R.E.D. Report – Live Escape

Room: Nursery Nightmare
Location: Scarborough
Played: March 3, 2015
Room Length: 45 minutes
Number of Players: 4-8 players
Price: $30 Weekends, $25 Weekdays ($5 discount for Facebook check-in)
Hints: 3 hints
Status: Retired

Hello! This is a repost of a review of a room that is retired. It is, however, a review I did not want to remove from the internet due to the rage it induced and my desire to never have such a room be inflicted on anyone else.

Note: The company, Live Escape, no longer exists. Thus there are minor spoilers in this review that reveal puzzle types, but not the puzzle themselves.


The Lobby of Live Escape is small and colourful, and reminds you of a doctor’s office (I was told later that was its original purpose). They had a popcorn machine, which made me happy. Of course, the popcorn machine had bagged caramel corn in it, which isn’t a bad thing, but I like fresh popcorn. First world problem, I know.

The owners were friendly and gave us a detailed overview on how locks worked, very nice. They had lockers but I can’t recall if they had a coat rack. What they did have was a volume control in the actual room.

This was awesome! Most rooms have music or some type of soundtrack in the background, and I tune it out. Manda always notices the music, but I never do unless we are told from the beginning it is important. Live Escape let’s us control the volume! I loved that. As soon as the room started, I immediately turned it down because I don’t want to listen to random spooky music. Top marks for friendly service and volume control.

 

Room Quality

There may have been a story to Nursery Nightmare, but it wasn’t told to us. Did the room look like a nursery? A little bit, but it was marred by cheap halloween decorations.

The room was dark, with a plastic halloween covering on one wall, an Ikea cabinet with some cheap toys, and some other items you may or may not find in a nursery. There was a crib filled with dolls, so kudos. But there was a shelf with random halloween skulls that lit up when you touched them.

If you aren’t too queasy about spooky things, search Google for images that match “creepy nursery”. You may find this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.30.03 PM

Sadly, Nursery Nightmare looked nothing like this…

We have been conditioned to freak out at dilapidated rooms with old dolls and little children singing out of tune. You don’t need a plastic halloween skull laughing at you from a speaker cheap enough to be used in a birthday card. Speaking of which, who actually buys those singing birthday cards? They’re annoying! Unless they play the Imperial March. That’s cool. I’d buy the heck out of those cards.

Anyway, in order to make a convincing scary room, first make it look like a normal room. Then creep it up by darkness, age, whatever. You don’t need Halloween, dollar-store props.

We can be creeped out by the unknown in the familiar.

We aren’t creeped out by the ridiculous.

Unless it’s clowns.

 

Immersion

There are a few things in this room which are creepy and there is a story you can piece together if you let your imagination stretch a bit.

What didn’t work for immersion? The gamemaster brought us into the room and pointed out things we weren’t allowed to break. There was potential for creep, but being shown a scary object in the light while pointing out fragile pieces kinda killed the mood.

“This thing can totally possess and kill you! But don’t touch it, you may break it.”

 

Puzzle Design

I play a lot of adventure games, and lately, I’ve been on a Nancy Drew adventure kick with my daughters. There is one element I don’t like, and that’s the ‘trigger’ to make an object appear. What does that mean? Let’s say you’re in a haunted mansion, and you’ve explored every room. However, a conversation with one character may trigger an object to appear SOMEWHERE in the mansion and you have to explore the place again. Ugh.

I love Nancy Drew games, don’t get me wrong, but this mechanic deflates my soul a bit.

And lo and behold, Nursery Nightmare does a darn good job of replicating this tedium in real life! The inordinate amount of searching in this room is beyond insane. And of course it’s in the dark. And of course we only have two flashlights for five people.

That’s another thing. Neil was working on a puzzle so he needed the flashlight. Matt and Peter were on the floor with a whack of lockboxes, one possible combination, and no direction. They needed the flashlight.

If the room required no searching, I’d be happy to stand there and act as lamp stand but we knew searching had to be done. Why keep flashlights a limited resource? You want to frustrate us? You like me standing there holding a flashlight while Neil works on a flimsy tech puzzle that was actually solved but we didn’t know because it was a stupid trigger that results in MORE SEARCHING?

Oh! Can I tell you what else I needed to search for? Small keys. Very small keys. Keys that could fit comfortably on your pinky! And I don’t mean big, fat, burly-man pinky, I’m talking about my delicate, effeminate, piano pinky! And there were TWO of them we had to search for! I can lose and search for my OWN keys, thank you very much!

And then… we get a black light! Joy! I get to search the room AGAIN!! I have seen some clever use of black light. This wasn’t one of them. I searched the whole room with that black light, and I still missed what I was supposed to find. Possibly because it was on something I was told not to touch although it filled up the entire wall. Yes, searching and touching are two different things but I want to be mindful of the rules! Hide it on something I’m allowed to touch at least! I hate black light searching.

Maybe you think we suck at searching, and for the record, we aren’t that great. But we searched the room many times until we were exhausted. And then, we had to search again, many times, because we learned of the trigger events. And then, we had to search when we got the blacklight.

I am incensed just thinking about this. This room brought out the hidden dark you keep squirrelled away in the recesses of your psyche so your doctor doesn’t pump you with Prozac.

 

Overall

When I write reviews, I quickly jot down the scores to get an overall sense. They were higher at first. But as I wrote, I remembered the horrible ordeals thrust upon me and the scores were revised. More than once. Lower and lower.

Again, I had to resurrect this review only to leave mine an example of how searching can be used for evil.

Bye bye!

 


About the Author:

Errol Elumir has played adventure games ever since they were text on screens loading from cassette tapes. He would put the number of Escape Rooms he’s played but it keeps changing so you can just check his play log. He loves clever puzzle designs and has designed the puzzles for #TOPH2 and Canadian Caper’s Speakeasy. He is an active participant in the Escape Room community and you can find him on his twitter account. Warning: long escape room discussions may ensue.

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