Puzzle Break via Royal Caribbean – Escape the Rubicon (Review)

Location: Select Royal Caribbean Cruises (We played on Harmony of the Seas)

Players:  6-12 (We recommend 6-9)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Mystery, literally, on the high seas!

Theme:

From the Royal Caribbean website:

There are some puzzles you solve and there are some puzzles you ESCAPE! In the new and exclusive Escape The Rubicon, you will be transported to another world and another time. Collaborate with friends, old and new, as you attempt to find the hidden clues needed to solve a collection of puzzles that will eventually unravel the mystery of the Rubicon! With only 60 minutes of life-support, the suspense builds with every tick of the clock. The final seconds will decide your fate. Question: Will you escape? And if not, what then?

First Impressions:

When we were planning our honeymoon, we decided we wanted to take a cruise. Knowing that there were escape rooms on some of the Royal Caribbean ships, I was definitely leaning towards one of those. Luckily, Harmony of the Seas is their biggest, and also contains a load of fantastic entertainment as well, including ice skating shows, Broadway musicals, and so much food. But we’re here for the escapes, so how was it? In a word, awesome. In a few hundred more words…

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An after room candid that somehow made its way onto my phone. Gives nothing away other than my phone’s penchant for blurry photos if you’re not careful.

High Points:

Escape the Rubicon really exceeded our expectations! We’d heard it was a fun time, but a lot of folks were wary of just how good an escape room could be on board a cruise ship. I can tell you in our experience, it can be very, very good. Luckily, during our initial briefing, we were able to get to know our escape mates fairly well, and they seemed like an excellent bunch of folks, which really helps in this room, as it involves almost exclusively non-linear and teamwork based puzzles. The minimum of six isn’t there to make the room profitable, it’s actually required for more than one interaction. The set itself was fantastic, with a big budget set and loads of places to explore. The room is streamlined as well, offering a roomy, but uncluttered area to puzzle within, which is perfect for a game that requires larger groups.

The game flow was spectacular, with threads that interwove throughout the experience, culminating in big puzzles that allow for everyone to stay engaged from start to finish. In fact, throughout the game, our groups intermixed with each other as we were all encouraged by the game to switch things up to play to our strengths. I can’t remember many other rooms where the “team” I started puzzling with wasn’t generally the group I finished with. It’s quite the feat for a room to naturally encourage each player to interact with each other player in this way, and it led to an wholly satisfying adventure. Puzzles and locks clearly related to each other, so while there were some similar inputs, it was always easy to intuit what went where, even if it wasn’t immediately clear how things paired together. Some of the bigger puzzles were astoundingly satisfying, multilayered experiences that engaged the majority of the team and led to some really enjoyable moments of celebration. The whole experience remains on theme and bolsters the light, but effective storyline.

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Apparently the second best time ever! Go beat it!

Low Points:

Not all of the puzzles within the room are required to be solved in order to finish the escape, which was a little disappointing, but for our run, we took the, (in my opinion,) much more entertaining puzzle path. The Game Master and some friends we met on board were able to help us fill in the gaps, but there’s a huge difference between hearing about a puzzle later and actually doing the puzzles. Granted, this could keep a big group busy, but one group is going to eventually be disappointed when the other group finishes their puzzle and the initial one becomes moot. A particular puzzle kept our youngest player entertained, but it boiled down to a ridiculously long run of keys to boxes over and over. I think I counted around twelve to fifteen boxes from one to the next, which is a bit much. We were well happy with our group of nine, but much more than that would’ve been entirely too many. The room itself wouldn’t have been cramped, but the puzzle flow definitely would have strained under that weight. There’s also a slight bit of random, undirected searching, but it doesn’t take overlong.

Verdict:

If you’re taking a cruise with Royal Caribbean, I cannot recommend booking a slot for Escape the Rubicon as soon as you can. It’s such a fun game, and you might even make some friends on the ship as well! A small word of advice if you’re anxious about a maxed out group: try booking while docked at a port you aren’t intending to spend much time at, as those days tend to run slimmer. Reservations can be booked online beforehand through Royal Caribbean here (obviously you’ll need to be booked on one of the participating ships first,) and if you’re interested in visiting Puzzle Break’s website as well, you can find that here!

8.5/10 (Great)

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Sanitarium (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

Theme:

Return to Saturn Hills Asylum, where yet another murderer has struck! This time, a newly hired nurse has been found dead, and a few mysterious clues are baffling local authorities. It’s up to the Deadbolt Mystery Society to crack the case, and determine if there isn’t more to this killing than meets the eye.

