Maze of Hakaina - review by EscroomAddict

1 dec 2018

Komnata Quest of Manhattan is located in the heart of the Financial District in lower Manhattan. Because of its close proximity to Wall Street you won’t have any trouble finding this escape room—you are a short walk from the subway, bus, ferry… there may even be a helipad around the corner.

We loved that Komnata is open throughout the day so that roaming tourists and afterwork colleagues both have a chance to play. All bookings are private and you won’t be merged with another group.

160 Pearl St is an unassuming six story office building sandwiched between a yogurt shop and a sushi restaurant. We found ourselves in a drab building foyer, but once we located the Komnata entrance on the 2nd floor we were transported out of downtown New York City. A dim and delicately decorated room sets the tone for what we experienced over the subsequent 60 minutes. We were greeted by the owner and shown to a large wooden chest with a key lock to stash our jackets, bags and phones. This is an elegant solution to a common escape room storage safety problem. There was a bench with some candies if you have to wait for the rest of your group to arrive. Our only complaint of the pre-room experience is the music, which was at odds with the appearance (and volume) of the chic pre-room setting. The Komnata Quest family has more than 100 locations spread across nine different countries. The rooms are generally designed and built at their base of operations in Russia, then the puzzles are retro-fitted to the unique layout of the local franchises. The main benefit of this model is that the rooms have been played countless times in different cities. Most of the kinks have been ironed out.

We experienced a solidly prepared and constructed room with no major flaws. Komnata is known for their intensely immersive experiences and Maze of Hakaina is no exception. Narration of the intricate storyline began as soon as we donned our “traditional” masks. Some felt the masks were uncomfortable or made gameplay a bit more difficult to manage, however the visual effect is quite nice. We were led into a pitch black room illuminated by a single candle so that our guide could finish the tale of demons, warriors and a traditional maze. With our goals laid out and now alone in the dark, our group of five followed the path ahead. The deep details of the story were supported by strong room visuals and props. The environment is ornate and detailed and at no point did we feel like we were in an office building. On occasion, the dim lighting made it difficult to make out the clues and some felt that the Maze of Hakaina was too narrow and too loud for a group of five.

Three or four people is probably better suited to the layout. Our spirit guide, while helpful, felt a little out of place. The interjection of pre-recorded explanations and hints didn’t fit the stunning setting. We would have liked to hear a grittier voice… perhaps with an accent to match theme. When we consider our full experience at Maze of Hakaina, the biggest standout is definitely the visual atmosphere. This is stellar work and a high bar for other escape rooms to match. While the atmosphere lent to amazing immersion, the process and puzzles didn’t always live up to same level. The storyline became muddy and at times impeded our progress. There were some amazing puzzle solutions, but also some that were out of place or too abstract. Our spirit guide was helpful without being too transparent and we eventually figured out the next steps. As it turns out we were lucky that we solved all of the puzzles in a specific order else we would have been unable to complete all of the goals. We missed one early solution that didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but had we finished that, it would have shined some light on the overall flow of the game. We appreciated that there was sparing use of traditional key or alphanumeric locks.

This meant that maze was more immersive and more in line with the atmosphere. Overall, Maze of Hakaina is a great experience and highly recommended. You will definitely have fun in the unique environment; the presentation is top notch; and the staff is fully invested in the quality of your adventure. As you leave you will probably be hopeful to try more of Komnata’s rooms and thankfully a second room will be opening soon at this Manhattan location (visit their Kickstarter campaign to learn more!). Until then you can visit other NYC Komnata franchises in Queens and Brooklyn. (Note: while the gameplay won’t make you jump in fear, it is probably not suited for those who are very skittish or very claustrophobic.)

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