RATING: 2 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 40:00
Life can be tough, but at least our death came quickly.
A visit to a Creepy Cemetery on a dark and foggy night definitely sets the tone for what could become a very unique escape game experience – and in fact it’s for that very reason that this was one game I was highly looking forward to experiencing.
Unfortunately, PanIQ Room San Diego really couldn’t pull it off, instead delivering a muddled narrative mess of Halloween prop gravestones, a maze table and some type of vampire’s tomb.
I wish I could tell you more about what was supposed to be going on in this game but the truth is even after experiencing it, I’m just not entirely sure. Perhaps it’s because it’s because we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time inside, or perhaps its because it was poorly written, but one thing is for certain: Creepy Cemetery really did not make much of an impact on our group.
The mood evoked by the concept of a Creepy Cemetery is one that could make for a highly compelling escape game setting. Giant weeping willow trees lit by a pale moonlight, fragmented between their branches casting unsettling shadows that dance on a thick fog rolling down the hilly grass terrain dotted by tombstones, perhaps leading us to an open grave and one killer secret passageway to the next room.
See what I did there? I just created a game setting. I did that in a matter of seconds from my keyboard, which proves there’s just no excuse for the lackluster product PanIQ Room San Diego actually produced. And though they got the fog part right. this cemetery felt more like a low budget home haunt set up in someone’s unfinished basement – largely because that essentially was the setting for this short-lived venue.
The simple truth is that had you covered my eyes and dropped me into this space without explanation or background, I’d not be able to tell you the theme. Dirty rumpus room? Budget Halloween party? Sure. But not Creepy Cemetery.
Over time we’ve developed a bit of a problem with PanIQ Room as a brand, mainly because they seem content to be the poster child for “puzzles for puzzles sake.” For a company that seems to put a bit more stock in story and scenic than usual (though there may be an exception to that trend here) with few exceptions their puzzles have absolutely no connection to any given theme. They’re just… puzzles.
And here’s the thing – puzzles can be fun – and some of the rehashed maze tables PanIQ Room loves to utilize are when standing on their own – but the problem is a good escape game is a narrative-based experience, and things like this are so out of place that they cause major cracks in the immersion of the storyworld, making it impossible to forget that “this is just a game, it’s not real.”
For some, that may be ok. We recognize that some aren’t as concerned with story – but they are likely to also be the same who will ultimately be upset that PanIQ Room games also trend to the easier side of the spectrum, often in a way that makes them unfulfilling. We often touch on the value of having easier games amid your offerings – a fact that we believe true to the foundations of a solid business. There is, however, a big difference between an easy game and a game that simply does not have enough content to fill out the time. Creepy Cemetery was very solidly the latter. It just felt unfinished.
Our first “official” escape game was at a PanIQ Room venue, Hollywood’s Insane Asylum. At the time, we definitely enjoyed it, and even in hindsight it was a fairly good game experience – but there, the scenic and storytelling were of a much higher level than achieved in San Diego. It did, however, still unquestionably suffer from the same issues of puzzles for puzzles sake that did not in any way make narrative sense, and what we’d realize in hindsight, a complete rehash of puzzles that suggests an unwillingness to think outside the box.
For us in Hollywood, that wasn’t an issue we could recognize yet as it was the only PanIQ Room game we’d seen at the time. However, with the more we played between San Diego, Miami and Los Angele’s unique MagIQ Room sister attraction, we’d quickly realize that PanIQ, as a brand, designs their games almost as though they’re picking pieces from a limited catalog. “We’ll take that puzzle from Hollywood, and that puzzle from San Diego, and two of that puzzle from Miami and call it a new game!”
What results is a disjointed mess that at some moments is still fun, but destined to never realize its fullest potential.
The San Diego venue had a remarkably short-lived lifespan, as we understand it not due necessarily to the quality of their product but more directly related to issues beyond their control with the venue they inhabited. Upon closing shortly after opening, many of their puzzles were packed in the back of a truck and shipped up the 5 to Los Angeles where they became mainstay moments in the brand’s new MagIQ Room offerings. What results, as you can no doubt imagine are puzzles that make even less story sense than they already did in San Diego.
PanIQ Room as a brand has the potential to be something special if they choose to be, but first they’ll need to break free of their own overdone tropes and dare to do something new and different, while also recognizing that puzzles in an escape game are not just random puzzles, but rather critical pieces of a central narrative that builds to a story-driven experience players can become immersed within. When they see that light at the end of the tunnel, they can become a pretty great brand, but until they open their eyes to see it shining before them, they’ll continue to strive for good-not-great.
Venue: PanIQ Room San Diego
Location: San Diego, California
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: This venue has permanently closed.