Escape Quest – King’s Ransom (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Long Live the King!

Theme:

The King has been taken hostage and a hefty ransom has been demanded in exchange for his safe return, but a firm deadline has been set, removing any hope for a negotiation or time to muster a force to find him. As his most trusted advisers, you are tasked with putting together a ransom of gold and jewels before the King is executed, which is sure to begin a long and bloody war!

First Impressions:

As previously mentioned in our Lost Temple review, Escape Quest boasts a beautiful and comfortable lobby, as well as an excellent space for briefings. Our experience with GMs here was also top notch, as they provided excellent customer service and help whenever needed.

High Points:

The room itself is, as we’ve come to expect from Escape Quest, beautiful and highly immersive. In fact, I’d say King’s Ransom is the best looking game we saw while in the area! Progression is linear, but builds in a way as to include multiple teammates and encourage teamwork. Tech is well hidden, and is used sparingly, in order to evoke a sense of mystery. King’s Ransom is Escape Quest’s hardest room, so puzzles are generally a bit more esoteric in their solutions, but were not frustratingly done. Once methods to solving were figured out, there were many ah-ha moments to be had. Props felt overall like they belonged, and were fun to manipulate and use in our puzzling. The story was light, but continued to be uncovered throughout, leading to a climactic and satisfying conclusion to the experience.

Low Points:

One puzzle in particular was very weakly clued, and we the connection between the solution and input was tenuous at best. An interaction we had solved fairly quickly was finicky and required a lot of unnecessary jiggling and guess and check in order to finagle it into the right position. One particular prop felt anachronistic, and confused us a little bit.

Verdict:

King’s Ransom is another great addition to the DC area escape scene, and delivers a more challenging experience for enthusiasts, while still remaining accessible to newcomers as well. I would, however, recommend getting at least a couple rooms under your belt before attempting King’s Ransom. In short, I highly recommend this room for it’s fantastic set design and exciting puzzling. You can help Ransom the King here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Quest – The Lost Temple (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Fortune and Glory, kid. Fortune and Glory.

Theme:

Dr. Dakota James has gone missing in SouthAmerica while on the hunt for an ancient artifact, leaving you, his proteges, to find his campsite and figure out what happened. Unfortunately, you’ll have to act fast, because a nearby volcano is threatening to blow soon, taking the entire area with it! Find out where Dr. James went, and find the treasure before you go missing too!

First Impressions:

I don’t know what it is about DC, but it is the land of the amazing escape room lobbies! Escape Quest’s front door leads up a flight of stairs that leads to an excellent waiting area, filled with odds and ends, and a few interesting puzzles to while time away as you wait. Staff is extremely friendly and customer service is top notch here. The briefing room is separated from the lobby and the rooms, which is always a plus, and the briefing itself is succinct and to the point. The room itself was very well done, and felt immediately like stepping into a temple far from Washington!

High Points:

The immersion factor in The Lost Temple is top notch. Props and scenery feel realistic, and technology inserted within is hidden well, giving a magical feel to some puzzle solutions. Progression is mostly linear, but there are several instances where other puzzles can be solved, so there’s no shortage of things to do while exploring the temple. Puzzles are clever and give satisfying feedback when solved, and are mostly tactile in nature, which is always appreciated. The variety of things to do in the room mix escape room standbys and new interactions in surprising ways, and the build towards the climax of the room is excellent.

Low Points:

One late game puzzle felt a bit obscure in its cluing, but once it is figured out, is enjoyable to solve. The story itself was very front loaded, and while the room does not suffer from it, peppering more story bits throughout would not hurt.

Verdict:

The Lost Temple is one of the best rooms I experienced in DC, and would recommend it to enthusiasts and beginners alike. Despite a couple minor hiccups, it is an extremely entertaining and well thought out experience that will engage veterans and hook newbies into the hobby. Book your time in The Lost Temple here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Psycho60 – Quantum (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Last one, I promise.

Theme:

You’re going back in time because something something, someone is messing with the timeline, maybe? You’re not sure where you’re going, but it’s going to be to save someone important. Maybe? I don’t know, this was a mess.

First Impressions:

Hey, there’s an old Mac in here, this’ll be some good nostalgia, I hope! We did this one after Hostage, so as you can imagine, the bar was not set very high.

