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November 11, 2017

Escape Games PDX: Sherlock's Secret (Portland, OR)

Escaping Sherlock's Secret

Having trekked to Portland for a family reunion, I decided it would be a great opportunity to introduce my cousins to escape rooms, and to check out the Portland escape room scene. Escape Games PDX's Sherlock's Secret did not disappoint, and proved a delightful experience for our escape room veterans and neophytes alike. From their site:

"You’ve been called in to help an infamous but now kidnapped detective and his assistant, a Mr. Watson, has asked for your assistance in recovering a missing artifact and using it to barter a deal to release the hostage. It might feel elementary but you will only have 60 minutes to discover all the hidden clues in Mr. Holmes’ library and help him escape, for if you fail, you will both be trapped forever!"

Puzzles, Technology & Set Design

Sherlock does a lot without a lot of tech. While the experience is frequently beset by combination locks, they are mostly unique and well integrated into the narrative. There is also a host of other puzzle types, including directional locks, labyrinths, and word puzzles for your party of daring detectives to decode!

Memorable Moments 

Having brought a party of greenhorns to try their first escape room, seeing their excitement at learning for themselves what all the hype is about was by far the best part of our time in Sherlock. Escape Games PDX did a great job orienting and easing the new players in our party into the experience without leaving the veterans feeling bored.

The room is mostly lacking in major reveals, presenting more of a slow-and-steady experience rather than one prone to sudden rushes of excitement. However, the room proves to be much more than the sum of its parts, and it left our band of amateur sleuths with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. While definitely one of the smaller escape rooms I can remember, Escape Games PDX has done a great job maximizing the space without inflicting a cost on the experience; they have done a spectacular job of fitting a tremendous amount of content into just a single room!

Another memorable take-away, while not specific to Sherlock's Secret, is the souvenir bottle opener Escape Games PDX offers at the time of writing for a share on social media!

Room For Improvement

While I commend Escape Games PDX for taking an immersive approach to hints by using an antique telephone instead of the standard loud speaker, I was disappointed at how often they had to ring us to inform that we had correctly solved a puzzle, but that the reveal hadn't been made apparent. I appreciate how well we were being monitored, and how prompt the game master was to tell us when we just needed to put a little extra force into something, but the room felt in serious need of improvement to accessibility and automation for some components.

Also, while there was a lot of content in a limited space, the room often felt cramped and lacked any real climax beyond the countdown clock on the wall. Some reveals were exciting, but the experience would be improved with inclusion of a stronger ending and a few less combination locks spread out over a larger area.

Overall Thoughts

Sherlock's Secret is a great experience for new escape roomers. While containing some unique elements, much of what the room has to offer will be familiar to escape room veterans. However, quality execution and skillful nesting of puzzles to run in parallel as part of a larger whole keeps the experience fresh and entertaining for all levels.

Sherlock doesn't break any new ground, but it is also an excellent example of what an entry-level escape room should be.

  • Set design: Fit the target time period well, but wasn't super elaborate.
  • Difficulty: Medium, great for beginners
  • Price: $30/person; can reserve entire rooms Tuesdays and Wednesdays for $100
  • Number of players: 8 max (recommend 3-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★½
See their website here: https://escapegamespdx.com/

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