RATING: 6 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 15:52
How do you wake yourself up from a nightmare if you were already wide awake from the moment it began? You run for your life, scream like a girl and do anything you can to find a #&©%ing way out, that’s how!
Let’s start things off a bit differently – after all, there’s truly nothing standard about the experience we’re about to discuss. Have a look at this:
Do you understand what that is? It’s a tally board – and this photo was taken on September 27, a mere ten days after the tallying began. Twenty-two.
So, just what is this a tally of, you may ask?
Over the course of just ten days, twenty-two different groups ran out of Zoe, forfeiting their game time because they were simply too terrified to continue.
Shall we begin?
This house seems to be calling for you, it attracts you with an unknown force…What’s wrong with it? Is there anyone living there? Does he or she need help? You cannot survive it any longer, it’s driving you crazy…
You start surfing and accidentally you find the needed location… You reach the place. You open the door and… become trapped.
Zoe’s story begins as true nightmares often do: arriving at the physical manifestation of the place that has haunted us in our dreams. But this time, no amount of pinching ourselves can wake us from it. This time, it’s real.
The second we stepped foot in the building, it’s like the floor caved in and sucked us deep into its immersive storyworld, whether we were ready or not. There was something entirely off about our hostess. Her calm, almost robotic demeanor quickly morphed from at first glance, welcoming to almost instantly threatening. She left us, as many venues have before, to fill out our waivers before beginning our experience.
Except we’d quickly learn that completely unbeknownst to us, our experience had long since already begun. It would be here, literally while filling out our waivers, that we’d encounter the first frantic, desperate actor – as well as the first of my very real, very dark threats we were about to be challenged by. This incredible paradox of real world blending seamlessly with storyworld could not possibly have been more off-putting. The mood had become so intense, so quickly that it was literally difficult to finish writing my own damn name on the piece of paper before me.
This would prove to be the ultimate harbinger of dark, horrifying things to come.
From there, we’d be escorted outside, around the building and into the very same lost house which has haunted our dreams for as long as we can recall. Ready or not, it is here that we will encounter Zoe, almost as though we were drawn here to free her from this purgatory. But little Zoe isn’t the only spirit trapped in this house; her crazed, ax wielding Uncle Robert tirelessly stalks the shadows in these blood-soaked halls.
I’m not even going to waste your time pointing out that Zoe is a storyworld that was instantly easy to become immersed in. Because Zoe isn’t a storyworld. Zoe is tangible proof that nightmares aren’t reserved solely for your dreams. Zoe is #&©%ing real.
Picture a mysterious house as it would appear in a nightmare. Exactly as this one has appeared in yours, so is its physical manifestation. Dirty. Run down. Treacherously dark, light only by the glow of a flickering candle or two. You’d better hold your breath and hope its light doesn’t blow out.
Zoe’s abandoned home is massive, full of multiple different rooms separated, in true horror movie fashion, by a seemingly endless hallway of doors. And just like an actual horror movie – or your worst nightmare – you never quite know what’s lurking behind any one of those doors. And believe me when I tell you, things are lurking behind them.
Throughout your journey into the darkness, you’ll discover Zoe’s bedroom, Robert’s lair and a few other rooms so twisted that you’ll just need to see them for yourself – if, that is, you manage to last that long without becoming the latest tick mark to run screaming from this nightmare come to life.
It should come as no surprise that Zoe’s puzzle steps exist solidly within its nightmarish storyworld. Every action you take from the moment you enter the house feels like something you might authentically do to interact with the spirits, or, you know, just stay alive.
The puzzles themselves are entirely intuitive, creating a smooth flow from start to finish that really does solidly enhance the narrative.
Here’s the interesting part — Zoe’s puzzles are actually on the easier side of the spectrum. IF you take them out of her haunting home and solve them in a neutral environment. That’s the funny thing about fear; once dropped into such a truly terrifying immersive environment, even simple tasks are damn near impossible to achieve without causing panic.
Perfect example: at one point I obtained a simple house key to unlock a door. Except trying to literally do something as easy as put a key into a regular doorknob was suddenly the hardest challenge I’d ever faced – that is, when you take into account that the lights were flickering on and off as UNCLE ROBERT ran towards us from the end of the hall swinging an ax.
At the end of the day – Zoe is an epic total package attraction – and within the context of the action occurring, the puzzle steps really are at the ideal difficulty level. I’m just not sure how the hell anyone would solve more complex challenges under that much intense pressure.
Let’s start at perhaps the most significant point: there are not many venues out there that truly aim to blend the world of immersive theater with the world of escape games, but of them, none come close to besting Zoe’s execution. This game draws you into its storyworld like no other, and in truth, actually surpasses the believable worlds crafted by some legit, high-brow immersive theater productions I’ve seen across the United States.
Escapade Games takes a gamble with Zoe; there’s no question that fans of horror-themed attractions will line up around the block to see it, but we need to be honest and clear when we tell you that if scares are not your thing, this is just not the game for you. And trust me when I tell you – I hate saying that. Zoe is absolutely one of my favorite games, hands down – but it’s no secret that I *am* a big fan of haunted attractions.
And let’s talk about haunted attractions for a moment. We’ve stressed in the past how it was the very world of haunts that lured us into falling in love with escape games originally. I. Love. Haunts. But, there’s an asterisk: I love haunts, but I do not scare. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good haunt – from the story it tells to the scenic it uses to immerse me into its world, and, of course, the execution of those scares, even if they don’t intimidate me. I revel in those moments, even if I often stare back seemingly unfazed and without visible reaction.
Zoe scared the shit out of me.
I can say with honesty that I‘ve never been terrified to the level Zoe is able to produce. It’s an incredibly active immersive nightmare that casts us among its main characters. It draws you into the world in a way that few other attractions can, let alone escape games. Zoe is another level. And for some, perhaps Zoe is another level of hell.
Venue: Escapade Games
Location: Fullerton, California
Number of Games: 1
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $40 per person
We thank Escapade Games for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.