RATING: 3 Keys RESULT: Loss REMAINING: X:XX
You’d think that after the number of different antidotes we’ve collected we would be immune to every virus known to man.
A mysterious pandemic called The Red Death is sweeping the planet. If you hope to stand against this seemingly unstoppable pathogen, navigate the lab of the now defunct research operation Project Hephaestus. It is believed that the cure exists somewhere in the secret lab of Dr. Andrea McClain, Project Hephaestus’ former Director.
Pick up where Dr. McLain left off and work diligently to formulate a cure. Exercise caution, employ focus and avoid mistakes.
The future of mankind depends on it.
At its core, we enter yet another virus / laboratory game – an increasingly common industry trope. Thankfully this time it is executed better than average by America’s Escape Game.
Scenic is one area where America’s Escape Game has proven they can truly shine, and while they unquestionably do well with Pandemic, it doesn’t match the level of detail found in The Lost Tomb of Monthu or The Caretaker. This game exists in a much smaller footprint, but still manages to find the space for three distinct rooms – although visually they do all feel nearly identical.
The space is aged well to give the impression that this lab has seen its better days – which also helps imply the secrets it may be hiding. There’s something unwelcoming about the space which works well to help immerse players within its story world.
Still though, the space is incredibly plain compared to some of America’s Escape Game’s other rooms which tend to boast a decent number of props to help elevate their decor. In the end, Pandemic creates a middle level scenic experience for the venue, definitely not as detailed as The Lost Tomb of Monthu or The Caretaker but significantly more compelling than Face Off’s empty office rooms.
Moments in this game solidly connect to its science-y feel, furthering the narrative in a noticeable and satisfying way. Others, unfortunately stick out like a sore thumb, like the classic word search we just never want to see in any game. We’ve said this before, but what we look for in escape games are puzzles we cannot do at our home, in our every day life. Word searches, crossword puzzles, sudoku or jigsaw puzzles can hinder a game experience by drawing players out of its storyworld in one of the worst examples of puzzles for puzzles’ sake.
And here’s the thing – filling a crossword puzzle or word search with text that fit the theme, like “virus” or “antidote” doesn’t make that crossword puzzle or word search any more sensible in your laboratory, or oval office, or worst of all ancient Egyptian tomb.
On the other hand, a test tube puzzle we actually started off greatly enjoying because of its clear story connection somewhat over stays its welcome, crossing the boundary into that ugly time sink territory we just never want to encounter.
Interestingly enough – we for all intents and purposes actually did win Pandemic. We solved all of the codes needed through the final step – yet on the day of our visit very early on in this game’s existence, we were unable to open the final – not due to a lock – that was already long removed – but due literally to hinges too tight to allow the lid to open. While this was frustrating at the time, it does make for a funny enough story today.
With few exceptions, America’s Escape Game tends to exhibit they have all the tools at their disposal to create some great attractions – and on many levels they do just that. Very small polish would be needed to see these games jump one if not two rating key levels.
Even without that polish, many of their games – Pandemic included – are quite good. The question, for me, becomes if good is good enough when you could truly be great.
It cannot be overstated, however, that it is our sincerest wish that America’s Escape Game would discontinue it’s use of the lazy feeling puzzles we’ve stressed time and time again – cross world puzzles, word searches and jigsaw puzzles. When your product is so far ahead of the curve in terms of thematic immersion, there is just no sense in hindering that with common place items that are both not exciting to encounter and worse a jarring conflict to the storyworlds they’ve put such clear effort into so artfully creating.
We want to love America’s Escape Game, because they really and truly do a whole lot right. We want them to be one of our favorite venues, and firmly believe they are poised to become a true industry leader if they so choose to take that step – but with that comes the need to recognize their very few but significant areas of weakness. Improving those areas – which admittedly should be very easy improvements to make – mean a very bright future for America’s Escape Game as a company, and even more so for us as fans of the escape game genre.
Venue: America’s Escape Game
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of Games: 5
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $35 per person