Locked! In the Bistro!

Andover, New Jersey
Room Size: 8 people (4 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 2/4/2018
Price: $25/person ($200 for Private Booking)

Backstory:

You and your family are out at the ‘classiest’ French bistro in New Jersey, but you make the heinous mistake of coming in right before closing. The waiter not taking any of your guff goes back into the kitchen to complain. You are waiting for a while before you realize that the waiter and chef have left you alone in the bistro and armed the alarm system. Can you get out in the 60 minutes before the bistro goes into lockdown mode?

Table for 3 please.
Cozy up to the fire.

Theming:

I will admit that this is one of the more innovative themes that we have encountered. It seems the industry is saturated with ‘Jailbreaks’ or ‘zombie survival’ so when I saw the room advertising escaping from a ‘snooty French bistro’ I was intrigued to say the least.

While the decor was a little sparse in most of the room I do appreciate that the room itself didn’t take itself too seriously. The menus for the bistro were very clearly making fun of themselves in the meta sense. Most of the food items listed weren’t french, and the kids menu even went so far as to tell us “make your way through the maze…or don’t I’m just a menu.” This lead to a lot of chuckles as we made our way through the room.

This kitchen operates with barely any equipment….

Puzzles:

  The room didn’t have any standout puzzles per se but there were a few that made us stand back and re-evaluate how we were making our way through the game. There was one puzzle in particular that had us a bit frustrated as it was greatly determinant on the precise placement of items on a scale. If your placement was a bit off, your answer would be incorrect.

While the room was set up in a way that several people could be working at once, I felt that it kind of lacked an exciting climaxing moment. It’s not that the end was a let down, it just didn’t have the heart pounding finish that other rooms have.

Are those Pad Thai noodles?

Customer Experience:

I’ll deal with customer experience in 2 aspects: ownership and facilities.

The ownership of Unlocked! are among the nicest that you could ever hope to meet. Carl was EXTREMELY accommodating with a last minute booking and squeezed us in when he easily could have turned us away. In the beginning he gives you the story of the room and a sample puzzle as the intro to get people acclimated and a hint as to what they should be looking for once they get in. You can tell he is passionate about his craft and the company is handcrafting their rooms with care.

With that said the facility was a bit hit or miss. It seems as though they converted an old house to fit their rooms so while they flowed nicely it had the creaks of an old house. The other thing of note is that there were no monitors in the room to get clues or your time remaining, and instead he communicated with you via phone if you needed help. If this was tweaked a bit I think the experience would be that much better. 

Final Thoughts:

Unlocked! Is one of two facilities to open in Sussex county and are trying to bring the hobby into a part of New Jersey that is all but devoid of escape games. If you are a veteran escape rooms you might find Locked! In the Bistro! to be a bit easy for your tastes. While the room may be lacking the bells and whistles of the higher end New York City rooms, Unlocked! isn’t looking to compete with them. Their self proclaimed niche is families, work groups, and newbies. With that in mind I have no problems telling you to check out the Daily Specials at Unlocked! Escape Rooms and let them know that LockedinReviews.com sent you!

 

That’s right….a pun….deal with it.

Western Bank Heist – Locks and Puzzles

Lakewood, NJ
Room Size: 5 people (2-4 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 11/12/2017
Price: $22.00/person

After our Atlantic City excursion, we found that a new company, Locks and Puzzles, opened up not to far from our homes, over in Lakewood.  When we read the room description, we were pretty excited to see a slightly new twist on the bank heist theme. Even though we had done four rooms in the previous two days, we were pretty gung-ho to give this one a shot.

Locks and Puzzles

Backstory:

You and your fellow OUTLAWS have been wandering the desert in search of food, water and supplies.  All of a sudden you stumble upon a quaint little town in the middle of the WILD WEST.  It sure is quiet as the townspeople are out rounding up their cattle.  Now do as OUTLAWS do, rob the bank and make a quick getaway before you are caught DEAD in the act!

safe

Theming:

The first word that comes to mind when I think of the Western Bank Heist is “cute”.  Rather than try to create a room to make you feel you’re really robbing an old-time bank, Locks and Puzzles has created a colorful little puzzle room with a western theme.  While a couple of puzzle elements seem out of place, especially in a bank, the majority of them feel pretty appropriate in the time period.  The set could easily appeal to families that are new to the escape room experience, as it has a lot of charm, but isn’t at all overwhelming.

