Escape on Purpose – (T)Error in the Sky (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

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

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Airline travel done dirt cheap

Theme:

You’re on a flight to Raleigh Durham International Airport, and everything seems to be going well, until the pilot gets himself locked out of the cockpit! It’s up to you to figure out why and unlock the door before the plane runs out of fuel! All in a normal day here at Dirt Cheap Airlines, where safety comes last!

First Impressions:

Escape on Purpose’s mission is to use their business to help promote charities in the area, which is a very noble cause! We were allowed to select from the three charities they’ve partnered with when booking and a part of the game fee was donated to that cause. This is a fantastic idea, and really hoped the rooms would be as excellent as this idea as well!

High Points:

There has been effort made with the set, and though it doesn’t quite become fully immersive, some very true to life props have been used in the making of this room. The seats, overhead compartments, and drink cart are all convincing and likely real decommissioned parts from an actual plane. There are good spots of humor inside, whether its finding a pop culture themed prop or reading a particularly silly note, which is fairly rare in most rooms. Staff is very personable and warm, and provided a good introductory and GMing experience.

Low Points:

Puzzles overall were sparse, as most interactions involved scavenging around the room for a hidden code or key, which wears thin after a while. The actual puzzles themselves ranged from entirely too banal, (think puzzle books you can find at the grocery store,) to vaguely clued and weirdly hidden. In fact, for one extremely vague interaction, we not only had to find what amounted to a needle in a haystack, but our tallest person was the only one able to find it using a fairly unstable stool. In fact, I was worried, as I’d already fallen off said stool once! The room is filled with 3 and 4 number locks, as well as a few keyed ones, forcing a lot of guess and check with codes. While effort was made to present a believable set, it still fell short, coming off more as a office space that included some plane bits rather than a full fledged airplane. There is also a lot of junk to sort through, and while some random props are funny when you find them, very quickly does the room feel extremely cluttered. A maximum of 10 people in this room is entirely too many, as the space and game flow would not be sufficient for that many people, even less if you are bringing a group of enthusiasts! The ending is highly unsatisfying, leading to an escape that barely feels like one, leaving us all to wonder if we had even finished and what the purpose our last action was.

Verdict:

We brought some new players to this room, and they seemed to enjoy the experience, having fun with the searching features and basic puzzles. Once you have a few games under your belt, though, you’re really looking for something a little more engaging. Hopefully we’ll be able to take these new players along to some more exciting rooms in the future! (T)Error in the Sky is a very basic experience, with little to excite, so I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re hard pressed for adventure or are brand new to the hobby. Which is a shame, since their mission to help out local charities through their business is an admirable one. You can book your time in the cabin here!

4.5/10 (Subpar)

 

The Escape Trials – Lost Souls (Review)

Location: Jacksonville, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Burn with me!

Theme:

There’s a haunted house out in Jacksonville that is said to contain the vengeful spirit of a little girl. This malevolent specter possesses it’s victims, leaving them cursed and doomed to a shockingly violent end. For whatever foolish reason, you and your friends have decided to give this place a visit, and are now trapped inside with the creepy little hauntling and her many, many dolls. It seems you may have some time, (read: one hour), to figure out how to lay the ghost girl to rest for good, but if you can’t, who knows what will become of you!

First Impressions:

We had escaped Jasper the Great fairly quickly, leaving us with a fair amount of time to kill, so we were more than happy to continue chatting with The Escape Trials’ amazing staff! I cannot express how great this group was, and how at home they made us feel while we loitered in their lobby. Once we’d come up to our escape time, we met our GM, Jennifer, who exuded enthusiasm, and were led into the room!

High Points:

When Lost Souls got creepy, it was very, very creepy, especially during the latter half of the game. I can think of at least three specific set pieces that gave our group pause or startled one of our players, and several moments at which the staff added in some spooky interactions that were great fun. Also, when the puzzles were great, they were amazing! I noticed quite a few impressive bits of technology or well hidden interactions that brought us a lot of enjoyment and added to the immersion flawlessly. The storyline brought small revelations as we moved through the adventure, which brought the story to life excellently, even if the finale was a bit more anticlimactic than we were expecting. GM involvement in the room was excellent, and reached beyond basic clue giving. Tactile interactions were well implemented, and were enjoyable to work through.

