INTO THE BLACK
Have you ever wondered how you would react if you were the character walking through the spooky house alone in a horror flick? Now you have the chance feel what that is like. Into the Black at the Los Angeles Fairgrounds in Pomona California is a new Halloween event for 2017. It is a three part adventure in that there is a short movie, VR experience and walk through haunted house that all work together to tell the story. You can watch the movie on YouTube before attending the event. The VR experience is a fun short adventure into the past to meet the characters of the home and find out a little more of the history of the house and it’s former residents. The haunted house is an individual experience inside the house which we have now gotten quite familiar with. Overall, it’s a creative, fun and unique event.
The haunted house is beautifully designed and truly feels like it’s own character. One of my favorite things about the design is the use of space. I enjoyed the large room scenes in combination with the claustrophobic hallways. I also love that there are choices to make within the path. The make-up is amazing, of course. Afterall, Larry Bones (Boneyard Effects) is an incredible make-up creator. The hardworking actors are perfectly placed to build tension and then pounce. The sound design is also wonderfully done. I loved the moment when I was following the sound, but could barely see anything. Everything works together so well to create a fresh style of psychologically thrilling experience.
You can more of my thoughts in the YouTube video below along with my husband and short interview with Larry Bones.
This escape room game is not for the weak. Escapade Games Zoe is both a haunted house and an escape room game. The story is interesting. The set and props are well done. The puzzles are good and the flow works. There is also a good amount of high-tech puzzles in this game. Basically it encompasses the escape room that so many future escape room players picture in their heads when they ask,”Is it scary?” and the answer is yes.
Be prepared for an immersive experience that includes strong creep factor as well as jump scares. There are spirits in this game (in the form of live actors) that will attempt to distract you in the most haunting ways. This is a perfect event for those looking for a more immersive haunted experience any time of year, not just October when the general public is looking for a fright.
Below is a list of the Escape Rooms I’ve played roughly in order of MY favorite to least favorite. Note: I prefer strong storytelling and immersion, especially in horror, paranormal & magic themed escape rooms, so my preferences may be different than yours. Feel free to write to me Twitter @christinebarger or Instagram @TheHauntGirl
ESCAPE THE NETHERWORLD – SASQUATCH
ULTIMATE ESCAPE GAME ATLANTA – SUBMERGED
ESCAPE THE NETHERWORLD – HAUNTED
MISSION ESCAPE ATLANTA – THE HOTEL
TIME TO ESCAPE ATLANTA – AL CAPONE’S SPEAKEASY 1929
MASTERMIND ESCAPE GAMES – SUPERHERO TRAINING FACILITY
ESCAPE THE NETHERWORLD – NOSFERATU
MISSION ESCAPE ATLANTA – THE STUDY
ESCAPE THE NETHERWORLD
I have never been so impressed with storytelling from beginning to end as I was in Sasquatch. This escape game is one of the best examples of storytelling through immersion that I have seen nationwide. I felt a true sense of urgency throughout the game. The effects through use of set design, lighting, sound and other special effects was exactly what you could expect from the company that brings you one of the most impressive haunts in the nation. The puzzles were fairly first generation, but were tied in enough throughout the story that it worked well. The payoff at the end of the game is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in an escape room. Overall I was incredibly impressed with this game. I highly recommend making the trip to play it if you love immersive games.
Ghost themes are always a favorite with me. I thought the story of the captured ghost and paranormal entities was a very fun setting. The room looked great. The props and effects were unique and fun. I adored the hint system in this game. I also loved our amazing gamemaster. The puzzles in this game are designed for a large group in a way that feels a little like busy work. Several of them are tedious physical puzzles. Again they are fairly first generation puzzles, however the props are beyond what I’ve seen in most other escape games. The finale of the game is incredible IF you win. Unfortunately you will not experience it if you lose. Overall this is a fun and unique escape game.
Vampires are another favorite theme of mine, unfortunately I’ve yet to find a vampire themed room that really knocks my socks off. Nosferatu had a clever hint system and fun theme, but the game left a lot to be desired. I should mention that we were partnered up with a rather large group that didn’t really seem to want my husband and I to play (even though they joined our booking knowing we had already signed up). Also the gamemaster for this experience was a bit of a jerk, which also may skew my opinion of the game. We were given envelopes with information about our individual characters, a task and information to memorize. In order for a player to win the group must stab the vampire’s heart and escape PLUS each person must complete their task. It’s a lot of instructions and things to remember for something that doesn’t really add to the game in my personal opinion. It just made the game start off feeling complicated. The room itself wasn’t impressive in set design. There were A LOT of locks and keys in the game. The puzzles were tedious and uninteresting including very time consuming physical puzzles, deciphering and reading. It was definitely not my style of game, even though I was incredibly excited for the theme. My husband and I both accomplished our personal goals, but somehow a decision was made on the final puzzle that did not include us and it was incorrect. If you choose incorrectly at the final puzzle, you lose. The answer is simple if you look at all of the puzzles in the game you will clearly see it. Nothing in the game is too complicated, it’s just all time consuming and there is a lot to do. I imagine this could be a fun game for a large group of beginners, but it was certainly not my kind of game.