Western Bank Heist

Puzzles:

While every room has its own take on puzzle design, we were impressed at how Locks and Puzzles made a room that strayed from the beaten path.  While there were key locks and technological elements, there were no combination locks in the room.  Much of the puzzle path in the room felt like an old point-and-click adventure, relying on object association to advance the puzzle chain.  We felt it was very clever, partly because it took us a bit longer to make certain connections because it was not what we were expecting.  In spite of that, I think this room would particularly cater to newer players, children, and families that don’t have a ton of escape-room experience.  It was definitely fun to play through!

Customer Experience:

The Locks and Puzzles facility is very close to the Garden State Parkway, so it is pretty convenient to get to.  The facility is very neat, and they have a nice lobby area to sit in while you wait.  The owners are very pleasant and professional, and work very well with children. While their rooms are smaller than the typical escape room, the ticket price is currently quite cheaper than the average, so it’s very accessible for new players. This would be a great room to invite family and friends to, especially on your way to or from the beach.

winners!

Final Thoughts:

Bang for your buck, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Western Bank Heist. The set design and puzzle difficulty may not really impress hardcore enthusiasts, but the room definitely has its own personality and charm that anyone could appreciate.  We had a lot of fun in both of their rooms, and really look forward to seeing what they come up with next.  If you decide to check out Locks and Puzzles‘s Western Bank Heist, tell them LockedInReviews sent you, and let us know what you think below!

 

The Hostel – Escape at the Shore

Northfield, New Jersey
Room Size: 2-4 people (4 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 11/10/2017
Price: $30.00/person

On the second day of our Atlantic City excursion, we decided to stop in nearby Northfield to check out three rooms at Escape at the Shore.  For our first room, we opted to try to rescue our friend Barry from The Hostel.  Let’s just say that being chained up in a dark dungeon can be a bit of a shocking experience.

Escape at the Shore

Backstory:

You and your Friends decided to backpack your way through Europe. Barry, the most trusting person in the group, decides he is going to hang out with some of the local teenagers. Barry never returned to the Hostel from his adventure last night. You and your friends decide to search for Barry. You find out from an anonymous source that Barry has been kidnapped by a Black Market Mafia Ring that traffics humans for High Level Corporate CEO’s.These CEO’s pay a lot of money to torture human beings to death.

You and your friends decide to infiltrate the the torture chamber where Barry is being held. Unfortunately, you were caught on camera, and now the whole group has been cuffed to opposite walls inside a torture chamber and Barry has been strapped to an electric chair!

YOUR MISSION: Save Barry from electrocution, unshackle your group and escape the torture chamber, before the crazy chainsaw wielding CEO comes in and murders everyone.

Theming:

The Hostel is a small, cramped room for four players — the perfect fit for a dungeon. This is Escape at the Shore’s first room, and some of the design is a bit rough around the edges. That said, looking past the minutia, the game provides an heightened sense of desperation to escape by having players chained to the walls, and it really works well.

At one point in the game, the game poses a scenario that feels a bit like a moral dilemma of sorts, but ultimately, there is no “choice” in order to proceed.  Needless to say, this game is not at all suitable for young children, as there are a couple of elements and moments that are either shocking, gory, or both.  The story seems to go off the rails a little bit at the end in order to squeeze in a last puzzle or two, but it doesn’t really doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

Puzzles:

While the puzzles of The Hostel are not incredibly difficult, in the early game, they strongly rely on communication and teamwork due to players being physically separated and chained up.  Escape at the Shore does a great job of capitalizing on this, as some players won’t have the ability to interact with, or even see, some of the puzzles that they must help to solve.  Shouting descriptions and tossing items back and forth made for a fun time that goes outside of the typical escape room experience.

The game contains a standard array of puzzles and locks, as well as one or two other tricks, but nothing considered inappropriate for a room with a beginner-to-moderate difficulty.  We had fun working our way through the room, and felt accomplished when we finished.

Customer Experience:

Escape at the Shore’s facility is neat and clean, and they have nice little touches like vending machines and puzzles in the lobby while you wait.  In addition to their four escape rooms, they have a small arcade, and even “The Last Ride”, a motion-simulated coffin experience that you could check out.

When they brief you for most of their rooms, they show you a short, high-quality video detailing the story of the room and your objective.  At the time we visited, however, they did not have a video for the story for The Hostel, as it was released before they started developing the videos.

One detail you should know about The Hostel is that, for safety’s sake, even though you are initially chained up to the wall, you have the ability to unlock yourself at any time in case of panic or emergency.  While we’ve seen this done the wrong way at some other escape rooms, Escape at the Shore demonstrates that they know how to create a solid gameplay effect that’s both safe and comfortable.

