Port City Escape – Nuclear Countdown (Review)

Port City Escape – Nuclear Countdown (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

We work together this time, comrade!

Theme:

It’s the middle of the Cold War and tensions are high on both sides. Luckily, however, mutually assured destruction is keeping anyone from making any rash decisions, and a razor thin détente is holding on. The posturing and fear, however, has sparked one man to take control of the nuclear launch codes and he has threatened to let them fire in one hour unless the warring nations work together to stop them!

First Impressions:

After Blackbeard’s Escape, we were excited to see what Port City would do with another historically ripe theme. The Cold War is definitely an interesting point to explore, and escape rooms are a great way to add a little historical education while having fun, as seen in rooms like Ripper – Solve the Mystery!

High Points:

Some historical props and pieces to puzzles were interesting to see and examine, even if they were not 100% able to be interacted with. There were a few puzzles were fairly interactive and supplied multiple step conundrums to solve, which led to an enjoyable puzzle thread near the end. Cluing was direct, allowing us to generally know what we needed to do next.

Low Points:

The story was a little convoluted, and as it evolved within the room, it made less and less sense to us, as the motivations of our bad guy became weirdly conflicting. The room was quite a bit sparser and felt, on the whole, a lot emptier than others we did at Port City. Puzzle props were not as high quality as in the other two rooms, and felt overall like a step down from their Blackbeard room. Puzzles came fast and furious in a non-linear fashion, but weren’t extremely exciting to us, mostly feeling banal at best, and frustratingly obtuse at worst. Set design did little to catch the eye, which was a huge departure from Port City’s other rooms, which were very immersive. Though many props were theme appropriate, the way many were presented felt sterile and non-interactive. Afterwards multiple teammates lamented that they did not feel very engaged throughout.

Verdict:

Nuclear Countdown was surprisingly average compared to Port City’s other escape experiences. The theme itself is full of potential, but overall, the game doesn’t rise to it. I definitely recommend trying out the other rooms here, but this one will need some work to become an adventure that truly stands out from the crowd. You can book your time in the bunker here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Port City Escape provided Media Discounted tickets for our group.

Port City Escape – Blackbeard’s Escape (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

A pirate’s life for me!

Theme:

Blackbeard has blockaded the port of Charlestowne, SC, demanding a meeting with the governor. You are a prisoner in the brig of one of his vessels, which has currently made port in order for Blackbeard to deliver his demands, giving you only an hour to escape. You’ll need to sneak out of your cell somehow, and maybe steal some of Blackbeard’s treasure for yourself before breaking out and disappearing into the bustle of Charlestowne before anyone knows you’ve gone missing!

First Impressions:

To preface, I love pirates, or at least the romanticized version of pirates that are the norm in popular fiction, but I’ve never played a pirate themed room that has been amazing, so while I always go into new rooms optimistically, my history led me to make sure I tempered my expectations. The admittedly cheesy intro video didn’t really get my hopes up too much, but I reserved judgment for when we actually entered the room.

High Points:

The room itself was one of the best decorated pirate rooms I’d been in yet, set design was extremely well done, and no small details were glossed over. There were a few fun, but not frustrating dexterity puzzles sprinkled among more standard escape room fare that I very much enjoyed fiddling with. Puzzle flow worked well, and there were subtle hints towards what went together, which helped lead us to conclusions without simply thrusting the answer on us. Everything within the room was a piece of the puzzle, and integrated into the game seamlessly. Though there was no technology present in the room, (appropriate, due to the theme,) the game did not feel low budget or less exciting.

Low Points:

Some of the same puzzles were used to open multiple locks, which was a little redundant. More modern locks were mixed with older, theme appropriate locks, which is understandable, but breaks immersion slightly and makes the room more of a puzzle room than an escape experience.

Verdict:

Blackbeard’s Escape has the best set design and game experience of any of the pirate rooms I had done before, and is the first one of that particular theme to feel like it was much more than simply good. While it has a couple of minor flaws, it would make a great introductory room for new players, and is still a fun and challenging experience for veterans. Book your time in the brig here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Port City Escape provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Green Light Escape Room – Alien Escape (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  3-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Don’t get probed!

Theme:

Waking up to the hum of unfamiliar machinery, you and your friends slowly realize that the room you are standing in is not of this planet! As impossible as it may seem, you’ve been abducted by aliens, and judging from the sterility of the room and the sharpness of the instruments on the tables, it isn’t going to be a pleasant trip! You’re contacted soon after waking by another human survivor, who lets you know that he has found an escape pod and will wait for you to find him, but he’s not going to wait around forever and be recaptured, so you’ve got 60 minutes to get out or get probed!

