Green Light Escape Room – Kidnapped! (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Let’s do the Time Warp, again!

Theme:

A malevolently clever time traveler has been stealing inventions from throughout the timeline and using them to enrich himself in the 1800’s! This has left everything in flux, as his constant disruptions has been steadily degrading time itself. It is up to your group of agents to follow him back to his office, find what he’s taken, and use the time machine to correct the timeline before it is too late!

First Impressions:

Green Light Escape Room has a bright and welcoming lobby with a table full of puzzles for me to take apart and then hand to the poor lobby attendant when I can’t get them put back together. Customer service was also fantastic, as even though we had some problems booking (more than likely technical issues on our end,) we were able to secure our spots smoothly with a quick contact through their website.

High Points:

The later stages of this game were well done, including several original and intuitive puzzles, along with a excellent and tactile final puzzle. Game flow worked well throughout, and we never found ourselves floundering because of obtuse game design. Several engaging and well themed props could be found here, and were not only fun to play with, but were an integral part of the game design itself. There was also a fair variety of puzzles types, which allowed for the whole team to engage with the room itself. All in all, this was a solid introductory experience for new players.

Low Points:

The initial stage of the game was fairly standard, and while it included a few fun props to fiddle around with, it wasn’t all that interesting by itself. A few of the props in this area also felt worn, but not in a timeworn way. Puzzles themselves in the early game fit the theme, but did not feel as imaginative or engaging as they could with some tweaking. The climax was a great set up, but felt as if it should’ve led to more instead of ending fairly abruptly. Set design was acceptable, but didn’t quite capture the theme fully. This one may also be a bit so-so for enthusiasts, as it is definitely geared toward players new to the hobby.

Verdict:

Kidnapped was a fun introductory experience that included a few new surprises, but nothing too extraordinary. Still, as noted on their website it is a great beginner’s experience on it’s own, though enthusiasts might want to try a more challenging room, like Alien Escape or Escape the Roxbury, when considering Green Light Escape Room. You can book your time warp here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: Green Light Escape Room provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Wake Escape – Exit Protocol (Review)

Location: Wake Forest, NC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

This room will self-destruct in 60 minutes.

Theme:

Your CIA safehouse has been compromised, and you have one hour to collect the sensitive information and shut down the secondary security protocols before they set off the self-destruct sequence!

First Impressions:

The room itself has some original set pieces and decorations that make the office room much more eye-catching. It was clear that there were many puzzles to solve based on the decorations around, and during our briefing, we were already looking around wondering what could be important. The story was fairly simple, and the room felt like more of a puzzle room than a storyline heavy experience, but that’s not always a bad thing.

High Points:

There are some really neat interactions that would seem out of place elsewhere, but make perfect sense when applying escape room logic to the problem. I enjoyed these, as they were fairly surprising and added a hint of mystery to the experience. The room itself was non-linear but each puzzles flowed directly into the next. Custom made props helped make puzzles fit more immersively, and added to the overall theme.  A nice blend of traditional locks and technological interactions was appreciated, as some otherwise banal props became extraordinary, fitting the spy theme well.

Low Points:

The initial room is just big enough for eight players, but I feel like it’d be a fairly cramped experience at maximum. Two puzzles required outside knowledge, though when commented on, the owner expressed that he was considering adding in clues to eliminate that issue. One interaction was fairly simple to determine, but the prop itself was finicky and required a staff member to enter the room and fix the problem, which was appreciated as it was fixed quickly, but it stalled the immersion. Some puzzles felt very out of place, as they did not fit the spy theme at all, and some clues in the room were unclear. One interaction was physical and we weren’t sure if we were supposed to open it in this way, but it turns out we weren’t cheating and that was truly the solution.

Verdict:

Exit Protocol is a good first room for the Wake Forest area, and while some experience with escape rooms will help, it feels very approachable for beginners as well. A few adjustments could take it from good to great, but it is a solid and competently built experience overall. Wake Escape itself is a fairly large business, so I’m looking forward to seeing more rooms from them. Book your exit here!

7/10 (Good)

The Exit Games – Casino Heist (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  2-6 (We recommend 4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Stealing from the mob, always a great idea!

