Raleigh Room Escapes – Escape the Tramping Ground (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players:  6-10 (We recommend 6-8)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Why did the devil break all of his toys?

Theme:

In Siler City, North Carolina, there is a clearing in the middle of the woods, and in that clearing is a spot where nothing ever grows. People have reported leaving objects in the circle, only to find them seemingly violently moved overnight, or gone altogether. Even spookier, some brave souls have camped in the spot, only to find themselves in a completely different place upon waking up. Scientists researching the site have brought back samples to their lab in Raleigh to study, in order to figure out an explanation for these phenomena, but the site has gone dark. You are the first team to enter the lab once it has been locked down and must solve the mystery of the Devil’s Tramping Grounds before you go missing yourself!

First Impressions:

The mood for the room was very well set. We were led into a separate lobby just for our players, and were allowed to mingle before the game began, which it did with a bang. The actor explained the rules and story to us excellently, and hurriedly ushered us into the room.

High Points:

Raleigh Room Escapes is headed up by theatre aficionados, and it shows in their sets and delivery. Tramping ground boasted a highly immersive set design, and the actor that introduced us to the room played his role very well. There were a few big props that added a lot to the game, and the overall story was woven throughout fairly well. Puzzles were mostly competent, if not cohesive.

Low Points:

This room was very poorly maintained, leading to a lot of wasted time. In some spots, what we thought were clues turned out to be unintentional red herrings written down by previous groups. A lot of paper props were torn up and worn, and some of the locks were unforgivably jammed. One puzzle in particular should have been simple to solve, and we worked out the method to do so very easily, but the puzzle itself was broken, making it a guessing game of degrees in attempting to solve it. To add insult to injury, I accidentally got the lock open while idly spinning the dials of the lock. The hint system is set to be more theatrical, and allow for a better chance to experience most of the room, but it felt highly out of place, and did not allow groups to take hints at their own pace. The twist was interesting, but predictable, and much of the set went unused. One big late game surprise was very easy to spot early on, and the method to revealing it was ambiguous at best. The open air nature of the bigger rooms allowed a lot of noise to bleed over from the Zombie escape next to us.

Verdict:

When Tramping Ground was good, it was really good, but at the points it failed, it became frustratingly bad. Unfortunately, the bad and broken outweighed the good by quite a bit, making the great parts very hard to recommend in light of the abundant missed opportunities. I feel that new players will be very confused, and though the theatrical parts of the room shine, it is very heavily marred by the poor flow and below average puzzling. You can book your escape from the Devil’s Tramping Grounds here.

4.5/10 (Subpar)

Enter the Conundrum – Dr. Wunderbruggen’s Brewery Brouhaha (Review)

Location: Asheville, NC

Players:  2-10 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

A rare comedy room that delivers laughs and puzzles in full.

Theme:

It’s time for a visit to the eccentric Dr. Wunderbruggen’s newest brewery in Asheville! The secretive brewer has opened his operation up to a select few for the tour of a lifetime. Everything is going wonderfully until your guide notices that The Super Secret Brewing Recipe (you know, the one posted on the wall under Super Secret Brewing Recipe?) has gone missing! It’s time to go into full panic mode and find it before it falls into the hands of Dr. Wunderbruggen’s nemesis!

First Impressions:

The high energy actress took us down the hall to begin our tour, bantering with us and giving us a great way to begin getting immersed into the theme. We were then given access into the brewery and our tour began! More great interactions with our guide revealed something was amiss, and it was time to begin our frantic search for the lost recipe!

High Points:

The room was colorful and fun; a great break from the sometimes dour theming of serial killer and mystery rooms. Props begged to be interacted with, and the feeling of the room was light and comedic. The actress was very high energy and was integrated into the game in fun and interesting ways, interacting with her was a real treat. Puzzles flowed well from one to the next, and this may be the only room in which a red herring or two felt like they belonged and added to the experience. The silly nature of the room was fantastically weird and truly entertaining, but didn’t feel jarring or out of place.

Low Points:

One puzzle felt laborious in it’s execution, as completing it required a small bit of tedium in it’s accomplishment, and another had many moving parts but did not clue us into which were important. A different interaction was whimsical in it’s idea, but the prop was too delicate and had been busted by a previous group. This was quickly addressed in a glorious bit of improv, and didn’t become much of an issue.

