THE VILLAIN'S LAIR - Exit Game
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 57.
Address: 111 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 148, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Game: The Villain's Lair
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 12/22/2018:
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THE VILLAIN'S LAIR / Grade: B+, not quite A- yet
"...Enjoyable experience, could recommend."
...How did I end up here? Are those... prison bars? ...The pungent stench of kimchi. The torturing beat of "Gangnam Style". There's no mistake; I am stuck in a Korean jail. I have 60 mins to escape--The Villain's Lair--and save the world.
I've succeeded in the past at both the art of espionage and wizardry (see "previous reviews" for other games' in-depth analysis, including An Hour To Kill, The Lab 51, School of Sorcery, and The AI), and of all the crazy shenanigans I've run into, how does this stack against the rest?
If there's anything that is signature of Exit Game, it's definitely consistency. Though they offer 5 different themed games at this location, all of them exudes a very similar flavor in terms of design, visual, game play, and puzzle structure. If you're a returning customer, you'd know exactly what I mean: at least a decent level of quality is guaranteed, and you know exactly what you're paying for.
Production value was decent. Having literally played through almost 60 escape rooms in the span of 1 yr, I have seen a lengthy list of amazingly decorated games, and also the occasional of down right sh*tty ones. Villain's Lair lied somewhere in the above average range. A common feature across all 5 games, I felt as if the creators were working with a finite amount of budget that was able to pretty much perfect certain areas of a game, but also to leave other sections comparably bare, but nothing that some refurbishments couldn't fix. Did I feel like I was in a villain's quarter? Yes. Could it have looked a bit more convincing? Also yes.
I know that this branch's Lair recently received an updated theme overlay of Kim Jong-un, perhaps to coincide with San Diego location's more recently re-imagined edition, but it's rather weak. With the exception of a humorous intro vid, the game was essentially a generic "prisoner of war" breakout room. Now, there's *absolutely nothing* wrong with that, though I felt like if you gonna bank on political humor, might as well go in full throttle.
As what it was, a strong, mixed gen 1 & 2 style game, garnished with various cool tech moments, Lair was just fine, and I enjoyed my escape session quite immensely. Thank goodness the game designers stuck with the common trope of dividing team members in separate jail cells in the beginning, because without an obligatory communication challenge barrier, it just wouldn't be a great prison room! The initial hurdle of the inability to relay info face-to-face added an extra layer of enjoyable difficulty, which I appreciated.
The difficulty of subsequent puzzles were consistent, nothing majorly hard. Anyone who's seen a fair share of commonplace riddles would get through just fine. (Certain puzzles felt a tad out of place, puzzles for puzzles sake--though still engaging and fun.) There weren't any groundbreaking puzzles, just that it might take a bit of extremely careful investigation to advance.
Of note, automatic unlocks (for doors etc) were, on several occasions, subtle and quiet, thus subjectively "unfairly" hindering game play. Customers should take note, and owners could possibly improve on a more lucid, and perhaps louder, notification system.
There were definitely a handful of "Oooh! Ahhh!" amazement/discovery moments, which I shall not spoil for you... but you can get a pretty good idea by visiting the official website. One thing that I value in this hobby is the times I share with my friends, being stuck in a room together for an hour. And judging from the laughter and hi-fives we gave each other, Exit Game fulfilled its job competently.
Overall, there really wasn't anything bad with Lair, but naturally as I play and witness more escape rooms, the correspondingly more it takes to impress me this point of my "career". Lair slightly lacked that special "it factor" that could otherwise make itself *really* stand out from the crowd--something that An Hour To Kill effortlessly did for me.
Much gratitude for the main line staff who's always been courteous at each of my visits, and also a special thanks for management for helping out my little booking fiasco. I started out my yr 2018 at Exit Game in January, and now also finished the concluding chapter at the end of the same yr. It's been a fun journey, Exit Game; (avg) 5 stars rating for this year-long ride.
And now, here're my grand finale tips: 1) My order of preference goes: Hour, Lab, Lair, AI, Sorcery. 2) Hour still remains as one of my top faves (out of all companies), especially the unforgettable ending. 3) Exit Game is the escape equivalent of the action movie genre. Like to run around a lot? This is your go-to. 4) Basic understanding of additive color mixing helps in multiple games. 5) I technically booked 5 public games, but not once was I paired up with strangers. So... strategize, book smart, and save ;)