This was SCRAP LA’s first “Escape Park” style game, where you go around the neighborhood finding clues to solve the puzzles on your game kit. It played during Animé Expo at the convention hall and around Little Tokyo. For people without Anime Expo badges, there is a “cheat sheet” postcard with copies of the clues in the hall. It is very similar to SCRAP SF’s “10,000 Treasure Hunters” games, which were coordinated with Japantown’s JPOP Festival. The game is free to play; I think 10,000 Treasure Hunters was a very cheap ticket just for crowd control purposes. And both were of lower difficulty than standard SCRAP games.
The overall puzzle hunt was very short. There were four puzzle clues inside Animé Expo, which I got from the postcard. There are three remaining clues outside. One was posted in the window of SCRAP LA’s storefront, and the final two used signage from businesses in the area. Using educated guesses, I did not need to visit the two businesses, so the only clue from the entire puzzle hunt that I needed to visit in person was the one at SCRAPLA. Even with the obligatory SCRAP twist for the last puzzle, the entire game took me about 15 minutes to complete on my own.
Slightly disappointed, I made my way over to the end location.
Instead of staff checking your physical answer sheet at checkpoints, Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt used a website check-in system. After you solved the final puzzle, it asks you to post your success to social media. The end location staffers just check for your post before giving you a prize. I got lucky number 5 from the prize wheel — a postcard ad for Zero Escape — Zero Time Dilemma and a discount code for a future SCRAP game.
Coming from an escape room standpoint, this was not SCRAP’s best work, but I am sure people who came for Animé Expo and got this as a treat enjoyed it. Especially the ladies, who were unanimous fans of the Junpei cutout.
SCRAP announced “Real Zero Escape — Trust on Trial” even before I moved down to LA.
I immediately tried to organize some of my usual escape game group to make a road trip with me to play it. However, this game requires a team of nine players, and I moved down here and it fell apart. When we played “Escape from the Jail”, the staff said they could only guarantee it would be around until the end of June, but might be available longer if there was sustained demand. About halfway through June, when I realized that I was not going to be able to get a group down in time to play, I signed up to play on my own. It was the first time I played without knowing any of my teammates.
The weekend I signed up, July 1‑July 4, was when Animé Expo was in town, so there was much more activity than usual in Little Tokyo. In fact, SCRAP was running an outdoor event over the convention weekend called “Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt”. My team were all out-of-towners here for the convention, and while they were very familiar with Zero Escape, the video game theme this particular room was based on, (some of them were cosplaying as characters from the game) they did not have much escape room experience. I, on the other hand, knew nothing about Zero Escape going into this game.
(I describe the process but not outright answers.)
The game itself was like refined iteration of “Escape from the Jail”. The intro briefing is by video from a character from the game. The team is split into three smaller teams and placed into three separate rooms. Communication is much more difficult between the smaller teams than it was in “Escape from the Jail”, and you are more dependent on the other teams to solve the puzzles in your own room. This game had the biggest use of technology in the puzzles that I have seen from SCRAP.
In true SCRAP fashion, when your smaller team solves the individual room puzzles and gets back into the main room, all the pieces of previous puzzles are mixed up and reused for the next portion. One minor complaint I had about this stage is that the final lock in each smaller room has the same combination, so we could have just given the answer to any other team that was lagging behind on getting back to the main room. The final puzzle is a very cool synchronized event that is very nerve-racking as you try to pull it off.
The title of the game, “Trust on Trial”, and the intro briefing implied that trust is key to solving the game. I thought that meant there would be a traitor in our midst, but I was not sure how that would work since the team could nine strangers or nine best friends. Would people set aside their real relationships to play a traitor in the game? SCRAP could not count on that, so it had to be something better. There is one point in the game where we get access to our characters’ journals and need to cross-reference the statements like a zebra puzzle in order to solve the next puzzle. I thought that maybe one character would be a liar and we had to ignore or invert their statements to solve the puzzle.