High Points:

It was better than Hostage, but not by much. I liked the old Mac computer, but wish there was more to do with it. The movie posters from the 80’s were also a nice touch as well.

Low Points:

This room did not have walkie talkies like the other two, so the GM was in the room with you, which was enormously awkward. A teammate opined that this was because the game is not solvable without someone leading you by the hand, which, for some parts, I’d have to agree with him. Puzzles continued to be fairly banal to illogically maddening, with one puzzle being reset incorrectly. One “puzzle” was particularly lazy, I won’t spoil what it is, but at least it was the “easy” version of one of these. More puzzle boxes, which at this point felt more and more uninspired. This room was lightest on the outside knowledge, and felt a little bit more forgivable than that found within the other rooms. The story was fairly incomprehensible and the escape was random feeling and anticlimactic. One large puzzle felt like a huge missed opportunity, as it’s solution was lame, but the several theories we had during the solving process felt like they’d have been much more exciting.

Verdict:

There’s not much more to be said beyond what I’ve already written for the previous two rooms, (Infectious Lab and Hostage), other than to say that it’s really not a great experience, though we were really hoping they’d be. I try to make sure rooms I take teams to are at least good, but I felt I needed to apologize to my team for us having to make the trip out to Kernersville for these. Obviously not recommended, however if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

2/10 (Bad)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Psycho60 – Hostage (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It’s worse than I thought.

Theme:

You are bank employees who have been taken hostage during a bank robbery and forced into the manager’s office with bombs strapped to your legs. The bombs are set to go off in an hour, and you’ll be disappointed when they don’t, really.

First Impressions:

After the Infected Lab, I was not expecting much, and was still greatly disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of writing bad reviews, but trust me, this one deserves it.

High Points:

Eventually, you are allowed to leave. I’m not trying to be facetious here, I discussed the room at length with my team later, and we could not come up with one thing we liked about this room, it’s that bad.

Low Points:

There are more problems in this room than I initially thought possible. Puzzles ran the gamut of unintuitive, illogical, and off theme, most were a combination of all of these. We were made to strap chain “bombs” to our legs at the beginning of the game, which were uncomfortable and unnecessary. I took mine off immediately, but others on my team who did not reported varying levels of discomfort and pain. Outside knowledge is required at two points of the game, a definite no no, and the hints given to overcome these poor puzzles were confusing and delivered condescendingly. The connective tissue of the room is completely absent, and there is no flow to gameplay whatsoever. When doing the after game walkthrough, it was revealed that many of the puzzles relied on guess and check, which is an unsatisfying time sink. One guess and check puzzle, we were assured each item appeared only once, but this was patently wrong once we took a closer look. There were random puzzles boxes about, with tenuous clues as to how they should be opened. Cluing is extremely vague, in a misguided effort to be “difficult.” Don’t get me wrong, I like a difficult room, as two of my favorite rooms of all time was a failure and one in which we escaped with :27 to go! The difference between those rooms and this one was that those were fair, and solvable without hints. This was just a disaster overall, and the worst part is, I have no idea how this could be fixed.

Verdict:

This was the first room I have ever been in which after 20 minutes in, I did not care if we escaped. It is touted as “difficult,” but in truth, it’s just an exercise in frustration. I recommend you stay very far away from this one. Beginners will not get a good introduction to escape rooms, and enthusiasts will balk at this poor imitation of an escape experience. However if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

1/10 (Rubbish)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Psycho60 – Infected Lab (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

On second thought, let’s not go there, ’tis a silly place.

Theme:

You work for the government building nuclear bombs, but your team has apparently also been working on bioweapons, and has let a parasite free through carelessness. Unless you find the antidote within 60 minutes, the world will end. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but lets just go with it for now.

First Impressions:

Psycho60 is located in a small office park, in a small town in NC. Pretty unassuming, but some of the best games I’ve played are very much out of the way, so no need to judge a book by it’s cover. The interior is interestingly decorated, if small. Our briefing was a standard, no-frills rules rundown, and there was effort made to bring a small theatrical bent to the room during the story delivery.

High Points:

There was a mouse in the room, and it was very cute, so that fit pretty well with the theme of a lab. Several props were standard for a lab, and fun to use. No puzzles really stood out to us, but the majority were at least fairly competent, if unexciting. The puzzles connected well, and there wasn’t much confusion about what was next.