Theme:

You’ve got it on good authority that the mob controlled Front Street Casino is the hiding place for millions of dollars worth of invaluable items ripe for the taking. Lured by the heist of a lifetime, your team needs to get in, breach the vault, and take as much as you can before the police show up!

First Impressions:

After Nightmare on Front Street, we were jazzed and ready for more! The rundown for Casino Heist was quick and similar, and after being asked for our Team Color, (Purple, obviously,) we were set loose on the Casino Manager’s office!

High Points:

A great puzzle that literally had us thinking outside the box was a fun surprise, and added a nice element of immersion into the room. I really enjoyed a couple of the simple, but original puzzles sprinkled throughout the room, as they allowed for some new interactions I’d not seen before, and were just overall enjoyable to complete. The opening of the vault and the hectic puzzle solving to clear it out was an excellent time and added a tangibility and level of interactivity with the loot that I don’t normally see in Heist themed escape rooms. Set design was perfect for the theme and the vault itself was wonderfully portrayed. I really enjoyed the mechanic for collecting the items we stole, as well as the extra puzzling for one big ticket piece of loot!

Low Points:

There was one particular puzzle that stymied us and broke the game flow, holding a couple of bigger leaps of logic than the rest of the room. The puzzle itself wasn’t bad, but would benefit from a bit more cluing. An initial puzzle felt like more of a time sink than a fun interaction, and luckily another teammate jumped on that grenade for us. The first part of the room fit our group comfortably, but the second half was more cramped, leading to a bit more difficulty involving everyone. Some lock types repeated, and therefore involved some guess and check. The idea of the leaderboard being based on how much you’re able to steal is a great idea, but it is unfortunate that there is a major element of randomness involved, as we were able to escape with all the main items with a good bit of time to spare, but didn’t quite make it due to bad luck. It doesn’t mar the experience itself, however.

Verdict:

Casino Heist is another fantastic game from The Exit Games in Wilmington, combining original puzzles and unique interactions with frenzied loot grabbing, making for a fantastic romp! Though there are a couple hiccups, the excellent surprises and heist mechanics make this a must play room for anyone visiting the Wilmington area. Book your time in the Casino here!

8/10 (Great)

Break Out Charleston – Escaping Death Row (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Walk the Mile

Theme:

Pretty simple, your team is behind bars awaiting execution and have only an hour to escape, otherwise all is lost!

First Impressions:

We were invited to come back the next day after escaping Bank Heist, and were excited to do so, as we’ll never turn down another escape, especially at a location we know to be a lot of fun. Entering our prison cell, we were much more impressed with the set than in Bank Heist, as the décor was definitely more on par with their Serial Killer room, and felt highly polished and immersive.

High Points:

As previously stated, the décor is well implemented and immersive, feeling polished in most areas. A few nice set pieces were fun to find and interact with, as are the props and puzzles included, which are mostly tactile. A great range of escape room standbys and original puzzles make this a excellent introductory game for beginners and newbies, and boasts a terrific game flow along with several surprises along the way. Connections to be made within the room are clear and add to the riddle solving as well, keeping the puzzle train going from spot to spot. One optional late game interaction is fairly humorous as well, and gave us a good-natured laugh at my sister’s expense.

Low Points:

Some areas of the room felt worn, breaking the overall immersion, though I imagine the fixes wouldn’t be overly burdensome. One puzzle in particular was pretty underwhelming in its presentation and could’ve been made much more interesting with the inclusion of a tactile prop. Some lock types repeat, requiring a couple points of trial and error entry. With a fairly simple theme and puzzles presented without a deep story, Escaping Death Row is a puzzle room more than anything, but a engaging one, so that isn’t a huge problem.

