Published March 8th, 2019 @ 8:30 pm EST by Paul

REVIEW: Al Capone’s Speakeasy by Time to Escape (Atlanta, GA)

2/5 Claws

Challenge: 4
Awe: 3.5
Care: 5.5
Theme: 5.5
Team: 3.5
Signature Color:  Green

Paul :

What a fantastic disappointment! Once again, a venue fails to understand how in-game actors can destroy an experience. I don’t mean the specific actor/host we had. Our bartender/moderator did an acceptable job of staying in character. The major failing with this room is the extent to which players are forced to interact with the host instead of being allowed to play the game. The host had a set of activities/conversations that needed to happen at specific times; it really broke the immersion for me to have to stop working on a puzzle I had finally started to make progress on just so the host could make a long and pointless speech. It began to feel as if the designer was compensating for the lack of gameplay by having the actor eat up our play time.

But the actor wasn’t the only pointless feature of this room; instead of a typical hint system, players had to purchase hints with currency found in-game. We found a bit of currency quickly, but the ‘hint’ we bought didn’t help us with the challenges that were in our way, mostly because we had to keep up the pretense of bribing the bartender who (as a character) didn’t really know anything helpful. When we ran out of currency (after purchasing one hint) we had to challenge the host to a ‘bar game’ in order to earn more money/hints. Nothing says fun like spending $40 to throw cards into a hat with a stranger. We had to spend time trying to throw playing cards into a hat with the GM before we could get our second hint.

Speaking of Care, it is pretty obvious that this venue… doesn’t. We were teamed up with two other players who never showed up; even though we were early, we were told we had to wait for the other players. Another team was taken to another room while we were left waiting in the lobby. We waited… and waited …and waited. Fifteen minutes after our scheduled start time, with no staff members to be seen, I had to call the venue from my cell phone to remind them that we were still sitting in their lobby. Once we finally got to start our game, we weren’t even given the time they shorted us to complete the game.

While there were one or two attempts at Awe, and players were given individual secret side missions (an interesting idea), I would recommend just skipping the venue altogether. It’s a clumsy, slap-dash money grab and just makes the escape room industry look bad.

 Michael : 

So, this is a speakeasy?  Speakeasies are accessed through secret doors in phone booths. They’re full of ordinary-looking furniture that transforms, through ingenious and instantaneous tricks, into casino equipment. They’re about secret doors protecting jazz-era vices, once shocking, now family-friendly and almost camp. The bar in which this game is set… is just a bar.

A bartender is in there with you, and I got the impression that his script furnished him with a fairly complex AI. (He was an engaging performer, I liked him more than Paul did.) He’s more than a password prompt waiting to hear just the right words — when he says something significant, you have to think like a gangster in order to interpret it. He’s not going to tell you a four digit code. He may tell you who did what, but you have to figure out why, and then figure out how to turn it to your advantage. The resonance with the gangster movie genre is deep and satisfying. But the rest of this room–and the indifference of the venue–to the quality of the experience makes the innovation of the bartender, and the talent of the actor, seem more like a waste than a selling point.

Since the rest of our team didn’t show up, we only had two people to do this room, making our “special roles” (players have individual side quests) moot.

I do feel like I saw enough of its scenery and gizmos to tell you that there’s nothing there to impress. Additionally, there’s no clock inside. Because the group we were paired with (whom we did not know beforehand) didn’t show up, the venue just subtracted fifteen minutes from our time… and pretended that they didn’t. I didn’t even come close to solving it–I was having too much fun with the mini games. They abound. They’re cool. There’s myriad little things to like about this game, but overall, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a game designer who wants to get some ideas from it. If you’re that strange, strange type of person who plays these things for fun, this one isn’t for you.

1441 Dresden Dr #230
Atlanta, GA 30319
(678) 705-4320

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