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 14ish 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)