CARTEL: DEA UNDERCOVER - 60Out Escape Rooms
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 58.
Venue: 60out Escape Rooms (Silver Lake Branch)
Address: 1333 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Game: Cartel: DEA Undercover
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 12/19/2018:
Escape with me! Follow IG: EscapeMattster ;)
CARTEL: DEA UNDERCOVER / Grade: B, give or take
"...Put on to-do list, try it out when free... or not."*
*Highly variable experience, dependent on what you're into.
Firstly, do not be put off by the grading above. This review is based heavily on my *personal* preference, and I fully recognize that what's so-so for me, could be the best for someone else. With that in mind, let's go. (And oh, be sure to check my "previous review" section for "Hyde & Seek" & "Amityville", which both outperformed "Cartel: DEA Undercover" imo.)
In Cartel, you take on the roles of undercover DEA agents whose fates are taking a turn for the worse, when their covers are blown and currently under seizure by the powerful drug mafia. Use your police force training to contact headquarters, and hopefully avoid a bloody demise!
A rare/unique theme that I hadn't encountered before, Cartel definitely had its solid shares of strengths. For instance, the entrance was not the main metal door to the compound--oh no--60Out straight up started us in the interior of a bullet hole ridden van, truly immersing its players in the unfortunate shoes of the captured. Bet ya haven't seen this before.
Undoubtedly, production value & immersion were the two strongest pulls of this attraction. Though there was a small amount of tech hiccups that hindered certain automated features, Cartel put on a great show for us to not only watch & play, but to truly experience & interact with its environment as the story unfolded. Upon solving the first "puzzle" that enabled us to liberate ourselves from vehicular confinement, we arrived at what looked like our imminent deathbed had we not acted promptly. Blood splatters, body parts, PORK RIBS (lol), this was a grade A set!
Throughout the entire game, the theme of "task force vs drug lord" was strong, and stayed intact from start to finish. The game designers, I'm guessing, wanted to offer a 100% immersive, movie-like experience, and therefore accordingly created challenges that were a lot less puzzle-like, but a lot more item-application and task-based. The game directly questioned its DEA agents, "Here's your (series of) given sticky situation, now how'd you get out of such a pickle?"
And that's exactly where the format of game play split its audience in half, I'd imagine. There're those who'd love this type of logic-driven, real-life-imitation adventure room; and then there're those who're more accustomed and attracted to puzzle-styled and mind-inclined escape room. I happen to fall in the latter half. (Though it's unfair to say I didn't enjoy myself for that hour.)
You see, irl, I suck at adulting. I am no expert at using tools, operating machinery, and just things that should come natural to a brawny man. (And for the record, I ain't one, so I guess that explains it.) So when 60Out abandons the usual escape room mantra of "this is all a wits game", and instead make a 360 and introduce a more "physical" product that uses "real life skills", I was 100% confounded & defeated, and in what's possibly my worst room escape performance to date, we pretty much needed heavy cluing every step of the way... which just didn't feel like quite the achievement despite a successful escape.
Even though the official difficulty rating was medium, my entire team thought it was at times frustratingly hard. The game was linear, so I was fairly aware of what my next rational step would be, though the journey to the destination was often winded and confusing, and usually not in sync with my own version of common sense.
At one point, the game master desperately wanted to assist us, exclaiming, "The Cartel is out to get you, try to figure out a way to stop 'em!" And to that, my group just stood around, confused, ran around fruitlessly, and then still just as useless. Eventually, when the hints became more and more obvious, only then we were able to take correct action & move on. (Of note, the exceeding amount of great looking decor actually became a long list of red herrings, which harmed more than helped ultimately.)
In fact, once the game was over, I immediately requested a complete recap and walkthrough, as there're so many doubts and uncertainties lingering on my mind!
Though Cartel's not quite my cup of tea, I do want to clearly extend gratitude and admiration for the game creators for at least trying something different, and a visually stunning one at that.
If you're a fan of 60Out, I recommend this location's circus act "Hyde", or its horror option "Amityville". "Cartel", to me, is a hit-or-miss. Though once again, I should emphasize, I 100% didn't hate it--I just didn't *love* it. But hey, at least I got some pretty memorable photos for keepsake!
(PS: 5-star rating was kept for a consistent performance across all 3 visits. It's not my style to penalize a business when my overall, averaged-out experience is still largely satisfactory.)