Low Points:

Outside knowledge should never be required in an escape room but one puzzle in the room would have required it had we not been able to bypass it due to a fairly wild guess. A fairly complex algebraic problem was included, that will frustrate many players, and there were several red herrings peppering a couple of the puzzles. The game itself felt uninspired, and the linear nature was unable to keep our team of 4 engaged, so I imagine a group of 8 would have some serious issues with the amount of standing around while one or two others solve the puzzles. The ending was anticlimactic, and due to the unintentional ease with which we bypassed one of the steps of the game, we weren’t sure we had finished.

Verdict:

The Infected Lab was just not very exciting. The game itself worked, but did not do much to entertain our group of enthusiasts. We required no hints and set the room record by completing it in a little over 25 minutes, but it didn’t feel like much of a win, as we were completely underwhelmed by the entire experience. Unfortunately, after doing the other two rooms that Psycho60 has to offer, this one was the least offensive. I do not recommend this room unless some serious renovation is done. However if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

3/10 (Poor)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

NC Escape – The Study (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players:  2-6 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Why would you want to save the world? Because I’m one of the idiots that lives in it!

Theme:

A mad genius has been under surveillance by a secret government agency due to their suspicions that he is building a doomsday device. Recently, he entered his mansion, and never came out. Your superiors are worried that he may have noticed he was being watched, and has escaped! Break in to find out what he’s been up to and where he is going, but do so quickly, since the trail is quickly going cold!

First Impressions:

The Study was nicely laid out, and while it may not have been as immediately impressive as Ex Machina, there were many different devices that slowly revealed themselves as we started our black ops mission. It felt very much like a dim study, and we felt very immersed in the story once we were given our briefing and set loose on the room.

High Points:

The non linear room ensured both of us had plenty to work on, but also included several teamwork based interactions so that we also enjoyed working together on several capstone puzzles. Technology was peppered throughout, and was well hidden and a nice surprise as we tackled the challenges. Feedback on puzzles was very clear and flowed well from one to the next. This room again did not allow us a method for taking notes, but this did not frustrate, and enhanced the few puzzles we would have taken notes on for teamwork purposes. One late game puzzle was particularly creative, and gave a great a ha moment when we finally figured out why we were undoing the locks we were working on.

Low Points:

Another late game puzzle was creative and straightforward, but the accuracy of the props were slightly off, leading to a bit of frustration in determining where things should be, rather than where they actually were. Some story related items felt under utilized, and just sort of felt like they were there for the sake of being there. The later stage of the game felt a little sparse, as it felt like there could’ve been much more room for theming. One puzzle in particular led us to work together, as it would’ve taken a long time for one person to follow through, but it felt like busy work and way overstayed it’s welcome. Some red herrings popped up due to unintentionally misleading cluing, which brought us off track. The ending was fairly anticlimactic, and didn’t seem to tie up the loose ends as well as we had hoped.

Verdict:

Despite a few hiccups affecting game flow, The Study was a good experience that should be a fine introductory experience for beginners, and an enjoyable time for teams of enthusiasts. I would definitely suggest doing this room before Ex Machina, though, as that one is a tough act to follow! I certainly recommend both, however. Book your time in the madman’s Study here!

7.5/10 (Good)

NC Escape – Ex Machina (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players:  2-6 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What’s that? Mold. Should we be breathing it? Probably not.

Theme:

While renovating an eccentric Victorian traveler’s home for the modern era, the construction crew came across a oddly well preserved room, which contained a mysterious vault door. Rather than knock it down, the family has called in your team to help catalog and unravel the mystery of the strange room and vault. However, preliminary search teams have only been able to spend a short time in the room before coming down with a strange cough and being unable to continue. You’ve only 60 minutes to unravel the mystery behind the door, and make your way out!

First Impressions:

NC Escape itself is located in a slightly out of the way area in downtown Durham, but is eminently walkable and centrally located. Decorations on the doors to each room are interesting and just mysterious enough to peak my interest as I walked by each. Our room in particular was beautifully appointed, with an array of tactile and intriguing set pieces. From the second we stepped in, I was itching to get to the puzzling, as so many parts of the room were desperately calling my name!

