Published on July 11th, 2016 | by Dean Love


Our ratings system and review guidelines

Having written a good deal of reviews over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that my room ratings, on a five star scale, skew a fair bit lower than many of our contemporaries.

There’s a reason for that, which I figured I’d explain now rather than wait until the first angry e-mail from a room owner who thinks their three read like a four. Essentially, I’m using the rating system taught to me by the first editor I ever had on a professional reviewing job. It  works like this:

1 Star: a really bad game, with few to no redeeming features.
2 Stars: a decent game that makes a few big mistakes, or a bad game that does few things really well, or has some really interesting concepts.
3 Stars: a good game. This is the most important one. A 3 star review is a recommendation. It either means I really enjoyed it, or I found enough interesting in it despite the flaws to be recommending it.
4 Stars: a near perfect game. This is more than a recommendation, this is saying the game is brilliant and everyone should play it. They’re games I unconditionally recommend.
5 Stars: a near perfect game that then does something more. There are, as of writing, three 5-star reviews on the site. The only reason there are that many is selection bias (if I hear a game is really good, I’m more likely to want to go play it). These three games happen to have either the best set design, best single puzzle or best technology I’ve ever seen in a game (at time of playing).

There are no half stars. If a game really does sit somewhere between the two then we round to the middle, so 1.5 is 2 stars, 2.5 is 3 stars, 3.5 is 3 stars, 4.5 is 4 stars.

So there you go. Another way to look at it is it’s essentially a 4 star scale, with 5s basically being unattainable unless you do something truly incredible.

Next, of course, I am an enthusiast. I love playing escape games. They are generally “a good experience”. And very few are actively bad to the point of being broken. Compared to what you do in the rest of your life, even if you go play a two star room, you’re probably going to have a four star experience. An Escape Review 3 is a Trip Advisor 5.

Also worth noting: I’m reviewing the experience I had playing the game, not what the game could be in a different set of circumstances. Bad customer service and broken props will bring the score down, even though the owner might be having a bad day or the team before smashed something in two. Equally, maybe happenstance creates a truly magical moment in the room that can’t be reproduced, it’s still accounted for in the score. I can only review the experience I have, not the theoretical one I might have (though of course, I’ll mention this in the review text). This also means that reviews are a snapshot in time. Rooms change, for the better (feedback leading to better pacing and difficulty) or worse (puzzles breaking and not being replaced). The one small exception to this, is that while I write the reviews, and they’re my opinion, that opinion will naturally be influenced by the opinion of the rest of the team in post-game discussions.

Lastly, we don’t delete comments unless they’re rude or inappropriate, so if you’re an owner and want to respond to the review, that’s the best place to do it. We won’t ever edit reviews after posting other than to correct factual inaccuracies.

About the Author

Dean is a professional writer who has worked for The Mail On Sunday, The Digital Fix, MicroMart and others.

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