The answer is a bit simpler than that. The nine of us are in deed working as a single team. We just have to “trust” that our teammates in the other rooms are good enough to solve their puzzles and help us solve our own puzzles.
All in all, a very slick SCRAP game. Mechanics-wise, possibly the best SCRAP game I have played. Puzzle-wise, fairly standard SCRAP difficulty, but the communication limitation makes it more challenging. I definitely recommend the game, but only if your team is fairly experienced in escape rooms.
My team, of course, failed on the final puzzle.
Oh, and I saw Suta and Kazu there. I believe Yuki was working the convention, but I did not run into her. Also got to meet the very friendly SCRAPLA staff, who I am sure will soon be sick of me. Suta is a big Zero Escape fan and helped develop this game, so while we were doing the debrief, she also pointed out all the Easter eggs she had hidden for fans.
I went back to San Francisco in April to play SCRAP’s latest escape room, Escape from the Jail, with my usual crew plus a few new people.
If you are unfamiliar with SCRAP, they are a great escape game company and claim to have pioneered the industry. I am not sure if that is true, but they were definitely the first I personally had heard of. My first game, The Crazy Last Will of Dr. Mad, was an excellent introduction to escape games. Since then, I have played more of SCRAP’s games than any other company’s. They keep things interesting by having three different formats of games:
“Escape Room” — Your team is anywhere from four to twelve players. The team books exclusive access to a room for a specific time slot. You tear it apart looking for clues to solve puzzles and “win” by finding the key to physically get yourselves out of the room.
“Escape Game” — Your team is always six players. The team gets one table in a large conference room, with anywhere from twenty to thirty other teams also playing at the same time. Each team gets a duplicate copy of the puzzles and simultaneously tries to solve them. Technically every team can “win” by putting down the correct “final answer” on your answer sheet.
“Escape Park” — Your team can be any number of players. The team runs around a large open area such as a city neighborhood or sports stadium. Each team gets a duplicate copy of the puzzles and simultaneously tries to solve them. Technically every team can “win” by putting down the correct “final answer” on your answer sheet.
(My names, not theirs.) These different formats allow SCRAP to put unique twists on their games as well as roll out new games much more often than competing companies that only do “traditional” escape rooms.
Escape from the Jail
SCRAP’s most recent offering was Escape from the Jail, which is in the “escape room” format. The game is still currently running, so I do not want to give away too much. Obviously, the theme is a prison setting. The story is that we were falsely accused of a crime and have to escape before we are executed. SCRAP’s observers were described to us as ghosts of past prisoners; I appreciate that they always have an explanation of why staff is in the room with you.
Besides the usual safety rules (no running, do not touch things marked as not part of the game, etc.), there were a couple of new wrinkles. First, our team was split in two, and locked into adjoining cells with a solid wall in between. One staff member role-played a prison guard rather than just a silent observer. He enforced the prison-specific rules, including no talking between cells! If you have played any escape games before, you know how vital communication with team members is, so this limitation made the game very interesting.
The puzzle format was very similar to previous SCRAP games — you solve smaller puzzles throughout the room and they feed into a “master puzzle” crossword that you have to reference over and over. As usual, the puzzles are well designed and fairly difficult, but can be solved purely through skill and without need of outside knowledge.
It is hard to hold this against SCRAP, since it is not really their style to have any physical challenges, thought I would like to see more of this type of thing from their escape room scenarios. I think the most difficult thing we had to do was use hand tools to take apart a locked box.
My group of escape artists knows most of the SCRAP staff by name, but they have been hiring more and more lately. The staffers are this particular game were all new to us, but they were well trained, and the guard was outstanding.
SCRAP games are always fun to me because their puzzle design is great brinksmanship — we are always around the final puzzle when time is up! The other important factor to me is involvement — there needs to be enough material for every team member to be working on something at a given time. SCRAP usually nails this because of their tendency to reuse puzzle pieces. Even if there are not enough new puzzles for members to work on, someone can and should be reviewing previous puzzles to see if they can be applied.
Overall, it was a great game. And true to team tradition, we failed with final key in hand, racing for the exit door!