ESCAPE ROOMS – Maze Rooms: Lunar Mission – California

MAZE ROOMS LUNAR MISSION

Maze Rooms - Los Angeles, CA, United StatesMaze Rooms - Los Angeles, CA, United States

The theme “Lunar Mission” lends itself to a high tech atmosphere, and this Maze Room does not disappoint. This is NOT a traditional escape room. This is an immersive interactive experience. There are NO number locks or Sudoku, the puzzles are incredibly woven into the theme and simply feel like actions you must take to accomplish a goal. I found it to be a challenging room particularly because of the amount of teamwork needed. This is not a room you can do alone (and yes I have done rooms alone). I love the blend of mental and physical puzzles combined with the required teamwork to accomplish the steps throughout the mission. It’s incredibly well designed. One of the things often overlooked by escape room companies is the finale. They seem to feel that escaping is enough and forget to really complete their story, but these guys even cover that and it’s one of my favorites. The production value is incredible. One of the best I’ve seen. It feels as though it was created by a movie studio. The set construction, decor, lighting, sound design, puzzles and story are all top notch. I really can’t say enough good things about the Lunar Station Maze Room.

Your team must work together to retrieve a very important item and escape the Lunar Station in time. Part of the team is stranded on the Lunar Station and the rest are sent up in the ship on a rescue mission. You must work together to land everyone safely and get them into the Lunar Station, get what you came for and, escape as quickly as possible. It’s like being in an action film set in space!

We played during the first week it was opened and it was just my husband and I playing. I was in the Lunar Station and he was my knight in shining armor…err…um..spacesuit…coming to save me. One of my favorite things about the experience was watching him light up like a kid at Christmas when we’d succeed at puzzles and received the payoff. It was really wonderful to see him so excited to pretend to be an astronaut for an hour.

The owner is very passionate about his business and expressed excitement for his next room, as well. I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but I can’t wait to go back.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!

Also this escape room has a family friendly theme. (No psychos here.)

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ESCAPE ROOMS – The 13th Room: Jack the Ripper – California

THE 13TH ROOM: Jack the Ripper

I got a group of friends together to attend this 2 hour escape room event. There were 7 of us and a family of 4 grouped with us. The event began with dinner on the second floor of the Metro Ale House in Pomona, CA. I had a salad, which was nice because I have a couple of food allergies and they were very careful to create something that was 100% safe for me to eat. The staff was excellent. As dinner wrapped up things got even more interesting. The puzzles were clever and unique. I actually don’t want to say anything that will give any spoilers, so I’m just going to say that it was a fun and unique experience.

 

ESCAPE ROOMS – Enigma: Crime Scene – California

ENIGMA Crime Scene Escape Room

I am a big fan of Enigma in Los Angeles. I enjoy the immersive experiences they create with each unique escape room. There most recent room, Crime Scene, takes place in a beautifully designed theatre built inside of the room in the office building in which they are located. There is a special lobby for Crime Scene that is also decorated for the theme. Enigma always has creative puzzles. The story is strong. The hint system is really fun. They have a unique twist in this particular game that requires more than just escaping in time. It’s really quite clever.

Previous Enigma Review

Enigma The Will Review

HAUNT – Talladega Frights- California 2016

TALLADEGA RANCH – 4 out of 5 stars

This review is long overdue. I attended the Valentine’s Day Talladega Frights event in Bakersfield, CA this year. I thought it would be nice to post this now since they are having their Beers for Fears event next weekend.

The event I attended was a great event for teenagers. There was even a special area for teens only. There was a large slide, music and the haunt, as well as a few vendors. I was only interested in the haunt, so bypassed everything else and headed to stand in line upon arrival. It was a very slow moving line. There was a large screen playing movie clips and a couple of monsters moving back and forth through the line. The haunt itself was well done. The haunt was longer than I expected considering I was told by staff that it was only a fraction of the actual haunt they do at Halloween. The actors worked hard. They did a wonderful job of creating fear and confusion in one section that consists of an actual maze. My husband and I even got separated from each other for a bit. I really enjoyed the haunt and look forward to their Halloween event. I just hope they find a way to move the line along a bit more quickly, since I expect it will be much much busier.

