Worlds Apart — My Reno Escape Room Vs. Vegas Escape Room Experience
Back in November of 2020, I decided to check out the newest escape room in Reno. I’d had one other escape room experience many years ago when they first started popping up around Reno. It was pretty cool, but it just kind of faded out of my mind, and for the most part, I simply forgot about it. So, fast-forward like 3 years later, I was bored and was looking for something fun to do. Then, I found out about Keystone Escape Games. It was fate!
Let’s be real for a bit. COVID-19 has been a huge pain in the ass for everyone. Forget about the financial issues the pandemic has caused for a moment, and just think about how tough it’s been on a social aspect. We’re social creatures. At least, I’m a social creature. And I hang out with a lot of other social creatures. We dance, party together, have BBQs, go on hikes, go camping, do karaoke… you get the idea. But with the introduction of the coronavirus, things have changed… drastically!
Now we’re stuck inside a lot more than we used to be. Yes, we can go outside, and yes we can interact in small groups. However, there’s no denying that big group events have basically disappeared. As someone who works from home, I already lack the interaction one would get from being around fellow coworkers. Most people still get that. But I don’t. Consequently, I’d been starving for social interaction and wanted to get out and do something new. Even if it was with a group I see regularly, I needed a change of scenery. You get it right?
Keystone Escape Games
With that in mind, I decided to check out Keystone Escape Games in Reno. The place had stellar reviews across the board. Facebook, Trip Advisor, Google, and Yelp… all solid 5-star reviews. People seriously loved this place. It seemed like something fun to do with a group and from what people were saying, it was something worth experiencing. Plus it would give me, my girlfriend, and our moms a chance to all interact together in a fun, engaging environment. So, with that said, we decided to give it a go and booked our game called Blood of the Original — a vampire-themed escape room.
Now, I think it’s important to talk about first impressions for a moment. I’m a big believer that presentation is a massive part of any new experience. Humans have a few seconds to visualize and assess new things. Food, people, places… we make split decisions and flash judgments all the time. Presentation is everything. It can make or break products, companies, relationships, and more. I can’t stress the depth of importance that first impressions play in our daily lives.
With that said, when entering Keystone Escape Games, I immediately felt a completely different, creepy, exciting vibe. Outside was dull and humdrum. The waiting room was transformative and immersive. A really great sign for a place like this. It looked like a classy but spooky living room. Beautiful furniture, a fireplace, moody lighting, candles, art. It was really cool. It turned out that this place was actually pretty new to Reno and that Blood of the Original was the only game they had so far. However, we were later told that they had two or three other games in the works (which I’m quite excited to try out as soon as they’re complete). Anyhow, after taking care of our waivers and being given the rundown of how things would work, we entered the room.
And holy crap! This already looked amazing! The waiting room was nothing in comparison, and as I said, it was pretty cool. I felt like I was actually in the study of an old Victorian mansion, or in the setting of a crazy video game. It was that detailed! But that was nothing in comparison to what would happen through the gaming experience. And before I get all crazy and you assume I might reveal too many details, put those worries to rest. I’m not going to tell you anything else about the room, the puzzles in the game, or any of the crazy things you have to do to escape. After all, what fun would that be?
However, before I continue, let me just say that I write all of this looking back when comparing this experience and the one I had a few weeks later in Las Vegas. They were quite different. And after experiencing what each room had to offer its players, it opened my eyes to just how good Blood of the Original truly was. And how much effort the owners put into designing, developing, and constructing it from start to finish.
Number 1 Escape Room Vegas
So, how did I end up all the way in Vegas a few weeks later and why did I end up in another escape room? Well, it’s pretty simple really. You see, my girlfriend and I had our first real vacation planned for the start of 2021. Again, COVID had screwed up a lot of plans and pushed our trip back by 3 months. So now, we were finally ready to drive across three states, visiting friends and family. Our first stop was in Las Vegas to stay with my long-time friend, his wife, and his daughter.
While in Vegas, we hiked Redrock Canyon, visited the Mob Museum, checked out the Neon Light Museum, and even had a chance to stop by the Seven Magic Mountains art installation. But my girlfriend and I did most of that on our own. With that said, I wanted to do something fun. Something we could all do as a group. And with COVID in mind, something that would be safe for a young child and someone with breathing issues.
After having such an awesome time at Keystone Escape Games, it got me to thinking… why not take everyone out to a Vegas escape room? After all, we were already here and it was a great chance to try an escape room outside of the Reno area. This also seemed like a great choice because my friends and his daughter had never been to an escape room. This meant it would be even cooler for them because they'd never experienced anything like it.