First Impressions:

While waiting for the previous group to finish up in the Alien room, we heard some… interesting noises emanating into the lobby. Evidently the group was all kids, so some noises could be easily explained that way, but it certainly sounded like they were having a blast!

High Points:

Set design in Alien Escape was the best among the three rooms at Green Light Escape Room, with fantastical props, weird alien dissections, and… something growing on the walls around a strange machine. After a slightly bumpy start (totally our fault, as our brains had begun to numb at this, room #5,) the logical flow of the room ran together very well. The linear nature of the beginning didn’t leave out any in our group of 6, and the branching paths and teamwork puzzles of the second half of the room kept us all busy. Several of the puzzles integrated well with the theme and allowed for spatial puzzle solving involving the whole team. One puzzle we were advised was a new addition was elegant in its simplicity, but was still a challenge to solve, while not being an enormous time sink. The climax of the room was appropriately exciting and well implemented, and disoriented us in the best possible way.

Low Points:

A couple of the props were worn and could stand to be replaced. One beginning puzzle was interesting to start, but dragged after the first half of solving, though its solution triggered a fun interaction. Some basic lock types showed up that, while understandable, don’t quite mesh with the theme as well, due to the alien nature of the room, breaking immersion slightly.

Verdict:

Alien Escape was a definite favorite of mine in Wilmington, and not only was a superb game boasting great puzzle flow and set design, but was challenging to boot. I’d definitely recommend checking it out, and while you’re there, you can try to beat our new record, boasting our brand new team name! (Special thanks to A-Team member Cathy Nanni for devising the new moniker!)

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Book your abduction here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Green Light Escape Room provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Green Light Escape Room – Escape the Roxbury (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  3-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What is love?

Theme:

The world’s most bumbling criminal has sent a bomb threat to the FBI, letting them know that his target, The Roxbury, has been littered with explosives and set to blow in one hour. Barely believing the threat, the Bureau sends it’s most incompetent team of Agents, you! Unfortunately, the threat is all too real, and you’ll need to find all the bombs and safely dispose of them before they blow you away!

First Impressions:

Kidnapped! was a good game, and we were looking forward to a rare, and more challenging, comedy room. The story delivered to us was pretty funny, so we were very ready to get started, as we were led down the hall and into the room itself.

High Points:

Once we had made our way into the Roxbury itself, the room kicked into high gear as the DJ table, bar, and other parts of the room had a great assortment of fun props to mess around with. The DJ table itself was excellent fun, especially for one player who spent a good bit of time enjoying the turntable and it’s many buttons and knobs. Her discovery of the volume knob made for a hilarious misadventure of unintended humor as well. The second half of the game has several really fun puzzles that jump from spot to spot in the room, and allow for a non linear mode of solving which engaged the whole group. Set design for the club itself was immersive and a lot of fun to explore and interact with.

Low Points:

We were surprised by the banality of our initial entrance into the room, as we were expecting the nightclub, but we were ushered into an employee break room for the nightclub instead. While the set design for this stage of the game obviously looked like a break room, it wasn’t exactly an interesting set to start a room in. For a comedy room, most jokes were mildly amusing, and the humor was mostly referential, so for those who aren’t in the know, the comedy will fall flat. The storyline to start the room was appropriately zany, but might be too topical to stay humorous for long, and once the room began, the story didn’t really continue through the escape. One particular puzzle seemed sort of random, as there wasn’t really any direction toward it and it didn’t seem like a puzzle until we were given a clue that it was.

Verdict:

Escape the Roxbury is an enjoyable game with several minor flaws. Though it doesn’t quite reach the comedic goals it sets for itself, it does provide a good game that could be built upon further to deliver a more immersive and thrilling escape. Book your trip to the Roxbury here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Green Light Escape Room provided Media Discounted tickets for our group.

Green Light Escape Room – Kidnapped! (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Let’s do the Time Warp, again!

Theme:

A malevolently clever time traveler has been stealing inventions from throughout the timeline and using them to enrich himself in the 1800’s! This has left everything in flux, as his constant disruptions has been steadily degrading time itself. It is up to your group of agents to follow him back to his office, find what he’s taken, and use the time machine to correct the timeline before it is too late!

First Impressions:

Green Light Escape Room has a bright and welcoming lobby with a table full of puzzles for me to take apart and then hand to the poor lobby attendant when I can’t get them put back together. Customer service was also fantastic, as even though we had some problems booking (more than likely technical issues on our end,) we were able to secure our spots smoothly with a quick contact through their website.

