Published May 9th, 2017 @ 11:51 pm EDT by Paul

REVIEW: The Lazarus Crystal by Enigma H.Q. (San Diego, CA)

4/5 Claws

Challenge: 8
Awe: 6.5
Care: 8
Theme: 6
Team: 7.5
Signature Color: Indigo


“What I really liked about this room was the absolute freedom of opportunity for what a correct answer could be.  It oddly felt like being in The Goonies or some other ‘just roll with it’ kid’s adventure movie from the late 80’s; if you’re looking for four-digit codes and luggage locks, you’re out of luck.  This is an Indigo Room and that means there’s something a little extra magical going on that might just make you believe again.

Blissfully original, the challenges walk the fine line between maddeningly hard and ridiculously simple but that’s not to say that any of them were easy to come by.  Solutions require players to open their minds to some fairly liberal interpretations of the clues but that’s part of the fun (sort of like solving the clues to One-eyed Willie’s treasure).  The structure of the puzzles was also largely unique; players are mostly hit with everything all at once and have to parcel out which clues go with each puzzle and what order they need to be completed in.  The good news is that there are multiple ways to solve many of the puzzles, so the room really does reward creative thinking.”

Occasionally, we here at Partly Wicked get asked ‘how can we improve our Awe score if we don’t have the budget for moving bookcases or other special effects?’  Well, The Lazarus Crystal has the perfect answer.  Some simple lighting and sound cues, creatively utilized, go a long way to crafting something really special.  If I were Enigma H.Q., I would push hard to perfect the story though.  The introduction got a little convoluted and unnecessarily complicated, but a contrived reason to be rummaging through someone’s office is better than no reason at all.

On the downside, it’s still an office.  The best office themed escape room I’ve seen to date, but still an office.  An office lovingly cleaned every night by an awesome staff maintains every pricey piece as if it were brand new and made of marble, but still an office.”


“Inventive and elegant, interactive in some unexpected ways.  A monitor watches to see when actions are done correctly, opening up new alternatives to number-hunting and padlock-gathering.  Inventive uses of simple technology compliment the accurate handling of a 16th-century magical language, and the result is a very convincing ‘occultist’s office.’  That suggests a genre with clear rules: that of the occult detective.  There aren’t really any cliches or even tropes, to latch onto; the room maintains a consistent character of its own, and the game seems like a conversation with the setting. The experience does have that discreetly psychedelic awareness that everything had in the 90s: Tom Robbins novels, Tori Amos concerts, paranormal FBI investigators like Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks. Occult detective stories make a virtue of necessity; they prefer a noirish office for a set to a shining starship. That said, they don’t make you love your world, they make you doubt its feigned straightforwardness. When the genre’s working full-force, it can make desks, lamps, and all the mundane world seem like the encryption system for invisible orders of elves and angels.   On the

On the dour end of the spectrum, an occult detective isn’t looking for the Other Side, he knows it’s there, and he can’t un-see it. He’s coping with it, or on a good day, he’s striking a bargain with something that lives in it. This room is a little more optimistic, but it’s the same idea. We’re in an occultist’s shoes, at his desk, facing a set of unknowns. The occult detective’s set of unknowns dos not include what we call the Unknown. It’s almost an escape room in its purest form, because under theme effects and lighting, what’s magical about a desk and a set of unknowns? Nothing. Everything. Anyway, two genuinely beautiful puzzles make a nice centerpiece, and some challenges have multiple solutions that reward different styles of reasoning. The room has a ghost and an ancient ritual, but they’re friendly, while the urban world, through this game’s lens, seems arcane, occult, malevolent and haunting. But this cyberpunk bent isn’t so much an inflection as a red herring–and I’m telling you that because it doesn’t affect the gameplay, and because my favorite thing about this room is that it seems almost consciously well-meaning. There’s an alert, attentive, and oddly humble imagination at work behind the place. Even with the authentic 16th-century gobbledegook, the room doesn’t come off as learned so much as aware.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were something autobiographical, or spiritually sincere, in the room–and the fact that I don’t know for sure means the story doesn’t preach.  It might edge away from a game experience toward something more like a New Age storyteller’s retreat, but it’s a real game and a legit challenge.  If you want bloody handprints on the walls or a hacker-noir espionage experience, this room will either disappoint you or enlighten you.  Might be good for an outing with family members a little too mature or wise for the traditional escape game gauntlet, especially if they would enjoy a bit of sentimentality in the story. All that aside, this room is smart and fun.  It’s also something else.  And I can’t quite pin down what that “something else” is, but I know it’s neither good nor bad, just human. ”

1446 Front Street
San Diego, CA 92101

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