Traveling: Escape rooms in Montevideo (Urugay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)Posted on 2019-05-08
Santiago is one of our regular visitors. After visiting Urugay & Argentina he wrote an article about the rooms he played in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
For familiar reasons I go every year to Uruguay (I am originally from there) and pretty much every single time I pay a visit to Buenos Aires (Argentina), a city I like a lot, and which is relatively close.
More than one year ago, when I was there the last time, only one venue was open in Montevideo (which even closed temporarily in that period) and there were not many companies, nor rooms in Buenos Aires, and by extension in Argentina, in particular taking into account the size of the city/country. This year I encountered a different situation, while in Uruguay the Escape Room trend lies behind pretty much the rest of the World, in Argentina the market exploded. Nowadays, there are approx. 130 rooms in Argentina, from which around 90 are in Buenos Aires. The majority of them opened in the last year.
As many might be more interested in the room’s reviews, I will start by that, but then I will finish the article by making some final general comments about what I encountered there.
To start with, a little bit of history: Escape rooms arrived in Montevideo in 2016, first as a pop-up game in the East of the country in a popular summer resort, which led to the first escape room in Montevideo. It didn´t last long, as the next year it was already closed for good. Around that time, I believe, Juegos Mentales arrived in Montevideo. Juegos Mentales is a franchise from Argentina, one of the two big companies, which dominate the market there. The success in Uruguay was limited. I learned from the current owners, that it was owned by somebody else, and that they closed temporarily until they took over. Until recently, they were the only company in the country, but in the last months a second one opened (Claustrofobia)
Juegos Mentales Uruguay
This company has three rooms in one venue. All of them are 60 minutes rooms for 2-6 players.
- La maldición de los piratas
I played this room only with my partner. The room is a strictly linear room. Linear in the disposition of the rooms, in the progress through them and in its puzzles. As linear as it gets. It is an acceptable escape room, that uses technology, in particular, mechanical elements. I found some of the puzzles cleverly conceived, others more standard. In a way it is quite a solid room, nice decoration connected to the topic and puzzles related to the topic. I would never ever advice anyone experienced to play it with more than two players. Both physically and in terms of puzzles I would advise against it, in the case of newbies or families maybe up to 4. 6 is way too much for the room. Due to its strong linearity there is not much of a surprise or wow moment. It was the first room I played in Uruguay and I did not expect much, so in that sense I was happy because it was an acceptable room, and I think for people entering the escape room world (which is almost everybody in Uruguay) it is quite a nice room. I would rate it below the average of the rooms we are used to here, but definitely not a bad room. We got stuck a little bit, sometimes due to tech issues, but I believe the average experienced player would get out very quickly.
This was the second room we played in this venue. It is considered as the hardest one of the venue. The decoration is acceptable, also theme related and with theme related puzzles, but it does not inspire awe. It is kept simple, I think there is room for improvement. We played as team of 4, with two friends that were playing for the first time. We failed when we were solving the last puzzle, mainly due to a technical issue, which I found really annoying. When you solve something and nothing gets triggered and you spend 10-15 minutes trying all kind of things because you are stuck due to that, it ends up being more frustrating than fun. I think the failure was mostly because of the gamemaster, who should have intervened and said that the puzzle was solved correctly. Other than that, I found the room had several confusing elements, which did not necessarily improve the nature of the puzzles. In terms of puzzles there was neither more difficulty nor more quantity than in the easier rooms, but I think the puzzle design was not very good. We had also another technical issue, that someone had to go in the room, which also did not help with the mood. All in all, it is not a bad room, but again there is nothing memorable about it, and unluckily in our case it was not so great experience.
- 7 pecados
7 pecados is considered as the easiest room of the venue, and it was also for us clearly so. We played as a team of 4 with my sister and her girlfriend, that were playing for the first time. We finished well ahead of time and it could have been even more if we did not get stuck at one puzzle. Again, for an experienced average European player it is too easy and it also lacks anything spectacular, but in this case, we had fun. It is rather entertaining room, focused on doing and it is nice because it is clearly different than the other two rooms. In terms of fun, this was the room I enjoyed the most, even when it was simpler in terms of puzzles. Obviously, experienced players will not feel challenged by it, but they can definitely have a fun (albeit a little bit short) time.
This venue has currently two rooms, but according to the webpage and what they told me, they plan to open two more rooms. Due to the busy schedule and because the other room requires a minimum of three players, I played only one of them “Asesino Serial” (2-6 players) but I intend to try the other ones (and maybe the new ones) in my next visit in 2020.
