Escape Room Reviews: Mystery of the Red Dragon
Company: Amazing Escape Room Los Angeles
Room: Mystery of the Red Dragon
Date Played: 9/4/16
Player Count: 2, plus another group of 5!
Success: Success! With unwanted hints.
Premise: As INTERPOL agents, it is our duty to steal a priceless statue from an art thief!
Immersion: The vibe was somewhat like a carnival or kids game show. This room is not plausibly the home or hideout of an old thief.
Highlights: The room is packed with stuff to do. There’s a nice blend of conceptual and mechanical puzzles, and tons of physical locks. There’s a system that made me feel a little bit like we were earning points as we progressed, which was unusual but fun.
The hint system was text delivered via monitors on the walls, which is accompanied by a noise taken from an educational film strip. I really liked this method of communication.
The video we were shown that outlined the rules was well produced.
Lowlights: The booking website is not as clear as at some other games around town, and we would never have signed up for this game if we knew there was already a group of 5 playing. They were a sharp bunch, and totally prepared to steamroll any pair of gooves that they got stuck with. Maybe on a different day I could have sat back a little more and enjoyed watching how other people solve a room, but instead I felt like I had to battle to participate. There were things in this game which I don’t know where they came from, I don’t know how they were used, and I don’t know what using them did. It made my map* a little bit confusing.
Our Keeper was like Clippy, offering unwanted advice. I think a perfect GM might provide unsolicited clues in the nick of time to keep the momentum going, but it’s really deflating to get a cluetelling you to focus on, say, a particular lock, while you’re in the act of walking your key across the room to that very lock.
Maybe worst blacklight use we've encountered? (I'm going to call this not-a-spoiler. Maybe if a room didn't have a black light and I told you, then I'd be spoiling a fun surprise.)
There are buttons for opening doors that you are supposed to use that look exactly like the buttons on the emergency exit doors that end the game if you use them. This is bad design.
And Finally: Joining the other team was educational, at least. I think I scratch my puzzle-solving itch by grokking the solutions more than by physically turning the keys in the locks, but I found myself racing to be the one to turn the keys here just so that I could be the first to see what was inside a locked cabinet or drawer. Our group was so spread out (even in the small space) that the people who were calling out their discoveries weren’t hearing each other, and sometimes we got stuck on needing an object that another player had put in their pocket 5 minutes ago.
I would rather understand everything in a room than set the record time. We didn't technically finish The Lab, but it was a more satisfying experience because I know what was going on. I bet there are some games out there for larger groups where this play style just doesn’t work.
I have a lot of lowlights for this game, so I feel like I should emphasize that reviews are about my own experience. I think the best way for a reviewer to be valuable to a consumer is through a body of work and related experiences. There are film critics I never agree with, and their reviews are just as valuable as if we were peas in a pod, once I know that about them. I think I would have really enjoyed this room if we'd played it as just a couple, or in our usual team of 4. Such as it is, out of 8 rooms played, I'm rating this one #7.
How to book this room yourself: Visit https://amazingescaperoom.com/la-northridge/mystery-of-the-red-dragon/
*Obviously, I go home and draw a complete map of every escape room I play, with annotations for the objects, locations of the collectibles, notes about the flow of play and solutions. Obviously.