Featured Post

Best Escape Rooms In Spain: 2023 Update

I was extremely excited to play games in Spain as Barcelona was my favorite escape room city in the world. This was one of the most ambitiou...

August 26, 2019

California State Escape: Wizard's Redemption & Trespassed

(Right to left) The Red Wizard, The Purple Sorceress, Cory in blue bathrobe
It had been a few years since we played any rooms in Sacramento and it was due for us to revisit the area. One of the locations that we visited was California State Escape which had quite a few games to play. We played Space Sector the last time around and this time we played Wizard's Redemption and Trespassed. From their site:

"Wizard's Redemption
Welcome future apprentices to the Thaumaturgy Preparatory School of Magic! Upon entering for your tour of the grounds, the institution falls under attack by evil sorcerers, determined to breach the walls and break the protective enchants. It is now your job, along with your fellow apprentices, to make a passage through the halls, communicate with the outside world to get more aid, and find your way to safety!

You will have many tasks that challenge every aspect of what is to come of your time at the school. From geography, potions, and alchemy to history and much more. This will be your greatest test as magicians and it’s only the beginning!

You haven’t participated in Devil’s night since you were a kid, but your roommates haven’t stopped with the rumours of this old mansion on the outskirts of the city that they found geocaching – let’s do it! Laughing and steering per the GPS along the side roads, you look to find the vague break in the bushes, and a sign catches your eye, “Pembroke Dr.” This house, it has to be the Fitzgerald’s. Your nerves begin, it was only a myth. After all, nothing was ever found."

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

Wizard's Redemption
People who like Harry Potter would definitely appreciate this 90 minute game. The set was a well done Wizard's study and definitely a step up from the set of Trespassed . In terms of footprint, this game (and Trespassed) was above average in size. It was also a linear room so small groups would be best and three players felt like the perfect size.

Puzzles revolved around finding and associating elements. There was a lot of reading and puzzles more than often unlocked laminated hints. Out of all the rooms we played, this was one of the games where we had to do the most reading.

This game was billed as a horror experience but there were no jump scares at all.  There were creepy props and blood on the wall but nothing scary at all. This escape room was not for kids but one of our players who jumps in Disney movies didn't flinch at all. The set design was fine for a creepy home.

The puzzles were search heavy and involved unlocking padlocks. Standard first generation escape room puzzles were executed appropriately and good for entry level players. Seasoned enthusiasts will likely play through this room quickly.

Memorable Moments 

Wizard's Redemption was more memorable and there were some nifty  effects that made the setting magical.

Also, the celebration that this location gave after completing any of the rooms was probably one of the most exciting post game experiences we have lived! We didn't see it the first time we played a few years ago so it might have been a recent addition.

Room For Improvement

Both rooms relied on laminated paper with a lot of text and there were some parts where no one on the team wanted to read or review them.

Less reliance on padlocks, especially for Trespassed, would have been more interesting. In Wizard's Redemption, black light was extensively used and it would have been more convenient if everyone had their own light.

Overall Thoughts

Both the games we played were great for beginners as the set designs were high quality and the puzzles had single level complexity. There were a few things that stumped us in the Wizard but asking for hints at the right time should be enough for most people to make it through.

  • Set design: Good
  • Difficulty: Wizard's Redemption: Above Average, Trespassed: Easy 
  • Price: $35-$40/person
  • Number of players: Wizard's Redemption: 3-6 (we recommend 3-4), Trespassed: 4-10 (we recommend 3-4), private
  • Duration: Wizard's Redemption: 90 minutes, Trespassed: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Wizard's Redemption: ★★★★, Trespassed: ★★★
See their website here: https://www.californiastateescape.com/

Disclosure: California State Escape graciously comped these games

August 1, 2019

Best Escape Rooms In Barcelona: A Traveller's Guide

Sagrada Familia view from the Ayre Hotel Rooftop
This summer, we were lucky enough to make it to Barcelona to play 10 outstanding games. Combined with the two escape rooms that we played earlier in the year made for a dozen in this beautiful city. Each of the games we played could have been a stand out in many other cities and we can confidently say that Barcelona is our favorite escape room city so far.

Our Spanish skills are: nada for myself and basic for Sarah. We worked tirelessly to coordinate games with owners to see who could provide translations and scoured a ton of Spanish-only blogs to source the best rooms (Google usually translates the page). When companies were not able to translate their game, we brought along some locals to help us out. We were lucky to hit all the escape rooms that we wanted and we noted the quality of translations further down in this post.  We hope that enthusiasts who don't speak Spanish (and speak some English) can benefit from our research to be able to enjoy these world class games.

Note that all the games we played had amazing set designs so we'll refrain from commenting on that aspect.

Special thanks to the Barcelona bloggers Victor and Maria from El Quinto Elemento and Eulalia from Die Helden for recommendations and translations. Also, local enthusiasts Francesc, Eugenia, Carles, Jonatan for playing with us. You saved us so many times!

