Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Gold Rush @ The Escape Game Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, December 22, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
We played this room immediately following Prison Break, so I will skip the first impressions. 🙂

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

“For nearly two centuries, the hope of gold has lured people to the hills of Northern 
California. No one was captivated more than Clyde Hamilton, a greedy gold prospector 
who loved to gamble. Clyde made too many bets with the wrong crowd and now he’s 
missing. You’ve been tipped off to where he stashed his gold.. but so has the mob. 
Find it first!”

Game Play
We had some bad luck in that our group of 4 was paired with a group of 4 strangers for this room. Since we had just finished playing Prison Break with a group of 4 newbies that caused some issues, we were again not thrilled at having strangers in the room with us. This group had 2 children in it, and overall things went smoothly with the game play. There were a few moments when I think some people in my group would have liked to have been more involved in something and couldn’t, or would have liked to have completed something and couldn’t, but I’m sure they felt that way at times too. Just another example of why all escape rooms should be private.

I will say right off the bat: this room became my new favorite at The Escape Game, and it made it into my top 3 favorite games overall. I have learned through experience that the main thing I love in an escape room is quality immersion, and this room did a great job of that. I like when puzzles are about average difficulty, or maybe even erring on the easier side. If I can be in a really well constructed space and feel like I’m in the environment, and then have puzzles to solve that aren’t super frustrating but just hard enough to be satisfying to solve, that’s the sweet spot for me.

The room design of Gold Rush is wonderful. It begins “outdoors” near a cabin in the woods, and it’s just fun to step into something that feels so different. I loved how they made the ground with real dirt/gravel, and the cabin with real wood. The puzzles in that first section were cute, and definitely geared more towards beginners, but I loved them. There was a puzzle that used technology in a fun way, something I had done before in other rooms, but it was more enjoyable (and executed much better) in this room.

As we moved through the room, the scene design stayed at a very high level. I loved every space they created. The puzzles also were very good. They used the theme in creative and fun ways, they had things that were easy for kids to do, they had puzzles that required different kinds of strengths/abilities, and they had some really fun effects! I also think The Escape Game proves really well that you don’t need to include any red herrings in a room. Make everything useful, and the room works beautifully, without causing any frustration for the players.

I really liked this room. I wish we had been able to play with only our group of 4, but I was still able to appreciate the game design and the puzzles. We escaped with around 12 minutes left on the clock, which was a little disappointing because of course I wanted to get our money’s worth and use the whole experience. But with 8 people and our level of experience, there was no way it was going to take us the whole 60 minutes. Still, I’m glad we escaped and I think everyone had fun.

Final Touches
Our GM was really nice, and he said he knew we would escape since we had already escaped Prison Break. We looked back at the room and talked for a few minutes, and then we were on our way.

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You are new to escape rooms
-You have kids in your group
-You like immersive environments

Skip This Room If…
-You want to solve really complex or difficult puzzles
-You have a large group (I think this would be best for 2-4 players with some experience)

Overall rating:  5 out of 5

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

Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Prison Break @ The Escape Game Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, December 22, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

This review took an extra long amount of time to write, due to an incredibly frustrating laptop that badly needs replacing, and also some slow internet service. Please leave your recommendations for great laptops in the comments!

First Impressions
Since I’ve been to this location several times already, I had no new impressions of the company or lobby. I would like to mention that we used Spot Hero to reserve a spot in the parking garage at 33 W Ontario and we only BARELY got a spot. We drove through the whole garage several times and saw no empty spaces (even though we had prepaid to reserve a spot) and we were in very real danger of missing our game time. We saw 2 cars that looked like they were about to leave, and when we circled back around, someone was already taking one of those spots. We just happened to luck out that the other car was also leaving and we were able to take that spot. But needless to say, I would not recommend that garage to anyone coming to this location. In the past we have parked in the garage at 50 E Ohio and have always had plenty of spots to choose from there.

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 still think it would be better if they did this in another room or in the lobby, but maybe space is just limited at the Chicago location.

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

“The year is 1955. You’ve been wrongfully accused of a crime, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Your new “home” is a cell that once belonged to an inmate who disappeared without a trace…or did he? Some claim he escaped. Others swear he was murdered by the infamously cruel warden. But no one actually knows…can you escape before you suffer the same fate?”