High Points:

The theming of the room was excellent, and truly immersive, and the main set piece of the room, the mysterious vault door, was a lot of fun to play around with. There were several parts of the set around the room for us to puzzle with, and the nonlinearity kept us busy for our full experience. This was the first room in which we weren’t given anything to take notes with that I feel enhanced, rather than frustrated the experience, which is an amazingly difficult task. Even some puzzles which would feel banal otherwise, were given an interesting twist to ensure they felt fresh. Teamwork is required, but presented in an engaging way, rather than as busywork tasks to extend the time to solve. Every prop in the room, even ones we initially overlooked, were integral parts of the experience. Hints given were good nudges, and directed us well when we were off track. The story of the room unraveled slowly throughout the experience, giving us insight into what exactly it was we were looking for.

Low Points:

Though the hints were well presented, we were presented with them at the GM’s discretion, and it felt that we were receiving them a little too often at times. One solution opened a lock that gave no feedback as to what it had triggered, and we were left scratching our heads as to why we needed that particular spot open. An early puzzle was difficult to make out, and while we had the correct means to solve it, it was a bit of a trial to make out our solution.

Verdict:

Ex Machina is a fantastic addition to the NC Triangle escape scene, and one worthy of being tried out if you’re visiting the area. The experience is immersive and flows excellently, and allows for new players and veterans alike to enjoy quite a few engaging surprises along the way. This is also one of the few rooms where I wanted to waste time fiddling with a major prop long after we’d opened it. While there, make sure to try to beat our second best record of 37:56! Book your time with Ex Machina’s crazy door here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Escape! Myrtle Beach – Race Against Time (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Is that a bomb? I dunno, why don’t you go see? We’ll be way over there.

Theme:

You are a kidnapped group of CIA agents, locked in the hideout of a terrorist syndicate. They’ve abandoned this safehouse, but have left behind evidence against them in their haste. Luckily for you, a previous captive has left clues to help you get out. Unluckily, the bad guys have also left behind a suspicious looking suitcase, that’s ticking ominously outside your cell…

First Impressions:

Escape! Myrtle Beach has a comfortable lobby, which includes free snacks and drinks for while you wait. The owner seems to run it as a one man show, and provides personable customer service and an upbeat attitude that really got us in the mood for our fourth escape of the day. The over the top, but creative story was given to us along with a basic rules briefing, before we were blindfolded, and led to our cells.

High Points:

This room was just straight fun. The two of us were let loose with so many crazy props and puzzles at our disposal, and jumped right in. This was one of those rooms where all the puzzles were enjoyable to interact with, and our team was giggling the whole way through some of the more creative DIY puzzles we’ve seen in the area. We noted that while 2 puzzles seemed like they would be destructible, both had alternate ways to solve, which was a nice touch had we misstepped along the way. Everything in the room had a purpose, and was blissfully free of red herrings. Inputs were varied, and though the room was a mix of traditional locks and technical inputs, all clues led intuitively to where they needed to be input. The finale felt climactic and appropriate to the story.

Low Points:

Clues were given at the GM’s discretion, and while interacting with the GM was an fantastic experience, we would’ve preferred a few less clues in general. We felt many times that we were on the edge of solving something, and a clue was given, depriving us of a real ah-ha moment. Theming was good, but the room still felt more like an office, not quite bringing us fully immersed into the environment, but the excellent game more than made up for this. Some technology was less hidden than usual, so the inputs felt a little less excitingly mysterious.

Verdict:

Overall, Race Against Time is a great experience for anyone looking for an escape in Myrtle Beach, and I highly recommend trying it out, especially for the more innovative puzzles and fun interactions to be had. Beginners will enjoy the light-hearted nature of the game, coupled with a exciting introduction to escape rooms, while Enthusiasts will find a nice assortment of non-linear puzzling to enjoy. Book your Race Against Time here!

8/10 (Great)

Captive Escape Rooms – Dracula’s Library (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-7 (We Recommend 2-3)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Once again… welcome to my house.

Theme:

A team of Victorian investigators, you’ve been looking into a string of disappearances plaguing your city. You’ve not made much headway until you receive a missive from a mysterious contact, inviting you to dinner to discuss what he knows about the case. Intrigued, you meet with your mystery contact, who seems cordial, until you pass out from something he slipped in your drink! When you awake in an old library, you’re met with a note explaining that you’ve been kidnapped by Dracula, and have only 60 minutes before sunrise, when he’ll return!

