SECRET MISSION - Maze Rooms LA
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 61.
Venue: Maze Rooms LA (Koreatown/Vermont Branch)
Address: 132 S Vermont Ave Ste 204, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Game: Secret Mission
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 01/02/2019:
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SECRET MISSION / Grade: A-
LUNAR MISSION / Grade: A
I love this branch of Maze Rooms.The owner of this location is passionate about this hobby, creative in his ideas, dexterous in his construction, and genius in execution. I have already covered "The Abyss" and "Magic Kingdom" in my Previous Reviews. Today, let's go over the 2 Missions: "Secret Mission" and "Lunar Mission".
Due to the characters limit, I gonna cut some materials short, so take my words for this: production value of all rooms at Vermont location is AWESOME. Every single game provides corresponding costumes to provide deeper immersion and great photo ops. The level of care and thoughts from this business--simply one of the best in today's market.
Now the specifics. I played 2 rooms today. First was "Secret Mission", in which we as CIA agents must intercept a Russian spy from transmitting out crucial, confidential info back to his superior. With an obviously more tongue-in-cheek theme, this room leaned on humor, had a less urgent plot, but still entirely enjoyable. I particularly loved the "trailer ads" playing in the lobby for this room, and the more serious toned mission briefing vid presented prior to game. Both helped brought the story alive.
The plot took place in the spy's apartment, hence, the set was understandably easier to build; but this did not stop the designer from overloading the area with style and details, many making obvious nods to the USSR. With the space allotted, the apt housed essentially functional rooms, completely furnished with appliances that were Cold-War-era appropriate. Secrets were hidden away slyly that evaded detection until puzzle's unlock. Everything felt so, so real, and we had so, so much fun.
Of note, one particular element that wasn't game-essential, but arguably plot-essential, hadn't been working for a few days, and we were disappointed that we didn't get to experience what otherwise would've been a pretty cool, memorable moment. This also caused slight confusion during the game, but we shrugged it off easily. (This is the biggest reason why the room is A- instead of A.)
Puzzles were fun, some of which were uncommon enough to challenge us, others wacky enough to make me smirk, several times even. Difficulty was fairly easy, and we powered through the last part of the game at lightning speed, and ultimately beating previous best record. We solved the entire room in 25 minutes! We were ecstatic; but secretly, I wanted more!
Well, I guess I did get more in my next room "Lunar Mission". This was their hardest room, and they recently made it even HARDER in the past months to challenge even the most seasoned players.
The plot follows a group of astronauts' desperate escape from the moon back to Earth after an accident, critically crippling the Lunar Station's sustainability. The "trailer" (from lobby) was overlaid by an ominous horror movie music, and as it turned out, the level of urgency we faced in this story world was accurately reflected by this score. So kudos on immersing the players in an intriguing predicament--it really gave us that extra oomph that made the experience great.
And oh man, the set! Not only was it beautiful, it was unbelievably elaborate--much more intricate and extensive than I ever imagined. When you first walk through that unassuming entrance, you'd have no idea that the Lunar Station was built with much realism (in a sci-fi novel) in mind. It's got command station, docking station, and many, many more compartmentalized areas to explore.
To top it off, the puzzles, for the most part, were actual puzzles! The kinds that made us think! There were still some task based challenges, but even those were incredibly entertaining. (Arcade, anyone?) It was an extremely solid, professionally made, high-tech escape room experience that really showed its peers what a model space themed game could be.
The room, as pointed out, was difficult, and I *do not at all* recommend any beginner to play this. Go play some other rooms first, gain some experience, and come back later. For my advanced enthusiasts, bring up to a group of 4. A pair of 2 would most likely fail; my group of 3 barely passed with quite a few hints given.
Tip: A handful of clues given early on in 1 room would not come into play until much later, most likely when you're physically far away, and had already forgotten their existence. Otherwise, game was logical and well-structured.
One downside of such tech heavy room was there were definitely wear and tear of equipment and the occasional malfunctions. I recall at least 2 correctly solved inputs did not trigger expected response, and either needed repeated attempts, or outright override from game master. But these were minor imperfections in the grand scheme of a great, grade-A product.
PS: Props to Will for running several games smoothly all by himself on New Year's!