The Submarine

7.9 Overall
Room Quality
Puzzle Design
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The Submarine

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We always like it when people ask “What’s the best part about being on the ERA team?” Seems like a pretty straight forward and common question, so why do we have so much fun answering this one? It’s the reactions we get… “The people we meet!” (this answer sometimes results in people contorting their faces to express shock, as if to say, “That’s absurd! Travelling the continent and reviewing hundreds of rooms HAS to be the right answer!”) And yes although many of our members do enjoy travelling and playing rooms around Canada and the USA, there’s a clear pattern our favourite rooms are almost always linked with the incredible people we get to meet. In short, we’ve discovered a truism that comes with being experienced escape room reviewers: good companies might have good people… but great companies always have great people! We see it demonstrated everywhere… in every city, every county, and in every state or province! When the industry first started 3-4 years ago, a poor attitude, social demeanour, or lack of treating others well was easily compensated by a good room experience… thankfully those days are nearing an end with so many great companies coming into the market. Enter Can U Xcape, and truly one of greatest hidden gems in Pennsylvania!

We’ve visited the folks at Can U Xcape before, so we were excited to return and see how things have progressed for them. Admittedly the town of Bloomsburg is a bit remote, and the location of the company is hard to find if you’re a first time visitor. The building’s exterior appearance and smaller lobby of Can U Xcape is on the weaker side of industry norms, but this is about the worst of what we can say in regards to the pre-room experience. Once inside you’ll be impressed by their friendly staff, a fun introductory video for their new Submarine room, and some uniquely designed furniture. After we were prepped for our first mission as naval recruits we were ready to go!

We entered the bridge of The Submarine, and as predicted, our jaws dropped at the incredible design and quality of the room. The sturdiness and choice of materials used for The Submarine made this as close to real as one could imagine! Grated flooring, metal pipes, appropriate locks, and electronic equipment adorned the main room with obvious intentional design. The only thing keeping this from being an industry changing score was a couple pieces within the room that required a bit of manipulation to work properly. Definitely not a huge concern and we’d almost forgotten about it thanks to the otherwise amazing room quality.

Being drawn into the impressive room design meant our immersive experience started on a positive. We’ve said it before, but one of the best signs of a good immersive experience is when you forget you’re playing a game. In The Submarine we truly kept forgetting this was just an escape room. The lighting, the atmosphere, the sounds, and even the choice of puzzles all reinforced the theme which again was incredible. But the best part we saved for last… the story started outside the room, but it was further developed INSIDE the room! No, this isn’t a joke, we’re being serious! Designers are finally starting to see what we’ve been saying since the industry started… the best immersive experiences happen when a story is discovered as the game progresses. The development of story changes the experience from just being a bunch of thematic puzzles, into an adventure, which is far more enjoyable! The story wasn’t entirely epic or unpredictable, but it was still superior to the alternative of no story development at all. For these reasons, we couldn’t help but score this one as industry changing. Our hope is more and more companies will move in this direction as we continue to stress the difference.

One might think a very above average score for puzzles is a bit of a letdown considering the praise we just gave The Submarine for its immersion, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true the puzzles themselves didn’t wow us as much as the other aspects of the room, but they were still impressive. There was a good amount and selection of puzzles available. One of the things that made it an above average experience is the consistent theming of the puzzles and how seamlessly they fit into the adventure. This alongside the variety of individual, inclusive, and yes even team building puzzles was a treat. Again a couple minor glitches kept this score from being a bit higher, but it’s funny how insignificant a glitch can matter when so many other details were working in its favour.

So did The Submarine live up the high standards we’ve come to associate with Can U Xcape? You bet it did! The atmosphere, the set design, the immersion, the variety and inclusive nature of the puzzles… all of this added up to one amazing experience! This room is well suited for new and experienced players but given the nature of the puzzles we’d recommend having both on your team. Kids will also be entertained and it’s sturdy enough, but make sure you have a couple adults in the room to help solve puzzles or explain things. Depending on the level of engagement you desire with the puzzles we’d recommend a group size of 3-6 people.

Were it not for the limitations Can U Xcape faces with its current building size, exterior appearance, and location, they would easily make several people’s top 10 lists for favourite escape room companies! As it is now, they remain one of the hidden gems within the industry and a strong reason to visit Bloomsburg, Pensylvania! Good companies might have good people… but great companies always have great people!

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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