- Asesino Serial
We played this room only with two players. The positive aspect of this room is that it involves some play dynamics, that the other rooms in Uruguay do not have and some slightly scary elements. Obviously, this does not come as a surprise for an experienced player, as I had encountered the ideas of this room already in several rooms. But to be fair, in the new scene of the country, it is a novelty and therefore it adds a different experience to the games I already mentioned. From my point of view on the other hand, it was not the most enjoyable room. On one hand it was a rather low investment room, little use of technology, and there was not much of decoration. I understand it is an independent enterprise and therefore probably one of the reasons it is low budget, but even taking that into account I found there was an abuse of certain elements, that modern escape rooms have long left behind. Some puzzles had little to nothing to do with the topic and I found one of the puzzles lacking a clear logic. While in general my best experiences are independent rooms, as opposed to chains operating in several countries, I believe the creators of the room still lack the experience to create something more mature, even when operating with a limited budget. I hope that with their new rooms, they manage to improve a couple of things. It has to be said also, that at the moment it does not appear to be suitable for foreign visitors, as there was some text in Spanish involved.
The market in Buenos Aires (and therefore Argentina) is dominated by two companies Escape Games and Juegos Mentales, therefore it is not surprising that some of the best games available are from these companies. With limited time I could not experience games from other, more independent companies, although I have heard good thigs about some of them. The large companies mentioned above have several venues with multiple rooms. I will list the rooms played grouped by venue.
Escape Games San Telmo
- Breaking Bad
I played this room, one year before the rest of the games reviewed here, but I thought about adding it to this review for the sake of completeness. I played this room alone with my partner, at that time we did not have the experience we do now, and I did not know the TV series back then. After watching the series, I revisited my opinion about this room, and there are some ideas nicely done. The puzzles on the other hand were in my opinion not really good. I cannot think about any puzzle I really enjoyed in this game, and as a matter of fact, one of the worst puzzles I have seen in an escape room is still one I have found in this room.
The personnel in this venue was friendly and I am in particular thankful that they took my reservation in an unusual way. I visited the venue two times, one to play with family and a second time to play some recommended games on my own with an interested group of local players. Unluckily they forgot to take pictures in the later rooms.
- Mi pobre angelito
I played this room based on the recommendation of an Argentinian enthusiast with kids, as most of the games are not suitable for kids. Other than my partner I went with my son and my father along. This led to one of the “funniest” experiences I had in a room, namely that my father after an initial search sat in a couch and slept through the whole game. We had to wake him up at the end. In my opinion the room had little to do with the alleged topic of the room and was not very exciting, not particularly interesting from the decoration, it is suitable for going with kids, but it was not the greatest experience for my son, although he manifested afterwards his interest in playing again, so it was not that bad. As a matter of fact, he made the connection in one of the puzzles, that we could not see. For me in this case a below the average room, both in terms of puzzles and decoration.
- La guarida del hacker
This is the hardest room of the venue, and in my opinion, it improves, as you progress in the room. There are some “left overs” from previous versions of the puzzles that are only confusing, and some of the initial puzzles have nothing to do with the topic and are not precisely fun. I found one puzzle a little bit stretched, but I found the main collaborative puzzle nicely done. The few times we got stuck, was more due to our incompetence in searching, than anything else. It is a nice average room.
This was my clear favorite in Buenos Aires, as it uses nicely technological elements and goes away from the otherwise mostly locks based game. There were some really nice decorative elements, which were really well done. Most of the puzzles were interesting and some of them involved collaboration. The weakest point of this room was in my opinion a first poorly designed puzzle, that if interacting with it you change it it is impossible to put in the original position without any help, and a final puzzle, which does not make justice to the whole room and ends up in a total anticlimactic way. We got stuck in the last puzzle, mainly due to overthinking, otherwise we would have made it out relatively quick. With the exceptions of said puzzles, the rest of the room has a nice flow and engaging puzzles. I believe at the time I played, this was their latest room, and it shows a positive development in the escape room scene. As it does not involve language it is also ideal for the occasional non-Spanish speaking visitor.
