"The Lair" was a puzzling room, but for more reasons than one | Trapped! Escape Room (Upland)
ADDRESS: 600 N Mountain Ave Ste B204, Upland, CA 91786
PREMISE: You are federal agents tracking the notorious international criminal known only as “The Puzzlemaster”. After several years of investigation, you have finally found his hidden lair. You are moving in to take him down, but now the question looms: have you trapped him, or has he trapped you?
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 11/25/2018:
It's always a very weird feeling walking away from completing an escape room successfully, yet entirely unsure whether you liked it or not. It's even stranger considering a company that you have so much confidence in, one like Trapped!, induced this unexpected sentiment.
Tonight, "Lair of the Puzzlemaster" was such a mix-bag for me, writing this very review's filling me with ambivalence. Unlike the previous rooms I'd played here ("Down the Rabbit Hole" and "Sector 13", see "Previous Reviews"), which I still strongly recommend today, this Mattster's reception of the Puzzlemaster was at best lukewarm.
Let's be clear: Lair was far from a bad game--Trapped! simply doesn't produce bad games. I do, however, and I still continue to, expect this brand to wow me with excellent rooms, and this just wasn't it. I'd admit, it's most definitely a mixture of the game's design, puzzle choices, *and* my own expectations that ultimately rendered tonight a near-miss. I still had fun, and well, at least we had some good laughs.
The plot was simple but interesting enough: Puzzlemaster had been outsmarting (and possibly eliminating) Special Interpol agents for a while. The impatient public's demanding his arrest, and headquarter's sending in the best of the best (that'd be us) to infiltrate his hideout and apprehend him once and for all.
Judging from the story and its promo photos, I thought this would a fun/cute gen-1 puzzle rooms where my friends and I would solve numerous challenging puzzles, unlock countless locks, and fight our way to justice. Once we're in the room though, one thing's apparent--everything looked different!
As it turned out, the pics I saw were from ver 1 of this room, and we're playing the revamped ver 2. While the puzzles reboot was 100% within my knowledge, I really thought the photos I saw were representative of what I'd see tonight. This little surprise absolutely did not ruin game play, but it did subconsciously make me compare what this room could've been vs what it actually was, and that undeniably affected my rating.
Puzzles wise, the designers wanted something difficult, even for the most seasoned players, so there were a handful of puzzles that required multiple steps to solve, and a select few were even meta-puzzles, riddles that required several answers from previous puzzles to produce a final solution. They really took a chance here, because some attempts I thought were incredibly clever, but one in particular took such a huge logic leap, it made me almost speechless... in a bad way.
Without giving much away, this particular puzzle was so "out there" that, for the first time ever, I asked for a clue, received it, solved the first step with hint, then was immediately stumped again. It literally went like, "Ohhhh! Ok. Um... Now what?" And repeat. My team required the gm's intimate hand-holding to guide us step by step to reach the final conclusion. Though technically we did successfully solve the puzzle, the sense of accomplishment that'd usually rush over us was utterly absent--because we plainly just didn't do it ourselves.
And hey, feel free to call me stupid, but to me, the initial clues just weren't fair enough.
...Maybe that's what this hard room was going for?
Though the rest of the game offered a variety of puzzles both in format and presentation, even some that I hadn't quite seen before, the aforementioned kick-in-the-nuts feeling just lingered with me the entire game. It also made me very nervous when we were seemingly running out of time quickly, so we requested more hints out of desperation, but only to find out we weren't that far away from game completion. There were fewer puzzles than I first estimated; we escaped with more than 10 mins leftover.
Overall, in my utmost sincerity, I swear I am not trying to fault a room for being "too difficult", but rather, I truthfully felt handicapped, rather than elated and excited, to have finished a room with very extensive assistance. Chalk it up as not my cup of tea, if you will.
To briefly touch on production value, it's decent. A plot and setup like this one, it's obviously and unapologetically a puzzle room. And because this was the earliest constructed room of the 3, it looked somewhat dated; but good maintenance preserved the meat of the game (and its fun) in good condition.
With that, I'd officially graduated from Upland branch, having finished all available rooms. And though Lair wouldn't be on top of my to-recommend list, it's still a solid entry from its creators, and worth the admission, esp for a completist. Rabbit Hole and Sector 13, on the other hand, were some of my fondest escape room memories, and it'd be a real shame if any hardcore escape artists were to pass on them.