- Played July 2019
- Ann Arbor, MI
- 60 minutes
- What People Say
About 30 minutes West of Detroit in neighbouring Ann Arbor, you’ll find Decode Detroit’s first location, and coincidentally the first stop of our Detroit trip. Minerva’s Return is the third and final part of a story trilogy created by the Decode Detroit team. The first part is also available at their Ann Arbor location, with the second part being a city scavenger hunt (unfortunately we didn’t have the time to try it). It’s fair to say this review is an accurate reflection of how we felt about all three parts of the story, and how they were connected by a super intelligent computer at the centre of it all! Once again we’re getting ahead of ourselves though. Let’s talk about the pre-room experience…
The Decode Detroit sign is a bit hard to read and we missed it on the first drive by, but thankfully if you look a bit closer you’ll soon spot it from the road. Once inside we were greeted by some incredible staff, and a cute LED sign which added an extra touch of ‘’Hey we’re happy to see you guys!’’ We walked down a hallway to the back part of the building where the main lobby was, and for the most part it was pretty much what we’d expect from most escape room lobbies. A good amount of seating, some puzzle to keep us occupied, some posters and information on the walls pertaining to their escape rooms and company….and…what’s this? A huge computer memory bank? That’s gotta be part of the game right? But in the lobby? “Nah, that’s just part of the lab and what we do here” we’re told by the staff. Huh… part of ‘’the lab?’’ Wait, they mean the lab that was introduced in the first Minerva game? Ohhh… we get it now, the atmosphere is being set before the game even begins (like it was for chapter one when the staff member came out in character to introduce the lab experience). Very clever, and a cool prop to boot. And yup, there she was again our faithful scientist friend explaining that we’ve come back to the lab and will once again be helping them solve an issue in a few minutes. She just needs to go and check on something first… And then IT happened… Nope, we’re not going to spoil it for you. But it was one of the BEST Pre-Room introductions we’ve ever had!!! The only nitpicky issues were minor things (the lack of some basic snacks and refreshments, the absence of lockers, and perhaps the under development of getting participants prepped and into character to play along with the experience). Trust us when we say these won’t be a concern however because the pre-room experience, which is usually underdeveloped at most companies, is one of Decode Detroit’s greatest strengths in the industry… and we were off to an incredible start!
To say the room quality level was slightly above average almost sounds like a let-down considering how strong the pre-room experience was….but it certainly wasn’t a let-down! Everything was well constructed, the use of space was impressive, and the materials for props and set design were solid all the way through. A couple design choices in building materials were a bit peculiar at times (e.g. wood instead of metal), but again, this is only noticeable for those who are intent on being overanalytical, and we’d be surprised if it affected how much they enjoy this game.
The immersion and puzzles areas of Minerva’s Return are where we started to see differences in how each of our team member’s preferences leaned. Some of us were blown away by the immersive aspects of the game. We couldn’t stop raving about how the experience picked up from where we left off in the previous game. Not only that, the quality of acting by the staff, the interaction with the characters, the choice of sounds, lighting, and just the overall feeling of constantly being ‘in the moment’ made it so enjoyable. The real star of this experience is the story development however. The Minerva trilogy is compelling , and FINALLY we got to experience a story that was developed IN THE GAME itself (see escape room industry? It’s not as hard as you think…you can do it…and the people will thank you for the experience!) This also created a fun debate within our group… as great as the immersion was, we also enjoyed the puzzles quite a bit. This room is a must for those who love logic, deductive, and pattern recognition puzzles (which some of us do). Although we can’t say there was a particular ‘wow factor’ to any of the puzzles, we do have to add one minor spoiler and point out a design detail that might be missed and unappreciated. When you return back for the final chapter of Minerva’s trilogy, take notice of small changes. It’s the same lab right… or is it? It didn’t make a big impact on the overall game itself, but these changes were incredibly impressive. One of the things that made Decode Detroit one of our newest, favourite companies was how impressive they designed the room for the sake of the customer experience. Only one group is allowed occupy the building at any given time, and for a company to do this shows how truly committed they were to the player experience. We can’t begin to imagine how long it must have taken to incorporate just the minor little things that changed from game to game…but again, this just showed the level of dedication and detail the designers put into making the customer experience a top priority.
So did we have fun? Nope, not at all… kidding, kidding…it was amazing and truly among the better rooms we’ve had the privilege of playing through. Minerva’s Return may not have million dollar production values, nor any particular ‘wow’ factor that stand out, but what this room does have is an incredibly immersive story, solid building quality, and some challenging puzzles that will force your team to work together from time to time. For us, we couldn’t have asked for more. Now would we recommend this room for everyone? In truth, it may overwhelm some newer players, but if your group has a couple puzzle enthusiasts or experienced escape room players, you’ll be fine. It’s also not ideal for kids and teens as some of the puzzles require concentration and patience in thinking things through. Having said that, this game is well suited for most adults, and depending on the level of experience and engagement you want from the room, we’d say a group size of 4-6 people is best. With rooms and experiences like the Minerva trilogy, we can’t wait to see what Decode Detroit has in store for the future!
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