Mind Games of Mebane – The Pawn Shop (Review)

Location: Mebane, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $26.69 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

No Pawn Shop for Old Men.

Theme:

Your friend Billy drives a taxi, and thought that he had come upon a bit of luck when a laptop was left in his backseat one night. Being the forward thinking and morally upstanding man he is, he immediately took the laptop to a sketchy pawn shop for some quick cash. Unfortunately, the owner of the laptop is back, and is looking for the smuggled diamonds that were stashed inside! Unless you can break into Tiny’s Pawn Shop and find the laptop, Billy will get his (wholly deserved) reward! Watch out for Tiny, though, if he finds you snooping around, he will visit his own brand of justice upon you!

First Impressions:

The story is a little bit more uneven here, since I’m not a hundred percent sure why we’re risking our necks for our scumball “friend,” but hey, as long as the game is fun, we’re in!

High Points:

Puzzles flowed well though gameplay and also physically throughout the space of the room, with clues peppered cleverly throughout, allowing for us to come back to important spots we’d spotted earlier. The puzzles themselves were well thought out, and utilized several convincing props that definitely belonged within a shady pawn shop. The game flow itself was linear, but clues could be found and tagged as we explored the room, ensuring that we always had something to engage with, even if it wouldn’t come into play until later in the game.

Low Points:

We were told at the beginning of the room that we would need to watch out for Tiny, who is hosting a party next door. This turned out to be an explanation for why there was bleed over noise from the group doing The Loft beside us. While we appreciate an in story reason for the bleed over, it was still another group that we could hear very clearly, and I’m sure they could hear us as well. One prop delivered an audio clue that could only be heard once, and if the answer was entered incorrectly, would cease to operate, which could definitely be a problem in the case of accidental missteps in solution entry. Although the set looked like a pawn shop in general, it’s not the most exciting theme to emulate, and gave off an overall banal vibe. A certain puzzle gave us problems as one particular number was unnecessarily difficult to decipher, so we needed to solve the puzzle in a couple different ways, arriving at different answers, and entering all of them in order to unlock the next part of the game.

Verdict:

The Pawn Shop is a competently done escape room that provides an hour of fun that will definitely enchant newcomers, but may not be quite as exciting for enthusiasts. I recommend giving it a shot if you’re new to the hobby, as there are some great escape room standbys to engage with, and the game flow works well. However, it isn’t wholly remarkable when all is said and done, so I’d recommend checking out The Loft or Tarot Card Mystery here instead. You can book your time in Tiny’s Pawn Shop here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Mind Games of Mebane – The Loft (Review)

Location: Mebane, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $26.69 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

I’m afraid I can’t do that, (Because I love you!)

Theme:

Your swanky new apartment comes with all the amenities, but the most exciting one is your Smart Loft AI, S.A.L.I. She is able to order groceries, adjust the temperature automatically, control all the electronic functions of the home, even adjust your shower’s temperature on demand! She’s your best automated friend! However, unbeknownst to you, she’s become self-aware and wants to be more than just friends. Unfortunately, you’re clued in to this fact one day when your loft catches on fire and she won’t let you leave! S.A.L.I. doesn’t want to die alone, so she’s decided to take you with her! You don’t have very long before the inferno is too much to bear, so you’ll have to quickly figure out how to shut her down and escape!

First Impressions:

The Loft was probably the most convincing set at Mind Games of Mebane. It looked very much like a big city apartment set within a historic building. Our GM also came online to let us know she was S.A.L.I., she loved us, and the apartment was burning down! Even better, the smell of smoke, (not real smoke, but a very convincing spray, we found out later,) permeated the air, lending a sense of urgency to our escape!

High Points:

A mostly linear experience, The Loft still managed to keep us all engaged with the story and puzzle flow, which worked smoothly for the most part. Interactions with S.A.L.I. were darkly humorous, as she taunted us and played very appropriate musical selections while we attempted to escape. Some very original puzzles were littered throughout the apartment, making excellent use of several different puzzle types to keep everyone busy puzzling and on our toes. There were a lot of basic locks, but each solution pointed toward the location we’d need to input the answer, preventing too much guess and check during the game. Several enjoyable technological interactions were also peppered throughout, giving credence to the theme of an automated apartment.

