Island Escape

5.2 Overall
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One of the great things about travelling across Canada & the USA to review escape rooms is the people we meet. It’s funny how every now and then we meet owners, room designers, and staff that don’t realize the impact of their character and their actions towards others. It’s rare, but we’ll sometimes meet owners who feel they can be as rude, aggressive and belligerent as they want and it won’t have an impact on the way customers experience their rooms (we know, we know, we’re still scratching our heads on that one). HOWEVER, there are many times we get to meet incredibly kind & wonderful people who not only show a passion for escape rooms, but also for the people they get to interact with. Thankfully this is the type of interaction we’ve always had with the ownership and the staff of Breakout Games across the USA. Does their West Chester location near Cincinnati hold the same reputation? Read on…

To start, you’ll find Breakout’s West Chester location in the Northern suburbs of Cincinnati. It’s a store front location in a very nice plaza conveniently next to a major highway so you can’t miss it. There was ample parking and it’s important to note for out of town visitors like us, Cincinnati’s famous Skyline Chilli restaurant is also in the same plaza (we were told by several people it’s a must try). We walked into a small lobby that could hold about 6-8 people comfortably, so be cautioned if it’s a busy night it might be a bit tight. The 2 young gentlemen behind the desk seemed oddly disinterested and/or untrained at dealing with customers. There was another group just behind us that wanted to make a change to the amount of people they had participating (it sounded like some last minute additions for a birthday gathering of friends). In fairness we know this can be annoying when people try to change reservations at the last minute, but the staff dealing with this customer went from being disinterested to appearing mildly stressed and annoyed. Could it have simply been a rough night for the young man? We assumed it was and moved on… We entered the Island Escape room and instantly felt something wasn’t quite right. This time the other young gentleman who acted as our GM seemed slightly disinterested as he explained the standard safety rules and pressed play on the video introduction.

The room quality also grabbed our attention. We had been told by other Breakout staff at different locations the Island Escape room is unique because it’s not commonly offered across the USA like their other room scenarios. We were happy with a certain level of anticipation, but when we entered we saw a small room, with several 4 and 5 digit locks, a somewhat awkwardly assembled set design, and props that seemed to be a little worn and/or oddly situated. It wasn’t horrible, but it was a noticeable change from the strong room quality level we had come to associate with Breakout. It was also below the average of what you’d expect to see at most escape rooms nowadays. During our game we experienced 3 separate incidents where our GM had to talk to us over the PA system because a prop didn’t work properly or in one instance we opened a puzzle/prop that disrupted the game flow because it had to be opened a specific way that you only discover later on in the game…

Ok room quality issues aside, was it immersive? Our team was divided on this. By the midpoint of the game we had 2 members who were slightly frustrated, 2 members who were remaining optimistic, and one who was feeling both emotions. The story is pretty bare bones (you’re on a resort island and need to evacuate immediately) which is fully revealed in the first 2-min but not further developed throughout. The room quality also impacted our ability to feel immersed in the environment as we could hear teams in other rooms each time they raised their voices, cheered, or screamed . Overall the room quality, the under-developed story, and the sounds from other rooms weighed heavy on our ability to experience the room at its best. Again it wasn’t horrible but it is noticeably different from their other locations and slightly below what you’d expect to experience at most escape rooms.

The puzzles, were fairly in line with the rest of the experience. You’ll find a standard set of puzzles you’d expect to see with no real surprises, but to their credit most of the puzzles were in theme of the room which was nice. Where this score falls a bit is the lock-fatigue effect from too many locks, and as mentioned already several items didn’t function properly and/or needed slight modification. It would’ve also been nice to experience some team building puzzles in the room given the theme. All in all, the puzzles were close to what you’d commonly see in an escape room across North America, but with a lot more locks and a couple malfunctioning items, so it’s slightly under avg…

And finally was it fun? Well… First time players will probably enjoy it. The room fits the description of a great introductory room. The puzzles aren’t overly complicated, the set design doesn’t need to be movie level quality, you won’t get bogged down by the story, and you can choose to work together or alone on the puzzles… Having said that, if you’ve done a handful of escape rooms already and you want a certain level of room quality, immersion, and puzzle quality, Island Escape might not be for you. The West Chester location of Breakout was a bit of a surprise to us, but after sharing our observations with the location management and ownership of Breakout we’re confident our concerns regarding customer service, room quality, and consistency between locations will be addressed.

More than ever, 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!

Final Verdict:

5.2/10

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