Escape Artist Greenville – Dr. Fratelli’s Cabin (Review)

Location: Greenville, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $27 (Public Booking) or $30 (Private Booking) per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Why do we keep visiting creepy cabins in the woods?

Theme:

The formerly world renowned psychologist Dr. Fratelli has gone into seclusion over the past few years. No one has heard from the eccentric doctor until you and your friends receive an enigmatic invitation to Dr. Fratelli’s private cabin out in the woods. Nothing weird about that, right? As  you are led into the cabin, you’re told to make yourself at home and look through the doctor’s research to your heart’s content. Though his assistant said he’d be by shortly, the doctor doesn’t seem to be showing up. Even worse, the door you came in has been locked behind you, and a mysterious countdown just popped up on the television…

First Impressions:

Escape Artist Greenville’s website shows some glimpses of their rooms, and due to the awesome looking designs, they’ve been on my radar for a while. Luckily, we had a big trip to plan, and Greenville, SC was on the way. After stepping into the good doctor’s waiting room, I could definitely tell that the sets wouldn’t be the only good thing about this experience!

High Points:

The storyline for Dr. Fratelli’s Cabin was fairly straightforward, but at two particular points there were personal touches that added some fantastic twists to the adventure! We greatly enjoyed the addition of these story beats, and it helped bring the immersion even further into focus. The set design here was amazing, as expected, really bringing forth the feel of a small cabin inhabited by a crazed psychologist, especially as we ventured through the many layers of the room. Speaking of layers, there were several, as the rooms opened up in unexpected and sometimes amusing ways. It’s always nice to be surprised as an enthusiast, and this cabin was chock full of surprises!

The game flowed well, with only a couple of hiccups when our group started to overthink the puzzles. Throughout the flow, which vacillated between linear and non-linear puzzling threads, our group of four stayed engaged and actively interacting with the experience, especially with the final puzzle, which spanned the room and depended on our teamwork to complete. The game itself ended climactically and included another fantastic ending via a mysterious final missive, leaving us wanting more in the best way possible!

Low Points:

The gating between some of the mid to late game puzzles wasn’t quite as tight as we’d like it to be, and as a result, there was a bit of frustrating time wasted on a puzzle that seemed solvable at first, but proved to be extremely difficult without an item encountered later. Luckily, the game master intervened to let us know to stop beating our head against that particular wall. There was also another interaction that presented text in a difficult to read manner, which seemed strange due to the way this puzzle was set up.

Verdict:

Dr. Fratelli’s Cabin was Escape Artist Greenville’s first room, but it certainly doesn’t show its age! A more classic escape experience, there are still many surprises to encounter and original interactions and puzzles sprinkled throughout the entire experience! I definitely recommend checking out the old cabin if you’re in Greenville! Take part in Dr. Fratelli’s experiment here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape Artist Greenville provided media discounted tickets for our team.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Cabin (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Mile High Murder

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

20 years ago five camp counselors were brutally murdered at Camp Grand Echo. Now, those who survived have been summoned back to the camp by an eccentric millionaire and offered a large sum of money to spend one more night there for an upcoming reality show. No one seriously thinks the killing will start up again…until the headless body of the millionaire is found. The murderer, it seems, has returned. Old secrets will be unearthed. Bodies will fall. And The Reaper, once more, will reap. What truths will be uncovered in…The Cabin?  

First Impressions:

October is here, and with that come pumpkins, candy, and the best thing, horror themed mystery subscription boxes! As a huge fan of classic horror slasher flicks, the announcement of The Cabin had me excited to receive this box and dig into the mystery of The Reaper!

High Points:

Reminiscent of great horror stories like Friday the 13th and the best season of American Horror Story, Roanoke, (Shut up, it definitely is,) The Cabin is an amazing story based experience that really engaged us in ways I wasn’t expecting. Shaking up the usual Deadbolt formula, instead of investigating a murder after the fact, with The Cabin you’ll be trying to eliminate suspects before The Reaper can do the same, except in a slightly bloodier fashion! This has the excellent side effect of placing you within the story more directly while the events unfold. This is further effected through the experience’s phenomenal use of several out of the box, internet based interactions. The game flow is excellent as usual, allowing for non-linear solving while still gating off the most important parts expertly until the most appropriate moments.

