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The Escape Effect brings you Sherlock Studies, the first 75-minute escape room in Orlando.  It was the second escape room that we built, with both games breaking through the typical 60-minute barrier (with At Odds With The Gods being the first).

Here is the story behind the hidden gem that is Sherlock Studies.

Sherlock's volumes sitting on his bookshelf.
Sherlock’s volumes sitting on his bookshelf.

Another study?

In the early days of the company, we had made it a point to choose themes that Orlando had not yet experienced.  The exception to this rule ended up being a Sherlock theme largely because there were no mystery escape rooms in Orlando that did the genre and the namesake justice.

We ended up developing a gorgeous study that takes you back to the Victorian era.  Wood floors, intricate wall designs, and Sherlock’s eccentric collections – definitely no white walls and plastic animals here.  The early set design is largely a combination of the Art Director and his wife.  Towards the end of build, we hired a dedicated set designer from Britain.  Her words when she walked in were something along the lines of “I must britify this!”  And “britify” it, she did.

The players are assembling a mind map of the evidence.
The players are assembling a mind map of the evidence.

The gameplay

Gameplay is a cornerstone of an experience at The Escape Effect.

An escape room could advertise “mystery”, but it might end in the players opening a box and finding out who the culprit was.  That doesn’t feel satisfying – it feels like a “gimme”.  So, a mindmap was born.  It’s a new kind of puzzle not seen in escape rooms around Orlando – probably not anywhere in Florida either.  The rules are simple –

Collect evidence, place it on the board, find the key information, and use the connections to solve the mystery.  It’s a large deductive problem to solve.  It uses a part of a player’s brain not always activated in escape rooms.

“Of course, it’s obvious in hindsight”, say quite a few enthusiasts.  It’s puzzles like the mindmap that bring everyone, no matter what experience, all to the same level.

Believe it or not, the inspiration for the gameplay in Sherlock Studies was largely inspired by board game goals found in Cluedo (for those from the US, that’s the UK name for the American “Clue” board game) and the feelings invoked during campy 80s detective shows like “Murder, She Wrote”.

Player reception

Just as with all of our games, we treat them like products that should be tested.  This was the first time that previous customers were the testers (note that when At Odds With The Gods was tested, there were no customers to speak of yet).

Responses from the testers were great.  One group of testers were actually escape room reviewers.  And although we asked the testers not to disclose the state of the game, one reviewer found a creative way to get the good word out.

The players investigate the items on the desk for clues.
The players investigate the items on the desk for clues.

Easter eggs

We love to play games.  Many of our backgrounds are from the video game industry.  And if you know video games, you know about Easter eggs.

An Easter egg is an item, a level, or some other feature not readily obvious or accessible to a player.  The first documented Easter egg appeared in the game Adventure on the Atari 2600.  In that game, when the Easter egg was triggered, the programmer’s name was displayed.  Although it seems silly now, that was a different time when developers were not easily credited with their works.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find Sherlock Studies houses an inconspicuous item that reveals an alternate solution to one of the puzzles.  To be clear, the Easter egg is hidden in plain sight, but 99% of the teams do NOT realize this at first.  It is truly a gamer’s delight.  And should you be fortunate enough to win the game, you might even want to ask your host about this particular Easter egg if you’re not one of the rare teams to find it first.

There’s also a second Easter egg in Sherlock Studies, but it started out as an unintended chronological error.  Some players may “periodically” spot it.  See if you can the next time you are in to play.


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