It certainly was NOT easy to solo "Hiker's Refuge"! | Escape Plan Clue Rooms
COMPANY: Escape Plan Clue Rooms
ADDRESS: 520 N Euclid Ave, Ontario, CA 91762
GAME: Hiker's Refuge
THEME: Creepy Cabin, Crazed Killer
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 11/25/2018:
First off, I want to be forthcoming and honest why I chose Escape Plan:
I am addicted to escape rooms... but I had yet to tackle a room solo. Out of the many businesses I've tried, EP was one of the very few that would accept a solo booking, albeit having a small risk of being placed in a public game with other strangers. (I got my wish today, though!)
Additionally, as an active Yelp escape room reviewer, I noticed the rating for this venue had been very erratic. EP as a relatively new business, I figured, could probably benefit from a helpful, or at least, honest review that could help grow the business in the right direction.
And I ain't crazy. I know I was playing with only my own one singular brain, so I booked the easiest, family-friendly game "Alien Rescue". I had 2 strict, simple goals: 1) to get out, and 2) to have fun.
Alien's plot: You lost your pet, the aliens probably took it, rescue it before the spaceship leaves.
Upon entering and after solving a few initial puzzles, I'd mostly confirmed my expectation: production value was leaning on the low side, with gen 1 (lock based) puzzle ideas that're often recycled in an enthusiast's eyes. However, I could see a younger crowd, or a family based team, really enjoying this room, because it could potentially serve as a quick intro course of what this hobby's all about, with many elements/activities that kids could participate in and have a blast.
What I took away from Alien was that you'd be darn proficient in their native tongue after mission completed.
Moreover, I found my pet in time, and I had fun giving my brain an exercise, so I asked if I could stay and pay cash for their hardest challenge, "Hiker's Refuge", since it was vacant. (I no longer cared if I had to request excessive amount of hints, or if I failed. Just wanna try!) The friendly staff took care of me right away, and onto room #2.
Hiker's plot: classic lost in the woods, escape cannibalistic hunter type of deal.
Having more than 50 rooms under my belt, I honestly thought I would do fine in the deathly cabin, but NO, I DID NOT. The gen-1 puzzles were noticeably harder, obviously intended for more than a small group because there were lots to do. One particular puzzle required extensive sorting, which made me extremely nervous. Aside from some busy work, there were perhaps 1-2 puzzles that required logic leaps or at least much escape experience to even get started. Buttload of hints later, I avoided being hunted as game, and survived another day.
I much preferred Hiker over Alien since the puzzles were more in-theme, and they did successfully instill fear into my psyche briefly, elevating urgency and desire to escape. Though this was just 1 big room, it looked substantially better than Alien, and was spacious as well.
Both games mentioned featured atmospheric soundtrack and air conditioning, which I really appreciated and should give praise for. They may seem like small gestures to some, but they actually made my experience comfortable and more convincing.
If budget allowed, this venue's weakest aspect, which was production value, could use some much-needed improvements. I'd seen similar building layout transformed into awe inspiring, movie set quality rooms; and although I'm not really asking the owners to do the exact same, outsourcing a bit of artistry assistance could probably up the "wow" factor.
As I was about to leave, the staff asked if I could stay and alpha test an upcoming room. My answer: HELL YES.
While understandably I'm not at liberty to reveal any spoiler, this 3rd room was actually my favorite, since the whole package (plot, setting, prop, puzzles, etc) were all more well developed, felt more maturely produced, and just altogether more of a solid effort. (A handful of puzzles were cute and memorable.) This final product'd most likely be more well received than previous released rooms.
In conclusion, EP came off as more of a mom and pop vibe of a business that, while definitely not in the leagues of the top dogs, could serve a more niche-y audience at a reasonable price range (ie, watch for discounts). Rooms were more on the basic side, did not quite feature secret pathways or the likes, but displayed genuine attempts to entertain.
If you want a hardcore immersive experience, go to LA or OC's bigger names. But if you want a leisurely brain workout (with Groupon available), give this a try. Beginners, casual players, families would enjoy this spot; and solo/duo players looking to hone/test/review some basic gen 1 skills could use some solid practice here.
As long as you maintain a rational expectation going in, a good time's to be had! I walked away feeling accomplished, content, and no regrets.