Hostel Winners

Final Thoughts:

Damnit, Barry!  While we will always remember you fondly, we’ll never forgive you for getting us locked up inside that Hostel!

But in all seriousness, The Hostel was a small, dark, and fun experience for four players of any skill level.  While it was not as polished as their other rooms, the puzzles were a lot of fun, largely in part due to the “locked up” mechanic. There are definitely far worse dungeons to find yourselves chained up in, and we had a great time overall.

So on your next trip down to Atlantic City, hop on over to Northfield and check out Escape at the Shore. If you do, tell them LockedInReviews sent you, and let us know what you think down below!

Tomb of the Red Queen- Escape Room Center

Bridgewater, NJ
Room Size: 8 people (4-8 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 11/13/2017
Price: $200/group (private group only so you pay the same 200 if you have 1 or 8 people)

This room was the second of two rooms on the evening that Chris and I attempted with David and Lisa from roomescapeartists.com (For the first review click HERE) We had been wanting to partner for an excursion for a while and when the owner of Escape Room Center reached out to David we knew that the team up had to happen. The first thing I noticed when I entered the center was how massive it was. It truly was a large expansive office space (and had the nicest bathrooms of any Escape Room I’ve been to to date.) The second thing I immediately noticed was that the walls of the rooms didn’t go all the way to the ceiling. In the past this usually was a death knell for the quality of the room. Was that the case this time?

Lap of luxury while you wait

Backstory:

As a courageous group of archaeologists exploring the antient ruins of the ruler Jason K’awiil you become entrapped. The ruler has become angered that you are trespassing on the tomb of his beloved Lady Twelve Macaw. You’ll need to find your way out of the tomb before you become an artifact for a group of future explorers to discover.

Theming:

While the room didn’t make me feel like i was Dr. Jones going after the Lost Ark it did to a fairly decent job of adding to the illusion that you weren’t in New Jersey anymore. The ceilings being exposed never really crossed my mind once I got into the room itself as I was in go mode from the very beginning. The props and puzzles were all on point and fed back to the story that we were trying to solve. It wasn’t like there was anything out of the blue that would shatter the immersion to the point where you go “what is that doing in a tomb?”

Puzzles:

  The room starts off with the group being split in two rooms with the teams needing to work together to get out of the small antechambers to get to the real meat of the room. Usually puzzles like this are relegated to a prison break scenario so it was nice seeing the trope used in an alternative storyline.

Once you got into the room itself the puzzles were non-linear which is good because there was a lot of them. Granted there was a bit of a protocol that the group has to follow as it funnels you to an eventual conclusion, but before that feel free to explore as you like. One of the good things that Escape Room Center did in this room was that they retooled a lot of puzzles that would typically be found in other themes and made them fit the story. They didn’t just throw in anything because they wanted to, but they made sure that if there was a puzzle in the room it fit the narrative you were solving.

Customer Experience:

Escape Room Center bucks the trend of most of the other rooms in New Jersey in the fact that they ONLY offer private bookings. To achieve this you pay a flat rate and bring as many people as you want up to the room limit. This could be a double edged sword. On one hand it’s great if you’re coming with a big group as you’ll know you’re not going to be stuck with strangers. However, if you have a smaller group, you’re paying a much higher rate than if you were to take your chances at another company. Escape Room Center makes up for this by offering their smaller rooms as a “room of the month” where smaller groups can get a discount on the room and it rotates so that way a group of 2 isn’t stuck paying $75 a piece each time they want to play.

As noted above the facility itself was beautiful. The waiting room was spacious, well lit, and had very comfortable couches. The staff was gracious and really exuded the fact that they cared about the industry. Their rules introduction and story is given in  a separate room so that way you get the full experience. It should be known that they do collect your cell phones before you enter the room to avoid spoilers, so if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with make sure you leave yours in the car.

Final Thoughts:

We had an absolute blast completing this room. Personally I preferred this room compared to Blackbeard’s Brig (which is a shame because I absolutely love anything dealing with pirates). If you have a large group and want to have a night out while insuring that you don’t have to play with a group of people you don’t know stop by . I’m already planning on bringing my friends to try their other rooms to see if we can make the leader board on any of their other escapes. Book your appointment to escape the Tomb of the Red Queen today and let them know that LockedinReviews.com sent you!

DISCLAIMER: Our friends at roomescapeartist.com was given media pricing for our trip and LockedinReviews.com was invited as their guest.

