The Escape Artist

Room review: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault Heroes

Their description: 23 years ago, several groups of intrepid explorers entered the depths of the Vault… and were never heard from again. The authorities sealed off the entire area, and it seemed that the mysteries of the Baron’s castle would remain hidden forever. However, the discovery of a scroll with the Baron’s insignia describing a treasure of unimaginable value has sparked your team to make one final desperate venture into the Vault…


When it first opened, The Forsaken Vault was notable for being three escape rooms in one: Chapters 1, 2 and 3 took place in subsets of the same multi-chambered space. Now, the three separate chapters have been retired and the vault has become one large escape room instead. Billed as TEA’s hardest room, The Forsaken Vault Heroes has a longer-than-usual 75-minute time limit — which may still seem to fly by as you grapple with the multi-layered puzzles.

The decor is largely unchanged from the vault’s early days, and some of the room’s secrets and tricks may be familiar to players who’ve played earlier chapters. In that sense, the room might be most enjoyable for those who are visiting — and thus discovering it — for the first time.

Still, for returning players, it’s interesting to see how the decor and spaces have been repurposed. Most importantly, the puzzles are all completely new.

The puzzles are as logical as we’ve come to expect from TEA, but also more complex than before, making this a good room for puzzle enthusiasts. Highlights include a multi-layered puzzle which makes fun use of one of the room’s few physical changes, and a satisfying finale.

A reliance on flavourtext means that the room’s narrative serves mainly as a source of clues rather than immersion. But this isn’t a room that you should play for immersion, anyway (though it does make an effort on that front).

If you find the puzzles in other escape rooms too easy, then The Forsaken Vault Heroes is RECOMMENDED as a rare room that’s challenging for largely the right reasons. Beginners will probably find it too hard.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 10
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5. Players are split into two groups at the beginning.

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Room review: The Escape Artist: Last Light

Their description: The PowerAID Plant was launched to much fanfare – it was supposed to be the answer to a renewable power source and for a moment, it was. However, within a month of initiating operations, it mysteriously shut down.

Speculation was rife – was it closed due to safety issues? Sabotage? Or was there something supernatural?

With the authorities suspiciously quiet and all activity in the city grinding to a halt, it is up to you, the heroes, to investigate the power plant and restore life into the ghost town.


Last Light is meant to be the most difficult of The Escape Artist’s rooms. It earns that rating while staying fairly logical, though some puzzles may seem opaque to less experienced teams.

Sometimes — like in the case of the Phaser puzzle which you can skip if you choose that power — a puzzle is opaque because a significant but not-unfair intuitive leap is required. But sometimes the leap required is a little less intuitive.

Nonetheless, the puzzles on the whole show TEA’s usual dedication to logic and fairness, with some particularly clever ideas thrown into the mix.

And the room is fun for other reasons too. Hands-on aspects are used to good effect: for physical problem-solving, jazzing up an answer-input mechanism, and the dramatic climax itself. The high physicality rating comes with the usual-for-this-branch sense of adventure, and the setting shifts appropriately as your journey progresses. The puzzles feel unconnected to the storyline at the start, but this changes by the end, quite satisfyingly.

In all, this room is RECOMMENDED for experienced teams, though you might have to forgive one or two puzzles. Beginners could find this room tough unless they load up on appropriate powers.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout, Sage or Phaser powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5. More could get crowded.

Room review: The Escape Artist: Outpost X

Their description: A plague has settled in a once peaceful town, turning 98% of the population into mindless zombies, while those immune are in hiding, biding their time for an opportunity to escape.

By a stroke of luck, you catch wind of a military broadcast announcing an air evacuation at Outpost X – right in the heart of the city. You rally a band of survivors, equip yourselves and head out into the zombie infested lands…

Can you make it to the extraction point?


‘Fun’ might not be the first adjective one associates with a zombie apocalypse, but it’s probably the best one for Outpost X.

Part of the fun comes from various ways in which this room makes use of vertical space, resulting in its high physicality rating. Sadly, this makes it another room which is not for people with mobility issues.

But if you are able to play it, you’ll find a series of varied puzzles and fun tasks, some of which are integrated particularly well into the decor. (There are nice amusing moments in the decor, too.) The decor itself isn’t bad — the dedication to the theme fluctuates a little but there’s still an overall post-apocalyptic feel, particularly at one late-stage room.

