In April 2022, we took a four-day trip to Paris, playing 22 games and taking the total escape rooms I’ve played in the city to over 50. I’ve already posted dedicated articles for the two highlight venues: Deep Inside and Pandore & Associés, so this post aims to summarise the other games we played on the first half of the trip.
Crack the Egg – Chinatown, Professor Tyschen, Shelter and Dark Egg
We played all four of Crack the Egg‘s games on this visit and had fun across all of them. There’s a fun mechanic across the first three that sees an extra puzzle hidden within each room, if you look carefully. Finding and solving all three of those allows you to unlock the eponymous Egg and see what’s inside. It’s a small delta above the normal game, but it adds an extra layer of tension while you’re playing, with you carefully reviewing everything you come across in case it hides an additional clue necessary for the bonus challenge.
Chinatown [3.5 stars]
Chinatown is the oldest of their experiences, and you can see that from the way the game kicks off with a fairly basic set, lots of searching and puzzles that didn’t feel particularly original. As the game progressed, however, it certainly improved, and by the end I felt like it was a solid experience. A reasonably straightforward bonus puzzle adds a nice final touch for experienced players to feel like they’ve achieved a second triumph.
Professor Tyschen [4 stars]
This felt like a real step up from Chinatown in terms of both puzzles and set design. While the set isn’t amazing, it’s varied and there’s enough to keep you engaged. I particularly enjoyed the journey the game takes you on, which delivered a better sense of exploration than their first game. The thing that most stands out, though, are the pair of final puzzles to finish off the game and complete the bonus. They feel like a good way of bringing the game to a close and, again, add a final challenge for the more experienced players to get just a touch more out of the game.
Shelter [4.5 stars]
This game stood out as the most different of all the experiences. While I don’t think it’s perfect, there’s certainly plenty to talk about in it. First of all, they’ve created a secondary mechanic within the experience that helps deal with additional players – one of your team will regularly get dragged into an orthogonal challenge which fits thematically, even if it does make parts of the experience feel a little computer game-like. The rest of the experience was pretty solid, but where the game really stood out was in the finale. There’s a multi-stage challenge that fits with the higher-tech futuristic theming. It gives a real sense of mission to the game – we could see the challenge laid out in front of us and slowly pieced together the steps we needed to complete to reach our objective. The bonus puzzle here felt the hardest across the three. That worked well for us when one of our team had a stroke of genius, but I worry that others will find this a frustrating finish – I can well imagine spending ten or twenty minutes utterly lost and then leaving with a sense of failure.
The Dark Egg [4 stars]
The Dark Egg was different again, although it didn’t stand out as much. It’s a high-tech but very compact game with a pretty set and an impressive centrepiece for the end game. Something about this experience didn’t quite gel for us. The English version was still settling down, which probably didn’t help, but I think the problem was a lack of sense of progress. The game felt to me like I was stuck a lot of the time, with one big leap forward halfway through. This may have been compounded by a hard final puzzle that required us to pull together several ideas and in which we kept realising we weren’t quite seeing the full picture. That said, there was still plenty of fun to be had, and the ending does stand out as the most impressive of the four games.
Phobia – Alice [4 stars]
Alice in Wonderland provides a host of useful material when it comes to creating escape rooms – whether it’s the fun with Alice shrinking/growing, the presence of cards and chess or playing on some of the cartoon imagery from the Disney film. Phobia have taken advantage of that material to create a game that I found silly and fun in equal measure. The game got off to a fantastic start with a GM who gave an over-the-top introduction before throwing us into the room. It’s worth mentioning at this point that it’s a split start and at least one of the parts requires a little more mobility than a typical room – although for me that added to the fun. There are definite downsides – it’s a bit cramped at times (we played as a three – I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to play as a five), a couple of puzzles have been removed but their clues remain, and some of the electronics wizardry let us down, although our GM managed to smooth us past any significant issues to ensure nothing got frustrating.
The Game – Metro, Cinema and Far West
With 19 rooms and 11 distinct designs, The Game is by far the biggest venue in Paris, but it’s also one of the best. Not all the games are first rate, but their most recent offerings are all high quality, and their professionalism shines through: great customer service and well maintained sets. All three of the games we played this time are worth a visit.
Metro [4.5 stars]
One of the most famous escape rooms in Paris, Metro seems to be a perennial nominee for the TERPECAs, which is a great sign of the quality to come. The set is fantastic, there are some good puzzles and I like the story along the way. If I’d played this when it opened (four years ago?), I think I would have been blown away, but I’ve played enough train/plane games that some of the uniqueness that put it on a pedestal at the time isn’t there for me anymore. Instead, I notice some of the downsides of that environment – frustrating searching and puzzles that have to be really shoehorned into the experience. If you’ve not played this kind of game elsewhere, then I definitely think it’s worth a visit but, for me, it wasn’t my favourite of their experiences.