Verdict:

Enter the Conundrum built on the technological and storyline based ideas from the Attic of Abigail Falkirk, and created a zany room with great flow. Enter the Conundrum has pulled off a great feat in creating a comedic room that still has good focus on the puzzles and stays weird without losing sight of it’s storyline. Stylishly meshing a theatrical experience with an escape room, Dr. Wunderbruggen’s Brewery Brouhaha is a must see when in Asheville. Book your brewery tour here!

8/10 (Great)

Enter the Conundrum – The Attic of Abigail Falkirk (Review)

Location: Asheville, NC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

An uneven, but high tech, haunting.

Theme:

There’s something wrong with the Falkirk attic. The family has been hearing strange noises and experiencing phenomena that can only be described as supernatural. They won’t let anyone investigate, however, so the family maid has taken matters into her own hands and hired a “cleaning crew” to find out what’s going on.

First Impressions:

Enter the Conundrum has a wonderful lobby that includes a bar, lounge area, and various board games for before and after your escape experience. In fact, they’re a private club, and you’ll get a membership card when you visit! I was told this was so that they could have the bar and serve absinthe. Once it came time for us to begin our exploration of the attic, we were greeted by Mrs. Applebottom, the family maid, who ushered us, the cleaning crew, into another room and briefed us on our mission in character. It set up the story nicely, and informed us of what we needed to do. We were given a way to get in contact should we need assistance, and were sent to the attic to begin.

High Points:

There was a good amount of technology that allowed for some innovative puzzles and interactions to take place, even if the cluing for some of these tended to be uneven. An early game puzzle led to a really surprising reveal after a fun interaction. Props were hidden interestingly, and made the attic a lot of fun to search. The storyline was well woven through the room and made good use of hidden technology to pop up at unexpected times. A couple of the puzzles are solved in exciting and non-traditional ways.

Low Points:

The actress didn’t seem to add much to the story once we’d entered the room, and I couldn’t tell if it was just that her character was sarcastic and short, or if she was just having a bad day. A couple times we needed help due to puzzle parts being movable when they should not be, and having to call for help in those situations was frustrating. The overall initial vibe seemed to be Victorian, but certain puzzles were out of place for the time period and theme, and anachronistic props and story elements kept showing up, breaking the immersion. One of the main objectives was made quite a bit harder due to very important parts of the story being printed in an extremely small font. Some of the haunts overstayed their welcome, and due to their nature, we couldn’t do anything else while they played out. The ending felt anticlimactic and a little forced due partly to the setup of the room and partly due to unclear objectives.

Verdict:

I really want to like The Attic of Abigail Falkirk more than I did. It seems like there is so much to enjoy, but the unevenness and constant speedbumps to immersion make it harder to recommend. The current flow is jarringly interrupted constantly enough that the adventure feels really rough, though I do think that if those were ironed out, it could easily be one of, if not the, best rooms in Asheville. For it’s ideas, though, I think it’s still a good experience, generally and worth a look. Book your investigation into the Attic of Abigail Falkirk here!

5/10 (Mediocre)

Xtreme Xcapes – Shotgun Wedding (Review)

Location: Gastonia, NC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Great theme, but the execution kept us from falling in love.

Theme:

Pa done caught Bo and Penelope kissin’ down by the river! As a God fearing man, he cannot let such foolishness stand, and is forcing them to get married. Bo and Penelope aren’t ready for domestic life, however, and have asked you to break into Pa’s barn to steal the rings, ensuring the wedding cannot proceed.

First Impressions:

I didn’t know this before booking, but Xtreme Xcapes is located inside of a mall, which, as I’ve heard from the Enthusiast community, is a bad sign. Once we had made our way to the room’s lobby, it did seem a bit more like pop up experiences than most sets, and therefore a bit cheaper looking than usual. The actual room itself did convey the theme well, and was overall very cute.

High Points:

The themeing of the room was surprisingly well done for a mall game, and did feel like a barn. It was overall spacious enough to explore and seems like it would fit the max players comfortably. It was situated far back enough that we were unable to hear any mall noises and utilized some fun country props. The story was very original and allowed us to have fun with what was an overall average experience.

