Escaping LA

We played 12 rooms in LA and three in Orange County. Many featured audio narration and/or video cutscenes — not something I’ve seen much elsewhere! — and I appreciated the additional dimension that that lent to the experience.

My must-play picks are 60OUT’s Miss Jezebel, for hilarious interactivity; Hatch Escape’s Lab Rat, for a slick and humorous ride; Stash House, for an all-rounder that uses its setting well; and Maze Rooms’ Sky Odyssey, for its numerous, varied, and quirky puzzles/tasks. I was less keen on some other oft-recommended rooms…

60Out

We visited four branches of this franchise-based company but only played one room at each of them, so it’s hard to generalise.

Jumanji
High production values and dramatic setpieces are this room’s main strength. The puzzles are a mixed bag, with some unsatisfying details. I’m not sure the structure of tying puzzles to specific players worked well, either. The room’s worth a try, not least for its sense of adventure, but there were just various small things that marred our experience.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 3/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5
Houdini
This dramatic Russia-originating room breaks some escape room conventions to refreshing effect. Recommended if you’re looking for something different and don’t mind a bit of physical activity, but not if you’re looking for complex puzzles.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 5
Miss Jezebel
This is less an escape room, more an immersive-theatre-esque madcap caper. We found it an absolute delight, thanks not just to our fantastic Miss Jezebel but also to the whimsical humour that undergirds the entire experience. Highly recommended for any team that’s willing to play along.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5
Da Vinci’s Secret
This room has a varied puzzle mix and some clever multimedia touches, but also some design flaws. Worth a try, but I’d prioritise pretty much any other LA room I played over it.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4

Hatch Escapes

This company is apparently opening a second room in the near future, which makes me sad that I’m not within easy travelling distance of LA.

Lab Rat
My favourite part of this room was its use of amusing and well-made video cutscenes (during which the timer is paused, no worries), contributing to an overall sense of menacing whimsy (whimsical menace?). The puzzles are solid, with an interesting late-game stretch, but I’d say this room is recommended more on the strength of the overall experience than the puzzles specifically.
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5

Maze Rooms

We only managed to play two rooms here, but found both to be engaging and quirky, with great use of recorded audio and fun settings.

Magic Kingdom
This was a brief but satisfying game, with lots of entertaining touches. Highly recommended for beginners; experienced teams will not be too challenged, but should hopefully still enjoy the ride.
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4
Sky Odyssey
Sky Odyssey is challenging for the right reason: a surfeit of entertaining and occasionally quite clever puzzles/tasks. I enjoyed the use of audio — even if some corners got a bit noisy — and the room’s sense of humour. Highly recommended for experienced and/or larger teams. Smaller or less experienced teams might find themselves a bit lost.
Difficulty: 4.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 6

Quest Room

The two rooms we played had polished production values, though not very complex puzzling. Best appreciated as all-round experiences.

Perfumer
This room’s strength is its lovingly-created setting, which elevates some tasks that might have otherwise seemed mundane. The endgame was also gloriously fun. Not groundbreaking, but a solid all-rounder that’s worth a try (or recommended if you care a lot about production values).
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4
Red Giant
We were a little disappointed by this room, but that’s due to the hype it’s received; taken on its own, this was an exciting and fun experience, though not taxing puzzle-wise. Recommended if you appreciate a sense of adventure and high production values, but not if puzzles are your priority.
Difficulty: 2/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4

Stash House

A truly local experience, run by an enthusiastic team.

Stash House
It’s easy to see why Stash House regularly makes it onto lists of top LA rooms: the local flavour in its theme and narrative; rigorous, varied, and creative puzzles; and its effective use of the building in which it’s set. Recommended as a great all-round experience.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 6

The Basement

Had a moment of self-realisation here: I don’t actually need this level of physical realism in escape rooms. (Specifically, the level of physical realism that results in getting dirty.) Despite its reputation as a horror company, the two rooms we played weren’t scary.

The Courtyard
This room shines in its creative and effective use of a live actor; I’d say it’s recommended on the strength of that alone. The set and atmosphere are solid, though perhaps oversold by some reviewers.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4
Elevator Shaft
You can’t divorce this room (nor its puzzles) from the physical setting and special effects. Recommended for that uniquely high level of setting-game integration, and/or if physical setting is a priority for you. Not recommended if you care mainly about puzzles and/or are squeamish about water.
Difficulty: 2/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 or 3

Orange County

We drove out to Anaheim and Brea for some rooms that were not uniformly worth the detour.

Cross Roads Escape Games – Fun House
A solid if conventional experience, with a decent puzzle mix but only a few magical moments. The snarky “gamemaster” was a highlight. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough players for this company’s better-known Hex and Psych Ward rooms.

Escape Room Era – Benjamin Franklin’s Invention
The endearingly handmade feel might not impress, but the fun intro and ending helped to lift the experience. More for beginners than veterans.

Red Lantern – Midnight on the Bayou
Easily the best of the three OC rooms we played, Midnight on the Bayou was propelled by a sustained storyline, a setting that rewarded exploration, and a varied puzzle/task mix. While I’m not generally a fan of in-room gamemasters, Red Lantern’s was both charming and unobtrusive. Not a hugely challenging room, but fun and satisfying.