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.

Translation:
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) - Review coming soon

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) - Review coming soon
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) - Review coming soon
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) - Review coming soon

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. 

Panacea
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.

Panacea
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.

Panacea
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.

Panacea
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!
Other:
  • 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!

Randy

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




October 17, 2018

Boxaroo: Conundrum Museum & Magician's Study


We were fortunate enough that the timing of our Boston trip coincided with Boxaroo's reopening of  their room, the "Magician's Study" after being closed for about a year. In this new location, they also opened up a second adventure, the "Conundrum Museum". We were going to play these rooms as a duo, and given that the max number of players was ten, we knew it would be a challenge. From their site:

"Conundrum Museum
You and your friends take a trip to the museum when something goes amiss... it seems like you've been framed! Lucky for you, you happen to be the world-renowned local detective-in-training. You'll have 60 minutes to solve the mystery and clear your name

Magician's Study
You're invited! Yes, you. Investigate the study of a once-legendary magician Viltore Madom. Your goal is to discover the secret of this mystical place... or at least as much of it as you can before time runs out."


From the Boxaroo website

Set Design, Puzzles & Technology

Conundrum Museum
We played a lot of museum themed rooms and set designs were typically a normal white-walled room with some portraits and antiques. While this held true for the Conundrum Museum, there was a fun centerpiece that came into play in the late stages of the game, which was pretty obvious from the start. There was a fun actor driven intro with some nice effects that set the mood and went to show that the little things go a long way.

The puzzles were clever and utilized the surroundings in an intelligent manner. We enjoyed the overarching cohesion between all the riddles that is often not found in many rooms. There was also a "eureka" moment for a late game solution that we had never seen before that delighted us. The technology didn't feel like it was a primary driver but that was because it was so well hidden. We had the chance to have a behind the scenes look and given that everything was automated, there was ten times more tech than I thought there would have been.


Magician's Study
Again, the theme of a study made it easier to create a believable set. There were quite a few nice well hidden surprises that sets this study apart from many other escape rooms out there. We don't mind recurring themes as long as there are surprises or clever devices that spring up along the way and Boxaroo had a lot of surprise elements.

The puzzles were fun and a lot of times we felt we knew exactly what we had to do, to only be fooled but our previous experiences. The game must have been designed to fool enthusiasts because it used common elements that you would find in many rooms but with a different twist on how to use them. We appreciated one of the reveals because of how it changed our perspective on how we saw things. The technology, like the Conundrum Museum, was seamlessly blended into the setting.

The staff was great and friendly!

Memorable Moments 

Conundrum Museum
The late game puzzle that opens up the final stage of the game was unique. At first we thought, "this probably isn't it" but of course it was.

Magician's Study
All the puzzles that looked basic but actually had a second level solution to them.

We also got a cool scorecard that we loved that mapped out our progression vs. other groups :)

Room For Improvement

There was at least one puzzle in Conundrum Museum that was tricky because of the use of a very uncommon word. Also, the setting for both rooms were perfect for the theme and well done but they were still simplistic in the grand scale of escape rooms we have played. Also, the scorecard we got had a bug that threw off the stats.

Overall Thoughts

Both the rooms were incredibly fun and we were lucky enough to play them as a duo. We highly recommend playing these rooms as Boxaroo is one of our top recommendations in the Boston area!



  • Set design: Good, fits the theme perfectly
  • Difficulty: Medium-High
  • Price: $29/person
  • Number of players: up to 10, private (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Conundrum Museum ★★★★★, Magician's Study ★★★★½
See their website here: https://boxaroo.me