Arvada, CO: Conundrum Escape – Experiment C73

June 13, 2020 – After a VERY brief adventure at the top of Pike’s Peak, Christina and I weren’t ready to call it a night. Our first thought was to search for an escape room near Colorado Springs, but after striking out on available slots / locations, we scanned the Denver area again. Miraculously, Conundrum had one slot available for Experiment C73, and we had just enough time to get up to Arvada before the slot.

Taking a quick step back – Experiment C73 was of particular interest to me because it came recommended by one of the team at Rabbit Hole Recreation Services, which Christina and I consistently rate as one of the top escape room businesses in the country. I like visiting any escape rooms that I hear anyone rave about, but given the source of this particular referral, I was particularly excited.

I didn’t have much detail on the room, only that it was very “unique.” What that meant, I didn’t know. Unique could mean a lot of things. Real poison? Live animals? Loaded guns? Whatever was in store, Christina and I were ready for it.

Upon arriving at the room, Christina and I were given the rundown on the game’s theme from our in-character game master. The theme was designed to imitate a psychological experiment testing our sanity (and teamwork).

This is where sharing my thoughts on the room gets a little tough, as I want to protect the room’s secrets and preserve the surprise for future players. Apologies if I get a little too vague at points, and if there are any non-spoiler elements you’d like a little more detail on, please shoot me a note.

The game requires at least two players for a reason. In the words of Conundrum:

Best for teams of 4-6. Requires lots of teamwork!

That’s the understatement of the century. Teamwork is the name of the game. It crops up here and there in other escape rooms; two thirds of prison themed escape rooms start with a cell-to-cell communication puzzle before players move on to a larger space. I also fondly recall the Boxed Up game at Konmata Quest Boston where players are locked in adjacent coffins and need to communicate to escape. And the magnet maze, where a player on one side of a wall describes a maze to a player on the other side of the wall who can move a key through the maze, is an escape room staple. But Experiment C73 is the first room I can recall where communication and teamwork are the key motifs start to finish, across a variety of spaces and environments.

Puzzle Profile

I may need to think how I break out the puzzle profile as shown above, because I don’t think it highlights prominently enough the extent to which Experiment C73 is a game of teamwork. Yes, there are other elements, but teamwork is such a focus that it doesn’t feel right to mark it only as “strong emphasis.”

The puzzles in Experiment C73 tested our communication skills in more than a handful of ways. Each puzzle seemed designed to train players to become master communicators. Describing things, instructing each other, collaborating on physical puzzles- the room had it all.

The game was a home run for Christina and me, since we both love puzzles that challenge our communication skills (and we think we’re pretty good at staying on the same wavelength). I would LOVE to bring a game like this to my team at my day job, as well- so much of our success is dependent upon the communication of complex requirements, and puzzles like the ones in Experiment C73 are particularly good at testing communication skills.

The game contained a good number of very clever, impressive physical components built to bring its puzzles to life and delight players with surprising reveals upon successful completion of the puzzle. The set design kept us engaged start to finish and always excited to solve a puzzle.

The theming wasn’t creepy or off-putting. Think more Portal and less House on Haunted Hill or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You’re not stuck in a padded cell, but you can imagine that you might be tossed into one if you come up short on solving the room within an hour. The set worked for both of us- I’m fine with creepy, but Christina much prefers an environment that doesn’t evoke feelings of dread.

Overall, Experiment C73 is one of my top escape room experiences of 2020, and I’m very glad circumstances were such that we were able to play this game on our most recent trip to Denver. The focus on teamwork throughout the game inspires me to review how I look at puzzle design and to spend more time thinking about complementary puzzle pairings, like pairing ingredients in a recipe. I look forward to trying more of Conundrum’s games the next time I’m in the area.

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