The Oval Office
The Oval Office
- Played August 2017
- Cincinnati, OH
- 60 minutes
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- What People Say
Head North of downtown Cincinnati and you’ll find Houdini’s Room Escape in a quiet neighbourhood located slightly in back of a roadside plaza. It’s a bit hard to see from the road so keep your eyes open. What you will see when you pull up to the building might surprise some enthusiasts. It looks like a fairly modern home-style dental or medical office. Surely this couldn’t be Houdini’s…could it? How could escape rooms fit inside a building with a medical office exterior? Fear not. Once inside you’ll find a typical escape room company complete with a lobby full of customers waiting, staff in discussion with their patrons, and some merchandise for purchase. The lobby is a bit of a tight fit if several groups are waiting, and there’s an absence of snacks, refreshments and entertainment. It was however clean and well presented, but for the most part, you could tell the lobby wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the customer experience. Our game master was adorable and played the role of a tour guide in a fashion that was believable for her age and presentation style (slightly nervous summer job student looking to impress us as ”tourists”).
What about The Oval Office itself then? Let’s see shall we…
We walk into the room, and we instantly wanted to look back into the hallway to make sure we were still in the same location. Did we just walk through a teleporter and into the real oval office? What just happened?! If inanimate objects could talk they’d definitely be sharing their identity crisis because if this isn’t the real oval office then we don’t know what it is! Not only will you find copied items from the real oval office (or would have found with previous presidents), not only is this room built to scale using the same building plans as the original, and not only were there custom built walls, doors, carpets and furniture to match the real McCoy….it’s so impressive that several tv & movie insiders haven’t seen a better built copy! It’s THAT incredible! With over 600+ escape rooms completed by the ERA team across North America, we’ve seen a good number of visually stunning rooms, but this might very well be the most detailed room we’ve ever seen with our own eyes! Wow! No, this deserves a double wow… WOW!!!
As you can imagine the immersion of the room carries over from the impressive room quality. Is it a perfectly immersive experience? Well no, but it was pretty impressive none the less. One thing that stood out was the clue system. Public broadcast messages would be shown on a monitor in a corner of the room where you’d expect the president to be watching for information with his chief of staff and various department leaders. Both believable and fun! If there was a lack of anything it was perhaps some ambient music or things to increase the level of tension and intrigue as you move through the story. The story itself was good, but as is most often the case with rooms that customize to larger groups, each individual only gains small bits of the overall story making it a bit less engaging and more puzzle driven.
Ok let’s take a step from this review for a moment and look at a basic problem room designers commonly face as it relates to puzzles. Having a room designed for more people is good for business because you increase revenue. However you also don’t want to prohibit smaller groups from playing a room because you’ll also be turning away customers… What’s the solution to this problem, instead of just saying on your website ”This room plays 3-10 people”” (knowing full well the experience would be poor if you had that few or that many players)? We’ve been asked many times how to deal with this, and we FINALLY found a company who thinks along the same lines we do –> customize your puzzle paths!!! Do you have a group of 12 people? No problem, 3 puzzle paths can be activated and/or placed into the room! You only have 3 people? No worries just one puzzle path then! The best part is each puzzle path can (and in this case does) leave enough freedom for open exploration and discovery so you’re not bottlenecked until the very end. Houdini’s once again shows some clever player-centric thinking! Now as for the puzzles themselves? It was a fairly standard mix of puzzles that could be solved by 1-3 people at a time, and nothing too difficult or easy that would annoy experienced or inexperienced players. Ideally we would have liked to see more team building puzzles put into the oval office (puzzles that physically require more than 1 or 2 people solving it) but this is a common critique we give for 90% of all the rooms we do… Overall very impressive puzzles!
And finally the most important question, was it fun? Yes of course! Our team was paired with a group of 7 people who were mostly first time players, but they played like pros. They experienced all the fun, laughs, struggles, and moments of awe that any seasoned player would have experienced! Is it for all ages? Yes! We had an 11yr in the room with us and even she loved the experience because there was enough searching, gathering, and ways to be helpful that not only kept her occupied, it also kept her alert and eventually she solved a puzzle none of the adults could! So yes, this is a room we’d recommend for all people, all ages, all experience levels and rare as this is even ALL group sizes from 3 to 10 players! We can’t wait to see what new things come out of Houdini’s Room Escapes in Cincinnati and highly recommend you go check them out!
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!