Verdict:

Break Out Charleston bills Escaping Death Row as their beginner’s room, and it would definitely be a fantastic experience for newcomers to the hobby. Enthusiasts might find themselves breaking out fairly quickly, (we still had 31 minutes left when we busted out,) and though it is still a enjoyable experience, Serial Killer will be a much better challenge for seasoned veterans of escaping. Either way, I certainly recommend trying it out! Book your time in the cell here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Charleston comped our tickets for this game

Break Out Charleston – Bank Heist (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

The original get rich quick scheme

Theme:

Working 9 to 5 just isn’t cutting it anymore and you want to make sure you’ll never have to work again, so you and your friends have decided to do what any well adjusted person tired of the daily grind would do and knock over a bank! You’ve broken in, and luckily there are clues littered everywhere on how to open the vault and steal the cash, but be quick, the cops will be at the door in only an hour to end your 9 to 5 days in a much less comfortable way!

First Impressions:

We were excited to see that our Game Master who led us through Serial Killer exactly one year before would be running us through our next adventure with BreakOut Charleston, as he was excellent the previous visit. As our previous game was a fantastic time, we were looking forward to the next room Breakout had to offer.

High Points:

There were a couple of fun interactions we hadn’t yet seen in this room, dealing with perspective as well as understanding of space that were enjoyable to solve. The connections between puzzle clues, solutions, and items were interesting and exciting to solve, and a good mix of searching and riddle solving kept our group of four involved throughout this mostly non-linear room. The final run of puzzles tied the room together well, and provided a fun physical interaction leading towards the end of our successful heist.

Low Points:

One puzzle is based on geography and requires a bit of outside knowledge in order to solve. The room as a whole feels a bit older and more worn than the other offerings at BreakOut Charleston, and the gameplay itself, while still a fun time, is a bit less cohesive than usual. The rooms and props themselves are sparser and less polished on the whole, delivering more of a facsimile of a bank than immersing you in the theme with it’s set. One of the final interactions is capped at two participants, so bigger groups may feel left out of that section. A few puzzles utilized the same colors as each other, muddling up the solving process in a confusing and ultimately frustrating way.

Verdict:

Bank Heist is an exciting, if sometimes flawed game that provides a challenging puzzle room to solve. Enthusiasts may feel a bit underwhelmed by the more old school feel, but this would definitely be a great room for beginners to try out. Book your break-in at Break Out here!

7/10 (Good)

Elite Escape Games – Derailed (Review)

Location: Mount Pleasant, SC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 5-6)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Going off the rails on a Crazy Train!

Theme:

A typical subway ride has gone completely haywire, as the train is careening completely out of control! You have one hour before you reach the end of the line, and to make matters worse, there is a bomb hidden somewhere on board! Work together with your fellow commuters to defuse the bomb and stop the train or being late for work will be the least of your worries!

First Impressions:

We had been previously shown Derailed as a work in progress room during our last trip to Elite Escape Games, and it was an idea that we were very interested in seeing implemented. The promise of a room that functions like a real train car by using hydraulics and video seemed like an immersive and fun challenge. Upon our return to Charleston, this was the room that we were most excited to try!

High Points:

The promise of immersion that we had been given was delivered upon 100%! From the moment we entered our respective cares and the train started up, the outside world was gone. Hydraulic bumps and turns combined with seeing the outside world fly by from the front of the train, creating a unique escape room experience. Puzzles fit the theme and allowed for a good bit of tactile solving and team based brainstorming, leading to many ah ha moments. Interactions also felt very responsive, with touches here and there to make the room feel even more authentic. The climax delivers a great ending, making the players feel like they’ve saved the train, as well as being appropriate to the story.

Low Points:

The splitting of the teams was an interesting idea, and worked alright, but it was disappointing for those in my car because, as is usually the case, one car had much cooler puzzles than the other initially. There did not seem to be as much for our car to do, and some of my favorite puzzle types were locked away on the other side. Fortunately, we were able to link up soon, and combine our efforts again. There were a couple of small logical leaps, but they weren’t too egregious.

Verdict:

Derailed is another great experience from Elite Escape Games, with a fully immersive set and fantastic puzzle design. The movement of the room, great flow, and excellent technology and interactions make this the perfect choice for beginners and newcomers alike. Book your time on the runaway train here!

Full Disclosure: Epic Escape Games provided Media Discounted tickets for our game.

8.5/10 (Great)

The Exit Games – Nightmare on Front Street (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

1-2 Boogey’s coming for you..

