Ubisoft Blue Byte – Assassin’s Creed: Beyond Medusa’s Gate (Review)

Location: This game is available from many locations, we played at VR Zone DC in Washington, DC

Players: 2 or 4, either of which is a great time

Price: Varies, based on location.

Time to Escape: Approximately 60 Minutes

Back to the Animus!

Theme:

From the Ubisoft Escape Games website:

Beyond Medusa’s Gate is set in the re-creation of Ancient Greece from Assassin’s Creed® Odyssey. Two or four players team up and have 60 minutes to find a way out of a vast Aegean coastal cave where the legendary ship of the Argonauts is anchored. To successfully escape, players must use cooperative teamwork, problem-solving skills and precise timing to solve riddles and find their way out of this room-scale experience. Players start the adventure by choosing their avatar from among six diverse characters, and can customize them with Ancient Greek accessories.

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First Impressions:

Escape the Lost Pyramid got us hyped for more VR escape adventures, and luckily, we had Beyond Medusa’s Gate scheduled just afterwards! The initial stages of the game were similar, but boasted loads more options, and we knew we were in for an extremely good time after enjoying an ink bottle “food fight” of sorts within the initial avatar selection/costume customization area seen below!

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High Points:

Being an enormous fan of Assassin’s Creed, especially Kassandra’s adventures in AC: Odyssey, Beyond Medusa’s Gate was one of my most highly anticipated games for our recent trip to Northern Virginia. We were not disappointed, either, as this massive evolution in gameplay over the already great Escape The Lost Pyramid was an absolute blast to puzzle through. Inviting players into an even larger escape adventure than the previous game, this is truly a can’t miss experience. The initial parts of the game involved getting acquainted with the VR controls and selecting from a wider, more artful set of avatars, as well as various costume colors and adornments. As a big fan of character customization in video games, I was delighted with the expansion of this part of the game, as well as the inclusion of many ways to differentiate your character, as three of us selected the same avatar.

The gameplay for this romp through Ancient Greece is legendary, putting a much larger emphasis of enormous teamwork puzzles, and ensuring that everyone stays involved throughout, removing many of the individual choke points of the previous game. Traversal feels much smoother here, and the joy of one armed pull ups remains present, as does shooting your friends with arrows. Climbing the many tall walls was a fear for one of our teammates, and luckily, should this trigger anxiety for players, most teamwork puzzles only require one of the players to climb, which was a nice touch. The interactions presented via Medusa’s Gate are incredibly varied, and much more complex, throwing some real challenges at the team, while remaining intuitive and deliriously fun to work through. The moments of revelation are great, and working out the solutions alongside friends is an excellent time. Many points split our four player team into two, and the ability to switch off teammates is present, which is a great new addition. On the whole, however, there are quite a few four player interactions that are flawlessly inserted into the game flow, and allow for everyone to take a starring role in the adventure.

The climax of the game is also much improved, with an epic boss battle that requires quick and accurate teamwork between all four players, capping off an already excellent journey with an exhilarating large-scale interaction. We were also treated to a quick but fun photo taking session to commemorate our achievement, and I’m so glad we were able to actually receive these photos!

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Low Points:

Beyond Medusa’s Gate is a mostly flawless VR escape experience, but we did run into a couple of places where if your teammates aren’t quite as quick as you, there’s some waiting around, but not nearly as much as was experienced in Escape the Lost Pyramid. There were also usually some items to mess around with during this time, so the waiting never became unbearable. Near the end of the game, we experienced a fairly big glitch, as a key item popped out of existence for around five minutes, causing a lot of frustration as well as the confiscation and immediate disposal of a bucket.

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Verdict:

Beyond Medusa’s Gate was one of the most memorable escape room experiences I’ve ever had, and expect I’ll remember our journey through this one for a good long while. Able to insert fun and adventure into every facet of the game, I highly recommend checking it out! If you’ve not played it’s predecessor, Escape the Lost Pyramid, that’s definitely worth doing first if possible, as this game will likely feel more natural after a warm up in Egypt. Find a room near you here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: VR Zone DC provided media discounted tickets for our game.

Sleuth Kings – Isaac Case 006 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

It all ends here.

Theme:

The Isaac King Mystery/Conspiracy comes to an exciting climax! In this double sized case, Sullivan seeks to finally put to rest the years long investigation into his father’s disappearance, and bring those responsible to justice before they can slip away forever! We were thrilled to hear that the story would soon get some closure when Sullivan emailed us after Case 026, and were even more excited that there would be two cases to puzzle through!

First Impressions:

Athena the Crime Solving Cat was very excited to give it a whirl, as can be seen below:

It’s a well known fact that cats are very, very good at solving puzzles. Mostly the puzzle of “Why are you asleep? It’s 2 am and I’m hungry.”

