Signature Color: Yellow
“The artists of ancient Greece toiled endlessly to create beautiful and inspiring works, yet they lived in constant fear of creating anything that could be considered perfect; perfection was something only for the Gods to achieve. To avoid the wrath of a petty deity, artists would deliberately introduce a small flaw into every masterpiece ‘so as to not offend the Gods.’ But despite being an avid fan of Greek myth himself, it seems that designer Dan Suleski has broken with tradition and created an escape room so perfect that we can only hope Zeus doesn’t catch wind of it.
To call At Odds with the Gods a masterpiece is an understatement. After our earlier interview, I was eager to see if the game really needed a 90-minute deadline to complete, so I made sure to call in the veterans of our pack before sinking my teeth into this one. That’s when our hostess, Jamie, asked if we would be challenging Olympus at its standard difficulty or the surprise Expert Mode; the six of us visually startled the poor woman as we practically demanded Expert Mode in unrehearsed unison. The extended time limit was the same for either mode because the number of challenges in the room didn’t change, they were just made harder (and to great effect, as we later learned, particularly as nothing was removed or added to the room to scale up the difficulty.)
This is an example of everything a Yellow room should be; the challenges and puzzles aren’t exactly hidden, and our team could quickly tell which elements were important and which were not. There were no poorly conceived tricks to the tasks at hand, and no pointless time sinks in the detractors [Editor: a detractor is solution or train of logic which appears to be correct, but is actually false. Ex: 2+2=22). There was no ‘try and see’ if the answer worked or not; once players find a solution, the fact that it is correct seems as obvious as water being wet. There were several puzzles that could be solved in any order, but more importantly, in true ‘team building’ fashion, they all played to the strengths of different kinds of players; even in our group of over-achievers, no one was ever left standing around feeling as though they could not contribute because each of our specialties had multiple moments to shine.
I will point out our seemingly incongruous rating for Awe here; compared to the other categories, one could make the mistake in thinking At Odds with the Gods is somehow lacking. Instead, it seems to be a fundamental element of the very nature of Yellow rooms, namely that they make the challenges the star attraction of the experience; any additional attempt to include more surprising elements would only have taken our attention away from how satisfying, original, and, frankly, brilliant the experience already is.
Lastly, I’m going to take just a moment to congratulate ourselves for setting the new record for Expert Mode!”
“This wonderful, quasi-miraculous adventure into Greek Mythology was so enjoyable and so unexpected it felt like The Escape Effect granted a wish I didn’t even know I had. I should acknowledge that it’s pretty directly keyed to all my favorite types of literature, history, and games, so I’m not sure how objective I am. Everyone in our group of six loved it, though, so that’s something. The room is 90 minutes and has both an expert and a regular mode. It’s really a great sign that the room’s designer was so passionate about its contents that he chose to make the room a longer experience instead of cutting out its elements for the sake of efficiency. I don’t think there’s much I can say about it without giving things away, but I’ll try.
You and your team have an opportunity to win endless glory as the Gods have decided to offer you eternal life as a reward for completing their trials. First, there is a free, simple, and rather beautiful refresher course in the Greek Gods and their various domains built into the room, but it feels colorful and interesting, not condescending. As temples go, it’s very inviting. And outside knowledge won’t help you here, even if you’re a myth junkie. I’d forgotten half of what I thought I knew about mythology anyway, but when I did remember something, it felt less like I’d found a tactical advantage lying in my horde of memories, and more like an encouraging reminder that this particular escape room is connected to something that has even more good times to give us.
There was math—pretty basic math—which normally is a huge turn off for me [Editor: Michael has a history of flatly refusing to attempt any math at all in an escape room], but here, the math was fun, slightly symbolic (which takes the acid sting out of it for me), and connected with the theme. There were some extremely challenging moments—but nothing ever felt ridiculous, unfair, or made me want to roll my eyes. Even more rewardingly, there wasn’t anything I could do _entirely_ by myself. Everyone got to feel like the hero of at least one of the room’s many puzzles.
The room makes a great case study in balance. I always ask designers which of a room’s puzzles prove most challenging for their players. In the case of At Odds with the Gods, I believed Dan when he said its pretty evenly spread out; usually, venue owners know exactly which puzzle is most likely to throw people off or cost them the win. That’s probably because Dan skillfully and thoughtfully balanced each element of the challenges, not just their difficulty, but their types of rational, physical arrangement, and dependencies as a whole (elements often mismanaged by many room designers); the challenges are actually more welcoming than intimidating.
But there is something more intriguing going on here; players are actually inspired to learn more about the theme once they’ve experienced the room. They might actually learn some really interesting things because the information feels organic in its presentation, instead of reminding me how much I hated grade school [Editor: the boys had a long and ‘spirited’ debate as to whether Athenia or Hestia was the goddess of architecture]. I mention this because I’ve talked to a few librarians now who have incorporated escape rooms into the programs they offer, hoping to bring some attention to… well, books and learning. The production value used in the making of this room is out of reach of a library, obviously, but the designer’s enjoyment of the subject matter was contagious and made me excited read more about mythology. This room would be a great destination for librarians who are wondering how they might use the enthusiasm generated by escape rooms to connect their communities with wonderful reading material they could experience first-hand, and then find on the shelves and check out the same day.”
11701 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32821