60 To Escape · Escape Room · Gurnee, IL · Private Room · Reviews

Blast From The Past @ 60 To Escape (Gurnee, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, February 23, 2019
Number of players:  5
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
This company is set up inside Gurnee Mills mall. There’s always a small part of me that feels like an escape room in a mall will be sub-standard somehow, like they won’t have enough space to do it right or it will feel mass produced. That was certainly not the case in this instance. I was impressed by 60 To Escape right away, and pretty much every step of the way.

The main entrance was clean, well designed, and inviting. I liked how the front desk was right in the entryway, perfect for walk-up questions, and that the other part of the lobby was roped off. We checked in easily, and also added another member to our group easily, and then we were escorted beyond the ropes into the bigger area of the lobby. We signed our waivers there electronically and awaited our game master (a wait that was minimal, I might add.) The whole flow of the check in and the layout of the lobby was excellent, in my opinion. Especially with the company placed in a mall, it was a perfect setup to keep the front desk in its own area and to move people through the spaces in an organized way. I also thought just the general decor was simple and chic and perfect for an escape room company.

Let me also not forget to mention: 60 To Escape gives you the option of making your experience private when you’re booking the room, for an extra $2.00 per person. I still think all rooms should be private by default, or that you should get to choose a private experience for free, but this was at least a good halfway point. A ton of companies in the US don’t even offer this as an option, or they make you buy out the whole room, so 60 To Escape is ahead of the game on this point. (Also, the cost per person with the private option – about $31.50 with tax – was still basically the same as what other companies charge without that luxury, so it really wasn’t that bad at all.) Having the guarantee of a private room was a great plus for playing here!

Setup
Our game master escorted us into the room, where we hung up our coats and then watched a video explaining the rules. Even though I never like bringing my items into the room and ruining that part of the immersion, I didn’t mind it as much this time. I thought that the rules video went on for too long, but then again, we just played a room with people who pried open a filing cabinet, so…. I get it. Then the game master left and we watched another video giving us the story of the room. I will admit that I was really not paying much attention to the second video at all. I think I care a lot more about the story if it’s given to me before I enter the room, but once I’m there, I’m much more interested in searching the room and starting to work on solving the puzzles.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“A local arcade owner has gone missing and it is up to you to find out what happened. Rumors were all around town that the guy was trying to build some sort of “machine” and then one day – he vanished. The Feds say he was murdered but you don’t buy it. Find out what happened to the owner of the Blast from the Past arcade – who knows you might even be able to save him (and the world!)”

Game Play
I want to start with the very basics of how this room was built. For some strange reason, the walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling! That meant that we got to hear another group yelling to each other loudly for the whole time we were working on the first part of the room. It was really distracting and annoying, and I didn’t want to hear anything about the other rooms because I knew I would eventually probably want to play them myself. That was a big downside. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe they were going for an outdoors feel, since the room begins outside the arcade, but that wasn’t the only part of the room like that. I can’t remember for sure but I think the whole room might have been missing full walls. So that unfortunately added a tally to the set-in-a-mall-mass-produced feel. And immersion is the main thing I’m looking for, so that did not help.

The decor of this room was great and right on theme. It was a nice touch to start outside the arcade, especially since that’s where you receive the rules and the story. So you’re in the room and beginning the transition, without really being “in” the room yet. They had all the old classic arcade games present and they did a good job of making it a realistic environment.

In general I liked the way they used screens to add to the story. I felt like they used the technology efficiently, showing different things on the same screen when needed, and it worked well. On the other hand, I felt like a lot of the puzzles were technology-based and I wasn’t a huge fan of that. I guess that’s to be expected in an arcade room, but pushing buttons and flipping switches isn’t super fun to me. They did include one tactile puzzle that I thought was so fun, and the hint in the room for how to solve it was great.

This might be considered a mini spoiler by some, even though it has nothing to do with any puzzles, but I had to note that one of the best things about this room was that there were multiple rooms within it. The worst thing to me is to have a single room escape room, and even just 2 rooms can sometimes be only ok. The best rooms in my opinion are the ones that have multiple reveals. Even if they only include a kind of “half” room or just a transition space between two rooms, I think the reveal of opening up a new space adds a lot to the excitement. And this room did that better than any other room I’ve played to date.

One thing I thought this room was missing was a puzzle that made you play an old arcade game. I don’t think adding a video game into an escape room would be a great idea, because you’re there to play the escape room and not just a video game, but I would have liked a short side puzzle where you had to beat one round of space invaders or pac man or something. Just a little taste to get to the heart of the room. But oh well.

As a general playing experience, this escape room was one of my least favorites. There weren’t a lot of “a-ha” or discovery moments in the game. There was little to no searching for clues, which removed the fun moment of finding an important piece to a puzzle, and I felt like our group never gained momentum. We would figure something out, move forward a tiny bit, get stuck for a long time, get a nudge, move forward a tiny bit, and then get stuck again. We didn’t get into the fun flow of a game where solving one thing leads to another, so it wasn’t as satisfying of an experience. Looking back afterwards, we thought if we had solved things in a different order, we would have had more information available to us sooner and then the game would have flowed a little better. And with that being the case, perhaps the game master should have nudged us towards solving the puzzles in a different order so as to make the experience unfold in that way. We did still end up solving everything, but it just wasn’t as enjoyable as I think it could have been.

