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In-Depth Escape Room Reviews

Review: Crisis at 1600

RATING: 4 Keys          RESULT: Win          REMAINING: 2:04

We’re here to save the world from a Crisis at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But it’s not the first one you might think of these days.

Story

A heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders have breached the White House. The President has been escorted to a safe bunker. All secret service agents on the premises have been neutralized.  To make matters worse, the paramilitary group has launched a series of missiles that can only be disarmed inside the Oval Office.

Our only hope is a group of tourists trapped inside.  This group must use knowledge and strategy to infiltrate the Oval Office and disarm the missiles. Be conscious of your surroundings, keep an open mind and use only your best judgment…millions of lives depend on it.

Could there be a more appropriate game for the venue that screams “patriotic” from their very name right down to their branding which is painted in the colors of America? I didn’t think so.

Crisis at 1600 is the epitome of the ubiquitous save-the-country-from-peril escape game found at many venues around the world.

 

Scenic

Being that this takes place inside several rooms in a fictitious White House, everything is pretty much standard architecture. It was no accurate replica by any stretch, but it didn’t feel like we were in some standard office building either.

The layout was slightly awkward as we went from one hallway to what seemed like another right from the start. Then again, sometimes venues become limited by the space they have and must make games fit the best they can, so I cannot fault them for this.

However, once we made it inside the so-called Oval Office, I was a little let down. This particular design indecision probably came down to either cost or just trying to maximize the game space, but I just don’t see how you can justify a non-oval Oval Office. Yes, the corners would be lost to dead floor space, but surely there would be some way to integrate puzzles into the walls to make use of it.

Again, this didn’t ruin the game for me, but it would have been more visually interesting and more thematically accurate with curved walls.

Puzzles

Realizing that we are playing this game as a “White House tour group” further helped solidify our lack of knowledge and inexperience with the intricacies of the famous structure. Meaning that there very well could be a hidden compartment behind a portrait in the real 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or perhaps something hidden away in a secret panel of the Resolute Desk, for example.

However, at one point our group encountered a locked cabinet on the wall which when opened revealed a large crossword puzzle – guaranteed to *not* be hidden inside the actual White House – and sadly, if you’ve played any of the other rooms here, you’d know this is a very typical America’s Escape Game move. Sure the puzzle takes time to complete and offers an activity for 2-3 people, but it does nothing to add value to the story. Frankly it cheapens the flow of the experience overall.

Another gameplay misstep was a two-person physical puzzle that involved blindly putting some blocks in correct positions to reveal the next clue. While honestly fun from a pure enjoyment standpoint, this felt like a puzzle that was shoehorned in just for the sake of “coolness”, and had us asking the question “why would this be in the Oval Office?”

There was also a point in the game where you had to test your skill of firing a Nerf gun to disable one of the White House invaders in order to advance. I must say however that this particular puzzle was one that could have been “self-destructing” as there obviously cannot be an unlimited supply of ammo if you didn’t have the best aim.

While those few things could have been improved, let’s not fail to look at a few of the more shining moments in the game. One of our favorite elements of Crisis at 1600 was a puzzle involving several books and the Dewey Decimal system. We found this to be a rather clever use of the antiquated classification system to deliver a clue.

Finally, at the end of the game, there was a very cool reveal that used a little more technology to pull it off, which is something we didn’t see much of throughout the rest of the game. This harks back to earlier when I mentioned that none of us know what secrets the White House contains, but this was something I would like to think exists in some form in real life, creating a very cool segue to the final stage of the game.

One thing I must note, however, is that once we did successfully stop the terrorists and the missile was contained, we had logically thought we won after reaching the story’s climax. That wasn’t the case though as there was one final step involved in actually “escaping” the rooms. Had this been covered in the initial briefing, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal, so this felt a slight bit misleading, and frankly searching for a numerical exit code wasn’t nearly as compelling as deactivating the missile launch system right before it.

Overall

If you’ve ever visited America’s Escape Game, you probably already know that in many areas they are one of the industry leaders with have some solid games in their repertoire. Crisis at 1600 is no exception, as it offers a compelling story reinforced by a believable environment along with fun and exciting moments of gameplay.

Unfortunately a few puzzle design speed bumps compromise what could otherwise be a 5 Key contender for America’s Escape Game, but make no mistake that a 4 Key – great game – is nothing to be ashamed of.

There never seemed to be a moment where anyone was without something to explore, find, or solve and that is very important in any great game. Even being among the first games I had personally played (the fifth actually) when I started my quest into the world of escape rooms way back in April of 2015 – now two and a half years ago. Though not completely without its faults, Crisis at 1600 was a pleasant surprise, instantly becoming  my favorite game at America’s Escape Game, as well as one of the better games I’ve played to date.

Venue Details

Venue:  America’s Escape Game

Location: Orlando, Florida

Number of Games: 5

GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:

Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 10 people

Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.

Cost: $35 per person

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America's Escape Game - Crisis at 1600
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