• Immersive Experiences

    NYCC: Westworld Immsersive Experience Review

    Experience: Westworld: Live Without Limits
    Location: Manhattan, NY
    Date Played: October, 2017
    Team Size: 4
    Duration: 30 minutes
    Price: Free with NYCC badge

     

    Much like the television show that it is based on, Westworld: Live Without Limits built an experience to fully immerse attendees into a new world. This Comic Con pop-up was a special treat for fans of the show and nothing like anything we’d experienced to date.

    Dating back to the program’s inception, HBO has strived towards creating unforgettable Comic Con experiences. In 2016, the company installed a booth in E-Hall with representatives from the Delos Corporation who would register guests for appointments at an off-site location. The experience consisted of a virtual reality trip to Westworld. Although brief, this 10-15 minute VR experience showed what it was like to get acclimated to this dystopian escape. The experience left me with a real sense of exploration and immersion into one of my favorite up and coming television shows. Little did I know, that feeling would be nothing compared to what was in store the following year.

    westworld-4Given the spike in popularity the show had experienced over the previous twelve months, our group knew that this would be the hottest pop-up to take place over the course of the weekend. Each morning at 7 AM, the Westworld Twitter account would release an animated map of the area surrounding the Javits Center hinting as to where to line-up to gain access to the experience. At 6:45 AM on that Friday morning, our group turned Twitter notifications on and anxiously awaited the clue release. As soon as our phones rang, sheer panic set in as we attempted to determine which street corner to sprint to. We had a little help from Reddit threads and were given a good indication that we were headed in the correct direction based on a group of badgeholders briskly making their way north on 11th Avenue. We eventually found our way to the correct location at the corner of 42nd St and 11th Ave.

    Thinking we had beat the rush of attendees, our hearts sank when we saw the droves of fans already waiting on line at 7:15 AM. Our group nervously got on line and began the long wait. As 9 AM approached, the HBO staff began to survey the line, which at that point, had wrapped around the block. Eventually they handed out placemarkers which read “Last Spot for Guaranteed Entry” & “Last Stand-by.” Even with our early arrival, we ended up about 15 spots shy of the “Last Stand-by” marker.

    As the Delos Corporation “hosts” began to check people in, we slowly crept closer to the elusive white tent. The clock struck 10 AM and we had finally made our way to the front of the line. Luckily we were able to still make stand-by appointments for later that afternoon and were handed reminder cards with the time and address.

    Westworld Experience: 

    After a video briefing us on what was to come, each guest was individually called into the back by a “host.” Once seated, I was interviewed by a woman dressed in all black. Questions ranged from the obvious to the bizarre.

    “Do you consider yourself to be a good person?”

    “If there was a button you could press that would end world suffering but it would eliminate half the population, would you press it?”

    From there, each guest of Westworld was fitted for their hat. This wasn’t any ordinary cowboy hat, but rather it was a symbol of character within the world we were just about to experience.

    Westworld-3At that point, we were regrouped and brought to an elevator. Stepping off of the elevator, we found ourselves in the Westworld saloon. Dimly lit, we were greeted by several barkeeps & ladies of the establishment. They provided us with several cocktails as we were each asked about what we wanted out of Westworld. Guests’ hat color influenced the way in which they were treated which leaned into the immersion of the whole experience. Wearing a white hat myself, each “host” approached me in a compassionate & friendly manner, compared to the man next to me in the black hat who the same hosts were cold and distant to.

    After several questions & several drinks, one of the female hosts led us to the self-playing piano. Our eyes were all drawn to the music sheet feeding into the piano when suddenly, blood began to smear across them. As soon as we were able to register what was happening, sirens began to engulf the saloon. What was a once a candle lit bar, was pierced with flashing red lights. Disoriented and confused, we quickly turned around to find the “hosts” frozen in their tracks. Panic set in when a different elevator than the one we had used opened across the room. At this point, a two man team of Delos security guards rushed into the room, grabbed us, and pulled us into the second elevator. These men assured us that the threat to our lives had been avoided and we were free to leave.

    Verdict:

    Looking back on my short trip to Westworld, I’m still astonished at what HBO was able to create. While gaining access to this experience was one of the most agonizing mornings I’ve had – the long wait times, early wake-ups, and anticipation as to whether or not we’d gain entry – they were absolutely worth the ordeal. The level of immersion from the moment you get to interact with the appointment hosts all the way through to the grand finale was second to none. Fans will love the process in which you are classified as a white or a black hat, just like in the show. Even if you are unfamiliar with the show’s premise, getting thrown into an android saloon that goes haywire is an experience one will likely never forget.

    Promotional immersive experiences can be hit or miss. If done correctly, they can convert new fans and turn existing fans into die-hards. This Westworld experience was the talk of the convention and those lucky enough to get in received an experience they’ll revere until the next Westworld New York Comic Con showing.