Along those same lines, our lack of momentum also made me feel like I wasn’t contributing anything to the game for long stretches of time. There was lots of poking around and wondering what to do next. I also think having only 4 players instead of 5 might have been more ideal, since there was at least one part of the game where I felt like the group size hindered all of us being able to see/experience/enjoy something. It’s kind of a catch-22 because we might have played even worse with fewer brains working on the puzzles, but then at least everyone could be more involved in everything, so who knows. There was a logic puzzle I really enjoyed working on, so I’m glad I at least had that as part of my experience, but I would have liked to feel like I was contributing more to the whole room.

We escaped with about 5:00 left on the clock. That would never have happened without all the help and nudges from our game master!

Final Touches
Again, our game master was great. Every time we asked for a clue, she was ON IT. The hints were immediately available to us on the screen and they were tailored exactly to our situation. As I stated above, we really needed a lot of help in this game, so this made all the difference. I also liked that the game was set up so that you have access to a new hint every 10 minutes. That’s better than getting only 3 clues for the whole game and it sets up a great balance of trying to solve things on your own and having ample help if you need it.

We went back out into the lobby and were given little pins for escaping, and then we took a group picture. This is so simple but I have somehow not seen it done anywhere else yet – they had a photo booth in the lobby! We were able to choose the frame of our photo to correspond with the game we had played, stand in front of a backdrop with the company name on it, take as many pictures as we liked, and then put in our phone number and have the picture sent to us immediately. Genius! No waiting for the pictures to be posted on a Facebook page, no not being able to see the picture beforehand, just easy picture taking and sharing. The photo area was plenty large enough to accommodate a big group to all be in the picture at the same time, too. I feel silly for praising this so much, but it was just set up so well that I cannot believe that all escape room companies aren’t doing this.

Well done, 60 To Escape! I’m just now realizing that I assumed this was one location at a chain company, but I don’t think that’s actually the case. As far as I can tell, this is their one and only location. That makes the professional look and design of everything even more impressive. I think it also says something that even though my actual playing experience wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to going back and playing their other rooms. Mystery Manor and Hidden Temple, you are in my hopefully near future!

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have nostalgia for the 1980s, since that’s a big part of the charm of the room.
-You like technology puzzles.
-You don’t enjoy shopping and the rest of your group is cruising around the mall. 🙂

Skip This Room If…
-You have young kids.
-You have a group with more than 5 people.

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.62escape.com

Escape Factor · Escape Room · Forest Park, IL · Private Room · Reviews

The Timekeeper’s Trapped! @ Escape Factor (Forest Park, IL)

Date played:  Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Number of players:  4
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
I had been to this location back in June to play the “Bonus Fun Time Game Show” room (review here) and my impression of the lobby space was still positive. I did think it was a little strange that there were random airline seats in the locker/storage area, which they called the airplane room but I think must just be prop storage for an upcoming room? But otherwise it was great.

Setup
Our Game Master was Dan and he explained the rules in the main lobby. He was really, really great at his job! He just had the perfect combination of professionalism with a sense of humor, he connected with the group, and I really felt like he loved his job. Big kudos to Dan!

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“You have been summoned to the lab of the Official Interplanetary Timekeeper. An evil group has been bending time for their own benefit, placing your colleague in extreme peril. Using your group’s unique blend of skills and teamwork, you and your guests must work together to free the Timekeeper. Can you complete your quest in time?”

Game Play
This room was definitely on theme with “time.” I thought the decor was well done and that there was a nice style to the room. The above story line didn’t really ever come into play at all, but the puzzles were all nicely tied into the time theme. I personally don’t usually need much in the way of story, and while playing the room I wasn’t thinking about the story at all, but a little more story line would have added to the overall experience. When I compare this room to rooms that DO integrate the story into the whole room (like Locurio), I realize how much can be added to the experience by really feeling like you’re immersed in something with a more narrative arc.

I felt like 4 people was the perfect amount for this room. (I feel that way about most rooms.) I think up to 6 wouldn’t have been too bad, but any more than that would have just been too much. I suppose if it was a group of all new players, then more people could be helpful, but 4 seemed just right. We all got an equal chance to complete different puzzles, without feeling like we missed out on the rest of the room.

I liked the puzzles in this room, and felt very in-sync with the creators. Sometimes puzzles are written or created in ways that just don’t make sense to you, and sometimes you are right there on the same wavelength with them – this was a same-wavelength room for me. An explanation on a clue would click with me right away, or the setup of a clue would make absolute sense to me as to what I should do with it. There was just the right amount of difficulty, nothing that was frustrating or tedious, no red herrings, no outside knowledge needed, and variety while remaining in the time theme. Maybe I was just having a good puzzle day, but I also felt like I just “got” the room and the style of the clues. (There was one thing in the room that I took much too long to figure out how to interact with, and it wasn’t even something hidden, I just wasn’t looking at it and paying attention to what I was seeing I guess. So maybe that supports the theory that it wasn’t just a good puzzle day for me, or maybe it makes me an over-thinking enthusiast, or maybe it just means I need to get my eyes checked for awareness.)

