PHARAOH'S TOMB - Maze Rooms LA
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 60.
Venue: Maze Rooms LA (Hollywood Branch)
Address: 1328 Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Game: Pharaoh's Tomb
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 01/01/2019:
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PHARAOH'S TOMB / Grade: A
"...Enjoyable experience, would recommend."
This particular branch of Maze Rooms in Hollywood has long received favorable reviews for all 3 of their available games, so I've been on a mission to try and review all 3. Last time, I was blown away by "World Of Illusions" (see "Previous Review"), and this time, I arrived with much eager anticipation to venture into the "Pharaoh's Tomb".
Firstly, I'd like to point out, the decision of making an Egyptian themed escape room is no easy feat. Because of the unmistakable era of well-documented Egyptian history and culture, we the audience all come in with expectations of what may or may not constitute as a believable scenario of exploring the burial chamber of, say, King Tut. Therefore, even just one simple mistake in set, prop, or puzzle choice, immersion could be immediately broken. With that said, how did Maze fare?
Production value was pretty darn amazing. The would-be archaeologists for the hour, with the goal of exploring the forbidden tomb and shutting down any evil curse if they should ever encounter one, would first enter the premise through a narrow, dark corridor, complete with overgrowing vegetation all around. This helped set a slightly unsettling, yet adventurous mood for the rest of game. And that's just a sample of what's more to come.
Without further specific spoilers, I felt the game designers really went the extra mile to shroud the experience in as much realism and mystery as they could, and that meant: beautiful (and realistic) hieroglyphics on the wall, plausible (in terms of plot) light sources, eg torches with imitative fire, and many secrets hidden away for participants to discover. What's genius about this set up was, visually, they've got it covered 100%--so all that's left for them to do, was to make you feel like you're actually exploring an artifact site. And they achieved this simply by... having you explore!
You see, the one most outstanding feature of Tomb was the extremely effective usage of space. On first glance, you'd have no idea just how spacious the total area of this escape room was, and it's actually much bigger than one would initially expect. Solving certain puzzles would grant you access to previously unseen territory, and this process cycled through for several occasions. This series of reveals caused an endless stream of excitement and high, pumping through my bloodstream the entire game. Though I was a pretend-historian in pretend-Egypt, there's nothing fake about my exploration and discovery. By the end of the game, I honestly felt like I finished a mini excavation.
At this point, you'd probably think, Maze did a perfect job! But now, let's circle back: was immersion ever broken?
Like mentioned, just one single blunder in puzzle choice would easily take players out of their illusion of being in ancient Egypt, and that culprit had always consistently been (as with other pharaoh inspired escape rooms), and was also the case here: CHOICE OF LOCK. There were 2 instances of modern locks employed, and I swore to God I asked why the game designers did not just convert them into magnetic locks, or at least key locks that *looked* aged, and therefore historically appropriate? Just such simple amendments would push this game onto the next level of awesomeness.
And if I were to nitpick further, there were some elements from other puzzles that elicited a "wth?" notion from me, because they too seemed out of place with the theme. And once again, painfully so, I immediately thought of simple tweaks that could instantly correct such minor problems. What frustrated me a lot was that this room had so much potential to be on the rank of perfection, but yet did not come to fruition.
Hence, Tomb came close to a true immersive experience, but fell victim to something as simple as a combo lock. As an ESCAPE ROOM, however, it was an excellent one with a hearty number of enjoyable challenges that filled up 1 hour nicely. In addition, the puzzles flowed well and interconnected from one to the next logically, thereby giving the customers a smooth experience uninterrupted by unnecessary frustrations (the kind stemming from leaps of logic)--something that we as escape enthusiasts sometimes take for granted.
With the exception of the aforementioned locks, the puzzles were tech based and automated, keeping the fantasy aspect mostly intact. Difficulty was at most medium, with a tiny bit of scavenging thrown in. (Tip: do not discount certain "decoration". It may end up being an important clue, after all!)
In conclusion, Tomb was a winner. It might not be flawless, but I could certainly overlook the imperfections for its numerous unexpected surprises. Moreover, I had no walkie-talkie problem this time around, and Adam the gm was more personable in comparison; so, I'd happily upgrade the venue's rating from 4 to 5 stars. :)