Room Name: Captive
Business: Cipher Escape Rooms
Location: 1735 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Date of Visit: October 21, 2018
Number of Players: Up to 12
Our Group Size: 4
Official Description: He said he’ll be back in 60 minutes. That’s when your game is over, and his “game” starts. He’s even started a timer to torment you. As you watch the last hour of your life slowly tick away, your mind races as you ponder all of the horrifying things about to happen at the hands of this…person, this…monster. How are you are going to spend the time you have left? You can cry. You can pray. You can write a goodbye letter. You can scream for help. Or you can ESCAPE!
Difficulty (official): Our operator told us this was their most difficult room.
Difficulty (experience): Medium
Time to Escape: Around 55:00
Review: The Houston Arcade Expo had come and gone, and our group wanted one last hurrah before heading back home – so why not do an escape?
Cipher’s signage wasn’t easily seen from the road, but the building is pretty easy to find thanks to the bright yellow artwork on the exterior. The lobby area is large, but was pretty empty compared to the other escape businesses that we’ve visited previously.
The staff members were all quite friendly and helpful, and our room operator gave us a very detailed explanation of what to expect in the room and was happy to answer all of our questions. We went into the room, handcuffed and in high spirits—
—and then we walked into the dungeon that would seal our fate.
The room is divided into two sections—the jail cell and the torture chamber. Cipher clearly had a lot of fun devising the decor in both areas, and filled the room with props that made the room feel more real, such as items belonging to different victims. The jail cell encompassed a small area of the room, and while it wasn’t crowded in the room with just the four of us there were just enough puzzles in there to keep us all occupied until we managed to open the second area. Had our group been much larger, though, this area might seem a bit spare with tasks to accomplish and could begin to feel claustrophobic if the upper room limit of 12 players is met.
My memory gets a little fuzzy with the torture chamber, as two of us were focused on one time-consuming puzzle while our other two team members solved most of the new area. They did report that there were a couple of particularly clever puzzles, and one particular prop interaction fit perfectly into the room’s atmosphere. We were disappointed that the puzzle that we were attempting (which required two people to complete) took up so much time, and our room operator told us afterwards that puzzle was a sticking point for most groups.
This was the first time we had a room operator deliver hints in-character—the creepy Madame DuBois would call into the room regularly to taunt us or offer advice to help the room move along. She had an impeccable sense of timing and never gave us much of a hint unless we asked for clarification. She did, however, easily dispense insults and aggravation onto our group.
Ultimately, we were able to reason out one clever and well-integrated puzzle to make our way out of the serial killer’s lair before we met our demise.
Hints Used: We called in for hints on two occasions. Our hints were clear and easy to follow, but didn’t include so much information as to spoil the puzzles.
Clue Quality : The clues were delivered in very creative ways, and it gave us an insight into Madame DuBois’s twisted mind. There were a couple of clues that felt too vague, but then fit nicely into the solution. Many revelations in the room brought excitement to our group despite the macabre tone of the escape.
Puzzle Creativity: The puzzles had many elements that we hadn’t seen before – no worksheets or overly-complicated direction puzzles were present. While we did get stuck on one puzzle for a very long time, the execution of it was very creative and one prop interaction in the room is delightfully twisted.
Fear Factor: Mildly intense themes, includes a few moments that could be upsetting for young children. We recommend participants be at least thirteen.
Things to note: There is no dedicated parking lot for Cipher and the escape room is across the street from an extremely popular cafe making parking on the main street difficult. Parking is allowed in the neighborhood around the business but may be hard to come by, especially during brunch hours on the weekend. Plan to arrive early just to ensure you can park and walk to Cipher on time.