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ATTRACTION REVIEW

The Official SAW Escape Review (2018, USA)

An official SAW escape game? How could we resist?

When we planned (and booked) our Halloween trip to L.A., visiting another state was not on the cards. And then an official SAW escape room was announced for Las Vegas and it was completely inconceivable that we could miss out on this! So, a few clicks and a short domestic flight later, we soon had two nights in Vegas added to the itinerary. And though we’re totally glad that we went through this escape room, in retrospect, it wasn’t worth the effort.

Don’t get us wrong, the game is serviceable but that’s the problem really isn’t it? It should be a lot better than ‘does the job’. My main issue with it is partially not its fault – at this point in time, we’ve been through many games that are, essentially, spins on the SAW series. Such as Enigmista, a game that we reviewed two years ago. SAW is an escape room that’s, sadly, very late to the party. And not just in the sense that there’s innumerable SAW-alikes out there. It also feels quite dated. Just take a look at our Zoe review to see where the horror escape game scene is heading. SAW will inevitably attract a more mainstream audience (weird thing to say for a super gory movie franchise right?) so probably needed its wings clipped a bit. That was to be expected. But, they could’ve been smarter about how they ported the property into an interactive attraction.

To use the instance where the game was on the right path, there’s a challenge that appears about halfway through from SAW V that worked extremely well in the escape room format. This mission was pretty much pulled verbatim from the movie and it was easily the best part of the experience because it suited an escape game.

For those who aren’t familiar with the film franchise, SAW II, V and Jigsaw feature a group of people, starting in the same place, having to work together to survive. You can see how this would naturally transpose to an escape room… Another trap that was, more or less, from SAW V was utilised, presumably for the same reason. We’ll ignore the fact that SAW V is easily the worst of the original seven-movie run (I choose not to acknowledge Jigsaw!).

But yeah, it almost felt as though two people designed this game. One who understood the need for team-based play and one who didn’t. The other tasks that were less successful in bringing the group together were the SAW III room (a remixed version of key parts of that movie including the freezer room and pig juicer) and another from SAW II. These two scenes fell completely flat for me as they depended on one person actually interacting with the trap whilst the others hunted for the clues. Yeah, you could argue that it’s still team-focused but those SAW V rooms involved more of the group in an intimate fashion. Because, at the end of the day, you don’t go to a SAW escape game to scour walls for codes and symbols!

Which was also part of the issue. Though some sections of the game required you to interact with foreboding looking machinery, the majority of the game was focused on hunting for written clues. This was especially exasperating in the final room. For a series of films focused on mechanical traps, SAW boasted a comparatively small amount of physical puzzles.

It seemed to me that the license also had some blame in this. It was obvious that they were desperately trying to include as many recognisable sets and motifs as possible, even if they didn’t quite fit the format of an escape game. The SAW II trap was the worst offender here as there was an incredibly strong reliance on one player doing their job properly. If they couldn’t spot what they were supposed to, it more or less doomed the rest of the team. And only one person could fully engage with it at a time. Making matters even worse here, it wasn’t exactly something that someone could step aside and easily let another person look at – it required a bit more onerous, physical interaction.

A few other general nags – I really dislike the US system of public games. Unlike here in the UK, the vast majority of US games operate open booking – i.e. the room has a maximum capacity and booking will remain open until that capacity is reached. This means that you can be playing with a large number of ‘separate’ groups – in our case, four (including us). So that’s four different groups of people who naturally have their own shorthands and inclination to work together. It didn’t hinder us too much all being told but it naturally means that you experience less of the game as large swathes of it can be completed without your knowledge as you’re focusing on something else. It may be a cultural thing as we’re just not that used to it here in the UK! It’s just that the smaller the group size, the more likely you are to witness everything the game has to offer. When there’s ten people working away on different things, its possible that you’re going to miss some cool features!

Then there was the presence of the host in the game, masquerading as a victim also trying to escape. Their presence was at least on-theme but distracting nonetheless. It was too much of a temptation to not solicit help and, at points, our group just ended up cycling through questions until we hit upon the right answer. They made the game a bit too easy as they always seemed to be where they were needed. Also, I’ve just never been a fan of the games master being present in the room with you.

And finally – we were given torches upon entering the game but were told that they weren’t going to ‘behave’. So, we knew to expect some Haunted Lantern style shenanigans but this feature just wasn’t executed very well at all. There was a moment that created a total bottleneck for us because the torch was deliberately playing up when we needed it. And our fellow ‘victim’ implored us to keep using it at this very specific spot. So we knew that we were on the right track but just had to wait for the torch to play ball before we could see what we were supposed to. I don’t know how they were controlled but it wasn’t ‘scary’ or tension-inducing, just incredibly frustrating as we willed these things to stop messing about so that we could continue. And to be perfectly clear, they weren’t broken. It was made very apparent to us that they were intended to operate like that!

That’s what we didn’t like, so what did we enjoy? For a start, the sets are amazing and very typically SAW. You will feel as though you’re in the movie, minus the copious amounts of bloodshed of course! This is very clearly a high budget production and there has been some attempt made to encourage fun interaction with the environment. Coupled with audio from Tobin Bell, you have an incredibly authentic hour. There’s absolutely no disputing that. And though I’ve concluded that it hinders the game more than it helps, you will encounter many identifiable scenes from the movies – they haven’t just taken the name and slapped it on an unrelated attraction! So, if you want an authentic SAW experience, you won’t find anything that feels closer to the film series than this.

Another thing that they were quite clever about – no part of the experience leading up to entering the game suggested that we were about to play the SAW escape room. You show up to a meat factory where a security guard greets you. You are then taken through to a quick briefing about your tour through the factory before it, inevitably, goes wrong. It was a cool little touch that was true to the series as Jigsaw tended to operate out of abandoned industrial units and the like!

Don’t get us wrong, we wanted to love the SAW escape room but, ultimately, it’s a very generic attraction that has the benefit of being associated with an iconic horror series. There are a few nice bells and whistles for sure but we found the overall experience distinctly underwhelming with an hour that looked but didn’t really feel the part.

EVENT NAME - COMPANY
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money
2

Summary

+ Sets
+ Commitment to the franchise

- Games mostly not suited to teamwork
- Dated feel

We're steadfastly on the fence with this one. Yes, you get an authentic SAW experience but it just isn't executed that well. More frustrating is that there are parts where you realise that the right idea was there, just not followed through with. By all means, go if you want to spend an hour in Jigsaw's world but otherwise, there are way better escape games to be playing!

Price Paid: $46.50
Address: 2121 Industrial Rd suite 101, Las Vegas, NV 89102, USA
Website: https://sawescaperoom.com/

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