We Ended Up on the Wrong Side of the Tracks – Room: The Great Train Heist – May 25, 2019 – FAILED!

ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY

Play if… you wish you were a gun-slinging, train-robbing, son of a gun.

Avoid if… you get motion sickness (from the trains, of course) or you’re a goody two-shoes.


THE BASICS

Amazing Escape Room (Freehold):

Address: 2 Monmouth Avenue, Freehold NJ 07728 (click address for Google Map)

Contact and Website: 732-333-0448
https://amazingescaperoom.com/freehold/

The Room: The Great Train Heist:

Description (from the company website): The year is 1865 and you’re in the height of the Railroad Boom. The big tycoon and well known snake oil salesman, Thomas “Doc” Durant, has just come through your small town promising everyone vast riches and the cure to all their woes.

Doc is a real swindler and has secretly robbed the town’s bank, leaving everyone penniless. Tonight, he plans to sneak out of town on his personal train right after the big poker game at the Phoenix Saloon. You have 60 minutes to break into Durant’s train and save the town by taking back the cash.

Difficulty (1-10): N/A but we were told it was their hardest one

Time Limit: 60 minutes

Cost: $28

Identifier: R1

Party Size: up to 10

Staging Area: Lobby is mostly standing room but plenty of space. There is a mini-game on one of the walls that will essentially teach you how to use most of the locks you may encounter.

Metro Access/Parking: There is a parking lot for the facility (and the other stores there). We suggest driving or Uber/Lyft.


OUR EXPERIENCE

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.

Logistics:

Description of the room: You start off in the car of a train fully equipped with a bar, some seating and tables, and paraphernalia you would expect in an old west saloon.

Understanding of the Mission: Solve all the puzzles left behind to determine the whereabouts of the money stolen so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

Did We Escape: NO, and we’re still pretty pissed about it.

Time Remaining: 🙁

Our Suggested Party Size: There’s definitely enough room for 10 but we suggest you limit your group to 6-8.

Did the room challenge the entire team? For the most part

Members of our team (other than the ERG): Val, Steph, and 4 strangers

Worth the time and money? If they clean up the inconsistencies and tighten the clues, then yes.

Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:

  • Chili’s – we went there for a quick bite and some drinks after; it’s 5 minutes away


OUR SCORING:

JASON SAYS: MIKE SAYS:
Overall Expectation (Summary)
Long story short, I had been here twice before, with mixed results (didn’t realize I never posted the Wizards Apprentice review; I’ll have to get to that and link back here).

The most recent time was May 2018. I remember this because it came up as a Facebook memory. So I shared it to my sister, who was there with me, as well as to the company on Facebook. I ended up being contacted by the manager to try and make things right, which I greatly appreciate.

Seeing as it was a 4 hour drive to get there, I asked if we could do 2 rooms to try and make it worth our while and figured out when to go. We ended up having 4 strangers with us. I wasn’t sure that was going to happen or not so I’m not knocking it, just pointing it out.

I had not heard of this location until Jason did two rooms here on his visits back to New Jersey to visit family.

A few weeks ago, he saw a memory from his Facebook feed about doing a room here a year ago, and shared it with his sister and the company. It wasn’t a “good” memory since he had problems with the room, but the manager saw that they were tagged and sent him a private message, inviting him back to try out this room as a way of making up for some of the issues he had a year ago.

We had nothing planned for Memorial Day weekend, so we decided to drive up for the day and do two of their rooms (we also did The Time Paradox… review to come soon).

So, with that, we were off on a road trip.

Story (Rating)
The story went that a swindler nicknamed Doc has come through town to sell you his snake oil, with his real intent being to rob the towns bank. So after taking all of your pocket money, he’s planning on taking all of your saved money. He’s also planning on skipping town right after the big poker game tonight on his own private train. Such a big shot.

Not much to the story but it’s got enough detail to make it worth listening to. The briefing actually matched the website (one of my big annoyances from their Wild West room).

Rating: 7.5/10

It’s 1865 and the railroad industry is booming. A swindler and railroad tycoon named Doc is traveling throughout the country selling his miracle cures. His latest stop was your town. His miracle cures, however, are just a diversion from his true intention on stealing all the money from the town’s bank. He’s planning on skipping town after his big poker game, which is where he’s at right now.

