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In-Depth Escape Room Reviews

Review: The Penitentiary

2 Keys

RATING: 2 Keys         RESULT: Won          REMAINING: 3:15

I mean, I suppose going to jail isn’t intended to be fun, right? And on that level, Omescape has truly succeeded.

Story

Saint Temple Prison is one of the most infamous military prisons in history. People called it NOESCAPE, yet somehow a serial killer code-named “The Night Stalker” mysteriously vanished from this facility. The hidden secret in the penitentiary’s blueprint was found by him, which apparently shows the only way to break out of this penitentiary.

We wake up one day and find ourselves each locked in our own cramped cell, cold and alone. Could this be the mysterious cell from which “The Night Stalker” vanished?  The only goal is clear: Escape.

Listen, I don’t know about you, but I for one hate those mornings where you randomly wake up in jail with no given reason for your apparent arrest. And like a bad dream I wish I didn’t wake up from, here we are again.

Even a lazy justification of “The Night Stalker escaped and framed you for his crime” would do wonders to patch the giant gaping hole in this narrative, but no – we just…. wake up.

Trust me when I tell you this is entirely indicative of the remainder our NYC Omescape experience.

Scenic

I don’t expect much when I walk into a jail-themed game. By its very nature I already know it’s going to be scenically minimalistic. It would be difficult to accurately portray a prison cell by any other means. That being said, of all the cliché escape-the-jail games I’ve played – and that’s a lot of them – The Penitentiary has unquestionably the worst scenic in the batch.

I could make this section incredibly short and sum it all up with three words:

Vinyl. Brick. Wallpaper.

Come on guys. Bricks are cheap. At least use real bricks and put some effort in here. But did I mention that on top of that vinyl wallpaper hangs celebrity mug shots from famous Hollywood criminals, like Sirius Black? Let’s just move on to the puzzle section.

Puzzles

Much like Omescape’s Kingdom of Cats, the puzzles in The Penitentiary are somewhat of a mixed bag. Unfortunately in this case, they sway far more toward the negative than the positive.

But let’s start there – true to story, the finale does involve uncovering and deciphering clues hidden in old blueprints of the prison itself – and that does indeed lead you to freedom.

Unfortunately that might be the one noteworthy moment where things made sense. Take for example that apparently this old jail has a laser security system – you know, the kind one might find in a museum or bank vault (or escape room prop catalog.) Right when it becomes active, a security guard enters the room with you, and if you trip it, he’ll put you in handcuffs. If you don’t trip it, then, well, I suppose it’s fine that you’re for some reason all out of your cells? Yeahhhhh…

Beyond that, there were several puzzles within The Penitentiary that were such logic leaps that we ultimately had no choice but to just directly brute force them in order to proceed. Now here’s the thing – I’ve played a whole heck of a lot of these games, so obviously by now I’m experienced enough to brute force a code – but I really don’t like to do it, ever. To me, a game isn’t about winning or losing, but the experience. And for me to be pushed to brute force not one but four or five different codes in the course of this game – well, I think that on its own speaks volumes about its puzzle flow.

Overall

The Penitentiary was our second experience with the Omescape brand. The truth is we were hesitant to give the NYC venue a shot after such a mixed-to-negative experience a month prior in San Jose – but we had a very small amount of very last minute free time, and Omescape was literally the only venue near enough to our current location with availability.

We arrived at the venue not even knowing what game we’d be playing. We were told we’d be playing Laboratory of Biohazard – an announcement not met with the most enthusiasm among our team who have seen far to many zombie/lab games at this point. When we asked what other games are available, and which is their hardest, we were told that would definitely be The Penitentiary, but it’s “literally not possible” to win with a team of just four, so he didn’t want to let us try.

And we escaped with 3:15 remaining on the clock.

I honestly don’t think Omescape realizes the quality of games they’re producing. Perhaps I’ve just seen two bad examples; perhaps other games from the brand are of a higher quality – and if that’s the case I’d love to hear about them. Until then, I’m just not sure they’ll be a brand high on our return visit list.

Venue Details

Venue:  Omescape

Location: New York, New York

Number of Games: 3

GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:

Duration: 70 minutes

Capacity: 12 people

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

Cost: $33 per person weekdays, $38 per person weekends

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