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)

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