Overall I would say this was a solid room with good puzzles. If I had to give it a downside, I would say that there wasn’t really much “wow” factor to it. Some parts of the decor were very plain, and there wasn’t anything over the top in the scenery or clues. It makes me want to recommend this room more to beginners because it’s a fine room with good puzzles, but enthusiasts might want something a little extra.

Dan asked us beforehand if we wanted nudges, and I appreciated that. I always want to at least get to the end of a room, even if we don’t beat it, so at first he gave us almost too many nudges and I wanted time to struggle a little more. But we escaped with 2:36 left on the clock, so I think he just wanted to make sure we got through all the puzzles.

Final Touches
I like that Escape Factor asks if you want to see their other rooms while you’re there. We peeked at the game show room, for those of us who hadn’t played it before, and then we also got to see their brand new about-to-open Tree House room. I think more companies should do this, because it does get you interested in coming back to play them, and it doesn’t really give anything away.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group with beginners
-You mostly like solving puzzles in an escape room and don’t need many frills
-You have 4-6 people in your group

Skip This Room If…
-You want a game with a “wow” factor
-You like a detailed story line that integrates heavily into the game play

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escapefactorchicago.com

5 Wits · Immersive Adventure · Private Room · Reviews · West Nyack, NY

The Tomb, Deep Space, & Drago’s Castle @ 5 Wits (West Nyack, NY)

Date played:  Thursday, July 26, 2018
Number of players:  2
Max number of players possible for this room: 12 (I think)
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped / Did not escape

This is my first review of what is technically a non-escape room experience. According to the website, 5 Wits is a “live action immersive adventure” and I think that’s probably the best way to describe it.

First Impressions
I had varying impressions of 5 Wits before I went. First, I heard rave reviews and it made me want to check it out. Then I heard that it was more geared towards kids and I wasn’t sure. I watched a promo video on their website and it seemed like it would be pretty neat, so in the end I decided to go for it. There’s nothing else really like 5 Wits around the Chicago area so I figured if I was going to be in NY, I should take the opportunity to see what it was all about.

The space in West Nyack is inside a nice mall, the Palisades Center. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived but the entire mall is huge, so 5 Wits definitely wasn’t hurting for space, and it looked clean and enticing.

Setup
We were allowed to bring our purses into the rooms (I assume, because the employees offered to keep our things in a cubby if we wanted.) We both opted to leave our items in the lobby with them.

Groups are admitted into the rooms on a rolling basis, so every 10-15 minutes they will let in a new group waiting in line. There are multiple rooms inside each adventure, so as soon as one group advances to the next room, they will start any waiting group in the first room behind them. My main concern was that we would be able to play alone, and luckily we were able to play all 3 rooms privately.

Before entering the rooms, we were given a short breakdown of the rules (outside the rooms, always a plus) and we were shown an intro video to start the stories, also done outside the rooms.

Game Play
I’m going to start with my overall comments about the experience, and then I will provide specifics about each separate room.

First, the immersion in the rooms is top notch. This to me is what all escape rooms should be. When you enter the tomb, it feels entirely like a tomb. There are high ceilings and everything looks and feels like stone and it’s not just a regular room; it was clearly built to be exactly that. I would say this was the best thing about 5 Wits. You step into these worlds and the immersion is pretty total, and it’s great.

Second, the puzzles. 5 Wits is definitely designed for kids around ages 8-12. The puzzles are easy in design, but not always in execution. There were only 2 of us playing and it would certainly have been much easier at times if we had at least 4 people in our group, if only because some of the puzzles had us literally running around like crazy. But in general, most of our difficulties came from a lack of time/manpower, and not from problems figuring out the puzzles. Still, even with “easy” puzzles, we enjoyed completing them. I did keep thinking about how much I would like to bring my nephews there to play, because they would love it, but as an adult it was still plenty fun.

In general, we did not enjoy the timed experience of 5 Wits as much as an escape room. There are multiple rooms inside each themed experience and the rooms will usher you along after a certain amount of time, regardless of whether or not you have completed the tasks set to you. We had at least one moment of being seconds away from completing a puzzle, only to have the room “solve” it for us to move us forward, and it was SO unsatisfying. I think I would have rather had a set amount of time to get through all of the rooms at our own pace… but then there was at least one point where we could not find what we needed to finish one puzzle, and without hints we could have been stuck there the whole time. The rooms did offer automated hints along the way, and I thought that was really great. I just wish there would have continued to be more and more hints until we were able to solve things ourselves. I’m sure more escape rooms would love to set up automated hints this way too.

Another downside to the timed experience/rolling basis of the rooms was that at one point we could very clearly hear a group behind us. Not their voices, but the sounds as they worked in the room we were just in. That took away from the immersion aspect of things, because it reminded me that my adventurous quest was being played over and over again and that it wasn’t just for us. Also in that same themed experience (this was in Drago’s Castle), we were sure they would be able to hear OUR room when we were further along, and we both said it would stink if you were in that group and possibly had something spoiled for you beforehand, just by hearing the group ahead of you experience something first. I understand why it makes sense for them to operate this way, especially on very busy days, but it would be so much nicer to have enough time allotted to be able to do the whole experience with no one else adjacent to you the whole time.

