💪 Difficulty: "This is currently one of our most challenging experiences."
⏲️ Time duration: 60 minutes limit.
🔢 Capacity: Not specified, but at least 3-4 recommended. Private booking.
📝 Careful--note potential time difference between your location and the host's when booking.
🛒 If you BOOK due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout-out! ;)
TL;DR... THE QUICK VERSION
➲ Premise: Free yourself from jail aboard the Jolly Roger, and steal the treasures right under Captain Hook's nose!
➲ Familiar pirate story universe featuring Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, with a high quality set matching its Disney roots.
➲ Features unique set pieces (double decks, sandy beach), and a not-to-be-missed, incredible, magical opening sequence.
➲ Puzzles in remote version are considerably modified from on-site originals: all co-op puzzles are out.
➲ Adjusted puzzles remain to be well-themed and fun to play, mainly focusing on pattern recognition and application.
➲ May feel a bit excessively guided for experts, though arguably necessary for mainstream audience to finish in time.
➲ For those close to Kingston who can wait out pandemic restrictions, an excellent candidate to save for in-person play.
➲ 𝙀𝙎𝘾𝘼𝙋𝙀 𝙈𝘼𝙏𝙏𝙎𝙏𝙀𝙍 😃 subjective rating: 💪 3 to 4/10 difficulty (team of 3), 🔢 ideal team size of 3 to 4.
Adventure on the high seas! The notorious Captain Hook has captured your group and locked you in the brig, deep in the bowels of The Jolly Roger. When dawn breaks the nefarious villain will make you walk the plank, but a new friend has offered you a way out… and she knows where Hook keeps his treasure map. While the crew sleeps you’ll take control of the ship, set a course for the second star to the right and head straight on ‘til morning! You have 60 minutes to dodge Hook’s clutches, find your way to Neverland and escape with riches untold. Don’t delay. As those familiar with Neverland will know… the clock is ticking.
THE UNABRIDGED EDITION
"Neverland: Heist On The High Seas" is my fourth remote experience with Improbable Escapes, and it is both a spiritual sibling and an actual physical neighbor of "Mining Mission". (They are both real life, physical escape rooms located in the same Wonderland Café venue.) While "Mining Mission" gets its inspiration from the tale of Snow White, "Neverland" takes place in the universe of Peter Pan... So ready for your flight? Come on, everybody, here we gooooo~
Anddddd... we landed in a jail. And Tinklerbell's in a cage. Of course. Our adventure on the high seas starts us off as prisoners, for reasons of "you know what you did, so we are not gonna tell ya!", according to the official introduction video. This obvious tongue-in-cheek line is a special wink from the creators to escape room enthusiasts, because they know, and we know, the true cause for incarceration just doesn't matter! We love getting locked up for every and any reason! Ahhh, how I appreciate a company with a good sense of humor.
Our mission requires us to first break out of our jail cell onboard the Jolly Roger pirate ship, then secretly leave the vessel, and finally hunt for the hidden treasure at the infamous Skull Rock beach onshore. There is a fair share of Disney reference, with cameos from Tink, Pan, and Captain Hook, and even a casual mention for Tiger Lily. Fans of the franchise will be elated, though if you strip off the story overlay, it's still a solid, classic pirate themed escape quest. The premise is already familiar to most, rendering it nostalgic, appealing, and a relatable choice for everyone from age 8 to 80.
Production value is, once again, theme park attraction grade and gorgeously attractive. At this point, I am honestly running out of different ways and adjectives to describe just how pleased I am with the way things visually look at Improbable Escapes. (You can find plenty of examples from my previous reviews here, here, and here.) A treat for your senses for days.
However, I can certainly point out several features unique to this particular set, and therefore possible selling points to consider when booking. There's the Jolly Roger pirate ship with a partial second deck, complete with functional, climbable staircase. The giant wooden vessel is docked at a beach with an actual sandy surface. There is also, of course, a giant rocky skull structure where the treasure lies. Even when broadcast through Zoom, the sight is still reasonably impressive, and attention to details remains a powerful strength under the company's belt.
In addition, there is a number extraordinary moments that made our experience even more so satisfying. While one of the game's later tasks got me exceptionally hyped, for I am huge sucker for any ball-rolling mechanism (think the likes of marbles or pinballs), arguably the most defining moments for "Neverland" happens in the very beginning! After a few sprinkles of pixie dust, we witnessed actual magic, effectively elevating this fantastical opening sequence as one of the more memorable, if not the most memorable, kickoffs out of all the remote escape games I've done to date!
Puzzle contents is perhaps where the livestream translation has diverged the most from its original in-person version. When attempted in real life, this pirate adventure is consistently referred as "one of the most challenging experiences" by Improbable Escapes. And I can imagine why: a disproportionate amount of original puzzles are heavily cooperative puzzles. Co-op challenges require coordinated teamwork, and tend not to be easy to achieve.
Case in point: One particular objective requires team members to first identify four character icons scattered throughout the set. Then according to patterns, colors, and other contrasting difference on these four images, other teammate(s) must relay and input such info into a technical device to advance. This kind of puzzle is meant to challenge via communication barriers, often with frustrating results--and that's exactly why successful execution is so rewarding and fun.
However, this is just not a viable route for an avatar-led game play, since commanding your one lone game master to run all over, collect info, then again pace back and forth to punch in the solutions... it's far too physically demanding and time consuming. It's a great way for your avatar to get their steps in; but a terrible strategy to finish under a 60-minute limit.
To bypass this logistic nightmare, the aforementioned puzzles are altered, and in the process, noticeably simplified for online adaptations. In gist, many of the clues will be directly given to you in your inventory webpage, eliminating most needs for searching on camera, or for information relay amongst the team. In addition, the avatar (who was fantastic and agile) would guide you explicitly to solve your puzzles systematically, one at at time, to facilitate time-efficient progress.
Though this is probably a necessary step to take to ensure a smooth and enjoyable 60 minutes session--and really not a true fault on the host's part--it does somewhat abate the wonder of exploration, the satisfaction of discovery, and the independence of working out conundrums by oneself. For an expert player like myself, it's a touch too much of handholding than I'd otherwise prefer. On the flip side, for beginners with less experience, or non-hardcore families looking for a casual remote reality escape, this could be the perfectly tailored recipe catered for a safe and cozy night in.
No matter what preference you hold, the puzzles are still very nicely themed and plentiful to keep a group busy for the entire hour. Expect a lot of pattern recognition and application, some number and letters garnering for padlocks, and a couple of prop manipulations. Simplified or otherwise, it's a lovely and entertaining mix!
I've never had a bad time with Improbable Escapes, and this was no exception. Would I have preferred to play this in-person with the lovely staff I've come to interact regularly? Oh absolutely! In a heartbeat! To touch this set with my own two hands, to complete the co-op puzzles as they are intended to play, to witness magic up close--who wouldn't?
For local residents around Kingston area, there are sufficient reasons to wait for lockdowns to be lifted, and experience "Neverland: Heist On The High Seas" on location. However, for those of us overseas, restricted from air travel to Canada for the foreseeable future, a technology-assisted remote expedition continues to be a sweet treat in its own class.
To be honest, I am not so sure I was on the right team.
READY FOR FUN?
"Neverland: Heist On The High Seas" is available for booking HERE.
If you BOOK due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout-out! ;)
⤻ Full disclosure: Complimentary game access was generously provided for review purposes.
⤻ All media credited to and provided by contents owners. No copyright infringement intended. ⤻ Speed code for on-site search: IENeverland