July 15, 2019

Room Escape Divas Podcast with Escape Rumors!

During out trip to Toronto, we met up with the Room Escape Divas (Errol, Manda, Margaux) to play Mindshaft at Escape Games Canada.

We also decided to do a podcast about nothing! Check it out here and thanks Room Escape Divas for having us!

July 5, 2019

Tulleys Escape: Dodge City, Nethercott Manor & Mutiny (Crawley, England)

Located 10 minutes from Gatwick Airport, we dragged our jetlagged brains straight off the plane to play three games at Tulleys. It was raining quite heavily when we landed so perhaps this idea ended up being a smart move rather than just a crazy enthusiast's ambitious schedule.

Tulleys Farms started off with haunted house and corn maze attractions and just like many other similar establishments, have expanded into the escape room world. Their cozy lobby with a fire place was perfect for a cold rainy day (in June might I add). From their site:

"Dodge City
Dodge City in 2127 remains a stronghold of the wild west. The constant tussle between the Sheriff and local gunslingers means there’s opportunity abound for some creative bank robbery for those with wits and courage.

As a member of the Notorious ‘Barn Door’ Gang you’ve been caught by the local sheriff breaking into the bank. Locked away with little hope, hired by an unnamed outlaw and facing the ruthless justice of the old west you’re left with only one option.

As the sun sets the race is on to break out, reclaim your supplies, pull off the bank job of the century and get out of Dodge City.

Nethercott Manor
The old manor house is entwined with local legend, the living don’t remember the Nethercott’s, the family’s hay day was long ago. Local folk talked, whispers were heard, rumours began, lights were seen within.

The Nethercott’s are long gone but something remains, an essence, a smell, a feeling, it’s in the fabric, in the walls, under the floor boards … it ticks, it creeks … take a trip into the past, uncover the family’s many secrets and glimpse their fleeting souls?

It's the year of our Lord 1672, and you be right in the height o' the golden age o' piracy…After years of sailin' the high seas, you and your crew have succeeded in your fair share of ambushes, and as a result – your ship is teamin' with bounty.

Yet you're still suffering beneath the cruel wrath o' Captain Starling - a notoriously bloodthirsty buccaneer, and your shipmates have decided you all shall take matters into your own hands. After all… you fought for the gold, so the gold is yours for the taking, aye?

Once the old seadog has retreated to his berth for the night, you make your move. Get in, get the treasure and get out. You won't have long before he starts to stir – and Starling shows no mercy to ANY soul…

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

Dodge City
One thing you'll notice is that all Tulleys escape rooms have huge and sprawling set designs. Dodge City was their newest release that took place in a western themed world. Although the story was set in the future (year 2127), the environment was predominantly based on a western world of the past and thematically, mostly void of any futuristic elements. The game started off with split groups in a normal setting and then ramped up to a larger world where a splendid space awaited our arrival. The rush of discovering new areas did not disappoint one bit in this game. Just watch your head as you go back and forth between some areas!

As for the puzzles, there were a lot of things to do. We rarely ever recommend more than four people but extra bodies would definitely help with the amount of parallel puzzle solving needed. There was a lot of searching and careful observation required throughout the game and the more eyes, the better. One of the styles that I enjoy the most fit in perfectly with this room: a ton of "aha" puzzles that kept it a fast paced game with a lot of quick wins. The puzzles were on the easier side so the challenge was the sheer amount of things that we needed to solve.

The theme was also light hearted and the set was bright, in contrast with the darker and creepy Nethercroft Manor game.  Dodge City was Tulleys most robust escape room and you can see the the improvement over their previous efforts in both design and game flow.

Nethercott Manor
The style of this game was similar to Dodge City in that the environment took place in a very polished and large space and the game play was centered around an abundant amount of relatively quick-to-solve puzzles. Nethercott Manor seemed to have have even more things to do than Dodge City which was already an action packed game. The game has enough content for a 90 minute session so we highly recommend bringing as many people as you can to complete it within the allotted 60 minute time slot.

An additional unique aspect about this room was that when we thought we were close to the end, another secret room popped open. This constantly occurred which kept us in the dark of how much we had left to complete. We admired how the game and set unwinded as we progressed and combined with a magnificent recreation of a house made for a really fun experience. The setting was on the dim side (not too dark) and there were some jump scares but the vibe was more creepy and never scary.

This was one of the first rooms that Tulleys opened in 2016 and it was pretty impressive with some large physical custom contraptions. While not as grand as their newer rooms, it was definitely larger than almost anything you could find in London. There were a few cases when we weren't sure if we had solved a puzzle but overall it was an excellent entry level game. Expect to see some nice effects rarely seen in other escape rooms.

Memorable Moments 

Dodge City/Nethercott Manor
The overall experience of traversing the sets while solving so many things was incredible! It's an amazing adventure with splendid custom contraptions and a lot of fun moments.

The really big physical puzzles are impressive and amazing to see for the first escape room creation by Tulleys.

Room For Improvement

For all the games, there was good amount of tech but also quite a lot of padlocks/keys, which was fine given there were so many things to solve, but there's always that extra magic when a room is void of padlocks.

Overall Thoughts

Dodge City was quite the treat for us and a definite highlight in the greater London area. Nethercott Manor was a close second, perhaps due to the theme as we typically prefer light hearted games. We are happy to award Dodge City our highest rating of 5 gold stars! It's rare to see an escape room with so many things to accomplish in such an immense and wonderful environment!
  • Set design: Excellent! Expansive and polished
  • Difficulty: Easy puzzles but twice the norm for 60 minutes
  • Price:  18£ - 30£ person 
  • Number of players: 2-8, (we recommend 4-8 and frr Nethercott, as many people as possible!), private
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Dodge City ★★★★★, Nethercott Manor ★★★★★, Mutiny ★★★★
See their website here: https://www.tulleysescape.com

Disclosure: Tulleys Escape Rooms & Games comped the tickets for these games

June 27, 2019

RevoEscape: The Lab Lockdown & AI Martyrdom (Toronto, ON)

RevoEscape opened their doors in early 2019 and we got to play both their games in June. Their escape rooms are designed to be as authentic as possible (see the Escape Room Divas podcast on "mimesis") in that you can use whatever is around you to escape the room without, of course, destroying things. If you think about it, it doesn't make sense to solve riddles to open a cell unless the theme was a serial killer toying with you. There was no searching for a key in a secret location or random texts on the wall to decipher a secret code, everything was meant to be solved as if it were a real life situation. You could imagine how stumped we were when were started out in our jail cells in our first room. From their site:

The Lab: Lockdown
"I've been here for...I don't know how long it's been. There are no clocks and no windows in my small room. I'm alone in my cell, but not the only captive here. We speak to each other through the walls. None of us knows why we're here, but our last memories before waking up here are the same: we were interviewing for a job, gas filled the room we were waiting in, and then...we woke up here. 

All I know is they've been testing something on us. I have needle punctures and suture scars all over my body...Security ran in as Steven escaped from his cell. The guard opened fire but Steven was an unleashed beast and smashed the guard's head against the wall and fled...I was shocked trying to figure out what happened...the alarm went off. "Code red, code red, all personel evacuate from your labs immediately, the research center will self-destruct in 75 minutes."

After calming down, I now realise this is it: our only chance of getting out of here. Or die."

AI Martyrdom
"You and your friends were camping in a remote forest to enjoy the quiet of being away from civilization. One evening while you were chatting after supper you got a radio broadcast message thru your walkie-talkie.

You responded to the call and started a conversation with the woman and was told that they were looking for volunteers in the area to assist them to resolve the issue, which should be as easy as turning off a switch.

You also figured that the coordinate of the station was just a few kilometers away. You arrived at the coordinate and realized that it's apparently not a transformation station but a military base.

The woman in the radio said she lied to you and this building is indeed a military base, a nuclear missile launch facility to be more specific. However, one thing was true, that is they were in trouble, big trouble."

