Sherlock Holmes’ Library
Sherlock Holmes' Library
- Played February 2017
- Albany, NY
- 60 minutes
- 4-10 players
- What People Say
North of beautiful central Albany, NY you’ll find The Great Escape Room which has several other locations scattered throughout upstate New York and the USA. Each location carries selections of the same 5-6 rooms, and each is presented in a manner no doubt befitting of Sherlock Holmes’ fans everywhere. We were invited to come try a couple rooms at their Albany location, starting with Sherlock Holmes’ Library. Did the master detective manage to give us a test worthy enough to be solved by the ERA team? Let’s find out…
The location was easy enough to find and is coincidentally located in a business park that uses keys as their logo (how cool is that for an escape room location?) Parking was abundant, and the welcome we received was top class. The friendly staff must’ve had sore cheeks after the incredible amount of smiles and warm welcome they extended throughout our time there. The lobby/waiting area is very nice and we particularly enjoyed how relaxed and comfortable it made us feel. Basic refreshments are available and some cute little takeaways are also made available for those who wish to have something commemorative to remind them of their outing. The introduction of the room could use a little polishing as some of the rules were repeated many, many, times and given that they relied upon common sense they really only needed to be mentioned once. But I digress, it was an excellent start and the game is afoot… tally ho!
The room quality was impressive for the most part. We loved how no cheap props or building materials were used throughout the room. The room itself maintains a very believable mixture of the type of items one would expect to find in Holmes’ library. What we found a little odd was the extra alcove that’s next to the entrance/exit door. It takes up a fairly large amount of space, but is (almost) completely out of bounds. We were informed it’s the remains of a kitchen from the previous daycare tenants of the building, and is now functionally used as an observation space where staff watched us play through the scenario. Although it was a bit of an odd experience for us to be watched from a visibly large space right next to where we were playing, it did provide us some much needed interaction when we needed hints or direction to try something different…
As good as the room quality was, we didn’t particularly feel immersed in this experience. I’ll comment more on the puzzles later, but suffice to say there was a fair amount that kept us from enjoying the scenario of the room. From the staff being present and watching, to the school bell they rang when we found a “hint clue”, to the odd kitchen/alcove on the side, to the heavy amount of searching, to the frustration of not having an intuitive sense of what to do, to the puzzles not tying in with the overall story… All of these together made us feel disengaged to the point where we forgot the actual objective. Those who love escape rooms for immersive story and engagement will definitely be more sensitive to this than we were, but we still felt it to a fairly high degree.
Which brings us to puzzles and the one area we couldn’t stop talking about in our debriefing to establish a score… Do you like some searching for clues in your escape room experiences? We do. Do you like a lot of searching? Sometimes we don’t mind a lot of searching when there’s immersion and plot devices tied into the searching… So then, do you like searching non-stop until you get frustrated and start working on puzzles, but you can’t solve any because you still haven’t found 50% of what you need? No? Too bad, keep searching! That’s how we felt. It actually got to the point where our team snapped at each other because we wanted to work on the puzzles but we couldn’t find all the pieces. And not just a few pieces either. There were approximately five meta-puzzles that needed to be solved and most of them needed anywhere from 7 to 25 clue pieces in order to solve (yup you read that correctly)! And were these clues easy to find? Some were. Many weren’t. Lined along the edges of door frames, picture frames, in between air vents, if there’s a 1/4-inch of space to hide something you’d better look, feel, then look again because chances are you missed it the first two times. And like we said, if you missed it, you’d better be prepared to fine-tooth search the whole room again for another 10-20 minutes just searching at a level you’ve never searched before. Now in fairness, I actually do enjoy meta-puzzles where several pieces come together to make an answer, but this was something we’ve never experienced before in the 450+ collective rooms the ERA team has completed. We’d be remiss however if we didn’t mention some people might actually enjoy this level and amount of searching. Children or those new to escape rooms would probably be happy with a full hour of searching and finding little pieces of information as they went along. As you can imagine, we were neither prepared, nor patient enough to handle this amount.
So did we have fun amidst our impatience and inability to work on puzzles with a functional amount of clue pieces? Well… no, sadly not. We can see why the staff testifies to several happy groups coming through and trying this room, but unfortunately we fall into a different context. We believe that different people, of different ages, and different experience levels will experience this room in a more positive light than we did. We also know this room is ideal for larger groups of 8-10 people, or those with kids who like searching, or those who are new to escape rooms. Speaking from the perspective of escape room enthusiasts who are used to doing rooms in group sizes of 4-6 people, and those who look for something more immersive and engaging, we’d have to recommend trying a different room. The staff are wonderful, the room quality is great, the waiting area has a nice ‘zen’ feeling to it, but on this particular room, we’d suggest only certain people give it a try…
We want to hear your thoughts! Be sure to comment in the section below or send us a message via ERA’s email, Facebook, or Twitter… As always, happy escaping!