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The Zelda Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

Illustration for article titled The iZelda/i Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

When I first heard that there was a Zelda escape room coming to the United States, I imagined a labyrinth of elaborate puzzles, growing more challenging and complicated with each subsequent chamber. I did not expect to be solving brainteasers at a conference table. But I am pleased to report, dear Kotaku readers, that my group saved Hyrule, even if it was a little lame.

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On Friday night, I brought my fiancée and two reluctant friends to Defenders of the Triforce, which operated in New York City over the weekend. Scrap, the company behind the Zelda escape room, provided our tickets—otherwise we’d have to drop something close to $200 for all four of us, which is absurdly high considering what we got.

Right away you could tell that the organizers were stretching themselves a little too thin. Photos from earlier months’ events showed a room full of classic green caps, but by the time they got to New York, Defenders of the Triforce had presumably run out, offering just one hat per table. This was a huge disappointment to those of us who wanted to force our friends to wear floppy hats.

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The event opened with a quick video presentation, as we learned (via N64-era, Ocarina of Time-style graphics) that Ganon had successfully destroyed Hyrule and trapped both Link and Zelda in crystallized prisons. A charismatic, bearded actor took the stage and gave us the rules: each table (of six) would have 60 minutes to solve the game’s puzzles. Beating Ganon would require us to figure out a series of Zelda-themed brain-teasers, like forming a map out of puzzle pieces and converting Hylian symbols into numbers.

Then we’d have to run around to each section of Hyrule that the organizers had constructed throughout the room, solving puzzles by interacting with people dressed up as Goron and Zora. Each part of Hyrule looked something like this:

Illustration for article titled The iZelda/i Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

Shoddy production values aside—their version of Jabu-Jabu was a little silly—some of the puzzles were quite clever. Later in the game, when our version of Link gained the ability to travel back seven years through time, we found a red hat. Wearing that red hat instead of the green one allowed us to have unique interactions with people like the Kokiri fairy, since we were now in the “past” rather than the present. (The instructions told us we’d all have to wear the red hats, but again, Defenders of the Triforce clearly ran out, because our box just had one.)

Other interesting puzzles involved cutting grass, finding a piece of the Triforce, and sticking an arrow through something you wouldn’t expect to stick an arrow through.

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And then there were the boring ones, like a Goron puzzle that asked you to look at a bunch of triangles and shade in ones labeled 1 and 2. (This puzzle was so easy, I figured there must be a catch, but nope. It was just that.)

Our table, complete with puzzles, gear, and the Master Sword that we won.
Our table, complete with puzzles, gear, and the Master Sword that we won.
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My team solved all of the puzzles and got to the Temple of Time with just seconds to spare, mostly thanks to one of the other two ladies at our table, who said she “did a lot of escape rooms” and helped carry our team to victory. The final puzzle is particularly imaginative, and while I won’t spoil it for anyone who plans to play Defenders of the Triforce, I will say that I was surprised that something like 15 tables in my group were able to solve it.

When we finished the game, we got the Master Sword, which meant I could take this fantastic picture of one of my terrible friends:

Illustration for article titled The iZelda/i Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)
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At the end of Defenders of the Triforce, we were told we could take photos and buy Zelda merchandise, or make our way to a corner of the room where Nintendo had set up Switches and copies of Breath of the Wild. It all felt like something of a marketing ploy for the newest Zelda, which is fair, I guess. As my friend Phil said later: “They should call it a beat the clock, or something, because we escaped nothing, not even our own sad lives.”

I enjoyed playing through this not-really-an-escape-room escape room, but that’s almost entirely because they gave me a free spot. Scrap charges $43 ($48 at the door) per ticket, which seems egregious to me. I would instead recommend buying a Switch and a copy of Breath of the Wild. At least there you’ll never run out of hats.

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DISCUSSION

marciantobay
MarcianTobay

Something else you may wish to mention that I experienced while here: Not only are most of the puzzles able to be solved by one person, they are presented on worksheets or in sizes so small they have to be.

This created a miserable experience for my fiancee, who had never done an Escape Room before, as we sat across the table from two expert friends of mine. They were blazing through the pages so fast they didn’t need help, and the end result was my fiancee and I literally sitting at a table watching other people solve puzzle books for an hour.

Some of the puzzles are creative as gosh (“No Children Allowed”, cutting the grass, and the finale are real standouts), but oversights like allowing it to be solo-able, the fact that there were worksheets rather than a room, and so on, really dragged down the experience until my partner was stuck saying she never wanted to do something like this again.

I hate talking negatively of a company that clearly, clearly put a lot of work into this project. You’re right, as well, that the guy presenting at ours was charismatic as gosh and I loved him, for example. The fact of the matter is, though, that it prioritized holding 100+ people at a time, and the jettison of things that make Escape Rooms a small, bonding experience was something from which it never recovers.