Roosevelt Escape Room – Palace Games (Review)

The Roosevelt Room is the best escape room game out of the 100+ that I’ve played. Yes, this tops even its predecessor, Houdini Room, which comes at a close second.

The Roosevelt Room is the sequel to the Houdini Room and features none other than Teddy Roosevelt!

The Roosevelt Room is the sequel to the Houdini Room and features none other than Teddy Roosevelt! (Palace Games)

Story and Background

The Roosevelt Room is the sequel to Palace Game’s original room: Houdini Room. It’s located in the same building inside the historic Palace of Fine Arts (which locals might also know as the old Exploratorium location), and features quite a few of the novelties that made the original Houdini Room great.

Here is the official story from the website:

The Roosevelt Room starts where the Houdini Room left off and answers this critical question: Why? If you’ve played the Houdini room you know WHAT it is: a challenge to the cunning, courage, and creativity of 8 of the greatest innovators of all time. But WHY did Houdini build such a novel attraction and why did he pick the innovators that he did? The Roosevelt Room reveals the greater purpose and takes the experience to the next level. Teddy Roosevelt, the exceedingly popular former President in 1915, was behind it all. But why? You’ll have to come play to find out!

Palace Games owner Chris Alden has a background in startups, investing, and running businesses in Silicon Valley, and on a public Facebook post he called Palace Games what “[he has] been working towards [his] whole life”.

Quick facts:

  • Address: 3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 (You have to enter through a side door. More specific map + entrance details available on their website)
  • Players: 6-12 (we’d recommend 8-10)
  • Price: $400
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ [Editor’s Choice Award]

Entrance to Palace GamesPalace Game’s entrance is on Palace Drive, along the backside of the Palace of Fine Arts. (EscapeRoomTips.com)

Puzzle Quality

The Roosevelt Room features some of the best parts of Houdini Room: puzzles that were tangible, tactile, fully-automated, and immensely satisfying. The puzzles here are much more physical than the ones in any other escape room – so expect that you will be moving around a whole bunch more with your teammates during the course of the game. No physical strength needed – but don’t expect to solve these puzzles sitting down either.

The best part of the puzzles in the Roosevelt room was how so many of the puzzles encouraged and required teamwork by design. To accomplish key objectives you have to coordinate the actions of multiple people, sometimes across rooms. This is a room for teams, not solo escape artists.

Overall, the combination of puzzles are physical, require teamwork, automated, and immensely satisfying. This earns Roosevelt Room an Editor’s Choice distinction for Puzzle Quality, as one of the best examples of how teamwork can be really fun.

Production Value

This escape room is expansive and contains more distinct “rooms” than any other escape room I’ve ever done. As you progress and unlock more rooms, the scope of your game area will grow as you re-visit and re-use parts of each room. This is really fun.

Like the Houdini Room, this game is fully automated, with some neat new novel puzzles that take advantage of the creator’s ability to wire together sensors so that they create magic when done appropriate.

The design of this room is done with great attention to detail, likely with learnings from the original Houdini Room. Every door has a small contraption on it assists it to open on its own when unlocked. The room is designed so that its easier to reset, meaning fewer loose parts and an overall cleaner game.

The ending sequence is fantastic and was one of the most thrilling (and stressful, in a good way) experiences I’ve ever had in an escape room. This room deserves my Editor’s Choice rating.

Shortcomings

Sound leaks through the walls of the neighboring Houdini Room and enters the Houdini Room, which distracts a bit from the immersion of the game. Additionally – some of the rooms were not very ventilated so the air was stale.

The time-remaining indicator is a bit jarring and unpleasant.

Overall Recommendation ✮✮✮✮✮ [Editor’s Choice Award]

1A common lament among many escape room players is that they they didn’t get to experience most of the game. This happens when there are disjointed puzzles all around the room that everyone can work on in parallel. This causes the immensely satisfying “aha!” moments to be limited to just a few players – and in the worse case result in a feeling of deep dissatisfaction that one didn’t really participate, know what’s going on, or see any of the “cool things” that happened during the escape room. You’re 10% of the team, and only get to see 10% of the puzzles. That’s not the way that things should be.

The Roosevelt Room solves this problem – with the linear nature and the heavily encouraged teamwork all team members can experience most of the “cool stuff” that happens. And there’s plenty of “cool stuff”. This makes this the most satisfying escape room that I have ever done.

It does this while taking some of the best components of the Houdini Room – a fully automated game with a whole set of diverse, clean puzzles that take you on a whirlwind journey from the beginning to the end. The technology here is more hidden than the Houdini Room – but its there and the owner has managed to create a sequel that both gives tribute to and expands on the original.

If you can only do one of Roosevelt Room or Houdini Room, I would recommend the Roosevelt Room over the Houdini Room for the teamwork experience, the sheer scope, and immense satisfaction. If you can do both, by all means do both! Houdini Room is the natural first one to try since its the prequel, but the rooms are practically narratively independent and you can do them in either order.

Reiterating – this is the best escape room I have played in my 50+ history and clearly wins my Editor’s Choice rating. The sequel has bested the original and I can’t recommend this highly enough. Grab a team of 8-12 (we recommend 8-10) and try it for yourself!

Tips on Making a Team

The allowed team size is 6-12. The game masters recommend 8-10, and I agree with their recommendation. 6-7 is too small (although possible) as the puzzles require teamwork and your team will be stretched thin. 11-12 is a bit too large since the structure is linear and some of your teammates won’t have enough stuff to do / find.

Make a Booking

You can check out their website or make a booking at http://roosevelt-escape.com/. Let them know that EscapeRoomTips.com sent you!

The Roosevelt Room made the #1 spot in our list of 10 Best Escape Rooms in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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