A Connoisseur’s Colombian ConundrumBy now, you might know me as the Junkie that’s addicted to great stories in addition to escaping. There are few experiences as rewarding as being totally immersed in the land of make believe – even if it’s only for 60 minutes at a time. I was really excited to see what would be in store with Lakeland Escape Room’s latest offering: Coffee Cartel. Mmmmmm….coffee. To many, it’s the nectar of the gods. To others it’s a necessary first step in the morning. And to others still, it’s a witches brew of addictive substances that must be avoided at all costs (it has been my general experience to naturally distrust these types of people, but this character flaw can be overcome). I consider myself a lover of coffee, but you’ll know when I tell you that I like my coffee like a hot version of a milkshake… you’ll know that I’m not coffee connoisseur. With practice, I’ve learned to make the perfect cup of Joe. My secret is not to let too much coffee get into my cream and sugar! While I may not be a connoisseur of coffee, I know enough to know that everyone has their own style. There’s nothing like the cup of coffee that YOU make yourself.
The GoodCoffee Cartel brews up for itself an authentic aroma which is quite refreshing. It’s a rare thing for an avid escapee to experience a totally new or original theme. But this is exactly what Lakeland Escape Room has delivered. A room themed around a Colombian Coffee plantation with hidden secrets to boot? Yes, I’ll have a cup of that please. The aesthetic of the room has a transporting quality to it. You definitely feel like you’re in agricultural Colombia. Little touches of culture here and there do a lot to achieve this effect. This is a classic situation where the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. For example, every Junkie was appreciating the musical touches in the room at one point or another. There’s a reason that music is called the universal language. So hints of a reggaeton/dembow beat (and of course, some Shakira… we were in Colombia after all) had us all jamming out at one point or another. The puzzles were pleasantly intricate which gave credence to the difficulty label of “Experienced” that was given to the room. Originality swirled around some of the puzzles and the room’s transitions like milk swirls in a good cappuccino. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll say that we had a room-to-room transition that was something we hadn’t seen before and it added to the overall feel of the room. Let’s just say, if your coffee plantation was hiding a closely guarded secret, you wouldn’t expect the door to the secret place to magically swing open at the right time… no, you would expect a worthy secret to be safely boarded up, away from prying eyes and wandering guests. In addition to the elements of originality throughout the room, there were also some surprising special effects which is an always appreciated touch. Like I said above, these little things pay large dividends when it comes to the overall experience. You’ll really enjoy them!
The Not So GoodOnly a few things to report here: Puzzles – As mentioned above, they were pleasantly intricate. The only downside was… they were quite linear. For those of you who don’t know, rooms can have a linear puzzle style or what I will call a “multi-focal” puzzle style. I’ll save all my thoughts on “multi-focal” puzzle styles for another time, but linearly puzzled rooms are defined by the fact that the entire room moves one puzzle at a time. Only one puzzle can be solved at any given time and chances are good that any clues obtained from puzzle ‘A’ lead directly to puzzle ‘B.’ A linear styled room is NOT a bad thing. In fact, as linear rooms go, Coffee Cartel was a good one. It’s just that a room rated “Experienced” usually utilizes the aforementioned “multi-focal” style. So… there were a few moments during our escape where a significant portion of the group didn’t have much else to do but cheerlead our 2 or 3 fellow team members who were working the one “active” puzzle. Being the experts that we are, we tried to work ahead as best we could, and we did have some payoff in at one least case that I can think of, but I would emphasize, that even though we may have been successful in laying some groundwork, we couldn’t solve any of those puzzles without solving the one (singular) before it. A nagging narrative issue – According to the narrative (available on the establishment’s website), we are trying to escape our OWN coffee plantation before the authorities arrive to arrest us! So… how did we get trapped in our own joint? And how do we not know the way out!! I sense a plot hole. [Full Disclosure: this minor pet peeve of mine, the story lover, did not affect the final rating]. Finally, I’ll just say quickly that a puzzle in the room was not reset properly and cost us a moderate of amount of time (probably 5-7 minutes). After struggling for a little bit, we actually discovered the problem and an employee had to come into the room to correct the issue. We don’t expect that this is the type of thing that should repeat itself, so chances are you’ll have a snag-free experience.
ClosingAnd herein lies the Connoisseur’s Conundrum… connoisseurs of escape rooms, that is. I know everyone likes their coffee their own way. So while it’s true that the Junkies tend to prefer the “multi-focal” rooms over the linear rooms, I still have to admit that Lakeland Escape Room gave us a good linear game. As I said before, linear games are NOT bad games, their just someone else’s “cup of Joe.” So how is a coffee connoisseur supposed to rate someone else’s cup of coffee? It’s a tough job, but somebody has to grind those beans. Overall, I recommend Coffee Cartel. You and your group will have a great time in an immersive experience. If you’re looking for some originality in theme, style, and puzzles, then check into Las Tres Ana’s!
- Location: Lakeland Escape Room
- Time Limit: 60 Minutes
- Number of Players: Up to 8
- Recommended Skill Level: “Experienced”
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