Earth, air, fire, water. I push the buttons in succession and the dark room in the magic cottage fills with smoke. A cage ascends from a central pillar housing a small lizard. What? Were you expecting a fully grown dragon? The voice from the small lizard is mighty, and our group chuckles as the dragon raises its wings, trying to look larger. Why don’t you try and get some lights in here? Our guide requests. We rush around the room looking for ingredients for a spell of unlocking. Unicorn’s tears, dragon’s blood, hemlock; I find a few of the necessary ingredients – but now I need a wand to actually cast the spell.
The Magic Cottage: The Sister’s Curse
The Magic Cottage: The Sister’s Curse is an in-person escape room in Fullerton, CA, by up-and-coming Infinity Escape. At the cutting-edge of escape room production value and technical feats, the room provides 75 minutes of surprising and whimsical puzzles and narrative. The room differentiates itself through its physicality, interactivity, novelty, and sheer artistry, allowing participants to work together to cast spells and observe their effects on progress and narrative. Elements of the room have a surprising and delightful “dark magic” sort of tone, with moments of sudden darkness, noise, or movement, but the room isn’t scary as much as enchanting, theatrical, and rustic.
While there are no live actors, participants are guided by both a game master and an in-game dragon guide. The time given is generous, and allows participants to take in the pieces of narrative that gradually unfold as they progress through the room. Clues are given, often unprompted, based on observed behavior by the game master. We found the game perfectly suited for a group of four as each person got plenty of interaction with the space without feeling cramped, but could easily accommodate the maximum of six without feeling crowded. The room is orchestrated to allow participants to feel truly immersed in a magical world.
The Mechanics of Magic
With over a year of development, The Magic Cottage: The Sister’s Curse truly shows the passion and love put into the sets, the puzzles, and the technical prowess of the room. Participants begin blindfolded and are led into a gorgeous cottage, complete with a pet dragon, dozens of ingredient bottles for spells, a monkey’s paw, and numerous other mystical elements just waiting to be interacted with. But to start, players will need to free their wands and learn to cast spells, allowing the magic to truly transform the room. With ample Harry Potter references and a tone reminiscent of Dragon Age or Lord of the Rings, The Magic Cottage: The Sister’s Curse is whimsically magical and feels akin to living out a fantasy movie.
This is one of the most technologically sophisticated and theatrical rooms I have done to date. It is on par with The Basement’s Elevator Shaft in terms of physicality, set design, and immersive elements (just not horror-themed). The technical feats wowed us at every turn, and scene and lighting transitions were seamless, dramatic, and effective. Audio from multiple sources was always clear, and timing allowed for all members to transition from one area to another without missing reveals or plot points. Spell casting was done in a way that felt natural. Puzzles often gave physical or auditory feedback that players were on the right track (or not). So many elements of the room physically moved or changed in response to our actions, leaving the space changed by the spells cast inside it. The set design and programming of the room facilitated an experience that really felt magical.
The game has two acts, with the first consisting primarily of discovery, puzzles, and narrative grounding; the second offering optical illusions, revelations, and an important moment of choice – and the physical room changes in parallel. This works well because participants feel that there is a narrative payoff for their work, and some of the game’s best elements are revealed in the second half of play, creating a magical crescendo to the game’s finale.
Puzzles and Illusions
The puzzles are logical and well thought out in terms of difficulty while also contributing to the fantasy theme. There are numerous “side-quests” that add a touch of humor and exploration to the experience, such as extra spells to cast, like a risky love spell, or hidden messages revealed from arduously arranged tarot cards. The game managed to keep us on our toes and surprised, but never lost or confused. The few times that we did struggle never felt frustrating, and the eventual solutions were exciting “aha!” moments. For example, our struggle with a cube-based puzzle eventually resulted in an exciting optical illusion that felt worth the wait. The puzzles were often spell-based or included magical elements, themes, or incantations. Even the locks themselves felt on-theme – there wasn’t a simple combination lock to be found. The overall effect was constant surprise and delight. This is a puzzle experience that feels magical.
While our team found the room well-paced and logical to move through, there are a couple of hang-up spots that can easily suck up time. This is exacerbated by the thematic use of a countdown hourglass which, while immersive, makes it difficult to judge how much time actually remains. Help is available through the hint system, but the creators report less-focused or experienced teams getting lost at critical parts and losing the momentum of the game. Nevertheless, this should be an awe-inspiring, exploratory, and narrative room for most groups with some experience and an affinity for puzzles. The game brings just the right amount of challenge with its creative puzzle concepts, and each puzzle feels fresh and intelligently designed.