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

The Lab: Lockdown
The environment took place in a realistic prison setting and everyday tech was utilized in order to maintain the feeling of a "real" life scenario. There were no weird gizmos or placing objects to reveal secret doors in this game, which was hard to believe for an escape room!

The "puzzle" highlights were when we had to think of physical solutions in a way we never had to in previous games. There were a few instances where I thought "I could really get hurt if I did this" which of course was because I was thinking of doing something stupid. Also note that people with limited mobility would not be able to fully enjoy this game and we're not even sure if they would be allowed to play

We played the game on a high difficulty (we usually don't) as one of our teammates was gung ho about it so we played along. There were some game elements that can be modified to increase the difficulty in two ways: By solving things in a smarter physical way (cool) or by adding tedium to elements. One example of the latter would make transversing the space, back and forth, significantly more time consuming.

There was one solution in particular where our idea would have worked for a lower difficulty, but not on a higher one, which is interesting because you essentially have a completely different solution to what is basically the same task. There was also a scoring system which rates how well your team performs.

AI Martyrdom
Similarly to The Lab: Lockdown, the game was built to be as realistic as possible. This was quite a difficult game, possibly because we were tired after the first experience. The story line was rather complex and hard to follow but nonetheless interesting after learning about it in the walkthrough.

The set was also extremely detailed and well done. The physical puzzles varied from tough but fair, to some which seemed unfair. Unlike the Lab, where we didn't have the right concept on how to solve something on a higher difficulty level, there was an instance where we knew what to do but a timer constraint made it almost impossible to accomplish. After struggling for what felt to be quite a while, the GM lowered the difficulty to something more achievable.

Memorable Moments 

The Lab: Lockdown
The physical nature in the latter part of the experience was awesome! I realized that there was a slight spoiler on their website but we had no idea about this element going in.

AI Martyrdom
Another challenge which required physical interaction between teammates that you never see in other rooms.

Room For Improvement

The Lab: Lockdown
The hint delivery system (walkie-talkie) was the only thing that was out of character. If it were to be integrated such as an outside contact helping you, that would help make it more in theme.

AI Martyrdom
A challenge that becomes tedious because of a time constraint really sucks the energy out of a team, especially when it last over 10 minutes. Introducing a lower starting difficulty, or lowering the level more quickly would be ideal.

Overall Thoughts

The Lab: Lockdown was a standout in the Toronto market and a must play. We are happy to award it the highest rating of 5 gold stars! The game stayed true to being realistic and had some novel physical game mechanics that we want to see more of. My uncle joined us for the game and I will forever see him in a different light. Although he is not a big man, I learned he has the strength and agility of Spiderman.
  • Set design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Very Difficult
  • Price: $30-$40 person
  • Number of players: 4-8, (we recommend 4+), private
  • Duration: 75 minutes
  • Overall Rating: The Lab: Lockdown ★★★★★, AI Martyrdom ★★★★
See their website here: https://www.revoescape.com

Disclosure: RevoEscape comped the tickets for this game.

May 18, 2019

The Escape Game: Special Ops (Minneapolis, MN)

On a recent trip to Minneapolis, I found myself arriving at the airport late at night. With not many options available to me, I decided to solo a room at "The Escape Game" (aka "TEG"). TEG is a franchise with locations in 12 cities and plans to expand to another nine cities. I played all four games at their Houston location which were pretty solid. There were some worries in playing my first solo room because it's not as fun to miss out on parts of the game but I decided going hint heavy would help a lot. I played "Special Ops: Mysterious Market" and the below is from their site:

"It started as a routine operation. You and your fellow field agents were sent to investigate the area’s local market. It’s late, it’s quiet… but something’s not quite right. Just as you are about to wrap up your inspection, you encounter a twist you never expected. Should you have seen this coming?"

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

As a side note, TEG was located on the third floor at the "Mall Of America", right beside the airport. This indoor mall was huge and had a theme park situated in the center of it all! They even had a Tim Horton's and restaurants offered poutine so I guess Minneapolis has a lot of Canadian tourists.

The set, like other TEG games I played in the past, was spot on. There were nice touches that made the environment look realistic, all packaged in a physical space that was definitely above average in size.

The technology that was woven into the room towards the end of the game made me feel like I was in a movie. A few of the puzzles throughout the game were familiar to me and one of the final components was pretty novel. Puzzles varied from searching, mathematical and of course logical. There was no need for any physical exertion at all so players with any physical limitations would be fine in the room.

I really enjoyed how the game ramped up from a very ordinary start to a fun and cinematic-like final act. Knowing that I would need to leverage the help of the GM quite often, I decided to call her "operator" (this was a first for me). It felt a little like an episode from the TV series "24" where counter terrorist agents search for clues to stop the baddies from blowing up stuff. Think Jack Bauer liaising with Chloe for various intel on how to solve things. Playing solo, I had to make it unique! The GM was great. She was super helpful and knew exactly how to help me. I used to take customer service for granted but in a solo game, you really need a GM who is attentive.

I just watched the trailer for the room on their site. My suggestion (I also do this with movies) is DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER. There are some spoilers like when you watch a movie trailer!

Memorable Moments 

The technology enabled final sequences were a blast! If you're into secret agent movies, you will love it even more!

Room For Improvement

There were a few puzzles that were common and while not inherently "bad" and perhaps even novel for beginners, those who have played a few rooms will likely have seen some of the elements in other places.

Overall Thoughts

Special Ops was a fun room that was polished and made excellent use of technology. This room was my favorite out of the five rooms I have played thus far at The Escape Game and I highly recommend playing it if you have the chance!

  • Set design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Above average
  • Price: $39.99/person
  • Number of players: 1-10, (we recommend 3-4), public
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★
See their website here: https://theescapegame.com

Disclosure: The Escape Game comped the ticket for this game.

April 29, 2019

Exit2Escape: Wild Western Jail Escape (Dublin, CA)

We heard that EscapeTheRoomers were in town so we teamed up with them to play Exit2Escape's newest room, the "Wild Western Jail Escape". This is Exist2Escape's last room before moving out of their Dublin location and into a new place in Pleasanton which is about 15 mins away. From their site:

"You and your gang of bandits have been terrorizing the town of Tumbleweed for years! You’ve managed a clean get-a-way on all your wrong doings… But it looks like the Sheriff has finally caught you! He claims he has evidence to prove it was you and your gang that robbed the Bank, and he has you locked-up behind bars! You want out of jail fast, and you want to know how he got his information.

While the Sheriff and his Deputies are out celebrating your capture, you decide it’s now or never… You have 60 minutes to break-out, find and dispose of the evidence, then uncover the yellow-belly who ratted out your gang!."

Puzzles, Technology & Set Design

Similar to their other rooms, the puzzles were smart and creative. The build was not quite as elaborate as the other games due to the fact that they are going to be moving location but the puzzles were satisfying and logical. The game started off in split groups, which can be polarizing but given you can see the other group and help out, it was fine.

This is likely the purest form of a first generation escape room that isn't fancy but executes on the basics really well. It was surprising to learn that this was their most difficult room but we still think it's good for all players.

Memorable Moments 

There were multiple "a-ha" moments that make for some real fun and that will make an impression on you!

Room For Improvement

The set design was average so perhaps if this game were to be updated in the new Pleasanton location, it might be more polished.

Overall Thoughts

Exit2Escape always has solid puzzle design with a homemade feel. If you are in the area, you should check out this room!

  • Set design: Average
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30/person
  • Number of players: 4-10, (we recommend 5-6), public
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★½
See their website here: http://exit2escape.com

Disclosure: Exit2Escape comped the ticket for this game.

March 5, 2019

The Spacetime Travel Agency (Sebastopol, CA)

I answered a last minute call to join a group of escape room enthusiasts on a day trip to the Sebastopol (about 90 minutes north of San Francisco). We headed to a new escape room that no one had heard about called "The Spacetime Travel Agency". From their website:

"The year was 1969. In the midst of the Cold War, while the United States and the Soviet Union raced to put a man on the moon, the US government also funded a covert study into time travel: The Kronos Initiative. 

