SECRETS OF THE ILLUMINATI - Puzzle Workshop
This is Matt's game No. 12.
Venue: Puzzle Workshop
Address: 18003 Sky Park Cir, Bldg 53, Unit F2, Irvine, CA 92614
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 03/18/2018:
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SECRETS OF THE ILLUMINATI // Grade: B
"...Enjoyable experience, would recommend."
This review is for "Illuminati". See previous for "CSI" and "Trapped".
I had returned to Puzzle Workshop for my third and final escape room "Secrets of the Illuminati" today. Having done 2 of the other rooms, I continually got surprised by each visit. None of my expectations were truly met with reality; funny how things turned out.
To be more specific, I thought I figured it out: the approximate number of puzzles we'd be facing, the dreaded "killer puzzle" (more on that later), and the works. Oh man, was I wrong. The only thing I was right was that I'd have a grand time ;P
Before moving forward, I want to sincerely say that this room is rated 4 stars wholeheartedly. I undoubtedly recommend everyone to try it. However, I would also be the most critical when reviewing my final room because there were issues that came up that made game play frustrating. If the review sounds "whiny", just be aware, I still like the room and it's said in good spirits. Now...
Upon entering the room, visually, I was not disappointed. The decor, furniture choices, and overall vibe fit into the story perfectly this time. The plot line was also strongest of the 3, explaining elegantly why you only had 1 hour to work with. Sadly, there were random drawers lying around on the floor messily, for no apparent reason, in latter part of the game. Having them arranged in an actual dresser would do wonder to the scenic.
The beautiful atmosphere came with a price, however. Partially why such immersion was achieved was the result of intentional dim lighting. And while it certainly enhanced the look, it hindered the first few puzzles that required visual inspection. Because certain puzzles required intense detective work by the eyes, the lighting didn't cut it! Am I aging badly? Or did PW provide inadequate light sources? Lol.
We lost a whopping 20 minutes or more due to this, and we were fully aware of the logic of the solutions to the puzzles from the beginning. So my humble suggestion would be, provide more strategic lighting onto your target items, so they can be seen with clarity, or lighten up the hue/color of the items themselves to compensate.
At this point of the game, however, one thing was obvious: "Illuminati" featured less number of puzzles, but difficulty was amp-ed up. This stayed true throughout the course of the game. Guys, this room is difficult. Imo, all 3 are challenging, but it definitely goes from Illuminati, then CSI, then Trapped.
In the literal middle of the game, we encountered one of our "wow!" moments. The simplicity and the elegance usage of tech was beautifully demonstrated and executed. I didn't have as numerous "wow" moments today, but the theme of the room was the most intact, and the sense of achievement upon completing hard puzzles was consistent and constant.
Having played 3 rooms, I knew each room would have a "killer puzzle" that would required the most brain juice and time. From reading other Yelp reviews, I was expecting a Sudoku style puzzle to be it. When actually coming upon this puzzle, it was actually quite enjoyable, well put together, and truthfully, FUN. It was good!
Then we saw some pretty neat puzzles that were more physical. I was actually good at these! Another "wow" moment was recorded in my memory.
Then came the horror--the actual "killer puzzle" revealed itself!!!
The complexity of this puzzle and the expected time to completion were just beyond my comprehension. I didn't understand why PW insisted on putting this type/category of puzzle in a timed game; and PW did it in all 3 games?! It's almost like a signature...
This "Illuminati" one took the cake though. Having already spent 80% of our time, coming upon this gigantic roadblock at near ending was more distracting & discouraging than fun. I again humbly suggest the same puzzle to be simplified or modified to fit the time limit better.
My excellent teammate(s) were able to solve it in time with clues provided. (Same clue system used in this game; unlimited clues provided when asked.) However, she was severely stressed out during the game, which caused her to remain mentally unstable post-game. XD
All in all, what a playfully excruciating & thrilling way to conclude my game trios. Part of the problem stemmed from our choice to face the challenge with a measly 3 people. Having 4-5 "thinking brains" might yield a more pleasant experience.
Finally, a fun fact! This room's entrance was actually unlocked during the entirety of the game. You can exit for emergency reasons. My own preference would be for the company to actually lock up the door with a back-up fail-safe exit button like the other rooms; it does add on to the experience, imo.
Lastly, I gonna miss this venue until the 4th future room is introduced, which won't be for a long while, it seems... Sadness :[