BrainXcape – Room 228: Do Not Disturb (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4 players)

Price: $49 for up to 2 devices, $15 for each additional device

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

You may never want to leave!

Theme:

From the BrainXcape website:

Locked in the hotel by a madman. Trapped and tormented me for days Thank god you picked up. Please, tell me what to do.  Help me, HELP ME.

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First Impressions:

BrainXcape is one of those spots we’ve heard a lot about, and really have wanted to check out, but haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. Luckily, even though we’re stuck at home due to COVID-19, we are able to virtually travel to New York and try out their new virtual escape!

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High Points:

Room 228: Do Not Disturb has a beautiful set, the same one that is used for their Haunted Hotel live game. In fact, this is one of those games in which we would love to be there live, as the whole experience from a set design standpoint was astounding! This game is completely different from the live version, allowing even those who have visited before to enjoy a brand new run of puzzles and story. The game itself is very immersive, and almost feels like live interactive theatre, as no pre-game rules or briefing was included, and our experience started with the in room avatar reaching out to us for help in escaping his captivity. The avatar was our only line to the game world, with no dedicated game master beyond them, but he assisted in searching the room and helping reveal certain key points by subtly guiding us around. They played an excellent character, though at times I did think it felt somewhat less interactive than we were used to. The inventory system is great, and ties into the immersion of the room as well by also providing some backstory on the hotel, as well as integrating into puzzles seamlessly. Game flow was mostly linear, and it was fairly intuitive, minus some late game interactions, and all the puzzles followed a stream of logic that didn’t fall into the territory of enormous leaps or red herrings. The immersive theatre nature of the game was definitely the selling point however, as most puzzles felt secondary to the storyline.

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Low Points:

Though the climax of the room was interesting, the game just ended, cutting off our zoom meeting and falling sort of flat overall. One of the best part of escape rooms is having a chat with the game master or owner after to ask questions about the rooms and generally debrief with your team, but in this case, we were suddenly cut off. The puzzles included were fairly simple, and there weren’t a huge amount to work through, so as an experienced group, we blew through the experience quickly. This game, as it stood when we played it, would probably be great for new players, but enthusiasts might be disappointed with the simpler nature of this game. One escape room cliche was used a few times, and wasn’t terribly well clued, leading us to perform a few aimless actions in order to get certain parts of the game to trigger.

Verdict:

Room 228: Do Not Disturb is a fun diversion built specifically for a virtual audience, and we had a fun time working through the puzzles, but I would recommend a few more interactions and some debrief time after the game in order to round out the experience for more experienced players. New players are going to have an excellent time here, but I’d recommend enthusiasts go in with tempered expectations overall. I do think the game is still worth checking out for the story and room design alone, however. Book your time in Room 228 here!

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7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: BrainXcape provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

Escapist NZ – Red Hill Asylum (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  2-5 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: NZ$75 per room (About $48.67 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Enter the darkest depths of your imagination…

Theme:

From the Escapist NZ website:

You are the star and writer of super popular TV Show called Ghost Stoppers. Your work takes you and your time all around the world to investigate haunted old buildings with colourful back story. This time it takes you over to the Red Hill Asylum where the town’s people have reported hearing blood curling screams at night.

The Police have been asked to investigate, but found nothing despite the presence of heavy armed vehicles in and around Red Hill Asylum.

As you begin filming, your night took an unexpected turn as you and your crew found something unusual at the haunted Red Hill Asylum. Will you disprove the ghost story this time? Or is there something more sinister lurking beneath the surface.

First Impressions:

As someone who has enjoyed listening to and running Escape This Podcast audio escape rooms for my wife, I was excited to finally get to do an audio escape room as a player! Escapist NZ has created the Red Hill Asylum to operate like a cross between tabletop roleplaying and escape rooms, and I couldn’t wait to see how the experience would stack up! And what better way to get my start than with a creepy haunted asylum?

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High Points:

The somewhat unconventional nature of this room was explained well to start, and it basically boiled down to the room being a much more intuitive version of an old school LucasArts game, as rather than typing, for example, “take eye from witch,” we’d explain what we wanted to do verbally to our Game Master, and they’d describe what happens. Everything worked intuitively, as moving around and interacting with the room was a completely smooth experience. To get us started, we took turns searching the room, and after were let loose to work through the experience between ourselves as ideas formed. The story line and presentation were great, with pictures being provided to us to more fully flesh out the map of the room and show us the things we interacted with. I really appreciated the sinister art style and subtle clues that were hidden within these pictures, and felt that these really added to the immersion. The escape room vibe was captured well through our GM’s descriptions and the game flow, and there is an undercurrent of creepiness that I appreciated.

