Review: The Family Jewel
New Mexico Escape Room, Albuquerque, New Mexico
#106, Won, $25/person
Team Bluefish loves escape room businesses that are excited about the craft. New Mexico Escape Room is definitely in that category. "The Family Jewel" was the first of two of the games we played there ("The Blood Map" being the other) and definitely the one of the two I would recommend. While the set of "The Family Jewel" is initially unassuming, the experience is bigger than the room you are in. A large part of that is because the game master didn't just push us in a room and throw away the key. The game briefing, clues, and multiple endings keep you in the narrative from beginning to end.
The set and props are run-of-the-mill; solid but not exciting. You are in grandma's living room ransacking the place. I asked Ace later, "Ace, you can pick anywhere real or imaginary to go for one hour. Where do you wanna go? Did a living room cross your mind?" This is a trend I see in escape rooms. There is so much logic that is needed to create a good puzzle that the imagination and creativity that can go into the set is secondary. This does not sound like it will be the case though with NM Escape Room's next endeavor. They gave us a few bits of info about the Egyptian room that is being built and I'm sure we'll make it a point to hop the state border and give it a go once it's up and running.
The investment in the setting is really the only thing to call out as fine-not-great in this room. The puzzles were fun to solve and they used a few standard items in unexpected ways. At one point, something we did and something we found lined up in an unfortunate fashion, causing us to be led down an incorrect path. A little clarity would be nice but this particular event seems like something that some, but not all, groups would run into. Other than that one hang up, every step of following the clues was enjoyable and exciting and the game ending options add an interesting twist. The storyline and puzzles work well together creating a cohesive experience made even better by the enthusiasm the staff has for the game.
Referencing the beginning of this article, if you are wondering why I would recommend "The Blood Map" less than this one, let's just reiterate how bad Team Bluefish is at the search-and-find.
Puzzles: Great puzzles with one hang up. Theme: Immersive narrative but an uninspiring set. Game Master: The game master was part of the game in an unitrusive way. Upkeep: No qualms. Customer Service: Excellent. Extras: +1 for the way the narrative was included in every aspect of the game.