Signature Color: Blue
It felt so good to be in a horror escape room where everything made narrative sense. This one was even a little scary. It uses jump scares, so it’s not exactly an artfully applied sensation of dread, but the scenery is engrossing, and I was often caught off guard. Not all jump scares are tacky. This room earns them, they provide the thrill of electricity that runs through the detailed museum-like ambiance, giving it life.
Basic familiarity with world mythology will give you an edge–just enough to make a folklore-junkie like me feel pleasantly respected, not enough to spoon-feed me a solution. Our game master was in character, but was present in the room with us via an animatronic beastie and a speaker system. It wasn’t intrusive, it was fun.
The plot of this room involves a “genius level parapsychologist” who keeps a menagerie of horrid creatures. The parapsychologist knows the things in the room are dangerous, and opening the wrong lock at the wrong time could unleash untold suffering upon the world, so of course he used puzzles to ensure that only the initiated would be able to use his materials in his absence. The fact that everything in the room is encrypted (unavoidable in escape rooms) made sense in context, which aids the immersion. The number of venues who don’t understand this astonishes me–this venue does, for the most part.
Nosferatu at the same venue attempts the same thing, but falls a little short. In Haunted, the puzzles really are the types of things a parapsychologist would use to encrypt his work, so solving them gives the naughty sensation of outsmarting a genius, rather than doing well on a quiz. In Nosferatu, supposedly Van Helsing needs your help to kill a vampire, so why would he make it hard for you with his dumb riddles? Audiences are too forgiving of this… the missed opportunities are immense, begging for a narrative fix. Haunted is a case study in how to apply such a remedy, without making the story complicated and dull. It’s also got beautiful props, wall art that will cause double-takes, and grisly comedy.
This inventive premise was a refreshing change of pace from typical supernatural horror rooms. Narratively, the owner of the lab was trying to find the scientific data behind the supernatural lifeforms contained therein. This makes for an interesting blend of logical/scientific based puzzles and supernatural elements.
One of my favorite aspects of the experience was the ‘live’ gargoyle who sat in the middle of the room mocking all of my failed attempts to solve challenges. To clarify, each room in the Escape the Netherworld venue has an animatronic game host. Neitherworld seems to have perfected the art of the in-character hint-system (typically a feature of low-budget experiences). Still, I can see the device being hit or miss, depending on the game moderator. We hit the GM/actor jackpot. He was a great actor, and I might even go so far as to say that Madam Daphne may have some competition for Most Memorable Host.
The one weak point is the nagging feeling that I could have completed all of the challenges alone. While the challenges did cater to diverse player types, there wasn’t anything that really required more than one person.
That aside, Netherworld is a high-end, luxury escape room experience and easily one of the most memorable venues we’ve seen this year.
2076 West Park Place Blvd
Stone Mountain, GA 30319