Puzzles flowed well through the mostly linear gameplay, (though there are non-linear points, unless we were stuck, the nature of the game requires a small level of linearity at most times,) and each level of the game is intuitive, with connections that make solid logical sense. At no point did I feel we were hindered by “adventure game logic” that required us to make herculean leaps, nor were there any red herrings to lead us down unnecessary rabbit holes. Though the logic and connections come together cleanly, the game is not without a challenge, however, and the difficulty curve smoothly works towards more complex puzzles. In fact, several of my favorites were very creative, leading to some excellently satisfying moments when we finally sussed out what the solutions were. Overall, I had an awesome time with this game, especially as a tabletop role-playing game player and game master myself.

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Low Points:

The ending was unexpected, as we thought there’d be another room in which we’d clear up one final loose end, but things just ended, undermining the climax somewhat, which was a shame, as the rest of the story was engaging and I was excited to see how things came together in the end. A little extra story to ensure the ending feels complete would definitely remedy this well. The inventory system is rather unwieldy, as items are only added, not removed, and things can get buried fairly easily. It was functional, but didn’t quite work as smoothly as we’ve seen in other games.

Verdict:

Red Hill Asylum was a great first audio escape room for me, and I had an excellent time working through the creepy room. The light to moderate difficulty would be great for new players, but the puzzles are creative and challenging enough to keep an enthusiast entertained for the hour. I recommend giving it a shot, and look forward to trying out their new audio experiences in the future! You can book your ghost hunting delve into Red Hill Asylum here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escapist NZ provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

The Escape Game – Ruins: Forbidden Treasure (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  We recommend 2-4

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Theme:

From the The Escape Game website:

You’re on a relaxing aerial tour of a remote jungle when everything suddenly falls apart. You’re stranded at the foot of ancient and mysterious temple ruins – home of a massive fabled treasure. Adventure has come knocking and the treasure could be yours for the taking! Fortune favors the bold. Will it favor you?

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First Impressions:

At the start of our game, we met one of our favorite people we’ve ever met within an escape game, Captain Mac, who would be flying us to the site of our adventure. A man of pure joy and light, we were highly entertained by his beautifully produced and informative educational video, right up until the plane crashed. But, you know, five stars up until that minor incident!

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Captain Mac’s tours are brilliant!

High Points:

Our Game Master Brianna and Avatar “Jungle Scout” were great, helping us explore this beautiful room remotely. Set design is amazing, and made us wish we were physically in the room, but I didn’t feel that much was lost in translation, or that we were missing out on too much of the experience by playing remotely. If anything, it got us excited to visit The Escape Game in Nashville once the pandemic is over! There are a few cinematic moments that truly wowed us, including some crazy set pieces that, when activated, elevate the entire game’s immersion brilliantly! It’s strange to comment on how tactile the room is when we weren’t physically there, but it was cool to be able to virtually interact with so many well built props, and the Jungle Scout ensured we were able to have her manipulate them as we directed. The inventory system is excellent, and items are quickly added and removed as we find and successfully use them, respectively. This keeps the game flow running smoothly and ensures the whole experience is well streamlined. Technical wizardry runs rampant in this room, and is hidden quite well, creating mystical, large scale effects that translate well to the zoom call. As an aside, isn’t it nice to be able to have conference calls that aren’t mind numbing, for once?

The game flows beautifully, as previously mentioned, and searching has been modified in order to keep things running at a good clip, so the puzzling is the star of the show here. The interactions are challenging and logical, and it’s great to see that though the experience has been adjusted for remote play, it remains a fantastic room dense with great puzzles. I really loved that several puzzles still relied on good teamwork to overcome, and the variety certainly allowed for each of us to have our MVP moment! Each stage of the game is somewhat self contained, making each room feel like their own individual meta-puzzles to work through, and this approach works fantastically virtually, and eliminates any dead time from having to direct the avatar to walk back and forth. The climactic puzzle is wonderfully intense, and the touches that combine to build this level of intensity are all insanely cool, even through our computer screens.

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Low Points:

We had one slight hiccup when we asked to search a particular part of the room, and were told it was featureless, only to later find there was a very important interaction there we had previously expected to find. Luckily, our GM was able to get things back on track once she realized the error, which was great. One particular puzzle relies on sound, and it’s a great idea in person, but virtually, we were directly informed regarding the important bits, simplifying it a bit more than we would’ve liked. I understand the reason for the modification, but other games we’ve done have been able to translate sounds to their inventories, which would preserve the challenge here.

Verdict:

As a virtual experience, Ruins: Forbidden Treasure is a pretty awesome way to spend an hour with friends, escaping even when we can’t be in the room together. I really appreciated the production values of the adventure, and the intro video is almost worth the price of admission alone! I can’t wait to check out The Escape Game once we’re able to make the trek out to Tennessee, and absolutely recommend escaping this room virtually in the mean time. Book your time with Captain Mac’s Skyward Tours here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Escape Game provided our team with a complementary game.