A few minor details: the audio in all the rooms was VERY loud. Not so much that it hurts your ears or anything, but definitely enough that it is pretty much impossible to talk over (and sometimes even think over.) I wouldn’t have minded having the volume turned down at least a little… but then again, maybe that volume added to the immersion, with the sound literally filling up the whole space. I think it might be giving 5 Wits too much credit to say that they designed things this way on purpose, to make the rooms more challenging as you try to communicate and solve puzzles over the noise, but that did factor in for us at times.

Another minor detail: the temperature in the rooms. We were there in July and it was a very humid day outside, so that affected things. For the bulk of the experience it wasn’t an issue, but there were distinct times during The Tomb and Deep Space that I wished the rooms had A/C. ESPECIALLY with Deep Space. Even before doing anything, I walked into a room in The Tomb and immediately wished it was cooler. But this obviously depends on the outside weather and may not be an issue at all for people if they visit at different times of the year.

We did encounter at least one glaring technology issue with a puzzle that just wasn’t working correctly. There was a button we needed to press in order to make something happen, and we would press the button over and over again with no result, and then eventually for no reason, one time it would work. So that was frustrating, especially because it would make us complete the puzzle incorrectly when it didn’t work.

And now, the rooms themselves…


THE TOMB
We decided to start with The Tomb. The story for this room on the website was:

“Prove your worthiness and survive to tell the tale!

Enter a 3,000 year old tomb with only a flashlight and your wits to guide you! At an archaeological dig, you find yourself deep in an Egyptian tomb, trapped, the ultimate escape room… and face to face with the spirit of an ancient Pharaoh! Are you brave enough to make it out alive?

The only way to survive will be to beat the Pharaoh at his own game and prove your worthiness… but watch out for traps along the way! Test your skills in this amazing adventure thousands of years in the making!”

I really liked this room a lot. One of my favorite memories from all 3 rooms happened at the beginning of this room, and I still feel like I can’t get over how cool it was. I don’t know how it was done, but it was surprising, exciting, and just GREAT. Especially since it was the first room we were playing, it floored me. That’s it – that’s the experience you play these games for. When a room can create an experience like that, they’ve done it.

I liked the setting of the tomb and I liked the puzzles a lot. We beat this room and successfully escaped.

 

DEEP SPACE
The second room we attempted was Deep Space. The story:

“Ever teleport to an abandoned starship?

After no contact for years, there’s been a distress signal from the abandoned starship, Nebulous! You have just 30 minutes to teleport aboard the craft, figure out what happened and get back safely.

But be prepared to battle an asteroid storm, rewire the engines, refuel the power supply and stop an evil Artificial Intelligence in time to save the world!”

This is the room I was the least excited about. Something about space themes just doesn’t interest me that much, and it ended up being my least favorite of the three rooms. I think my favorite part of the room was the very beginning, since they incorporated a cool effect, but then I quickly lost interest. There was a lot more technology and more video game type puzzles in this experience and I always want more tactile things. I also felt like the puzzles at the end of the game just went on for FOREVER. This was one part where having only 2 players meant we that we got a legitimate workout trying to solve things, so maybe I was just physically tired, but I also just truly wanted to stop playing at one point because it felt repetitive and boring. I think we might not have successfully “beaten” this room but I can’t even remember.

 

DRAGO’S CASTLE
We saved this room for last because it seemed that universally people agreed that it was the best of the three at this location. The story:

“Your medieval quest begins now!

We’ve opened the drawbridge on Drago’s Castle — an epic live-action adventure! But the dragon has escaped. And the princess needs your help recapturing him.

See if you have what it takes to escape the dungeon, solve ancient riddles, discover secret passageways and chase down the giant dragon! Otherwise, there may not be a storybook ending…”

First of all, the pre-room story for this room is SUPERB. It was magical and charming and has still left me with feelings of “How did they do that??” It’s worth raving about because the things they do are simple but still just SO cool. I want escape room owners everywhere to have to come and see this so that more places can do things like this.

This room made me want to play a really good medieval-themed escape room. Each section of the experience had a cool feel to it, and overall I felt like the combination of rooms was the coolest out of all 3 themes. It’s such a great setting for a themed experience like this and it was fun to see what they created.

They also really went for a “Wow” ending with this room. I don’t want to say that as if I wasn’t wowed by it, but I was confused, and that took me away from the experience. We concluded later that the room must have needed to prod us along too much throughout the experience, and that must have caused us to “lose.” So even though in those final moments it seemed like we had done what we needed to do, we still lost, and it made everything not make sense. While still in the room I said, “That’s not the end… There’s gotta be more…. Is that it?” Before playing the Deep Space room we had seen another group exiting Drago’s Castle and I heard the music playing from the room, so mostly because of that, I realized that our game had definitely ended differently. I think it’s amazing that they even have the possibility of different endings, so kudos to them, but it was not very clear at the time what had happened.

As a side note, if anyone has played Drago’s Castle and won, would you please email me at nothingbutthesleuth (at) gmail (dot) com? I would love to know what happens during the “winning” ending, and since I live nowhere near the area, I may never get to know!

 

Final Touches
Once the games were over that was pretty much it. All of the employees working the front desk area were very friendly, and they answered our questions and talked with us for a few minutes before we left.