INTERVIEW – Brian Corbitt of Countdown Live Escape Games- ESCAPE ROOM

 

Brian Corbitt – Owner, designer, builder, manager

Countdown Live Escape Games

Why did you decide to get involved in the escape room industry?

I was first interested in the escape room industry when I was looking for off season work from my Halloween job at Circus Circus that took up half the year. I was driving through Vegas and saw a place called Live Escape Games and wanted to check it out. Of course the way I do such things is by sending an interest letter for employment so I could get a better view from the behind the scenes aspect. I accidentally found a different escape room, Countdown Live Escape Games, a problem which is apparently all too common in the industry. I worked for Countdown for a month but had made it quite clear I was a temporary asset. While there, I had the opportunity to redesign one of their rooms finale which, in my opinion was leaps and bounds better than the previous setup. After I left and moved to California, the owner, Ethan was approached by a Los Angeles escape room called CAPTVT about selling their business to him. He jumped on the opportunity as their rooms were gorgeous but their puzzles were lacking. As fate would have it, the manager he had lined up for the store fell through and I was just recently leaving a job I had grown a distaste for. This allowed the perfect setting for me to take over as the general manager of the LA branch.

What makes your rooms unique? And what do you think is the most important part of an escape room design?

Our rooms are different from most as I am a set dresser from the Halloween industry. This means my attention to the atmosphere of my rooms is a priority before all else. I want the immersion to be high enough that people actually feel like they are part of a story. Our Krampus room is the best demonstration of my vision of what rooms should be. To many rooms I’ve walked into with plain walls and sparse furniture that has no rhyme or reason. These setups suck the life out of the experience. The beauty of the industry is the lack of oversight so that all escape rooms can be unique in their designs. This double edged sword is also why you get those sub-par rooms that seem to lack the vision of others. Puzzles are definitely the next point that needs to be covered as you need to walk a fine line of balanced gameplay. Our puzzles need to be challenging enough for the veterans yet still accessible enough for new players. It is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish as all people are different and you are playing to the statistics of the players since you can’t please everyone. The exact moment we strive to achieve with Countdown is the last minute exit. I love seeing groups with 1 minute left of the clock struggling so hard to get out and just managing to burst out of the room before the time ends. To me this is the greatest feeling for the player. Half of them have given up at this point but one or two are still scrambling with the final puzzle. If I could give all my players this experience reliably I would because the pure mix of emotions at this point really creates the lasting experience. I am rooting for each and every group that comes through to get out, but alas, it just doesn’t work that way.

What advice do you have for players?

The biggest downfall of players is communication. Every other game it feels like someone finds something or they do something and they don’t effectively communicate it to the rest of their team. Maybe it’s because everyone else is busy in their own space, but what really helps is working together as a hive mind instead of as individuals. They need to organize their efforts so they fully understand all the tools they are working with before attempting to tackle a puzzle. One little lost piece of information could cost them the game.

Anything else you’d like to share?

The escape room community is still growing. Each and every day a new room will open with their own twist on the escape room template. It’s exciting to see what new and crazy ideas will be hatched to really help diversify the industry. There may not be brand loyalty (can’t do most games twice) but there will definitely be brand supporting as you begin to hear about which rooms you need to try and which you should avoid. We have such high potential with escape rooms that we cannot ignore our responsibility to continue to improve the quality of our games.

LiveEscapeRoomReviews review of Countdown Live Escape Games

ESCAPE ROOMS – Real Escape (Bakersfield) – California 

REAL ESCAPE

Let me open this review by explaining that I played the Bootleggers Warehouse & Wizards Lair during the soft open, but wasn’t really aware that it was the soft open. We paid regular price for the Wizards Lair and the owner kindly comped our Bootlegger experience. 

Aside from a bad experience I had with a bottle full of ink that apparently wasn’t supposed to have been in the room and was removed after our game, I thought the props were well done in both rooms. The decor was okay. The mood lighting was a little dark for my taste. The stories and themes were creative. The owner I spoke with was very nice and seemed quite passionate about his rooms. 

