Published April 2nd, 2019 @ 10:13 pm EDT by Michael

REVIEW: The Archive by Dare 2 Escape (Orlando, FL)


5/5 Claws


Paul :

Beginning with a stunning optical illusion, The Archive is the culmination of Dare 2 Escape‘s sweeping narrative that connects its four current rooms.  While we played the other experiences at this venue and appreciated all the connected narrative tie-ins we encountered, players will not have had to play the other rooms in order to appreciate the complexity found here.

This game provides a far more linear game flow than many of D2E’s other rooms; players are a little limited to the number of puzzles that can be worked on at any given time.  While many venues use this type of design flow to offer an experience for newer players, The Archive is an extremely challenging experience.  The veteran team we gathered for our game works very well together, and even holds a place on the leaderboard for The Ringmaster at the same location.  That may have been part of our downfall here; we were so invested in working our way through the game without any help, that we held off on using any of the 5 allotted clues longer than we should have.  That fact along with a bit of user error had us finishing the room about 5 minutes over the allotted time.

Challenges in The Archive were extremely diverse, requiring skill specializations from many different types of players, particularly skills involving physical challenges, observation, and memory (which are often overlooked in other venues.)  I was a little concerned that there would be a heavy focus on reading pointless documentation, but that simply wasn’t the case here.  Anything that we needed to read tied directly back into the challenges we were working on at the time that we found them.  Teamwork becomes important here as we split up the documentation we found among our players with each being able to find the relevant information.

Many rooms fail to encourage teamwork between players, and some rooms are even easier to tackle alone.  This is not the case in The Archive though; while a single player could reasonably complete the game alone, the location of key information and the number of detractors they must sift through would be more than a single person can accomplish in the time provided.  In this room, teamwork is critical, not just because of physical limitations, but in being able to determine what is and what is not part of a solution.

There was one physical puzzle that we had more than expected trouble with because a small piece of connective pipe was broken by the team directly before us.  Since The Archive takes about 25 minutes to reset, the fact that there was only this one small issue demonstrates the great level of Care Dare 2 Escape and its staff take to ensure the players’ enjoyment.

At its core, The Archive is an extremely logical room where players who have learned how to remove distractions will do quite well; if a player is stuck, it’s because they either haven’t found the item they are looking for, are misunderstanding instructions, or simply are getting in their own way.  This kind of thinking is typical of Blue rooms and earns The Archive a signature color most often seen in science-fiction or ‘math heavy’ rooms (even though there are no math puzzles present.)

 Michael : 

The Archive is Dare 2 Escape’s newest creation, and it’s spectacular–but story heavy. Like a film by an idiosyncratic director, this place will appeal enormously to some, and might alienate others. We liked it very much (I wish it was my house), but it’s not for everyone, so I’ll try to describe it objectively, and without spoilers.

After an impressive opening, you’ll want to jump in and explore, but nothing can prepare you for how vast the game feels. It goes further and deeper than any room I’ve ever seen. Its unusual layout makes it all but impossible to guess what’s coming next, and its set design is really beautiful. That said, it’s clearly the product of a sophisticated and experienced team, resulting in a game that appeals to sophisticated, experienced players. Those of us who play a lot of rooms truly do need places like The Archive to pop up occasionally. But to those not yet bored with the usual fare, this place may seem a little too real, and… well, complicated.

There’s a fair amount of exploring and crawling, the kind of things little kids are always being told not to do in the real world. Bring them, they’ll be thrilled, but they’ll need their grown-up companions’ help. This isn’t one of those rooms that rewards the wonderful, spontaneous nonsense-solutions kids come up with.  There’s a survivalist logic at work everywhere, and the sequence of tough-but-fair challenges collectively evoke a single main character, the mind behind the game, someone driven by family betrayal and brooding regret. You know, cheerful, kids’ musical stuff, you’ll burst into song.  We grown-ups might take some satisfaction in the reveals and the deepening story, but younger players are unlikely to enjoy much of that–so their job should be hunting around for stuff, after which point, you might want to solve it for them. The youthful side of us had to find the daring to go and look for our clues in some “you’re kidding me” places, but to solve them, it took less imagination than patience, and rationality. Rationality is not my forte.

Which might be why we lost. We didn’t want to ask for clues, and I was no help to my team at all, because once I gave up on a puzzle, I just went back to having a marvelous time looking at the decor, half-forgetting that I was supposed to help solve a mystery. (I had a similar problem in this venue’s wonderful, distractingly authentic archaeology room, Dig).

The room takes itself seriously. Stupid puns and pop-culture references won’t help you solve anything. You will probably need all 90 minutes. If you solve it, you’ll have something to brag about. I’ve read elsewhere that there’s no in-story reason for the clues in this escape room.  I disagree, and in fact, the opposite is true, which, ironically, might cause problems. Usually, in an escape room, you find puzzles where you wouldn’t find them in real life, but you let it go, because it’s a game. If you “let it go” in The Archive, you’re less likely to catch on to what’s happening, and that can make the whole thing seem arbitrary when it’s not. A lot of masterful games have this quality (the video game Dark Souls can be played and won without ever understanding any of the imagery, but it all makes sense if you piece it together). It’s likely a lot of people won’t ask themselves “why would someone put a puzzle here? Why is this being kept secret, and who from?” — and normally you shouldn’t ask, but here, you should.

The Archive is aptly named. It includes elements from every other tale in the Dare 2 Escape anthology of rooms, and is the last chapter of a novel-length story (together with the events of Asylum, Dig, and Ringmaster), so not all of the (it must be admitted) lengthy text clues will pertain to your game. Overall, The Archive isn’t good, it’s excellent, but it’s excellent the way some novels are excellent: it will enrich you, but you kind of have to be in the mood.  

5041 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34746




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