Location: Washington, DC
Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4)
Price: Varies, see here for details.
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
Keyed Up and the Philosopher’s Stone
From the Insomnia Escape website:
Philosopher’s stone, Alchemist’s library and secret manuscripts at the mystical swirl of “The Order of the Alchemists” Room.You are standing in front of an unmarked wooden door and two large windows carved into the aging brickwork of DC’s most eerie library. You and your hopefully reliable companions step into a dimly lit interior where the numerous bookshelves are coupled with gold details and vintage chandeliers covered in a cobweb.
We had visited Insomnia Escape way back in 2017 to try out their Oblivion room, which we had a good time with, so I’d be hoping to get back one day to try out some of their other much hyped experiences! We started things off with the granddaddy of them all, The Alchemist, one we just didn’t quite have time for during our last trip out.
For an almost four year old game, The Alchemist presents a well told story that develops naturally throughout the course of the full game. Each puzzle solved reveals a new tidbit, and allows the players more insight into the evil sorcerer who would bring about the end of the world as we know it. Puzzles are frequently clever, and there are a couple great solves that kept our group engaged with the game, especially during the late stages of the adventure, which delivers most of the well incorporated props. While the experience is mostly a first generation escape room, there are a few nice spots of hidden technology and exciting surprises to be found. Though one particular part of the room could become amazingly cluttered, the gate keeping of the game flow works perfectly to ensure that what at first looks like it will become a slog, works itself toward a satisfying reveal. The final reveal is climactic and delivers a great ending to the game.
The Alchemist starts off within a fairly small and stuffy room, and though we only have five players, three less than the stated max, I could tell we were all starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. I cannot imagine being in the room with a full complement of players, as there simply is not enough room. There would also be a dearth of puzzles for a full house, as The Alchemist is very linear on the whole. Most solves only served to engage three of us, while the others waited, and some only required one or two. While some teamwork puzzles could be found for larger groups, they were few and far between. The later stages of the game open up the room and the game flow a bit, but is overall a much sparser affair, turning the surprise of more puzzles into something of a disappointment. While the ideas are really fantastic for the time, escape rooms have definitely evolved as a medium, and The Alchemist simply hasn’t evolved with the times. In fact, it has started to show a good bit of wear and tear, not just metaphorically, but literally, as the room shows a fair amount of dents and dings throughout.
The Alchemist is an alright game that was really great for when it was built in 2016. Not many updates have been made, it seems, and while it remains a serviceable game for new players, it’ll be somewhat underwhelming for veteran escapists. Still, it’s not a bad time, and folks who are looking to see what a previous award winning room is like will find something to like here. If you do give it a look, just keep in mind that it is definitely a product of its time. Book your time saving the world from the sinister Alchemist here!
Full Disclosure: Insomnia Escape provided media discounted tickets for our game.