The thing that makes this company stand out the most to me is that they take time away from game play when you use hints. 

My major disappointment came from the puzzles. I expected much more from the Wizard room because of the theme. I wanted a Magical experience and I felt the room fell short. The manual style puzzles and lack of special effects in the room were a disappointment. I felt the puzzles lended themselves more to a prison breakout theme than a wizard room. The Bootlegger puzzles were more coherent to the theme, however I’ve never done a room where if you move something in the room you may prevent yourself from solving a lock. I found that discouraging. I didn’t actually get that far anyway because the game master wasn’t really watching and gave us a hint for puzzles we’d already solved and since the room wasn’t a logical natural progression for us, we didn’t realize it. 

I want to go back and give them another chance when they open their next room. They expressed that they plan to open several new rooms soon. 

INTERVIEW – Bob Glouberman of The Virus – ESCAPE ROOM

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Bob Glouberman. I am one of five partners in Get the F Out, the company that produced the Virus escape room. I am the writer, designer, and puzzle creator of the Virus Room.

Why did you decide to get involved in the escape room industry?

I am the founder and creator of Fantastic Race, a scavenger hunt company that uses puzzles in order to get from one location to the next. Entering the escape room industry was just the logical next move. I love all kinds of puzzles. Word puzzles, physical puzzles, scientific based puzzles, codes, logic puzzles, cryptograms, crossword puzzles, board games, trivia….you name it. The escape room is just another medium to provide puzzles to the player in an interesting environment. There are many similarities and differences between Fantastic Race and the escape room experience. One big difference is that the escape room is a contained medium to provide puzzles to the player and can do so with a singular theme and story. I have enjoyed building The Virus and it has helped me develop the future Fantastic Races I am currently working on.

What makes The Virus unique from other escape games?

I built The Virus to be the next level in escape rooms. I wanted The Virus to be incredibly immersive in a way that I had not yet experienced in other escape rooms. That’s why I partnered with many Hollywood industry professionals to provide state of the art sound, special effects, sets, lights, and virtual reality. The virtual reality is another way to completely immerse the player in the escape room. The entire first 8-10 minutes of the escape room is a virtual one, where the player is propelled from the parking lot into a virtual elevator and then across miles of pneumatic tubes across an underground cave. It is a wild Disneyland type of ride and prepares the player for everything that comes next. I had never experienced anything like it and I wanted that to be the introduction to our room.

Additionally, the puzzles themselves are completely thematically integrated into the room. The room is a laboratory and based in science so we wanted the puzzles to do the same. We have puzzles based in magnetism, lasers, optics, chemistry, physics, temperature, water displacement, light spectra, and computer science. Every segment of the room has been devoted to the scientific theme and it provides a really cool through line.

Finally, most rooms have a ticking clock to mark down the amount of time left in the room. We have walls that slowly and imperceptibly close in on the players to bestow a psychological urgency that I have not found in any other room.

What’s it like for you watching players play your game?

It’s both wonderful and horrible. For me it’s emotionally draining. I want the players to have the most incredible experience going through the room. But, I undergo a weird X-Files like emotional identification with the individual teams and if they are frustrated, I am frustrated. If the players are excited, so am I. When they win and escape the room, I am exhilarated. When they lose, I am saddened. I come home late at night and eat a pizza.

What do you think is the most important part of an escape room design? 

For me the most important part of an escape room is complete immersion in a story. I want the players to feel like they are in a movie. Story, puzzles, and decor all combine to create this movie like experience. I feel the best escape rooms make me forget that I am in reality and provide me with this interactive and cinematic experience.

What advice do you have for players?

Winning is not important. Too many escape room people are too invested in the escape itself. I believe the escape is unimportant. It’s how you play the game. In both Fantastic Race and in The Virus, none of the owners cares who wins and who loses. We do not talk about one team being amazing and one team being lame. We talk about the wonder and surprise they exhibited, having discovered one puzzle or whether or not they responded to the virtual reality with squeals of delight. The “aha moments” are what count to us and we hope to the player.

LiveEscapeRoomReviews Review of The Virus