Blackbeard’s Brig – Escape Room Center

Bridgewater, New Jersey
Room Size: 8 people (4 – 6 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 11/13/2017
Price: $200 for the entire group

George and I had an awesome opportunity to meet up with fellow reviewers Dave and Lisa Spira from Room Escape Artist to check out Escape Room Center in Bridgewater.  We played two of their larger rooms: Blackbeard’s Brig and Tomb of the Red Queen.  Today I’ll reflect on our time in the brig.  Did the scurvy do us in?

Backstory:

You are being held hostage by the evil pirate Blackbeard.  He has gone ashore to pillage and plunder leaving you to ponder a terrifying end. You have 60 minutes to escape that fate.

Theming:

After being briefed in a small video room, we were brought down the hallway into a cubicle-type room where our adventure began.  We were greeted by  rats, a prisoner who didn’t quite make it, and some items on the walls that made me do a bit of a double-take.  Quite a bit of the setting of this room is to be taken a bit tongue-in-cheek, and it feels more like an homage to pirates than an immersive escape from a brig. While it’s very clear you’re simply playing a game, almost all of the puzzles are directly related to things that you would associate with pirates, which makes the room more accessible to groups of newcomers.

Puzzles

Although Blackbeard’s Brig had a lot of typical escape-room-style puzzles, there were some very creative and unique interactions that made me appreciate the work that was put into the room, particularly in the latter half of the game.  There was a nice mix of technology and traditional locks, and the technology was incredibly well-hidden (more on that below).

While most of the puzzles in the room were fairly straightforward, there were a couple that made us double-check ourselves a few times.  Escape Room Center advertises this room as “Beginner to Intermediate”, and I think that’s about spot on.  The puzzles were fun, and even made us chuckle a bit at times.

Customer Experience:

To be honest, my experience at Escape Room Center was incredibly different from what I’m used to, and it was a lot to take in.

First and foremost, this place is absolutely huge, and incredibly immaculate.  Large couches, a beautiful reception area, well-designed control center, and even department store-sized bathrooms. I joked when we were all arriving that I was thinking of making a “top 10 best escape room bathrooms” review, and this place would be near the top of the list.

As mentioned above, one of the peculiar features of all of the Escape Room Center rooms is that they are built into modular cubicle-type structures with open ceilings.  This results in a few notable effects.  First, the walls have a sort of glossy print finish to them that can lessen an immersion factor.  In this particular room, it didn’t seem like they were aiming for immersion, so it didn’t play a significant role.  Second, the modular room design makes it a lot easier for Escape Room Center to not only hide their technology, but also their “secrets”.  We were a bit surprised at some the things hidden in the brig, resulting in a few “oohs” from the team.  Lastly, with open ceilings, there may be a bit of a concern how sounds could overlap between rooms.  The owner of Escape Room Center told us, however, that they modulate the sound levels within the rooms to try to minimize interference on a busy night.

Even though Blackbeard’s Brig is not a particularly difficult room, considering the price structure at Escape Room Center, I would suggest taking a larger group to this room – you’ll laugh, have a great time, and heck — maybe even avoid scurvy together!

Final Thoughts:

It was great to finally make it up to Escape Room Center, and Blackbeard’s Brig did not disappoint.  It’s a fun pirate-themed puzzle romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Don’t take it lightly, though, or else you’ll be walking the plank!

If you check out Blackbeard’s Brig, tell them LockedInReviews sent you, and let us know what you thought below!

DISCLAIMER:  We were provided media discounted tickets for this room experience.  Thanks again to Room Escape Artist for coordinating this event!

The Great Room – Haunted Scarehouse

Wharton, New Jersey
Room Size: 10 people (5-8 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 10/29/2017
Price: $29/person

After reading George’s glowing reviews of John Hayden’s Room and The Cookhouse, we decided to make our own trek up to Haunted Scarehouse to check out two rooms, as well as their haunted house.  We wanted to try something he hadn’t done, so we decided to check out The Great Room.   Was it really that great, or just only “OK”?  Find out more below!

Backstory:

This is the Hayden family’s room of murders. This section of the farmhouse is known as the Great Room. This massive section of the farmhouse will challenge your wits in all fashions. Multiple sections, secret passage ways and puzzles you never experienced before will have your team running mad. What terrible secrets lies within the Great Room. Just what were the Hayden family members up too. Just be warned you have only 60 minutes to complete the Great Room and save yourselves. Do you have what it takes? 