Escape Games Nuñez
- El juego del miedo
This is a classical topic in escape rooms and I believe the ambiance was nicely done, I liked in particular a surprising element. There were some collaborative elements and in general the puzzles were logic. There were two things, which I had the impression, that they worked in the past and now they do not anymore. That appears to indicate poor maintenance of this room. I enjoyed the room, I believe it was quite a solid room, but again, as in most of the rooms, the final was anticlimactic, with a puzzle that was neither very well-conceived, nor executed. This was the only room I played in the venue, and in terms of service it was the least friendly from the ones I have played, both before and after the game. It felt as a mere commercial transaction, although I am also thankful that they did the reservation via phone, as in The Caballito venue.
Juegos Mentales Vicente López
This venue is located just crossing the peripheric ring of the city of Buenos Aires, in what is called Greater Buenos Aires. It has two rooms, and I played both. One thing I would like to particularly mention is the attention by the franchise owner, which was above the average of what I experienced in Buenos Aires, given that in most of the rooms the people in charge are just employees. Very friendly service and great talks after the game. For that and for the rooms at the venue it is worth going there, even when the location is not central.
- El rito
I played this room with two other guys. This room is considered as very hard (10/10 difficulty according to the scale that characterizes Juegos Mentales) and we did not manage to get out. The truth is that I did not enjoy this room, in spite of some very positive aspects I will mention later. I never felt comfortable in this game, and that is a pity, because it has good references and the owners are really nice. It was unfortunately one of the less enjoyable games I played. I found the logic of the puzzles either missing or stretched, there were some elements, which I consider are time wasting elements, that should be banned from escape rooms, specially when abused. I think the underlying idea is good, but the execution not entirely. The strongest point of this room are some ambiance elements, that are really comparable to those of European rooms, and which I found surprisingly well-done.
- La purga
I played La purga with 4 other people, all experienced players. I enjoyed this game much more than the other one of this venue, I consider it a very solid game and to be honest with a few adjustments here and there, it could be even considered a very good game. The game is related to the movie “The Purge”, which I had not seen, nor heard about it before, but if you know the movie (one of our team members knew it very well), you will recognize many elements, which relate to said film. In any case, the ambiance is nicely done, even the outside of the room, which is actually quite remarkable. The room has a nice strong start, with an idea I had not seen before, unluckily there was also a little thing, which for me personally ruined a little bit that strong start. There are nice collaborative moments in this room and for me that is always a good sign. The puzzles were in general logic and mostly theme related. Unluckily there was one puzzle, which costed us lot of time, which in my opinion was really poorly conceived. And there was also at least one puzzle, which while logic, was anything but fun, and that the room would do much better without it. I think there was not so much text involved, and probably it would be doable without language knowledge, although in one of the puzzles it could imply an additional difficulty. To sum up, I can recommend this room. I think that with very little, it could become even better.
Conclusions and general comments
It is still not clear if in Uruguay there will be a market explosion, as it happened in Argentina. The fact that it has not happened yet, appears to indicate, that as it occurs with so many things in Uruguay the trend will pass without much of a success. On the other hand, taking into account, that a second venue opened this year, maybe there is more to come. Meanwhile in Argentina the trend is clearly upwards, as new rooms are constantly opening. The webpages of the two major companies list several rooms that are already planned to open, and even though some rooms have closed, there is much more opening than closing. This growing trend is accompanied by a very active escape room enthusiast community present in Facebook (Escapistas Argentinos) which has approximately 2500 members, and which was my first source for finding both recommendations and players.
In general I consider that the escape room scene in Uruguay and Argentina is not mature enough, and this has not only to do with the monetary aspect, but also with a lot of concepts, that are typical from an industry still at an early stage: little to none importance of the story (story as excuse for the setting and not as a main element), passive and commercial role of the gamemaster (not integrated in the story, hints have to be asked (!) via walkie-talkie or intercom, clue limitation), random black-light searching, increasing difficulty of rooms mainly due to stretched puzzles and not more quantity and/or quality of them, little to none surprising elements. In almost all of the rooms I had to struggle with at least one puzzle that lacked logic or was unclear, something, which I seldomly experience playing in Europe. The development towards the overall experience is still not there.
I think that if the trend continues in Argentina, an improvement should be expected. I hope to find a positive trend in my next visit. It has to be mentioned that the price in Argentina is considerably lower than in the Netherlands (for a group of 4 the average price is 25-30 Euros), therefore considering the price some of the rooms mentioned in this article are really worth playing if you happen to be there. You should check if the venue is willing/able to host you to play in English and if they do, do the reservation telephonically, as the websites, usually demand local methods of payment.
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