Theme:

You wake up, disoriented and cold, standing in a strange, barely lit room facing your friends. With no memory of how or why you are here, you’ll need to search for an exit as well as keep out of the grasp of the mysterious and otherworldly Boogey Man! Figure out what’s going on and wake yourselves up, otherwise you could be trapped in the Nightmare forever!

First Impressions:

The Exit Game’s cozily comfortable lobby was well decorated for Christmas, and felt inviting. The tonal shift from that laid back atmosphere to the appropriately horrific Dreamlands was fantastic. The unnerving creepiness of the room takes hold immediately, and is incredibly well implemented.

High Points:

The Exit Games was very accommodating, as we have a teammate who doesn’t do well with jump scares involving actors, and they had no qualms removing that aspect of the game. The experience itself stood well on its own without this element as well, which is great. Usually in spooky rooms, the theme isn’t really that scary, but we all felt on edge, (in a good way,) for a good portion of the adventure. Puzzles add to the immersion and are well integrated into the theme, leading from point to point in a logical way. One great puzzle made use of the room’s space to deliver a really unexpected solution reveal, and each step of the way helped further the story as we went. The experience was also personally tailored in several spots, which was an excellent and thrilling touch.

Low Points:

There was a point we needed to move everyone through one point that was fairly awkward and felt a bit unwieldly. The later stages of the game weren’t quite as intricately decorated, which was a shame, as the intensity of the room’s décor really sold me on the immersion.

Verdict:

Nightmare on Front Street, though a seasonal room, is above and beyond what we usually come to expect from pop up or temporary rooms. Personally, I think this one deserves year round status, because it is one of the best rooms we did in Wilmington! In the mean time, get out to The Exit Games to experience this one while you can, as it is set to close at the end of the year! You can book your Nightmare here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Downtown Escapes – Decipher (Review)

Location: Goldsboro, NC

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Oh yay handcuffs!

Theme:

As members of a counter terrorism unit, you’ve tracked a new threat to an abandoned warehouse in Goldsboro, but as it always goes, it isn’t truly abandoned. You’ve mis-stepped somewhere, however since the doors slammed shut and the room filled with gas before you passed out. Unsure how long it has been since then, you awaken in a room, handcuffed and in the dark, with no clue as to how you got there, and no clear way out!

First Impressions:

As an aside, I really like the leaderboards that Downtown Escapes keeps. They’re very nice and include the “movie poster” like pictures for the two rooms. Did I also mention this was the last time we escaped using our old team name, Puzzvengers? I bring this up for no reason.

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High Points:

It has become common for our team to be handcuffed and blindfolded together, but when done correctly (and safely,) it’s still a fun experience. The puzzles throughout the room are excellently put together and provide many fun interactions and puzzle types. Technological interactions are implemented seamlessly, providing ways for the room and the game flow to open up unexpectedly. One prop that has become fairly common and unexciting in rooms is much sleeker and well functioning than we have seen before, and is a welcome improvement. The gradual spatial shifts in the game as certain puzzles are solved is also a fun touch, and a good way to introduce an appropriate level of gating between stages of the game.

Low Points:

There were several moments in this room where having a tall person became a necessity. Fortunately, we have one such teammate, but this could create some problems for shorter teams, as I could barely reach some items and puzzles at 5’7’’. An unintentional red herring that confused us greatly could be eliminated with the addition of some slight gating to the puzzle flow.

Verdict:

Providing another non-linear experience and fantastic set design, Decipher is another room worthy of escaping! Definitely a more challenging experience than The Heist, enthusiasts will very much enjoy the game within, as well as some new takes on a couple favorite puzzle types. Try it out and attempt to beat our record here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Downtown Escapes comped our tickets for this room.

Downtown Escapes – The Heist (Review)

Location: Goldsboro, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Ocean’s 2-8 Players

Theme:

The art collection of Juan-Carlos is without equal, and a new acquisition is rumored to be the most exquisite, and expensive, addition yet! Therefore, your team has decided to steal it. Posing as a janitorial crew, you’ve been given an hour inside the gallery, but you’ll still need to disable the security protecting the most valuable collections and find the prize! Make sure you’re out within an hour, though, as Juan-Carlos didn’t get to be as rich as he is without being ruthless towards his enemies.