Theming:

The first and most significant thing that hits you as you walk into the Hayden family Great Room is just the magnitude of the space.  The room includes a second floor balcony with windows, bedroom doors, and a banister. Even though the floor space is considerably sizable as-is, the open ceilings and large table centerpiece really create a vast farmhouse banquet-hall vibe, albeit in the twisted Hayden family way. Regardless of your group size, this room can give you a bit of an “overwhelming” feeling, which kind of fits the horror theme a bit more. The room isn’t as gross or grimy as The Cookhouse (though there is a little bit), it still has a very consistent theme with their other rooms.

Puzzles

There is a huge variety of puzzles to go along with this huge room, and they flow into a handful of puzzle chains so that it’s not a very linear experience.  The use of technology in this room was outstanding, at times creating surprising special effects to the results of “oohs” and “aahs”.  There were also a handful of traditional locks and “physical” puzzles (though nothing strenuous).  We were part of a group of ten people, mixed with veterans and newbies alike, and everyone got involved — there was a lot to do. While the final puzzle didn’t seem to fit the “feel” of the room, it didn’t detract from an otherwise awesome puzzling experience.  We had a lot of fun solving the challenges of the Great Room, and feel it’s an appropriate room for veterans looking to bring some friends “into the scene” to see how exhilarating an escape room can REALLY be.

Customer Experience:

During the Halloween season, after 6PM, Haunted Scarehouse includes live actors in the rooms.  Three characters meandered in and out of our room while we were attempting our escape, and they became our in-game clue system. While this wasn’t our first experience with a live actor, these actors were quite on-point, and truly enhanced the experience. They really understood the game, and never broke character.  I feel the need to detail one of these interactions in order to show you how awesome this was, but please know that the next paragraph contains minor spoilers:

Spoiler

When we missed a puzzle solution in a closet that we unlocked, and one of our group members wandered inside to see if they missed something, one of the actors slammed the door closed, re-locked it, took the key, and ran off. As our attention was clearly directed to this area now, another actor “clued” us in on how to solve the puzzle together. When we finished, I yelled “okay, so how do we get her out?!”. Suddenly, the arm of yet another actor dangled down in front of me from the balcony above, holding the key in his hand (he actually climbed into the closet with her, and then climbed out to the balcony above after we solved it). It was an absolutely awesome experience.

[collapse]

While I’m not certain whether this would be in my top five favorite ROOMS I’ve done (thought it could be close), it is definitely in my top five favorite EXPERIENCES I’ve had.  While I’m hesitant to say “make sure you wait until you can get actors in the room”, it really added a sense of chaos and fun to the room that made the experience that much better.

 

Final Thoughts:

Calling The Great Room “great” would be selling it short.  This room would be fun with our without actors, but it really shines during the Halloween season.  Haunted Scarehouse once again proves that not only are they talented at designing haunted houses (which they absolutely are), but they’re also outstanding puzzle and set designers. We hope you’ll check out The Great Room, and if you do, tell them LockedInReviews sent you!

Think Solve Escape Trilogy

Turnersville, NJ
Room Size:  8 for The Safe House, 10 for Aunt Sue’s Apartment,
6 for Dr. Chen’s Office (4-6 recommended for each room)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 9/30/2017
Price:  Because all bookings are private experiences, price is tiered by group size (From $35/pp for 2, down to $21/pp for 10).

Think Solve Escape Logo

What do a mob safe house, a knitting auntie, and a not-so-mad scientist all have in common? You’ll need to play Think Solve Escape’s trilogy of rooms in order to find out.

Because the plots of these rooms are all loosely connected, and we attempted all three of them in a single session, we thought it would be an interesting take to write a review that included all of them in a single post. This is also the first time that my wife and I are collaborating on a review… so there are lots of new things going on here today!

Each of the three escape rooms: The Safe House, Aunt Sue’s Apartment, and Doctor Chen’s Office has a distinct story, objective, and theme. Completing all three escape rooms, however, gives the player a richer narrative, since the main overarching story is linked. How does this work? By adding small touches that enrich the experience.

So what did we think?  Let’s get to it!

Backstory:

The Safehouse

The Boss needs you right now! He knows he chose the right members of the family to handle his problem. You need to think like a wiseguy to take care of business. Don’t let him down.

Aunt Sue’s Apartment

Aunt Sue is a very paranoid person and has been missing for a few days. Aunt Sue calls you and asks you to go to her place, then she will contact you there. What does Aunt Sue need and why the big rush? What could your eccentric aunt be up to now?

Dr. Chen’s Office

Dr. Chen has been working on something very important. His assistant has contacted you and said Dr. Chen has finally done it, but he needs your help. What has Dr. Chen concocted and who else wants it?