Low Points:

Lighting played a creepy part early on, adding to the ambiance, but once the room was fully lit, it lost a lot of the mystery. Décor was better balanced overall than Jasper the Great, but didn’t quite give off that old haunted home vibe. At several points, the puzzles felt overly obtuse, requiring a fair amount of guesswork to arrive at the solution, especially at one point where we had done what we needed to in order to trigger the next part of the game, but were just off with our placement, making us think we were incorrect. A later puzzle provided a clue that didn’t quite jive with the solution, leading to more unnecessary fumbling. Game flow was, therefore, fairly disjointed when we hit these moments. One particular part of the game was cumbersome to interact with, to say the least. As I was the only one who was willing (or able) to interact with it as well, it became very tiring to keep going back to it. Ouch, my back!

Verdict:

Lost Souls was a fun, supernatural adventure, and while it could get particularly obtuse at times, still provided a enjoyable challenge. I would definitely recommend trying it out for the brilliant moments of spooky puzzling, and the wonderful GMing work that the staff provides. You can book your time quelling the dark spirit here!

7/10 (Good)

Full disclosure: The Escape Trials provided a media discount for our group.

Finders Seekers – Washington DC (May Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $30 per box

Puzzling with the Freemasons

Theme:

Each month, Finders Seekers invites you to accept a mysterious mission from the head seer. These “finds” are located in cities around the world and involve high stakes, cryptic puzzling, and shadowy societies! You’ll need a clever mind and some google-fu in order to piece together the puzzles and complete the find! And when you do, you might even receive a reward! This month, we’re hopping over to Washington DC to take on the Masons in a Puzzle Hunt Challenge!

First Impressions:

I’d previously enjoyed Finders Seekers’s London box, and thought I’d sign up to give a new city a go as I do love a good puzzle hunt. Upon opening the latest box, the contents did feel a fair bit sparser, but the online interactions from the last hunt did make up the bulk of the experience, so I wasn’t too worried. What was included seemed to be of good quality, so off we went!

High Points:

 

There are a lot of puzzles to solve in this month’s box, which follows a linear puzzle hunt path towards a big meta puzzle reveal. There’s definitely a good amount to work on, though the sweet spot is 2 players due to the nature of the hunt this go round. The wooden coin props, and a couple of the nicely presented, historically based props are well done, and bring the storyline to life. Puzzles are varied and some are even nicely tactile, allowing for a well-rounded hunt that everyone at the table can enjoy. The origami puzzle in particular was a very satisfying solve, even though it seemed insurmountable at first!

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History meets puzzle hunting in this month’s box!

Low Points:

While the previous Finders Seekers experience in London was a non-linear affair, Washington DC was a very strictly linear experience. This turned out to be a very big deal, as when we were stone cold stuck on a particularly poorly clued puzzle midway through, we had nothing else we could work on at all. The hint system for this puzzle was also very poor, as the hints only let us know what we already had figured out. We spent a good long while stumped on this one before we were accepted into the Finders Seekers Facebook group, where we had to pore through many messages before finding where we went wrong. This puzzle had not indication as to why it was set up this way and felt extremely arbitrary in it’s solving. Beyond this, there were only minor issues, one of which was due to the ambiguous printing of one puzzle in which it was hard to make out details in a detail oriented solve, and the slight let-down that some puzzles were just printed pages.

Verdict:

Washington DC wasn’t quite as fun as London,  but still presents a nice challenge for puzzle hunt enthusiasts who would like to enjoy a hunt from the comfort of their own home. This one I can only recommend to die hards, however, as it can get majorly frustrating when it does stumble. I’m going to have one more go at Finders Seekers to see where I stand on subscribing long term, however, as when the puzzles are strong, they’re really fun. Order your next puzzle hunting adventure here! They also provide a fun free Chicago mini hunt if you’d like to get a feel for their style of puzzles!

6.5/10 (Alright)

The Escape Trials – Jasper the Great (Review)

Location: Jacksonville, NC

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

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

I just want to do wizard stuff with my friends.

Theme:

Jasper the Great has been imprisoned within a mystical mirror world! The spell is working towards sealing him away from our reality forever, and the magic, as we’ve come to expect, will finish it’s work in just an hour! It is up to you to enter the reflected tower, work some groovy spells, and bust Jasper out before his time is up! Don’t worry, your game master Hagrid is going to be a blast!*

*Game Master Hagrid may be subject to change. While Escape Room Adventurer loved Game Master Hagrid, his glorious beard unfortunately may not run the room at all times. We also believe Game Master Hagrid should be given a raise and no less than six high fives.

First Impressions:

The Escape Trials greeted us warmly, happy to see us even though we were so very early due to how quickly we escaped at DefCon 1. We enjoyed talking to them about escape rooms, recommending some, and hearing about their favorites in the area, as well as chatting about Dungeons & Dragons! (The Escape Trials runs D&D game nights, which is only the coolest crossover!) Their lobby is quite cozy, and boasts several fun ways to pass the time while you wait for your room.

