THE OFFICE ESCAPE ROOM
Played May 2017
Up to 10 players
Escape the Room Boston
33 West Street, Boston
RATING: 6.5 / 10
Escape rate: 30% with 7-10 people
Clues allowed: Unlimited
Did we beat it? No
If you think it's not possible to have a retro escape experience, prepare to stand corrected. Escape the Room Boston's first room, The Office began as a pop up game. With less emphasis on electronics and custom decor, the room's entertainment value is derived from classic puzzle solving and persistent scavenging. Soon to be retired for a more elaborate installation, The Office has sparse design and is less immersive than most of ETR's rooms; but is one of the purest games we've played in a while.
Overall, the escape room is fun to play and requires a good balance of problem-solving and discovery to advance in the game. Confined to just one room with just a handful of essential props, it's easy to quickly sweep the furniture and believe you've done so thoroughly. There are a handful of items creatively hidden in plain sight and a few red herrings to keep you guessing if you've found all the clues. Since it's an office, players have to scour books and rummage through desk drawers to uncover all the pieces to the complex puzzles. The variety of locks is satisfying with directional and keyed locks, plus locked file cabinets and electronic lock boxes requiring key codes for entry.
The game includes a lot of 'low-fi' elements that we feel are undervalued in most escape experiences, and there are a few times during the game where you naturally want to (and can) use your phone. This seamless integration of basic switches and everyday tech is a delight and a testament to how game designers can use old and new school elements to create a balanced experience. There are also some subtle clues that, if you aren't paying attention, make a big difference in the outcome of the puzzles. There isn't much in the room so it's important to remember that everything has a purpose.
Lastly, the game is fairly linear but the puzzles are not interdependent. This is a bit different that most mainstream escape games, so if you're an experienced player, you'll have to challenge yourself to release expectations that solving X will lead you to Y. There are at least two puzzles which can be solved in absence of the preceding clue, so for those of us who like all the puzzles to tie out nicely at the end, this can leave you searching for more closure if you end up finishing the game without using all the pieces. I tend to be really disappointed when you spend time grappling with, or solving, puzzles that aren't necessary to win, as this is another red herring of sorts and disrupts my flow.
Aesthetics and sophistication aside, there were a couple elements missing in the experience. The first is a strong back story. Why are we here, what led us to be locked in the office, and who left the clues we're piecing together? I felt like the set up prior to entering the game could've been stronger and the clues more interconnected to reinforce the narrative. Secondly, there were a couple puzzles that were a big stretch to solve. To me, if clues don't logically flow without the help of the game master, there's a flaw in the game design. Nate, did his best to nudge us in the right direction; but there was one puzzle in particular with a conditional answer that felt like a big leap from the corresponding clue. Granted, I offer this constructive feedback while fully acknowledging that as one of ETR's first rooms that was designed to be mobile, the game still hangs together really well.
My verdict? Play it! Just mentally prepare for a simple experience and rev up your appreciation for classic puzzles before you begin. By setting realistic expectations, this escape game is the most fun for your brain.
Update: this room has been retired, so try The Dig instead. I played it in Minneapolis and it's still one of my faves!
Local tip: parking is difficult to find around the building so recommend taking a Lyft. Be sure to mention 2Girls1Room sent you!