Everything was going to plan until a test went awry, leaving the time machine inoperable and its inventor lost in the far reaches of time and space. Afraid that news of this would get out, the government buried the project, and no one has set foot in the lab since…Until now.

We’ve received a strange transmission from the inventor, and electromagnetic inconsistencies around the lab suggest something is amiss. It’s up to you and your group of specialists to figure out what went wrong and fix it, before time runs out…"

Game Play, Set Design, Puzzles

This game was built by Sebastopol brothers, Galen and Aiden, who fell in love with escape rooms while touring London. The two decided to create a game of  their own using their background in filmmaking and robotics.

The set was well crafted with some nice decor and props all within decent sized physical space. There was a good amount of technology built into the room that helped convey the storyline in an entertaining and fun manner. The atmosphere had a polished feel with good puzzle flow and we appreciated how everything came together. The game was made up of both process driven puzzles and "aha" moments which was well balanced throughout the escape room.

Memorable Moments 

There was a unique science-based puzzle that was not common in escape rooms. It had us scratching our heads for a moment but a "eureka" moment saved the day!

Room For Improvement

The game started off in a setting that would be very familiar for experienced players. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginners, but there are many puzzles elements that would be instantly recognizable by enthusiasts. The game certainly becomes more interesting after the first portion of the game which was actually a good way of ramping up.

Overall Thoughts

The Space Travel Agency was a family friendly room that was enjoyable and charming. While it may be on the easier side, it was still incredibly a fun experience and one of the best rooms that we played in the area!

  • Set design: Good!
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Price: $35/person
  • Number of players: 3-5, private (we recommend 3-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★
See their website here: https://www.spacetimetravelagency.com

February 18, 2019

Magic Escape Room: Fuga da Azkaban / "Escape from Azkaban" (Rome, Italy)

Magic Escape Room's "Escape From Azkaban" was touted as one of the best escape rooms in Rome. It seemed like all their games were available in English so it was easy for us to book without having any language concerns. Note that in Rome, most escape rooms take payment in full in cash, a stark contrast to what we see in North America

"As you are returning from a party with your friends, in the middle of the night, you become distracted and lose control of your car. The car swerves, breaks a fence and you find yourself facing what appears to be an old abandoned country house. Under an incessant storm, decide to seek shelter ...Will it be a good idea?

Game Play, Set Design, Puzzles

There was a good mix of puzzles ranging from riddles, search and correlations. The story took place in the Harry Potter world with significant references throughout the game. The game succeeds in creating a fun atmosphere without having to resort to high tech elements. There were more padlocks than the latest rooms we've played in America but the group still ran around as if they were students in Hogwarts. The hint mechanism was pretty creative and also had a strong nod to the Harry Potter movies.

Memorable Moments 

For Harry Potter fans, being in the universe is quite the delight. For me, as a muggle, I would say the GM interaction was fun and thematic.

Room For Improvement

There was more than one puzzle that used some of your senses other than sight and touch. One puzzle would have taken me, and it seems many others, forever to do because not everyone has an ear for certain things. Other than that, experienced players may fly through this room.

Overall Thoughts

This family friendly room was fun for our entire group and even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, you will still have a great time.

  • Set design: Great
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 30€-110€ ($34-$126) for 1-6 people
  • Number of players: 1-6, private (we recommend 2-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½
See their website here: https://www.magicescape.it/en

January 15, 2019

Escape Room Roma: The Ring (Rome, Italy)

This Ring girl shrieked like the real deal

Escape Room Roma has something called a "Real Movie Experience" and these games, on their site, are separated from their regular escape room games. There is no clock as the goal is for you to experience the complete session and teams typically take between 50-85mins to get through it all. We requested if we could play the room in English and they obliged which we are extremely grateful for. We were also the first non-Italian players to play the game so once again not a simple task for their staff and actors. The translation was pretty much spot on. There were no issues except for one minor detail with a book that was not translatable but we were able to work it out.

I played with two other people who jumped at everything and we had one person who decided not to play a few minutes before the start time because of the theme. Special thanks to Sarah for being a good sport and playing even though you jumped at everything. The scariest parts for me were my teammates literally jumping across the entire room when something spooked us. From their site:

"As you are returning from a party with your friends, in the middle of the night, you become distracted and lose control of your car. The car swerves, breaks a fence and you find yourself facing what appears to be an old abandoned country house. Under an incessant storm, decide to seek shelter ...Will it be a good idea?

Game Play, Set Design, Puzzles

The start is great as you are thrust into a very believable world of the Ring. The game is largely played in the dark and featured the creepy AF little girl from the Ring. There are a lot of jump scares and loud sounds that will scare anyone and I applaud the actress for being able to shriek like an actual demon girl. There was one room where a light would sometimes turn on and off but 80% of the game is in the dark where you have to use artificial candles to light the way.

If you enjoy horror, you will like this room. If you don't, you will be stressed out to the point of exhaustion. The actress played a huge role. She was great. The puzzles were mostly average but of course you're not going to play this game for the puzzles.

Memorable Moments 

You wanted a movie-like experience? You got a movie-like experience! The fantastic start and strong finish will forever be in our memories.

Room For Improvement

There was more reading than I would have liked for a room that takes place mostly in the dark. I prefer not having to read more than two sentences and could be just me. It's especially difficult to read multiple pages of text when your trying to brace yourself for when your teammates dig their nails into your arm every few minutes.

Flashlights might have made things a lot more convenient but that might also lower the immersion because it wouldn't have been so dark so not sure how well this would work out.

Overall Thoughts

We are not horror fans, we don't watch the movies and didn't even see the ring. Yet, because of my affinity for escape rooms, we've played Zoe and Murder Co in Los Angeles which are some of the most intense and scary games in the US so some great references to benchmark against. Zoe was perhaps a tad scarier whereas Murder Co. was more twisted than scary. For horror fans you will truly be delighted at this Real Movie Experience.

  • Set design: Excellent
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 90€ ($103)/ for 4 people +18€-20€ ($21-$23) per additional person 
  • Number of players: 4-10, private (we recommend more than 4 to make it less scary :D)
  • Duration: 55-80 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½ (★★★★★ for horror fans)
See their website here: https://www.escaperoomroma.it

January 13, 2019

Unreal Room Escape: La Mina / "The Mine" (Barcelona, Spain)

Get ready to get dirty

A mine...how good could a game about a mine be? That was my first thought when I heard about the game and given it was one of the top recommendations from Spanish bloggers, we were happy with try it out. A lot of games in Barcelona also seem to be 90 minutes in duration and La Mina was one of them. From their site:

"For more than a hundred years, the St. Louis Mine was used as a source of mineral resources, until an unexpected explosion caused all its workers to be trapped inside. Since then many have speculated on all kinds of hypotheses about the event ... The Dunklerde company has managed to reopen the Mine and has expressed its commitment to take charge of the recovery of all the victims who were trapped in the place. However, its real purposes are not entirely clear, since according to expert voices, the mine no longer has as many mineral resources as before. This situation has revived the old rumors of the existence of a strange and valuable source of minerals in the mine, which is why some say that the real objective of this company is to find them. Will the rumors be true? What mysteries does the St. Louis Mine hide?"

Game Play, Set Design, Puzzles

First off, prepare to get dirty. Yes the set feels like a real mine so you will get dusty. Second, there are a LOT of things to do. The excitement of doing a million things was extremely fulfilling and oh so much fun. The set felt on the larger side and they really, really maximize the space that they have to an impressive level. You will not realize that you are in an office building once you start the game.

There were a few elements that required more than usual physical force (we were so gentle with props) and when we asked the GM for approval and she replied with "yes c'mon!". There was lot of gathering of items and everything was logical and fair. The flow and progression of the game was natural and each section had something unique and charming to do.

