PANDORA'S BOX • TRAPPED! ESCAPE ROOM • (In-Person) Escape Room Review
► SECTION I • QUICK GLANCE ◄
◣ GAME FACTS
🎮 Game: Pandora's Box
💪 Difficulty: N/A
⏲️ Time: 60 Minutes
🧑 Capacity: 2-8 (2-6 Recomennded)
🔐 Booking: Private
🏘️ Location: San Dimas, CA, United States
◣ "TL;DR!" BRIEFS
📝 The overall plot is a twist on a somewhat modernized version of Pandora's Box. It's an intriguing cross between Greek mythology and Disney/Indiana adventures. And it works!
📝 Linear story and game play originate organically from the geometric structure of, well, a box. The overall format vastly succeeds; majority of puzzles are GREAT, 1 or 2 are... eh.
📝 Most challenges are less "traditional" or less "escape room like" than other previous Trapped! games; when coupled with special effects, they achieve maximal immersion.
📝 "Pandora's Box" is an atmospheric masterpiece. The aforementioned special fx--heat, water, and strobe light--are state of the art. Dim lighting could benefit from some tweaking.
💪 Difficulty rating: (Team of 2) Moderately difficult. Appreciated all the nudges from my GM.
🧑 Best team size: 3-4. Certain "Lights Out" puzzles are difficult to solve; some people get it, and some just don't. Buy yourself some insurance by bringing in an extra brain or two.
🧑 Best audience: Fans of archaeological artifacts theme mixed with mythological supernatural happenings; great for bold thrill seekers. Maybe too intense for kids (12 & under).
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...WHOA! LOVED IT.
NO POINT IN KEEPING THIS ONE IN THE BOX! SPREAD THE WORD!
THIS JOINS 🏆 "MUST DO!" 🏆 RANK!
► SECTION II • IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS ◄
◣ THE PREMISE
Max Fortune is an adventurer, archaeologist and collector. He has recovered the prize of his collection, the artifact known as “Pandora’s Box”. His arch-nemesis has discovered this and is on his way to take it in order to harness the power within. Can you discover the secrets contained within Pandora’s Box?
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◣ THE REVIEW
Having seen the staff working hard on a secret project when I last visited Trapped! for "Grandma's Surprise", now more than a year later, with much anticipation, I finally got to see their effort come into fruition. At last, it's time to think outside the "Pandora's Box"!
And man, what a BEAST Trapped! has opened and released upon our world.
A BIT OF GREEK, A BIT OF DISNEY
Adventurer Max Fortune discovered an artifact known as the "Pandora's Box", and of course, mysteries and omens surround the said container. His rival, as per yoush, is up to no good, wanting to harvest the immense power within. You're here to stop this. Standard stuff so far.
Sharp patrons with an affinity to theme parks may notice the game trailer, entitled "News From Around The Globe", is a not so subtle nod to the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland. So they're basically setting up Max to be Trapped!'s Dr Jones, I presumed.
As one may suspect, this entire premise was just a backdrop to the REAL STORY, one you're about the experience, head first, front and center, movie protagonist style. This was never about Max. This spotlight was always meant for YOU. The adventure--and perils--are about to unfold right under your nose. Good luck. And try not to die.
Because the very title is named after Greek mythology's Pandora's Box, you already know you will inevitably release all evils contained within the titular curio at some point. An then you probably have to undo the mess. I am not technically spoiling much here.
But how this played out, according to Trapped!'s vision, was what made it spectacular. This could've gone in myriad directions, but what they ended with was divine. (And I do mean this in more senses than one.) The incorporation of elements from yet another Disney Adventureland classic, The Enchanted Tiki Room, made the experience all the more powerful, both as a compelling narrative and a well-structured escape game.
Indiana Jones AND Tiki Room?! Will you dodge huge, rolling boulder and enjoy a Dole Whip by the end of it all? Not likely, but you'll just have to play to see what I mean.
A BOXED CHALLENGE
"Pandora's Box" is a very classic Trapped! Escape Room production. The creators tend to follow a basic formula that works: you'll do challenges in "sections", and once you complete these "sections", there will be a meta finale. You then proceed to difficult bonus puzzles, should you have any time leftover. (Really getting your full 60 minutes worth of value here.)
