RATING: 4 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 2:00
With marketing proclaiming their theatrically produced sets and professional actors I Survived the Room had us wondering if we’d see something great, or perhaps go mad ourselves.
A patient has gone missing and your group has been tasked with entering the Sanatorium to discover their fate. The experience begins with an out-of-character staff member giving backstory on the Sanatorium and the doctor in-charge until a nurse arrives to bring you into the game. A second actor provides an effective introductory monologue firmly planting you in the story world and giving a justification for your presence. However, once the game clock begins the actors are largely absent from the experience and only occasionally drop into the play space to provide in-character hints or prodding.
The finale of the game does feature a few unique interactions with the actors to complete some objectives, but for more than 90% of the game guests are on their own as if the actors were not there. The main doctor character was a skilled actor and not just an operations person in a costume as some venues do. It’s disappointing he is not better utilized.
The Sanatorium is a well dressed, theatrically lit environment that I wish was larger and contained more rooms. The props and sets in the Sanatorium are high quality and among the better of NYC venues.
One constant element in Escape Rooms is the game clock. It’s often immersion breaking to see a digital timer displayed on a television in a place it wouldn’t exist or some other contrivance, but the Sanatorium thankfully uses a scenically aged analog clock and “waiting for the stroke of midnight” for its time keeping.
The main problem with the Sanatorium is the majority of the game time players spend separated in two prison cells working on puzzles as a smaller group. Many require passing elements or information back and forth, which is a concept that can be fun and add an extra level of challenge when used in moderation. Unfortunately so much time is spent in this game state it becomes a chore, and the added element of being separated with strangers for so long doesn’t help.
The unique aspects of the final few gameplay moments help make up for the somewhat standard puzzles in the rest of the experience.
I Survived the Room aims to stand out in the crowded landscape of Escape Room venues with actors and a well themed environment, but with game flow issues and underutilized actors they ultimately miss the highest mark.
While I like the idea of splitting groups in games for a period of time, the Sanatorium does it for far too long and the split of the team is decided on by the actor. The danger in this is group strengths vary and in a game where players are paired with strangers it’s possible one team could be quite skilled and breeze through puzzles while the other lags behind. This can leave the more skilled group waiting for the other team to complete objectives without a way to help the other players. If completing your group’s tasks eventually leads to escaping your space and the ability to help the other team it’s less of an issue and gives an incentive to be the first out.
The Sanatorium is the superior of their two rooms and is still one of the higher quality games in NYC, but does not need to be a priority visit.
Venue: I Survived the Room
Location: Long Island City, New York
Number of Games: 2
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $25 per person