Also, if you stumble upon a door to the toilette during the game, rest assured it is just an ordinary toilette.

Memorable Moments 

The variety of effects, while not large in scale, perfectly immersived us in the environment. There were multiple  "wow that's really cool" moments when we solved a puzzle or saw a reveal that made the game come together and feel realistic. The ending was great and suspenseful and you will be in for a ride when you play this game. Two experienced players are enough for this game.

Room For Improvement

We did see a couple of exposed screws that should probably be shaven down or covered. Those who are touchy feely may have an unpleasant surprise.

There was one Spanish-only clue and one incorrectly translated English clue. Sarah knew basic Spanish so we were fine, otherwise we would've asked for a hint. The intro videos were also only in Spanish so I didn't get the storyline. [UPDATE] We were informed that English subtitles were added to the videos and that the other two clues will also be updated

Of course, we were in Spain so it's like saying a room in America only had English intro videos. We were grateful that the game was playable in English.

Overall Thoughts

The pace of the game and the look and feel was perfect. The props and the transitions were excellent and vast tasks to accomplish (when two players at least) made us happy. We loved this game and it is a must play in Barcelona!

  • Set design: Perfect for a mine
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 16€-33€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-7, private (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★ (The future of entertainment)
See their website here: https://unrealroomescape.es/hospitalet

See Room-Escaper's review (in Spanish but Google translated into English) here.

January 11, 2019

Escape Barcelona: Alien : El Origen (Barcelona, Spain)

"They're everywhere!"
Touted by a few Spanish bloggers as the "top escape room in Barcelona", we were ready to see this game for ourselves. We were the first players from outside of Spain to play this game and this should really help the accuracy of stack rankings for the TERPECA project. Two locals accompanied us for the game in case we needed translations but all essential portions were in English so we didn't need any help. We also learned that it took over a year to create this escape room with a full time building staff.

From their site:

"Forma parte de la tripulacion de la USCSS Escape y viaja al planeta Thedus./ Be part of the crew of the USCSS Escape and travel to the planet Thedus."

Also, special thanks to Victor from the Spanish blog Room-Escapers for all his recommendations in the city!

Game Play, Set Design, Puzzles

The immersion was great and the feeling of being in an "Alien" movie was pretty darn good. Those who have played the official Alien VR game in Anaheim will see some similarities in terms of the environment and the intro to the game. The start was stellar and there was a good variety of puzzles that required dexterity and some video games like elements. The puzzles were fun and on the easy-medium scale of difficulty and the overall experience was superb.

The game branches off with split teams and four players was the minimum needed as there were some puzzles which require at least two people per track to complete. Event though the teams are split, the tracks are 90% the same so that should alleviate FOMO concerns which some enthusiasts may experience.

Several independent decisions were made by both teams that not only affected the other team's gameplay, but also the ending of the game. Of course, the other team made a decision that made our tasks significantly more difficult, which often happens as Sarah is a little devil.

There were nine possible outcomes in "Alien : Origen" which goes to show how much thought when into the creative process. There are some frantic moments that recreated scenes from the movie and our performance had consequences in terms of the final outcome. One of the tasks was daunting with just two players but that's just part of the game play so there was no need to panic too much.

The ending was great with everyone scrambling to complete the final few tasks. If we were more than four it would have been overly crowded in some tight corridors so we recommend playing with exactly four players.

Memorable Moments 

You wanted a movie-like experience? You got a movie-like experience! The fantastic start and strong finish will forever be in our memories.

Room For Improvement

There was an instance where we completed a task but were not aware that this was the case. This is being very nitpicky, it wasn't a big deal at all. On a separate note, puzzle snobs may feel that the challenges may be a little straight forward for their tastes. It was so fun we wanted more!

Overall Thoughts

The adventure of playing this game was a real treat. We suggest playing with exactly four players in order to maximize the game play as it's not possible with two and would be crowded with more than four. While not the most puzzle heavy game, the thrill of running through a nicely sized alien spaceship and the overall experience was top of class.

  • Set design: Awesome Alien spaceship!
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 17€-25€ ($20-$29)/person 
  • Number of players: 4-10, private (we recommend exactly 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★ (The future of entertainment)
See their website here: https://www.escapebarcelona.com/en/

See Room-Escaper's review of Alien (in Spanish but Google translated into English) here.

January 6, 2019

2018 Achievement unlocked Medalists & Year in Review

We are proud to announce the Escape Rumors Achievement unlocked Medalists for 2018 along with our Year in Review Infographic! 

2018 Escape Rumors Achievement unlocked Medalists

Achievement unlocked medals are given to the top escape rooms played by Escape Rumors every year. On top of being solid escape rooms, these rooms also distinguished themselves in the following categories. There is no limit in which we award rooms and they are sorted by alphabetical order.

The escape rooms with direct links in the name were reviewed by us and for some other rooms we provided links to other reviewers (EscapeRoomTips = ERT and RoomEscapeArtist = REA).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at info@escaperumors.com.

Best Immersion
Alien : El Origen ("Alien: The Origin", Escape Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain)
Cutthroat Cavern (13th Gate, Baton Rouge, LA)
La Mina ("The Mine", Unreal Room Escape, Barcelona, Spain)

Best Storytelling
Stash House (Stash House, Los Angeles, CA) - ERT review
Steampunk Airship (Portland Escape Rooms, Portland, OR)
Strange Bird (The Man From Beyond, Houston, TX) - ERT review

Best Puzzles
Conundrum Museum (Boxaroo, Boston, MA)
The Laboratory Escape Room (Dystopian Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA) - REA review
X-Child (Dare To Escape, Phoenix, AZ)

Best Set Design
Condemned 2 (Norcal Escapes, Yuba City)
Escape From Alcatraz (North Valley Escape, North Valley, AZ)
Spellbound (Rise/Mindspark, Tikfaw LA / Phoenix AZ)
Tomb Of Anubis (13th Gate, Baton Rouge, LA)

Most Creative
AI (Exit Game, CA) - ERT review
Cartel (60out, CA) - REA review
Clock Tower (Escape The Room, Boston, MA) - REA review
The Experiment (Get the F Out, Los Angeles, CA)
Game Museum (Clue Carré, New Orleans, LA)
Lab Rat (Hatch Escapes, Los Angeles, CA)
Playground (The Escape Game, Houston, TX) - REA review
Super Bomb Squad: Commandos (Doldrick's Escape Room, Orlando, FL)
Vampire Hunter (Springfield's Great Escape, MA)

Funniest Moments
Hyde & Seek (60out, CA)
Cat Lady (Mad Genius Escape Rooms, Portland, OR)
The Morgue (Evil Genius Escape Rooms, Los Angeles, CA)
Party In Vegas (Clockwise Escape, CA)

Most Shocking
The Courtyard (The Basement, CA) - ERT review
Murder Co. (Black Market Escape Rooms) - ERT review
The Ring: Real Movie Experience (Escape Room Roma, Italy)

Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to a great 2019!

2018 Year In Review

Click on the preview below or this link to see the entire infographic. Some stats include:
  • # of enthusiasts met via social media
  • # of countries visited for escape rooms
  • Distribution of themes of escape rooms played..
  • ...and more!

December 18, 2018

Top Escape Rooms Project: Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards (TERPECA) 2018

Rich Bragg, world record holder and creator of ClueKeeper took it upon himself to create an international ranking of top escape room companies and individual games. The rankings are solely based on the input from 70 escape room enthusiasts (including Escape Rumors, Escape Room Tips, Room Escape Artist), mostly from North America and Western Europe. The methodology used was similar to what is used to rank college football teams. From TERPECA's site:

"...each stack rank was used to create all possible pairwise comparisons between rooms (or companies) in a given stack rank, and then those were used to create a matrix of scores between rooms using all the direct comparisons from any of the participants".