Theming:

Each of the three rooms fit the respective themes perfectly, and they are all fairly “polished” in their own way. The Safe House starts in a barebones tenement with a bedroom set, a kitchen, and not much else – except for a little graffiti reminding you that “Aunt Sue was here”.  Poke around, and you’ll begin to uncover pieces of an overarching mystery behind why the safe house is important. What appears from the room description to be a stereotypical gangster story is truly just your entrance down this little rabbit hole.

Aunt Sue’s apartment starts as a throwback to every granny’s living room, complete with pictures of grandchildren everywhere, vintage furniture, and the requisite set of knitting needles. Yet, it becomes quite clear that this particular granny is hiding a secret double life.  Work through this room to discover the role she plays in this mystery.

Lastly, in Doctor Chen’s office, the “finale” of the three rooms, you begin in the good doctor’s study, where you’re greeted with an intro video explaining a bit about what’s going on with Dr. Chen’s work. Then it’s time for you to take charge and play your own role in this story, scouring the well-furnished office to try to bring this mystery to a close.

Puzzles:

Think Solve Escape’s rooms each have their own balance of locks, ciphers, and technology that fit each room well. While The Safe House has more locked boxes and briefcases, Aunt Sue’s apartment has a lot more locked furniture and other “household” puzzles. Dr. Chen’s office, as expected, more science- and technology-themed puzzles to solve (some of which were surprising, and a LOT of fun). 

We found that the difficulty of these rooms ranged from modest to fairly challenging, with Dr. Chen’s office being the most difficult of the three (appropriate for a finale). Regardless, the puzzle design is very straightforward —  when we found ourselves asking for hints, we often got annoyed with ourselves for not having made the connection.  There is nothing obscure in these rooms that should make you scratch your head,  and the only elements that could be considered “red herrings” are typically pieces related to the overall story.

Customer Experience:

When we visited, Dr. Chen’s office was still in Beta, and Think Solve Escape graciously permitted us to test out the room while we waited for our time slot to open for Aunt Sue’s Apartment. It became clear, after talking to three of the owners, that they are also enthusiasts, and it showed in their care for their room designs. Their three very unique rooms demonstrate not only a strong sense of puzzle design and narrative, but the “polish’ of their rooms also show an appropriate attention to craftsmanship and detail. Overall, we had a fantastic experience at Think Solve Escape, and think you will, too.

Final Thoughts:

While I enjoyed Dr. Chen’s Office the most of the three rooms at Think Solve Escape, my wife took a particular liking to The Safe House.  Our son preferred Aunt Sue’s Apartment, because, as he put it, “I was totally freaking out”.  That said, each of them would stand on their own as a solid room for veterans and newbies alike.  Completing the three rooms of the Think Solve Escape trilogy together creates a contiguous story that we wish more escape room companies would focus on. While the first two could be done in any order, based on difficulty, we recommend doing the rooms in the following order for maximum effect:

1. The Safe House
2. Aunt Sue’s Apartment
3. Dr. Chen’s Office

We loved our time at Think Solve Escape, and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.  If you go to check out of any of their rooms, let them know LockedInReviews sent you, and let us know what you thought below!

  

DISCLAIMER:  Think Solve Escape had us beta test Dr. Chen’s Office right before opening, so we were not charged for tickets to that room.

Backstage – Escape AC

Atlantic City, NJ
Room Size: 10 people (7-8 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 11/9/2017
Price: $35/person (Plus sales and luxury taxes)

My wife and I attended the NJ Teacher’s Convention on November 9th and 10th, and we couldn’t pass up the chance to do some escape rooms while we were there! On Thursday, since we wanted to spend more time at the convention, we chose to stop at Escape AC, which is located in the Tropicana Casino & Resort, tucked away on the ground floor.  We attempted Backstage, which is supposedly their most difficult room. Was it ready for the big stage, or did we simply want to exit — stage left?

Backstory:

This theatre has been dark for a long time, but there is still a secret lurking behind the red curtain. Your crew better not suffer from stage fright because this is no dress rehearsal. Take center stage and unmask this murder mystery as the truth will set you free. Break a leg!

Theming:

Man, when they said that the theatre has been dark for some time, they weren’t lying! While the initial light sources don’t really illuminate the magnitude of the challenge ahead, Escape AC does a tremendous job of framing both the space and story behind Backstage.  Mostly all of the set elements match what you might expect in a theatre backstage, from the stage props to the curtain. Solving puzzles and identifying key items helps you unravel the secrets behind this intriguing mystery.