Low Points:

One puzzle was inconsistent with it’s answering mechanism, requiring us to take a longer part from one answer than others for no in game reason. A later clue was very misleading with it’s presentation, which seemed to require us to not do the thing that we eventually needed to do due to the wording of the note we received. We brought this up to the owner, who seemed amenable to correcting the error, however. There is also one point at which some pieces of a puzzle could be moved around, causing it to become much more difficult to solve, but our GM was very helpful in getting us on track, and most of the items were bolted down, so it wasn’t completely destructible.

Verdict:

The Loft was definitely one of Mind Games of Mebane’s most immersive games, utilizing an engaging GM, good set design, and even convincing smells in order to create an interesting game world to puzzle within! It would make for a fantastic introductory game for new players, while still entertaining veteran escape enthusiasts. Book your escape from the burning loft here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Escape the Crate – Escape The Queen’s Curse (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 2-4

Price: $29.99 per box

It’s an Escape in a Box!

Theme:

Queen Elizabeth I has been poisoned, and the man most capable of brewing an antidote, John Dee, is out of the country! Historically, Queen Elizabeth isn’t supposed to die this soon, so someone has been messing with the timeline! As an agent of E.M.I.T., (Emergency Mediation In Time,) the world’s only time travelling institution, it is up to you to set the timeline back into order. This will be no easy task, however, as the poison acts fast and should Elizabeth die, the temporal anomaly could prove catastrophic!

First Impressions:

Escape the Queen’s Curse arrived in a lovely box which we couldn’t wait to crack open! Once we did, there were quite a few envelopes and props that already grabbed our attention immediately. From the outset, it was obvious that there was a lot more included in this box than any other subscription boxes we had done before, and we were excited to start working through the many puzzles included!

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So many locations to open and puzzles to find!

High Points:

Escape the Crate encapsulates the escape room experience as perfectly as you can without actually leaving the house! I was consistently amazed as we opened up new locations, triggering new story bits, which you could listen to online using the magnificent audio clips or read at your own pace. Speaking of the online portion, this is where you’ll enter your answers to puzzles and progress through the story, and it worked seamlessly! The props themselves are top notch, and each one is of high quality. We were continually impressed every time we solved a puzzle and opened an envelope to a new surprise! The experience is linear, as only one puzzle will be fully solvable at any time, but puzzles are involved and layered, providing enough for a small group to enjoy solving at any point. The story is exciting and integrated into the game flow expertly, providing an immersive narrative experience as well as a puzzling adventure that doesn’t let up until the supremely satisfying conclusion!

As a side note, there is so much included within this box, which is awesome, but since we usually play at the relatively small coffee table, we were so very disorganized! I definitely recommend using a larger play area, as we have resolved to use the dining room table from here on out when we work on Escape the Crate boxes! I mean, just look at the carnage wrought after we had completed the box:

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No place to put all this fun stuff!

Low Points:

There were only a couple things we saw as low points, one of which is personal taste and won’t apply to everyone. The first was that a certain puzzle gave a specific direction that we could completely ignore and still obtain the correct answer. We know this because we were unable to find the correct method of solving, but the positioning that was apparently incorrect still yielded the correct answer. Our point of personal taste is that we found that the box was a lot more fun when we shut off the timer. I know this is probably heresy to some, but we like to keep a more relaxed pace when enjoying a subscription box, especially since we’re on a timer more often than not during our escape adventures!

Verdict:

Escape the Crate is phenomenal. There are no ifs ands or buts about that, and for $30, this is an amazing deal, especially since the box can be easily reset! Just look at all the fantastic escaping items included:

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So many puzzles! And the little plastic horse we were I was obsessed with!

Sign up for Escape the Crate. Do it now. There’s no reason not to if you have even a passing interest in escape rooms! And the best part is that you can purchase retired boxes as well! I know I’m eyeing Escape the Lost Colony, being a North Carolina native! Join E.M.I.T. here! You won’t regret it!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape the Crate provided a complementary box.

Mind Games of Mebane – Tony’s Bistro (Review)

Location: Mebane, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $26.69 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Crime doesn’t pay

Theme:

Rocco Roselli has been found murdered at Tony’s Bistro! Big Tony has been running his crime syndicate out of his Italian restaurant for years, and the FBI has been trying to find an excuse to raid the place for some time, but no incident worthy of investigation has occurred until now. As part of the FBI’s crack team of investigators, you’ll need to determine the murderer as well as collect evidence implicating this family of criminals before their lawyers can get them off the hook!

