I love SAW. I've seen all of the SAW films and I even love the bad ones in some sort of oddly appropriate form of masochism. I've seen just about every movie on the day it hit theaters. The ones I didn't see on day one, I still always saw within the first week.
As you can imagine, when I heard there was an official SAW escape room in Las Vegas, I made it my mission to go through it the next time I found myself in Sin City—and on my way to CES 2020, I found myself there, so I booked a private session for myself and three colleagues. Into the dark, dingy world of SAW we descended.
We actually drove by the place when we first arrived because there's no indication that the location is a SAW escape room. That might sound like a bad thing, but it's a testament to the place's commitment to immersion.
Once you realize the butcher shop and meatpacking plant located at the listed address is the SAW escape room, you have to be impressed with their willingness to sacrifice foot traffic in favor of maintaining the story.
As you walk up to the gate, you're greeted by a security guard—in our case we met Shady. Shady refused to acknowledge that he was an employee of the SAW escape room. He insisted that we were there for a tour of the EGAN & Co meatpacking facility. He refused to break character. This really set the scene beautifully and added a lot to the immersion.
Once we finished dealing with Shady and his seemingly limitless amount of death and murder puns, we were ushered into the lobby where we handled the legal formalities like handing over IDs and signing waivers. Unfortunately, the employee in this area didn't have the same commitment to immersion as Shady, but she got us through the process quickly, and then we watched a video with the rules.
The video was quite cool, as it was telling us the rules of the escape room, but masking them in the guise of a meatpacking tour. The room where you watch the video is also quite interesting and grotesque (in a good way).
The first room and second room are linked—a breakroom and a locker room. There's a real sense of dread and tension in these first two rooms. You'll find lots of corners to navigate, and you never know what will be waiting for you just beyond your field of vision.
Unfortunately, we spent about 30 minutes trying to figure exactly what this room wanted us to do, and it turns out the initial clue we missed was pretty obtuse (we asked the game master what we missed just so we knew where we went wrong). The GM said that frontloaded the experience with the hardest puzzle, but based on the solution, it didn't feel hard in a good way, but rather just too obscure.
Eventually, a masked character came in and ushered us the next area, which is where the SAW stuff really starts.
I'm not embarrassed to admit that I became an utter fanboy when Tobin Bell's voice first bellowed out of the speaker. "I want to play a game," he said. Giddy, I became.
Without getting into specifics, I'll just say that each of the multiple rooms oozes SAW fan service. It's amazing how many details they manage to squeeze into the place. Lots of care went into making sure that the experience looks and feels like a SAW movie, which is exactly what any fan of the movies wants to see.
Each of the major parts features a speech from Tobin Bell and the introduction of a timer (just like the films). If you fail to solve the room within the allotted time, you die (well, you actually just go to the next room, but you can pretend to die if you want). I like the timer, as it adds tension and fits perfectly with the SAW movies, as most of Jigsaw's puzzles are designed with timers.
Unfortunately, the same level of care that went into making the rooms look and feel like SAW didn't seem to go into the puzzles. There are too many generic puzzles that amount to nothing more than finding a series of numbers to open a lock or unlock a keypad.
While they came up with some fairly interesting (and thematic) ways to find these numbers, when the end goal is just finding them over and over again, it does get a bit stale.
In many of Jigsaw's puzzles, the victim is forced to find a key (sometimes in the body of a friend, or even in their own eye). Replacing some of the number combinations with cleverly hidden keys could shake things up a bit, while still remaining thematic for the SAW universe.
Some of the puzzles require some pretty unreasonable leaps of logic that seem impossible, even in retrospect. There was one we actually got right by guessing a number, and once I found out why the number we guessed was correct, I was absolutely furious. It seems like it would be nearly impossible to figure it out without using your phone, and you're told explicitly not to use your phone during the experience.
Another frustration came from how quickly and obvious any hints were thrown at us. I understand that they want to make sure you get to see the full scope of the experience, but in some of the rooms, it felt like we were only given a few seconds before our gamemaster would basically just tell us what to do.
One of the biggest negatives for the SAW escape room is the price. If you want to go as a private group, you'll need to shell out $70 per person (with a minimum of four people). If you're willing to go in with strangers (with a group of 10 people total), it'll set you back $50 per person.
Obviously, things tend to be more expensive in Las Vegas, and the production of this room is higher than average, but $70 is a big ask when you compare it to the competition (for example, Escapology in Las Vegas charges between $30 and $35 per person depending on the day of the week).
Unlike some escape rooms, the SAW escape room makes sure you get to experience the whole thing, whether you actually solve the puzzles or not.
If you're a purist who'd rather fail a room than just be given the answers, you'll hate this.
If you're a SAW fan who just wants to experience the cool atmosphere and hear Jigsaw himself threaten your life, then you'll appreciate this.
With all that said, I have a hard time recommending this to die-hard escape room fans, as the weak puzzle design will probably ruin the experience for them.
If you're just looking to be spooked, you might find that a couple of the jump scares startle you, but the experience is hardly scary enough for haunted house junkies.
Realistically, the only people I can recommend the SAW escape room to are huge fans of the franchise who can't get enough of the universe created by James Wan and Leigh Whannel. There's enough fan service throughout the experience to make it worthwhile (including another great performance by Tobin Bell).
If you want to give the SAW escape room a shot for yourself, you can find out more information on its website. It runs Wednesday through Sunday in the evening all year.
There's also a large gift shop (that you'll be funneled into immediately upon completing the experience), which is packed with some pretty cool SAW memorabilia including a $320 Billy the Puppet riding a tricycle.