Low Points:

Possible allergens are present within the room that while they add to the barn feel, should be noted beforehand as a possible irritant. Puzzles fit the theme on the surface, but overall felt like they were there because this was an escape room instead of part of the environment. The connective tissue between puzzles was sparse, and guess and check was required for a few of them as no clues as to order were given in some cases. One puzzle was unintentionally gross, and may put some off immediately. The reveal of one part of the room was extremely underwhelming, and felt a bit hollow. Having any more than 4 players will leave others standing around, as there aren’t many lines of puzzling to follow. Though the room was large, most of it was empty space, with precious few puzzles and clues.

Verdict:

This room was overall just alright, as the theme was fun and caught our interest, but was lacking substance. In fact, our group of 4 were able to bust out in a little over 23 minutes, leaving us with 36 minutes to spare, which is probably the fastest I’ve ever escaped. Enthusiasts will be able to solo the room quickly, but beginners may enjoy the experience. Overall the entertaining theme but underwhelming room and use of space make for what feels like a missed opportunity. The owners noted that they are constantly working on improving their rooms, but at this point, Shotgun Wedding is just an average experience at best. You can book your escape here!

4.5/10 (Subpar)

Odyssey Escape Game – Ripper: Solve the Mystery (Review)

Location: Alpharetta, GA

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Get Ripped.

Theme:

The year is 1888, and you are Scotland Yard’s finest detectives, hot on the trail of the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. His most recent victim, Mary Kelly, has been found brutally murdered and you’re the first on the scene. You don’t have much time until Jack flees London, so you’ll need to act fast in order to figure out his true identity.

First Impressions:

Mary Kelly’s boarding room is very well detailed and, barring the standard escape room screen and camera, felt appropriate for the time period. The same was true of our first look at our office at Scotland Yard. The opening story gave us a sense of urgency, and the absence of any out of place locks was welcome. We were truly in for a different experience from the standard escape the room fare here.

High Points:

Most escape rooms give you something to mark down notes with, but the way it was handled in this room was fantastic and allowed for many players to take notes simultaneously and in a on theme way. We were told at the beginning of the room, that there were only a few locks, and that the majority of the room would involve interacting in non standard ways, and this held true. Puzzles were fun to figure out, and barring a couple, were very good at giving us feedback on our success or failure. The nature of our investigation was exciting, and allowed for a much different, but largely successful, flow to the puzzling. The final two revelations were thrilling, and the ending could feel a little anticlimactic for some, I very much enjoyed Odyssey’s take on this historical mystery.

Low Points:

Two things within the boarding room felt out of place, both due to their anachronistic nature. One was heavily part of a puzzle, so it felt less immersive. Moving between Scotland Yard and the boarding room could be difficult at times, due to it’s nature, and would preclude accessibility for some. Twice we asked for hints which confirmed we were doing the right thing, just not “right” enough, due to some finicky puzzles.

Verdict:

Odyssey excels at bringing their historically themed escape rooms to life, and Ripper: Solve the Mystery is a great example of how escape rooms can tell these stories in an immersive fashion. The mystery presented is slowly unraveled in a unique way, and the story unfolds naturally through the puzzles. The room focuses on investigation and allows for quite a few a-ha moments, which sets this room apart from many others in the South. Enthusiasts will definitely enjoy this distinctive challenge, but I suggest new players do a couple rooms before taking the Ripper on, as this is a fairly difficult room. Book your investigation here!

9/10 (Excellent)

 

Bull City Escapes – Lunar Lockdown (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players:  2-6

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

This is Major Tom to Ground Control, I’m stepping through the door…

Theme:

NASA sent an elite team of researchers to a previously unknown planet on a top secret mission, but they’ve gone dark. You’ve been sent to find out what happened to them and report back. After finding the ship’s crash site, you enter to find that major damage has occurred. What’s worse, the door has locked behind you, and the self destruct sequence has engaged! Your team has an hour to solve the mystery and escape before you blow up!

