Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

There was enough room for Jack on that door.

Theme:

As passengers on the Titanic, you’ve prepared for a trip of luxury and decadence aboard the world’s biggest and most unsinkable cruise-liner! However, midway through the trip, you feel a jolt, and when you look out your window, it seems the water is rising at an alarming rate! You’ve only a limited amount of time before you’re trapped in your stateroom, but the doors are locked and the emergency exits are malfunctioning. You’ll need to solve your predicament soon, or you’ll go down with the ship!

First Impressions:

After an amazing time in the Ghostbusters room, we had very high hopes for Titanic. Located in the same area, and decorated on the outside just as well, the experience seemed promising. After being assured that this would be an equal challenge to Ghostbusters, we were ready to escape!

High Points:

One early puzzle was fun to figure out, and required some interesting perspective and physical manipulation. Interactions in the room were mostly technical, and only required a few traditional locks and keys. Feedback when solving a puzzle was clear and consistent. While the room was competent, and worked reasonably well, it was banal.

Low Points:

Entering the room was not quite as exciting here, as the room itself felt much more sparse. Decorations and lighting was competently done, but were implemented in a way that didn’t give us the sense of excitement that Ghostbusters or Poeanormal Activity delivered. The room itself didn’t really feel like much of a stateroom, and was relatively empty overall, withlater parts of the game feeling as though they did not expand or add much to the experience. Multiple puzzles were exact repeats of others we had previously experienced, some even in DC, and the experience as a whole felt uninspired. Other puzzles that were original to the room weren’t very satisfying to solve, and in some cases, didn’t make much sense as part of the room. Do not touch stickers were more copious in this room than others at Escape Room Live, and that combined with several worn down props made the room feel less cohesive and well maintained.

Verdict:

Titanic, as an experience, feels overly plain. It is a fairly well decorated room, with some interesting technology, but nothing that we haven’t seen done before, and better. We left this one feeling overall underwhelmed with the experience, which was a downer after the amazing Ghostbusters room. Beginners will more than likely feel lost in the overall difficulty, while Enthusiasts will be unimpressed with the lack of variety. It’s not a bad room, generally, but it’s average at best, and there are much more impressive rooms in DC, one of which is mere feet away! I feel like the room would be a good first attempt elsewhere, but for the high budget nature and prestige of Escape Room Live, it doesn’t measure up. You can book your time on the HMS Titanic here!

5/10 (Mediocre)

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Ghostbusters (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Who ya gonna call?

Theme:

New York is under a supernatural attack, and the Ghostbusters phone is ringing off the hook, but they’re nowhere to be found! It’s up to you and the rest of the Ghostbusters new B-team to trap the spirits terrorizing the city and put them back into the containment unit before it’s too late!

First Impressions:

Escape Room Live Georgetown boasts an amazing lobby, with comfortable places to relax while waiting to begin your game, as well as a full bar and space that can be rented for parties. The artwork on the walls is a hilarious series of classic portraits redone with animals, my favorite being this Otter portrait!

The rooms themselves are under the lobby, and are housed in an excellently designed area with each exterior matching the theme inside. Ghostbusters being one of my favorite series, we had very high expectations.

High Points:

Ghostbusters did not disappoint. The theming of the room was on point, and the easter eggs peppered throughout were great callbacks to the original movies. The ghosts you catch and ghostbusting tools you interact with are true to the film and will be a great treat for fans. While a lot of Ghostbusters themeing is woven throughout the puzzles, no knowledge of the films is required, which is perfect. Our game master for this room was more than excellent, and provided engaging commentary as we progress through the room. Interactions throughout were unique and engaging, and the non linear nature of most of the room allowed our larger group to all stay busy puzzling. Ghostbusters is also a great challenge, and provides original brainteasers over a wide range of puzzle types. The room was so immersive, that even though we were only in for less than a half hour, we felt as though our experience was much longer! When we were told our (record breaking!) time, we could not believe it. We were left wanting more, but in a good way!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle had obviously been experiencing technical difficulties previous to our game, but the fix was handled well and in an immersive manner.

Verdict:

Ghostbusters is a fully immersive experience, and delivers an amazing time! Every inch of the room is excellently done, and the puzzling experience is the top for Washington DC. Beginners may want to experience a few rooms before attempting this one, as it was definitely a more difficult challenge, but enthusiasts will love the full package that Ghostbusters delivers! Book your time calming the mass hysteria here!

10/10 (Sublime)

Escape Artist DC – House of Pawns Episodes 2 & 3 (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 1-10 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? I don’t know, but I intend to find out.