First Impressions:

The lobby is very nice, and includes a comfortable couch, along with a guest book to write notes to future captives! Props along the wall got us excited for our post room picture, and the staff was engaging and courteous. The briefing delivered the rules and story in a concise manner, and allowed us to get to the puzzling quickly.

High Points:

The later parts of the room felt more like the library and lounge of a Victorian Vampire, and the searching around the room was satisfying. Several ah-ha moments granted good closure to many of the puzzles and were overall interesting. Props were tactile and fun to play with, and the story setup was well delivered. One particular puzzle helped bring in a sense of realism by delivering a tactile interaction that felt natural for the room that it occurred in.

Low Points:

The library itself was incredibly sparse for such a well funded and aged vampire, and many props were off theme for the time period. The final puzzle was extremely unintuitive, and inexact. Too many possible solutions and a reliance on murky logic spoils what should be a climactic moment. Again, as in Charlotte’s Attic, it is a very linear room, which is alright for a small group, but many more than 3 are going to have people standing around waiting for something to do. The hint system here is unfortunately the same as in the Attic, breaking immersion due to the failure to include the now standard cameras and sound systems. Staff must enter the room and have your group explain where you currently are in the room, which is never good for room flow. Some out of place puzzles feel off theme, but aren’t overly prevalent, but the overall flow of the room does not work as well as it should, due to a lack of intuitive cluing.

Verdict:

Captive delivers another competent room that feels as if it’s from the earlier days of escape rooms. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, innovations among other rooms have launched the industry much farther, and seasoned players may be slightly disappointed. Beginners may have trouble, as the room relies on a bit murkier logic at times, and enthusiasts will appreciate the theme, though should not expect too much technology. Again, I can recommend, as it is an overall fun experience, but players should be forewarned that the rooms, while enjoyable, are not on the cutting edge. You can book your time in Dracula’s Library here!

 

6/10 (Alright)

Captive Escape Rooms – Charlotte’s Attic (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-7 (We Recommend 2-3)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Redrum! Redrum!

Theme:

Your team of investigators has recently picked up an old case file regarding the murder/suicide of a single father and his two young girls. Something about the file irks you, as it seems not to be the open and shut case the police made it out to be. You’ve arrived on the scene, and have an hour to find out what really happened in Charlotte’s Attic.

First Impressions:

The location Captive calls home is a very impressively creepy older building. Climbing the stairs to the lobby is part of the fun, as the dark wood and antique mirror set the tone for their more horror based rooms. They have a very comfortable lobby and a great, customer service focused staff. The briefing was concise and delivered the rules without fluff.

High Points:

The room itself was themed very nicely, and had the feel of a dilapidated old attic down well. The room felt immersive in that it’s soundtrack and the dark, foreboding atmosphere of the room heightened the creep factor. The puzzles were fun to solve for a small group, though the later puzzles were definitely the best, as they were the most tangible and related to the story very well. The storyline and ending were well done, and the paranoia and madness were delivered in a slowly building way. There was a definite cohesive flow between puzzles that worked well.

Low Points:

The hint system is not well done. Staff do not have any interaction with the room unless you ring the doorbell to summon them, and then explain where in the process you are. There are no cameras or sound hooked up, so your group is led into the room, and are not monitored in any way, leading to such a frustrating and immersion breaking hint system. Progression is extremely linear, which, for our group of 2 was not bad, but any more than that, and you may feel you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Puzzles were competent for the most part, but some random math and off theme puzzles felt out of place, overall.  In the middle of summer and on the second floor, this room did not have air conditioning and as such, it was absolutely sweltering in the room. Though the rooms had only been open for a month, it seems counterintuitive to open the room to the public before ensuring the a/c works. Presumably this is being fixed, but I’d make sure it’s 100% done before booking.

Verdict:

Charlotte’s Attic delivers an immersive and creepy experience, but the game is easily marred should you need a hint, as the system for hint delivery leaves much to be desired. A larger group will have trouble finding something for everyone to do, but a smaller group will be well entertained. The room is a solid classic experience, but does not innovate much in today’s market. Beginners will definitely enjoy this introductory experience, while enthusiasts will find the theming immersive, though they may escape much quicker. I recommend trying this one out if you’re in the area, as it definitely is more of a classic, early escape room experience. You can book your time in the Attic here!

 

6.5/10 (Alright)