So back to the recap...
Day #2: Big Escape Room B
Unbeknownst to us, Big Escape Room B is all private just like us. We didn't know this when we booked and didn't even figure it out until between rooms 1 and 2 when we asked. I even went back to their site afterwards and the fact that they are private isn't obvious. In fact you have to go into their faqs to find any indication. Not sure why you wouldn't shout this from the roof top? Offering private games without either jacking up the ticket price or requiring all the spots be purchased is not something most ER's do. We do and apparently so does Big Escape Room B, nice!
Scenery was great, again! Some really good puzzles in here as well. One big exception though. There is a jigsaw puzzle, not like pictures of cats or beer bottles. It's a hand made wood jigsaw puzzle with a poem/phrase on it. The issue is that multiple pieces fit together even though they don't go together and there are sections that don't have anything on them so you can't be sure if you have the right pieces together. Well, we thought the puzzle was a one row taller than it actually was. At a grinding halt we asked for a clue. The clue said we needed to find all the puzzle pieces except one. Now to us, that clue meant we were missing pieces so back to searching and searching and searching. After about ten minutes, we clue again cause we can't find any more pieces anywhere. The GM asks how many pieces we have and we say eleven. He says you have all the pieces you need. We had eleven pieces fifteen minutes ago!!! About a minute later, as we are putting the pieces together again, our "host" walks in the room, says oh, ok and walks out. I really don't know what the deal was. Was our GM not watching us? I mean we had the puzzle laid out on a table in the center of the room (not a big room) and there were two cameras that should have been able to see the table. If they were watching, they would have known, before we asked for a clue, that we had the puzzle put together wrong. End result was we didn't escape. we were on the final puzzle and I think that ten to fifteen minutes we lost would have given us plenty of time but....
Again, very good build out here. no major snafu's, pretty decent game. Only one thing that caught us as odd, It shared, essentially, the exact same puzzle as the room we just played. The only difference was the result. Now this particular puzzle did technically fit the theme of both rooms so I'm totally fine with that. It was just weird seeing it used again. Now had we not done the rooms back to back, it' wouldn't have stood out so much, just weird.
It may seem like we're being critical of these two ER's, we certainly are not trying to be. We would and most likely will go back to both places in the future. We did learn a few things, just not in the areas we expected.
So what did we learn? A few things, well really more of a reinforcing of some ideas.
#1 Private escape room experiences are the only way to go.
When we went private here at Escape FLA, we did it for several reasons. The biggest was that when you join two groups together, usually only one of the groups has fun. That was certainly the case for us on day 1. It really helped drive home the point that we are and will continue to be only offering private games.
#2 Red herrings should not exist.
If you want your room to be more difficult, add a puzzle or two. Now people do some funny things in escape rooms. They quite often fabricate their own red herrings by latching onto some small thing and thinking it's the most important part of the game at that moment. That is pretty hard/impossible to avoid. In this case though, (Day 1, Room 1) it was there from the start of the game and we carried that "fish" around the entire time. Come to find out, it used to be a puzzle in the room, it isn't any longer and they didn't bother to remove that part of the story or all the props that go with it, and there are quite a few. Around 50% of the visual of the final room is directly related to the no longer used puzzle. That just seems crazy to us.
#3 Watch the game being played, no really, watch the game being played.
Again, not sure if this is what happened in this instance (Day 2 Room 2) but we sure felt like that's what happened. Having run a ton of rooms ourselves, we know that it's easy to become a bit complacent. It's easy to get the feeling that you know exactly what the players are doing/going to do next. It's easy to think that you can run a game with your eyes closed or with your phone in your face, you can, but not very well and it shouldn't happen.
#4 Give good clues then follow up if needed.
Maybe we were wrong about #3 happening during this game. Maybe it was just a terrible pre-typed clue that, in some cases, would have been appropriate. It wasn't in this case and cost us a bunch of time. Having a good list of pre-typed clues ready to go is very important. As game masters, we are already ready with a clue before the players even ask Sometimes we have to scramble last second and change it or even go off script but if you really know what your players are up to, it should always be helpful. We tell our new players that if you ask for help on a puzzle, we will get you through that puzzle. You ask for a clue, we give you a piece of information that hopefully will help you figure it out on your own. We watch and listen to see if that's got you going down the right path. If, after a minute or two, you're not going in the right direction, should we just sit there and wait for you to ask for another clue? Absolutely, positively, NO! We follow up with more information until you get through it. That's how we do it at Escape FLA because that's how we think it should be done.
All of these things are cornerstones to the way we run Escape FLA and have been for awhile. Sometimes you kind of forget why you started doing things a certain way. Luckily the universe has a way of reminding you from time to time.
We thought we might learn a few things on our recent trip to the big O. We did, but, it's not what we expected.
We had some family going to see the Mouse for a few days so Jen and I took off for Orlando to see them and do some escaping. When we play escape rooms, we usually try and hit the "small" shops. That is to say, we like to give our business to the "mom and pop" escape rooms out there. That's for a few reasons, #1 that's what we are and that's what we like to support, #2 it's usually a better experience overall. See if you own it, your heart and soul is usually in every drop of it, and that makes the visit better overall. You also get to meet the owners most times and chat with them about business and the like. Heck, maybe even make new friends.
Well we broke from our norm this time and hit some of the "Big Players" in the escape room world. You know those mega escape room companies with locations through out the country. It was...kind of a mistake. A mistake in one sense, a learning/reassuring experience in another.
We've done quite a few escape rooms so when we pick random games to play, we look for things you don't see everywhere. They are usually little things we notice in the descriptions or reviews. We've never done a room where "X" happens before, that kind of thing. With that in mind, we chose two rooms at two different "Big Players" on two different days.
Day #1: Big Escape Room A
Just Jen and I in this room. The scenery was really good, there was a logic leap or two but overall, a pretty good room. It didn't blow our minds or anything but it was fun and kept the two of us busy for most of the hour.
As we finish the game, we realize something strange. From the beginning, through the rooms story, we were told that there were several of two types of items that were really important. We found those items in different places through out the game and carried them with us thinking they were going to be key to solving the final puzzle. One of the sets of items was unusual in that each one was magnetic, normally they wouldn't be magnetic so we figured those were super important. Guess what, none of those items did anything or had any sort of importance in any way shape or form! I hesitate to call them red-herrings but. Nope never-mind one of those sets was a huge red-herring and towards the end we could have wasted a bunch of time trying to work with them based on other things in the room that related. Thankfully we didn't or I would have been less than thrilled. More on red-herrings later.
This room was the real reason we came to this place. The room was reported to be loaded with tech and it's stated to have "0 locks used". Again, great scenery. This time Jen and I were joined by a nice lady and three young boys...see how I said the lady was nice and only mentioned the boys were young, can you see where this is going? Let's just say that this was not a good "playing with strangers" experience. I think the design of the room played into this quite a bit. Due to all the tech and the way it was laid out, it was very much a stand directly in one spot and figure it out while entering the solution in the same spot. Most of the "puzzles" were done in a way that no more than one person could be involved in even attempting to help with the solution at any given time. So lots of tech, yes, no locks....eh, no pad locks but..... More on non-private games and making claims that aren't exactly true later.
Check back in a few days and we'll sum up our day at Big Escape Room B. Then we'll go over what we learned as both players and owners, I mean I'll rant about some things.
Keep on escaping!
Ryan and Jen
Escape FLA escape rooms in Largo