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Crossroads Escape Games – The Hex Room Reviewed by Escape Authority – Reviewed by Mike

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW

Everything you thought you knew about escape review websites is wrong.

For a newcomer on the block, Escape Authority is growing at a rapid pace. First of all, gone is the simplistic WordPress template of yesterday; this site was created by a professional. It maintains a consistent design language throughout, and even includes hover animations on many icons.

animated-locksThe menu: full immersion

Not only is there the review blog, but also a well-populated forum and some invaluable articles (with more just begging to be written). But herein lies Escape Authority’s first misstep: An article entitled ‘Our Rating System’. Riddle me this: Do you know what the graphic below means?
2016-05-30 10_03_39-Keys to Greatness_ Our Rating System - Escape Authority
Of course you don’t! And guess what? This keys-in-keyholes image is found in every single one of Escape Authority’s reviews, and much to the reader’s chagrin, it represents the most crucial part of the review: the rating. Most readers (myself included) do not appreciate when outside knowledge is required to progress. I actually had to leave the review page to find the explanatory article, which was in a totally different section of the site. Based on that article, I’ve mocked up what I believe to be a much more succinct graphic, which should appear within every review:

legend still

You may be thinking, “Why such low scores for the visual pleasantness of icons?” After finally understanding what these icons represented after digging around the site, I too could appreciate their high production value and acknowledge that they’re very well-themed, but Escape Authority really didn’t bring the icons up to the level they needed to be. Do the keys turn? If not, why? Are they jammed? Are the correct keys in the correct locks? They all look exactly the same, so it’s hard to tell! It takes the reader out of the review and they are forced to compensate for the writer’s laziness by having to imagine how the keys should function. Again, I’ve mocked up what I believe to be a more intuitive graphic:

animated-gif

 

Now I’ve been hard on Escape Authority so far, but it’s not all bad. The actual review content is where the talent shines through.

2016-05-30 09_23_44-Review_ The Hex Room - Escape Authority
Hold the phone… we’ll get to the review, but not before one last hurdle. Yes, the review graphic uses the glossy (albeit confusing and static) icons from earlier, but what’s this? A 6th key-in-keyhole drawn on ruled paper and taped on with Scotch tape? Major deduction for production value here, but I’m also left wondering: where does it end? Will I come across a 7th key drawn with a Sharpie onto white duct tape?

Onto the review. Escape Authority certainly impresses me with the intro hook:

“Take everything you thought you knew about escape rooms and smash it to pieces.”

I’ll tell you honestly; I thought I knew a lot about escape rooms, but this sentence violently challenged what I thought I knew about myself and forced me to read on.

And reading on was quite easy because of the font choice. Remember Microsoft Word pre-2007? It used Times New Roman for a reason. It’s a serif font, and serifs really help the reader stay on track from one line to the next. Although this isn’t Times New Roman, the nostalgia still kicked in, and I was instantly transported back to a time when font readability took precedence over the modern aesthetic. Additionally, Escape Authority has chosen an aged, yellow colour, which adds to the suggestion that he’s channeling times past. Although one could look at the sci-fi futuristic headings and think they’re not in line with the theme, think again! Every typographic choice here paints a picture of something so large in scope and time that I can feel my body molecules vibrating with confused excitement.

The writing style gets 4 solid Bookeo logos. There’s a great mix of words and sentences and I knew exactly what they meant.

The review covers just about everything I could want to know about this escape room, without spoiling a thing. I was so ready for a strong finish, until I noticed a problem. The reviewer describes the players’ roles, and finishes off by mentioning that, “The Detective acts as the intermediary, while also solving his own puzzles.” That’s right. Can you spot it? It’s 2016, people, and yet somehow the Detective solves HIS puzzles. The anti-feminist and probably hetero-normative stance taken here frankly shocks and appalls me, so much so that I may not be reading any more of Escape Authority’s reviews.

 

Thanks, and happy escape review reading!

 

Escape Authority can be found here:
http://escapeauthority.com/

 

 

OMEscape Canada – The Kingdom of Cats Reviewed by Room Escape Artist – Reviewed by Mike

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW

What this review lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in heart. Room Escape Artist has been at this a while and it shows. There are not only a plethora of reviews on the site, but also many how-to guides written for players, designers and owners alike. But here’s the first problem. No logo? He (or she, as we’ll discuss later) calls themselves an artist but can’t even draw a simple logo?

The Kingdom of Cats [Review] – Room Escape Artist screenshot
And here’s where it gets worse. NO REVIEW GRAPHIC. What I believe I’m looking at is plain text, with no indication of what the score might be through the use of lock/key/star icons. What good is a review that can’t tell me a score? Not off to a great start..

Lucky for Room Escape artist, I was immediately sucked in by the intro hook, which both took me by surprise and delighted me. I had no idea what to expect because the smorgasbord of ideas crammed into that tiny sentence is so disparate; I needed to read on immediately.