High Points:

The later stages of this game were well done, including several original and intuitive puzzles, along with a excellent and tactile final puzzle. Game flow worked well throughout, and we never found ourselves floundering because of obtuse game design. Several engaging and well themed props could be found here, and were not only fun to play with, but were an integral part of the game design itself. There was also a fair variety of puzzles types, which allowed for the whole team to engage with the room itself. All in all, this was a solid introductory experience for new players.

Low Points:

The initial stage of the game was fairly standard, and while it included a few fun props to fiddle around with, it wasn’t all that interesting by itself. A few of the props in this area also felt worn, but not in a timeworn way. Puzzles themselves in the early game fit the theme, but did not feel as imaginative or engaging as they could with some tweaking. The climax was a great set up, but felt as if it should’ve led to more instead of ending fairly abruptly. Set design was acceptable, but didn’t quite capture the theme fully. This one may also be a bit so-so for enthusiasts, as it is definitely geared toward players new to the hobby.

Verdict:

Kidnapped was a fun introductory experience that included a few new surprises, but nothing too extraordinary. Still, as noted on their website it is a great beginner’s experience on it’s own, though enthusiasts might want to try a more challenging room, like Alien Escape or Escape the Roxbury, when considering Green Light Escape Room. You can book your time warp here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: Green Light Escape Room provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Wake Escape – Exit Protocol (Review)

Location: Wake Forest, NC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

This room will self-destruct in 60 minutes.

Theme:

Your CIA safehouse has been compromised, and you have one hour to collect the sensitive information and shut down the secondary security protocols before they set off the self-destruct sequence!

First Impressions:

The room itself has some original set pieces and decorations that make the office room much more eye-catching. It was clear that there were many puzzles to solve based on the decorations around, and during our briefing, we were already looking around wondering what could be important. The story was fairly simple, and the room felt like more of a puzzle room than a storyline heavy experience, but that’s not always a bad thing.

High Points:

There are some really neat interactions that would seem out of place elsewhere, but make perfect sense when applying escape room logic to the problem. I enjoyed these, as they were fairly surprising and added a hint of mystery to the experience. The room itself was non-linear but each puzzles flowed directly into the next. Custom made props helped make puzzles fit more immersively, and added to the overall theme.  A nice blend of traditional locks and technological interactions was appreciated, as some otherwise banal props became extraordinary, fitting the spy theme well.

Low Points:

The initial room is just big enough for eight players, but I feel like it’d be a fairly cramped experience at maximum. Two puzzles required outside knowledge, though when commented on, the owner expressed that he was considering adding in clues to eliminate that issue. One interaction was fairly simple to determine, but the prop itself was finicky and required a staff member to enter the room and fix the problem, which was appreciated as it was fixed quickly, but it stalled the immersion. Some puzzles felt very out of place, as they did not fit the spy theme at all, and some clues in the room were unclear. One interaction was physical and we weren’t sure if we were supposed to open it in this way, but it turns out we weren’t cheating and that was truly the solution.

Verdict:

Exit Protocol is a good first room for the Wake Forest area, and while some experience with escape rooms will help, it feels very approachable for beginners as well. A few adjustments could take it from good to great, but it is a solid and competently built experience overall. Wake Escape itself is a fairly large business, so I’m looking forward to seeing more rooms from them. Book your exit here!

7/10 (Good)

The Exit Games – Casino Heist (Review)

Location: Wilmington, NC

Players:  2-6 (We recommend 4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Stealing from the mob, always a great idea!

Theme:

You’ve got it on good authority that the mob controlled Front Street Casino is the hiding place for millions of dollars worth of invaluable items ripe for the taking. Lured by the heist of a lifetime, your team needs to get in, breach the vault, and take as much as you can before the police show up!

First Impressions:

After Nightmare on Front Street, we were jazzed and ready for more! The rundown for Casino Heist was quick and similar, and after being asked for our Team Color, (Purple, obviously,) we were set loose on the Casino Manager’s office!

High Points:

A great puzzle that literally had us thinking outside the box was a fun surprise, and added a nice element of immersion into the room. I really enjoyed a couple of the simple, but original puzzles sprinkled throughout the room, as they allowed for some new interactions I’d not seen before, and were just overall enjoyable to complete. The opening of the vault and the hectic puzzle solving to clear it out was an excellent time and added a tangibility and level of interactivity with the loot that I don’t normally see in Heist themed escape rooms. Set design was perfect for the theme and the vault itself was wonderfully portrayed. I really enjoyed the mechanic for collecting the items we stole, as well as the extra puzzling for one big ticket piece of loot!