In this specific scenario, however, I found it especially ingenious how the geometric shape of a box, the Pandora's box no less, translated so well for game play. You see, a box, or a cube, has 6 surfaces. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we can wreck havoc upon the customers, one surface at a time, so they can easily track their progression of misfortune?
Trapped! proudly thought, heck yes!
The resulting linear game play was easy to comprehend, smooth to play, and (the accompanying story) easy to follow. The overall experience felt organic, real, and impactful.
The actual puzzle themselves, however, strayed a bit from Trapped!'s usual MO, and though they did make sense within the story universe, a couple were controversial choices.
In the past, Trapped! tended to favor more "traditional" mental puzzles, ones that encourage patrons to find patterns, isolate key info, and the likes. These still exist, but now come additions of "Lights Out" like challenges. Have you done puzzles that require you to toggle all lights from on to off, but you're limited by certain pattern changes with each move you make? Those. Those kinds of puzzles, albeit different but with similar logic, are in this room.
These challenges are iffy because they're extremely easy to mess up on, and you may have ZERO idea if you're making helpful progress or not. I've always solved these by luck, and this time was no different. (Whew!) Hence, I recommend 3-4 players despite the game's linearity--you will want multiple brains to rotate through should one get horribly stuck with these.
Besides these, however, other puzzles making up the other 80% of the (main) game will undoubtedly and positively challenge, entertain, and wow the audience. They still deviate from more "traditional" escape room puzzles, such as code breaking, and in effect they offer participants something new and different for a change. One may even blow you away. (Wink.)
Interestingly, every single puzzle encounter was in some form of box: Pandora's, wooden, tool, and more. Was "box" a theme in itself? Intentionally or not, I thought this was sly, almost like an extra layer of sophistication to an already highly polished game, just for funsies.
SENSORY & IMMERSION OVERLOAD
Opinions may differ on puzzle selections, but there's probably only one consensus on the set: it's friggin' awesome.
Visually, it's perfect. The wooden floor panels, the many shipping crates, and the magical box of the hour sitting in the dead center-- everything's perfect. I uncontrollably let out a "Wow!" of amazement within seconds I walked in. Audibly, a classy yet mysterious soundtrack played throughout the game, adding an extra bit of ambiance I much appreciated.
What made this extraordinarily even more impressive was that even though the entire event supposedly took place within only one very specific location inside Max Fortune's estate, the amount and magnitude of "adventures" I got to experience was way beyond expectation.
I didn't have to go out to seek the "adventures"; they came to me... or rather, at me.
Multiple stimuli will thrust upon your senses. You will see, hear, touch, and LITERALLY feel the magic on your skin, and quite dramatically so on several occasions--and I LOVED it.
The website does plainly reveal that you would be exposed to multiple special effects, such as heat, water, and strobe light effects; but fret not, you'll only get cozily warm and barely wet. These effects only helped amplify immersion while causing no discomfort whatsoever.
Of note, the lighting, as effective as they were at creating an impeccable atmosphere, leaned on the dim side, at times barely illuminating what needed to be seen, rendering puzzle solving more difficult than intended due to low visibility.
On the contrary, while the official source claims this experience is not scary, I would argue it's at least startling--sometimes creepy even--but in the best sense possible. Much like a good action movie (starring you), you want excitement, you want suspense, you want thrills, and this room delivers like Domino's! High five! (Do people still make this joke?)
Lastly, to briefly mention for completion sake, your game master will be in full character when proctoring and giving clues, therefore immersion was never even once broken. Magnificent.
◣ FINAL THOUGHTS
Every single time I go to Trapped! Escape Room to try a newly published game, I would find that they have somehow elevated their craft to another level of expertise, and "Pandora's Box" continues this trend with steadfast momentum.
There are lots of great rooms out there, but to find one that excels while exploring a theme as rarely used as a fabled box of evil forces is truly a great discovery. Indy might've found his Ark, but you, you found something arguably even more epic. You found "Pandora's Box".
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◣ PARTING TIPS
★ A large piece of cloth is great for covering furniture AND other purpose as well.
★ If you read Chinese, you may have a slight edge, potentially shaving off a minute or 2.
★ If all else fails, try random, simultaneous buttons pushing. You may just luck out... like I did!
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⤻ Though game access was complimentary, this article was written basing on unbiased and genuine opinions.
⤻ All media credited to and used with permission from contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ Pandora's Box • "TERPandora"