[EDIT: Upon taking a look at some of Room Escape Artist’s other reviews, it seems like this trick is being recycled. Let’s take a quick look at a few other hook sentences:

“Where the doors are your greatest nemesis.” (From the Escape from the 6 – Firefighter Rescue review, May 25, 2016)
“It’s a blur.” (From the Ninja Escape – Black Lace review, May 17, 2016)

As you can see, Room Escape Artist utilizes this form of trickery repeatedly.]

Not too much to say about the font here; the reviews use Open Sans, which is basically the cheddar cheese of fonts. However, the leading is excellent (although probably a design choice by the template designer rather than Room Escape Artist).

The writing style employed is very short and to the point, but don’t confuse that for concise! As a reader, I was left wanting more. Unfortunately this wasn’t always Room Escape Artist’s mandate. The word count here is 381. Compare that to a review of “Casa Loma – Escape from the Tower” from just 6 days prior, which came in at a juicy 622 words.

Despite its brevity, I came away from the review knowing exactly what to expect of the game. This is a very refreshing change from those meandering, non-linear reviews written by people I won’t name here. Sometimes, a simple review can be just as entertaining as a complex one! Additionally, I was feeling all the warm fuzzies that Room Escape Artist purports to have felt, so definite bonus points for that. An effective tool Room Escape Artist uses is peppering in relevant images such as this one [REVIEW SPOILERS BELOW]:

foolish-cat-wallpaper.jpg

The image definitely helped the review stay on track… but perhaps to a fault. Here’s where Room Escape Artist falters. He/she starts talking about cats, and how they want everything to be about cats, which raises the question, do they want to play an escape room or pet a cat?

The review was very unbiased, however there is something I need to address. As a reader of reviews, I need to know who is writing them. This helps provide context to the writing, which in turn, helps me better understand whether or not I would like the game the review is reviewing. This lack of transparency might put me off reading any more of Room Escape Artist’s reviews.

 

Thanks, and happy escape review reading!

 

You can find Room Escape Artist at
https://roomescapeartist.com/

Room Escape Ottawa – Serial Killer Charade Reviewed by Errol – Reviewed by Mike

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW

E4G, or “Escapers 4G” is a group of Chinese-Canadian girls who have a passion for escaping and want to share their experiences with others. Except… sometimes they’re not the ones writing the reviews…

So we’re already off to a bit of a rocky start. This review group comprises 4 girls, and yet the review is written by a man named Errol? Aye aye aye, talk about confusing. Let’s set that aside for a moment and get into the actual review.

review screenshotEscapers 4G has an undeniably appealing website. The flower logo oozes personality, and even better, represents the 4 girls (again… none of whom wrote this review for some reason). They get high scores for the visual pleasantness of their review icons. Others use stars, locks or keys, but I really appreciate the minimalist approach of just dashes to indicate how far up the 0-10 scale the score is. Even more impressive is they’ve mapped those linear scores onto a circle, not unlike the way a speedometer tells you you’re going a faster speed when the needle is further clockwise.

Errol, the gentleman stepping in for the girls on this review (???), tries to hook us with an intro about visiting relatives in Ottawa, which is a big no-no. We already know the facility is in Ottawa, and we want to hear a teaser about the game rather than the nature of the trip, so this is essentially a wasted sentence and doesn’t leave me wanting to read the review!

The font used is Lucida Sans Unicode (often confused with Lucida Grande); a fairly middle-of-the-road choice, but highly readable nonetheless. The size may be a little small for those with even mildly impaired eyesight, so be warned you may have to tap “Ctrl +” on your keyboard a few times.

The writing style is serviceable. I definitely get the gist of what’s going on, but I’d prefer a little more imagery so I could feel more immersed in the review. Maybe a bit of a narrative would help (but please, no more about the family Ottawa trip!). The review comes in at a whopping 3.95 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test. I think readers of reviews of escape rooms might be looking for something a little juicier to whet their literary appetites, but this is certainly up for debate. I’ve met a lot of review readers who actually prefer simpler writing.

Comprehensiveness is where this review loses a lot of points. Unfortunately, I came away from the review knowing next to nothing about the room, as Errol seemed more interested in boasting about this being his 100th room (hard to believe, but he mentions this not once, but TWICE). You’re telling me it’s creepy? Why? You’re telling me the props were good? What were they? More about that and less about how neat it was watching your friends play!

Errol gets high scores for unbiasedness, but not for the reason you might think. He didn’t even have the opportunity to present bias because he was too busy talking about irrelevant stuff!

This is a bit of a departure for Escapers 4G, and maybe not a welcome one. While Errol does show some potential, I look forward to Escapers 4G taking back the reins.

 

Thanks, and happy escape review reading!

 

You can find Escapers4G at
http://www.escapers4g.com