First Impressions:

Upon entering Lunar Lockdown, I was frankly intimidated by the amount of tech on the walls. It really felt like the inner workings of a spaceship, or a Hollywood one, at least. The main centerpiece was well designed, and displayed many tactile inputs to play around with. There was also a good bit of space for puzzling, so even though we were at max capacity for the room, we didn’t feel crammed in. Unfortunately, room to maneuver has become rare, but I commend Bull City for keeping their maximum limit comfortable for players.

High Points:

Right off the bat, there was so much to find and work on. Puzzles instinctively led one to another, and searching around the shuttle was a joy. Most puzzles fit the science-y theme without being unapproachable, and most everything made sense within the context and theme of the room. There were a good few high quality props to manipulate, and mysterious blast doors tempted us with what could lie beyond. Technology was used to great effect, and there were several surprises in store when it was used. The intimidation of the many control panels gave way to excitement once we began to suss out what was important and what was set decoration.

Low Points:

Early and late game puzzling was very strong, but there was a slight dip in quality during the midpoint. A couple of items were hidden in groanworthy ways, but were overall minor blemishes. There were a couple puzzles that seemed a bit off theme, but were otherwise interesting and didn’t take away overmuch from the immersion. One puzzle activated an item in the room that we didn’t realize was activated, due to it’s subtlety, so we were unsure we had the correct answer. Overall, the story didn’t come to a satisfying conclusion once we had escaped.

Verdict:

Lunar Lockdown is a great space room that presents a stimulating series of puzzles. The story is an interesting setup, but seems secondary to the escape, as we didn’t feel it went anywhere. On the whole, however, the room is very competently done, and delivers a solid hour of entertainment. Book your escape from Lunar Lockdown here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Bear Towne Escape Room – Deadly DIEagnosis (Review)

Location: New Bern, NC

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

Price: $22.50 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

A routine checkup at the doctor’s results in surprise organ harvesting!

Theme:

You’ve just arrived at your doctor’s office for a checkup, and are waiting with the other patients when you notice that you’ve been locked in! You must find your way out before the doctor returns to operate.

First Impressions:

The room was well decorated as a waiting room, which sounds boring, but Bear Towne managed to bring an interesting flair to what could otherwise be a plain room. The beginning search of the office turned up interesting props, and potential puzzle threads for us to follow. Everything felt like it belonged in a waiting room, but was stylish enough to bring it all to life. The opening experience set up the coming surprise very well, which, without spoiling anything, brought an entertaining urgency to the story.

High Points:

An extremely well themed room that took an everyday idea and turned it into something modern and fun lent a good bit of immersion to the experience. I could definitely imagine myself as part of the story, even though we were puzzling our way out, which is an all too rare experience. Puzzles overall were solid, flowed well, and were clued in such a way as to gently lead us to where we needed to go, without feeling forced or too artificial. One puzzle gave a playful yuck factor into the game (without actually being gross,) which is always appreciated, and the major surprise of the game was unexpected and exciting.

Low Points:

There was one puzzle that drained a good bit of time and needed to be explained to us, but we were informed that it was new, and were asked for feedback, so I’m confident that the owner is interested in making sure that it is streamlined. Otherwise, we had a blast!

Verdict:

For Escape Room enthusiasts, Serial Killers seem to come up a lot, but Bear Towne has managed to take the theme and forge one of the most immersive and exciting takes I’ve seen for the subgenre. The room is very beginner friendly as well, and would be a fantastic introduction to the hobby. Book your appointment with the Doctor here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Mission X – Vampire Manor (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Dracula’s surprisingly high tech manor

Theme:

Dracula has been terrorizing the Transylvanian countryside for centuries, but his reign is to come to an end tonight! Your team of vampire hunters has finally decided to take on your greatest challenge yet, the Grandfather of all Vampires himself. You’ve broken into his manor home, but you must collect the source of his immortality, a gemstone of immense power. Once you do so, you’ll be able to strike him down and escape! But do it quickly, who knows when he’ll catch you snooping about!

First Impressions:

Dracula’s got a posh little place going on here. Vampire Manor was dimly lit but very well decorated, with a strange assortment of odds and ends hidden around the room. We found a note from Dracula’s most recent thrall to get us started, and these continued to lead us through the story of the room. Where she got the tape to stick these notes around everywhere, I’m unsure, but it’s a minor issue.

