RATING: 6 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 17:11
The Basement redefines yet another taboo to prove that water and electricity DO mix – and it should come as no surprise that the end result is simply shocking.
You’ve earned a second chance at freedom, but its slim.
About three months ago, Edward hired a man named John Peterson to help him make some “engineering changes” to an elevator shaft on his property. John quickly figured out that these changes he was being asked to make were indeed sinister in nature. When he confronted Edward, he was told that he could not leave until the project was finished or else his wife and daughter would pay the price.
The project is complete and John is long dead. You’ve found yourself locked inside the elevator shaft. Will you and your friends be able to follow the steps John put in place for you? Or will you perish under the weight of a 6 ton steel elevator?
The Elevator Shaft replaces The Boiler Room as the new and incredibly improved second chapter in the epic life-or-death (but mostly death) saga of Edward Tandy. Being trapped in The Basement by this demented cannibalistic serial killer was just a game – one that we were always meant to escape from. The Basement was the mere warm-up act in Tandy’s master plan – but The Elevator Shaft is the main event.
Rigged – unwillingly – by John Peterson, a brilliant engineer forced by the love of his family to do Edward’s malicious bidding, a massive six ton steel elevator looms over our heads, literally shaking and lurching closer and closer to us. There’s no more games. No more puzzles. No more proving our worth, because we were never worthy to challenge Edward in the first place.
Or perhaps, in a sense, The Elevator Shaft is Edward’s ultimate game – because it is, in fact, nothing more than a waiting game – until our bodies are crushed into just another puddle on the small room’s floor.
The Elevator Shaft takes The Basement’s already high scenic standard and lifts it up to the penthouse suite – before dropping it onto our skulls, of course. This game is a clear – and large – step up in terms of set dressing, texturing, effects and finish quality. Crumbling concrete walls lined with rusty metal rivets trap us on all sides, as we stand over a wet metal floor, grated just wide enough to seep up all the blood while leaving behind the tastier bits of our flesh.
Like The Boiler Room before it, The Elevator Shaft exists primarily in a single small room (though make no mistake, this is not a redecorated Boiler Room, but completely new construction.) Though slightly larger than The Boiler Room, the pit of the shaft still feels tight and confined, creating a healthy sense of urgency.
But it’s what’s looming above that creates the greatest urgency of all: the actual bottom of the massive steel elevator. Without giving away spoilers on its actual reveal, I’ll simply say this: As the lights come up to begin the game, I tilted my head skyward and stared straight up – and just… started… laughing. It was a maniacal laugh, because, in truth, the reveal was so theatrical and so epic that it couldn’t have been done any more effectively had it been apart of the next big Hollywood blockbuster motion picture.
In terms of “show moments,” it was the single most compelling I’ve ever seen in an escape game – crafting perhaps the purest form of an “OH SHIT” moment you’ll ever get. This reveal instantly establishes clear and present consequences for any action we take moving forward.
The two most memorable show beats from The Boiler Room – the lowering ceiling and cart ride through the narrow tunnel – return in The Elevator Shaft, wickedly enhanced and reimagined in a way that makes them feel completely fresh and new. The tunnel, now slightly wider, proved just big enough that I was able to do it without having a claustrophobic panic attack – something that made me very happy after having to skip it in the original Chapter 2. And as for the ceiling – well, let’s just say it’s movement is so greatly enhanced and erratic that part of me wanted to intentionally lose just to watch it get closer and closer to crushing us.
The Elevator Shaft takes a nod from The Study by crafting puzzles so ingrained within the storyworld that truly at no point did we feel like we were *solving puzzles.* Instead, each step we progressed through felt more like the actions of a desperate captive fighting for their lives just to survive. The activities are gritty and real, and in some cases so dark and taboo that you question if it’s even safe to continue. (It is, probably.)
And much like The Study, there’s a moment where we found ourselves asking a familiar question that only The Basement has ever made us ponder previously:
“They’d stop us if I was going to kill myself. Right?”
And again we’ll stress, as we mentioned first for The Study – “The ability to make even the most seasoned players – neigh, a group of experienced designers at that – second guess themselves and their own safety in a completely controlled environment can be defined by only one word: Magical.”
Simply put, The Basement is the only venue in the hundreds upon hundreds we’ve seen to ever elicit that type of reaction. And now they’ve done it twice.
The puzzles within The Elevator Shaft provide a satisfying, story-driven challenge that will impress experienced players with their originality, while still remain completely achievable for a lesser experienced group. This, in itself, is game design art – taking an incredible attraction and keeping it appealing to an even wider audience. Each moment is intuitive, allowing the experience to flow smoothly (as the elevator itself flows smoothly onto us from above.)
Most importantly, the puzzles are original – some the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Brilliantly clever adaptations of just how a puzzle can be implemented reinvent the wheel for gameplay, while staying so deeply rooted in the storyworld that there’s simply no question the tasks we tackle are indeed secret, hidden fail-safes left behind by John in hopes that perhaps we won’t suffer his same fate.
The Basement has long been the measuring stick to which we’ve compared all other venues – and rightfully so. They have four times now reinvented the proverbial wheel for what an escape game can – and perhaps should – be, and they are the only venue in the United States to receive sweeping 6 Key scores across the board for every single one of their offerings.
To put it in perspective, the original game, The Basement, is the 7th played on my list. The Boiler Room is #26. The Study is #52. The Elevator Shaft is #311. As you can probably imagine, opinions change with experience; obviously the more you see, the broader your perspective becomes. But here’s the constant: After game #7, after game #26, after game #52 and after game #311, every other game in every other venue still got compared to The Basement.
Every. Single. Time.
Perspectives may change, but the quality you find here only gets better with each new offering.
I’m not particularly a fan of committing to “a favorite game.” I feel as though there’s no reason I cannot appreciate a wide variety of things I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in different venues across the country. The Study probably came the closest to that “singular favorite” spot – and I’ll tell you this, The Elevator Shaft may have surpassed it.
The perfect combination of movie-quality scenic, epic theatrical effects, immersive storytelling and incredibly unique puzzles creates a sense of urgency the likes of which I’ve never seen before. While trapped at the bottom of The Elevator Shaft, we felt a very real desperation to find a way to escape – and now that we have, my desperation has shifted to finding a way to get back inside to do it all over again.
Check out my shirt – that’s not a shadow; I’m *soaking wet.* And it was SO totally worth it.
Venue: The Basement
Location: Sylmar, California
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 45 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $30-35 per person (prices vary between weekdays and weekends)
Escape Authority readers save 15% using code eatandy18
We thank The Basement for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.