Escape the Netherworld is an incredible escape room company with impressive games. They are perfect for large groups of all levels. Experienced players should also enjoy these games whether they have a team of two or group. (I would caution players from doing all three games back to back like we did though. The puzzles started to blend into each other because the puzzle styles are quite similar in all of the games.) My main frustration is that they have created the most outstanding payoffs for winning the games and you only get three hints during gameplay. I strongly feel that the experience of winning these games is as fun as the gameplay and everyone should really be encouraged to complete it within the allotted time. Therefore I wish they allowed for unlimited hints and would try to encourage everyone to get through. I know there will still be people that do not take the hints, but at least they’d have the option. If not then maybe consider making an equally impressive losing payoff.
Picture if you will an episode of Hoarders taking place in the warehouse of a Halloween prop and animatronic collector and that’s a good start for imagining Netherworld. It was beyond anything I could’ve expected. This sensory overload walk through haunt had me so stunned by the halfway point that I’m sure my eyes glazed over. I’ve never seen so much stuff in a haunt. It was incredible. I can see why it makes so many “Best Haunt” lists. It’s just incredible. The amount of stuff was so overwhelming that it would be impossible to really see everything in just one pass through. I would expect that even after the 10th or 12th time through, a guest could still find things they’d missed. There are also actors flying around and puppeteers and sound/lighting effects throughout the journey. There’s a room at the end that is full of soap suds called a Foam Room that you can choose to walk through. I did not go through it because as I walked up to the entrance a boy ran out of the entrance into me knocking the wind out of me. I decided that as long as the group of boys was horsing around in it I would pass on the experience. I didn’t actually find the haunt scary thematically and honestly the jump scares were a little far and few in between, but it’s still an impressive haunt worthy of a special trip.
SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN FRIGHT FEST
I absolutely love Six Flags Fright Fest in southern California. This is one of my favorite haunts to attend each year. I will admit that not many changes have been made to the mazes or scarezones, but if you haven’t attended in a while I highly recommend it. There are a few new additions this year such as the Dead End maze, Club 6 Feet Under, Damned ‘N Disguise scarezone and most notably the Hidden Haunts VIP Tour.
I always enjoy the mazes at Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest. I especially enjoyed the Willoughby Mansion after hearing the tale of the haunt on the Hidden Haunts VIP tour. Learning the story behind the maze added a new level of appreciation for it. I’m also always impressed by the creativity of Vault 666, aesthetic appeal of Red’s Revenge, spaciousness of Aftermath and fun of Toyz. This year I was especially impressed with the creative and hard working actors in the Chupacabra maze, as well as the Nightmare and Demon’s door scarezones. One of the things I find most impressive about the ghouls at this event is their dedication and spirit. I’ve even found myself following a few of them on social media. Voodoo Nights really shined this year, too. I found myself hanging out and enjoying the show a few times.
As much as I love Fright Fest, there were a couple of disappointments this year. My favorite circus show is not performing this season and there was nothing replacing it. The new Dead End maze fell a little flat for me. I’m not a huge fan of the flashlight technology. (It didn’t seem to work properly for me here or at Knott’s this year. Maybe it’s that magnetic personality my mom loves about me so much interfering with the technology.) I love the concept of Damned ‘N Disguise and thought it was really awesome make-up, however the area felt a little more like a photo op than a scarezone.
My favorite experience this year was hands down the Hidden Haunts VIP Tour. This special tour is an add on for the VIP Tour. It is a special walking tour behind the scenes into areas guests are not normally allowed to go. We got to see the Fright Fest make-up Scream Team hard at work, as well as talk to the incredibly talented Scott Ramp. We heard stories of real spirits that haunt the park all season long, not just during Halloween. I recommend it for anyone with a fascination for the paranormal.
Don’t forget that during Fright Fest you can also get your thrills on coasters or take a break to sit and enjoy the hypnotist show. There are also many food options, including a few good options for gluten free folks like myself. Please consume alcohol responsibly at the event. Above all have fun, but remember to respect the hardworking people behind the event and the monsters working tirelessly to make your experience the best they can.
The following videos were recorded with permission during the Press Event. Six Flags does not allow video recording inside the mazes.
DAMNED ‘N DISGUISE
RED’S REVENGE MAZE
VAULT 666 MAZE
TOYZ OF TERROR MAZE
WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED MAZE