pe leaned on the more common escape room tropes, the room didn’t convey the same sense of adventure.

The end was anti-climactic, especially when juxtaposed with the opening.

Should I play Esc4pe’s The Minimalist?

The Minimalist was a bold escape room. Esc4pe stuck with a design decision that others have either abandoned or failed… and they made it work. They put their own twist on common tropes and produced an escape room that felt fresh.

Esc4pe are in a fantastic neighborhood in downtown Burlington, surrounded by amazing restaurants (Monarch & the Milkweed… is wow) and a block away from a bar/ arcade called The Archive… we had a wonderfully tasty, puzzley, and video-gamey afternoon.

The Minimalist was newbie friendly, and included more than a few interesting interactions to entertain experienced players. Puzzling aside, the lockpicking challenge will likely be a difficult for anyone who hasn’t done it before, but it is doable. If you’d like to learn some lockpicking basics before you visit, watch this video:

Book your hour with Esc4pe’s The Minimalist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Esc4pe comped our tickets for this game.