Conveniently enough for cowards such as myself, the room isn’t particularly scary despite its theme. But that means that horror-seekers should keep their expectations low.

RECOMMENDED for fun and a challenge that’s a bit more physical rather than mental.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room review: The Escape Artist: Flashpoint

Their description: The notorious villain – Joseph Exodus, has plunged your city into great despair, as he once again signals his intent on world domination with a show of force. A dirty bomb with enough power to level the entire city has been discovered right in the heart of the city, in a dilapidated warehouse. Time is short and evacuation is impossible.

Your team of heroes are called upon to save the day. Will you make it?


Flashpoint might not necessarily blow you away — unless you fail to disarm the bomb, of course — but there’s certainly lots to like about it. The room starts off strong with a rigorous puzzle that still requires a flash of insight, and the puzzles remain fair yet not too obvious throughout. Some are also particularly well-embedded into the setting.

The physical aspects are another plus point: hands-on aspects enliven certain puzzles, and the room earns its high physicality rating in a fun, non-strenuous way. Unfortunately, that also means it’s not a room for people with mobility issues.

Finally, there’s the room’s main plot point: the need to disarm the bomb, and the possibility of getting it wrong. This added a great sense of tension to the endgame even though we were confident of our answer, and heightened the thrill of victory.

RECOMMENDED as a solid room with a bit of adventure.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room review: The Escape Artist: Count Dracula

Their description: A dark, secluded village is home to a bloodthirsty vampire who seeks out fresh victims every night. Having lived in fear your entire life, you decided that it was time to be a hero and end this monster’s reign of terror.

Gathering like-minded brave souls, you discover the secret chambers where his body rests in stasis during daylight. However, you are on the cusp of darkness and the maze of corridors branch off into countless paths.

If he wakes up, it is over. The time of reckoning is now.


Count Dracula is the only room at The Escape Artist’s Sentosa Gateway branch that doesn’t have a high physicality rating. You might expect it to be less exciting as a result, but there are enough secret chambers (as promised in the description) and tech-enabled frills to make things fun.

Compared to the other rooms at this outlet, the puzzles feel relatively conventional. Still, some nice layering elevates the ones that rely more on matching. There’s also a sustained integration of the puzzles with the setting and story, and a fun moment when the setting turns out to be important in its own right. Just watch out for one mid-game puzzle that could seem less intuitive than usual — though in retrospect, one aspect of it is quite nicely tied in to the storyline.

Not a must-play compared to some others at this outlet, but certainly WORTH A TRY. If you’re worried about it being scary, don’t be. There are some creepy touches but nothing intense.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 4/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Overall review: The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)

At The Escape Artist’s new outlet at Telok Blangah House (just opposite VivoCity), their established strength of logical puzzles is transplanted into larger and more exciting rooms, with a continued judicious use of tech, and a Hero Class system which adds another layer of gameplay considerations.

Let’s deal with each point in turn. The puzzles remain up to the same scrupulously fair standard that is TEA’s hallmark, with some particularly clever or fresh ones in the mix. The puzzles are decently integrated into the storyline, but go further by being integrated into the physical setting as well. You won’t encounter out-of-place text panels, for instance, or things that stick out awkwardly.

The rooms are expansive in a linear way, providing a good sense of progression. They’re also more complex vertically, which literally adds an extra dimension to the sense of adventure. Relatedly, their ‘physicality’ ratings for each room are not for show. There’s quite a bit of physical activity required, making most of their rooms more fun as a result, but sadly also unsuitable for people with mobility issues.

The use of tech and multimedia is extensive without being gratuitous, with various fun ways to unlock things. There are also some small hands-on aspects, which I always appreciate.

The ‘fear factor’ rating on The Escape Artist’s website is kind of irrelevant as even their scariest rooms at this branch are slightly creepy at best. But the ‘physicality’ and ‘lighting’ ratings are certainly helpful — with the latter, in particular, possibly playing a role in your choice of Hero Class.

Speaking of which: the Hero Class system gives players significant control over their escape room experience. Each player in the team gets to choose a special power that will confer an advantage in playing the game. (You also get a free can badge for each power you choose, which is a nice touch.)

You can therefore choose to load up on powers that will make the room a breeze; or, like us, you could try to play on the highest difficulty setting, either by choosing relatively useless powers, or just not using powers at all.

