INCEPTION - Chronos Escape Room
This is Matt's game No. 33.
Venue: Chronos Escape Room
Address: 676 Fairplex Dr, Pomona, CA 91768
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 09/01/2018:
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INCEPTION // Grade: A-
"...Enjoyable experience, would recommend."
Escape room for birthday celebration! Chronos Escape Room's "Awakened" has been something I want to try for a while. Since there's a decent deal available on Groupon, why not? Chronos, 1st stop of a grand birthday escape room tour 2018!
Sadly though, the implementation of "public game" (pairing up with other customers) had plagued me as of late... While this business model honestly boils down to how owners want to turn a profit, as a patron, I am *NOT* a fan of being forced to intimately cooperate with strangers. (So yes, my spirit was dampened when I found out my appointment was maxed out at 8 players--4 of us, & 4 randos. This was, after all, for a birthday; all must go off without a hitch!)
I contacted support to see if there is any customer service magic they could perform to accommodate a special occasion. After a brief struggle & some exchanges, I was offered a private option of "Inception" instead, with rescheduling and other fees graciously waived, *if* I was willing to pay the price difference from the Groupon promo. SURE! ANYTHING TO MAKE A BIRTHDAY EVENT PERFECT! We couldn't be more thrilled for Chronos's assistance.
And somehow, everything just fell into place, and some more, from here on out. Dare I say, a perfect night?
Although parking area was somewhat sketchy but spacious, the atmosphere inside Chronos was vastly different from the outside. (Safety tip: don't hang around this area alone at night.) The front desk staff, who doubled as game masters, were warm and welcoming. And I, as a first time visitor, was just marveling at how large the store space really was. After briefing on rules and backstory by GM Sam, off we went!
Obviously inspired by the blockbuster hit, "Inception" the room shared a similar plot with its movie counterpart: It's 2098, & modern science has realized, though not yet perfected, dream sharing tech. A client has fallen into a coma in a dream sesh, & you the engineers must venture into the dream machine, wake him from his stubborn slumber, all before 60 minutes run out... or you'll be trapped in the machine & join him in a coma as well. A refreshing theme not encountered often!
Production wise, the set looked decent and cool enough. It wasn't exactly super "WOW!", but clear effort went into the design and execution. The room itself did not evoke any scenes from the movie, but rather reminded me of a recently revived cult classic "Cube", as seen on Netflix. It was minimalistic looking without being dowdy. The overall layout was clean cut, effective, and made sense. At its core, it was a sci fi room, with remote elements of Inception arbitrarily layered on. Though not the biggest room Chronos had to offer, this game was still roomy and very comfortable for my team of 4.
Undoubtedly, the room's main charm derived not from its looks, but from the eclectic collection of puzzles embedded in the world of sci fi. Whatever brain teaser games you'd played in the past, they'd somehow incorporated them in here. And this is exactly where the genius of the theming came in--with a construct as random as "dream machine", you'd pretty much have the freedom to throw in any puzzles--and that's what they did.
Just to re-emphasize and appreciate the true randomness of these puzzles, each riddle leading to the next was an entirely different specie from the former. And yet, most were familiar enough to any puzzle lover that you could dive right in. For me, the remix of classic mind games worked well, and they were presented craftily in a mixed gen1 (locks)/gen2 (tech) format--my favorite format. From start the finish, it was as if our minds were treated to a carnival of mental midway games. (But work fast! This room was jam-packed with these mini games.)
Game play was heavily linear, and I firmly do not recommend a team more than 4, especially for enthusiasts. Any more would most probably result in players idly standing around, and any less would render one specific teamwork puzzle arduous to complete. I actually lucked out with the magical number of 4!
Sam, our GM, provided hints via walkie-talkie when we got stuck, and was at the door, ready to congratulate us when we made our victorious "escape" with 5 minutes to spare. He was professional, well versed, and knew his duties well inside and out--he was exemplary. He commended us on a job well done on their hardest challenge. Difficulty wise, the official rating of 7/10 seemed accurate. Beginners might benefit by buddying up with someone more experienced, though not required.
(Helpful tip: Check in on Yelp app to get a free spin on the prize wheel. High fives galore all around, and you might just win a free next game!)
After the staff politely bid us farewell, my team left with nothing but smiles on our faces. What a perfect way to kick off our birthday escape room tour! 5 stars for an unbeatable experience!