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Review: Escape the Prison

RATING: 0 Keys          RESULT: Loss          REMAINING: X:XX

This inexcusably awful game succeeds in making players feel like prisoners. Their only desire is to leave this terrible place.


Fortunately for your group, all of the prison’s guards have decided to take a nap for an hour — as they so often do. With this window of opportunity, you and your friends in an adjoining cell work to escape into the guard control room. This would be an easy task if it wasn’t for those pesky algebra problems standing in your way.

Setting aside the absurdity of the presented story, once inside the escape room there’s little about the gameplay that plays into the idea of breaking out of prison. The only exceptions were a fun moment of tossing a key on a string down a hallway to another jail cell, and crawling through a hidden door under a sink. Beyond this, players don’t do much of anything to support the idea that they’re really prisoners breaking out of a prison.


Players are split between two jail cells. One has a box with some string and a key in it. The other has a small sink and a couple of movie posters on the wall. That is all. That is the extent of the scenic. One could almost imagine the rooms looked like this when the space was leased. Upon walking into the empty room I just laughed that “I’m so embarrassed for you” laugh. It was obvious this room had no desire to offer something of value.

One minimal bright spot in the awful thread of scenic were interesting “oil lanterns” we were given to use as our light source in the pitch black jail cells. Blowing into the lantern turned them on, and we got a kick out of playing with them. Nevermind that these would never appear in a jail cell…

Later in the game, players find themselves in the guards’ office. Compared to the jail cells, this room looked amazing. Compared to nearly any other room existing in the real world, it was terrible. There was a hint of a story with some playing cards left on a table as if the guards had left in a hurry. Some ID cards were scattered around. A filing cabinet in a corner. Otherwise, it was plain white walls, office ceiling tiles, and fluorescent lights. One wall had a grid of boxes formed into patterns; a strangely incomprehensible mess. This was meant to be a puzzle of some kind, but we couldn’t figure it out.


Escape the prison only had a handful of puzzles in it. Of those puzzles that weren’t physical tasks, we solved zero without hints. All hints were really more than hints. More like step by step instructions on what to do. It’s not an exaggeration to say this room was created to be impossible for anyone but a savant or the room designer. Even after lengthy explanations on how a couple of puzzles were to be solved we still could not really understand what it was we were expected to do, or they were such logic leaps that we would never have reached the conclusion on our own.

One particularly awful puzzle involved using the information presented in the previously mentioned — and confusing — security office grid chart and combining that with faded blacklight text in one of the cells. The text was so faded that even after combing the walls looking for text it wasn’t until the gamemaster walked in and pointed out the text we could see it. Even with the text revealed, the puzzle turned into a confusing pseudo-algebra problem where players must substitute a symbol system into math equations. It was convoluted, and after a long time of staring at a wall and asking for hints, it became obvious the problem would never be solved.


XRoom was one of the worst venues in Los Angeles. Thankfully it is no longer in operation. Companies that show such a blatant disregard for creating a quality experience should not remain in business. Players who visit a beyond sub-par experience as their first game are unlikely to ever go to another escape room. They’ll walk out with the assumption they aren’t smart enough, or they don’t really like puzzles, or that every game must be like this. The vast majority of players who visit a quality venue as their first experience become hooked and want to keep seeing more. Bad venues are harmful to the industry as a whole.

The gamemaster at the venue was nice and accommodating. He wasn’t the owner and it was obvious as we asked for hints and tried to work through the game that he sympathized with the awful experience we were having. Although that didn’t stop him from trying to upcharge us at the completion of our game to add on more time for a few dollars to try and solve the remaining puzzles. No amount of additional time would have been enough. Maybe if they gave us a life sentence.

Venue Details

Venue:  X Room

Location: San Gabriel, California

Number of Games: 5


Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 8 people

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

Cost: This venue has permanently closed.
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