Location: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Price: $36 per person
Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
How about a game of pool? Care to make it interesting?
From the Think! Escape Games website:
You are hiding out at The Shady Tavern when you get the call. Your cover has been blown. Someone snitched on you. You’ve lost that game of pool and now you have to pay! Sharky and his gang are waiting for you right outside the front door. You will need all your life skills and wit to bail out before things turn nasty…
Sharky’s Tavern is pretty convincing! When we first made our way in, I instantly felt the vibe of “somewhat shady pub.” There were loads of bar games scattered about as well, and we couldn’t wait to get to solving!
Ooooh! I (usually) love mazes! Little did I know…
The Shady Tavern was a unique room, to say the least. While some of the usual trappings of an escape room were included, a large amount of dexterity based puzzling helped this one stand out from the crowd. We enjoyed, for the most part, these unusual puzzles, and found that most of them really added to the experience. Several of these tied into the theme well by being great pub arcade games or pub tricks that had straightforward, but challenging objectives. I really enjoyed a certain puzzle we’ve seen on a large scale at a couple of our favorite rooms reduced in size and given a hidden hint to find, making things somewhat simpler. In the previous times we’ve run up against this type of puzzle, we were given no in room hints on the solving, and this inclusion really made it more of a fun, “wow” moment rather than an exercise in “do you know how this works or do you need to burn a hint?” The sense of progression is well implemented, and as players progress, they will definitely feel a great sense of satisfaction as they make their way to the ultimate goal. The set was, as previously mentioned, rather cool, and from the word go, we were immediately immersed. There are a few non-linear points, and these help alleviate the possibility of standing around syndrome, but there are several linear points that do a good job of gate keeping, though it does sacrifice the ability to keep a larger group entertained fully. We took this room on as a couple, so it was enough to keep us puzzling, but had our full 4-6 person group been here, I know some would feel left out. On the whole, this is a really well themed room with some original puzzles we’ve not seen elsewhere, though at times this could be a double edged sword.
We’ll start with the giant elephant, er, set piece in the room. While I usually love this type of interaction, one part of the game that I’d been looking forward to is set up in such a way as to seem to encourage teamwork, but works better with fewer players. We were urged by our GM after a long time flailing about to just take it on solo, which I feel defeats the whole purpose of an escape room. There was nothing else to work on at this point, so this became a huge choke point full of frustration, and sullied an otherwise great room. I’m not joking when I say that it took us a full 20 minutes just to finish this puzzle, and our suspicions that that is normal were confirmed when we spoke to our Game Master afterwards. While I enjoyed some of the dexterity puzzling, this could be frustrating for players looking for a more cerebral experience, so be forewarned if these sorts of puzzles aren’t in your wheelhouse. Overall, the room didn’t feel overly dense with puzzles, and I think this is due to a lot of the dexterity based puzzling taking a good bit of time to work through.
Shady Tavern, despite it’s flaws, and there is one big on in particular, is still a good time. For the most part, we had a lot of fun working through the conundrums housed inside, and one bad puzzle does not sink the experience. In order to make the game truly great, though, I’d suggest tweaking some of the long term choke points to take less time, and adding in a few more mental challenges to even things up a bit. Overall, though we did enjoy ourselves. Players should be forewarned, however, that this is certainly a different experience to your usual escape room, and a fair amount of dexterity is required. Folks who enjoy that type of puzzle will have a good bit of fun here, but those frustrated by this sort of thing should choose a different room. Book your time escaping Sharky’s Tavern here!
Full disclosure: Think! Escape Games provided media discounted tickets for our group.