ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you enjoy solving murders and holding hands.
Avoid if… you have bad knees or crippling fear of the unknown (or the dark).
13th Hour Haunted House and Escape Rooms:
Address: 105 W Dewey Ave, Wharton, NJ 07885 (click address for Google Map)
Contact and Website: 862-244-4454
Room: The Great Room:
Description (from the company website): This is the Hayden family’s room of murders. This section of the farmhouse is known as the Great Room. This massive section of the farmhouse will challenge your wits in all fashions. Multiple sections, secret passage ways, and puzzles you’ve never experienced before will have your team running mad. What terrible secrets lie within the Great Room? Just what were the Hayden family members up to? Just be warned you have only 60 minutes to complete the Great Room and save yourselves. Do you have what it takes? (ERG note: edited for grammar and punctuation).
Difficulty (1-10): N/A
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Party Size: Up to 10
Staging Area: There isn’t much of a lobby here, so essentially when you walk in there’s a small area with a reception booth, and this is where we had our security briefing.
Metro Access/Parking: This is in Northern NJ in a warehouse, so you’ll need to drive in some way.
This is the video we took before we entered the room:
This is the video we took just after we completed the room:
Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to try out this room for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.
Description of the room: There’s a 2-story room you start in with a large table, columns holding up the upstairs, and a few doors.
Understanding of the Mission: “Save yourselves”
Did We Escape: No, and let me tell you why…
Time Remaining: See above
Our Suggested Party Size: 4-6 is more than enough.
Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Steph, Val, Stu (No picture was taken)
Worth the time and money? Yes and no. Again, let me tell you why…
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:
- This location is in the middle of nowhere (almost literally) so I have no idea. It was 10pm (ish) so we just went home.
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|For my annual Thanksgiving trip up to NJ, I obviously had to find a room to take my family to. A brief Google search yielded a few locations that I knew about already, some I’ve actually been to, and one that also did haunted houses. Naturally, I chose that.
After speaking with the owner briefly one afternoon, and then to my family, we set up a time for The Great Room and off we went.
From what I read about this place, the rooms are built to a high standard, so I was extra curious about this location. (Being some sort of horror room helped, too.)
|The 13th Hour website tells you that the Great Room is the room where all the murders that the Hayden’s have committed took place, and that it’s the most massive room in the farmhouse. And that’s where the story begins.
And also ends.
There was no briefing, only one about safety in the room by our GM. The story, or lack thereof, never appeared in the room. The only thing we knew were the names of 4 of their “favorite children,” as it was part of a puzzle involving hand prints (not a spoiler; you can see that puzzle the second you enter the room).
The only thing that tied the room together was the literal end note.
|You know by now that Mike and I are sticklers when it comes to the Story and Mission ratings. The website blurb asks the following questions:
What terrible secrets lie within The Great Room?
Honestly? No idea. The only thing we were required to do was escape. But there could have been so many things we could have been asked to do that would have required only minimal story element additions in the room and minor additions to the results of puzzles.
Who was their next target and why is a quick and easy one. Maybe you/your team could have been trying to break/sneak into the house to find evidence that they actually killed someone specific? Just a few thoughts.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|Their website boasts “puzzles you never experienced before”. In retrospect, I assume that statement is not to be taken as fact when you’ve done as many rooms as I have. I’ve seen the majority of the puzzle types in this room in some way/shape/form before, but there were a few unique twists.
I ended up overlooking a number of small things in the beginning of the game but quickly was able to self-correct. I like that this escape requires you to be observant and connect dots that are not obvious.
There was a surprising amount of low-tech…tech in the room and it, thankfully, fit. There were enough padlocks in the room that I care not to talk about them further (not that they were a detriment to the room, I just don’t want to talk about them) and, as I said in the post-video, there were many tedious puzzles in this room… more than I’ve encountered in a single room before that I prefer not to think about it past completion of writing this section of the review. One literally took us upwards of 7 minutes with all 4 of us working in tandem. It was kind of ridiculous. (And if you have more than 4 people working on that puzzle you’ll have no room left to stand around it.)
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|I found that the most difficult thing during this escape was hearing our GM trying to talk to us via the screen and appropriate “dings,” not to mention hearing each other. While the room itself looks great (pun fully intended), having any other teams playing any other games at the same time will likely cause some trouble as the space will get extremely loud. This was the root of my frustration (but let’s be honest: It doesn’t take much sometimes).
As I mentioned earlier, our GM had to come in at some point to stop us from using one set of props on a particular puzzle, as that set of props was supposed to be used for something else. Eventually, we figured out our “mistake,” but it’s one that could have been easily avoided with a small change in tech (and cost us about 5 minutes, overall, contributing to our not-so-epic-failure, so I kind of want to call it a draw because of that time offset).
The puzzles themselves were slightly more nuanced than I had expected. The subtleties were there, however, they basically lacked substance due to the lack of a story line. Nothing overly difficult; just time consuming. Maybe a 3-6 range of difficulty overall.
|One thing I didn’t like was the fact that not every puzzle was exclusive from all props in the room. We learned this the hard way as our GM had to come into the room to tell us we were navigating a puzzle with the incorrect prop. (Free tip: Switch from magnets to RFID. You’re welcome.)
Again, nothing tied into the story. It was basically like solving a bunch of puzzles in succession to unlock a final door to exit. The puzzles themselves were, thankfully, linked in their own rights (as they would/should be in any escape room), but I have a hard time drawing any conclusions about the Hayden family or what they were up to, as the website asks.
|Meh. Like I said, we couldn’t tell if the dings were coming from OUR TV or the one in the other room, so we just started ignoring them at some point. A few of the puzzles were amusing at least. The payoff at the end wasn’t even worth it, so overall I wish I had chosen a different room.|
|Game Master (Summary)|
|She was hands off until she had to burst in to get us to stop working on the one puzzle I mentioned earlier (because we didn’t hear the notification sounds). She was attentive and responsive to the Hint button on the wall and the issues we faced were in no way hers. (They allow for unlimited hints, btw.)|
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|We asked for, I think, 2 actual hints before we started ignoring the tv screen.|
|Fully. Enraged. I was so frustrated by the end of this experience I just wanted to go home and drown my sorrows in a glass of Scotch. Just didn’t have any.
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING 5.8/10
Final Thought: I have come to thoroughly enjoy horror-themed rooms and this one had SO MUCH potential. Really, all it needed was some story line elements. Originally, I had written off this location after getting home, but after writing the review I realized that it’s not necessarily the ROOM’S fault. Next time I’m in town, I plan on giving this location another shot, as there was another room I wanted to do anyway. If that one leaves a bad taste in my mouth… well, draw your own conclusion. But take my experience for what it is and just hope your own is different.