Game Play
This was a new experience for me, in that it was the very first time I ever played the same escape room twice. I previously played Prison Break back in March 2018 (blog post here) and it became my top favorite game at the time. I never, ever expected to revisit the same room again, but I had such a great time playing it that I really wanted some of my friends to experience it too. And the first time I played this room, it was one of only 3 rooms to date that I did not escape from, since we only had 3 people playing and the other 2 had never done an escape room before. So there were some things that I hadn’t gotten to do before, and it seemed worth it to play it again. (I had some fun reading my previous post about this room, where I said: “But how many people would really pay to play the exact same room again, especially if they almost completed it the first time? That’s something I don’t believe I would ever do, even as an enthusiast!” I guess you can never say never!)

This game begins with players split up into 2 different cells, and I made sure to ask that I be placed in the “left” cell, since that was the one I had not been in the last time. After now having played in both cells, I can definitively say that the “right” cell is more fun. 🙂

My team of 4 played with a group of 4 strangers. None of them had ever done an escape room before, so you can imagine how we felt going into the game. We decided to split up and put 2 of us in each cell and 2 of them in each cell, which I think was the best thing to do. I just have to repeat my constant refrain again: escape room companies in the US: PLEASE make all your rooms private! PLEASE! Don’t make customers have to pay to buy out 4 extra spaces just to have a private experience. Don’t be greedy. Those new players that don’t know what they’re signing up for? They will choose another open date and time and come back, and they won’t know any different. The first group of 4 that booked will LOVE that they get to play by themselves and it will make their experience, and their view of your company, SO much better. There is just nothing worse than finding out that a group of 4 newbies has added themselves to your room, especially when you know it’s not their fault. They saw 4 open spots and didn’t realize what that meant. (Why people don’t read more information and try to book their own private experience, I’ll never understand.) But please, for the sake of the customers and the experience they are paying for, MAKE ALL ROOMS PRIVATE.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out.

The first part of the game was just ok for us. I loved being able to compare and contrast between my 2 experiences playing the room, because some things were solved in vastly different ways and it was fascinating to me. You are able to pass items between the two cells, and we realized afterwards that our cell gave away too many things. Because of this, the other cell solved a few things and we were kind of left doing nothing. I’m glad that I had played before and knew that it didn’t have to be like that, otherwise my idea of the room would have been very different. But the beginning wasn’t great for our cell.

The intro video for the room mentions that there is a thunderstorm going on, and that it will help cover your sounds as you escape. When I played back in March, I thought that those effects weren’t working, since we had normal lighting and no sound. I confirmed beforehand that the effects would be working this time, but they let me know they were very subtle. I’m glad they said that, because this time I realized that the effects had been working before too, they are just basically nonexistent. It’s a shame because it could have been REALLY cool to have lightning effects and thunder crashing and the sound of rain, but the lights stayed normal and the only sounds we heard were prison noises like alarms. A missed opportunity for cool sound immersion, I think.

There were still the same cool puzzles I had enjoyed before, and I was happy to get to experience more of them this time around. I tried very hard not to give away things that I already knew or to say too much, but I don’t know how successful I was. I think there were a few moments that I probably could have stayed quieter, but overall I hope everyone else still felt like they got to experience the game as normal.

We had another problem with our group of strangers, where they wrangled a clue out of a location that was still locked. They kept referring to it and trying to solve it, even though we weren’t there yet. Our group tried fruitlessly to tell them to ignore that for the time being (or better yet, to just put it back where it belonged until we accessed it like we were supposed to), but they didn’t really get it. I know as new players you don’t really get what’s going on all the time, but that seemed over the line to me. They also stood on the furniture at one point, reminding me that Game Masters go over those seemingly ridiculous rules for a reason.

We escaped with I think 2-3 minutes left on the clock. I knew right away that this would no longer hold the spot for my top favorite room, and I was kind of sad that my friends hadn’t gotten to have the great first experience with the room that I did back in March. Having to play with strangers that didn’t know what they were doing definitely affected the whole experience for them, and for me. I had already been reconsidering my top 3 rooms for awhile, but this experience confirmed for me that I had to do some rearranging. Check out the Hall of Fame page to see the new rankings!

Final Touches
Our GM was really nice about answering questions after the room was over. The ending had happened so quickly that I had missed seeing some things, so I appreciated him taking the time to explain things.