My feelings since playing these rooms have fluctuated over the past week. At first, I felt some regret, since we had QUITE a trek taking public transportation from NYC all the way out to West Nyack and I was afraid that it was not worth the experience that was mostly for kids. But as a few more days went by, I felt more like I was glad I had experienced it. There’s really nothing like 5 Wits near Chicago and there are a ton of things that they do really well. I feel hopeful about the future of escape rooms after visiting, and all the things that places could do. And even though I felt that 5 Wits was more for kids, I know we still had fun and had a different kind of experience.

What I really want to will into existence is 5 Wits, but for adults, with longer time limits. If I could take their wonderfully immersive sets and awesome technology, keep their automated clue system but with the volume lowered a bit, and add in harder puzzles with more time for each space, that would be perfect. These experiences are like junior escape rooms, so if they could make harder versions, I imagine they would be super successful in the ER market. It’s exciting to think of what could be!

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of at least 4 people
-You have kids around the ages of 8-12 years old in your group
-You appreciate highly immersive scenery over puzzles

Skip This Room If…
-You play escape rooms for the thrill of solving puzzles
-You plan on visiting on a very hot day, as I think it would get too hot inside the rooms
-You don’t have access to a car and would need to take public transportation there

Overall rating:  3.5 out of 5

Company website: http://www.5-wits.com

Escape Room · Locurio · Private Room · Reviews · Seattle, WA

The Storykeeper @ Locurio (Seattle)

Date played:  Monday, July 16, 2018
Number of players:  3
Max number of players possible for this room: 6
Public or private game:  Private
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
I booked our game by communicating with one of the owners, who was beyond wonderful. When she found out we were visiting Seattle from Chicago, she was ready with recommendations and tips for things to see and do. I don’t think you could have a better first impression than the one I had of Locurio as a company.

When you arrive at the location, you call a phone number and they bring you inside a gate to the lobby. I thought the game was going to start then and there somehow, since it felt like the way a spy would enter a secret location, but it was a normal walk to a lobby. So I just have an overactive imagination and was overly hyped for cool things to happen. 🙂

Setup
The lobby was very bare-bones. We signed our waivers and our Game Master told us the rules (while in the lobby, hooray!) Everyone we interacted with there was incredibly nice.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“You’ve heard whispered tales of a mysterious book collection and its curator, an elusive figure known only as Jak. Rumor has it that Jak is seeking adventurous souls to retrieve a valuable item, a treasure which Jak claims to have lost in a most peculiar place… Do you dare to answer Jak’s summons and explore the secrets of the hidden library?

This game includes physical activity such as kneeling and crawling. Comfortable shoes are highly recommended. The game also features low lighting in some areas. The game includes a mild “jump scare” style interaction with a character.”

Game Play
First things first: the immersion in this game was amazing. It’s going to be hard to write this without giving anything away because I just want to gush about things, but I won’t include any spoilers. This room, to me, is what all escape rooms should be in terms of its design/decor. It was a fully immersive environment and it really made you feel like you were stepping into that world. The lighting, the sounds, and everything you see around you all has lots of attention to detail to add to the experience.

This room was 70 minutes long and it made me feel like all escape rooms should be at least that long. With only 3 people playing we needed every second, but I also think for the amount you generally pay for a room, that 70-90 minutes would just feel like a better experience. Even though this was only 10 minutes longer than an average escape room, to me the experience felt much longer, in a good way. I also really appreciated that the clock stopped once we had “won” the game, but that we then got to do a little bit more that was untimed. It made me feel like we got even more out of our experience without the stress of the the timer running out!

Without giving anything away, I thought that the way the room began was pretty magical. I loved the different elements that were brought in to make you feel like part of the story. Similar to The Cell at Fox In A Box, the beginning set the tone for the whole room, but in a very different (yet equally intriguing) way. In my opinion, both kids and adults would find this beginning fun and exciting.

The clue system used in this room was the best I have seen so far in any room. You have an iPad with you and the clues are delivered as part of the room experience, in the most perfectly immersive way. It fit with our room theme so well that I wonder how this is handled in their other room, The Vanishing Act. I absolutely loved that there was no “clue limit” given beforehand, because isn’t that just for show anyways? A good Game Master will give you as many clues as needed in order to help you along to your escape, in my opinion. If there is a limit of 3 clues and you use them all, they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) just let you stand around perplexed, because that would be almost no fun at all. So why even bother giving a pretend limit? I am kind of surprised looking back that no one in my group thought to even ask about the clue system while we were going over the rules in the lobby, and I wonder what we would have been told if we had. I wish that all escape rooms followed Locurio’s example with their clue system, because I really thought it was ingenious.

Their website mentions a minor jump scare in the room, and I will admit that this made me hesitate a little. I don’t like scary themes much and wouldn’t seek out that kind of experience, but I knew I had to play this room since it had such good reviews. I am very glad I did! If you’re like me and you tend to avoid scary experiences, don’t worry at all. I did jump at the jump scare, but it was fun and mild, like they describe. The character interaction they mention was some of my very favorite parts of the room, and it was done extremely well. I cannot over-emphasize how great I thought this was, and how many kudos I want to give to their employees.