The story was a unique one for us, and there was some good detail here as to why you should care that you’re in the room

Rating: 8/10

Mission (Rating)
Find the stolen money and steal it back (which I guess isn’t really stealing since it wasn’t his in the first place).

This is an objective based room, meaning no need to escape out of the room, just find the stuff to trigger the ending. Which is fine. I no longer really have a preference of one over the other.

Rating: 8/10

Find out where your town’s money is and gather enough evidence to turn over to the authorities and stop Doc in his tracks (train… tracks… hahahahaha).

There were some good mission parameters here for you to “win” the room, and they were a bit challenging, which you find out as you progress through the room.

Rating: 8/10

Puzzle Diversity (Rating)
I’ll start by saying there was a good amount of different things to do here, but I’ll counter myself by saying I’ve seen all of it but the last 2 puzzles (the third to last was basically the same as the final puzzle from Wild West, IMO).

There were mostly triggered openings (groups of RFID in the right order). No more than 2 locks (I distinctly remember one combination lock that I didn’t realize I had to do something with the lock itself once the correct combo was entered to open it). There was a lot of searching involved, I remember that; I also remember it being a little frustrating.

Rating: 7.5/10

There was a good amount of puzzles in the experience, and a nice mix among things you had to search for, as well as some puzzles, observational tasks, place-the-item in the correct location, a few logical teasers, and an instructional puzzle that required a lot of teamwork.

This location really does love its logic puzzles. They had two in this room. One of the puzzles was set up, but there was no clue on how to solve it other than trial and error (we needed to ask for a clue on it… and there would have been no way I would have figured it out without it because you had to remove something and then ensure it was placed properly).

I liked how the puzzles worked and the content matter for them. Those at least made sense

Most of the puzzles were triggered by RFID chips, which are normally some of my favorites… not so much in this case, though. Only a few locks, which I think were okay.

Rating: 7/10

Puzzle Complexity (Rating)
My biggest problem with this section was, while the puzzle difficulty was spread pretty well, the puzzles themselves seemed to be tricky for the sake of being tricky (or, at points, deliberately ambiguous).

One puzzle had it’s parts already in place when we found them but just switched around. (Why would you force someone to discover the parts to a pair in the place they are supposed to be? There was no clue to it, either, until we asked for help.)

Another puzzle, while being my favorite one in the room, was so subtle that the only way to notice the key to it was to have the light hit it the right way. Another puzzle had all clues but 1 be of a certain type just to have the final clue needed to solve it be completely different (basically making the puzzle have multiple answers until you realize that the un-associated clue was actually associated).

That all said, I have to knock significant points off this rating.

Rating: 6/10

Don’t get me wrong… there were some great puzzles in this room (I liked the “find these things” and get them in the right order by using a variety of other things you find) which added to some of the complexity. We were in the room with 4 strangers, and some of them had never done a room before, so it was fun to see them trying to solve the puzzles we found (we tried to explain as we solved them and communicated pretty well). I liked using one of the props and working with it until the combination presented itself.

Now, I do have a few issues with some of the puzzles:

One puzzle required you to remove pieces and you wondered what to do with them… there was nothing to clue in where to put them and in what order. We had to get a clue with this one and they gave us an old saying, which immediately clued me in as to what to do.

Another item was of a similar issue… remove it from where it was, but then put it back in another location with it only being very, very subtly marked. We got a clue for this one too, and even the clue got part of the puzzle wrong (so wrong that I questioned that what we were about to do couldn’t work). Another puzzle that wasn’t clued in as to what you needed to do.

The puzzle we got stuck on was the instructional one we talked about… there was some ambiguity as to how it was presented, which kept messing us up. It was also a puzzle that only 2-3 people could work on at a time, but required 4+ to operate.

Rating: 6/10

Flow/Cohesiveness/Uniqueness (Rating)
There were multiple instances here of being stuck because things were not properly clued. As I said earlier, tricky or deliberately ambiguous.

Something as simple as the mechanism leading to the second room didn’t produce a sound so we ended up pulling it multiple times before someone found the door open.