While I am confident all the nominees are fantastic rooms, this list is perhaps more accurate for the US and the UK given the experience of the participants who provided ranking. There is a lack of Asian rooms which is likely due to the language barrier which favored English speaking participants. I would definitely use the results as a guide of which games to play but this must be complemented with local blog/enthusiast recommendations in order to obtain a good lists of rooms to play in a city.

We have played at five of the top ten companies and six of the top 25 escapes rooms with links to some reviews. Companies and rooms in bold have ratings while links also have a review.

Top Escape Room Companies

Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
The Room (Berlin, Germany)
13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
Time Run (London, UK)
Escape Challenge (Delft and Zoetermeer, Netherlands)
Sherlocked (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Cubick (Mataró and Madrid, Spain)
Escape My Room (New Orleans, LA, USA)
Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)

Top Escape Rooms

Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman – Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
Cutthroat Cavern – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
The Man From Beyond – Strange Bird Immersive (Houston, TX, USA)
The Amsterdam Catacombs – Logic Locks (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
The Lost Treasure of Alexander Humboldt – The Room (Berlin, Germany)
The Edison Escape Room – Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
The Vault – Sherlocked (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Lab Rat – Hatch Escapes (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
The Lance of Longinus – Time Run (London, UK)
Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death – Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
Catacumbas [Catacombs] – Golden Pop (Barcelona, Spain)
An Avalanche of Oblivion – Claustrophobia (Escaldes Engordany, Andorra)
The Secret Lab – Locked In Edinburgh (Edinburgh, UK)
The Storykeeper – Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)
Stash House – Stash House (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Girls Room – Escape Room Nederland (Bunschoten, Netherlands)
Atlantis – Teorema Escape Rooms (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Alien: El Orígen [Alien: Origin] – Escape Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
Insane Paranoid – Quest-Art (Moscow, Russia)
The Honeymoon Hotel – Escape Challenge (Zoetermeer, Netherlands)
La Entrevista (The Interview) – Cubick (Mataró and Madrid, Spain)
Alice in Nightmareland – Claustrophobia (Moscow, Russia)
Tomb of Anubis – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
De Ramkraak [The Ram Raid] – Project Escape (Nijmegen, Netherlands)
Frankenstein: The Awakening – 60 Minute Escape (Murfreesboro, TN, USA)

December 2, 2018

Exit Strategy Games: Conspiracy Theory & Torture Chamber (Elk Grove, CA)

Escaping Elk Grove!

Reviewed by Brad: I was amazed to hear an escape room had opened up in my hometown of Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento, CA. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I couldn't help but drag my parents and cousins to Exit Strategy to give their rooms a shot!

There are two games at this location: Torture Chamber and Conspiracy Theory. All of Exit Strategy's games are private rooms, and the price scales down for each additional player. They also have a second location with additional rooms in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Torture Chamber
"You and your friends have been captured and locked in the torture chamber of a notorious serial killer.  In her dying moments, a previous victim left clues and puzzles to help you find your way out. Don’t take anything for granted. Even the most mundane item could hold the key to your survival. Don’t be distracted by the flickering lights or the eerie sounds. Your very survival is on the line. 

Escape … or die trying …"

Conspiracy Theory
"A video of a crazy-looking man comes on. He tells you that he is a local conspiracy theorist and apologizes for the gas he used on you, but he had to get away. He informs you that the gas will cause memory loss for about an hour. He also tells you that you are all members of the CIA. You’ve come to investigate him because it turns out his crazy conspiracy theories are turning out to be true. Next, he informs you that there are secret Soviet spies among you working as double agents in the CIA. Are you a real CIA agent or a secret Soviet Spy? Search for clues, solve puzzles, figure out who you are and who you can trust in 60 minutes before he blows up his apartment, destroying all evidence of his conspiracy theories, including you!"

Puzzles, Technology & Set Design

Torture Chamber: This light slasher-themed room is a mix of professional set design and Halloween store flair. It works, but it's not what many would consider an immersive experience. I was impressed with the effort put into the split-team experience at the start.

Most puzzles ultimately come down to solving combination locks, but they aren't entirely trivial and relied heavily on teamwork to be solved.

Conspiracy Theory: The set design is simple, but it works in the context of the narrative. I was excited to see some interesting puzzle types, and while combination locks are featured, and often (but not always!) prove the ultimate blocker to move forward, they are complemented by an engaging variety of puzzle types.

What sets Conspiracy Theory apart is the additional element of determining who is part of the CIA and who is a Soviet spy. This plays into solving some of the puzzles on the main thread as well, but also has implications for who actually 'wins' if you make it out. With a group of inexperienced players this actually proved more of a nuisance than an enhancement, but with a more experienced group I think this would be a welcome novelty.

Memorable Moments 

Torture Chamber: 4 cousins all stumbling blindly around with bags over our heads waiting for the room to start.

Conspiracy Theory: A puzzle reward dropping down with a bang and nearly giving the team members over 50 a collective heart attack.

Room For Improvement

The intro videos were incredibly cringe-worthy. It feels like they're trying to capture the same intro flair that rooms from some of the larger franchises have mastered, but they were entirely too long and the acting was especially bad, especially for Conspiracy Theory. They also tried to jam too much rule explanation into the video, which was then repeated by the game master, anyway, and left me feeling exhausted before the room even started.

We had an unintentional red herring from a bad reset in Conspiracy Theory, which also made the experience a little frustrating.

Torture Chamber had an underwhelming finish. In the end, the team was surprised there wasn't an additional room or at least some other kind of content or a climax. It sort of sputtered to a stop with the last puzzle and suddenly the door opened and we were told we won. Could have been better.

Overall Thoughts

Both of these rooms were fun, but Conspiracy Theory might be a bit confusing for first-time players.

  • Set design: Alright. Was a little hokey at times, but it still felt like effort was put into it. 
  • Difficulty: Easy-Medium
  • Price: $25-50/person
  • Number of players: Conspiracy Theory 4-12 (recommend 4), Torture Chamber 2-12 (recommend 2-4), private
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Conspiracy Theory ★★★½, Torture Chamber ★★★
See their website here: https://exitstrategygames.com

November 11, 2018

Room Escapers Boston: Organized Chaos and Panacea (Boston, MA)

Room Escapers Boston has a few rooms spread across two locations, all within walking distance of downtown Boston. Being conveniently located was a huge plus as we were also close to Boxaroo and were able to seamlessly line up games without complex travel plans. As a duo, we decided to once again tackle a few rooms designed for large groups of 8-10 people. From their website:

"Organized Chaos
It’s the early 90s, and organized crime is running rampant in Boston. You and your group of detectives have stumbled upon a short window of opportunity to search a local gang’s front business for evidence to link them to unsolved crimes.  Better hustle though; they’re gathering their cronies, and their lawyer is filing an injunction. This is our take on an escape room whodunnit that has been designed to keep even large groups and advanced players engaged with a wide variety of puzzles! We allow up to 12 for this game, but recommend around 8-10. 

Alchemy. An aged science, but our last hope. An old world disease has been released from the melting permafrost, and you have been infected along with most of humanity. The Panacea, a cure-all of old, is believed to be located in a forgotten chamber of an old world apothecary in Boston. You must master the 7 principles of Alchemy in order to prove your worth and obtain it! We allow up to 8 participants for this game, and recommend around 6. 

Set Design, Puzzles & Technology

Organized Chaos
The goal of this game was to gather as much evidence as possible in order to take down the Boston mob. There were a LOT of things to collect, in fact the case files handed to us prior to entering the room outlined what we were looking for. We thought we'd have to read all these files but it was quite a lot to go through for an escape room. In total, there seemed to be about 30 pieces of evidence to find which must take quite a while to reset. The set was fine for being a bar that was used as a front by the mob.

