Backstage Escape Games – The Cabin at Beachstone Lake (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-7 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Santa’s not here right now.

Theme:

From the Backstage Escape Games website:

Are you ready for a chilling Christmas story?
In the small town of Parkview Point, something strange has happened at the long-abandoned cabin on Beachstone Lake. Quiet for years, the cabin has suddenly sprung to life with Christmas decorations and cheer. All across town, children noticed that their gifts under the tree and letters to Santa were missing, replaced with a terrifying note from Krampus. The half-goat, half-demon evildoer has challenged anyone to enter the cabin and escape with the gifts. If they do, then the town will experience joyful Christmas seasons for decades to come. If they fail, then Christmas will be forever canceled in Parkview Point.

First Impressions:

We happened to be in Myrtle Beach during December, and while this room runs all year, it seemed like the perfect time for some holiday themed escapes! Even better, this room wasn’t all warmth and tidings of good cheer, there’s a Christmas-hating demon on the loose to outwit! Krampus is such an interesting character, and to have a room revolving around him seemed like it’d be an excellent time!

High Points:

What an immersive room! The initial game briefing takes place at the front of the titular cabin, and sets the tone with a quaint exterior accentuated by whimsically tortured Christmas decorations. To add to the charm, a radio announcer comes over the loudspeaker to deliver the half-wacky, half-creepy story, and keeps the immersion going by starting up a fantastic Christmas themed playlist that’s ever so slightly ominous. The inside of the cabin is just as awesome, with perfect décor and fantastic technology that removes you entirely from Myrtle Beach and transports you to the chilly winter world of Krampus! The story is well delivered through every facet of the game, whether it be puzzles, the evolving room itself, or the notes left behind, keeping us wholly engaged throughout the experience.

Puzzles are excellent, and highly varied, allowing for our team to divide and conquer this non-linear room. The game flow is hugely intuitive, and will make sense to even the newest of players with it’s tactile and creative interactions. Every step of the way gives excellent feedback, and so many of the creative enigmas housed inside the room are just pure fun to solve. It constantly feels like you’re truly working through the demented machinations of Krampus brought to life as you work through the many physical activities and manipulate the various props. There are a lot of hidden items, but they are stashed at key points during the game, ensuring the experience doesn’t become a glorified scavenger hunt, and the meta-puzzles build towards satisfying ah ha moments. Almost every step of this game is pure puzzle solving bliss.

Low Points:

There is one point within the room that can be absolute auditory torture if you don’t achieve your goal quickly. We did not, and our sanity eroded. I think that was the point, but still, that was rough. Near the end, I had flashbacks to a couple of the overly long puzzles from Backstage’s other room, The Legend of Atlantis. In an otherwise excellent game flow, these puzzles can really bog a group down, however, there was only one in The Cabin at Beachstone Lake, and I jumped on that grenade willingly since I tend to be at least decent at solving that type of puzzle. Our group of 3 was fairly comfortable in the room, but still tripped over each other now and again, so I can’t imagine stacking the maximum of 7 in here, so I’d recommend attempting this one with a smaller group if at all possible.

Verdict:

The Cabin at Beachstone Lake keeps up the stunning quality that Backstage Escape Games initially produced with Atlantis, proving once again they’re the bar for Myrtle Beach escape adventures! This room is perfect for anyone looking for a truly memorable outing, and if you’re in the area, you absolutely should try it out! Book your time matching wits with Krampus here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Backstage Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Seaside Strangler (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

A quaint seaside village sporting taverns, fishing, and brutal murder.

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Will Street Detective Agency has received a tip about The Seaside Strangler murders that has led you, a consulting detective, to nearby Gold Hook Island to investigate.  The tiny island of Gold Hook is home to a mere 32 families and can only be reached by ferry.  With a few eating establishments, stretches of uninhabited beachfront, and The Kingfisher hotel, Gold Hook is a quaint tourist getaway in temperate months and is mostly cut off from the mainland in the winter.  After the National Weather Service announces that a nor’easter is headed their way, the residents of Gold Hook begin to evacuate the island using the small ferry that makes the two mile journey back and forth to the mainland. On its way back to pick up the last batch of residents, the ferry experiences a mechanical failure that renders it inoperable, leaving you and a few other people behind on the island to fend for themselves during the storm.  Not long after the storm begins to hammer the coastline of Gold Hook, one of those left behind is found strangled with a length of strangely knotted rope, leading you to conclude that The Seaside Strangler is one of those who didn’t make it back to the mainland.  The police and Coast Guard are unavailable for the next twenty-four hours due to the extreme weather so help will not be coming any time soon.  Leaving the island is not an option.  Your only choice…determine who The Seaside Strangler is and close a case that the police have been unable to close. 