First Impressions:

Asylum, one of Deadbolt’s first mystery boxes, remains one of our favorites. I had great props, a chilling mystery, and a rogue’s gallery that was second to none. When Sanitarium was announced, I was thrilled to hear we’d be returning to the harrowing halls of Saturn Hills. Though we were introduced to an all new cast of crazed characters, this new caper was absolutely a satisfying sequel.

High Points:

Sanitarium follows up the amazing Infected with another elegantly crafted and interestingly themed adventure. The recent boxes have been even more creative than usual, with themes that really catch our attention. Though Sanitarium is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Asylum, in that it returns to Saturn Hills, the story itself is all new, and has plenty of surprises right out of the box. The conspiracy runs deep here, and the murder committed is much more complex than initially realized. I love that the suspects were all part of a RPG group, and this element of the game makes the usual suspect elimination mechanic of Deadbolt even more engaging than usual. The cast remains just as colorful as Asylum’s, and though there are fewer suspects in general, they remain larger than life personalities that will haunt your investigation throughout!

The game flow is superb as always, and the puzzles vary from simple wins to deeply layered mind games. As a non-linear experience, there’s always plenty to do, and when we were stuck, we could easily pop over to another piece of evidence for a while until a lightbulb went off in our heads. Some of the more challenging puzzles we solved within this box were enormously creative, and may be the most satisfying moments of revelation we’ve gotten from Deadbolt. I continue to feel the more escape room like vibe from this box, and though it isn’t quite as escape room-y as Infected, it still scratches that itch well for me.

The story is twisty, and new turns are always exciting as puzzles are solved and the narrative develops. Each bit of story satisfies while adding further mystery to the experience, and the climax and epilogue are great at tying up the game while planting some conspiratorial seeds in the fertile soil of Valley Falls. It really does feel like something bigger is afoot throughout, and we were and still are raring to find out how everything will culminate!

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Murder, mayhem, and a quick game of Wastelands of Warael!

Low Points:

Many of the clues for this box were hidden within readings of interviews, which we don’t generally mind, but the text did feel more dense this go round, and I know some folks aren’t fans of that sort of thing. Other than that, I can’t think of anything that could be categorized as a low point!

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society continues to knock it out of the park with their newest boxes, setting up new and increasingly threatening conspiracies throughout the town of Valley Falls. It feels like something is building, and we are excited to see what’s coming next, as these newest themes have been ultra creative and fantastically fun. If you’re not a subscriber already, you should be! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.

Wake Escape – Tornado Alley (Review)

Location: Wake Forest, NC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 2-8)

Price: $24 Mon-Thurs $26 Fri-Sun per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

This is an Alert from the National Weather Service

Theme:

From the Wake Escape website:

You and your friends are enjoying a quiet evening when suddenly, the skies grow dark and thunder begins to rumble. The weather broadcast predicts a tornado is heading for your area. Heading down to the basement, you find yourselves trapped! Luckily for you, the basement is rumored to house a hidden speakeasy with a secret exit built in by the owner, Sonny Schnapps. Is it all just a rumor or is there really a second exit?

First Impressions:

Our return to Wake Escape was triggered by my bachelor party. I needed a local place to travel with my groomsmen, friends, and Best Lady, and an escape room was definitely one of the spots we had to visit. I had enjoyed my last visit, but wasn’t able to make it back yet for their newest disaster themed room, so what better excuse to check it out? I was definitely not disappointed.

High Points:

Tornado Alley is one of those rare rooms where, due to this being my bachelor party, we brought the maximum number of players for the room. I had some reservations regarding this, but Tornado Alley’s non-linear gameplay and dense amount of puzzles rose to the challenge of keeping us all entertained. At no point during our game was anyone bored or casting about for something to do, which is quite the feat! There was also an excellent mix of puzzle types, with something to cater to every skill set and experience level of our group. 3 newer players and 5 enthusiasts banded together to take this one on, and every one of us left satisfied with the experience, all having contributed to our ultimate success!

The theme itself is highly original, mixing a disaster theme with a hidden speakeasy excellently. The transition from one part of the game to the next was convincing and thematically appropriate, and the room twisted around on itself in unexpected and entertaining ways. Props were thematically appropriate for both stages of the game, with the basement level containing the tchotchkes and storage containers you’d expect to see, while also promoting an air of mystery about the hidden speakeasy that awaited us. The speakeasy itself was a lot of fun as well, and props also shifted to establish the new theme. The game flow was extremely smooth, with very few lulls in the action, and branching puzzle paths that led to fantastic reveals and an ultimately engaging escape.

