Resident Evil 7 & Escape Rooms. When Two Worlds Collide.

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The Resident Evil Escape Experience, a great idea poorly implemented.

The Reviews Are In and They Aren't Good.

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When Capcom announced that they would be fielding an escape room experience to support the release of Resident Evil 7 there was a collective nerdgasm. Mashing up video game franchises and the Escape Room experience is as natural as chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes that taste great together. Video game fans were excited to experience their own brand of terror in real life and escape room fans were excited to play a limited edition experience.

Let's just say Resident Evil Experience "Don't believe the hype!"

Public Enemy - Don't believe the hype

The reviews of the Resident Evil Escape Experience are less than glowing.

I would even say that they are downright harsh. 

Here are a few select excerpts.

The name “Resident Evil Escape Experience“ dramatically oversold the escape room by implying that it would be a high-end survival horror escape room. It never even came close.
— Roomescapeartist.com

"It was an average room at best. Little to no tie-ins with the movie/video game (which was incredibly disappointing), barely any tech, only 45 minutes, and very average set design. Not worth the $42 after fees...Will prob be staying away from temporary escape rooms from now on."

"This was hands down the worst escape room experience I've ever had. As an owner and enthusiast, I can confidently say that this will not be good for the industry. If this was my first escape room this would've been my last."

"What’s unique, of course, is that it takes place in a beloved fictional universe with its own mythos and history — and that a lot of that mythos is very, very creepy. Weirdly, though, this turns out to be the experience’s biggest weakness." - The Verge

"The puzzling was weak. We encountered red herrings, significant prop breakage, and puzzles with frustrating construction. There were a few puzzles that were well clued, but the Resident Evil Escape Experience was not a satisfying puzzle game. The casual references to Resident Evil were nowhere near enough to justify the game’s title. The name “Resident Evil Escape Experience“ dramatically oversold the escape room by implying that it would be a high-end survival horror escape room. It never even came close."- Roomescapeartist.com 

"If it was my first game it would have been my last. It was $42 per person for one of the shittiest gen 1 games imaginable. This was such a massive letdown."

" The in-room actor was just a  there to observe and give pretty worthless clues, like “keep trying.” The ‘actor’ had no real role other than to dissuade us from doing certain things." - Escaperoomer"

The reviews above were culled from various escape room enthusiast groups and on-line review sites. Some of the reviewers are owners, some are players and others are both.

Why did this game garner so many bad comments? Is it a product of Big Company seeing an opportunity to promote it's product in a hot new genre? Was it bad game design, poor implementation, or both?

The game's designer defended the game design in a recent Facebook post in the Escape Room Startups group.

I am, in fact, an advocate for quality design in escape room experiences, for making the best possible game for the player, and for improving the field in general.

"It's my job to deliver what the client asks for, which in this case was an experience that uses padlocks instead of technology; likewise with using a person in the room for hinting instead of a tech-based hint delivery system. It's balanced so that an expert team could make it out in about 30-35 minutes, but so that a totally novice group will at least have the VHS tape in their hand and make it out to the lobby, even if they're about to lose. And it needed to touch on several specific games in the franchise while still being accessible to someone who had ever played any RE games before." "I am, in fact, an advocate for quality design in escape room experiences, for making the best possible game for the player, and for improving the field in general."

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So what can we as Escape Room owners learn from the Resident Evil Escape Experience?

1. Don't overpromise and under deliver

The fans of the Resident Evil franchise were excited to buy tickets to the RE7 Escape Experience because of the promise made in the video that showed the experience in London. Based on that video, I would have been super excited to play it also. Fans expected to participate in a movie quality game and came away feeling less than whelmed. When designing an escape room keeping focused on the overall feel of the game is crucial. The unspoken contract between the ER venue and the player is that they are going to have fun. Anything less than that is unacceptable. 

As escape room owners and designers, it is our responsibility to ensure that we deliver what we promise. There is nothing worse than seeing an incredible image or video on a web page and expecting to take on the role of a hero and then walk into a room with thrift store furnishings and half-hearted puzzles that don't make sense in the context of the game. Escape Rooms are premium experiences and at 42.00 The Resident Evil Escape Experience charged a premium price. For that kind of money, I as a player would expect theatrical set and sound design and a game experience like no other. Capcom failed to deliver on the rich experience that is the resident evil universe.

2. Player's may overlook low-end set design. They won't tolerate a poorly designed game.

Most of the games in operation today start out as low-tech "Gen 1" games with sparse settings and few immersive elements. Most escape room owners continuously improve the quality and experience of their games, some, however, do not. We recently had escape room enthusiasts who have played over 400 games come and play at Cracked it! Escape Games and had a fantastic time. One of our games is a straight "Gen 1" game that has puzzles that make sense in the context of the game and storyline. The setting is a typical first room for a new business. It is pretty light on setting and design but heavy on interesting gameplay. The key here is that these seasoned players were fully entertained by the game even though our set design was light. Had we had low quality set design and poor quality games their experience would have been substantially different. 

I have not played the RE7 escape experience and I cannot testify to the quality of the game. There is often a huge difference between the way a game is envisioned and the way it is implemented. In this case that may have been what occurred.

3. Know your audience.

The rabid video gamer and escape enthusiasts are often times the same person. There are others, myself included, that have never played the Resident Evil games and probably never will. The two genres are not far removed from each other. The Escape Room industry is an extension of video games and many video games incorporate elements of escape rooms. The lines have become blurred.

Knowing what your audience wants and expects from your escape room game will help you build a great fan base. Miss the mark though, and you could get review comments like those above. 

If you want to experience the RE7 Escape Experience for yourself and form your own opinion it is scheduled to run through April 2, 2017 at the following locations.

The Resident Evil Escape Experience will be available at six major cities over the next few months, running in two cities at a time for a few weeks each:

San Francisco, CA: February 8 – March 5 Extended to March 19th due to popular demand!

Portland, OR: February 8 – March 5 Extended to March 19th due to popular demand!

New York, NY: February 22 – March 19 Extended to April 2nd due to popular demand!

Boston, MA: February 22 – March 19

Chicago, IL: March 8 – April 2

Austin, TX: March 8 – April 2

Well that's it for today. Until next time, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below

Brian Vinciguerra is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Cracked it! Escape Games in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Brian Vinciguerra is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Cracked it! Escape Games in Jacksonville, North Carolina.