Published June 16th, 2017 @ 2:04 am EDT by Paul

REVIEW: Face Off by America’s Escape Game (Orlando, FL)

2/5 Claws

Challenge: 5
Awe: 3
Care: 5.5
Theme: 5.5
Team: 4.5
Signature Color: Orange


“I played against Paul, and I lost, and as the loser, I’m… well, grumpy.  The 45-minute room is, at this writing, the only competitive escape room experience in Orlando.  Most of the puzzles have several solutions–but only because the room’s elements aren’t manufactured all that well.  In theory, it is designed so that negotiation, and the bartering of knowledge or resources with the opposing team, is necessary to win, but in practice, it’s not.  There is a sports-themed challenge that superficially seems to test agility, cooperation, etc. but will only test your pain endurance and luck.  Through no fault of the room’s designers, the most rewarding experience in the room is circumventing the game design.  A minor grammatical error in one of the clues could easily cost you the game (though I lost because I was just really bad at everything I was doing.)  A game master who explains the room really well could elevate it from a frustrating 45 minutes (which costs the same as the 60-minute rooms) to an actual competitive challenge.  The structure of a competitive room is here and even something like a sketch of one, but a lot of it just doesn’t work.  But seriously, Paul’s review holds more water than mine–because, you know, I lost. ”


“Setting aside the fact that I just-so-happened to lead my team to victory, liking this room took a lot of effort on my part.  The first challenge I had to overcome was how to get around the venue’s pointless policy of requiring a minimum party size of 4 people before they will even make a reservation for Face Off.  Although it took a fair amount of wrangling on my part [Editor: it also took a fair amount of begging and promises of a favor to be named later] once I had my group together, we had our choice of play times because, even on a sunny spring Saturday, we were the only group of 4 or more to even request a reservation.  We later learned that, ostensibly because of their policy, we were the only group to have booked the room all week!

As Michael said, we found ourselves on opposing teams, racing to solve the puzzles in our own mirror-image rooms.  A sort of no-man’s-land divided us, housing the head-to-head sports challenge and riddled with cubby holes accessible via locked doors on either side and containing needed pieces for both teams; whichever team solved one of the ‘benchmark’ puzzles first could access the compartment and claim both team’s pieces.  One of the design highlights was that, even though teams could see one another through plexiglass windows, the code that unlocked each team’s access doors would only work on their own side.  But it pains me to say that that’s pretty much where most of the creativity ends.  The challenges themselves were largely a disappointing series of decoding letter-swap ciphers to spell out the numbers in a combination; it’s not an exaggeration to say that this was the heart of nearly every challenge.  And even though the game makes several attempts to distribute puzzle pieces evenly, so as to give each team bargaining power, a shocking percentage of them were absolutely useless and unnecessary for solving their corresponding puzzle.

While it was a refreshing change of pace to not have to assume the role of an outlaw, captive, or vaguely-defined scientist, thus eliminating the need for elaborate decor (and earns Face Off the Signature Color of Orange), the threadbare experience is definitely showing its age; the owners of this franchised location certainly got their money’s worth out of the Spartan investment budget, even if it wasn’t all that high to start with, clearly showing a lack of proper maintenance.  This is compounded by the fact that, whether by neglect or poor design, two of the early puzzles on my side were easily ‘smash-solved’ because of missing props or the circumvention of a pointlessly complicated physical challenge on par with using chopsticks to catch a fly.

Even though the athletic challenge was a creative and unique idea, the execution here is sloppy and amounts to a frustrating and physically painful waste of time (which is already at a premium in this 45-minute room).  Maybe one day another venue can make a more fulfilling attempt at a competitive escape room, but I don’t think anyone will be sad to see this one go.”

8723 International Drive Suite 115
Orlando, FL 32819

(407) 412-5585

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