Low Points:

One puzzle malfunctioned, leaving us wondering what had happened after it was solved. Unfortunately, this puzzle would’ve had a really cool payoff, but it was a technical issue that cropped up while we were playing, so it was just bad luck that I’m sure has been cleared up since. There were a couple basic tier puzzles that do little to excite, but were a small part of the rather packed puzzling experience, so it’s a minor nitpick. The set design is minimalist, but gets the job done and fits the theme well enough that you don’t feel like you’re in a bare room.

Verdict:

Our previous visit to this business was fun, but Tornado Alley ups the game with even better puzzles and a fantastic game flow. Thank you to Wake Escape for getting my bachelor party started with a bang! I definitely recommend checking this room out for players of all experience levels, and can also recommend any group size for the first time! You can book your search for the speakeasy here!

8/10 (Great)

Escape Adventurer Gets Married! (and goes on hiatus)

In just a few short days, I’ll be getting married to the love of my life! It’s been an exciting and very busy last few weeks and months, and I’m so eager for the day to finally arrive. There’s still a lot to do, and a honeymoon to go on, so we’ll be taking the next few weeks off. Not to worry however, Escape Adventurer will return with new content beginning June 11th.

Kara, I love you more than words can express, but I will do my level best to make sure I show you how much every day. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you, making memories and maybe escaping a room or two (or a few hundred, let’s be real.)

~Brandon

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Infected (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Outbreak!

Theme:

The city of Valley Falls is in crisis! Air raid sirens are sounding and helicopters are flying over dropping yellow flyers that inform residents they are within a Quarantine Zone! The whole city is beginning to be overrun with crazed citizens who seem to be infected with some sort of rage virus! With no choice but to remain within the QZ or risk being shot, detectives with the Will Street Detective Agency are racing against the clock to find patient zero before the town is brought to its knees!

First Impressions:

Infected is quite the tonal shift for The Deadbolt Mystery Society, and the shake-up comes at an excellent time! Copycat was an excellent capstone experience to the initial run of boxes, and Infected feels like the fresh start of a new chapter in the ongoing mysteries of Valley Falls and the Will Street Detective Agency. I was excited to see how the story and game mechanics played out over the course of this new box, and we were definitely not disappointed.

High Points:

Looking back, one of the most excellent facets of Infected is that the experience captures the feel of an escape room perfectly. While not something that is required for an at home mystery, it is certainly a great bonus for escape enthusiasts! At times, Infected is better at being an escape room than some actual, physical rooms I’ve been in. Even without a timer, the pressure of solving the mystery is present, and the game flow itself is perfectly suited to presenting the environment of an escape room in the comfort of your home. That said, Infected is able to present a few items that wouldn’t quite work in a physical room, enhancing the experience greatly. The best of both worlds is expertly presented here.

Detectives are dropped into the story in medias res; the world devolving into chaos around them immediately. Many excellent interactions deliver a fairly quick, yet highly effective dosage of world-building that sets the stage perfectly for newcomers and drops some easter eggs for veteran players. As the source of the outbreak comes into focus, the dire nature of your mission is fully impressed, and it’s clear you have your work cut out for you. The approach to figuring out who patient zero is should feel familiar to Deadbolt veterans, but it cleverly manipulated into something new, adding another satisfying deduction once we figured out who our suspects were. This running theme of familiar, yet fresh was awesome, and really cemented how fantastic this box was. The methods are highly approachable as well, and while they demand some puzzling, everything is incredibly intuitive.

On that note, the game flow of Infected is very smooth. At no point were we at a loss for what to do, and as we made connections between each prop, solution, and code, new mysteries revealed themselves. There are some really clever enigmas to be solved within this adventure, and attention to detail and organization is greatly rewarded throughout. Even the smallest hint has a story to tell, and the amount of satisfaction that is achieved by solving the puzzles was high. A challenging experience without becoming frustrating, Infected delivers a story and game experience that fires on all cylinders and delivers what has become my favorite case to date!

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Not your average case!

Low Points:

This box flowed so excellently and shook up the usual experience so much while still retaining the feel of a Deadbolt mystery that we honestly have very little to critique.

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always delivers a fun experience, but Infected was next level! I’m really enjoying this new evolution, and look forward to seeing how future cases follow this one up. If you’re looking for a bombastic mystery that keeps the adrenaline high from start to finish, you cannot go wrong with Infected. I definitely recommend subscribing as well to see what happens next! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.