RESEARCH THE GAME TO PLAY, SO MANY GAMES, SO LITTLE TIME...

When choosing what game to play at your next escape venue, the first and foremost place to start, like any product is the reviews. This becomes even more important when looking at an experience you get no prior information about the quality before you pay. But looking at reviews is never just enough, it is about how you interpret them that is of more importance. Here are three key tips to remember when reading reviews of escape rooms.
1.       Don’t just read the positive or negative reviews, get a balanced idea.
Many people can talk themselves out of the experience by looking only at the negative reviews. Conversely don’t convince yourself that your next escape game will be the be all and end all of games. Every room has its drawbacks and its drawcards.
2.       How experienced is the player giving the review? 
Are they being fair on the game? For example, is the review expecting a room set 200 years ago to have robots and lasers because that is what they wanted to play with?
3.       Look for consistency
As the old saying goes, one swallow does not make a summer. One negative review about how auntie Muriel couldn’t move around because it was too cramped does not meant that the room is a shoebox. Remember, the world has 7 billion different opinions, look for the common themes such as service, enjoyment, immersion and playability.
Bonus: check out reviews from bloggers, they tend to be (mostly) fair and balanced but do check if the bloggers were given the game for free and consider how this may affect their judgement.

There you have it, how to interpret reviews to choose your room.


GAME GENERATIONS

We have kicked off our series of getting the most out of your game with our first topic, how to research and choose the game to play. Last time we considered how to read reviews, what to and not to do when listening to the voices of the victims... I mean players before you. This time we are considering the different generations of games found at Escape Venues and why the latest generation may not always be the best thing.

Without insulting the historians of eras past below is how this humble Game Master interprets the evolution of Escape games. The rooms and games within any escape venue will have different generations, just like your PS1 has different games to your PS4. The difference here is that we as people are a lot more adaptable then our beloved console and the latest isn’t always the best.

Generation 1: Also known as the retro escape room. These are your classic puzzle, lock, combination rooms. The primordial birthplace of the modern escape game. They are fun, they are challenging and most of all they are a classic. These rooms stand alone in their own right, what they tend to not have is crazy distracting effects, fancy electronics or other such gadgets that are found in later generations. Notice I we didn’t say they lack creativity, in fact, electronics have made some creators lazy, older rooms tend to have a lot of cause and effect puzzles that you didn’t see coming. If you’re looking for a robust and fun experience, these will almost always hold in good stead.

Bonus Advice: also tending to be the older rooms they will have more reviews to interpret, look back through the older reviews and compare how people’s expectations may have changed.

Generation 2: The birth of electronics in rooms. This isn’t strictly correct as many generation one rooms did have the odd magnetic lock. But what we are talking about here is sensors, computers and more immersion. Though typically relying less on story and creativity and more just trying to fill the player with wow factor after wow factor. These rooms tend to be a bit more divisive, people either get them or they don’t.  They are fun, they are quirky and up until recently, they were some of the ‘cutting edge’ of rooms. Gen 2 rooms also tend to be ones where creators experimented with removing the game master/human element to the rooms, or they added additional emblements (live actors). Both pose a risk to consider, if you like being treated like a number and talking to Siri all day, then they may be good. Also watch out if you get the new game master on their first day as the live actor….

Bonus Advice: It isn’t all negative, look for the escape venues that upgraded or opened new rooms with gen 2+ rooms after having gen 1 rooms. These operators tend to bring their spark for creativity with them. Otherwise you may end up with a room full of promise executed like a Monday morning PowerPoint presentation.

Generation 3: The white unicorn of rooms. The next level that is just around the corner. Returning to the retro but bringing the future with them. These rooms are becoming less about just solving a puzzle but making to feel like you’ve fallen into the different world. They focus on new and exciting thing with the senses (and no I’m not just talking about a puzzle that makes you smell the difference between coffee and peppermint). I’m talking ambience in sound, light, touch and smell. Are you really in an apartment in post-world war France or are you in Da Vinci’s Office? These rooms are few and far between, they are not all good either. Just like the Gen 2 rooms, high promise can still be poorly executed.

Bonus Advice: don’t expect the newest and latest to always be the best in escape games. Give the new room time to settle and have the kinks worked out. The best rooms are those that stand the test of time with constant positive reviews. But if you have your heart set on playing the latest, don’t instantly assume it is a Gen 3 room.

Summary
Escape Rooms and the games they hold have constantly going through evolution. You will find some duds and some superstars. Big thing is to remember what generation room you are playing. Just with consoles, new graphics and mechanics does not instantly mean it is a better game. Find your style and expand your pallet of experiences to include everything from a dusty old room full of hard puzzles through to an intuitive room that makes you wonder how far away Skynet is from truly taking over the world.


MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM PLAYERS

So, you want to play a game? Over the last two posts we have discussed how to find the right room as far as reviews and generations of games to give you the best rush when escaping. But, what about the players? Now there will be a full topic on selecting your team later on, but for now let’s think about the minimum and maximum suggested players within the rooms you’re choosing from.

All rooms will tell you what the minimum and maximum players per room is, within Melbourne and most of Australia this is roughly 2-6 players per room. However, how does the number of players you have effect the experience? Is bigger always better in teams and rooms? The short answer is no. Let’s use a live example. Let’s say the venue you chose all the rooms have 2-6 players but you are unsure if you should go with two, four or six players? The simple answer is go with four. Try to avoid skating the line on the minimum or the maximum as these are thresholds for capacity or playability.

Now I can already hear someone saying, ‘oh but friendly Game Master, I only have one friend so does that mean it will be less fun for me?’ This comes down to you and how you respond to adversity. Without going all deep and philosophical on you, if you want to play the hardest room with the smallest number of players, go for it. Be warned, if you’re going to be super disappointed when your buzzer goes off and you haven’t solved everything, maybe rethink your strategy. If on the other hand you’re going to try an escape game just for the sake of the experience and want to just enjoy yourself with your significant other/only friend, go for it! You will have a cracking time (pun intended).

What about maximum players? Bigger isn’t always better. Too many players can spoil the flow if you all don’t play well with others. Also, consider the space of the room. If you want to put six big burly people into a room that has a maximum of six, you’re probably going to be very friendly with each other at points. Also, while on the topic, if you just want to squeeze that extra player into the room above the maximum, some places will let you, but keep in mind, the room doesn’t get bigger and you don’t get extra puzzles. Maybe you’re better off booking two different rooms and making it a friendly competition?

That is all we have on this topic until we discuss team selection next time under ‘getting the most out of your escape game’.