Editor’s note: NC Escape is under new management from the folks at Greenlight Escape Room in Wilmington, NC and this room has (thankfully,) been retired to make way for some much better games! I’m leaving up this review for posterity, but know that it is not indicative of the current set up at NC Escape now.
Location: Durham, NC
Players: 2-6 (We Recommend 3-4)
Price: $26 per person
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
Trapped in the Matrix
You’ve been selected for a next generation Virtual Reality experiment, which will involve uploading your mind into a digital world in order to see what effect it has on the human brain. You’ve been assured that the experiment is perfectly safe, but as soon as you’re strapped in and begin it’s obvious that something’s gone wrong when you’re unable to contact the team responsible for monitoring you! You only have a limited amount of time to explore the digital world and find a way to extract yourself before you’re lost in the Dreamscape forever!
NC Escape’s previous games were entertaining experiences, mixing basic physical locks and technical puzzles, so when they announced a highly technology focused experience, I was certainly interested to see what they had in store! Considering that they delivered one of the greatest props I’d seen in a room in Ex Machina, expectations were high.
There are some clever puzzles in the Dreamscape, some of which have to do with perspective, which is always fun when implemented correctly. Overall, the room heavily focuses on puzzles, and ensures that they make sense within the theme of the digital world. Though a technologically focused room, it involves a good bit of tactile, physical interactions, making the experience as a whole more immersive. The game flow of the room was mostly non-linear, allowing the entire team to stay engaged throughout the game.
The main issue I had with this room was that it seemed to imply in the description on the website that VR would be used within the room, but did not feature actual VR. Also, the room was very new when we visited, but there were several issues within the room involving a malfunctioning technical prop and pieces breaking off of other props even though they were being used very delicately. Another issue is that many of the puzzles involve doing the same task over and over, to the point of the interactions becoming repetitive and boring by the time you complete them. In fact, the second half of the game seems to have a bit of awareness when it refers to it’s puzzles as “inane tasks.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t make completing the more banal puzzles any more entertaining, as at this point, the room seems to be aware of how repetitive it is. Set design is appropriate, but it doesn’t really wow in any way. Due to an ambiguous puzzle and a malfunctioning prop, the climax of the room fell completely flat.
Dreamscape was a highly uneven experience, marred by technical glitches and broken props. The overall experience was interesting, but ultimately disappointing. Given a bit more polish, this room could be more fun, but currently, I’d recommend trying out Ex Machina or The Study instead. You can book your time in the Dreamscape here!