The puzzles in this room were overall very good. I would say this room had a higher difficulty level than most others I’ve played. We definitely needed help, and at some points a lot of help. I think this is a combination of a few different things. First, there were only 3 of us playing. If there had been 4-6 people in our group, as Locurio recommends, I think we would have figured a few things out more quickly and we would have moved past other parts more easily. Second, I think we just weren’t playing as well as we have in the past. Maybe we were too much on vacation mode, or we were just having an off day, but there were things that we struggled with that normally I think we would not have. Looking back on the room now that I know how to complete the puzzles, there are things that I’m surprised we didn’t figure out more quickly. And third, I do think there was one puzzle that was not super intuitive to any of us. Even after we had received help from our GM, we just could not make sense of how to do it. Eventually we got it, with a little more help, but I don’t know if I would have ever figured it out if left to my own devices.

Even though some puzzles were pretty difficult, I really, really liked them. There was one in particular that I did on my own while my teammates worked on something else, and I just think it was such a cool puzzle. It involved listening carefully to something, and while it was challenging, I thought it was a perfectly designed puzzle. I wish I had been able to figure out where to start more on my own, but the GM did a great job giving subtle hints to prod me along and not just give things away. It was really fun to do and I think that’s going to stand as one of my favorite puzzles in a room, going forward. They had a wide variety in the types of puzzles too, with logic, tactile items, searching, etc.

Another thing I want to rave about is the use of technology in this room. There was one part in particular where we were able to manipulate something in the room using sensor technology, and it was just done SO well. That is my favorite type of tech in a room – not screens where you’re punching in numbers, or laser beams angled to hit something, but sensor-triggered things that feel like magic when you do something a certain way. Outstanding.

There was one small hiccup during our game, and that was that an object had not been reset in its correct location. We solved a puzzle, but instead of being rewarded with an item, we were rewarded with nothing. The GM at first thought that we hadn’t seen the item, but we figured out quickly that it just wasn’t there at all. We lamented some time wasted searching for something that was never there, but our GM handled the situation expertly. He directed us to another puzzle that was still left to complete, and then had a replacement item appear in the room. We never saw him and nothing broke the immersion at all, so it was truly the best way he could have solved the issue. That kind of thing really reveals how awesome the staff at Locurio is, to be able to fix something in the moment!

We escaped with 1:09 left on the clock, and we all admitted later we thought it was a lost cause at one point. In those situations I always feel worried because I just want to be able to experience the entire room. I don’t care as much if I don’t win, but I want to know that I saw everything there was to see or attempted all the puzzles. Our Game Master helped us out at the end and we were still able to escape, which I was very happy about. I think every group should get to win their room, as much as possible, and that it should only differ in how much help you receive. It’s always fun to win a room with so little time left on the clock, too!

Final Touches
The game had a nice ending and we had our picture taken, and then we were on our way. We were in kind of a post-game haze upon exiting the room, and made our way to the lobby only to realize that we had no need to return there. I also think maybe the experience was so cool that it felt weird to just leave abruptly and stumble back out into the world. I could have played several more rooms back to back, but that’s always the case. 🙂

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You love literature and those types of themes
-You love very immersive environments
-You want to experience a great combination of puzzles, technology, acting, and scenery
-Seriously, just PLAY THIS ROOM!

Skip This Room If…
-You have a small group (I think Locurio’s recommendation of 4-6 players is perfect)
-You don’t enjoy any kind of jump scare, even a very minor one
-You haven’t played any other escape rooms yet (but then come back to this one later!)

Overall rating:  4.5 out of 5

Company website: http://www.locurio.com

Escape Factor · Escape Room · Forest Park, IL · Private Room · Reviews

Bonus Fun Time Game Show Challenge @ Escape Factor Forest Park

Date played:  Saturday, June 30, 2018
Number of players:  6
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
The website is professional looking and easy to use, and it was easy to find parking even though Forest Park is on the outskirts of Chicago. (Just make sure your parallel parking skills are up to snuff!)

Escape Factor has a nice, clean lobby. They have a side room with lockers (free of charge) to keep personal items in, and some fun brain teaser games to play while you wait. No seating, but otherwise everything you would need in an ER lobby.

Setup
Our Game Master went over the rules in the lobby, before we entered the room. This is best practice, in my opinion – get all the other stuff out of the way first, and then when you get in the room it can all just be excitement.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“As a contestant on this vintage game show set, you’ve made it to the final round and have just minutes to win the grand prize!  The plot thickens, however, in a bizarre turn of events.  Can you channel your inner game show contestant and solve your way into the winners’ circle?”

Kudos to the designers on the very creative and original theme of this room, and also on the name!

Game Play
In this game, the Game Master stays in the room with you the whole time and gives you any clues that you might need verbally. I am normally not a fan of having the GM in the room, but in this case I think it fit the theme and worked out well. Every game show needs a host, right??

The game starts by having all players work together on one thing, and then it opens up after that. I had never played a room with that kind of format before and I actually really liked it. It was fun to have everyone work on the same puzzle without having to feel guilty for clustering around something. 🙂

The decor of the room was spot on with the theme. It didn’t feel as immersive to me as, say, a prison room, but I think that’s just the nature of the theme. It definitely was well done and different from any other escape room I’ve seen. I’m sharing this picture here since it’s already a public photo online:

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We had 6 people in the room and it didn’t feel cramped at all. Even 8 people would have been fine.