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You can arrange to have a private experience
-You have a group of 4-6 people. I think 2 people per cell is ideal, but 3 could work.
-You like very immersive, realistic environments

Skip This Room If…
-You are a beginner and have not played any escape rooms before
-You will be playing with younger kids (I think Gold Rush would be a better fit)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

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

Chicago · Escape Artistry · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews

Operation G.R.A.N.I.E @ Escape Artistry (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, August 18, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
This room was located in the Time Gallery location of EA. There was a full, big lobby area with games and restrooms and a water fountain. This was much more polished than The Railcar location and had the professional front I was expecting.

Setup
We went over the rules in the lobby and were able to lock our personal items in a locker. We were then shown a story video in a hallway before proceeding to the room, and then yet another video played once we were inside the room. I’ve come to realize that I don’t care much for the overall story in escape rooms. Give me a general premise, like I’m escaping from prison, and I’m good. Once I’m there, I just want to play, and not spend time watching videos.

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

“A high-stakes game of espionage and baked goods! Over the (Chicago) River and through the ‘hoods to Grandmother’s house we go. But hurry! The Greater Retired Alliance of National Intelligence and Espionage needs your help!

Game Play
The setting of this game is at grandmother’s house, so the room looked like a house. I tend to prefer fancier settings where I wouldn’t normally be in real life, but as a house it was still very well decorated with lots of attention to detail. Decor spoiler: there is a piano in the room. When I began playing Pachelbel’s Canon on it, our Game Master commended me for it, and that was one of my favorite parts of the experience. 🙂

I thought Escape Artistry did a great job of tying the theme into the puzzles. Pretty much every puzzle was somehow connected to things a grandmother wold like or do or have, and I appreciated that.

The puzzles themselves were great overall. There was lots of variety, some creative things, and plenty to be done. The biggest downside of this room to me was just a general fact that goes along with escape rooms: you won’t get to work on every puzzle. There were 8 of us in the room and everyone was always working on something, which was great because there was enough to do for everyone to be involved, but it also meant that SO MANY THINGS were happening that I had no idea about. I felt mostly sad that I had missed out on seeing most of the puzzles get solved. We did get to ask a few questions afterwards, but to this day I still don’t know what many puzzles in the room were, or how we solved most things. I am someone who plays escape rooms mostly for the puzzles, so for me this room was kind of a disappointment. I enjoy all the other aspects, but what I really like is the satisfaction of solving something. If we had had fewer people I don’t think we would have beaten the room, so I guess it was for the best. But it was not my favorite experience.

Our GM was great at giving hints, and this was done through a speaker. I kind of liked that in lieu of the traditional TV screen. They also make the clue-giving process silly and fun, and that was great even though we were with strangers.

We escaped with ONE minute left on the clock! I happened to be the person who obtained the final answer we needed and we literally shouted it to the other members of our group, who ran to put it to use. It was a great way to end the game.

Final Touches
Our GM answered a few questions and showed us a few things in the room, and then we went back to the lobby for a group picture. We lucked out with a really great group of strangers to play with!

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of at least 8
-You have mostly experienced players in your group
-You don’t mind missing out on puzzles as you work on something else

Skip This Room If…
-You have not played any other escape rooms yet
-You want more unique scenery than just a house setting

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escape-artistry.com

Chicago · Escape Artistry · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews

The Railcar @ Escape Artistry (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, August 18, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
I had heard many good reviews about this room, and I’m glad I had, because otherwise I think I would have been somewhat wary upon arrival. Escape Artistry has 2 locations on Milwaukee Ave, so I’m sure many people get confused and go to the wrong place, even though I think things are clearly explained on their website. (The Railcar room is in one location, and all the other rooms are farther south on Milwaukee.) The group of strangers that were playing with us arrived about 10 minutes late and I think the location was part of the issue.

There is no “Escape Artistry” sign outside the building for The Railcar, and then on the directory in the lobby it’s only listed as “The Railcar.” It’s inside an older building on the third floor with no A/C. (The room where the game was located did have A/C.) The building is a studio arts building so there were lots of different hallways to choose from with artwork displayed. It wasn’t necessarily that confusing to find The Railcar, but it also wasn’t incredibly straightforward either. I think a couple more signs could have helped direct people a little more clearly.

In all honesty, I was expecting the location to appear more polished/professional than it did. I had originally thought that The Railcar was a refurbished old train car, but I learned that it was actually just constructed from scratch. I thought that was pretty cool, so even though I thought the location was a little unkempt for a business, I did feel like it was at home in an artsy building.

