THE CRIMSON STORM ESCAPE ROOM
Played October 2016
Denver Escape Room
11674 N. Huron Street, Suite 300
RATING: 7 / 10
Escape rate: 42.7%
Best time: 20:14 minutes
Average time: 48 minutes
Clues allowed: unlimited, as needed
Did we beat it? No, but were just one clue away!
Maps! Thievery! Treasure! A wealth of riches and freedom is at stake for players of The Crimson Storm, the pirate-themed adventure game at Denver Escape Room. Best for beginner and moderate-level escapers.
We began the game shackled to chains inside a pirate ship, tasked with finding the Crimson Heart -- the source of the ship's notorious power. Restraints are one of my favorite escape room element and they really helped set the stage that we were captives of a diabolical boat. Chained to the wall, we uncovered keys hidden within arms reach and matched them with the correct shackles to free ourselves to move about the room.
While the game was confined to one room, the elements used were plentiful and did a nice job of making us feel as though we were on the high seas. From treasure maps and ropes, to the remains of a squawking bird and a captain's log; all the elements of the room tied back to the story line and guided us to the next discovery. There was adventure music and sounds of waves crashing around us while we played, and the drum beats intensified as our time began to ran out. My adrenaline spiked as the sounds eluded to our impending doom!
The game was fun and most of the locks were what you'd expect from a solid escape room - including alpha padlocks, 3-, 4-, and 5-digit combination locks, and directional locks on treasure chests and wooden boxes. The clues were sequential until about halfway through the game when we began to uncover pieces of a map that would later complete a more elaborate puzzle. I liked the game designer's use of bottles, which were hidden throughout the room and required us place them in the correct order to find a solution. There were also a unique set of dice covered in cryptic symbols and a decoder that we had a lot of fun using tattered code books to decipher. This room did require us to pore back over a couple elements twice for different purposes, which is rare, but a better challenge because these clues aren't as obvious.
My favorite parts of this room was a riddle that involved interpreting the heights of dead pirates which had been carved into a wooden post in the room. We got stuck on this one for a while until one member of our team figured out the key piece we needed to advance. It was a really fun challenge! I also liked the interplay between a journal we found and two treasure maps, plus the clues we discovered that helped us gradually piece together the key parts of the dead crew's journey.
One thing that was different than any challenge I've seen before was a grid we found. Much like a compass, we had to rely on the magnetic field in a piece we put on the grid to get the combination to a directional padlock. This was one of the coolest ways I've seen a room use a directional lock and the magnet grid was uniquely designed for The Crimson Storm.
Assistance from the game master was provided on a digital screen and I liked that the clues were worded in character -- with "shiver me timbers!" riddley pirate speak. I meant to ask before we started if help was on-demand or offered at the discretion of the game master. It took us asking for a clue about a half a dozen times to learn that it was the latter. The only disappointment that I have from the room is that we spent about 5 minutes at the end stuck on the same riddle and it felt like the game master didn't offer help until it was too late.
After playing Rampancy, another Denver Escape Room, I noticed that the game masters tend to allow teams to grapple with challenges and not feed clues too easily. Given this nuance compared to other escape games, players really need to talk aloud and vocalize what they know and believe because it helps the game master get inside your head and determine if you're on the right track.
We got to the very end and were trying to solve the final riddle, but were reading too much into it. So my advice for those who play this room is to not overthink things that don't seem certain. We ended up trying to guess answers to a riddle and plug them into this decoder but were way off base. Luckily, our game master did give us a clue to help us figure out the right way to think about the solution; but at that point we were too far behind and ran out of time. We had 4 of 5 letters correct on a alphabetical padlock and if we'd discovered that last one in time, would've found a sword to unlock the final treasure chest and retrieve the Crimson Heart. So close!
ABOUT DENVER ESCAPE ROOM
Full disclosure: Denver Escape Room allowed me to try The Crimson Storm and Rampancy escape rooms gratis. As their guest, I joined existing teams who were booked to play, caught a glimpse of the game masters' command center, and had the opportunity to interview founder Brian Lacertosa.