One puzzle had you do something in sequence, but there were multiple options for each leg but no clue on which to use (could we have used any??).

Another puzzle had you inserting something back into where you found it, but as we found it there that made no sense to our escape room brains, especially when the clue we asked for and the relevant item were labeled incorrectly.

Another puzzle gave a clue to yet another puzzle, but that puzzle wasn’t available to be solved yet so it was neglected/forgotten by the time we needed it.

Additionally, as we failed the room, we found after that there were still several puzzles remaining and once they were explained to us, we determined they were essentially additional time-sucks.

There was a terrible amount of inconsistency that is what prompted my original concerns of Wild West.

Rating: 3.5/10

The decoration in the room was excellent and very appropriate for the time. I even loved how we had to search for things on the “train” and how we had to move from one end of the car to another and back.

I normally love RFID-triggered puzzles, but they really had no place in a room set in 1865. If you’re going to do this, then you really need to figure out how to work this type of science into the time period.

I didn’t like how it was difficult to figure out what was triggered by a completed puzzle. Trial and error in a room that large should not be the way to figure out what new thing to work on.

A few of the puzzles need to be clued in more… you shouldn’t need to ask for a clue to figure out how to try and resolve it. What was clued wasn’t always consistent (finding messages for all but one of the pieces and a different type of clue to clue the last one).

The room became linear very quickly, so larger groups are going to have to approach puzzles after waiting for their turn… doing nothing.

Some interesting spins on things we’ve seen here and a unique puzzle or two, but the design was off a bit and the types of locks didn’t fit the time period.

Rating: 4/10

Fun/Amusement (Summary)
I want to say I enjoyed it when I enjoyed it but I think the majority of my time was spent being frustrated by either not having anything to do or solve or finding things in places that seemed like they were there to confuse you.

I’m still on the fence…

I was having a good time in the room… even after encountering two puzzles that needed clues (or random guesses) to solve. I even was able to overlook the RFID in Civil War-era USA. My frustration for the last puzzle we worked on was in its design, so as that happened right at the end, I ended up being annoyed and slightly bitter since it was the object of our demise.
Game Master (Summary)
I feel like there were times where our GM (or maybe multiple GMs) weren’t paying attention, as it seemed like a lot of time wasted waiting for responses. This was also an issue from last time. She was polite and I thought was quick to respond when we asked. We tried to give feedback on the place we got stuck (it was a point of perception, but everyone wasn’t getting the way to solve it based on how it was designed) and she seemed indifferent.
How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
We ended getting an extra clue because one of the strangers liked them on Facebook, so we had 4, not 3. I believe we used them all, but one clue given was for something we already knew/solved, one was essentially *needed* because there was no clue how to solve it, and there was another we didn’t understand. We got the clues we needed when we asked for them (we got to use 4 since one of the other team members had liked them on Facebook).  I think they could have possibly gone off-script and helped us a bit more when it was obvious the hints they were giving us were not helping us resolve the puzzle.

The last two clues we used were on the final puzzle we worked on. We tried to use what was given to us, and we still weren’t getting it.

RAGE Meter ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
Going with a 3 here.

I try and stay objective when I get angry in a room. There are times, however, where everyone is at a WTF moment and we all look at each other and go, “I have no clue what to do. Clue?” There were several of those in this room.

I also make it a point to walk away from things that frustrate me so as to not lose all enjoyment of the game. But at times, when everyone is like, WTH, I don’t feel bad about it. There was one official moment where it was blatantly obvious that the clue says to put this thing there but that thing is actually something else. Let’s say, for example, the clue is to put the money in the basket, but there is no money, only a postcard with postage on it and that’s supposed to be the money. Doesn’t work, does it?

Rating: 👊👊👊

I don’t feel stupid on this one because I don’t think that we overlooked anything obvious.

FacePalms – 0/5

ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 6.5/10

Final Thought: This room defeated us, and we’re the first to say when we’re fully stumped and a room just “gets” us. However, there were some – in our opinion – design flaws in how the room was set to flow, and in how you were clued into solving puzzles (if you were clued in… that is.). With just a little bit of re-working,the rough edges of this room would be easily smoothed out.

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