Setup
Since The Railcar is the only room at this location, when you arrive, the “lobby” is just the area right outside the railcar. This is where you go over the rules and where you can place personal items in a bin. There is a video shown that provides some background and story for the room.

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

“What starts off as a normal commute quickly becomes a race against time. Can you unravel the mystery, find the clues, solve the puzzles, stop the train, and save Chicago?

Game Play
First of all, the decor in the room was on point. It definitely looked and felt like a replica of an L car, but I wouldn’t say I felt totally immersed. Maybe that’s just because the lobby area was right outside the car, but I didn’t feel like I had stepped into a story. Still, all of the signage and the seating and the construction of the car was done very well.

The puzzles in the room had a lot of variety. Some seasoned players might not enjoy some of the more cliche/overused puzzles that are present in many escape rooms, but they were still executed well in the room. Anything that needed outside knowledge to be solved was given in the room, and in some cases if you happened to know the outside knowledge, you could solve the puzzle more quickly, without waiting to find/open something else in the room that would have provided that knowledge. I think that strikes a nice balance, because you can feel smart and get a leg up on the game if you happen to know the information, but if not, you’ll still have everything you need to solve it eventually.

Because the room had the design of a train car, members of our group could be working on different puzzles at the same time without me feeling like I was totally missing out on what others were doing. This is often a concern of mine, as I always want to be sure I experience the whole room. So in that respect I really liked the layout of the space.

A small note: most of the locks in the room had hints next to them to tell you which puzzle they went with. I thought that was great. Having to try the same combo on 10 different locks doesn’t really add to the fun of a room in any way, so I liked that this room helped you keep track of where you were at.

Our group of 4 adults was paired with a family with 2 adults and 2 pre-teen boys, and everyone was able to contribute to solving things. The youngest boy even solved something that most of the adults were stumped by for a long time, so this game is great for kids!

Hints were provided on a screen inside the car. I don’t remember being given instructions for how to ask for a hint, so most of the time we just kind of yelled. There was no other tech in the room and I was glad, since that meant all the puzzles were pretty tactile things.

We escaped with two minutes left on the clock and it was fun to have things get down to the wire. I always want to be sure that I get to experience the entire game when I play an escape room, so it’s always a little nerve wracking if I feel like clues aren’t coming fast enough, since I don’t know how much of the room is left to go. There were a few times where I felt like we asked for help but didn’t get it, so since we still won the game, I’m going to assume that the Game Master didn’t want to help us too much and have us get out of the room too early. I’m not sure if that’s actually what happened or if we just got lucky, but we won, so I’m not going to question it too much.

Final Touches
We all took a group picture outside of the room and then we were off.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of about 8
-You have children in your group
-You’re from out of town and want to play a Chicago-themed room

Skip This Room If…
-You feel you just cannot complete some of the more cliche puzzles out there one more time
-You dislike rooms with a little grunge (it is a train car, after all)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escape-artistry.com

Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · Technology-Only Room · The Escape Game Chicago

Mission: Mars @ The Escape Game Chicago

Date played:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Number of players:  6
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
My impressions of the building and lobby were not much different from when we played the Prison Break room, so I won’t go into detail about that. One thing I do want to note was something that came up during the booking process on the website. We wanted to play two rooms back-to-back, so naturally I looked for two time slots next to each other that didn’t include the Prison Break room. The booking on the website was not set up for this at all on the day we were going to visit. The 5 rooms were listed in repeating order on their booking schedule in such a way that if you booked one room from 6:00-7:00pm, the room that would begin at 7:15pm would always be that same room you had just played. The only way to play a different room would be to have a large gap between the two. I don’t know how many groups come in to play two rooms at once like we did, so maybe it’s a rare issue that not many people have. It was just a bit of a headache at first. We ended up booking two rooms that had about 30 minutes in between them and it ended up being a perfect break, so all was well. I also looked back at the scheduling on their website today and it seems that not every day is scheduled the way that one was, so it might be easier on certain days to book things back to back.