  • Escape Rooms,  New Jersey Escape Rooms

    Amazing Escape Room Freehold ‘Time Paradox’ Review

    Game: Time Paradox
    Location: Freehold, NJ
    Date Played: July, 2017
    Team Size: 1 – 10 players.
    Duration: 60 minutes
    Price: $28 per ticket
     
    Story
    After stumbling across a time machine, you must work through the many contraptions the professor left in his study in order to make it back to the present.  
     
    Puzzles
    The game had a good variety of clever and unique puzzles. Some were challenging and engaging but not impossible. A specific riddle puzzle was a welcome change of pace. Other puzzles had interesting twists to them that varied from the norm.  
     
    Highlights
    The strong aspect of the game is the nature of the puzzles. The room requires you to think outside of the box more than usual and interact cleverly with your surroundings. Additionally, there was also a very creative use of props towards the end of the game that we particularly enjoyed.  
     
    Shortcomings
    While the puzzles were good, they were a bit scattered. They are set up as stations throughout which never really accommodate more than a few people. It was a bit disappointing to have to split up and miss out on some as we were a larger group. For such an epic theme, the set left a bit to be desired. There was definitely room physically and creatively to do something a bit more. 

     

    Towards the end of the game, especially given the disjointed set up, we believed we were stumbling through. The game seemed to end quite abruptly as we were each focused on different stations rather than joining towards one group effort. 
     
    This Room is a Good Match for
    Players who are a bit more advanced and looking for unique puzzles. It is also best for a smaller group so that all players can participate in the puzzles. 
    Book your Time Paradox experience here!
  • Escape Rooms,  Horror Themed,  New York Escape Rooms

    Komnata Quest ‘Suicide Hotel’ Review

    Game: Suicide Hotel
    Company: Komnata Quest 
    Location: Brooklyn, NY
    Date Played: June, 2017
    Team Size: 2 – 6 players.
    Duration: 60 minutes
    Price: $28 per ticket

     

    Story

    Your group arrives as guests at a hotel where you happen to be assigned to a mysterious room with a history of strange happenings. Hopefully your team are able to reveal the secrets of the haunted room and check-out while still alive.

    Puzzles

    Working through the room is more task-focused rather than puzzle-heavy. Using keen observation skills, we were able to quickly move through one puzzle and shaved off a small chunk of time. Another memorable puzzle required an eye for detail. Typical to most Komnata games, this room achieves good continuity between tasks and the storyline.

    A few more technical heavy puzzles towards the end of the game were impressive and executed well. Puzzles were not always completely straight-forward and required a bit of deeper thought to solve.

    Highlights

    The hallway we entered to hear the brief game introduction immediately established a sense of immersion. The set was high quality and delivered us into the world of the haunted hotel without hesitancy. The design of the room itself was also executed well and offered further unique elements outside of the four walls. At times, we needed to get creative and think slightly outside of the box as to how to advance.

    An end-game reveal was a particularly exciting and fun aspect.

    Shortcomings

    Without many puzzles or riddles to work through, we worked through the room fairly quickly. Although the end of the game item was very exhilarating, we were under the impression that an additional room would have come after it.

    While the room was billed as a horror themed room, it lacked some of the real fear that rooms such as Maze of Haikuna or The Impossible Murder Mystery provided.

    This Room is a Good Match for

    Suicide Hotel would be a good room for newer players to navigate as there are not many in-depth puzzles to solve. More experience players will still enjoy the creepy narrative, even if they pass through the room quickly.

     

    Book your Suicide Hotel experience here!

  • Escape Rooms,  Family Friendly,  New Jersey Escape Rooms

    Amazing Escape Room Freehold ‘The Apartment’ Review

     Game: The Apartment
    Location: Freehold, NJ
    Date Played: June, 2017
    Team Size: 2 – 8 players
    Duration: 60 minutes
    Price: $28 per ticket
     
    Story
    Scramble to prepare dinner and find an anniversary gift before your wife returns home.   
     
    Puzzles
    The Apartment was made up of puzzles that were interesting, surprising, and creative. Each one fit the theme and setting of the room while furthering the story. Additionally, there was a good variety of objects to interact with in innovative ways. 

     

    Highlights
    The set was done well from an aesthetic perspective. Puzzles made thematic sense and the room utilized many tech-driven elements that seamlessly responded. Because all elements were clean and functioned perfectly, the room was low stress and low frustration. For the 80s kids, trinkets from that era were spread around the setting adding a nice touch of nostalgia. 
     
    Shortcomings
    As the game went on, the puzzles seemed to get more and more straightforward and unfortunately less challenging. Our group was able to move very quickly through the second half of the game. When we finished this room, we had close to 35 minutes remaining. 

     

    The story has apparently changed since we have played the game but at the time, the plot line was very lacking or even nonexistent. Furthermore, we would have been entirely unaware of the goal or even the setting of the game if we had not read it online.  
     
    This Room is a Good Match for
    Players who are just beginning and looking to get their feet wet. It is a family-friendly room that would be fun for more varied groups of less-experienced players. Finally, some players with 80s nostalgia would also get a kick out of this room. 
    Book your Apartment adventure here!