Escaping NYC

Here are my thoughts on all the rooms (15, with special mention of some not-actually-escape-room experiences) I played in New York City. Most rooms were attempted in a team of four; we ended up playing with two other strangers (sigh) for the Ultimate Heist and Escape the Nemesis rooms.

tl;dr — My must-play recommendations for enthusiasts are Brooklyn Escape Room‘s Shelter R and Escape the Room NYC‘s Clock Tower. Both rooms offer a narrative-driven, hands-on style of gameplay which I found distinctive, satisfying and highly enjoyable. They also include several very cool (and narratively-motivated) moments!

Brooklyn Escape Room

The plain name disguises games that originate from Russian escape room franchise Claustrophobia. The experience isn’t claustrophobic, though — expect adventurous rooms that make the most of their detailed settings. The friendly staff are cautious about giving hints, which I appreciate.

Medieval Dungeon
Perhaps any room would pale in comparison to Shelter R. Medieval Dungeon is a perfectly solid room with several fun secrets in store and a mix of puzzle/task types, but nothing hugely out of the ordinary. Worth a try (especially if you’re there to try Shelter R anyway) but not a priority.
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.
Shelter R
This ties for my favourite room of the 15 I played in NYC, perhaps because it felt most like a real-life video game. The environment rewards hands-on exploration and the narrative is used to great effect, both in problem-solving and in creating some spectacular moments. Some might baulk at a few counter-intuitive moves, but I found them clearly clued and justified (in contrast to another room we played), and was most impressed by one cleverly counter-intuitive (and completely fair) puzzle. Purists who like the usual matching-type puzzles won’t find them here, but I was glad for a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.

Clue Chase

Clue Chase’s greatest strength might be the coherence of the experience it offers, from the in-character intro video and briefings, to the overarching plot and the bonus puzzle you can attempt after finishing all four rooms. The individual rooms are solid if not must-play experiences… but we did end up playing all four rooms (having originally only booked one), so they must be doing something right.

Alien Encounter
My favourite part of this room was the hint mechanism, which was adorable, helpful without being pushy, and fully in keeping with the sci-fi theme. The room relies too much on matching-type puzzles for my taste, but some clever touches keep it from being boring. The hint mechanism alone makes it worth a try, and it’s a decent room regardless.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 4 to 6.
Egyptian Tomb
A smoothly logical, puzzle-heavy room with too many anachronisms for me to get into it. But I appreciated how parts of the room take on more significance as you progress. Worth a try — my teammates liked it a lot more than I did.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 5.
The Lost Spy
A somewhat haphazard room, enlivened by an interactive element (you’ll see) and the sense of an unravelling mystery, leading up to a good narrative pay-off. Puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag, but are at least logical. Worth a try, especially if you appreciate narrative.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.
Ultimate Heist
I enjoyed this room’s dual-goal structure: a short linear component (escape!) alongside a buffet of open side-quests (…but with as much loot as possible!). With a wide range of puzzle types and difficulties, it’s particularly good for mixed teams. Recommended for the unique structure and the surfeit of puzzles.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 6.

Escape Entertainment

Great location, friendly staff, shame about the rooms? We only played one room here and weren’t motivated to try more, alas.

Alien Attack
Two cool smartphone apps, in service of an unfortunately lacklustre game. I really liked the use of both apps, but the room mainly contained narrative-free logic puzzles that didn’t require ahas. Not recommended unless you’re interested in how apps can be used in escape rooms.
Difficulty: 2/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.

Escape the Room NYC (Midtown)

It’s a shame this company’s name isn’t distinctive, because the two rooms we played certainly were. Both were fun and immersive, and ranked among my team’s NYC favourites. Interestingly enough, they were also the rooms for which we received the most help — largely unsolicited, yet not unwelcome, showing that these gamemasters know what they’re doing. Apparently not all of Escape the Room NYC’s offerings are that great, though, so consider sticking to these two…

Clock Tower
The Clock Tower room takes a while to get started, but get past the first bit and you’ll enter a creative narrative-driven experience. Solid story and puzzle logic undergirds its many fun moments, including one of the most magical I’ve seen. Highly recommended as a multi-dimensional room with lots of surprises.
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.
Submarine
This very immersive room relies more on exploration and problem-solving rather than regular escape room-style puzzles, making it a pleasantly atypical challenge. There was one moment where the internal logic fell apart for me, but my teammates were highly amused, and it didn’t detract from the overall experience. Recommended as a great hands-on adventure.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.

Komnata Quest

Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn branches of this international franchise proved worth a visit. Hint mechanisms vary thematically with each room, which is fun. Unlike most US companies, they offer private booking — a big plus.

Doctor Frankenstein (Brooklyn)
Mixed puzzles and not the most coherent storyline, but at least there are some fun touches to the setting? Not an outright bad room, but not recommended unless you’ve exhausted all other options.
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.
The Robbery, That Changed The World (Brooklyn)
From the fun room intro (in a ‘van’!) to various heist-y tasks, this room commits to its premise in satisfying fashion. Some similarly-themed rooms have immersion-breaking code locks and puzzles; you’ll see none of those here. The room’s hands-on, premise-driven approach makes for exciting (and refreshing) gameplay. The only real drawbacks, for me, were some under-utilised room aspects that could be distracting, and the somewhat painful endgame. If you can forgive those, the experience is recommended as a heist room with a proper heist feel. Unfortunately this is not a room for players with mobility issues.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.
7 Sinful Pleasures (Brooklyn)
A fun and often hilarious room, with a raunchy premise that allows for rather… creative approaches to room progress. Somewhat light on actual puzzles, but certainly has enough content to be engaging, and even provides a narrative payoff. Recommended as a solid room (that isn’t solely reliant on the gimmick of its setting) and an overall good time, as long as your team composition isn’t likely to make it awkward.
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 5.
Maze of Hakaina (Manhattan)
This escape room gets recced a lot on the FB enthusiasts group, and for good reason. The experience unfolds delightfully: the physical space is indeed a maze, but the puzzle logic is clear throughout without being boring. If you can get past the whiff of exoticisation (particularly with one mid-game puzzle, which deserves an eye-roll if you recognise hiragana), this is a thrilling adventure that’s highly recommended.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.
Sherlocked (Manhattan)
The main attraction of this room is its central mystery, which can only be unravelled through non-trivial engagement with the storyline. But there are several other nice (if sometimes immersion-breaking) touches, from the entertaining beginning to some cool experimentation. Recommended for multifaceted puzzle-solving and a genuine challenge. (This was also the only NYC escape room we failed, whoops.)
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.

Mission Escape Games

We breezed through one room here and weren’t motivated enough to book another, so I don’t have anything useful to say, I’m afraid.

Escape the Nemesis
This room is frequently recced on the FB enthusiasts group, but perhaps its stellar reputation was precisely why we found it underwhelming. The puzzles are faultlessly logical but rely on that old escape room staple of matching; the environment responds in some fun ways but isn’t groundbreaking. Still worth a try as a polished puzzle-driven experience; adjust your expectations and you might enjoy it more than we did!
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Logic: 5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 4.

Special mention: 5Wits (West Nyack)

If you can make it out to this branch of a not-quite-escape-room national chain, you should definitely play all three rooms: Tomb, Drago’s Castle, and Deep Space. The mini half-an-hour adventures focus more on execution than your average escape room, but each one still requires some rigorous puzzle-solving and one or two intuitive leaps. More importantly, they’re just really, really fun, with stellar production values, a sustained and humorous narrative, and a true sense of adventure. A four-player team seems ideal, but the rooms seem to scale down for smaller groups too.

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