Location: New York, NY
Price: From $35 per person (Private games are available on a sliding scale, see website for more information)
Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4)
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
Monsters? They look like monsters to you?
From the Komnata Quest website:
Population: none. You’re more than welcome here. You move forward and melt in the fog with the sound of scratching wheels and metal rattling. Long-lasting burnt odor. Anxiety and shudder. You hear the siren scream and forget how to breathe. Welcome to the City of Ashes. Tonight the silence of the city will be broken…
City of Ashes was very obviously inspired by one of my favorite horror video games of all time, Silent Hill. Being a huge fan, this room seemed to be straight up my, (foggy, monster infested,) alley. After checking in with our excellent game master Devon and getting blindfolded and led into the dark city, I was extremely excited to hear some music from Silent Hill 3 begin to play over the background of the recorded introduction.
I can easily say that this room is one of the scariest actor-less escape rooms I’ve ever experienced. While there are some jump scares, the eerie aura that is instilled in every facet of the room, along with the ability to frighten players with things that are hidden in plain sight, keeps even hardened veterans of scare experiences on their toes. Any Silent Hill fan will enjoy the many call backs to the games and the first movie that are littered throughout City of Ashes. In fact, the inclusion of one iconic puzzle from the original game is an exciting addition for fans. City of Ashes is also one of the biggest escape rooms we experienced during our trip to New York, twisting expertly between locales in ways reminiscent of some of the lesser known titles of the franchise. Overall, the room captures that otherworldly feel of Silent Hill organically, evoking a nostalgic feeling reminiscent of my first visit to the city’s foggy streets.
The game flow works for the most part, encouraging players to be perceptive and employ an appropriately nightmarish sort of logic to the game. When the room is at its peak, it provides some amazing feedback and unexpected twists that keep the intensity of the room at a fever pitch that only calmed down for us on a couple of occasions. The game itself is highly tactile, encouraging players to keep manipulating props and to just get a little bit closer to the horrors trapped within the room’s walls. City of Ashes should definitely be praised for its ability to engage with players and mess with them in increasingly clever ways without once using an in room actor. The meta-puzzle for the game is great, and provides players with a physical measure of their progress naturally. The climax of the game is fantastic, and ends the room off in a way that disorients and surprises satisfyingly.
Nurse! I think there’s a problem here!
Though this may be a high point for some, City of Ashes focuses less on puzzles and more on interacting with the environment. In many ways, the experience feels more like a highly interactive haunt rather than a pure escape room, and knowing that going in helps temper expectations. Those who enter seeking a pure escape room experience might feel somewhat disappointed, but playing it for what it is, we had a good time. Some of the interactions included within the game are based on some iffy logic, leading to one point at which we were led to futz around with one area of the game a couple times so something would trigger. A lot of triggers seem to be run by the game master, so at times, it felt as though things were on a bit of a delay. At one point, my wife and I were working on two separate puzzles, and I had completed mine, but it did not trigger, while hers did, leading to me needing to complete mine a couple more times before the finale finally set off. There are a couple of places in which it is possible to get ahead of the game flow by accident, and we did so both times, leading to a somewhat confusing run of puzzles. Devon did a good job ensuring we got back on track, however.
City of Ashes is a lot of fun, but players should go into the experience expecting more of a interactive haunting rather than a pure escape experience. The attempt at something new is fun for those looking for a spooky adventure however, and having gone in expecting something a little different, I can definitely say we had a good time exploring Silent Hill. I recommend giving it a shot if Silent Hill, haunted houses, and light puzzling are your thing. Book your descent into the City of Ashes here!
Full Disclosure: Komnata Quest Brooklyn provided our team with media discounted tickets.