High Points:

Game Master Hagrid,(who’s real name we totally forgot, sorry Hagrid!), was a blast from start to finish. Game Mastery seems to be The Escape Trial’s strongest point, which makes sense due to their experience with D&D game nights! The room itself had an interesting theme and game mechanic that I enjoyed following the logic of. This allowed for new an interesting puzzles to be revealed while we were working through the adventure. The technical interactions involved were excellently hidden, and popped off in unexpected ways. Several non-linear puzzle threads wove through the game, keeping us all involved with the solving, and once we were able to wrap our heads around the logic of the room, the game flow worked smoothly throughout. Several props were surprising in their utility, and made for involved puzzles that had us hopping from point to point around the room.

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For the purposes of representing our House, Keyed Up temporarily changed our team name to “50 Points to Gryffindor” in celebration of our 2 second victory over Ravenclaw. Not pictured: Hufflepuff or Slytherin.

Low Points:

While the room itself had magical elements, it didn’t capture the fully immersive magical feel overall. It’s a hard to explain feeling, but the best way I can put it is that there were great technical interactions that evoked a magical feeling, but did not quite cross the line into total immersion. The set itself was nice, but still felt more like an office than the lair of a great wizard. I think this may be partially due to the open nature of the room, which feels empty at times. The mirrored theme of the room is a great idea that leads to some interesting puzzle solving, but we didn’t notice what the mirror was meant to be straight away, and I feel like that could be better incorporated with the room. There were several points where more cluing would be preferred, as certain things go in certain places without a real direction that we could determine without guess and check. The finale was overall anticlimactic, as the room felt like more of a puzzle room on the whole, with the story taking a backseat.

Verdict:

This room definitely felt like a really great, family friendly introductory room. While we did have a few critiques overall, it was still a lot of fun. What really helped the room shine was the attention of the staff and Game Masters who we could definitely tell are very excited to perform their duties! I’d definitely recommend giving it a try as a starter room, or to bring newcomers to the hobby to. Book your time in Jasper’s tower here!

7/10 (Good)

Full disclosure: The Escape Trials provided a media discount for our group.

Cracked It Escape Games – DefCon-1 Red Alert (Review)

Location: Midway Park, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Vault (DefCon) 1

Theme:

It’s the day you had prepared for, but hoped would never come. A nuclear alert has been sounded, and you must quickly gather your friends and family to take shelter in your state of the art fallout shelter. Unfortunately, something has gone wrong, and the life support systems are offline! Try as you might, you aren’t able to get them working, as the keys have all gone missing! Scour your shelter, and solve the conundrums, or all your preparation will have been in vain!

First Impressions:

We have wanted to find a good “Fallout” style nuclear bunker for a while, but unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to find one that was up to our expectations. We’d been planning a trip to Cracked It, however, and had heard great things about DefCon-1, so we were cautiously optimistic! From the spacious lobby, we could see the excellently designed façade of the bunker, and from that small teaser, we knew we were in for something special!

High Points:

This room was absolutely on point from start to finish. During a trip that was full of amazing experiences, this one certainly kept the excitement going! Set design is awesome, and the attention to detail that was given to the room is absolutely top notch, with small hints and puzzles generously peppered about the adventure. The interactions and puzzles within were, for the most part, brand new to all of us, and delivered ah ha moment after ah ha moment in the most satisfying ways! In fact, the puzzles themselves were so intuitive, that we were able to solve a couple even when we accidentally played on a personal hard mode, missing the extra clues cleverly hidden around the room. The hint delivery system was perfectly on theme and worked beautifully through an enjoyable to use prop. In fact, the props within the room were all so fantastic to interact with and expertly integrated with the room. Even though we broke out with over a half hour to spare, this was yet another room that made us feel like we were part of the experience for so much longer, it’s that immersive! My only regret is that we didn’t have time to experience Cracked It’s other two rooms during this trip! Next time!

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Keyed Up does it again!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle reminded me of one of my least favorite duties during Christmas time, and while it made sense within the theme, it was more frustrating than interesting as an interaction. One other interaction involved scavenging, and while the answer was obvious, it felt like an unnecessary step rather than a full on puzzle.

Verdict:

DefCon-1 was absolutely the fallout shelter escape room that we were hoping for! An expertly built set that houses a fun story and amazing, well crafted puzzles, this adventure is absolutely one of the best in North Carolina! There’s something for everyone to love in this game, and I highly recommend you plan a trip out as soon as possible! Book your time in the fallout shelter here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full disclosure: Cracked It Escape Games provided a media discount for our group.