Immediate Warning – This post WILL contain spoilers for the Defenders of the Triforce Escape Room event. Do NOT read this before doing it or if you ever plan on doing it. That would be cheating.
Escape rooms have always interested me, but I am not super great at getting off my couch and getting TO them. So when work set up a thing where we would go to Defends of the Triforce for free, I jumped on it knowing all my friends would go to.
Let me also be upfront about my love for Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was the first game I played obsessively as a kid. Ocarina of Time is one of my all time favorite games ever. I have a Switch and Breath of the Wild. I was READY for a Zelda event.
The first thing that struck me was – the production values were actually significantly lower than I expected for an event that costs $50+. The “room” was really 8 tiny tables crammed into a space, with small stools and 6 people per table. (Seriously, the tables were small. There was a binder as part of the game – and if it was open, it covered 80% of the table.) There were painted and crafted “areas” to match areas from the game. But these were like 1 day build sets. I might be critical – but as someone who did stage building in college, plus helped build temp structures in the desert – these were slapdash at best.
I should also admit, I’ve never DONE an escape room before. I don’t know if they are all like this – but if so, someone with some real stage experience should come along and do a better one. Just sayin.
So we sat down in our team (with silly green hats) and got our instructions. While I am here, let me mention the hats. That didn’t fit very well, but we were forced to wear… AND THEN HAD TO GIVE BACK. So I very much hope the rash I have on my scalp isn’t contagious or there it goes. (Seriously – don’t do this. People have very funky heads.)
The timer started and so did we. The first puzzle involved a series of small puzzles that lead to a word puzzle. I sat there looking at the puzzle and figured it out. We had only found 4 of the 6 words, but I knew what the next step was. But we couldn’t skip ahead? We had to have all the solutions. Ugh. Fine.
Remember how I said that there were 8 tables? Right – so 8 teams. And your WHOLE team has to go to the various areas set up around the room. So we all go rushing up to Zora’s Domain, and one of our party is lagging behind. Despite him being 4 feet away, the performer INSISTED that we wait until we were all huddled up to his satisfaction. I bring this up because – in a timed event – being nit picky about these kinds of things means wasting time. The PUZZLES are what should take the time, not needless subjective rules discussions about what constitutes the whole team “being there”. It wouldn’t be a big deal, if it hadn’t happened EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. Like literally, minutes lost because we weren’t all huddled up. No offense, but I don’t like people that much. On top of this, if you went to an area and there was already a team there, YOU HAD TO WAIT. Now – let’s be real, I am not a patient person to BEGIN with, but if you put me in a time crunch situation then STOP me from doing what I need to do, I am gonna be crabby. (And I was.)
So we get the next puzzle and proceed on. It seemed relatively simple – we needed the two stones, so we solved the two puzzles and went to see the Gorons. This performer was also needlessly particular. And not very good at being a Goron. He sent us away, saying we didn’t have what he wanted. After 5 wasted minutes re-checking our work, one of our member noticed a tiny point of a triangle wasn’t colored in fully. So we went back – sure enough, that was what had prevented it. After talking to others, ours was NOT the only group that had this happen. It’s a puzzle game – not a gotcha game. It was frustrating to see the “easier” puzzles designed in such a way as to trick the player and make them fail.
There were some exceptional moments (here comes the spoiler)
Like once, we needed a rupee. We had 49, but the price was 50. I was holding a pair of green scissors in my right hand, and a laminated instruction sheet in my left. I could FEEL the rupee sticker inside the instruction sheet. But it was laminated. The tag on the scissors said “Cut the grass!” The instruction sheet had grass printed along the bottom. It literally broke my brain, intentionally destroying this thing to get the rupee out. A truly amazing moment. I am actually SAD that not everyone on my team got to experience it.
Another when we had a bit of an arrow, an opened chest and instructions to Pierce the Spade. Jerry jammed the arrow into a sticker, which was covering a hole, and popped the false bottom of the chest out. I fucking LOST it. The call back to the earlier clue and puzzle. The hidden catch. So good.
But all too often – the puzzles were either instantly obvious or so blindingly opaque that no one in our group of 6 VERY intelligent people even knew where to START. And talking to the performers across the BOARD was an exercise in frustration. I understand they are likely college kids doing an evening job, but at least make SOME attempts. Only one of them remotely TRIED to be in character, and all of them were oddly anal about procedure. For example – as you completed steps you got stickers, and there were spots on the papers for the stickers, but they were IMPOSSIBLE to get off their backings! (Says the lady with NAILS.) But twice we were not allowed to continue until we had peeled every sticker and stuck it on the thing. This probably added up to about 3-5 minutes of WASTED time.
All of my issues go back to the waste of time. Putting people under pressure like that requires that everything goes smoothly and doesn’t waste their time. Doing so frustrates and angers the person who is trying to do a fun thing. It ends up feeling like bureaucracy and not fun. If it’s too short without all the annoying delays, then add another puzzle and cut down the time.
In the end, we got stuck on the final step. The clue I felt was WAY vague and when we asked for help, we were given another clue that lead us down an incorrect path. FURTHER, even when the correct answer was revealed, I tried it on MY thing and it didn’t work. There HAD to be a better way to do the final puzzle so it worked, made sense, and wasn’t able to be mistaken as a wrong answer.
Further, I found out AFTER the event, one of the other teams was literally IN LINE – waiting their turn, with the solution to the final puzzle, when the timer went off. They were deemed Non-Winners. What the shit? No.
It may sound like I didn’t have fun. That’s not true. It was great fun. Because of the themeing and the friends I was with. If I had done it on my own, with random people, and it wasn’t Zelda themed, (and having had to pay for it) I would be so turned off of the entire experience I would never do it again.
I feel like, much like Breath of the Wild but that’s another post, the Defenders of the Triforce is being carried by Zelda, when on it’s own would not command the price or critical acclaim it gets. I liked it, but it could have been (and probably SHOULD have been) significantly better with only minor tweaks.