Matsuri (Lock Chicago)

Location: Lock Chicago
Room: Matsuri Done: May 2019 Price: About $35 per player after tax. Advertised challenge level: N/A Our time: 42 minutes (four players, one clue)
Matsuri at Lock Chicago is a Japanese-themed room where, instead of escaping the room, your goal is to retrieve a ceremonial drum so a festival can be held.
Puzzle quality: I’m going to be as straightforward as I can be without spoiling the puzzles. The first half of the puzzles or so in this room were very good; they felt like they rewarded perception and attention and were generally very fun to solve.
The second half of the puzzles were generally very “noisy”: they had a lot of information and not all that information was used. We found this frustrating, because it meant that some of the puzzles didn’t have a clear intent and required figuring out the intent of the puzzle designer. One puzzle in particular required multiple layers of solving without any confirmers that you were on the right track until you tried a…

Infection (PanIQ Room Chicago)

Location: PanIQ Room Chicago
Room: Infection
Done: March 2019
Price: $28 per player (We used a Groupon that brought it down to $78 after tax for four players.)
Advertised challenge level: Medium, 3/5
Our time: 50 minutes (team of 4) with one hint.

Starting with this room, my group felt it was important to bring new players with us to provide an extra perspective. We’ll be featuring descriptive guest reviews, in our guests’ personal styles, alongside our main capsule reviews when applicable.

Puzzle quality: Although the puzzles weren’t too oblique or challenging to solve, there were multiple dexterity elements in this room that we found frustrating. One puzzle was overclued (given more clues than necessary), which is generally a good thing to see because it prevents bottlenecking, but the wrong half of it was overclued!

Atmosphere and immersion: Although the puzzles in some places felt suited to the atmosphere, many of the puzzles felt drastically unrelated to the central theme. The e…

Portal (Brain Drain Chicago)

Done: February 2019
Price: $99 for three players (we used a Groupon which brought it down to $78 after tax)
Advertised challenge level: 4/5
Our time: 44 minutes (team of 3) with one hint.
Puzzle quality: Outside of one puzzle that gave us a hard time, all of the puzzles made sense and had a clear intent to their solutions, which was very satisfying.
Atmosphere and puzzle/narrative integration: The room had a loose sci-fi theme to it, but didn't pretend to be anything in particular. The puzzles are also only a loose fit to the theme but the overall combination of puzzles and atmosphere does work decently well. I have to especially shout out the physical components - several of the puzzles had a very satisfying physical setup and felt like they were constructed to a higher standard than I'm used to for escape room puzzles.
Puzzle style: This room contains a variety of puzzles that are largely solving-based. Hunt-and-seek elements are minimal, and there are no dexterity elem…

Tortuga (Escape Reality)

Done: September 2018
Price: $32 a player
Advertised challenge level: 3/5, although I thought it was more challenging than Machina (which Escape Reality rates 4/5). Escape Reality lists best room times on a screen in their lobby and this room had the second highest best-time of their six rooms, indicating a longer room.
Our time: 42 minutes (team of 2) with one hint.
Puzzle quality: A good variety, with some puzzles requiring execution, and some puzzles requiring solving and interpretation. No puzzle solutions felt outlandish after the fact, although we were definitely distracted by extraneous information.
Atmosphere and puzzle/narrative integration: The room design fit the plot perfectly and was very evocative. The puzzles felt on theme but didn’t all link especially clearly to the plot. A few puzzles used clearly electronic components, which was a bit jarring (especially as we were told beforehand that the room had no keypad locks because they wouldn’t fit the era.)
Puzzle style…

Machina (Escape Reality)

Done: September 2018

Price: $32 a person, minimum 2 people
Advertised challenge level: 4/5
Our time: 40 minutes (team of 3) with one hint
Puzzle style: Primarily riddles and problem-solving; this room had very little hunt-and-seek and no dexterity elements.
Puzzle quality: No real bad puzzles, but no puzzles that stood out as especially satisfying. There were two puzzles we thought at first were more clever than they were, which was a letdown.
Atmosphere and puzzle/narrative integration: All of the props felt like they belonged, even the campier ones. The room was a bit sparse overall - it does a good job of conveying the overall idea of a lab, but not the density of things I would expect in a lab. The puzzles were thematic and many felt consequential, but the hardest puzzles were met with the least fanfare, both in terms of what they opened and in terms of the room’s overall plot.
Linearity: Linear (with one set of two puzzles that can be approached simultaneously)
"Scare" …

The Bank (Fox in a Box)

Done: July 2018

Price: $36 a person
Puzzle quality: Good. A good variety of styles, including two puzzles I've never seen in any other room. The puzzles were very well made, but it was evident in some parts that this is a room that has gone through its fair share of solves.
Atmosphere: Nothing felt out of place.
Puzzle/narrative integration: High - since the premise is that you're breaking into a bank, it makes sense that you would need to puzzle out the codes the people who work there would use for locks, and it makes sense that they would hide codes instead of remembering them.
Our time: Successful (team of 6)
Linearity: Nonlinear, and each area stays in play as you open the next one.
"Scare" moments: There is a light, surprising element in this room.
Hint system: I don't recall the details - I don't think we used a hint.
Accessibility notes: The floor is entirely flat and most of its puzzles can be solved with information and items at eye level. Players …

The Lost Book Of Spells (Team vs Time)

Location: Team vs Time Room: The Lost Book of Spells
Done: May 2018
Price: $105 for three players after tax
Advertised challenge level: Intermediate with a 30% escape rate
Our time: 75 minutes (team of 3) with two hints
Puzzle quality: Mixed. Some puzzles were interesting and one in particular stood out to me as clever and rewarding, but a few puzzles seemed like they had multiple options given the available information and you would have to know the intent of the puzzle designer to figure the puzzles out.
Atmosphere and puzzle/narrative integration: Each room has its own distinct atmosphere. They seem to be in different settings, which is jarring but makes the room feel more like an investigation leading you from place to place. The puzzles suit the atmosphere of each room well but don’t feel connected to the plot. There is a digital element that feels out of place.
Puzzle style: A good combination of hunt-and-seek and problem solving with some level of dexterity involved.