CHRONOSTOPIA - Chronos Escape Room
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 43.
Venue: Chronos Escape Room
Address: 676 Fairplex Dr, Pomona, CA 91768
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 10/24/2018:
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Current room count: 43
CHRONOSTOPIA // Grade: A
"...Enthusiast's treasure, book it soon!"
Having tried their horror themed ("Awakened") and sci-fi themed ("Inception") escape rooms at Chronos (please see "Previous Reviews"), I was back for the 3rd and final time for their fantasy themed game "Chronostopia". Having read very mixed reviews for this last room, I'd kept my expectations rather low. That worked towards everyone's advantage, because frankly, third time's also a charm!
This was definitely the most family/kids friendly offering at Chronos, with no scare factor whatsoever, story went: you had accidentally ventured into another dimension through a mysterious portal during a hiking trip. Though this parallel universe looked similar to ours, woodland critters in this realm could talk, and you helped set them free from their trap. (It's a bit farfech'd, but let's roll with it.) Grateful for their liberation, they'd help you get home to your own dimension, before the portal's closing in 1 hour. Failure would result in... living in this fairy tale-like world forever!!! ...which didn't sound too bad, tbh.
Though there was no real urgency to the narrative, the game itself was definitely full of fun features that kept me thoroughly entertained.
First, the set. Tbch, Awakened had great production value, but Inception only so-so, so I thought Chronostopia would fall somewhere in between or worse. NOPE! Though the game area was a little confined and box-like, the first forest scene looked very, very pretty upon entrance. There's grass on the ground, colorful illustrations on the wall that DID NOT look tacky, and the "sky" had LED light decorations that resembled stars. There're also other nature related props that completed the look. The entire scene felt very Snow White, and made my team very giddy with excitement. (The later unlocked areas looked equally fantastic.)
The puzzles themselves, however, continued this venue's same trend and suffered the same "problem", if you will. With the exception of a few puzzles, the main portion of them didn't really have tie-ins with the plot, but rather, they're brain teasers "as is", just sprinkled throughout with slight attempts to relate back to the world of fairy tales. This was somewhat justified in their sci-fi game, where math related challenges at least had to do with science; but here, it didn't work as organically in a whimsical setting like Chronostopia.
The good news was that, the puzzles themselves were varied and interesting enough to keep our brains working hard constantly, so at least during game play, you're having a ball and could overlook the above shortcoming easily. The overall format stayed the same, with mostly gen-1 style riddles, seeking for letter and number combos as solutions. Of note, the staff made a conscious effort of using less number keypads, which were used abundantly (or to some, excessively) in their other games, and therefore an easy target for customers' critiques.
And though the official site claimed this game was the easiest of the 3, I felt it wasn't exactly beginners' level, either. Some secrets were hidden really, really well, and required several rounds of inspections before reveal. In fact, there were several moments when we struggled hard and felt extreme needs to request for hints.
...But we didn't, and you know why?
THIS GAME HAD BONUS PUZZLES! These were completely optional puzzles that needed not to be solved to escape, but each would grant you 1 precious gold coin upon completion. Collect all 5 gold coins, without asking for any hints, and escape within 60 minutes, each team member would win a REAL LIFE PRIZE. That's right. Chronos would give you a physical gift card for your hard-earned achievements. They're paying you to play! (When we first heard about this special mission during briefing, we already got so pumped, determined to jump over this extra hurdle--AND GASP! WE DID!)
This rare reward-based element elevated an already decent game to another level--one that encouraged players to become more engaged, and more likely to give 110% extra effort to beat the game. It was this motivation and the resulting thrills and highs that merited this room an outstanding grade--because at the end of the day, I want a game that not only is fun, but memorable as well, and all aforementioned components worked synergistically to create this exact effect. Carrying a souvenir gift card as I exited only solidified this memory further.
Overall, while having puzzles for puzzles' sake might not be the best approach for an immersive experience, the gaming aspect of Chronostopia was exemplary, making it a worthwhile option for escape room lovers. With ongoing promotion and hence very competitive pricing, for the quality you receive, it's a no-brainer, GO PLAY! Go for Awakened if you don't mind a little scary, and give Chronostopia a try for an incentive-driven experience.