THE PHARAOH'S CURSE - The Hidden Passage Live Escape Room Games
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 42.
Address: 7430 Coldwater Cyn Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Game: The Pharaoh's Curse
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 10/21/2018:
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Current room count: 42
THE PHARAOH'S CURSE // Grade: B+
"...Enjoyable experience, would recommend."
By design, I played two Egytian themed escape rooms in the span of 4 days: first at MagIQ Room (also reviewed), and today at Hidden Passage's "The Pharaoh's Curse". After completion, my overall impression was that, while MagIQ's version was more geared towards kids, Hidden's rendition was several times more visually beautiful, with stunning productive value, and definitely designed with adult players in mind. Sadly, these 2 companies also shared common categorical shortcomings.
In Pharaoh, we were archaeologists, exploring deep in the mummy's tomb. Too bad for us, one team member got separated, and inadvertently awakened a dormant curse. To reverse the curse, we must retrieve treasures scattered across the burial site, returned them to their rightful locations, and escape without being buried alive... FOREVER!
Plot was ok interesting, but playful enough to explain the initial separation of players, (very short term,) which added on an extra layer of challenge in the beginning that I always appreciate.
The production value was pretty amazing, considering this is a family owned business. (Everything was home built, and the owners had no prior escape room ownership experience.) Certain minor props were very "Party City", while others were straight up lifted from the movies.
The entire game area was extremely large, rivaling the likes of 60Out. This led to what seemed like an endless game of discovery and exploration, as there was always 1 more room to reveal, which in all honesty, IT'S SUPER AWESOME, and a major selling point for this game.
The puzzles themselves were fairly standard, sourcing from common puzzles found in gen-1 intro 101 handbook. (With a bit of tech mixed in.) There weren't any puzzle that I hadn't seen before, though that didn't mean they were not challenging. While the beginning puzzles were straightforward and easily solvable, the later ones were much more difficult, and required multiple layers of thought processing. (This is critical for me, who is somewhat of an experienced player, that there are still puzzles that'd stump me.)
(And boy, did they ever.)
Overall, this room was harder than I expected, and having brought along 3 gen-1-style virgins proved to be too daunting of a task, and hence, we didn't escape. We needed a solid 10 minutes more, perhaps, so we weren't even that close to completion. Sigh!!
The fact that we didn't escape was not why I had to "grade down" this game. (In fact, everyone had fun! Absolutely no regret, and everyone should come try!) It was actually due to 1) design flaws, and 2) malfunctions.
First, design flaws. Most conspicuously, gen-1 format clashed with the theme HARSHLY. However wonderfully decorated with such hearty endeavors, everything was negated, and immersion effectively diminished when you see key locks, combo locks, and even a combo safe (WHAT?), all in the midst of an ancient Egyptian tomb. This simply didn't make sense, (not invented yet,) and was the same cardinal misstep that MagIQ also took. (Intriguing puzzles, fun to play with, but misplaced in the era of the pharaoh.) This is especially a shame since the Hidden's productive value was so impressive.
Furthermore, certain clues were a little too cryptic, or almost to the point of unfair, that participants would arguably be able to decipher without taking some great logic leap. (I can't be specific, or else it'd be spoilers.) These could be chalked off as creative choices, and probably be good spots in requesting a hint or two.
Second, a major factor for docking off points, MALFUNCTIONS. And gosh, there were more than a handful.
To recap quickly: one lock was broken by previous team, rendering it completely unused in my game. Prop manipulation puzzles that didn't unlock even when correct action was performed; multiple attempts needed. Flashlights failures. And finally, the worst sinner of all, a jammed number-combo lock that just wouldn't unlock even with the correct code, which wasted a good 5-10 minutes of very precious time. This was probably the final nail in the coffin for a lower grade--it's just too frustrating, 100% knowing that I solved the puzzle, but couldn't advance. (Ironically, gen 1 locks are usually considered be reliable than gen 2 tech.)
...No game is without flaws, and Pharaoh's Curse was no exception. There's a lot of potential here, and with the correct fixes, there's much to appreciate. I genuinely hope for this business to continue to improve and flourish, because I am very interested in returning to try their 2 new rooms (EXORCISM!!! AHHH!!!), slated to open in late 2018.
PS: to echo other Yelpers, our female GM seemed disinterested at first, but was more lively when I took the initiative to engage deeper in conversation. Overall, she's ok, probably just isn't as into escape games as we enthusiasts.