Theme:

House of Pawns is an interesting series of escape rooms, in that they follow the evolving story of Senator Frederick O’Connor and the Asteroid Bill he champions. Part 2 focuses on a group of alternative energy activists searching for the ability to convert the asteroid’s natural properties into abundant fuel in order to help the bill pass, and Part 3 is about the murder of an esteemed scientist involved with many of the previous players in Part 2. It is a story full of intrigue and political maneuvering, and you’ll have to unravel the conspiracies in only 45 minutes!

First Impressions:

This was our first time doing a room that changed to reflect a new episode in the story, so we were interested in seeing how the room shifted between the two. The story briefing for these rooms were a bit heavier in exposition than Night at the Museum, and we were excited to see that special attention had been paid to crafting a narrative, which is always an excellent addition. We were led into the Senator’s office, and though the theme necessitated a fairly standard office scene, it was the mystery beneath that we were itching to uncover!

High Points:

Both experiences were adept at delivering an evolving story through puzzling and props. Not only did we need to escape the room, but we needed to put each piece together to further the narrative itself, which is much more engaging than your usual solution to lock situation. In both rooms, but especially Part 3, there are some interesting gadgets to play with, all of which are hand made and unique to the game. The puzzles themselves are perfectly logical and once the solution is found, it is obvious that you have determined the right answer; there is very little ambiguity at any point. Nothing feels out of place, and even the most unassuming prop can hold a hint to propel you forward. The attention to detail in these experiences was wonderful.

Low Points:

The office itself stays mostly the same in between episodes, so the set design, while convincing, is minimal. The logic of some puzzles, while understandable, could feel a bit too lofty at times, leading us to solve as much as possible before trying out remaining solutions.

Verdict:

The House of Pawns series is an exciting narrative based escape experience that builds immersion though storytelling and excellent, logic-based puzzling, rather than big budget set design. I felt well immersed in the story throughout, even more so than some other rooms which focus solely on Hollywood style sets at the expense of well-rounded puzzle design. A pleasantly different experience from the norm, I highly recommend checking these rooms out, and look forward to Episode 4! Book your time unraveling the political intrigue here!

8.5/10 (Great)

 

Escape Artist DC – Night at the Museum (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 1-12  (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Wanna black out and tear up some paintings?!

Theme:

As employees of a prestigious art museum, you’re gearing up for an unveiling of a brand new exhibit, the centerpiece of which is sure to bring patrons from all over the world! It’s the night before the big day, and you’ve decided to have a party at the museum after hours. Everything is going swimmingly, until the celebration gets a bit out of hand, and the priceless painting is ruined! You’ll need to fix it before the museum security locks down in one hour, or be fired, never to work in the art world again!

First Impressions:

Escape Artist DC has a great lobby filled with fantastic local art that we found  was created by the owner. The customer service is excellent, and we were greeted warmly by the staff and briefed on our upcoming room after a short chat. The briefing room was nice, and provided a video going over the story of the room, as well as a succinct rules rundown.

High Points:

Escape Artist DC is different from other rooms that I’ve done, and not just from those in the DC area. The puzzles provided tend to be a bit more cerebral in nature and require a different method of thinking than your usual escape room. Puzzles are a good mix of technical interactions and basic locks, and most are impressively hand crafted. Two levels of an interesting hint system were available, and were very well implemented; I understand that more iteration is being done to continue to refine this system. Puzzles felt highly original, and those that were familiar to us had a pleasant twist to them that we enjoyed.

Low Points:

There was one technical malfunction that held us up for a while in the early game, but was fixed quickly once it was recognized. One late game puzzle felt overly convoluted, and the method for solving was fairly unsatisfying to our group, but in the middle of solving, we circumvented the solution through an accidental method. Some instances of outside knowledge are present, but aren’t as egregious as some other instances have been.

Verdict:

With Night at the Museum, Escape Artist DC delivers a unique take on escape rooms, and challenges players to think outside the box even more than usual. There are a couple blemishes here and there, but overall, this was an enjoyable experience. Beginners may find it difficult to overcome the initial learning curve, but help is available at all times, and enthusiasts will enjoy the unique experience this room has to offer. Book your Night at the Museum here!

7/10 (Good)

 

Omescape DC – Omega (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2)

Price: $27.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Don’t go there. That way lies madness.

Theme:

You are the students of a renowned scientist who is pushing the limits of time travel research. You’ve come to his lab to see a new project he has been secretly working on, but his assistant has not seen him. Find out where he’s gone, but be aware that his new invention is unstable, and could cause serious complications if you can’t solve the mystery!