Experienced teams might want to try the latter approach — because the corollary to having a Hero Class system, as a staff member mentioned, is that these rooms are somewhat easier since hints aren’t freely given. This does mean that experienced teams might escape too swiftly, but at least there are fun moments along the way.

RECOMMENDED, especially for beginners, though experienced players will probably enjoy themselves too.

(The Escape Artist also has a Prinsep branch, with rooms that are significantly different in style but still very much worth playing.)

Staff: Friendly and welcoming. They are careful not to reveal too much when you use a power to get a hint, which is appreciated.

Hints: No hints unless you choose one of the Hero Classes that allows you to receive hints.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 4 out of 4

Recommended team size: 3 to 5 people


Specific room reviews

Count Dracula
Flashpoint
Last Light
Outpost X


The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)
http://theescapeartist.sg/

Room review: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 3)

This room has been replaced and no longer exists.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description: You’re out with your friends when you overhear an archaeologist talking about the location of a dungeon, said to have once belonged to Baron Richard Percy.

Legend tells of the many treasures that would belong to anyone brave enough to enter and find the last clue left by the mad Baron. You decide to take action before the archaeologist’s team, and as you arrive at the dungeon, you are greeted by two pathways leading east and west.

With the archaeologist’s team hot on your heels, what adventures await you as you explore The Forsaken Vault?

Chapter Three: Instead of the treasure, you have discovered the mummified corpse of the Baron himself!. Having had enough of this treacherous Vault, you decide to leave. However, echoes and whispers start to fill the halls, promising death and torture by a hand unknown. Worse still, you hear the metallic grinding of the portcullis start to close. Can you escape the Vault or will the you join the ranks of the damned, doomed to wander this dungeon forever?


The final chapter of the Forsaken Vault felt like the most rigorously logical, and hence also the easiest, especially if your team is experienced. Some puzzles were perhaps a bit too straightforward, though there’s at least one nice twist, and a couple of good aha moments.

Since this was the third chapter, there were fewer surprises in store. The vault did yield up one final secret to us, but there wasn’t that much in the way of exploration or that crypt-breaking feel — though there was a little more (non-tedious) physical searching. The integration of puzzles into the storyline felt weaker than usual, unfortunately.

Despite how lukewarm this review sounds, I wouldn’t call it a bad room. The puzzles are certainly better than those which require bizarre leaps of logic or mere boring execution, and their scrupulously fair nature means this is a decent room for beginners. Yet despite some bright spots, there wasn’t anything fresh or exciting enough for me to call this a brilliant room. Still WORTH A TRY, particularly for beginners or two-player teams, but experienced teams might not be impressed.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2.5/5
Storyline integration: 2.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3

Room review: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 2)

This room has been replaced and no longer exists.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description: You’re out with your friends when you overhear an archaeologist talking about the location of a dungeon, said to have once belonged to Baron Richard Percy.

Legend tells of the many treasures that would belong to anyone brave enough to enter and find the last clue left by the mad Baron. You decide to take action before the archaeologist’s team, and as you arrive at the dungeon, you are greeted by two pathways leading east and west.

With the archaeologist’s team hot on your heels, what adventures await you as you explore The Forsaken Vault?

Chapter Two: Holding onto the last clue left behind by the Baron, your excitement grows as you realise that the treasure is indeed here, hidden amidst the rooms of the forsaken dungeon. With thoughts of gold and jewels burning in your mind, a frenzied spell of avarice falls upon you, and you begin to feel that perhaps you should take steps to ensure you get your share of the treasure. As you set out to decipher the final clue, will you find the lost hoard or will you be driven mad by greed first?


After the solid first chapter of The Forsaken Vault, the second felt a little underwhelming. Having the arguably hardest puzzle at the start is not the friendliest design choice, particularly if a somewhat tenuous intuitive leap is required in said puzzle.

Sadly, the first puzzle is also one of the more inspired ones. There’s more of a reliance on logic than usual — not a bad thing insofar as it means that TEA’s usual rigour is present, but not everyone is a fan of traditional logic puzzles. And while some effort was made to maintain a storyline, this lapsed in the case of one completely setting-irrelevant puzzle midway through.

In terms of atmosphere, the vault still doesn’t quite feel convincingly made of stone, but the second chapter certainly has a few more surprises than the first! There’s enough physical activity to give you that crypt-breaking feel, though this also means that this isn’t a room for players with mobility issues.