The puzzles encountered were diverse and there was a lot of ground to cover. While you won't find a lot of tech in this room we felt we were completely occupied, in a good way, throughout most of the experience. Of course, playing this room at near capacity would be different, but as a duo, we were constantly gathering evidence and it felt like we steamrolled through the first part of the game. The second half of the game slowed down with more difficult puzzles and the evidence came in at a a much lessened pace.

This was Room Escapers Boston's newest game and some finishing touches we done up to a few hours before we played. The set was well done as an apothecary which is somewhat prevalent in the world of escape rooms.

There were a couple of puzzles that we felt were creative and novel that we appreciated. Unlike Organized Chaos, where the fun was solving a million different things quickly, Panacea was a more difficult game with a more standard escape room layout. The experience was a good escape room but the theme and game felt more standard.

Memorable Moments 

Organized Chaos
The frantic pace of collecting tons of evidence and successive/abundant small wins was incredibly delightful.

There was one solution that had us in awe and another that had me saying "omg".

Room For Improvement

Organized Chaos
We got stumped on one puzzle in which outside knowledge would have been tremendously useful. I would imagine that not many groups were able progress past this point without a hint.

The flow of the game felt a little uneven, perhaps biased given the frantic pace of Organized Chaos. Also, we understand that we were one of the first teams to play the game so there might have been some updates since we've played.

Overall Thoughts

Organized Chaos was a fun, fact paced room that we feel everyone would enjoy. Panacea, was a solid game and more of a traditional escape room. If you are close to downtown Boston area, we highly recommend visiting Room Escapers Boston!

  • Set design: Good
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30/person
  • Number of players: up to 12, public (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Organized Chaos ★★★★½, Panacea ★★★★
See their website here: https://roomescapersboston.com

October 23, 2018

Escape Room World Record in Moscow, Russia!

We interviewed the Guinness Book of World Records holders for most escape rooms attempted in 24 hours! Rich Bragg, Amanda Harris, Dan Egnor and Ana Ulin were able to accomplish this feat in October and we had some fun discussions with them below.

The Facts

Rooms Attempted: 22
Rooms Successfully Escaped: 21
Location, Moscow, Russia
Team name: Bloody Boris's Burning Bluelight Brigade

Bloody Boris's Burning Bluelight Brigade

Some Rules From A Guinness Book Of World Records
  • Rooms must be at least 30mins long (teams can leave earlier if they succeed)
  • Participants must have footage of the full 24h or have an official present
  • No private transportation
  • Each escape room must be open to the public in a recognized venue.
  • Must achieve a 50% success rate

Left to right: Official, Rich, Ana, Dan, Amanda

Congratulations on the record! It's only something that we mere mortals could think about ever accomplishing! Let’s start off with a little about yourselves:

What is your room count number after Moscow and what is your success rate?

[RB] As of the end of the trip, I had played 566 rooms, and failed 24, for a success rate of 95.8%.

[AH] I ended the record attempt at 902. I left Moscow at 917. And I did one room since getting back home... at 918, my overall success rate is 92.7%

[AU] After Moscow, I've played 422 "classic" escape rooms (i.e. not counting things like SCRAP "Ballroom Games" and other escape-adjacent experiences). I believe this makes me the least experienced escape room player on the team. I'm not sure exactly what my success rate is, I don't keep track of it -- I play rooms for the fun of it, and generally am not very competitive. Off the top of my head, I think I might have failed to escape about a handful of rooms total (one of them during the record), which means something like a ninety-something percent escape rate.

[DE] I'm somewhere in the mid-400's. I still need to get my spreadsheet updated post-Moscow! At this point, including Moscow, I think I've failed something like 6 of those? For a while I could remember them all in my head, but now I'm losing track, I really need to start indicating that somewhere.

I had the chance of playing with all of you in NOLA (as a wallflower) and wow, I think we had 4-5 records in 10 rooms. I use the term "we' loosely. What is the ballpark number of records you think you have set? 

[RB] Actually, I can give you a fairly accurate number, as that's something I track!  It looks like my team has set some kind of record in 167 of the rooms I've played, which is just under 30% of the time.  That said, this number isn't too meaningful, as it is a lot easier to set a record for a room that hasn't been open very long, and I have no way to tell how many of those records are still standing -- I would guess a very small fraction.  Also I have found that the best way to set a record is to pick really smart teammates.

[AH] I don't keep track of those! I usually only accidentally set records...the only room I ever went into thinking "I'm coming for you, record!" is one where they said if we got out in under 45 minutes, they'd refund our money, and it'd never been done before. We got out in 43 minutes and change! Apparently my motivation to set records is only for money's sake, not glory. But I think Dan, Ana, and Rich have a bit more of a record-setting reputation than I do!

[DE] Oh I have no idea! Fewer than Rich, I'm sure. I think in Moscow we only set one, which isn't too surprising given how we were working through language and cultural barriers, and also escape rooms are super popular there.

I get this asked all the time so I'm sure you get it as well but ever consider opening up your own room? What would it be like?

[RB] No thanks. :)  Having played this many rooms and being friends with many owners, I have seen what it takes to run a top tier room and I can say without hesitation that it isn't for me.

[AH] It's a distant fantasy! I have gotten to know a lot of owners over the years so I know that it takes a special blend of creative juices, customer service savvy, and entrepreneurial drive that I don't think I have curated. I think if I ever made it there, though, I'd focus on whimsical and silly themes. I love the playful side of escape rooms!   

[AU] I would consider it, with the right people and mostly for fun. I haven't really given it any more serious thought than that, so I don't have any ideas on what it might actually be about.

[DE] I've consulted on room design which I think is about as close as I'd want to come. Running a small business -- hiring, firing, finances, real estate, permits, marketing, customer service -- that is so, so, so not for me.

About Moscow and the Record

How long did it take to prepare for such an endeavor?

[RB] Well, I first applied for the category to be created with Guinness in December 2017, so that's probably what I'd consider the starting point, and what followed was many months of prep work coordinating with Claustrophobia, refining the record guidelines with Guinness, and then all the logistics of the game day itself.  This took a little bit of foresight and planning you might say.

[AH] There were many, many hours of planning that went into the whole ordeal. I'm reluctant to even put a number on it. We chased a couple of plan tangents early on that didn't pan out. I spent a lot of time obsessively triple checking addresses and plotting out our points on maps to eyeball the transportation times, even though Claustrophobia had helped us with a lot of that planning, already...but without all that effort, I wouldn't have felt nearly as prepared, going in, so I wouldn't call it wasted!

Rich handled all the back and forth with Guinness, and Dan did our Go-Pro sourcing and testing. Ana and I were fitting in the rest of our trip's plans around the record. We also all had separate, other travel planned right before the trip, so we were feeling the heat even starting in early September!

What did you eat on the Record day?

[RB] Let's see, I think I had a light snack the morning before we started because I was prioritizing sleep over food and I knew that we had a fairly early lunch planned.

Then Claustrophobia generously arranged for lunch and dinner to be hot and ready for us at two of the locations.  For lunch we had some kind of delicious pita sandwiches and for dinner we had pizza. I did pack a bunch of snacks in my bag, but I think for the most part I forgot to eat them.  Amanda packed a bunch as well and I think I had a little of hers when she was passing them around.

In the wee hours of the morning towards the end of the attempt, the Claustrophobia crew asked if we wanted to have them arrange for breakfast at our next stop, but for some foolish reason we declined.  I think the bottom line for me was that I ate way less than I probably should have!

[AH] We had coffees from the hotel bar to start. Breakfast is for people with free time!

We ordered some sandwiches mid-day (which were really tasty but I can't remember exactly what style they were...maybe someone else will fill in that detail!), and pizza was delivered in the evening to one of the Claustrophobia locations for us. I snacked on some cheese and nuts and chocolate along the way, from my secret stash. There were water, tea, and coffee (and occasional cookies) in each Claustrophobia lobby so that helped keep us hydrated and caffeinated!

Mostly I fed on puzzles. And on the brainwaves of my teammates. Nom nom.