First Impressions:

Tony’s Bistro was laid out interestingly, with an entrance themed to the room as well as a convincing restaurant style layout. It was also very obvious that this was a crime scene due to the body outline, blood traces, and bullet holes to be seen as we entered the Bistro!

High Points:

There was an interesting prop or two we hadn’t seen before, and one was a very tactile and fun to interact with piece that served a couple different purposes. The layout of the room itself was competently done and gave off an “Italian restaurant that’s being used mainly as a front” vibe. The room as a whole, while basic, is a serviceable beginners room that would be a decent introduction for newer groups.

Low Points:

This was a very introductory level seek and find game for the most part, as there was not as much in the way of puzzling to be found, and quite a bit of searching to do. For beginners, this is not so much of a bad thing, but after doing many rooms, finding randomly hidden objects becomes quite a bit less interesting. Puzzles themselves are mostly basic lock based interactions, and in several places feel out of place and not well integrated with the theme. The storyline itself was rather threadbare, just hitting the investigative beats but not delving too much into detail. One puzzle treads extremely close to outside knowledge, and I can definitely see certain groups having a very difficult time solving it using only the information given within the room. A mostly linear experience, there didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of puzzling to keep our group of four engaged.

Verdict:

Tony’s Bistro was a very old school, early days escape room that provided an hour of entertainment, but wasn’t overall very memorable. I think a group of newcomers to the hobby would enjoy it, but there really isn’t much here that hasn’t been done better in other rooms, including the four others at Mind Games of Mebane. You could definitely do worse, however, but this one is just middle of the pack. You can join the hunt for Rocco’s killer here!

4.5/10 (Subpar)

Mind Games of Mebane – Once Upon a Hangover (Review)

Location: Mebane, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $26.69 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Raunchy Princesses

Theme:

From Mind Games of Mebane’s website:

Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood went out to celebrate Red’s upcoming marriage. They invited you to come along.
It was a fantastic evening… you think. But you really don’t remember.

You find yourself in jail. Red entrusted you with her suitcase. You realize that Red’s wedding ring, wedding dress and red cape are gone. Can you save the wedding? If you don’t, Red will be devastated… and vengeful.

First Impressions:

The theme here is very ambitious and outlandish, so we were very excited to see how it would be pulled off. An adult themed room that seemed to be a mashup of The Hangover and Disney Princesses sounded like one of the most original rooms we’d heard of, (Vampires v. Unicorns notwithstanding.) Needless to say, after the excellent Tarot Card Mystery, we were ready to see what Mind Games of Mebane had cooked up!

High Points:

The story as conveyed by the room is very playful and contains some fantastic twists that we definitely did not see coming! This is easily the main draw of the room and it pays off very well. Some of the puzzles are fiendishly difficult but follow a great internal logic that follows smoothly and conveys a proper sense of accomplishment to the players when they’re solved. One initial puzzle sees an escape room mainstay tweaked partially, turning it into a much more gratifying, (and challenging!) interaction. The rooms were very large and were more than comfortable for our group while we worked on the many non-linear challenges presented.

Low Points:

Once Upon a Hangover’s theme is highly original, but the humor of the room often falls squarely within the realm of toilet and body part jokes, which we felt were a little immature for the age restriction of 16+. The main room was, due to the theme of the day after a debaucherous party, trashed, but this didn’t really work well as part of the room’s mechanics since it just felt like a lot of junk was strewn about. The rooms also felt very separate from each other with little geographic logic between them. There was a point in the room where a door opened as a line from one of the SAW movies played, which was extremely out of place and off theme. At two points, reset failures turned puzzles into red herrings because there was no place for us to input their solutions. Game flow was choppy, and puzzles did not flow well from one to another. One particular hidden object was hidden in a way that we don’t condone due to the potentially dangerous habits that it forms in players down the line.

Verdict:

Once Upon a Hangover has a lot going for it, but ultimately fell short with us. Some of the issues are very easily fixed, such as reset fails and certain small interaction problems, and the owners seemed very receptive to our feedback, so I’m sure those tweaks are on the list. However, we were overall disappointed with our experience in this room. Mind Games does have some fun rooms, however, and I’m sure with some adjustment, this one can definitely become a must see room. You can book your time with the princesses here!

5.5/10 (Mediocre)