- Played May 2018
- Buffalo, NY
- 30 minutes
- 3-12 players
- $19.99 for 1 game or $29.99 for 3 games
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Readers, please note that we don’t believe this 5-Wits experience is reflective of the standard in Buffalo. Having played many 5-Wits rooms in multiple cities, this was the first time we came across a system failure like this.
ERA has played more than a dozen 5-Wits rooms across 5 cities. We have had many internal debates about how to designate their productions: escape rooms? adventure rooms? live-action entertainment? However, before now, we’ve never had to debate the game system as a whole. If you’re not already familiar, 5-Wits creates fully-automated escape room-like adventures. The rooms are reset-free and there is no dedicated gamemaster following your every move. The benefit is that the adventure is generally seamless and the system adapts to your teams’ abilities and speed. The downside is that problems aren’t quickly remedied and it may be left to the players to find someone to help if something were to go wrong.
Drago’s Castle was our second 5-Wits room of the evening and it started off weakly. The pre-room story for Drago’s Castle is normally a lot of fun, but on this night our staff member was not very enthusiastic and did a poor job of getting the whole team involved. When we entered the room, it was pitch black, yet the pre-recorded narrator began speaking to us about how to perform the first task. Odd. One of our teammates left the room for a couple of minutes to find an employee. The room was promptly reset, the lights came on and the story started over. Phew. But, as it turns out, the computer reset did not fix the bug. We noticed that while the lights were on, some of the other electronic equipment wasn’t working. We followed the narrator’s directions, but some of the puzzle elements didn’t respond to our pushing and pulling. Our teammate left the room a second time and found a different 5-Wits employee who mentioned a system failure that was being fixed.
We assumed the employees were handling the situation because they left us to continue on through the castle. However, in each of the subsequent areas, we ran into similar problems. Part of the overhead lighting system wasn’t working, which made some puzzles difficult to figure out and others impossible to solve without using a cellphone flashlight. Consider our immersion and fun broken.
After the final puzzle, the exit doors opened and our 5-Wits guide asked us how we enjoyed our adventure. Huh? We had left twice to tell them that it was broken. At one point we sat on the set waiting for the system to trigger open the doors to the next room, but no one came to check on us. We completed the very last puzzle only because two people on our team had previously played another Drago’s Castle and remembered the solution. After heading back to the lobby another employee asked us about our fun experience. Uh…
On this evening we could plainly see an inherent flaw with automation and high technology. Without constant oversight, players can run into trouble without the knowledge of the staff. But, let’s put that in perspective. Like any other form of entertainment, things go wrong. Sometimes they are noticed, sometimes not. Maybe the movie projector gets fixed right away, maybe you sit through half of the movie with the sound misaligned to the picture. Maybe that rollercoaster is out of service the one day your family is at the amusement park. Strip away the frustration of not having a perfect experience and you’re left with how a business handles the inevitable situations that arise.
At the crux of any social experience is customer service and we had mixed emotions about how our situation was handled. One staff member was apologetic about what happened, but most of the employees seemed unaware that there was a major issue with one of their three games nor was there any indication that it was being fixed. We went through The Tomb soon thereafter and we did not notice anything functioning improperly. Afterwards, we saw other guests entering Drago’s Castle so we assumed that all of the problems had been addressed. When we asked another employee if everything was fixed, he seemed surprised by the question.
ERA’s mission is to help owners satisfy their customers and to provide guests with honest reviews without compromise. We’ve been enthusiastic about 5-Wits since we first played in late 2015 and this instance does not sour all of the good experiences we’ve had. We were unhappy with this Drago’s Castle on the day we played, but it was an unlikely representation of what you will experience.