Puzzles

The puzzles of Backstage were quite varied and fun, and involved many of the senses, which was critical being that the room was so dark. There was a nice blend of technology and locks, and I really enjoyed the methods used to build many of the combinations for the locks. Some of the puzzles required incredible attention to detail, and even others yet required an astute memory.

Overall, the puzzles were very challenging, and there are quite a bit of them, so I would strongly suggest that you have a large group of veterans with you when you attempt this room.

Customer Experience:

First and foremost, I want to say that the staff of Escape AC were absolutely friendly and professional, and their owners are clearly very passionate about what they do. They do have a few policies, however, that we didn’t quite expect, that we think could throw some players for a bit of a loop. When your group includes four or more players, you are only eligible to receive three hints, and in order to receive one, you must solve trivia questions about Atlantic City to “unlock” a hint (though there is a book to help you find the answers). While we weren’t subject to this rule, since we had only two players, for a larger group it could take a bit of time to earn a clue. Additionally, in this particular room, there was a two-minute introductory video that frames the mystery, but it’s not showed until you’re in the room and the clock is running. The combination of the two may possibly eat precious minutes away from a room that is certainly challenging enough as-is.

When we ultimately lost the room after completing about 80% of it (because, face it, we were woefully undermanned for the task), we were quickly ushered out of the room and not told any of the parts we missed or conclusions of the room. While I understand that we did not make it to the end, I just cannot justify driving another hour and a half and paying full-price to see the last 20% of the room. But, of course, your mileage may vary.

Backstage - Lovable losers

Final Thoughts:

All in all, Backstage is an awesome room, but it slightly trips over itself in execution (and not simply because it’s too dark). While we left the mystery of the Backstage unsolved, large groups of seasoned veterans would definitely love this challenge. As this is their most difficult room, I might suggest that you try one of their other rooms first, in order to gauge their difficulty and to get some practice with their clue system. That said, we absolutely loved the experience, and I look forward to going back to try some of Escape AC‘s other rooms the next time I go back to Atlantic City.   If you do book a trip Backstage, tell them LockedInReviews sent you, and let us know what you think below!

Mayan Tomb- Last Minute Escape

Morristown, NJ
Room Size: 8 people (4-5 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 6/26/2016
Price: $30.50/person

Backstory:

The famed treasure hunter Dr. Neuhaus has gone missing on his recent expedition to find the Sun Disc of King Pakal the great. Thankfully as his protege you have access to his notes and are able to start tracking him down to find him before the unthinkable happens. Can you make it through King Pakal’s tomb, rescue your colleage, and escape with the treasure before you are lost forever?

Theming:

As far as theming goes, this has to be one of the best entries from Last Minute. While Morristown, New Jersey isn’t the lush tropical jungle that one would normally find a treasure of this magnitude hidden, once you get into the meat of the game it really does have a Tomb Raidery/Indiana Jones vibe going for it. While you won’t find any deadly traps waiting for you inside if any member of your expedition is claustrophobic you might want to leave them behind (more on that later.)

Puzzles:

  Last Minute did a decent job of making it so there were no two alike puzzles in the room. They kept it varied from tactile puzzles, to searching, to an actual puzzle that you had to put together. For the most part the room was non linear so you could have several people working at the same time. For those that like working in a group there are a few puzzles that require teamwork so with that in mind you will need at minimum two people to complete this room. While the room flowed nicely and didn’t get too bogged down, there was a bottleneck at the beginning (nothing too egregious but for a larger group some people might feel left out) and one at the end as the puzzles start to wind down.

Customer Experience:

Last Minute always does a great job working with the space that they are given. While from the outside the location isn’t all that impressive (we honestly thought our GPS took us to the wrong location until we saw the sign) once we got inside we felt right at home. This location doesn’t have that big of a waiting area, but they stagger their start times so your group should be the only one waiting for the next adventure.

Our GM was friendly, helpful and knew exactly when to give clues and to let us just work it out on our own. However this room relies heavily on technology, and there were a few puzzles that were just a little too finicky to where it started to become frustrating. Apparently this isn’t the first time groups have had an issue with this as there were preloaded messages about how “the temple Gods need to be appeased exactly”. I’m sure that things have gotten better since our attempt, so YMMV.

Back to the claustrophobia part that I mentioned earlier. Your group might have better luck than mine did, but in order to get into the Tomb you have to go down a “mine elevator” as one might guess, the elevator is not that big of a space. My group had 4 people in it (granted 2 of us were on the bigger side) and it got hard to move around. I feel that if you had any more than that things will become really cramped. Again, you’re not in there for long, but it’s something to consider and to call ahead about if you have any worries.

