Zombie Apocalypse

4.5 Overall
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Zombie Apocalypse

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You’re wandering through your favourite mall with some friends, and there you see a store sign that curiously reads: Escape The Mystery Room. “A mystery escape room, what’s that?” you ask the others with you. One of your companions exclaims, “Oh I’ve heard of those! A bunch of people at my work went to one and LOVED it! Should we go check it out?” Scenarios like this are common for those attending Escape The Mystery Room which has locations in malls scattered across the USA. We were invited to visit their Destiny USA Mall location in Syracuse, NY which was the first time outside of 5-Wits our review team visited an escape room franchise inside a mall. Naturally, we were excited to see what people were experiencing…

The pre-room experience was a bit rough, to start. There was only one staff member available at the front desk when we first arrived which created a long wait in line just to talk to her. With eight rooms to prep and a large mall full of interested customers coming in to ask questions or arrive for their booking, it was frustrating to watch how overloaded she was. We noticed a few annoyed faces from those in line (presumably from those who entered their scheduled rooms late due to the lineup). Having said that, she was incredibly gracious and friendly given the stressful situation she was in, and we were given an interesting laminated menu of rooms available with approximate difficulty ratings. Once we were checked into The Zombie Apocalypse room, we noticed there wasn’t a pre-room video, story, or interactive component. Just a quick synopsis from the rushed staff member who wanted to get back to the front desk asap…

The room quality was also not quite what we’re used to seeing. We previously noticed on the rooms menu a note that mentioned Escape The Mystery Room tries to offer new rooms every few months. This gave us advanced notice their rooms are designed as pop-ups for easy assembly and take down once a new scenario is ready to take its place. Many enthusiasts might label this as bad room design from the start, but we chose to see it as merely their company strategy in having repeat customers who come back for new scenarios. Most enthusiasts will immediately take note of what you’d see in a standard pop up room: Removable wall decals, low quality props, and a fairly barren room. It also didn’t help that the lack of a proper ceiling and low walls made the room feel like a giant office cubicle.

The room design led to a difficult time feeling immersed. We had to raise our voices to hear each other over the voices and sounds of people in the rooms next to us. The pop up room atmosphere also made it a bit hard to feel immersed knowing that we were essentially playing inside an office box with easily removable components. On the plus side, the room did have nice thematic consistency and the puzzles fit into our objectives so it wasn’t all bad… The puzzles were reasonable with nothing horrible nor tremendous to speak of. For the most it was a standard set of puzzles and locks you’d see in most first generation escape room experiences. As an introductory experience we could definitely see some people enjoying the puzzles here…

And most of all was it fun? Being completely honest it wasn’t something we enjoyed, and we probably wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve been to an escape room before. The puzzles were fine, and the staff were incredibly upbeat and positive given the amount of work they had to do. We found the low walls, pop-up design features, noise levels, and the overall atmosphere never gave us a chance to appreciate Zombie Apocalypse. There is a silver lining here however: Escape The Mystery Room does something that enthusiasts should probably appreciate. It draws large amounts of people to experience the basics of an escape room while they’re in a mall. It was impressive how many people stood in line just to ask what an escape room is, which is great for the industry! So if you’ve never tried an escape room before, or would like to introduce friends and family to escape rooms without making them feel awkward, Escape The Mystery Room is a great starting point.

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!

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