When we arrived, we learned that the air conditioning in the building was broken. So we had the unfortunate circumstance of playing in un-airconditioned rooms on a day with temperatures in the high 80s. I wanted to note this because it did affect my enjoyment of the games and some of my review might reflect that, but I also want to say that when I reached out to The Escape Game afterwards about it, they could not have been any kinder and their customer service was amazing. I think that kind of awesome service is part of what has made their company so successful – it definitely made me return and I’ll go back until I have played all of their rooms (2 more to go!) It’s impressive that they were able to take a less-than-positive experience and get a happy customer out of it. I know I’ll be spreading good word of mouth about them for years because of their great games and customer service.

Setup
Our group of 4 played with 2 strangers who had never played any escape room before (why does this keep happening to me?? USA, please transition to private rooms by default!) We walked into the room and placed our personal items in a bin on the floor, then we were then shown an intro video while the Game Master stood in the room with us and then asked if we had any questions. As always, I wish all of this had been done in a separate room, but I did like that there was a “real” point to watching the intro video. It outlined 3 objectives we would need to complete in the room, so I appreciated having that stated up front.

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

“You’ve just landed on the red planet for an exploratory mission, but your spacecraft experienced some major damage on the descent. Unfortunately, there is a larger problem at hand: a fatal amount of cosmic radiation is heading towards Mars, which will cause serious damage to the control systems, making it impossible to get back home. You have exactly 60 minutes to repair your ship and launch if you ever want to see Earth again.”

Game Play
As with their Prison Break room, The Escape Game made sure that this room had a detailed scenic setup that really placed you in the environment. It really looked and felt like we were on a spaceship. There was plenty of room to move around in and cool effects added into the game. Even though space themes aren’t normally my first choice for a game, I marveled at their design and especially enjoyed the non-spaceship part of the room. The clues were given to us on a screen and the Game Master did a great job of helping with extra nudges when needed.

Mission: Mars is advertised and priced as a “premium” room. This is because there are no combination/directional/manual locks in the room – everything is digital or uses technology in some way. This was the first room I had played in this style and I found that I enjoyed it less than “regular” rooms. Manually twisting a dial and feeling something open with your hands is much more satisfying to me than touching a button on a screen. It’s like Jerry Seinfield’s joke about the difference between hanging up on someone in the old days by slamming down a receiver, and doing it on a smartphone where you gently press a spot on the display. It’s not the same. I’m hopeful that technology-only rooms will not become the standard for premium/gen 2 rooms. I think in this theme it made sense, but I still enjoy a good old fashioned combination lock more.

The puzzles in the game were of high quality overall. There was only one that I felt was frustrating due to what I considered semi-poor logic. It’s very hard to describe without giving away spoilers, but we essentially solved the puzzle in its opposite form, because it made more sense for an action to be taken when something was “off” instead of “on.” Logically I just don’t think there was anything to lead us to believe that we should proceed the way the puzzle solution was designed, and we had to be told to do the opposite of what we were doing. I know that might just be the way that my brain works, and maybe most people have no problems with that puzzle, but to me the correct solution just wasn’t logical. I did very much appreciate the GM stepping in when he did to advise us on how to change our actions, since I don’t know that it would have ever occurred to us to do things the other way.

We did find a tennis ball in the room that turned out to not be part of the game, which we didn’t learn until afterwards. It was an accidental red herring that shouldn’t have been in the room at all. Part of me thinks that the GM should have put up a sentence or two on the clue screen to let us know that it wasn’t part of the game, but then the other part of me thinks that this might have broken the immersion more than was necessary.

I liked how the outline from the intro video was executed, and how there was no question about whether or not we had solved certain things. A few things in the game change as you go along and it made it feel more real. There was also a nice surprise thrown in that added some fun to the game.

Final Touches
The Game Master gave a nice wrap up at the end of our game, coming in to talk to us about a few things even though there was nothing to explain, as we had escaped. We were given an “I escaped” sticker and the staff was more than happy to take a few pictures for us. Again, great customer service and great employees working there.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You want high-quality scenery
-You have a large group
-You have younger kids in your group

Skip This Room If…
-You prefer manual combination locks over screens/technology
-Their A/C is broken 🙂

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

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

DOA Room Escape · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · Villa Park, IL

The Basement @ DOA Room Escape Villa Park

Date played:  Saturday, April 14, 2018
Number of players:  6
Max number of players possible for this room: 12
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Did not escape (barely)

A note about the room capacity: 12 people would have been way too many for this room. Even 6 people was pushing it. My advice is to play with a group of 4 or less.

