Should You Trust Escape Room Reviewers?

So you’re looking for something fun and unique to do, and you and your friends decide on an escape room.  Great idea! But which one should you do?  Over the past decade, escape rooms have become ubiquitous, and there are many individual operators who offer a seemingly infinite number of choices.  So how do you decide?  Like most consumers these days, you’ll probably turn to one of the online consumer review platforms.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when reading those reviews…

Know What Kind of Experience You Want

The most important factor to consider when you look at a review is that reviews are the opinions of others who are all as unique as you are. That means the way they perceive a game is potentially very different from yours. It’s important to keep this in mind when reading the opinions of reviewers. Regardless of the review rating, look for descriptions and nuances that would matter to you, like how a game flows, or the intricacies of how the puzzles are designed, or whether there are multiple spaces to explore, or what they say about the set design. Make sure they are observing the things that are important to you when you play an escape room, otherwise that review is not at all helpful to you.

Just remember, when you find yourself reading an escape room review, that person has their own perspectives on what an escape room should be and reasons for writing that review. That’s not to say that reviewers should be dismissed; they offer valuable insights and often discuss details and nuances of games that may help you determine whether that game is suitable for you. What is important is to make sure that any review you choose to give attention to is talking about the features of escape rooms that matter to you.

Everyone Has Their Own Opinion

Variety is the spice of life, and just as everyone has their own individual preferences for food or movies, they also have individual preferences for escape rooms. These preferences are very personal and can vary drastically. They are based on prior experience, expectations, perceptions, context, the opinions of others, and even mood. What one reviewer may consider to be too difficult, not immersive enough, or unoriginal, another may consider exciting and unique.  One group may have played other escape rooms before and are proud of their track record of escaping and thus may deem an unsuccessful attempt to be the result of an unfair or overly difficult theme.  

The theme, design, and layout of escape rooms can be as unique as the individuals playing them, which can also have an impact on players’ perceptions. Some may love discovering codes and keys to unlock padlocks commonly found in first generation escape rooms, while others may desire unique experiences offered through the evolving use of technology in newer second-generation escape rooms.  The lack of locks and codes can frustrate some while thrilling others.  

Expectations can play a big part in a reviewer’s opinion too.  For instance, an escape room enthusiast who has travelled far and wide may be disappointed by the design of a theme in a particular market when compared to other, more elaborate designs in larger markets. That’s not to say that the puzzles aren’t fair, or the game is not enjoyable, or even that the set design is not well done for that particular market. Not all operators can afford the elaborate set designs seen in larger markets, such as in Japan and Germany, where there are literally millions of players (both local and tourist) to draw from.  Indeed, there are many excellent games out there that do not involve big budgets and movie-studio quality sound and lighting.  

Players can also be impacted by others in their group.  As they say, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch, and while some players in a group may have had a thoroughly enjoyable experience, their opinion can be swayed by the perception of others. Maybe you’ve got a player who had a bad day at work, or got a speeding ticket on the way to their game, or was frustrated by a puzzle that didn’t fit their individual skill-set.  We all like to talk about and debrief our game play experiences, and one player’s negative opinion can potentially sway that of the others in their group.  Not necessarily through any fault of the escape game operator or the game itself, but simply due to that individuals’ experience, expectations, perceptions, or mood.

Consider The Credibility Of The Reviewer

Consider this little gem that is an actual one-star review (since removed by Google):  “I got to the escape room and decided to a solo one because I’m basically Einstein. Turns out it I’m not a smart as I think I am, because I have now been locked in this escape room for nearly 24 hours.  My phone has one bar of battery left, so I’m basically using my last bit of remaining battery to contact the outside world with this review…”.  

This light-hearted reviewer also left a one-star review for the Apple store who apparently misled the reviewer by not actually selling apples.  Charming? Perhaps. Humorous?  Possibly. Fake, irrelevant, and unnecessarily damaging to the business?  Absolutely. 

The moral?  Beware the reviewer.  This is obviously an extreme example, but there are any number of reasons why fake reviews may exist, such as a former disgruntled employee, an unscrupulous competitor, a case of sour grapes from a player that simply didn’t escape the room, or someone with an ax to grind with the business.  

Unfortunately, online review platforms, including Google Reviews, don’t have any mechanism for dealing with these reviews, so it is up to the consumer to be savvy and consider the source and nature of reviews and interpret such reviews within the context of the overall tone of all reviews.

Should You Trust Reviews?

That’s not to say that reviewers don’t have value, they absolutely do. But we would advise you to take their critiques with a grain of salt. What they are looking for in an escape room experience may or may not be consistent with what you’re looking for. It’s important that you know what kind of experience you want before checking out game reviews. For example; is the flow of the game important to you? How about the set design? Do you like challenging logical puzzles, or interactive mechanical ones? All of these features define an escape room, and while they are not mutually exclusive, some escape room facilities are better at providing one type of experience over another. Knowing exactly what kind of experience you’re looking for when reading reviews will help you to find a room that’s suitable to your preferences.

Being A Reviewer Yourself

A final thought on being a reviewer yourself:  Before you give a review, think about the purpose of your review. If it’s a poorly-designed theme, or an escape game facility that’s operations are sub-standard then by all means leave a review.  

But if you had a negative experience that’s unique to your game play then consider giving the escape game operator a chance to address your specific situation.  

Most escape room operators run their games hundreds, if not thousands of times each month without issues or incident.  Most escape games contain mechanical moving parts, which will inevitably break, despite best efforts to maintain them.  Maybe an over-enthusiastic player who played the game before you damaged something, and the operator is unaware.  Human error is also an ever-present risk in the escape game industry.  All of this means occasionally things go wrong during a game play.  

Yes, it sucks when it happens to you.  

All escape room operators are small business owners, and the vast majority get into the industry because of their love for the games, and their desire to share that love with their guests, and to give them a great experience.  If that’s not the case for you, then consider giving them a chance to make it right for you. Contact the owner/manager/operator directly and providing your feedback.  Chances are the outcome will be better for both of you in the end, as you will get the opportunity to express your opinion directly—and hopefully also the opportunity to get the actual experience you originally came for (a fun date night with your loved one, or an enjoyable evening out with friends or family).  The escape room operator gets a chance to preserve their reputation and to give you the experience you paid for—win-win!

In any event, consider the impact of your review, and if you’re being fair to the business—and if you just want to make people laugh, consider joining the circus instead.