Cinema [4.5 stars]
This game has an impressively good set-up, almost convincing you that you’re in a real cinema about to watch a real film. Lots of parts of this game stand out, and I really feel that I should have been more impressed, but for me the game just wasn’t as good as the sum of its parts. I can’t say for certain why that was, but a couple of things stood out. While there was an underlying narrative, I didn’t really feel the game world hung together. I was just moving from space to space, trying desperately to solve what was in front of me. I never felt those puzzles really connected to the game as I’d have liked. Secondly, they didn’t make as much as they could have done of a couple of key moments in the game, to the point where it was possible to almost gloss over them. Make no mistake, though: this is still a high quality game with plenty going for it.
Far West [5 stars]
There was so much to love about Far West that it’s hard for me not to sound like an advert. First off, I’m a fan of Western themes. While that may be partly a personal thing, the truth is that they’re easier to create than many experiences, with wooden structures and plenty of imagery that we can all instantly recognise. They’d absolutely taken advantage of that here to create a space that was a joy to explore. Next up, they’d created a big space with natural transitions across the experience that meant you really felt like you’d been on a journey through the game, and clever use of that space meant that it felt even bigger. While there aren’t any actors in the room, some clever interactions give you the feeling that you have agency in the experience and, in fact, you do. This game has multiple endings that allow teams to challenge themselves to the max or take the easy way out if they’re short of time. Of course, the best games in the world can be ruined if the puzzles aren’t solid, but that wasn’t an issue here: plenty of fun, logical puzzles with searches that felt fair. One of my favourite games at this venue.
Panik Room – The Deveaux Family [not really an escape room]
I’m not quite sure how to describe the Deveaux Family. For me, this experience from Panik Room is definitely not an escape room. It’s a search quest, undertaken player by player with a Knightmare-like interface where the person exploring can’t see and is instead guided by their team mates who are watching via a headcam. It’s a fun experience that will undoubtedly make those of a nervous disposition scared but is unlikely to have much of an effect on the seasoned horror game player. The experience is good fun, but there’s no sense of challenge here: enter room, retrieve object, return. Change players. Repeat. If you’re into immersion and like things that are a little scary, then it’s probably worth a play, but go in with your eyes open. Metaphorically, at least.
Majestic Escape – Titanic and Oggy
Titanic [4 stars]
Titanic from Majestic Escape is a strange game in that it delivers hugely in some aspects then feels like it hasn’t tried very hard on others. The game kicks off by splitting you into two groups. That’s all fine except that, rather than focusing on cooperation and communication, there’s a heavy search element at the beginning with some cruel hiding places that I would guess means most teams need at least one hint. The result was that, by the time we were reunited, we were a little frustrated with what was happening. That’s a shame, because the next phase of the game was pretty stunning and, rather than restoring our joy, should have been filling us with glee. From there on, it’s a fairly standard experience but, while the puzzles are fine, they are few in number, so you may feel a little shortchanged.
OGGY prisonnier du temps [4 stars]
For those who aren’t already in the know, Oggy is a children’s TV programme in France about cockroaches. We’d not seen the show but, as far as I can tell, that wasn’t critical to enjoying the experience. The nature of the story allowed them to throw together a mixture of environments without too much worry about how to bring them back together – you’re jumping through time, which brings the fun of never knowing what you’ll encounter next.
The answer was pretty environments and fun puzzles. They start things off reasonably easily and then ramp it up as the game progresses. We played the adult version, which has tougher puzzles, but on a couple of occasions I wondered if we’d made the wrong decision. At least once, and possibly both times, it was probably down to language. That did introduce a bit of frustration: when you’re following fairly detailed instructions in French, subtleties of language matter. The GM tried to help, but I think they eventually just bypassed the problematic section of the puzzle. That probably took the edge off what would otherwise probably have been a very fun experience.
The One Escape – Chemical Hallucinations [3.5 stars]
Some games aim high but fail to deliver and, unfortunately, The One Escape‘s Chemical Hallucinations was that for us. This game is visually stunning, with scene upon scene standing out in my memory. There was probably enough here to create sets for two impressive rooms. I had a great time exploring the space and experiencing some of what they were offering. However, two things let the game down for our group. Firstly, some of the English translations were hard to understand. On a couple of occasions we got stuck because of language difficulties and the GM didn’t realise, which led to frustration. The real crux of our problems, though, was a feeling that it wasn’t obvious where to proceed and, even when it was, we were left with some ambiguity about what we were meant to do. My lasting impression of this room is of tentatively trying things and being surprised when they were the right answer. There was far less of the confident solves that help to deliver the best flow in my experience.
I’m sad about that because I really think this is close to being an amazing escape room. If they could just iron out some of those wrinkles, I think it has the potential to be a truly stunning experience.
That’s all folks…
If you want to find all my reviews of Parisian games and trips, then they’re tagged with the label Paris. I’m also about to publish a new round-up of where you should go in Paris.