It’s clear why The Escape Artist recommends that you play the chapters of Forsaken Vault in order. Storyline aside, being able to eliminate red herrings is a huge help. Simply rediscovering the vault and unlocking its further mysteries also helps to make the second chapter WORTH A TRY — something which the puzzles alone, alas, might not have done.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 10
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Room review: The Escape Artist: Triple 9 Sleuths: Dangerous Secrets

Note: This room has been rebranded simply as ‘Dangerous Secrets’ but the puzzles are unlikely to have changed.

Their description: Based on the best selling Triple 9 Sleuths series by Maranna Chan, assist the team in their latest adventure!

You have been tasked by Corey, Colton and Stacy to enter Clemmons’ house to find more evidence and clues to his guilt while they bring their suspicions to the police and attempt to convince them to conduct a raid.

With only a short time available, you need to find Clemmons’ secret before he returns.


I keep giving similar scores to The Escape Artist’s rooms for individual criteria such as puzzle difficulty, logic, and so on. But perhaps that just shows the limitation of that quantitative approach, because their rooms do vary when it comes to how satisfying they are overall. For reasons I can’t necessarily pin down, Triple 9 Sleuths felt like a particularly satisfying room.

The setting and physical frills are at general TEA levels of competence, with some fun doors and moving parts, so to speak. But those aspects are rarely the highlight of a TEA visit anyway — it’s more about the puzzles.

On that front, the room gets off to a somewhat unsteady start. One early puzzle is both search-heavy and reliant on matching, neither of which is an appealing aspect. Yet the experience soon picks up, with some genuinely clever puzzles that require all sorts of connections to be drawn.

On the whole, Triple 9 Sleuths presented a fairly fresh experience — something by which I was pleasantly surprised, I have to admit, not least because I’ve played over 60 escape rooms by now. RECOMMENDED as a good all-round room, with a forgiving mix of familiarity and originality.

(While I managed to escape this room in a pair, having at least three people will help with one particular logistical aspect.)

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: 3 to 10
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room preview: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 1)

This room has been replaced and no longer exists.
This review is left here merely as a record.

NOTE: This room was visited at the invitation of The Escape Artist.


Their description: You’re out with your friends when you overhear an archaeologist talking about the location of a dungeon, said to have once belonged to Baron Richard Percy.

Legend tells of the many treasures that would belong to anyone brave enough to enter and find the last clue left by the mad Baron. You decide to take action before the archaeologist’s team, and as you arrive at the dungeon, you are greeted by two pathways leading east and west.

With the archaeologist’s team hot on your heels, what adventures await you as you explore The Forsaken Vault?


The post title isn’t a typo; for the first time, this blog broke with its general policy of not accepting any invitations, and went to a preview play-through of The Escape Artist’s new room, The Forsaken Vault, with the understanding that we could provide feedback that might help them improve the room. (We’ll get into the ‘Chapter 1’ thing later.)

The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 1) will feel familiar to anyone used to The Escape Artist’s brand of rooms, with logical puzzles and a sustained narrative thread. But the room’s distinguishing feature is that it applies clever twists to common experiences.

So yes, there’s quite a bit of matching, but this is livened up by variations on that formula, including a puzzle that makes great use of verbal clues, and another that rewards engagement with the storyline. It’s a wake-up call to overly task-focused teams who are too used to the sort of blind matching that many escape rooms require.

Sadly, there are also some intermediate puzzles which fell flat, but at least they’re logical as well.

The room makes good use of the split-start format, with more than mere information-swapping involved. There are some modest technological touches, including one fun puzzle mechanism, and a prop-related touch that I can’t mention without spoiling it (except to say that my group missed it entirely even though other groups figured it out quickly, apparently).

The atmosphere was a little lacking compared to The Escape Artist’s other rooms, but since we played a beta version, they might have improved it since.

On the whole, it’s like a standard Escape Artist room but with some clever non-standard twists, and hence WORTH A TRY even if you think you already know what The Escape Artist is like.

What about that ‘Chapter 1’ thing? Apparently, The Forsaken Vault’s secret is that it is three rooms in one, with Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 being playable in the same general space. Sounds like an interesting idea in principle; I’m looking forward to playing the next two chapters to see how it works out.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 14
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6, though it should still be possible with fewer. You’ll be split into two groups at the beginning, so take that into account.