Impressions & Observations During Our Barcelona Escape Room Trip

The Start Of The Game
For many of the games we played, you can not enter the building until your start time. More often than not, there was no lobby to wait in and no one will take you in early which almost never happens in the US. At your start time, you ring the doorbell, enter the building and boom... the game begins! This method was much more immersive than sitting in a lobby but also makes logistics tougher on the escape room company given they need single game locations. Also, this probably wouldn't work for corporate crowds so this might not be as practical to implement in America.

Getting Around
The metro system is excellent. It was very quick, clean and we didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train to arrive. However, there are a lot of games that are within 20 miles (30km) of Barcelona that are outside of the metro system but worth doing. For those, you could rent a car or use taxis (what we did). Uber no longer exists as we know it in Barcelona but there are a ton of taxis in the city and you could also try the Free Now app (formerly the myTaxi app) . We did have an issue returning from Badalona which was 8 miles (13km) away where Free Now had no drivers. It was 12pm on a Friday and we waited 30 minutes to get a taxi back to the city.

English Translations
All but one location had Game Masters who spoke pretty good English. Even the place where the game was not translated, the GM spoke English so we were lucky. Puzzles were generally decently translated, most videos had English subtitles and a only one video and audio track was in Spanish only. While our guide should be accurate for when we played the games, you should confirm with the escape room about the current state of translations.

Cash Is King
We also experienced this in Italy but most places accepted a deposit online (20%) and then would ask for the rest of the balance in cash after the game was over. If you want to play a ton of games, make sure you have enough cash for your entire group. We tried to take money out at an ATM but our US-debit and credit card was not accepted so we were lucky to have a local friend with us to help out.

More Action, Less Puzzling
If you want to feel like you're in a movie and appreciate the sense of discovering new spaces, book your flight to BCN right now. Actor interaction was great and often times the climax at the end did not disappoint. However, if you are more puzzle-centric (i.e. you do puzzles outside of escape rooms for fun and prefer mental challenges), don't like actors or crawling, then you might not be so gung ho about all these games.

Physical Nature of The Game
While I am not expert in European Law, I am pretty confident that there are less litigation risks in Barcelona than anywhere in the US. This may be the reason why there were quite a few more physical tasks like climbing, crawling and using heavy tools which are not dangerous at all, but perhaps avoided in the US.

Private Bookings
Like most of Europe (outside of the UK), all the games we played had private bookings. You could probably get away with two players but for economic reasons they require you to book for three or four.

Horror Themed Games
In our research and from talking with local enthusiasts, it seemed that there were a lot of top games in the horror genre. We did not try any of these because it's not our cup of tea, but if you enjoy a good scare you can make an entire trip with just horror themed rooms. You can even get kidnapped from a parking lot and hurled into the back of a van, getting tased in the process. Or have to drive out for an hour in the middle of the night to an abandoned shack in the forest (without knowing beforehand).

Do Other Things 
If you are visiting Barcelona for the first time, please try not to stuff only escape rooms in your schedule. I started off doing this and eventually kept half my days free to see the city. Some ideas:
  • Sandeman's 2.5 hour Free Walking Tour: I've done this in many European cities and they are normally great. Get to see the city and learn some cool things about the Catalan people.
  • Sagrada Familia: Large unfinished Gaudi church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began and 1882 (!) and anticipated to be completed in 2026. Buy your tickets ahead of time and maybe go to the rooftop of the Ayre Hotel for the best view (a local secret I'm told). It's worth the 15 euro drink.
  • Food: Of course you will eat amazing local food such as jamon serrano and paella, but like any metropolitan area, there is great food from all over the world so don't try to only eat local food 3x a day.

Barcelona Escape Room Recap

We gave five rooms the highest possible rating of 5 gold stars. This is the most we have given for any area in the world that we have played (which is skewed towards North America but includes some major cities like London, Rome and Hamburg).

Unreal Room Escape: La Mina
First, prepare to get dirty. Second, there are a LOT of things to do with some nice surprises. The excitement of doing a million things was extremely fulfilling and oh so much fun. The set was on the larger side and they really, really maximize the space that they have to an impressive level. Show up only at your timeslot.

See the full review here
  • Translation: The intro video and a few clues were not translated but we were told they rectified this after our feedback
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium
  • Price: 16€-33€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-7, private (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Escape Barcelona: Alien Origen
You wanted a movie-like experience? You got a movie-like experience! The fantastic start and strong finish will forever be in our memories. The tasks were more video game-like which may not be favored by puzzle-centric players. Still, it was a blast to play if you want to run around a spaceship.