Puzzles themselves continue to evolve, and while there’s some of the usual codebreaking, it’s mostly new and cleverly implemented. Other new puzzles present tidbits of the story throughout the game, and new revelations are around every corner! The story is fantastically engaging, and keeps up its intensity for the whole adventure, which lasted over 2 hours for us! The climax is surprising, presenting a perfect ending to the story, as well as a possible set up for a further meta-story, an amazing addition to the Deadbolt Universe that I can’t wait to see explored further! Overall, the 80’s slasher vibe of the box is perfectly implemented, and I love the way that The Deadbolt Mystery Society has grown into an even more story focused experience without sacrificing gameplay!

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But wait, there’s more (to uncover!)

Low Points:

There’s really not much I can say regarding low points for this box! There was a small typo in one article regarding the date of the murders, but that literally doesn’t matter. Everything is intuitive and exciting, and is amazing fun to investigate!

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society has been on an absolute roll lately, and I have another new favorite Deadbolt box just a month after my last favorite, Terminal! In fact, the updates to the Deadbolt formula and constant surprises we encountered make this the first subscription box on the site to receive a 10 out of 10! The continued innovation and quality of these boxes are awesome, and I cannot wait to see what comes next during the Carnival of Chaos in November! 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

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

Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia – Riddle High (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $17.50 (advance booking) or $25 (walk-in) per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Busted!

Theme:

You’ve been caught in acts of delinquency one too many times, and now it’s time to serve your time… in Detention! You’ve got better things to do, so your fellow detainees decide to sneak into the school to find and destroy your detention slips. You’ll have to be quick, smart, and devious in order to get it done, or you’ll be spending the next few weeks serving time!

First Impressions:

Adrenaline isn’t solely an escape room venue, their main attraction is their trampoline park, and their focus is towards families and kids. We’d heard their rooms were a bit on the easier side, but still a lot of fun, so we decided to check them out while we were in town. Upon walking in, the chaotic sounds of children at play abounded, but as we were led into the room itself, those sounds faded away, so props to the set designers for the excellent sound proofing! In fact, during the room, I almost forgot there was a huge warehouse of kids behind the door!

High Points:

Riddle High has a great set, invoking the nostalgic days of high school with an escape room twist! The theme of a classroom/high school is underutilized, and when it is presented, the game generally is composed of cast off school props, but Riddle High eschews cheapness in order to create a very clean and engaging set. Many of the props brought me back to my high school days, and it was a lot of fun to interact with certain technology of yore in clever ways to solve the conundrums within the room. Effort has been made to ensure the surprises within the room are able to keep even our veteran group guessing, as the game opens up in very clever ways.

Game flow is mostly non-linear, with several puzzling paths converging towards an exciting climax and escape! All interactions within the room were highly intuitive, and melded with the theme of the room excellently, delivering the full puzzling package! Though the room itself is only 45 minutes, there has been no skimping on content here, and we were able to keep engaged for the entire time.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle triggers the next step silently, so even when the solution has been found, you’ll have to scour the room again to find it. Some sort of sound or obvious light trigger would be appreciated since the puzzle comes later in the game, long after you’ve already searched the room from top to bottom once! There is one late game interaction that makes sense within the theme, but is something I’d rather not encourage groups to do during a game, similar to messing with electrical outlets. A small bank of puzzles can be bypassed due to some of the props having hidden information that’s a bit less hidden than it could be.

Verdict:

Riddle High is an awesome game that newcomers and enthusiasts alike will enjoy. Adults will love the nostalgic look back at high school, and kids can find a lot of fun within this one as well, making the room fantastic for the targeted family demographic. You can book your time in detention here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Mayday (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Get off my plane!

Theme:

As members of the Secret Service, you are accompanying President Reagan back from the G7 Economic Summit in Europe. Meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev broke down, and it looks like discussions with the Soviet Union have become impossible, ratcheting up global tensions. Without warning, the plane’s instruments go haywire and it becomes obvious that you’ve been sabotaged! With only 60 minutes of glide time remaining, it is up to you to figure out what went wrong, and make an emergency landing before the inevitable crash!