High Points:

First and foremost, it is always difficult to bring a long term story to a close, and we’ve been working through Sleuth King’s Meta-Case for a good while, (since around June 2018 in my estimation,) and I was curious to see how the ending would pan out. I’m happy to say that it works very well within the universe of Sleuth Kings, and ties up all the loose ends in an appropriately satisfying way. Two big cliff-hangers were left at the end of Isaac Case 005, and splitting the endings of both of those stories into two separate cases was an excellent idea. Especially toward the back end of the case, communications with Sullivan were frequent and full of story tidbits, keeping us on the edge of our seats, and furiously puzzling! A new character that appeared to help us work out the final case was an excellent addition, and players who have stuck with this case for so long are really going to enjoy this particular plot point. The epilogue was great, and the addition of a letter from the creators of Sleuth Kings was awesome to see. One particular addition to the epilogue was fantastic, and left a few more clues for us to look into at our leisure.

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This being a double header of sorts, there were a lot more puzzles than usual for a Sleuth Kings case, but being arguably the most important case of Sullivan’s life, this was certainly fitting. The first case flew by for us, and while we felt the puzzles here were the easier of the bunch, they were still a lot of fun to work through. I do feel that the pace of the story is suited for these sorts of puzzles, which ensure players don’t get off track for too long, and keep with the break-neck speed at which the mystery suggests you’ll need to work, (but not to worry, there’s no real time crunch.) The culminating puzzle for this one was pretty straight forward and, like the conclusion of this first half of the adventure, left us eager for more. The second half of the game did ratchet the difficulty up to a more normal level for a Sleuth Kings case, and presented us with one of the most intensely satisfying meta-puzzles I’ve ever completed for a subscription box. It wasn’t the most flashy, but putting together the pieces was one of those moments of revelation that really sticks with you. The props for this part of the game were also the most exciting, and once again, Sleuth Kings has provided me with a clue that has become very useful in our day to day lives. This part of the mystery was also much more tactile, and provided us with a couple of nicely layered solves.

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Low Points:

Though there are two cases, they are a pretty quick solve for veterans, and by this point players are certainly veterans of at least 29 cases, so though there are more puzzles, they are easier on the whole. This is not to say there aren’t a few good challenges, but on the whole, players should expect this one to take the normal amount of time to complete. Beyond that, one of the puzzles was clued, but just a bit too vague to allow us to naturally make any connections. Luckily, a quick clue got us back on track.

Verdict:

Isaasc Case 006 is an awesome capstone to the meta-cases for Sleuth Kings, and showcases the strengths of the subscription beautifully. With excellent story telling, world building, layered puzzles, and an exciting conclusion, it’s definitely worth the wait! Though you’ll have to work through the normal cases for a while before receiving this one, other cases can be purchased from the Sleuth King’s archives here. If you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Insomnia Escape – The Patient (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-9 (We recommend 2-3)

Price: Varies, see here for details.

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Doctors have loads of paperwork to go through…

Theme:

From the Insomnia Escape website:

Detective thriller in a psychiatric hospital. Investigate the mystery, but don’t lose your mind…The early 1970s. You are a group of journalists sent to investigate strange things that happen around St Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital…An unsettling atmosphere of a mental asylum and unexpected scenario twists in the new thriller detective escape room The Patient.

First Impressions:

I always like a good spooky hospital thriller, from abandoned, ghost-infested asylums to the labs of mad doctors, I eat up this sort of theme! I was a little disappointed about the set up of this hospital, however, as it seemed clean and sterile, just the sort of hospital we’ve seen a bit too much of in our escape journeys, but I was hoping that we could peel away this sanitary veneer to uncover the dark secrets beneath!

High Points:

Though the set wasn’t quite what we expected, it is competently designed and does present a doctor’s office fairly well. The most interesting thing about the room, however, is the two patients locked up beyond a couple of cell doors. The technology presented to bring these patients to life is pretty astounding, and interacting with them is definitely the most fun part of the game. The acting is little more than okay, but the tech that brings their actions to life more than makes up for it. The climax of the room is a great finish, and getting there does feel urgent, overall. The room starts out with some very engaging puzzles and interactions, and while it lasts, everything is streamlined. Unfortunately, as clues pile up, even the most organized groups will start to have some issues keeping everything straight. There are some really great ideas housed within The Patient, and it may be worth the price to some players just to see some of these innovations.

Low Points:

The Patient felt more like an at home subscription mystery box, as a lot of the game was bogged down in paper notes and written clues, rather than using the room to it’s fullest. In fact, as an at home experience, I think this could be a pretty great mystery, but as it currently stands as an escape room, it feels very bare on the whole. The game flow is very much mired in piles and piles of paper evidence, and though the technology is cool, the cool factor wears off quite a bit during the long stretches between said interactions. As the room is strictly linear, and somewhat small, the adventure does not support the five players we had, much less the maximum nine that can be fit in the game. I’d say the sweet spot is two or three, and that third player will probably still have a fair bit of down time. The story isn’t well conveyed by the game itself, and though the outline is there, it never really shines like an escape room story should. Most of the revelations are underwhelming and take a leap of logic to grasp.