Final Thoughts:

Mayan Tomb was my second room from Last Minute Escape and our third overall. Compared to the other rooms from the company I would mark it right in the middle. You can tell that this is one of the older ones and they get better and better with each iteration. I do have to give credit where credit is due as there aren’t many Tomb themed rooms in New Jersey (unless you wanted to go into NYC) and this is the best one in the state.

 

Get your malaria shot, pack your head lamp and embark on your expedition at Last Minute Escape and let them know that LockedinReviews.com sent you!

Summerfield Place – East Coast Escape Room

Toms River, New Jersey
Room Size: 10 people (5-7 Recommended)
Escape Time: 60 Minutes
Date Attempted: 10/8/2017
Price: $28.50/person

When East Coast Escape Room retired it’s Christmas-themed “Naughty or Nice” room, it took only about a week for them to put together their Deadwood Cabin room, and it was incredibly well-received.  This time around, when the Halloween-themed “At Death’s Door” room finally, well, died, they took over a month to work on their Thanksgiving-themed “Summerfield Place”.  The burning question is, like the Thanksgiving Turkey —  was it worth the wait?

East Coast Escape Room

Backstory:

During Thanksgiving dinner, a family has gone missing from their own home. You and your team of investigators need to work together to solve the mystery. Their fate is in your hands…

Theming:

Where Deadwood Cabin hits you with darkness and gloom, Summerfield Place hits you with family values and normalcy. The space is decorated like a typical dining room and living room, and save for a few locked cabinets, you can hardly tell it is even an escape room at all (which is intentional). There’s even a nice comfy couch and ottoman to kick back and relax on!

All of the puzzles are related to the household items you find in the room, but very few of them relate to the story.  Even still, as you work your way through the room,  the mystery of what happened to the family begins to unravel through written, video, and audio cues that bring the story together. Without spoiling much, I will just say that this room CAN BE family friendly… if you want it to be. That said, I absolutely loved the finale of this room. While it may not appear so from first glance, East Coast Escape Room did an outstanding job of designing a charming mystery in a not-so-typical suburban-home setting.

Puzzles:

Summerfield Place has a typical mixture of standard locks and technology,  and even a little bit of, shall we say, culinary science.  While most veterans will be familiar with a few of the tricks in the room, we found more than a handful unique puzzles that made our experience fresh and fun. The room is fairly non-linear, giving several people a chance to work on different puzzles simultaneously, but some puzzles will require that you work together to solve.  Several are actually quite complex, requiring combining multiple elements to find a solution. This could be a bit daunting to newer players, but veterans will welcome the challenge.

East Coast Escape Room advertises Summerfield Place as a hard room, and considering that five of us needed to use two clues to escape, and we are still at (or near) the top of their leaderboard, we would agree with their rating. It is definitely their hardest room to date, and we had a ton of fun progressing through the challenging puzzles. That said, this room clearly caters more toward experienced rather than new players. We would strongly recommend that groups made of all new players try a few other escape rooms before giving this one a shot (such as Deadwood Cabin).

Customer Experience:

When booking Summerfield Place, I noticed that East Coast Escape Room had a relatively new feature that some escape room enthusiasts may enjoy: for the cost of one additional ticket, you can guarantee that your room is a private experience. They also have a Groupon that works on Monday through Thursday if you’re looking to save a few bucks on a weeknight.

When we arrived, after hearing the rules, an actor dressed as a police officer gave us the briefing on the case, and sent us on our way to investigate. The nice little touches like these that East Coast Escape Room put into their experiences make people smile and appreciate their time there.  We had a wonderful time with this room, and when we finished, our six year old said “Daddy, can we do ANOTHER escape room?”.  When you can entertain my six-year-old, you know you’re doing something right.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve stated this as a disclaimer before,  but my wife and I have become quite friendly with Justin and Christie, owners of East Coast Escape Room.  While I can’t claim complete impartiality in this review (or any review for that matter),  I admire the learning, growth, and passion that they demonstrate for making fun experiences for their clients so that they want to come back for each new room.

Summerfield Place is East Coast Escape Room’s most ambitious room to date, and we feel that they did an outstanding job in making a charming, yet challenging room suitable for a group of experienced players.  If you’re in the Toms River area, give East Coast Escape Room a call, and try to solve the case of Summerfield Place.  If you do, tell them LockedInReviews sent you!