How many "must do" rooms did you play during the record and then outside of the record but still within Moscow?

[RB] "Must do" rooms is a tricky subject, particularly when discussing the ones we played in Moscow. My two favorite rooms from Claustrophobia (which as a company I felt had the highest bar for consistent quality over many rooms) was Alice in Nightmareland for its amazing set and particularly strong puzzles (which we played during the record attempt), and Ghostbusters for its special effects and production value (which we played after the record attempt).

Aside from those, the real standouts for me were the ones that pushed boundaries on what I'd seen before, which in a way means they're really only must plays for a certain subset of daring adventurers.  Quest-Art's Insane Paranoid was the best horror room I've ever played, for instance, in that it actually had some legitimate character development and plot to go with the abject fear.  Sacrum Labyrinth, also in the horror genre, was amazing as well for its *enormous* labyrinth of a set in a giant burned out abandoned building that you couldn't just find in your typical office park, not to mention their pet fox in the lobby!  And even KvestLocks's Home Video was noteworthy in that you just wouldn't see something like that in the U.S.

[AH] It's hard for me to point to any individual room and say "This room alone is worth getting a Russian visa, flying across the world, and playing" to other US enthusiasts, but to get to play a selection of Moscow's rooms and to take in the amazing city sights (and the delicious food), it really is a highly recommendable trip! There were points where it wasn't effortless to be a tourist, because of the language barrier, but we put ourselves in some of those situations to try and play more games. It was very accessible, overall.

Claustrophobia had a lot of high caliber rooms, and Moscow in general offers a lot of sophisticated options with actors in the rooms, especially if you want to explore the horror genre. I think if we were to plan this trip all over again, we'd have tried to make more actor-driven rooms (and maybe more horror rooms!) work, even though those aren't the ones I usually gravitate towards. For some of the actor rooms and LARP experiences, the language barrier is an issue, unfortunately.

Dan put together a document that has our "noteworthy games" called out, but my personal faves are:

Claustrophobia (from the record attempt)
  • Rise of the Machines -- This was luckily one of our first rooms of the attempt. It taught me a lot about the physicality and clever thinking that would be required of us in rooms throughout the rest of that day (and the week!).
  • Terra Incognita -- This was one of the "simpler" rooms that we tackled, difficulty-wise, but I liked the way it branched off into different themes. 
  • Breaking Bad -- As a fan of the show, this was a cool glimpse into what room themes are possible without IP concerns.
  • Houdini’s Academy -- This room asked us to do some things that American rooms wouldn't dare to. 
  • Stir in Springfield -- Similar to Breaking Bad, this is just the kind of thing you won't see in America.
  • Alien -- For one tiny fun detail in particular, this room will have a warm spot in my memory forever!
  • Arctic Bunker -- This room also has one late-game detail that will stick with me as a very cool way to give players agency and influence in a room.
  • Alice in Nightmareland -- The set and some of the puzzles of this game really blew me away, even though it was 23 hours in!
  • Geksa: Transformer -- This was a very cool take on a "white room" with some impressive mechanical and tech work.
  • AtmoQuest: Missing in the Forest -- This was a really well done outdoorsy, spooky room, with very cool uses of light (and the lack thereof).
  • Cubiculum: Pepelats -- I loved how playful this steampunk room was, with a few cool tricks I hadn't seen used before.
  • Quest Lock: Home Video -- If you like risque rooms, like Komnata's 7 Sinful Pleasures, this is a step up, with actors and some playfully raunchy interactivity.
  • Wember: Once Upon a Time in America -- This was one of (!) the rooms that encouraged drinking during gameplay, and I liked how the story progressed via interaction with the actors. It was also kind of neat to see a Russian take on what 1920s America was like!
[AU] There were a few standout rooms that we played during the record:
  • Rise of the Machines: some novel mechanisms, good set, tight puzzles.
  • Houdini's Academy: has a big number of large-size physical puzzles that fit the theme well, and some fun mechanisms and unexpected things that I haven't seen in any other room.
  • Alice in Nightmareland: gorgeous set, some standout puzzles.
  • Honorable mentions to Alien for being generally a well-executed room with a cute detail, and Arctic Bunker for some really unusual ways to interact with the room and the scenario.
  • Outside of the record, some other interesting rooms we played in Moscow:
  • Cubiculum: Pepelats: A very fun room based on an old Soviet cult sci-fi movie. Lots of humorous details, good puzzles,
  • Geksa: Transformer: This is a very cool room in the "white room" genre, very well executed, cool tech, etc. It is also completely language-free, which is not easy to do and very cool.
  • Quest-Art: Insane Paranoid: This is in the genre of escape room that is light on the puzzles (there are just a few tasks you have to perform), and very heavy on actors and immersion. I am not usually into horror, and wouldn't normally book and experience like this, but I was curious to see what a Russian interpretation of this genre would be. I was very impressed with the quality of the acting, the artistry of the set and the lighting, the fact that there was a story that made sense (and not just the usual "you've been kidnapped by a serial killer, here is some fake blood and a toilet for you to reach into" that you've see in the more mediocre horror experiences)
  • Barabaka: Moonshiners: This room had some good puzzles, real alcohol and real soviet-style soda that you could drink. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we wouldn't have been as heavily hinted along by the GM. I liked the soviet nostalgic ambiance and set, and the obvious love for detail that has gone into making this experience.
  • AtmoQuest: Missing in the Forest: Very well done room, with a "in the forest" theme, featuring a ton of actual cut trees that have been brought indoors.
  • Sacrum Labyrinth: This is a 90 min experience in a sprawling indoor labyrinth, light on the puzzles and with actors. This one stands out for me just for its sheer scale (2,000 square meters, they say on their site). We didn't escape from this one, largely because it was hard to find the items we needed in the dark labyrinth -- we spent a lot of time walking in what were probably literal circles in the labyrinth.

[DE] Everyone else's favorites are mine too. And like everyone else I'd say "must do" is a tricky thing under the circumstances. 

Fun after the World Record run

Do you feel that some of the rooms played would have been more enjoyable under more normal circumstances?

[RB] Not really - one of the best rooms of the whole trip was the last room of the record attempt, and I still feel like I could appreciate it just fine.  Plus in some ways the record attempt may have even added some level of enjoyment that might not have been there otherwise.  All told, I think it was a net positive.

[AH] A lot of Claustrophobia enthusiasts seemed to react this way (on their social media), to say there's no way we could have enjoyed all the rooms by playing this many in a row. I think I enjoyed the rooms as much as I would have, any other time, except I think I spent a little less time wandering around being wowed by set than I might have if we hadn't had the overall time crunch. It'd have been nice to get a walk-through for some of the rooms and to chat with the game masters, after, but for the rooms themselves, I think I still enjoyed them very much! I'm not what most people would call "normal", though. We've all put in our practice with marathons of 4-5 rooms, 7-8 rooms, and 9-11 rooms first!! You have to work your way up :)

[AU] We had all done marathons of ~10 rooms a day before, so the 22 room record wasn't that far outside of our "normal circumstances". One of the rooms I enjoyed the most was the Alice room, and that was the last one on our schedule for the record day. Which is to say that I don't think I would have derived more enjoyment under different circumstances. Maybe, with more energy, I would have made a lot more snarky comments about the things that didn't seem as good.

[DE] Maybe a little more. But maybe it would have been *less* enjoyable. Being in a permanent puzzle state, where your whole recent memory is given over to escape rooms, and your immediate future is also given over to escape rooms, really puts you in a different place, it's immersive in that way that only fairly extreme long term experiences can be immersive. Being in another country and all the weirdness that always entails is also helpful that way. There's something about the sheer surreality of it all that just breaks the brain down and all that's left is room and puzzle.

In how many rooms did Dan lie down on the floor? And of those times, how many were actually necessary?  