High Points:

Props all fit the room very nicely, and there was a plethora of well disguised technology in the room, which helped bolster the supernatural theme this room is going for. Puzzles were imaginative and well thought out, and cluing for each was, on the whole, well done. Sound cues helped ensure that we were given proper feedback on most technological puzzles, and we rarely felt we were at a loss for what to do next. One particular interaction was very original and led up to a very appropriate reveal. The final big puzzle took a good amount of teamwork to solve, and was a lot of fun to figure out.

Low Points:

There were a couple puzzles in particular that seemed like they were out of place, one of which blatantly required the use of technology in what overall felt like a Victorian theme and was fairly poorly clued, while the other required unintuitive leaps of logic. Like in the Butcher Shop, Do Not Touch stickers were overused and took away from the immersion, as did the hint system which requires your Gamemaster to come into the room. We also felt that we hadn’t quite finished once we opened the final door, as not all of the storyline objectives had been conquered, but we were assured that we had, in fact, completed everything.

Verdict:

We very much enjoyed our time in the Vampire Manor, as it evoked a sense of mystery throughout and the puzzles flowed well into each other. The storyline was interesting, though it never seemed to wrap up in a wholly satisfying way. At 45 minutes, it was a fun experience, but I would very much love to see what Mission X could do with a full hour experience. Beginners and enthusiasts alike will enjoy the technologically advanced nature of this room, though I recommend bringing a smaller than maximum group as the room does not seem quite big enough to hold eight players comfortably. Book your faceoff with Dracula here!

Full disclosure, we beta tested this room, (and were the first ever to escape it!) so our tickets were comped and some elements may have changed since our run.

8/10 (Great)

Mission X – Butcher Shop (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

That’s a Spicy Eyeball!

Theme:

The town butcher shop has been under investigation recently after a string of disappearances. Your team of detectives have been on the case, as neighbors have reported suspicious noises and smells coming from the area. Recently, your partner has gone to investigate on his own, but hasn’t come back! I’m sure that’s all just coincidence, and he and the butcher are having a lovely chat over some filet mignon! That’s usually how these things work out, right?

First Impressions:

Mission X builds great, high quality sets. Entering the dark Butcher Shop started our experience out with the right tone and was just eerie enough to foreshadow the surprises to come. We were told that this room was their hardest, with a very low escape rate, so we came prepared to puzzle our hearts out, hopefully not literally!

High Points:

Our descent into each layer of the Butcher Shop was well themed. Props were very high quality, and each room felt just a little more unhinged as we found more clues to take us deeper into the story. Mission X likes to use technology in their rooms, and all of these interactions worked smoothly and were interestingly utilized. I particularly enjoyed the big reveal we found near the end, as well as a hidden clue that helped us sort out the room. Puzzles flowed one into the next fairly well, and there were a couple distinct puzzle threads groups can split up to conquer. The use of space feels natural and nothing feels like it goes to waste.

Low Points:

For how well the room was themed, the dreaded Do Not Touch sticker abounded. I understand the purpose of these stickers, but they always feel out of place and pull you from the immersion unless used very sparingly. Mission X’s hint system also breaks immersion, as staff members come into the room to help you out. I appreciate that they pause the clock for you while they do so, but it would be much more immersive to have a hint system that just used the intercom. One puzzle solution felt a little goofy and out of place, but it was a minor one and didn’t detract overmuch. Our final escape felt a little anticlimactic, and we weren’t 100% sure we were done, (even with the final door unlocked,) as our Gamemaster was not there to congratulate us at the end. This lead us to roam a little bit in the hall, confused. I did, however, get to shoot back through the room in the pitch dark to call them just in case, and the walk through the now completely dark room was creepy and fun.

Verdict:

Mission X’s hardest room felt moderately challenging, if a little short, to our experienced group. We did capture the room record, with around 24ish minutes to spare, and therefore got our picture at the top of their Wall of Fame, which is an exciting touch. 45 minute rooms always feel oddly paced since we’re used to the industry average of an hour, but the Butcher Shop flowed well. Overall, this was an enjoyable room that I think escape room fans will enjoy, but beginners might be overwhelmed by. I’d recommend at least a couple rooms of experience before attempting the Butcher Shop. Book your investigation of the Butcher Shop here!

7/10 (Good)