Author of Your Adventure
The experience includes an especially high level of immersive elements for an escape room. The tactile puzzles and spell-casting mechanics previously mentioned will delight young audiences and adults alike. The room can be experienced linearly, or multiple pieces and puzzles can be unlocked in parallel or skipped in favor of short-term plot progression. This freedom increases participant engagement as teams will need to strategize, explore, and work together to solve puzzles. There are numerous scrolls, ingredients, and magical items to keep track of, so communication is key. For a team of strong communicators, these coordinated efforts will unify participants within the experience. We really enjoyed tag-teaming the spell-casting with one member reading out ingredients and coordinating the spell, two others running to the potions wall for ingredients, and a third shouting the incantation, her wand directed at the altar. The freedom to solve puzzles in various orders and the collaborative nature of the puzzles definitely brought our team closer together (perfect for team-building).
While roles are not formally assigned, they are built naturally into the mechanics. Each player (assuming a team of 4-5) receives a wand, and certain spells can be done only by certain wands. This feels like a more natural distribution of roles than the assignment of characters. It also leaves the agency with participants to decide who will be responsible for each wand. Unlocking the wands was rewarding, and more patient team members received the most pivotal responsibilities for their efforts. The wand mechanic naturally distributed responsibility and made sure that all team members were engaged and included.
Finally, immersion was heightened by narrative agency, another element rarely seen in escape rooms. This was novel and refreshing for our group, and some of us felt really impacted and challenged by the choice, going over clues to make sure we understood what we were doing. The choice plays out with real consequences in the room, with two different possible endings to the story’s narrative. This caused the choice to have real stakes and real suspense. This was a highlight of the experience for me, and something I’d love to see in more rooms as a payoff for puzzles well-solved.
Sisters, Guides and Dragons
Connection with characters is notoriously challenging during escape rooms, as this can easily be distracting or so simplified as to no longer be rewarding. Magic Cottage uses videos played through mirrors and crystal balls to provide glimpses into the characters’ conflicts at regular and well-paced intervals. The result is a narrative that is simple but fun, and sufficient to add stakes to the game. The character development and the physical changes to the room both work to provide strong narrative payoff and an exciting moment of choice.
The acting in the room is all pre-recorded, but served as a great way to add another layer to the experience. The two sisters, two of the prominent actors, were straightforward but effective foils, opposites in costume in demeanor. Ursula is well-put-together, soft spoken, and calm. Raven is harsher in tone, distressed, and emotive. This play on stereotypes allows audiences to challenge their preconceptions and look beneath the surface of the characters. Their arcs are satisfying, and participants are drawn into the story through the acting – enough to care about the outcome of their decision.
The guide and game master have a lot more depth to them. The dragon guide has some witty one-liners and a bit of an attitude, making him one of the more entertaining hint systems I’ve seen in a game. While not directly connected to the narrative, our dragon often commented on the surroundings and was a delightful instrument of immersion. Our game master, a member of the creative team, was invested, sympathetic, and high-touch, anticipating any needs or hang-ups inside the room, and intervening to make sure we didn’t miss any of the coolest visual moments. The absolute love of the escape room genre and the care put into the room shone through in every interaction with him. The use of the guide and game master ensured a seamless experience while adding lighthearted humor and commentary to the game.
Infinity Escape’s Magic Cottage: The Sister’s Curse creates real magic. It is exciting, aesthetically pleasing, dramatic, immersive, and often simultaneously funny and heartwarming. This is the whole package, and a must-see for escape room fans. I could see this being an enjoyable family experience for members of varying ages. Our group of friends laughed, gasped, and marveled at the room’s gorgeous reveals and creative puzzles, and we can’t wait to go back and try Infinity Escape’s other room, as well as a new alien room currently under development. Magic Cottage is perfect for anyone who has ever wished that magic really existed.
Magic Cottage provides an engaging storyline, a high level of immersion, and some fun physical and mental challenges. The video narrative elements are exciting, and the level of challenge is just right. This is a standout escape room, and worth going out of your way for – I have rarely enjoyed an escape room as much as I enjoyed this one. There’s something for everyone here, from exploring the physical set to learning magical lore to cracking mind-bending chess puzzles. I left feeling closer to my friends after laughing, collaborating, and really stepping into my magical role. I highly encourage fans and newcomers alike to try their hand at saving the wizarding world – more than just a game, Magic Cottage was a thoroughly awe-inspiring and enjoyable epic journey.