Beyond the game flow hiccups, the connections between puzzles and inputs leave a lot to be desired, and the inputs themselves can be incredibly fiddly to work with, and with so many red herrings and random rabbit trails to go down, players will end up futzing about with them to the point of frustration. The puzzles themselves, beyond the vagary and overall frustration of their presentation, are eminently forgettable, with no real mind blowing moments at any point. On the whole, the experience just falls flat.

Verdict:

The Patient just fails to excite. While there are cool technological touches here and there, the small size of the room, conjoined with banal puzzling, frustrating amounts of paper, and an overly linear set up, doom the experience to mediocrity. While not a bad game, it certainly needs a fair bit of work to be recommendable. However, with a small team, there is a neat surprise or two, but there are much better games to be played in the area. You can book your time at the St. Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital here.

5.5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Insomnia Escape provided media discounted tickets for our game.

Thanksgiving Hiatus, and a Recommendation!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Escape Adventurer will be taking a week off this week for the holiday travels to ensure editing doesn’t conflict with stuffing faces! We’ll be back with new reviews next week. In the mean time, might I suggest my favorite PC game of all time, Barrow Hill? It’s an excellent point and click adventure I’ve played many times since it’s release in 2006, and a fantastic fall companion. The archaeology, mystery, and spooky vibe is sure to thrill, and it was developed by the legendary Matt Clark. You can pick up a copy of this game, and many of the other amazing and independently developed Shadow Tor/Darkling Room games here! (FYI, it’s the second from the end. Barrow Hill has an excellent sequel available near the top of the page, but it won’t make as much sense to play that one first.)

Escape Room Herndon – Maritime Mutiny (Review)

Location: Herndon, VA

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

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Here there be py’rates!

Theme:

From the Escape Room Herndon Website:

The pirate captain Ravensbeard has been cheating you and the crew out of your rightful share of plunder! Now that hornswoggling scoundrel has barricaded himself in his quarters. You and your mates must break in to reclaim what be rightfully yours and send that scurvy dog to Davey Jones’ Locker. If you’re crafty enough, mayhaps you’ll even commandeer the whole galleon. All hands on deck!

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First Impressions:

Most of the Keyed Up! A-team love a good pirate theme. While they’re fairly ubiquitous, especially over on the east coast, our main stomping grounds, we still have a soft spot in our hearts for them. Knowing Ravenchase rooms’ proclivities for great sets and interestingly engineered puzzles, we were excited to see what sort of high seas mischief we’d be getting into!

Mutiny

High Points:

Maritime Mutiny is housed within yet another beautiful set from Escape Room Herndon, who does an amazing job with their designs. The set reminded me of the astounding Lost Jewel of the James from sister company Escape Room RVA, with a more streamlined and easier to traverse set. Every technical item has been hidden away well, and the room itself has been artistically created to evoke a high level of immersion. Lighting and sound design add to the experience greatly as well, and I always appreciate a good ambient sound track that ensures players feel as though they’re within a living world rather than a converted office space.

The game flow itself works fantastically, with a bevy of well clued puzzles that will cater to an array of puzzlers. Each prop within the room feels important, and the intuitive nature of the enigmas within Ravensbeard’s pirate ship ensure that everyone will be completely engaged with the adventure at all times. The signposting is subtle, and presents an almost invisible road map for players that keeps the game challenging while ensuring that there are no red herrings to drive them off track. This is a very tactile game, and when the set opens up to present its secrets due to an action taken in the room, it’s a very satisfying. Progress is well marked during the game, and it never feels like the game is dragging at any point.

Maritime Mutiny is a special game in that the advertised difficulty is a 5/10, unless players opt for the bonus puzzles, in which the game becomes a 10/10. The decision to take these puzzles on is made after escaping the initial room, so no need to worry about if there’s time (or mental energy,) until the option presents itself. This is an awesome way to ensure folks who tend to fly through easier rooms still get their full 60 minutes with the game. I also love that solving these puzzles grants a better climax to the room, as hinted at in the room description. Our team definitely felt the pressure as these were some devious challenges, but know that the reward for solving these optional puzzles is absolutely worth it!

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Low Points:

While the bonus puzzles are a great addition for seasoned players, they were more puzzle hunt style than most are used to seeing in an escape room. I personally am not the biggest fan of this style of puzzle, which tend to feel overly vague and logically unsound. However, most of the puzzles presented are well implemented and they are, of course, optional, so it’s a small matter of mostly personal preference as to whether you’ll enjoy the bonus. Overall, we did, but I can certainly see where they would become frustrating. The initial set of puzzles are definitely some of the easier ones, so escape room veterans looking for a challenge will have to wait for the bonus puzzles. Overall, the dichotomy of the room is best for new players who don’t mind missing out on the bonus and better climax, or hardened escape enthusiasts looking for a bigger challenge, but not as much for those in between experience levels.

Verdict:

Maritime Mutiny is an astounding room that accomplishes the impossible task of being a great room for new players and those looking for a mind melting challenge as well. Couple that with the beautiful sound and set design, and you’ve got a game that I can absolutely recommend to everybody! Book your time escaping your Maritime Mutiny here!

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9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Room Herndon provided comped tickets for this room.