RATING: 4 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 0:39
Sure, we could make it rich by striking gold or oil, but robbing an old town bank is just so much more fun!
It is 1851 and you are heading out West in hopes of making a name for yourself. It’s rumored that people are discovering gold, oil, and other riches. You are bound to discover something yourself or at least get in on the riches already discovered.
In a very short time out West, you have developed a large sum of debt. In one last desperate attempt to try and “hit it big”, you borrow money from the infamous outlaw, Mad Dog McNaulty. But Lady Luck is not on your side and you lose it all again. You have no options left open – only a large debt demanding to be paid. There is just one viable option left: pull off a heist at the local bank. It might just be crazy but at this point you have nothing left to lose.
As the story goes, the bank shares a wall with the old saloon – so that gives our plan the perfect starting point. We find ourselves breaking in after hours – but that was the easy part. Next, we need to figure out how to get through the wall and into the bank itself – then past several layers of security to ultimately get through the heavily fortified vault door.
The Heist – on paper – is a fairly common industry trope, but this game manages to be far more than “just another bank robbery.” It creates an action-packed, story-driven narrative that casts us as active participants within its world. With some truly unique twists, this storyworld solidly transports us into the lead role of wild west bank robbers, creating a great – and more importantly believable – sense of urgency.
Scenic is where The Heist truly shines brighter than a golden nugget. Walls lines with old, reclaimed wood – not to mention hardwood floors below your feet get allow this space to instantly evoke the mood of quaint old western town.
Authentic set dressings fill the saloon, including a hand-crafted bar, an antique piano, and, naturally a poker table (abandoned mid-game) instantly transport you into the storyworld with a sense of tangible realism.
Even the room’s background music perfectly adds to the ambiance, underscoring our heist with a classic old-timey wild-west like flavor.
Once in the bank, the finishes remain just as realistic. Riffles left behind by the oddly missing guards do as little to stop our heist as the thick jail bar-like gates that project the entrance to the vault. And then there’s the vault itself, sealed tightly by a heavy cast iron door separating us from becoming dirty stinking rich.
But it’s the access between the saloon into the bank that is the biggest star is this far western sky. For obvious reasons we won’t go into detail, other than to say it may well be the best secret passage we’ve yet encountered in a game.
321 Escape aims high to keep all of their puzzles interconnected to The Heist’s storyworld in an organic way. As such, the game does carry a distinctly western feel from start to finish.
We found ourselves further immersed in the story as we literally sat down at the poker table to tackle one of the game’s earlier puzzles. The mood even inspired us to try to cheat just as our new outlaw alter-egos would have to achieve our goal.
Breaking into the bank felt like just that – a true break in. And once inside, that sense of “illegal activity” carried forward all the way until the moment we ran out the door with giant sacks of cash in tow.
The Heist several times embraces something we love to see, yet somewhat rarely do – the use of physical puzzle steps. These moments, where a player is tasked with building or disassembling something within the room become instantly memorable for players, and no doubt are destined to be one of the moments they talk about when in turn recommending the game to friends.
321 Escape is one of the newest venue’s on Florida’s Space Coast. Located in Palm Shores, they’re close to both Melbourne and Cocoa, placing them nearby to some major landmarks like Port Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. This is one of the first times we’ve encountered a “venue within a venue” – as 321 Escape actually rents a space inside Adventure HQ – a massive indoor playground to the extreme – full of physical activities that cater to a wide range of age groups including rock climbing, playground structures and even a full-scale American Ninja Warrior-style challenge course! If I didn’t know for a fact that my total lack of coordination and balance would result in at the very least a broken ankle, this would be an awesome place to hang out after an escape game or two.
As for the escape game venue itself, 321 Escape is a family run affair, with games designed each by a different member of the household. What results is an experience fueled by passion, yet also distinctly different play styles from one game to the next. It should come as no surprise given this background that the staff is very enthusiastic and very proud of their product.
Perhaps most impressive to us was just how eager 321 Escape was to receive feedback to grow and further improve their product. Although even in the worst case example their games were already good, they still strive to better them in any way they can. In fact, within a day of our visit, we learned that 321 Escape had already implemented several bits of polish to game flow as well as storyworld immersive that came directly from our post game debriefs. This type of “nothing is ever truly finished” mentality is solid proof that the venue will have a bright future – one that we look forward to return to soon!
Venue: 321 Escape
Location: Palm Shores, Florida
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $28 per person
We thank 321 Escape Room for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.