First Impressions:

Downtown Escapes has a cozy location in downtown (obviously,) Goldsboro. We got started soon after we arrived, and were given a story rundown before being left outside of the room, waiting for our contact to get in touch. Once we were cleared to enter the art gallery by the mysterious voice, we broke in ready to get our hands on some priceless art!

High Points:

The room’s reveal was excellent, as it was extremely well designed and flawlessly sold the theme of Art Gallery. The gorgeous set design also allowed for many tactile interactions as well as myriad places for surprises to be hidden. Props fit the theme well, and allowed for some really engaging design. A good mix of puzzle types and a non-linear structure ensured that our entire team was engaged from start to finish and the props and set pieces were a joy to interact with. Game flow was well planned, and it was always clear what was next, though not too clear as to be simplistic. The climax of the heist was appropriately exciting, ending the room on a high note.

Low Points:

One puzzle that gave us some serious issues felt somewhat burdensome due to it’s unwieldly nature, but was otherwise interesting. Another late game one made sense once we’d figured out the solution, but would benefit from slightly more direct cluing.

Verdict:

The Heist is an amazing first effort for Downtown Escapes, and is a great introductory room for beginners, as well as an enjoyable enthusiast romp. An immersive and beautiful experience, I definitely recommend trying it out, especially since it is rare for escape rooms to allow you to be thieves or other “bad guys.” Stage your art heist here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Downtown Escapes comped our tickets for this room.

Escape Plan Columbia – Floor 23 (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-5 (We recommend 3)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Beautiful, but flawed

Theme:

Floor 23 of the Jefferson Hotel is rumored to be a hotbed of supernatural activity, and you are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Unfortunately, you have no idea what to expect during your investigation, as all previous expeditions have disappeared after taking the elevator up! You’ll need to unravel the enigma before whatever happened to them, happens to you!

escape-plan-columbia-floor-23-1

First Impressions:

Having been told that Floor 23 is Escape Plan Columbia’s newest game, we were excited, as The Wizard was definitely head and shoulders above Missing and Espionage, the older games. Also, I’m always excited to try out a new room themed after supernatural horror, as it isn’t done nearly as often as the less spooky serial killers and traps themes.

High Points:

Once you make your way to the main part of the experience, the décor, lighting, and theatrical sound sell the environment and bring a great sense of immersion into the experience. The story itself is also very captivating, and should be the main draw of this room, as well paced and detailed stories are an unfortunately rare feature of many escape rooms.

Low Points:

The main problem with Floor 23 lies with the core experience. The bells and whistles of the game are all there, but the main draw, the game and puzzles themselves, do not flow well at all. The room is a linear affair, but there really isn’t much to guide you through the puzzles, making most of them feel like guessing games of varying degrees, a major disappointment when compared to the beautiful set and creepy story. The early game, for us, started off frustrating, as the simple interaction to begin was made overly difficult to overcome due to the need to apply way more force than we were instructed would be necessary. One particular technical failure saw us attempting a solution that did not work before wandering aimlessly and taking a hint, which told us to do the thing that failed to trigger, leading to further frustration. Another late-game puzzle was not only completely nonsensical in it’s solving, but was an unsatisfying end to an otherwise well thought out storyline. Too much obscurity takes what could be a tense and satisfying story based adventure, and bogs it down into a wholly frustrating slog.

Verdict:

The thing that disappointed me most about Floor 23 was that it shows a lot of promise through it’s secondary elements, but fails to deliver through it’s core experience. This could definitely be one of the top rooms in the area with a good bit of tweaking to the game itself, adding connective tissue between puzzles, ensuring technical interactions are clear and working well, and making sure that each part of the game feels purposeful, rather than random. At the moment, however, the excellent set design and story are brought down by a below average game. Escape Plan Columbia are definitely on to something with this one, though, and I hope that they are able to turn this one around. You can investigate the mystery of Floor 23 here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Escape Plan Columbia comped our tickets for this room.