The Houdini Trap
Houdini's Trap Room
- Played July 2019
- Detroit, MI
- 60 minutes
- 2-10 players
- Multiple Rates
- What People Say
Our last day in Detroit started off with a visit to the northern suburb of Ferndale, and home of Fifth Wall Escapes. We were particularly excited to visit the Fifth Wall team as it was recommended by two separate groups of enthusiasts who had previously visited Detroit and enjoyed their rooms. Would Fifth Wall live up to the hype and provide a magical experience in The Houdini Trap Room? To quote the Amazing Mumford himself: “A La Peanut Butter Sandwhiches!”
Fifth Wall’s location was easy find thanks to their visible sign and the fact they reside in a stand-alone building at the side of the road. Although it’s a fairly small building there were enough designated parking spaces for about 4-5 cars which suits their current capacity well. Once we entered, we were warmly greeted by staff with big smiles on their faces. The lobby was decorated in an assortment of themed apparel and knick-knacks, and even though it was quite small, it was visually interesting. Because they have 2 rooms in operation, there were some moments of tight fits and we had to be extra careful not to immediately talk about our experience once we exited the room due to our close proximity to the next group waiting. The introductory video was a bit on the long side, but had an educational and historical aspect most of us enjoyed. Because the game rules were explained to us repeatedly in different fashions (verbally, through the intro video, then again in an audio file at the beginning of the game). The Houdini Trap Room now holds the record for longest escape room intro we’ve experienced….we assumed this was because several previous groups didn’t respect the game rules leading to damage that had to be repaired. Amidst the things that weren’t ideal for escape room lobbies (amount of space, an area for refreshments, the need for proper lockers and some interactive games…etc), we still felt it was a good use of the space available, and even little things like having business cards with puzzles on them made for a unique twist. A decent start…and now to the room! ‘’Hocus Pokus!”
The room quality of Houdini’s Trap Room is where this game really shines. Without a doubt the strongest feature of The Houdini Trap Room comes from the amount of detailed, eclectic, and authentic building choices made. Sturdy metal, wood, and other design features are omnipresent, and nothing seemed overly worn nor out of place. We can see why it came highly recommended by those who like their escape rooms visually appealing. There was one small section of the room where we felt a bit more work could’ve been done, but it was greatly overshadowed by the amount of visually impressive features.
The immersion was hit-and-miss for us. Some of us felt really engaged and energized throughout the experience, whereas others felt disconnected, left out, and/or confused. This aspect of the room generated a lot of debate amongst us, so we made sure to identify why that was. First, the audio. At varying points in time audio files were played and depending on each person’s location within the room, or their ability to clearly hear through accents, or the recording clarity of the audio tracks, some of us struggled with what was being said. This in turn created a disconnect from the story development. Second, the puzzles. The Houdini Trap Room did one thing very well (which made us all happy)…they partially developed their story IN the room! Seriously? Yep, no joking! This is one of the few escape rooms within the industry that understands the importance of story development! The only downside in this case was the story was often attached directly to puzzles requiring only one person to interact with it. Consequently this left the rest of the team out of the story loop and feeling disconnected from what was going on around them. When combined together, it came down to the audio and the puzzles that ultimately determined how connected each person felt to the game. Here’s the good news…BOTH of these issues can be resolved if you approach this room with proactively sharing ALL story elements with your teammates. If you read something or hear something, make sure you gather together to share ALL information, so that nobody gets left behind in the story. This might require approaching The Houdini Trap Room a bit differently than you would other escape rooms because you’ll need to pause the game from time to time and collectively share what you each know in order to get each other caught up, but it’s well worth it. Differences aside, we all enjoyed how the set design and atmosphere added to the odd and eclectic bits of factual information we gained about Houdini’s life through this game. It’s always good to see regional escape rooms integrating historical folklore and facts together into a fun learning experience.
The puzzles are another interesting conundrum. When considered as a whole, we felt the puzzle flow was a bit awkward at times and didn’t have a lot of inclusivity nor teambuilding. What’s funny is that on an individual puzzle to puzzle basis, we enjoyed them quite a bit. Kudos goes to the Fifth Wall team for having minimal combination locks where you simply find or decipher a code through conventional means. Although this next comment is more of a design issue than puzzle issue, we need to give a special shout out for the game timer used in this room! It’s a simplified Rube Goldberg device (how cool is that?!), but as simple as it was, we couldn’t help but stop every now and then just to watch it in action! There weren’t a lot of puzzles throughout the game, but each one required a fair amount of concentration and puzzle solving skills. The one downside we experienced with the puzzles was that even with only four people on our team, there were several times when 1 or 2 had nothing to do. For this reason a smaller group is better suited for this room, just make sure you’ve got some skilled puzzle solvers along with you).
And last but not least…fun factor! Did we have fun? Yes…well, mostly yes. In the end we really did come away with four very different experiences within the room. One person really enjoyed the room. They enjoyed the set design, the story development, the clever and unique puzzles, and the eclectic blending of reality with fantasy. One person was on the opposite side and felt disconnected, frustrated, and confused for the most part. The remaining two experienced some pros and cons (although not the same as each other), and therefore ended up somewhere in the middle. It rarely happens, but our team was about as divided as you’ll ever see based on individual experiences within the room. What can we conclude then? Well we all agree the set design is amazing! We also agreed the things which divided us can be solved by a team proactively making sure nobody gets left behind in the story & immersive aspects of the game. And we thirdly agreed the staff at Fifth Wall were great. They’re passionate and care about providing a whole experience rather than just a room to play which is nice. In the end, it’s probably fair to say this room is best suited for smaller groups (3-6 players) who have some puzzle solving experience, and those who would like to learn more about the tragic story of Harry Houdini and his final performance in good ol’ Detroit. With a bit more time and practice, we know we’re going to be hearing even greater things about Fifth Wall Escapes thanks to their set design and story development abilities.
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