THE ABYSS - Maze Rooms LA
This is Matt's game No. 18.
Venue: Maze Rooms LA (Koreatown/Vermont Branch)
Address: 132 S Vermont Ave Ste 204, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Game: The Abyss
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 05/05/2018:
THE ABYSS // Grade: B+
"...Enjoyable experience, would recommend."
My first experience with Maze Rooms LA was pleasant, though we must've been very bad boys because they immediately proceeded to send us to an underwater prison, located 200 leagues under the ocean, via a submarine pod. Thanks, Maze Rooms, for sending us to "The Abyss" the very first time we met! They even gave us a dedicated jail jumpsuits; I guess navy blue is the new black.
Luckily for us, we had a hacker friend on the outside... or on the surface... to help us escape in 45 minutes or less. (Well, you're technically supposed to have 60, but you gonna see why as events unfold.) Did we succeed?
Abyss, unlike any other escape rooms I've done thus far, was truly one of its kind. The technology employed in this small space was just super duper impressive. Let me divulge a little bit of spoiler in order to truly praise this creation. To immerse players in the illusion of being transported through the deep sea, this room, or more accurately, this pod moved, shook, and rumbled. You get the idea. Coupled with other visual and audio effects, it's hard to NOT get lost in the storytelling.
To stay true to the plot line, the 2 players (this game requires exactly and only 2 players) would not venture in or out of this room. The entire duration of the game was confined to this moderately small space. Therefore, for those who prefer to discover secret trap doors and pathways, and for those who are extremely claustrophobic, this may not be the game for you. (Those who are prone to motion sickness should be just fine, no worries.) However, Maze Rooms had jam-packed so much for you to explore and do in this small package, it's difficult not to have big fun.
The interior design of the entire set looked amazing. The Abyss pod looked realistic enough to fit in the fantasy world of our epic adventure. They did NOT skim on the budget for production: the flashing lights, the integrated and hidden speakers, the "windows" displaying what's outside the pod, complemented by the costumes provided at the beginning of the game, this truly was a total package that screamed quality.
Now, what about them puzzles? That's what we escape room enthusiasts came for! Well, on this end, Abyss continued to break the mold, fitting the unique trend and vibe I've been describing thus far. None of the puzzles came across as puzzles. All steps that you're prompted to do were essentially imaginative measures that one might perform in order to halt the pod from its original course to jail, override the system, and navigate it back home. I commend the creativity.
And to emphasize just how tech-savvy this room was, every single step along the way were fully automated. Many tech-based solutions provided superbly "A-ha!" moments. The game designers should be so proud.
Unfortunately, I am more of a puzzle kinda guy. I prefer more "traditional" puzzles embedded organically in a story, versus the very "practical" vibe of the Abyss challenges. Not saying the Abyss games were not fun--they were--but they were just not exactly my cup of tea. In fact, though advertised as medium difficulty, Abyss gave me a harder time than some expert rooms I've beaten in the past. As such, I used the clue system myriad times.
The clue system was, however, absolutely genius. For the most part immersive, this system was two-layered. You could complete the entire game without any help. (Minor spoilers...) If you needed a small nudge in the right direction, pre-recorded "video feeds" from your hacker friend would be available for you at all times. If you're still confused, then actual, live assistance could be elicited from your game master. Your freedom to choose how much help you want in such a fashion was a game-changer in my eyes.
Still, somewhat sadly, the overall style of the puzzles just was not as enjoyable as that I am more used to in the past. It isn't that I don't welcome new formats of problems to solve, it's more of the fact that I could not intuitively comprehend what was it that the game wanted me to do. A few of the steps required a vast amount of imaginative interpretation, and not enough clear clues were given. Some previously included, but now abandoned puzzle pieces also became red herrings that confused us. All that together indirectly made the game more frustrating than exhilarating.
To have full disclosure: nah, we didn't escape in time under 45 minutes, but they graciously let us have an extra 2 to 3 minutes to finish the last step. For that, I was pretty grateful.
Maze Rooms LA gave clear effort into making a great escape experience like Abyss, but it's just a case of not-really-for-me type of scenario this time. While I still would recommend other fellow players to try it out, it's more of a 4-stars-ish situation for me. Game master Jay was personable, and he suggested for us to return to try out other rooms in the future. And you know what, I am pretty sure I will.