It's rare for me to be surprised anymore. When you go to as many events, haunts, escape room as I do, you see the same familiar pattern over and over again. When I had the chance to visit the relatively new escape room, THE CROMWELL ESTATE's "THE DEN", I went in excited but I figured it would follow along the same tropes as other "horror" escape rooms. When I arrived at my designated time, I took a look around the sparsely decorated waiting room and hoped that the lack of creativity didn't progress into the experience awaiting me.
As my group and I prepared to enter we were told the rules and given a brief overview of the estate. We were then led down a hallway to a set of winding stairs. As I began my ascent, I had no idea what to expect once I rounded the corner. What was presented to me was something so unexpected and so beautiful that it kind of took my breath away. In front of me stood a door with the number 813 above it with foliage running all around the ceiling forming somewhat of an underpass. Going from a barely designed waiting room to this stunning display was a shock to my system and I couldn't wait to see what was beyond the door.
What makes THE DEN so good is the simplicity of it. The story brings its guests into the home of Isaac Cromwell where they are tasked to peel back the layers and solve the puzzling mind games to reveal the true nature of the home. Because I've done so many of these games, my team and I had the chance to do the more intense version which was amazing! Don't worry, I can almost guarantee that anyone can do this as you don't need to be concerned with any extreme elements. However, with that said, there are a few scare actors that are hiding throughout ready to pounce when you least expect it...
In terms of the puzzles themselves, they weren't so hard that it was impossible to figure out, but they weren't overly easy to the point where we were flying through them. Something that I really appreciated was how unique each of the puzzles were. The creators of THE DEN really put in the time and effort to differentiate their puzzles from those of other horror escape rooms and it really made the overall experience that much more engaging, unpredictable, and fun. As compared to other escape rooms, THE DEN was set up so that you would have to backtrack to other rooms for specific clues. Because of how organized everything was, I didn't mind having to go back to previous areas to figure things out and in a way I found it to be more intriguing.
As I mentioned earlier, I was extremely impressed with the design and ambiance that the entrance afforded my team and I, and I'm happy to report that that level of detail and design carried on throughout the entire experience. Attention to detail is important to me and it was apparent that creators Evan Gregory and Julie Lam put a lot of hard work and passion into creating such a wonderfully immersive experience. For this being their first escape room, they should be incredibly proud of what they have accomplished.
Overall, THE CROMWELL ESTATE is now one of my favorite escape rooms in Southern California. It manages to be surprising, creepy, and unique without having to rely on over-the-top gimmicks and infuriatingly hard puzzles. If you are looking to try something new or want to be more involved in the horror side of escape rooms, than without a doubt you will want to check out THE CROMWELL ESTATE's "THE DEN" as soon as possible. For more information, and to schedule your appointment, visit their website at www.thecromwellestate.com.