First Impressions:

I love lighthouses. I bought the fantastic Dark Fall 2 back in the day because it had a lighthouse on the front cover. Also because anything Jonathan Boakes touches turns into gaming gold, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is, when I saw the preview for the newest Deadbolt Mystery Society box, I was smitten with the fog and foreboding lighthouse in the distance. Turns out there’s even more to this box than cool aesthetics, though!

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A mystery hundreds of years in the making!

High Points:

Beyond the cool theme of this month’s box, the experience itself is absolutely packed with puzzles, and as always, they are built upon a non-linear game flow that fashions layer upon layer towards the ultimate conclusion! The added bonus with this case, however, is that there isn’t just one mystery to solve! While you’re tracking down the Seaside Strangler, you’ll also happen upon a historical conundrum that has just recently come back into the public eye, for better or worse. These two mysteries intertwine, and the story slowly releases tidbits throughout while building towards the excellent climax. This box takes a cue from my favorite Deadbolt box, The Cabin, by stranding you on Gold Hook Island with the suspects and dropping story related events as you solve. This is always a great touch, and helps add to the immersion and atmosphere that this subscription has become so adept at building.

The puzzles themselves are pretty excellent, with clever bits of evidence scattered among the many items included with the box. These hints are very intuitive and making connections between the myriad of clues is an always satisfying experience. The puzzle solving is well integrated with the storyline, and gives you everything you need to jump between the modern day murders and the centuries old treasure hunt without sacrificing quality between the two. Recently, Deadbolt has taken to focusing how players intuitively approach the investigations, and the case note booklet included within the most current cases is a brilliant way to guide players without holding their hands. Finally, it is appreciated that the QR code madness has toned down a bit, and while the online presence is still there, it is handled in a different way for some parts, which was welcome. Only having one or two tabs open on my phone was a big relief.

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Low Points:

There is one particular code that has seen a lot of use not only in Deadbolt boxes, but other subscription boxes, so veterans are going to tear through it without much thought, and it’ll be fairly old hat to boot. Also, the suspects didn’t feel quite as well fleshed out in this box as they tend to in others, most likely because the real focus was the historical treasure hunt, but after catching the Seaside Strangler I felt we hadn’t really learned much about the suspects themselves. In fact, other than the obvious motive, the culprit’s characterization was pretty flat, which isn’t a spoiler since the others were definitely not quite as bombastic as some earlier boxes, Asylum and The Cabin come to mind as excellent examples.

Verdict:

The Seaside Strangler is an awesome step back into the Deadbolt Universe, and I greatly enjoyed the immersive storytelling that returned for this entry. The impending storm and multifaceted investigation is an excellent evolution for the series, and I am jazzed for the upcoming Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame! I one hundred percent recommend giving this box a try. Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code TRYDMS! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

Break Out Myrtle Beach – Red Beard’s Revenge (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

At this point, Black Beard needs to look out for me… I’ve robbed him at least five times!

Theme:

As part of Red Beard’s crew, you’ve infiltrated Black Beard’s ship! Apparently there’s a beard color based pirate war going on right now. Luckily Blue Beard isn’t here, that guy is creepy! Anyway, it’s time to get your revenge and steal the treasure you know Black Beard has squirreled away on his ship, but in order to do so, you’ll need to follow the clues hidden within. You’ll have to do it quick, however, since the ship is only docked for an hour. Once your time’s up, you’ll be off the ship, just hope it isn’t from a plank!

First Impressions:

While we were a bit underwhelmed by CSI: Myrtle Beach, it was the first time we’d been disappointed with this designer’s rooms. Upon entering Black Beard’s ship, we instantly knew this game was newer, as the set design was more up to par with what we are used to from Break Out. As a pirate aficionado, I was excited to bust through Black Beard’s ship once again!