First Impressions
This company has at least 2 locations, one in Villa Park and one in Wisconsin Dells, so they must be doing alright. Their website looks professional and we booked with a coupon easily.

The company is located in a small building in an area of Villa Park that’s kind of run down. We pulled up feeling a little unsure, but inside everything seemed okay. There was nothing fancy about the lobby or interior; just some Halloween-themed decorations and paint on the walls. Everything seemed pretty basic.

Our group of 4 played with 2 strangers that had booked with us, neither of whom had ever played an escape room before (aka an enthusiast’s worst nightmare.) While we were waiting for them to arrive, we stood around near the front desk that was oddly placed farther back into the building and not near the front door. Some of the employees were talking to each other at the desk and one complained about how much of a pain The Basement room was to reset, while eating a bag of Cheetos. Not the most professional look for the company, and definitely poor customer service, making the customers feel like they were creating a burden for anyone. Thankfully, the employee doing the complaining did not end up being our Game Master.

Setup
We placed our coats and personal belongings in a closet near the front desk, and I was of course happy that they remained outside of the room. We came up with a team name, wrote our own nicknames on name tags, and then were brought into a side room to go over the rules and watch an intro video. It was a plus that this was done in a room separate from our game room, although apparently the intro video was made up of clips from a Netflix documentary or something similar.

We specifically wanted to play this room because it was based on HH Holmes, and the three of us that had read Devil In The White City were fascinated. The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“During the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, criminal mastermind and first documented serial killer H.H. Holmes built and operated a labyrinth-style hotel on the corner of South Wallace & 63rd Street. It was designed as a killing trap, whereby his guests became murder victims – allegedly over 200. The basement of that hotel was where most of the killings, torture and burials took place. Do you have what it takes to match wits with the evil Doctor Holmes? The secrets of his dark and foreboding lair need to be discovered before you become his next medical experiment!”

Game Play
In this room the Game Master remained in the room with us the entire time. Normally I wouldn’t prefer having the GM in the room while playing, but in some ways I actually felt like it spurred me to try and do better, like someone was actually closely watching every success or failure and my pride was more at stake. 🙂  We still only had 3 clues to use, and I felt he did a good job overall of not giving us extra nudges or hints just because he was physically there.

As for the puzzles in the room, my thoughts are all across the spectrum. On the one hand, this was one of the most enjoyable rooms I’ve played to date because I felt like a lot of the puzzles matched my personal strengths. I felt like I was just on the same wavelength as the puzzle designer and was able to personally solve a lot of things in the room, and it made the experience really exciting and fun for me. I had some great a-ha moments and it makes me happy to think back on how thrilling it was to figure things out like that.

On the other hand, there were a few things about the room that really annoyed me. First of all, it was dark. I can appreciate setting the tone and atmosphere of a room with low lighting because it does make a big difference in the overall feel of a room. I get that. But I think there should have been at least one area with a little brighter lighting that we could have used when we needed to see something a little more clearly. There was one whole section of the room where I felt basically useless because I don’t have great vision and just could not see details on things well at all, and that’s no fun.

Another sticking point for me was that we had blacklight flashlights to use at one point, but there weren’t enough for everyone in the group. There were 4 flashlights and 6 of us, so we had to keep asking to use them from someone else (which is even harder to do when you’re playing with strangers and want to be polite. Although our groupmates were super nice and chill and a pleasure to play with, so there were no issues there. But just imagine if there were actually 12 people in that room!) In theory, I suppose you could make the argument that almost all puzzles in escape rooms are set up so that only 1-2 players will get to solve each one, so maybe only allowing some people to use a flashlight follows that same setup. But when a blacklight flashlight is used to search a room, then I feel like it falls under the “searching” category of clues, and that’s normally something all players in the room can do at the same time. In that scenario, whenever you’re someone not holding a flashlight, you’re somewhat excluded from the game. It might not be the worst thing, but it did cause some frustration.

One of the puzzles was taken word for word out of a Harry Potter book, and I recognized it the moment I saw it. Besides that just not being cool because they stole from the book, it’s lazy. Take a few minutes, write an original clue, and replace that ASAP.