I will say that if your preference is for discovery, there is not really any of that in this room. As you can see from the photo, the room is pretty straightforward. It’s not the kind of room where you search and find hidden items. At least one person in our group noted that they would have liked more of that, and after thinking about it, I realized that I enjoy doing that in rooms too. As frustrating as it can be to get stuck because you haven’t found something, it does provide excitement to uncover something hidden somewhere. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative that there was no searching to be done though – lots of people dislike searching for items, so it all comes down to personal preference.

The puzzles in the room were great. Everything flowed logically, everything made sense, there was no outside knowledge needed, and everything worked well. There was a great mix of tactile puzzles, riddles, mental work, and reasoning. There were also no “technology” puzzles – meaning no entering numbers on a screen to unlock something, etc. I always prefer putting numbers into a combination lock over using a screen, so to me this was a big plus. There was also a nice amount of things for everyone in our group to be working on at once. I don’t think anyone was ever just standing around watching because there was always something to do, which was excellent. There were a few times when we were all able to gather around something and work together, and that was great too.

I thought our Game Master (Amanda) was fantastic. She stayed in character the whole time, and her prompts/hints had the perfect level of vagueness – just enough to prod us in the right direction without ever giving anything away. We only used 2 hints and she did a great job with them.

We completed the room with 9:49 left on the clock. The ending of the room was a little anticlimactic, and that’s the one thing I think could be improved. It would’ve been fun to have something really “game show-y” happen, like balloons falling from the ceiling or a screen where you watch yourselves win with a big flashing dollar amount at the bottom. That would just be a nice extra touch to the whole thing. I think the ending, and the lack of searching, are the only reasons I would not give this room a 5/5 though. I guess this means I want a little more adrenaline in my gameplay. 🙂

Final Touches
Our GM took our picture before we left (in addition to taking one beforehand with their camera) and was also very nice about answering all our questions after the room was over. The customer service here was top notch!

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You’re looking for a unique theme
-You want a wide array of puzzle types without lots of technology-based things
-You’ve always wanted to be on The Price Is Right

Skip This Room If…
-You dislike having the Game Master in the room with you
-You want to be able to search and discover items in the room

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escapefactorchicago.com/

Chicago · Escape Room · Private Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Special Ops @ The Escape Game Chicago

Date played:  Friday, June 15, 2018
Number of players:  4
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
Having been to this location several times already, my “first impressions” were the same as before, but I will say that they always have a neat and clean lobby and very friendly staff members. 🙂

Setup
The rules explanation and the storing of personal items both took place inside the room, as is always the case with The Escape Game. I will say that I like when companies incorporate the rules into the intro video, as was the case in this room. It’s a fun way to tell players not to break anything or use excessive force, but to do it “in character” and make it seem like it’s because of a reason related to the story.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“It started as a routine operation. As the closest team of agents in the area, your group has been asked to investigate the Ansar market. The market is closed for the evening and is not known to be a criminal hotspot. However, your “routine check” ends up taking a quick turn and suddenly, the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. With no time to send backup, can you rise to the occasion and save the day?”

Game Play
I want to start off by saying that any kind of military-themed room is usually not my first choice, so I will admit that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the story in this room. I still understood everything that happened and knew how the game connected to the story, but this kind of theme doesn’t interest me greatly and so my review comes from that bias.

As the story on the website hints at, there are two parts to this room: the setting at the beginning and the setting after the “quick turn” they mention. Because of that description, I was actually expecting something big to happen, something that would ignite some adrenaline and really feel like a “quick turn” where “suddenly” things have changed. That was not the case, in my opinion, and so I felt a little deflated. If I could, I would reword that description to something more like “During your routine check, you find that something bigger is at stake.” Just to set appropriate expectations, in case anyone else reads the stories as closely as I do. 🙂

Everyone in my group agreed that we all liked the first setting of the room best. The scene setting and decor were both great, as always with TEG. I really liked the puzzles in this part too – they had a few different tangible type of puzzles that were really enjoyable to do. Our Game Master even complimented us afterwards on how quickly we solved a few things, which was so nice. I felt like everyone in our group was able to contribute using different strengths and solve things at the same time, which was perfect.

There were also more technology-based puzzles to solve, and those are never my favorite, but I didn’t mind them too much. I think I enjoyed them more because they were paired with other puzzles too, and it wasn’t a tech-only room.

One thing that I dislike anytime it comes up in a room: only 1 flashlight for 4 people! Why? Why must this be the case? Is it to purposely make it frustrating or to make players use up more time by not all being able to see things at once? Would it really be that bad for everyone to get to use their own flashlight? I don’t have great vision so I might be more sensitive to this than other players, but I just don’t see valid enough reasons for not having one for each player to use. At one point, we actually ended up without a flashlight to use and the GM popped in for just a second to bring us one. I thought that was fantastic. I know it might break the immersion for some people and they might see it as a negative, but I think it was exactly the right call. Again, maybe this is just because I rely on flashlights to help me see more than other people, but I felt like our GM was really looking out for us and wanted us to have the best experience possible. A gold star for service from me!

We escaped with 1:26 left on the clock, which made the ending of the game pretty fun. I think there were a few moments when all of us thought we probably weren’t going to make it, so it was exciting to end with so little time remaining.