[RB] Shockingly, I don't remember Dan ever lying down during the record attempt, though that doesn't mean it didn't happen!  I guess he must really have been taking things more seriously than usual. :)

[AH] I lost count. But I would argue that 100% of the times that Dan lounges in rooms are necessary. He usually gets back up with some sort of valuable insight and/or a report on the dust bunny situation in the room. I certainly found myself slumping in corners and laying in the floor more on this trip than on most, especially near the end of the record attempt. And this was BEFORE we found the rooms that encouraged drinking! 

[AU] Not as many as you'd think. At least I don't remember him lying on the floor much during the record. He did lie on the floor in the "forest" of AtmoQuest, which meant that he was covered in dirt afterwards. The usual.

[DE] Hahaha as much as possible and it is *always* necessary!

Were there major things that you saw that wouldn't fly here in the US? Other than unofficial IP or the lack of emergency exits?

[RB] I think the biggest thing is that I feel like the US has really gone pretty far since the early days of escape rooms in making it so that clearly marked and discussed emergency exits and even things like handcuff releases are the norm.  That was not usually the case in Moscow - we rarely had an emergency exit, and in fact, in some cases there were buttons that *looked* like emergency exits that we were actually supposed to press as part of the game!  I didn't really feel unsafe, but it was definitely different enough that I took notice.

As for things like the more boundary pushing games that we played, I actually think they could fly in the US, at least legally speaking - they just might not be as popular here.  For instance, I would imagine some of the more extreme haunts in the US would probably not be too far off from what we experienced in the "hard with pain" horror rooms we played, and I would imagine that anything we experienced in Home Video could be experienced at your nearest friendly neighborhood strip club.

Now, this doesn't mean there *aren't* games there that go beyond what would fly in the US, I just don't think we played them.

And yeah, since you mentioned it, lots and lots of IP infringement. :)

[AH] Some of the adult themes and actor interactions would be dicey in the US. The unofficial IP and lack of emergency exits/safety protocols are the most notable. There were still plenty of low ceilings for the tall people among us to run into! Somehow I hurt myself on fewer splinters and exposed screws (and open cabinets placed just where I could stand up into them) than in the US, but maybe it was because I wasn't expecting safety! I encountered more uneven terrain and disregard for gravity inside the rooms than I'd have predicted!

[AU] Actors that touch you, some uneven floors, lack of emergency exits. I never really felt unsafe, but then we didn't seek out any seriously "underground" experiences. Honestly, I didn't experience anything that was shockingly outside of what I've seen in the US; just a little boundary-pushing here and there.

[DE] Different safety standards. More contact, more extreme content. Much more willingness to get physical! Have you ever been in a regular old escape room and suddenly boom it's a 25 foot climbing wall to get to a switch and you're like "welp, up I go" and then someone else comes through the door and says "hey... uh... whaaaat are you doing up there??" and you're like "flipping this switch, obviously". No? That's because you haven't been to Russia. Rooms here are all so boring with that whole "nothing above yea high" and "no physical force" business.

Dan: "Much more willingness to get physical!"

How were the people? Was it easy to get by with English or did Ana have to be the Communications Officer most of the time?

[RB] I found pretty much everyone we interacted with to be super friendly and welcoming, and even the best English speakers would constantly apologize that their English wasn't better.  That said, it was definitely a huge asset to have Ana around for the times when people couldn't or didn't want to speak English.  There were a few times when Ana wasn't around that we had to use Google Translate to communicate, and even those times worked out fine, so I do think a trip would certainly be possible with a bunch of non-Russian speakers - you'd just want to be sure to add some padding in your schedule to account for the expected loss of efficiency.

[AH] For the rooms, each location knew that we were coming ahead of time and that we needed as much English as they had available for us. Those amounts varied, though. A handful of our record attempt rooms were in Russian only, so we'd gather around Ana and watch her listen to audio or communications from the game master before relaying the important stuff to us. She was irreplaceable in that regard! We couldn't have played those rooms without her, at all.

On my own, in the city, I felt like staff and employees at most places went above and beyond to try to accommodate me. If they couldn't speak English, they'd try to find someone who did, or produce a picture-based menu for me to point at. Sometimes they'd say (in more or less great English) that they didn't speak English, so I just tried to stay cheerful and meet them halfway! In the middle of a busy cafe or restaurant, I sometimes felt like a burden. I wouldn't say it was 100% easy to get by with all English, but it wasn't terribly difficult for the types of places I was visiting.

For most of the week, I was incredibly spoiled by having Ana nearby. Naturally, once anyone realized that Ana could speak Russian, they'd default to Russian, even if they had been speaking English to us just before. Without her, I would have been relying on Google Translate and taking 3x as long to get anything done!

[AU] It varied a lot. Some people spoke good English and insisted in apologizing profusely for their "bad English"; some people didn't even try and insisted in Russian. 

Do you foresee yourselves revisiting this record if it were to be broken by say Sera and Sharan (they have done +1,000 escape rooms) or someone else?

[RB] I doubt it, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out if the circumstances were right.

[AH] I hope our crazy shenanigans inspire someone else to take it on! But I don't know that I think there's a lot of wiggle room...you're not supposed to include rooms that you've played before, so I don't know where else we'd try this! If someone tops it with 23, maybe 24 is doable, but if someone magically cranks out 26, I don't think 27 is in the cards (unless a huge influx of 30 and 45 minute rooms crop up somewhere!). I will likely be satisfied with "being the first" if it becomes a bidding war :)

[AU] If my teammates were jazzed to do it and wanted me to join them, I'd do it. But I'm not a very competitive person myself, so really I wouldn't care that much either way.

[DE] I'd probably let their record stand! I'm happy checking off the bucket list item, I don't need to defend it. And like Rich said, I'm not even sure where I would.

Will you hang the award up in your house? Perhaps above the bed? 

[RB] I might hang it up in my office.  Probably not above the bed. :)

[AU] No

[DE] Haha I don't think Ana would let me lol.

[AU] You can put it elsewhere in the house. Just not over the bed. We get enough weird dreams as it is already.

[AH] Rich has the presentation award, and I'm not sure of his plans for it! When we get the "real" version (with the number of rooms on it) I'm hoping to get a copy that I can hang up. My college diplomas have had enough time on the wall...time to put up some REAL achievements!

Lined up by height

What is ONE thing that you will always remember from this trip?

[RB] I somehow got to pet a cat, an owl, a hedgehog, and a fox all in the same weekend!

[AH] That's a hard question!! From the record attempt, I think I will always remember our Claustrophobia contact playing "We Are the Champions" on her phone as we accepted our award certificate!

[AU] The pet fox at Sacrum Labyrinth, named Mila. We spent a bunch of time playing with her before our play. I had never pet a fox before.

But from the whole trip...maybe the cat circus? Maybe eating pine cone jelly at our first hotel buffet breakfast? From the rooms themselves, I will always remember a number of things, but they're a bit spoilery to share :)

Aliens have come to annihilate Earth and their weapon fires in 60 minutes. The abort button is hidden in a room, locked behind puzzles, riddles and thankfully, no Sudoku’s. You can send ONE person, who do you send?  

[RB] Are you available Randy?  In the high likelihood that their tech is worn, I would want to be sure we had the best possible candidate to perform an Earth-saving "Randy Jiggle" :)

[AH] No Sudoku’s!? I'm out, I guess. I don't negotiate with aliens who don't obfuscate their plans with Sudoku’s. I'd send you in, Randy. I just want to watch (the world burn, unless you save it) from the control room!

[AU] Honestly, annihilating the human race might be a good thing for the universe, given the mess we've made. So maybe I don't send anyone in. Spend the 60 minutes taking my cats to a safe bunker, instead. Cats will inherit the earth.

[DE] Probably Amanda? Or maybe Tammy. They're the two people I know who do the most crazy room soloing and would be ready to handle whatever. Wei-Hwa would be on the short list too.

Thanks for taking the time with this interview!



Want to learn more about Escape Rooms in Russia or the World Record?