Our newest escape room game, The Alchemist, is finally open! After many months of planning, meetings, design, construction and delays,The Alchemist began in late December and has been receiving rave reviews from participants! (see here.)
"On paper The Alchemist seemed like a relatively simple game," says creator John Hennessy. "Once we actually got into the space and started work on the room design and construction, it became clear that this was going to be a bigger project that anything we'd previously done. In terms of square footage, The Alchemist is by far our largest room. And we're using lots of new technology in this game. Along with the spectacular design of the space by Jeff McLaughlin, The Alchemist has some very unique puzzles that really sets it apart from other escape games."
The Alchemist is the third Escape Room LA project for award-winning theatrical scenic designer Jeff McLaughlin, who has also created the spaces for The Detective and The Cavern. "The sheer volume of custom pieces required for this particular game was the biggest challenge from a design perspective," Jeff said. "Everything in the room is hand-built, one of a kind. There are dozens upon dozens of pieces."
The Alchemist room slowly takes shape.
"Construction seemed to take forever," adds John. "There was so much wood. In the early stages, I'd walk in there and feel like I was standing in a lumber yard. Jeff had a crew of about a dozen people working on this room, from electricians to scenic painters and carpenters. This is something that really sets us apart from other escape game companies - we invest a lot of time and money into creating environments that completely immerse participants into the world of the game."
"Having worked with Jeff on three rooms now, we've developed a working relationship that depends a lot on trusting each other's ideas. I'll say something like, 'this puzzle doesn't work so I need to change it but I don't know what it's going to be yet, I'll let you know in the next day or two.' Many designers would freak out over last minute unpredictable changes like this, but he knows now that this is sometimes how I work."
"For the most part, John lets me run with the aesthetics of how the space is going to look," says Jeff. "And since there are so many custom pieces that went into this room, we hit lots of points where we really need to knock the ideas back and forth. John comes up with the overall game idea, then I tell him what can be built or what material limitations are or whatever, then we start brainstorming together to solve the problems. The cool thing is that we do it in various ways: sometimes we go back and forth until it is solved and sometimes we both know we need to sleep on it."
"When creating a game, I start with the story and location," says John. "Where are we? Why are we here? What do we have to do? Why do we need to do it within one hour? Everything in the game, from the look of the space to each of the puzzles, comes from answering those four questions. The Alchemist is unique in that it's divided into four distinct sections, one for each of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. Each of the sections is fully self-contained so it's almost like playing four games in one!"
"The starting point is always the story though," adds Jeff. "Where are we and what happens while we are there? The empty space is always important for me. I need to fill it, but not clutter it. Creating the environment for an Escape Room LA game is very different from my work in theatre. This has to be real. People, not actors, touch everything several times a day. The room is built more like a house than a set. It lies somewhere between a film set and someone's home. The furniture isn't as perfect as it would be in someone's house, but it's as strong. The walls are real walls, not flats."
"Creating this game was more challenging than any of the others I've done," says John. "Originally I thought that the puzzles for each element had to literally represent that element. WIth Fire and Water, this became quite difficult to do because obviously we can not use any type of real fire or smoke, and liquids - even water - can get very messy very quickly. Since alchemy was the forerunner to modern-day chemistry, I thought of using chemistry experiments. But again, volatile liquids or substances, even seemingly harmless things like vinegar, just were not practical for a game where people will be interacting with the materials over and over again."
"I take pages and pages of notes on yellow legal pads. I throw so many ideas out, sometimes for budgetary or practical reasons, but often because I'll revisit an early idea and decide that I just don't like it anymore. In the Air section of The Alchemist I had originally planned a game involving a series of tubes which an object had to be blown through. One day I thought about it and realized, 'people will do this in 10 seconds, a monkey could do this!' So we cut it and at the last minute I came up with a new Air puzzle to replace it which is now one of my favorite things in the game."
The Alchemist games are Tuesday through Friday evenings, and Saturday/Sunday days and evenings. We can also hold weekday private events for groups. For tickets and additional information, click here.
Escape Room LA has had the pleasure of hosting many well-known actors, musicians, artists and other celebrities in 2015.
All of these people have participated
in our events during 2015.
How many of these famous faces can you recognize?
How did you do? Click here to find out.
Escape Room LA thanks these businesses and many more for holding 2015 company events with us!
Alaska Airlines • AltaMed • Amazon