See the full review here
  • Translation: Perfect 
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 17€-25€ ($20-$29)/person 
  • # of Players: 4-10 (we recommend exactly 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Abduction 4: Enterprises
Holy Batman! Yes finally a Batman room! The atmosphere was great and there were some moments that Batman fans will love. This was also one of the most physical games we have played and wished that more places incorporated this style. We cheered each other along the way and the ending was frantic and so fulfilling. You could get away with two players if you are fit but it would be tough for one challenge.
  • Translation: Not offered in English (we got by with locals but the GM spoke perfect English so ask before booking)
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 23€-32€ 
  • Number of players: 3-8 (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 70 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Open Mind: SWAT
SWAT thrusts you into the action the moment you begin and you get to do things that you don't normally do in American escape rooms. This is a great game for two players that starts off with a lot of physical tasks and transitions to more cerebral puzzles. Show up only at your timeslot.
  • Translation: Great (intro video had subtitles)
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium
  • Price: 17€-33€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-7 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 80 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Chronologic 2: El viaje continua ("Life Continues")
Time travel theme with some very fun moments. There were a lot of sci-fi Easter eggs throughout the game and the ending was spot on. Communicating with the computer and reading some articles required Spanish while everything else was language agnostic. They owners did such an amazing job building and decorating the place to make it immersive that you forget you are in a normal building.
  • Translation: Not offered in English (we brought a translator)
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Price: 18€-30€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-5, private (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 75 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Unreal Room Escape: Narcos
Thrown right into the game from the start, the actor got real chummy chummy with me. Perhaps I instigated with some ribbing so he made me uneasy which was on point with the theme. There were some nice props and role playing in this game that we hadn't seen before. Fun start and ending and like La Mina, a great sense of opening new areas to discover. Show up only at your timeslot.
  • Translation: Perfect 
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 16€-33€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-7, private (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Abduction 3: The Exam
Everyone says, the less you know the better. Also much more physical than most rooms. You should make sure you get to play this when you visit the city because it was real fun and different.
  • Translation: Fine
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 17€-42.50€/person 
  • Number of players: 2-6 (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Connecta Escape: Atrincherados ("The Trenches")
One of the most immersive war games with a clever use of space. You will get dirty and you will have to crawl more than you would like. The actor was screaming at us a lot, which i guess simulates what it would be like in a war. Located 10 minutes south of Sabadell in Cerdanyola Del Valles and also the same company as Escapem.
  • Translation: Average, 90% of the game is translated
  • Difficulty: Medium/High
  • Price: 20€-40€/person 
  • Number of players: 2-6 (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★★★

Chronologic 1: La creación ("The Creation")
The first room created by the company and, although older, it had some nice moments. I struggled with this one since there was a lot of Spanish reading required but could appreciate the puzzles after they were explained to me.
  • Translation: Not offered in English (we brought a translator)
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Price: 16€-30€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-5 (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Escapem: Bajo Zero ("Below Zero")
You start off in a helicopter and transition to a snowy setting which was a first for us. They even had the AC blasting to make the temperature drop. Some fun concepts and the spacing was a bit tight so two player groups are best. Located in Sabadell.
  • Translation: Good except one hint seemed to be wonky
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 16€-30€ ($18-$38)/person 
  • Number of players: 2-6 (we recommend 2)
  • Duration: 70 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Golden Pop: Catacombas
The lobby looked exactly like the cinema area with popcorn for you to eat but strangely enough we could only enter when it was our time. The intro video of Spanish Indiana Jones was well done with English subtitles (although they blasted the volume so loud it hurt our ears) and the huge cavern had some nice reveals. The game has apparently gone through major changes since the ownership change so the version we played might not be the same that you will play. I was also a little lost due to all the audio being in Spanish and I followed the lead of my teammates.

You can enter only during your time slot
  • Translation: Not great (intro video had subtitles) and audio was Spanish only
  • Difficulty: ???
  • Price: 22€-25€/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 80 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★
Thanks Eulalia (local blogger from "Die Helden Room Escapers") for translating!

Cinemaescape: Barum Dum
This Lord Of The Rings inspired room was fun but we expected more action and suspense. There were no words in the game so it is fine for English speakers - the intro was only in Spanish but consisted of mostly trailers for other escape rooms. We almost didn't get to play due to a tech issue but after about a 45 minute wait the issue was fixed!
  • Translation: No Spanish needed except for intro
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 13€-31€/person 
  • Number of players: 2-6 (we recommend 4)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★
Carles and Eugenia, some local enthusiasts and me doing a grumpy Gimli pose

Other Escape Rooms In The Area

Some other rooms that we heard great things about during our research and talks with local but did not play were:

In Barcelona:
  • Horror Box: Catelepsia, a 2-player game in coffins
  • Maximum Escape: Refuge 27 and Spaceship Ulysses, Russian games similar to 60out in the US
  • Fear: Zombie Outbreak

In Mataro (20 miles east of Barcelona)
  • Cubick: The Interview and The Exam, TERPECA winning games
  • Mystery Box: Ghostbusters
  • Roomanji, Jumanji-like game

In Pineda de Mar (34 mile east of Barcelona)
  • Futura, Bioshock like world

We hope this post helps out anyone who is hoping to venture off to Barcelona to play world class escape rooms!