Final Touches
Our GM was super nice and talked to us about the room a little afterwards, and even allowed us to go back and review a puzzle at the beginning that we wanted to. (I had solved something different at the time and was curious about the puzzle I hadn’t been involved in solving.) She gave us our “I escaped” stickers and then we were on our way.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of about 4 people (I think even 6 people would be too many)
-You like a mix of tangible and technology puzzles
-You’re into military themes

Skip This Room If…
-You have poor vision and would want a flashlight to yourself the whole game
-You only have time for one room at TEG (I recommend Prison Break instead)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com

Dayton, OH · Escape Room · Great Escape Game Dayton · Private Room · Reviews

The Tomb: Pharaoh’s Revenge @ Great Escape Games Dayton

Date played:  Saturday, June 2, 2018
Number of players:  5
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
We chose to play a room at this location because it had some of the best reviews in the area. The company is located in a strip mall and the lobby is nice. I enjoyed seeing that some of the other rooms have costumes to wear, even though ours did not. There is also a “plinko” type game in the lobby where you can play to try and win a free game or other prizes (I think.)

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Setup
The Game Master walked us to the room and went over the general rules outside the door (nice), then let us inside and we placed our personal belongings in there (not as nice as an external area, IMO.) The GM left and we were shown an intro video.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“Your group of tomb raiders have been hired to retrieve the riches of the Egyptian pharaoh. After you enter the tomb, the door shuts behind you, and a curse has come upon you because of the powers of the pharaoh. The group of tomb raiders before you has not yet been heard from. Furthermore, the left overs from a past group tomb raiders in the room opposite of the entrance. The only way to escape the curse is to get the treasures of the pharaoh, lest the people in the tomb suffers the plagues of his curse. Hence, you have one hour to find the riches and escape or endure the same fate as the tomb raider group before you!”

Game Play
The clue system for this room was to communicate with the GM via walkie talkie, which, if you read about my recent Sherlock Holmes experience, you know is not my favorite. I was actually kind of surprised that this was the arrangement because it seemed like a more established place that could afford a better setup. I know some might have an issue with immersion, in that you wouldn’t normally find walkie talkies in an Egyptian tomb so it makes them out of place, but I tend to give a free pass to anything related to the clue system in the room in that regard.

Overall I thought the puzzles in this room were very good. There was a lot of variation in the types of puzzles and a lot of creativity in their design. The Egyptian theme was used appropriately in the items and the room was lit in a way that added ambiance without making it too difficult to see. (One person in our group does have very poor vision and struggled a little, but was still able to do many things.) I like tactile puzzles and anything “sensor”-driven, whether by weight or touch or anything else, and this room had it all.

Another thing I liked about this room was that many clues had multiple layers. For example, we had to solve one thing that would give us the order of a different thing that we would then need for a third thing. I suppose that might make it difficult if you were playing with strangers and weren’t communicating well within the group, but that’s the case with any escape room. For our group of 5, there were just enough puzzles to keep everyone busy and involved and working together.

There was one solution in the room that was given in an item that could easily have been moved around and “ruined,” but the room was designed in such a way that you also received the solution another way. As I mentioned with the Sherlock Holmes room, that is the correct way to design your room!

There were only two puzzles that I didn’t enjoy in the room. One involved letters on a piece of material, and I want to give this one the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe I didn’t like it just because I never would have thought of what you needed to do in order to get the solution. However, after we used a hint from the GM to find out what to do, we still struggled for a very long time with it. There was a lot of room for error in the execution of what we needed to do. That makes me think the design of the puzzle should be tweaked, or a hint of instruction should be included somewhere.

The second puzzle I disliked involved needing to come up with a word solution that was not specifically found in the room anywhere. Even though I consider myself a “words” person (and I think I was even the one who came up with the answer for that puzzle), I felt like it was kind of a leap to get from what we had in the room to what the solution was. I also thought anyone who had learned English as their second language might struggle with that puzzle. It just wasn’t as strong as the other puzzles in the room and it stuck out because pretty much everything else was designed better.

There was also one technical thing in the room that could be chalked up partly to our own stupidity, but I think also at least partly to construction. We solved a puzzle that opened something, but we didn’t realize it for probably at least 10 minutes. The way this thing was built, it was not clear where the opening was, so in trying to be careful and not break it we left it closed, even though it had been solved for quite some time. I think maybe some different paint or adding an extra piece to show where the opening was could go a long way. But who knows, maybe other groups get that right away.

One final thing I have to mention: there was a puzzle in the room that made me feel like I was holding a piece of gold, it was so cool. I had not yet seen a puzzle like that in a room and even said “Wow, this is really cool” while standing there with it. After we played the room I Googled it because I was curious, and it turns out that just that one puzzle alone is worth over $300. I’m sure other things in the room cost a lot more than that, but I was still impressed that they had invested that much money into one small piece of the room. I think it’s rare that you come across something in a room that you can feel a high value of in your hands like that, so I give them a lot of points for that.

Final Touches
There were no trinkets given for beating the room, but the GM was very friendly and took our picture for us. And I will say that I enjoyed the ending of the game; it was cute and fun, especially for a group. 🙂

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You want a wide variety of puzzle types
-You have a large or small group (I could see this working for 2-8 people)

Skip This Room If…
-English is not your first language and/or you struggle with the language at all
-You have poor vision and can only play in very brightly lit spaces

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.greatescapedayton.com