First Impressions:

Mayday is the newest room for Escapology, and is only available at Escapology Columbia as of this writing. It’s always exciting to be one of the first to play a room, and we have been looking for a good airplane themed room for a while, as the last couple we’d tried weren’t that great. Also, as the first room of our 17 room escape room weekend, we were hoping to start things out on the right foot! Escapology’s lobby is very comfortable, and the rest of the business is just as lushly appointed, with a steampunk theme that I really enjoyed.

High Points:

The interior is made out to resemble a high class plane from the 80s, and extreme effort has been made to help Air Force One look authentic and comfortable. Each subsequent room took us closer to the cockpit, and once we arrived, the front of the plane was very well decorated to present a pilot’s domain within the puzzle focused world. Puzzles are hidden in believable ways, and flow excellently between interactions, leading us through the story while we continued to work through the game. The game itself weaves excellently between linear and non linear paths, keeping our group engaged and entertained from start to finish.

The game takes place during the height of the Cold War and contains a lot of fun historical easter eggs to find for history buffs. Working through the final parts of the adventure, and landing the plane properly is climactic and tense, requiring an excellent amount of teamwork and group cohesion. Completing the game truly feels like cause for celebration as Air Force One touches down!

Low Points:

Newer players will enjoy some of the basic code breaking that is included, but for enthusiasts, this will be a chore you’ve done several times before. One particular puzzle had what seemed to be a very straightforward presentation, but baffled our group due to a lack of clues pointing towards the solution. Even more frustrating for us was that we activated the puzzle solution twice without knowing how we managed it. We didn’t need it spelled out, but a bit more cluing within the game would be great. One door also opened accidentally after an incorrect code was entered due to a slight nudge opening it prematurely.

Verdict:

Mayday is an excellent historically themed and airplane based experience. Combining a thrilling story with a clever puzzling flow, it is definitely one of the best rooms at Escapology Columbia, and I definitely recommend giving it a shot! You can book your stint as a Secret Service Member here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Return to 3B Mini Adventure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $11.99 per envelope

Reunions aren’t always a happy affair.

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Return to the sleepy town of Valley Falls and pull back the dingy curtain to take another look at its sordid underbelly. Head back to The Hideaway Motel and discover the secrets that a killer called The Magpie left behind. As you visit one of the most notorious spots in town, uncover one of Valley Falls’ most well-kept secrets and do so while trying to avoid a local mafioso hitman who goes by the name of Vito the Smile.

First Impressions:

Deadbolt Mini Mysteries are a great idea, allowing fans of the series to return to previous stories and obtain a little more information about the goings on in Valley Falls! These approximately one hour long epilogues intrigued me, due to their low price and promise of further revelations, and I was definitely excited to see what was in store once I opened the envelope.

High Points:

This Mini Mystery takes place after the events of Murder in 3B and Ransom, a couple of the best stories so far, and it is interesting to see how these two boxes intertwine. The smaller nature of the game allows for the story to remain front and center throughout the puzzle solving experience. The game flow remains on theme throughout the adventure, and the solving experience is tightly woven around furthering the mystery through each successful solve. There is an excellent point where expectations are subverted to deliver further enigmas, and the whole thing ends on a satisfyingly climactic note. The puzzles themselves are a bit simpler than the usual fare from Deadbolt, but are still enjoyable to solve and tie into each other well within the confines of a more linear game.

 

Low Points:

One climatic puzzle doesn’t quite follow the usual methodology for this type of puzzle, and took up a lot of our solve time based solely on its ambiguity. This one becomes difficult mostly due to the logical leap needed to make the connection, which would have been better served by an in game clue to direct. The answer makes total sense once it is solved, but since this type of puzzle tends to work differently, a clue worked into the game flow itself would’ve helped this one work better.

Verdict:

With Return to The Hideaway Motel, Deadbolt delivers a bite size adventure for seasoned fans of the franchise. At only $12, it gives those who have experienced Murder in 3B and Ransom some further closure to the stories, as well as an adventure to solve while waiting for their next full size box! While the game is solvable without prior knowledge, I’d definitely recommend checking those boxes out first to get the full experience. You can order those boxes, a well as Return to The Hideaway Motel via Deadbolt’s One-Time purchases portal here! If you decide you’d like to subscribe to the regular, full-sized mysteries, you can get 30% off your first adventure by using the code TRYDMS!

8/10 (Great)

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