Finally, this room had a LOT of red herrings. These were not pieces of decor that we created puzzles out of in our minds, they were things that matched real clues exactly and just didn’t end up being needed. The fun in an escape room comes from finding and solving a puzzle, not finding a puzzle and wasting time on it before realizing it’s not even a part of any solution whatsoever. I am of the belief that red herrings have no place in a good escape room. If you build your room and design your puzzles well, that’s all players need. They’ll create their own diversions anyways. 🙂

We technically did not beat this room, but for the record, all we had left was to insert the key in the lock and open the door. It’s crazy that we came that close and lost in the very last seconds of the game, but it also makes for a good story.

Final Touches
I felt like our Game Master had really been rooting for us, which was nice. He had us put our nametags with our nicknames on the wall with all the others, and then was more than willing to take a few pictures for us. We also all received a plastic cup with the company logo on it, which was nice. (If we had escaped we would have received a t-shirt.) He was very friendly and I appreciated having him as our GM.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have an interest in HH Holmes
-You don’t mind having the GM in the room with you

Skip This Room If…
-You don’t like scary/horror themes
-You have more than 4 people in your group
-You have poor eyesight

Overall rating:  3 out of 5

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

Escape Room · Mastermind Escape Games · Public Room · Reviews · Schaumburg, IL

Lost In Time @ Mastermind Escape Games Schaumburg

Date played:  Sunday, January 14, 2018
Number of players:  7
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
The company is located on the second floor of an office building. I didn’t see any elevator, or any instructions for an accessible entrance on the website, so I wondered what people would do if they couldn’t use the stairs. Maybe there was another way to the lobby that I didn’t see, but there didn’t seem to be one.

There were a lot of people in the lobby when we arrived, and not many places for them to go. There were a few benches to sit on, but mostly it was just a big crowd of people standing around. It did look like there was some sort of puzzle game on the wall of the lobby for people to do while waiting, but I was never close enough to it to get a good look.

Setup
The employee checking everyone in when they arrived gave one speech to the large group of people in the lobby about the general rules, and then she walked groups to their rooms one by one. There was no organizing of groups beforehand, so when our room was called, it was a surprise to see who else in the lobby came with us to be part of our group. (It ended up being our group of 3 adults and 4 young/pre-teen boys.)

When we were let into the room, there were cubbies for us to stuff our jackets and personal belongings into. That was the first time I had encountered that setup in a room and I was not a fan. I don’t think there was any intro video, so even the act of putting away our personal items felt like we were cutting into the room playing time.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:
“An object from the future has slipped back through time and landed in the distant past. You have volunteered to be a part of an extremely dangerous task force that will be traveling back in time to discover the origin of this horrendous event. You have one hour to find the missing object and return it to the correct time period, or the course of human history will be altered forever!”

Game Play
The room begins in the wild west, the “distant past” mentioned in the storyline, and I was less than impressed with the decor. I might be jaded, but when I know the ol’ west is going to be used as a setting, I tend to think companies chose it because they think they can get away with cheap decor and still be on theme. There was wood paneling and wooden props, but all of the scene setting was very simplistic. I was in an office building with basic western decorations, and it felt like it.

The clue system in this room was my least favorite of those I have seen so far. We were given a tablet and could access clues at any time, but it would add extra time to our game. There were also two levels for each clue that we could select from, an easy hint that would almost give us the answer, and a difficult hint that would be more vague. The easy hints cost us more time. It was a little confusing, and having a big group meant that mostly just one person could look at the clues at a time, and that one person mostly just made the decisions on what clues we would get (sometimes that person was me, I’ll be honest.) It was much more complex than I think a hint system needs to be, and maybe the only benefit to the company was that the GM is basically not directly involved in the games and is free to do other things. Either way, I think this really does a disservice to their company. The GM can make an experience more fun for a group and that lack of involvement feels like a big gap in customer service.

The puzzles in the room were okay, maybe nothing spectacular but also not terrible. I did feel like some of the clues were kind of grubby, which wasn’t great. Holding some of the laminated clue cards made me think all too much about how many people had handled them and how they had probably not been wiped down at all. But the game play was alright.

Final Touches
When the game ended, there was no wrap up. I was allowed to take a picture of our game time on the screen, but I’m not sure that was necessarily encouraged. There were no special customer service touches that made me feel warm and fuzzy towards the company, and no trinkets given as a reward for our success.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a coupon
-You want to play a room hint-free
-You don’t care if the GM is involved or not

Skip This Room If…
-You want high-quality scene setting
-You haven’t played any other rooms yet
-You don’t like the wild west theme

Overall rating:  2 out of 5

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