Los Angeles, Nov 2018
I probably shouldn’t admit that I only realised The Pyramid was Mayan themed not Egyptian during the game’s briefing – I went straight from recommendation to booking page without actually stopping to read anything about the game along the way. But either flavour of ancient tomb works equally well, and I was mainly focused on gaming the public booking system by grabbing a mid-week daytime slot last minute so that we had the room to ourselves.
That gambit was successful, and our group of four happily strolled into the game, to be a little taken aback when our gamemaster followed us in and took up position in a corner. I’d heard North American enthusiasts referring to gamemasters being in the room so assumed that, like public bookings, this was another way in which escape rooms have evolved differently on different sides of the Atlantic, but I’m told it’s pretty unusual there too. Either way we initially found it strange and uncomfortable, self-consciously feeling a bit like teenagers trying to have a party while the parents sit in the corner saying ‘don’t mind us’. However, it only took five minutes or so to settle in and get used to it.
Pyramid is a big, bold adventure game with lots of custom themed mechanisms, all based around Mayan symbology. The level of realism here is the sort where you have convincing stone textures inset with clearly modern LEDs and buttons, a slightly Disneyfied design that is much too clean to really look like a tomb but is nonetheless extravagantly impressive. Within a broadly linear structure there are normally multiple puzzles to work on at any one time, which worked well for our group of four but would get pretty crowded for a larger group.
Of the two games we played at Escape Room LA, Pyramid is officially easier but was the one we came closer to failing, finishing with just a few minutes left. With a lot of content to get through it’s a game where you can’t afford to get stuck for too long, though there were only a few points that slowed us down. Two or three struck me as a bit arbitrary, where it seemed a matter of guessing which of a handful of equally reasonable approaches the puzzle designer intended, but those were the exception. More often everything was very clear-cut, with little danger of confusion between items used in different places. A journal of clues gives extra advice on how to approach some puzzles, though the game is stronger for the parts that don’t rely on that slightly clunky trope.
My main reservation about this rather sumptuous room is that it felt a bit more style than substance. Minor gripes aside the puzzles were fine, and implemented with slick high-budget production values. Still, it felt like there was a whole lot of matching different sets of symbols, plenty of placing the doodads in the doodad-shaped indents, all very in the mainstream for modern padlock-free escape rooms. Other than the shared Mayan theming the puzzles had little connection to each other, and any one puzzle could be swapped out without affecting the others. As a result, and despite a couple of distinctive and cool interactions, for me it fell a little way short in a way that I’d describe as glossy but bland, fun but less memorable than other top tier rooms.
Perhaps I’m just too jaded, since those criticisms set a high bar that few games can match up to. I suspect groups who’ve played fewer or less sophisticated escape rooms will find Pyramid quite stunning. If you like your adventures packed with puzzles and top of the line decor, then you’ll find Pyramid first-rate on both counts.