After making sure everyone was down and had the time available, I went on the hunt and found a place called Number 1 Escape Room Vegas on Groupon. The price was right, and the reviews were pretty good so I went for it. Unfortunately, I came to find out after my purchase that the deal was only good for two of their rooms. We wouldn’t get to try out the room we wanted to and there was no way around that. However, we couldn’t really orchestrate this any other way, as, at that point, this was the only time and day we could make it happen. So, with that said, we chose Suzy’s Cell — a 70s-themed game based in a women’s prison.
Upon entering, the lobby looked pretty cool. We got all settled in, watched the instructional video (which was a bit cheesy), and then entered the room. Ouch! An immediate downgrade from my initial impression of Blood of the Original. There was a stark difference in quality, craftsmanship, and effort in creating the setting for our story. Again, I don’t want to give too much away in my review because everyone still deserves to enjoy their session should they choose to play Suzy’s Cell. Plus it’s simply not cool to give away details about any company’s rooms. Don’t be a douche. It’s not ok!
However, I will say this… unlike Blood of the Original, Suzy’s Cell seemed to have little or no thought put into the vast majority of puzzles. For the most part, it was open lock 1, open lock 2, open lock 3, open lock 4, open lock 5… you get the idea. There were means to those ends, but it was such a dull experience. And because of how simplistic everything was, I was afraid we were going to finish the game in like 20 minutes. In actuality, we finished with 12 minutes remaining, but had we not gotten stuck on the last puzzle, we would have finished in 30 minutes for sure.
There wasn’t much for 4 people to do simultaneously and I think this was due to the fact that the puzzles and the process were so one-dimensional that you could had to go step by step by step. There was almost no room for improvisation or “side quests”.
I feel like this room would have been best with 2 people at max. On the other hand, when we were playing Blood of the Original at Keystone Escape Games, there were so many things going on at once. So many options and so many means to that fated end. Additionally, we were all busy the entire time. There was never a dull moment and it kept us on our toes. It kept the excitement going and our adrenaline pumping furiously. Furthermore, I have no doubt that you could have played Blood of the Original with 6+ players and nobody would be standing around bored at any moment. It’s that good!
As we were playing Suzy’s Cell in Vegas, I remember being so disappointed from the get-go, up until the last few moments where we were trying to solve a bonus puzzle. I kept cringing to myself and was a bit embarrassed that I had suggested this activity. However, I could tell that my friends were all enjoying it so I pretty much just kept it to myself. That is until my girlfriend and I were able to flesh out our list of grievances alone. And yes, she had all the same gripes and comparisons that I had. So it wasn’t just me.
The End Result
Ultimately, because my friends had no frame of reference, they really did have fun. And I’m glad. They were excited and enjoyed trying something new. In fact, they wanted to try another escape game in the future. So all in all, my suggestion was a success in their eyes. And truthfully, it was still a good experience because I spent it with people I enjoy. Being with your friends is always a winning situation as long as you choose them wisely.
However, that experience in Las Vegas made me really appreciate just how much effort was put into creating the room we had recently gone to in Reno. It was night and day. The simplicity vs the complexity in every aspect of the games was indescribable. Especially without giving too much away about either escape room. But I can say this, Keystone Escape Games has a vision for what they’re doing. They aren’t messing around and they certainly aren’t throwing things together for a quick buck. The beauty of their room, the thoughtful efforts that went into all the puzzles, the prop design, and more… just enthralling! Best of all, you can tell this whole thing is more than a business endeavor. It’s a labor of love.
It’s that passion that lit the fire inside of us to play another escape room. And that same passion made us understand just how much the owners of Keystone Escape Games really care about what they’re doing. It’s like the difference between a $5.99 steak dinner at a cheap casino and a fine cut of beef from a gourmet steakhouse. There’s a powerful effort that you experience with each and every one of your senses. Well, maybe you can’t taste the escape room environment… at least I never tried to start licking the walls. Maybe that’s a strategic move to try in the future?
Personally, I can’t wait till Keystone puts out their next game so I can play again. For now, I’m sure I’ll be trying out some of the other escape rooms Reno has to offer. I may report back with further findings. But for now, if you’re in or ever visiting the Reno/Tahoe area and you’re looking for a fun way to get out and interact with your friends, check out Blood of the Original at Keystone Escape Games. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned escape room veteran, I have no doubt you’ll be impressed.