High Points:

As previously mentioned, set design in Red Beard’s Revenge is up to the usual par for Break Out, with the whole area feeling like the underbelly of a docked ship. Lighting is done well, setting the mood without becoming too dim to see properly. The puzzle flow is fairly linear, with a couple points allowing for non-linearity for a short period, and can handle a group of 3-5. There were a few really engaging interactions, both of which were enjoyable variations on some old favorites. Most props and puzzles integrated well together in order to make intuitive sense for a good ah ha moment here and there. Our GM was engaging and helped with hints that she would graciously expand on when were contracted a case of the dumbs on one puzzle.

Low Points:

Luckily, newer rooms at Break Out Charleston and Myrtle Beach aren’t guilty of this, but older rooms tend to contain things that are hidden just for the sake of being hidden. These scavenger hunt items have thankfully fallen out of fashion in today’s market, but unfortunately they persist here. Aimless searching should generally be replaced by a puzzle or clue about how to find these items, as wandering around looking for secrets is fairly banal at this point. There are a couple points at which the connective tissue breaks down, making for some intense logical leaps we are still puzzling over, but overall the room doesn’t stumble down that path overly often. One particular puzzle requires some outside knowledge, which we luckily had but still, math in escape rooms feels more like homework than an engaging puzzle.

Throughout the experience, we ran across a lot of similar locks that required us to guess and check against each one once we had solved a particular puzzle. A bit of cluing as to what goes where would improve this facet of the room greatly. On the whole, the room feels like another puzzle room rather than a fully engaging escape experience, with a story that doesn’t really evolve beyond, “find the treasure,” and puzzles that jump in and out of theme. Reaching the conclusion is anticlimactic since there really isn’t a compelling story there, but it serves well enough as this room’s ending.

Verdict:

I can’t really say that Red Beard’s Revenge is a bad room, but it never really rises above average, as most rooms at Break Out have evolved past the early days design sensibilities seen in Red Beard’s Revenge, so I can’t say it’s too good either. Honestly, it’s a serviceable room that newcomers will enjoy a lot more than escape room veterans, but with four much better rooms rooms available at this location, I’d recommend trying out those instead. You can book your time Black Beard’s Pirate ship here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.

Escape! Myrtle Beach – The Great Granny Rescue (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-5 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Granny v. Girl Scouts: Dawn of Moonshine

Theme:

Your grandma has been kidnapped by the Girl Scouts! They’ve been branching out from cookies and have decided that moonshine is a better racket, so they want Granny’s world famous moonshine recipe. Unfortunately, her memory hasn’t been so good here recently, and she’s had to set up a series of reminders around her shack in order to recall how to make her alcoholic delicacy. The Scouts have given you one hour to get a sample for them or you’ll never see your dear sweet grandmother again, so be quick and solve her codes!

First Impressions:

What a perfectly bonkers theme! During our last trip out, we enjoyed the light hearted nature of Escape! Myrtle Beach’s other room, Race Against Time, and were told that The Great Granny Rescue was on it’s way, so when we returned, this room was a must play. Upon being led to the room and seeing the surprise waiting for us upon the door, (I won’t spoil it,) I knew this one would be hilarious fun.

High Points:

Upon entering The Great Granny Rescue, it was immediately apparent that the set design had been stepped up immensely! While Race Against Time was a fun game in its own right, it had a more basic environmental design to it, so our expectations were blown out of the water upon seeing how great Granny’s shack looked. It absolutely made me feel as though I’d just stepped into the home of an elderly southern lady, every touch was just right! All around the room were fantastic details that not only helped with the immersion of the set, but added humorous touches to the game we really appreciated. Escape! Myrtle Beach excels at actually making comedic themed games genuninely funny by going the extra mile to be original with their humor and storylines. The whole room had unique and charming puzzles sprinkled throughout, but didn’t feel cheap; I could tell this whole experience was a labor of love from the very start.

The puzzling experience is fantastic, with a non-linear flow that easily kept the two of us busy for the full experience. I can absolutely see a party of the maximum six staying busy and comfortable within this room, though enthusiasts will obviously have a better time with fewer players, and Escape! Myrtle Beach’s policy of private rooms will be a boon to these groups! Our GM was very attentive, (and a really witty guy,) and if we needed assistance or there was something in the room that could cause undue confusion, he was quick to help us out. The hint system works very well within the theme, and was a fun surprise for the point at which we needed it. The game itself works off a truly excellent flow, with connective layers weaving between each other in one of the most satisfying ways I’ve seen in Myrtle Beach. Everything culminates into an exciting climax that can filter towards one of two endings depending on your performance, which is a cool touch.