First Impressions:

My first impression of Omescape DC came two days before we played Omega and it was not good. As a bit of background, we were originally booked to play Kingdom of Cats on a Friday evening, but about three or so hours before we were to be there, I received a call from them saying that the room had been broken due to a previous group. Repairs were being made, but we would need to reschedule. This would’ve been fine if the tone of the call had not been seemingly exasperated with us. Fast forward two days later, and two hours before our new time, we call to find out if we are still good to go for Kingdom of Cats. We are not, and are rebooked in a fairly confusing jumble of new rooms and times. I was still confused after our call, so I walked into the lobby early in order to just confirm we were booked for the time I assumed. When we did arrive for our game time, we noticed that the only person working was at the front desk on their phone, and we heard another team calling for hints in a back room, which she eventually went to answer. She was also to be our GM while this room continued. This did not instill confidence.

High Points:

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Low Points:

First off, the room is sweltering, as there is no a/c. There are a very small amount of puzzles within, and none of them are terribly interesting. In fact, the first was the most exciting, and it wasn’t much. There’s very little to in the extremely empty room at all stages, and the majority of the props were broken. The room has so little to do and is strictly linear, but still manages to have so little connective tissue to be bewildering at times. One of the mid-game puzzles isn’t clued and barely works, so it’s hard to tell if it is even part of the room. There is outside knowledge required for one puzzle, and the logic to figure it out is some of the most tenuous I’ve ever seen. The penultimate puzzle required remembering a fact that is not included in the room, and the cluing points towards something completely different anyway. Written props and hints contain multiple grammatical and spelling errors, which aren’t part of a puzzle either, and feel sloppy. So much of the room is slapdash an busted, it’s actually quite amazing it still runs. When asking for a hint, our calls went unanswered several times, and had I not been hyper assertive with my requests, I am certain we’d still be waiting to hear back. My teammate, after only 20 minutes in the room, wondered aloud if we could just leave. I thought the same thing, but felt obligated to see this awful experience through so that you don’t have to.

Verdict:

I had honestly thought I’d seen the worst room I could think of before entering Omega, but this one smashed my already low expectations. I mulled over the score for this one for a while, and felt as though the dead bottom of a 1/10 was not quite enough to convey my displeasure with this cut rate experience. Therefore I’ve instituted a new, lower rating to let you know that you should never, under any circumstances, consider visiting this room. I usually include a link to the room, even on low ratings, just in case you’d like to visit, but cannot bring myself to do so here. Therefore, Omescape DC’s Omega room receives a:

0/10 (Atrocious)

Insomnia Escape – Oblivion (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: Varies, see here for details.

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

I am Computer. Do you love Computer?

Theme:

A brilliant scientist has recently created the most advanced AI the world has ever seen, ELIZA! After fully integrating ELIZA into his lab, however, he has mysteriously disappeared, and it is up to you and your team of investigators to find out what happened! Power up the AI, and with her assistance, you may be able to unravel the case! But something seems a bit… off.

First Impressions:

Insomnia came highly recommended to us, and their new theme promised a unique experience, so we were definitely looking forward to how they implemented Virtual and Augmented Reality into the room. Insomnia’s friendly Gamemaster provided us with a briefing on the room, and our first clue, which delivered a bit of the backstory in a much more immersion friendly way than delivery via GM, after which we were ushered into the powered down laboratory.

High Points:

The entire room, due to it’s technical theme, was extremely high-tech and futuristic feeling. In fact, during the game, the entire room responds to your actions, which is fantastic for getting you more and more immersed in the story. Many times, the room responded to us personally in ways we absolutely did not see coming, and it was an amazing treat have the room itself interact with us. Puzzles are easy to find, and solving them is incredibly satisfying, due to their technical nature and great feedback. VR is handled well in the room, and does not overstay it’s welcome, and remains a tangible challenge that involves the whole team instead of being a one-person puzzle, which is highly commendable. The story is delivered in a fun way, and though the acting is not taken too seriously, it works, and builds to a climax that is worthy of such an ambitious room.

Low Points:

For a room filled with tech, we were wary that something might go haywire to derail the game, but luckily, we only experienced one malfunction, and it was extremely minor. The room is vastly linear, so a much larger group may have members feeling left out.

Verdict:

Oblivion is an original idea that shoots for a lofty goal, and hits on almost every mark. Gameplay is well balanced with the story, and should be exciting for beginners and enthusiasts alike. I highly recommend you try it out, as this is one of the best games we saw while visiting DC! Book your time with ELIZA here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Insomnia Escape provided media discounted tickets for our game.

Escape Room Live Alexandria – Poeanormal Activity (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 Minutes

Nevermore!

