THE RETURN OF THE MAGICIAN - Unlocked: Escape Room
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 55.
Venue: Unlocked: Escape Room
Address: 17952 Sky Park Cir Ste 45B, Irvine, CA 92614
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 12/02/2018:
Escape with me! Follow IG: EscapeMattster ;)
Current room count: 55
THE RETURN OF THE MAGICIAN // Grade: A
"...Holy mother of God! Orgasmic-ly good!"
After months of planning, all stars finally aligned, and I was able to drive down to Irvine to experience the long-awaited "The Return of the Magician". You see, widely renowned magician Magnificent took a long hiatus, and was having an exclusive comeback performance at the Unlocked theater. And I got tickets to the front row seats!
Upon arriving, wait, WHAT? Show's about to start, and there's no showman in sight, except for unattended costumes, props, and... a trail of clues?! SAY NO MORE. WE'RE ON IT, 'CAUSE THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
Designed by a hobbyist magician along with few other bright escape room enthusiasts, this merged effort of a gem in the OC was nothing short of surprising, fun, and of course, magical.
The experience started right in the lobby, with a quick intro of today's agenda and safety precautions. Just right from here, I could tell a lot of thoughts and care went into the planning and making of this game, especially when participants are locked in place AND still free to run out of the building in case of emergencies. (You'll see what I mean.) Satisfaction AND safety guaranteed. Awesome.
Now onto the meat of the game: while the owner had previously cautioned me not to over-inflate my expectation of their production value, I'm happy to report, he was being modest and this escape room looked just fine! We're not talking about a lavish budget worth of sets and props, but at no point did I think anything looked less than professional. It was convincing and supported game play seamlessly.
And just to slightly elaborate, as a frequent escape room player, I've now gained a sense of what minute details within a room that may seem trivial or inconsequential in a casual player's eyes, but actually may take many tweaks, and perhaps trial and error, to get it just right. And one area of this venue was clearly an evidence of the owners' strive for perfection. So kudos! (And it [censored - one of your senses] wonderful!)
"Return" wasn't just about looks anyway--the pure wonder of magic, appropriately, was the true star of the show. As tempting as it may be for me to give away any spoiler, I won't; but rest assured, moments of amazed gasps were plentiful.
Early on in the game, in what I will from now on refer as a "signature move" of Unlocked, one of my teammates burst out in unadulterated bewilderment, "HOW DID THEY DO THAT?!" The ability to draw out her child's sense of wonder so effectively with such a "simple" magic trick, that moment alone, was well worth my ticket price.
Except, as mentioned, I didn't just get that one moment. Many fundamental philosophies and secrets well-known to a magician were infused into puzzle steps, so the owner's hobby background artfully helped set up many more magical moments to come. While I disagree with other reviews that we performed tricks of our own in the game, we most definitely went through the motions of the acts, which were just as rewarding. As an added bonus, almost all fan-favorite tricks made their appearances in some shape or form, making the experience very immersive.
Having played many rooms in the past, I requested that we enjoyed our magic adventure on expert mode without hint, and we escaped just fine in roughly 37 minutes. (Game was composed of a balanced mixture of gen 1 locks and gen 2 tech, and I happen to excel at that.) As such, I would rate this game at most medium level of difficulty. However, because everyone had such a great time, the game didn't feel short. It felt whimsical, and most importantly, fulfilling.
And no, the show didn't end upon our triumphant exit.
The owners made it a point to give all their customers a walk-through post-game, ensuring everyone on the team to get a chance to understand each puzzle step, and witness it in action, just in case if anyone missed it during play-through, which could happen often in a large group setting.
In our detailed recap, it was revealed that, there were a lot of cleverness in design that I missed due to my rushed style of game play, in hopes of making it onto the leader board. (Alas, we missed it by a mere 6 seconds. Past fellow experts just KILLED it. Darn you guys!) After more explanations, I realized just how sophisticated and classy this game truly was, more than what I already thought. What an eye opener.
The friendliness, down-to-earth attitude, and dedication to customer service was off the chart--and this definitely help elevate them onto the top of my recommendation list. (Thanks, Andros, Tony, and... Brian? ;P)
And just when I thought the presentation was over... ONE LAST TRICK! (No one saw that coming, and now we literally went home with a piece of the game with us, and I'm not talking about just our memories...) Dying to find out what it was? Book a game and find out; it's well worth your time and money!