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Missed the #1 spot by five seconds! Curse our late game hesitation!

Low Points:

There were a couple points at which red herrings confused us, but they were very small and easily explainable. Most rooms tend to eschew their use nowadays, so it was initially confusing for us to see. The late game had a weird flow to it, with the actions required causing us to stumble a bit due to the necessity of getting things right the first time. There were also some props that became finicky in the late game, but everything else worked a charm.

Verdict:

All in all, this bonkers room absolutely deserves a play if you’re ever in Myrtle Beach. The hilarious storyline and wonderful game flow build upon each other towards an exciting conclusion and great escape! The guaranteed privacy is a definite plus, and I could really tell that Escape! Myrtle Beach was 100% committed to ensuring we had a fantastic time. You can book your daring Granny rescue here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Sleuth Kings – Case 016: Flyer Fundraiser (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Eat your heart out Nancy Drew.

Theme:

Teenage crime solver Asuna Yukimura, inspired by the events of Case 009: Part-Time Thieves, has started the Flyer High Young Detective’s Club! She and her friends have solved a few small cases so far, but a recent theft of $40,000 from the school’s fundraiser inspires the Club to take on their biggest caper yet. Johnny Cavallo, Flyer High history teacher, currently stands accused of the crime, but the evidence against him seems just a little too convenient, so Asuna has asked Sleuth Kings to help her crack the case once again!

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings is fantastic at developing fully realized characters, and Asuna is one of the most fun assistants Sullivan has ever worked with. Full of teenage bravado and witty quips, I was excited we would get to hear more from her during this case! As it is also a sequel of sorts to one of our favorite cases, Part-Time Thieves, we knew we were in for an excellent adventure once we cracked open the box!

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Join the Young Detective’s Club and solve the case!

High Points:

The puzzles within this case are phenomenal! Multi-layered, but approachable, with intuitive solutions and so many ah ha moments, they deliver a game flow that is incredible fun to work through. As always the puzzles are perfectly integrated into the theme, and wouldn’t feel out of place in any high school, with clever and sometimes devious little clues that are extraordinarily satisfying to solve. Though the case, we felt, was a little on the easier side, it never felt like a chore or dipped in quality at any point. We’ll take a shorter adventure of amazing quality over a three and a half hour slog any day! Still, there’s quite a bit to do, and the layers and connections between the clues and extra information will have you bouncing between each one in a flurry of excellent mystery solving!

Cracking codes at Flyer High is always a lot of fun, as the world-building that Sleuth Kings has done to bring the school to life is impressive! The nostalgia, frustrations, and teenage optimism that is conveyed throughout the case makes it so immersive, and it is woven expertly throughout the experience. The characters are brought to vivid life by dialogue so keenly on point you feel as though a teenager must’ve written it. Very rarely has a subscription box felt so realistic as this one, so I absolutely must commend everyone involved with writing this case! Beyond this, the case is chock full of fun easter eggs from past cases, and every time a new one popped up, it brought a smile to my face, so veteran Sleuths will definitely not want to miss this one! As a related side note, if you are interested in reading some of my life-changing poetry, this case is absolutely for you.

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Ah, my old Alma Mater is still printing my most popular poem to date on their lunch menus. Kinda miffed they’re calling me a senior… I’m only 29!

Low Points:

We were able to jump around in the story at the end by accident, which had us scratching our heads for a minute since we did things out of order, so some information was revealed early, but there was just one step we missed. We went back and solved the other part, and it was entertaining, though it was less surprising since the ultimate solution to that part had already been revealed. That’s mostly on us though, so it’s a very small complaint.

Verdict:

I am glad to say that Case 016: Flyer Fundraiser is a more than worthy sequel to Part-Time Thieves! Expanding on the setting and puzzling of the previous case while still filled to the brim with all the high school charm we loved so much, I absolutely recommend picking this one up, and snagging Case 009 as well for the full experience! This case can be purchased from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, (which you absolutely should because Case 017 looks astounding,) you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.