Theme:

Edgar Allen Poe’s study has been opened up recently, as rumors of a secret manuscript have taken the nation by storm! Discovery Channel’s Destination America is the first on the scene, ready to seek out this lost tale, but unfortunately, one of the two reporters hitting the scene first have gone missing.  You are a paranormal investigation team hired by Destination America to seek out this manuscript, and discover what happened to the missing crew member! Act fast, though, as the lingering spirits have grown restless…

First Impressions:

Boasting a comfortable lobby, Escape Room Live Alexandria makes quite the first impression, that carries into the room itself, as no cost has been spared to bring Poe’s chambers to life! Hollywood style sets and lighting heighten the spooky vibe, and gets your blood pumping for an exciting escape! We’ve seen great sets before, though, and they’re nothing without great puzzling, so how did that go?

High Points:

Along with the set, there were several technological interactions to help you get immersed in the story, and are well hidden, adding to the supernatural aura of the room. You are separated into two groups at the beginning, and locked away from each other by a door in the middle, demanding teamwork in a puzzle-centric way. The final few steps through the room are a fantastic climax, and many of the puzzles along the way hearken back to the literature of Poe, which was fun for the Poe aficionados among us.

Low Points:

Unfortunately, with a large amount of tech, can come technical difficulties. We experienced only one, but it caused several cascading problems. In fact, due to the malfunction, we took a hint after minutes of aimless wandering, which informed us we needed to do the thing we had already tried twice and written off. To add insult to injury, we were denied the ability to get on the leaderboard because of it! We don’t usually try for best times, but the fact we would have made it without this “hint” made our quick victory feel a bit hollow. The experience went by entirely too quickly for the money, and we escaped in around half that time, even with this being one of the hardest rooms Escape Room Live has to offer. While the technical puzzles were impressive, there wasn’t a whole lot we hadn’t seen before in other rooms, and many of the fun looking props and set pieces did not play into the solving of the room at all. A couple parts of the room seemed to be leftover puzzles that were scrapped, but left in as red herrings, which was disappointing. Our customer service experience was just alright, as our GM was there to greet us when we escaped, but then quickly disappeared soon thereafter, leading us to wonder if we were going to take a picture, and with whom.

Verdict:

While the set of Poeanormal Activity impresses, the game overall is lacking in depth of puzzling. Newcomers will enjoy this room much more than enthusiasts, since they will probably speed through the room. I had a good time, however, but feel that the technical and customer service snafus dulled what could’ve been a more engaging experience. Sign up to investigate the Poeanormal Activity here!

6/10 (Alright)

 

PanIQ DC – Prehistoric (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: Varies, check here for details

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

History of the World: Part One

Theme:

You and your team are a band of cavemen during the year 6,000 BC. You were out hunting when a terrible storm kicked up, sending you all scattering to search for shelter. Luckily, there was a highly convenient cave nearby! Unluckily, it belongs to a band of cannibals! You’ll need to solve their clever puzzles and escape before they return and put you into their stew! (Why we can’t just walk out of the cave, I’m unsure, but it sure is a unique theme, so let’s roll with it!)

First Impressions:

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Do you see this door? It’s fuzzy and wonderful and I love it.

High Points:

The room was very well decorated, with animal skins, cannibal necklaces, and various cave stones and detritus. The game starts with a small area, and gradually opens up, giving a nice flow, while drip feeding pertinent bits of puzzles. While the story is fairly dark when you think about it, the room itself is very lighthearted and fun, and doesn’t get too caught up in the cannibal grossness. The mostly non-linear, teamwork based focus is enough to keep a group entertained, and the interactions have intuitive logical connections. A few puzzles in particular stand out as either enjoyable tactile experiences, or interesting mechanical activities, and the room as a whole feels satisfying to play with and solve.

Low Points:

I felt as though the theme would have been better served with well hidden technological interactions, or clever “prehistoric” locking mechanisms, as the cannibal cavemen from 6,000 BC had a good number of modern locks and accouterments peppered about their cave. One puzzle felt a little laborious in it’s solving, but was otherwise well implemented. There are a couple tight spots may make accessibility difficult for some players, and having more than 4 or 5 players will more than likely feel very cozy. The room may feel a little simplistic for experienced players, but as PanIQ DC provides private rooms as the default, you can book fewer teammates to customize your difficulty.

Verdict:

Prehistoric is a light-hearted puzzling romp, containing one of the most unique themes I’ve seen lately. The story is light, but the puzzling is solid and well woven into the room. Beginners will be provided with an immersive and fun romp, and it is a good room for enthusiasts to tackle with a smaller group. Book your time inside the cannibals’ cave  here!

7.5/10 (Good)