Low Points:

There was one particular puzzle that stymied us and broke the game flow, holding a couple of bigger leaps of logic than the rest of the room. The puzzle itself wasn’t bad, but would benefit from a bit more cluing. An initial puzzle felt like more of a time sink than a fun interaction, and luckily another teammate jumped on that grenade for us. The first part of the room fit our group comfortably, but the second half was more cramped, leading to a bit more difficulty involving everyone. Some lock types repeated, and therefore involved some guess and check. The idea of the leaderboard being based on how much you’re able to steal is a great idea, but it is unfortunate that there is a major element of randomness involved, as we were able to escape with all the main items with a good bit of time to spare, but didn’t quite make it due to bad luck. It doesn’t mar the experience itself, however.

Verdict:

Casino Heist is another fantastic game from The Exit Games in Wilmington, combining original puzzles and unique interactions with frenzied loot grabbing, making for a fantastic romp! Though there are a couple hiccups, the excellent surprises and heist mechanics make this a must play room for anyone visiting the Wilmington area. Book your time in the Casino here!

8/10 (Great)

Break Out Charleston – Escaping Death Row (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Walk the Mile

Theme:

Pretty simple, your team is behind bars awaiting execution and have only an hour to escape, otherwise all is lost!

First Impressions:

We were invited to come back the next day after escaping Bank Heist, and were excited to do so, as we’ll never turn down another escape, especially at a location we know to be a lot of fun. Entering our prison cell, we were much more impressed with the set than in Bank Heist, as the décor was definitely more on par with their Serial Killer room, and felt highly polished and immersive.

High Points:

As previously stated, the décor is well implemented and immersive, feeling polished in most areas. A few nice set pieces were fun to find and interact with, as are the props and puzzles included, which are mostly tactile. A great range of escape room standbys and original puzzles make this a excellent introductory game for beginners and newbies, and boasts a terrific game flow along with several surprises along the way. Connections to be made within the room are clear and add to the riddle solving as well, keeping the puzzle train going from spot to spot. One optional late game interaction is fairly humorous as well, and gave us a good-natured laugh at my sister’s expense.

Low Points:

Some areas of the room felt worn, breaking the overall immersion, though I imagine the fixes wouldn’t be overly burdensome. One puzzle in particular was pretty underwhelming in its presentation and could’ve been made much more interesting with the inclusion of a tactile prop. Some lock types repeat, requiring a couple points of trial and error entry. With a fairly simple theme and puzzles presented without a deep story, Escaping Death Row is a puzzle room more than anything, but a engaging one, so that isn’t a huge problem.

Verdict:

Break Out Charleston bills Escaping Death Row as their beginner’s room, and it would definitely be a fantastic experience for newcomers to the hobby. Enthusiasts might find themselves breaking out fairly quickly, (we still had 31 minutes left when we busted out,) and though it is still a enjoyable experience, Serial Killer will be a much better challenge for seasoned veterans of escaping. Either way, I certainly recommend trying it out! Book your time in the cell here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Charleston comped our tickets for this game

Break Out Charleston – Bank Heist (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

The original get rich quick scheme

Theme:

Working 9 to 5 just isn’t cutting it anymore and you want to make sure you’ll never have to work again, so you and your friends have decided to do what any well adjusted person tired of the daily grind would do and knock over a bank! You’ve broken in, and luckily there are clues littered everywhere on how to open the vault and steal the cash, but be quick, the cops will be at the door in only an hour to end your 9 to 5 days in a much less comfortable way!

First Impressions:

We were excited to see that our Game Master who led us through Serial Killer exactly one year before would be running us through our next adventure with BreakOut Charleston, as he was excellent the previous visit. As our previous game was a fantastic time, we were looking forward to the next room Breakout had to offer.

High Points:

There were a couple of fun interactions we hadn’t yet seen in this room, dealing with perspective as well as understanding of space that were enjoyable to solve. The connections between puzzle clues, solutions, and items were interesting and exciting to solve, and a good mix of searching and riddle solving kept our group of four involved throughout this mostly non-linear room. The final run of puzzles tied the room together well, and provided a fun physical interaction leading towards the end of our successful heist.

Low Points:

One puzzle is based on geography and requires a bit of outside knowledge in order to solve. The room as a whole feels a bit older and more worn than the other offerings at BreakOut Charleston, and the gameplay itself, while still a fun time, is a bit less cohesive than usual. The rooms and props themselves are sparser and less polished on the whole, delivering more of a facsimile of a bank than immersing you in the theme with it’s set. One of the final interactions is capped at two participants, so bigger groups may feel left out of that section. A few puzzles utilized the same colors as each other, muddling up the solving process in a confusing and ultimately frustrating way.

Verdict:

Bank Heist is an exciting, if sometimes flawed game that provides a challenging puzzle room to solve. Enthusiasts may feel a bit underwhelmed by the more old school feel, but this would definitely be a great room for beginners to try out. Book your break-in at Break Out here!

7/10 (Good)