Amanda: Welcome to the Game Grrlz blog! Today we’re discussing the room escape company Komnata Quest and their New York City locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Komnata is a really interesting escape experience, because they run the gamut from blah escapes to decent escapes to stellar escapes, and since we’ve done many of their rooms, we thought we’d break down what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. I’ll start by discussing their sets and art direction, which are always superb. Even in rooms we didn’t care for, the ambience was always amazing, the special effects were dazzling, and there was lots of attention to detail in making the room feel authentic. I’ll call out Maze of Hakaina in NYC, which was a terrific room in all ways, but the sets were just phenomenal. It genuinely felt like a maze, and there’s an actual wall of spikes that scared us. In Brooklyn, I’ll call out City of Ashes, which was a room that fell way short of expectations, but even so, the set design was just breathtaking, with so much attention to a post-apocalyptic feel that it was quite disappointing that the whole experience didn’t live up to the art.
Eva: I have a background in art direction and you’d think that a beautifully art directed room would weigh heavy on my experience. While it certainly makes me appreciate what goes into building a room, that is not nearly as important as the puzzles. Puzzles need to have two factors Komnata both excels and fails at: cleverness and mechanics. Boxed Up was an utter disaster as far as mechanics. At one point the game master had to stop the play to come in and fix something. The puzzles were hardly intriguing and the old technology (and lifeline) they had us use was unnecessarily difficult. It’s not puzzle solving if your 90’s cell phone button sticks; it’s a time waster and not fun. The combination of mediocre puzzles and wonky materials just made me not care if I escaped. The magic disappeared. On the other hand, Suicide Hotel at Komnata is one of my favorite examples of high functioning, great puzzles. The play was fluid, linear, smart and everything worked. Couple that with a creepy atmosphere and you have a solid game I can recommend to all - unless you get nightmares.
Amanda: Additionally, Komnata is wildly inconsistent with their game guides. I think we’ve never had a game guide as good as the one at Komnata in Manhattan who guided us in Cursed and Maze of Hakaina. He told us creepy stories while totally in character, monitored us well and gave us useful hints, and generally made the experiences much better. Maze was a first rate room and Cursed was a bit of a blah room (although the special effects were amazing- blood coming up out of the drain!), but the game guide was excellent for both and we really appreciated his dramatic approach to introducing us to the games and ushering us through. Contrast that experience with Komnata in Brooklyn, where we had a game guide who acted irritated with us when their technology wasn’t working, and whose heart clearly wasn’t in the fun and drama of the rooms. It makes a difference in the player’s experience of the room.
Eva: The word escape in Escape Rooms has a double meaning for those of us who love the thrill of literally escaping- it’s also, like a good movie or book, an escape. We want to forget the world around us for an hour and a guide is the beginning, middle, and end of that experience. I think it’s imperative for any Escape Room company to recognize that the guide makes a huge difference, and you’d think with an enterprise as big as Komnata, that the guide experience would be consistent. Hire the right people - those who love fellow puzzlers and relate to the players’ excitement and want to be a part of it. Satisfaction in a game, and lingering wow, are the result of the immersion and uninterrupted suspended belief. Komnata nails that in a good many of their rooms and misses it with others. The inconsistency renders all rooms a gamble… but we’ll still give all their rooms a whirl!
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And see our reviews of many of Komnata's rooms here!
Welcome to the Game Grrlz blog! Today we’re reviewing the escape room Blue Meth Breakout at Lockout Austin in Austin, Texas. I highly recommend this game. It’s really witty, with fresh puzzles, great atmosphere, and a highly unique room guide and hint system. The only real drawback to this room was its lack of scope. You stay in one room the entire time, so it’s missing something I love about room escapes- finding your way into another room and having a whole new place to explore. But with that said, the room is large and there is LOTS to do to keep you busy. There were two of us playing, and I’d say the room is better designed for 4 people- there are just so many puzzles there, and many of them are really different and new. This escape has a room guide who also plays a role in the story, and this was one of the really great things about the game; our guide was really top-notch and set the tone for the game well. Finally, the attention to detail in this room and in the puzzles is terrific. A lot of care and thought and humor went into crafting these puzzles, and making them stand out, and work with the narrative and the ambience. Many times puzzles in escape rooms feel sort of WTF- like what is an electronic neon puzzle doing on a 19th century pirate ship? But everything here felt crafted to fit the storyline and the grungy feel of the room.
What a delightful room to escape ( or at least try). To begin with, I was not expecting an in-character room guide and very glad to experience the immediate immersion and extra sparkle he brought with him. It was fun before the clock even began! This was by far my favorite guide and hint system and it was folded into the game seamlessly and humorously. The puzzles and cleverness required were wonderful. These guys made a single small room layered and complex with lots to do. It was dense and we were busy - juuuust the way I like it. There was a nice combination of puzzles types that were familiar and new ideas for critical thinking/puzzle solving. Overall, I REALLY liked this room and I REALLY liked the staff. Clearly, this is a passion for them, like it is for us, and it shone through in every experience. See you again Lockout Austin!
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Eva and Amanda are best friends who puzzle obsessively. Our focus is on iOS puzzle games, interactive fiction, and live room escapes.