Escape Reality Sarasota, FL– Mafia Mayhem (Review)

Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes to us again from friend of the site, Keyed Up teammate, and always welcome guest reviewer, Cathy Nanni! We thank her for the great review, and look forward to hearing more from her in the future!

Location: Sarasota, FL

Players:  Up to 8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

“Jimmy’s Deli Isn’t As Dry As it Seems!”

Theme:

Journey back to the roaring 20’s in New York’s prohibition scene. Hunt for a good time at the local speakeasy where you can swing back some hooch and mingle with gangsters and criminals.  Escape with the gold before you get caught by the cops or worse….the mob.

First Impressions:

Escape Reality really sets themselves apart from your standard escape room. Upon entering, the lobby and main interior are completely covered in purple walls, glitter, and twinkling fairy lights, with pop culture collectibles from all sorts of fandoms scattered everywhere. I felt like I was in geek girl heaven, as it was a total feast for the eyes of this pop culture aficionado.

The owner explained to us that he wanted to create a space where people could come to experience an escape room and then have a fun place to hang out and debrief. After completing rooms, he always wanted to have an area to linger and discuss the experience with his friends and family, but most of the time people had to go their separate ways because there wasn’t somewhere in the escape room to do this.  I could really relate, as generally after our team Keyed Up would finish a room, we’d find ourselves standing in the parking lot chatting excitedly about the room. How amazing would it be to have a bar filled with geeky decor and boardgames to hold those conversations in;  instead of that boring parking lot? That’s what they’ve done at Escape Reality.

In regards to customer service, the staff was incredibly accommodating. I was only in town for one day, which happened to be their build day and the morning of a big 80’s karaoke event they were hosting that evening.  However, they were more than happy to allow us to participate in two of their rooms. Even though they were incredibly busy preparing for the night’s festivities and building their newest room, we never felt anything less than welcome to be there.

High Points:

I went to Escape Reality with a friend and our young sons. As a teacher and parent, I really appreciated the time the owner took before the room to explain to the boys what a speakeasy was and give them a brief history of Prohibition. After this mini-lesson we were given the option of wearing some period specific costume pieces, something I’ve never seen in an escape room before and really appreciated. The attention to detail in this room was phenomenal. All of the clues and puzzles fit so excellently into a 1920’s speakeasy theme, immersing us into a different time period. You start in a very authentic alleyway and just like the dames and goons of old, you need to sneak your way into the speakeasy. Once inside, you’re greeted by a bartender who serves you up drinks as you search the bar for the hidden gold. The drinks were a fun touch and they even provided soft drinks for our two underage escapers. I love when the clue delivery system fits the theme and the rotary phones used to call for help fits quite well. Every item in the room that looked like it would be fun to interact with turned out to be an integral part of solving a puzzle. Thanks to the non-linearity of the room, there was plenty to do for all players,  even if you ended up waiting on someone to solve something, there was enough to look at and take in (while enjoying your cocktail) that you never felt bored.

Low Points:

The initial part of the experience is a narrow alley and only three of us were able to really fit in there and explore, leaving our fourth person kind of stuck by the entrance unable to help out. This would be even more frustrating with additional people in the party. Escape Reality does a good job of spreading clues throughout the length of the alley so there is quite a bit for people to work on, but I can see where being the last one in could leave you feeling a bit left out.

Verdict:

Mafia Mayhem was the most immersive speakeasy/bar themed escape room I have done. The attention to detail in all aspects of the experience was really top notch! Book your boozy speakeasy adventure here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Reality provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Sleuth Kings – Case 010: Second Chance (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Everyone deserves a second chance, don’t you think?

Theme:

In the past, Don Arroz was a master criminal, but luckily his wrongdoing was swiftly halted when Isaac King put him away twenty years ago. He’s returned to the Sleuth Kings offices now, but not for revenge. He wants Sullivan’s help to prevent him from returning to a life of crime! Someone has taken Don’s daughter, and is blackmailing him into committing crimes around the city, but for what purpose, he cannot determine. It’s up to you to figure out who’s pulling the strings on Don, save his daughter, and put an end to whatever plot has been set into motion before it’s too late!

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings always delivers the greatest props and most imaginative puzzles. The fact that this box included a $100 bill wallet, a kid’s menu from an Italian restaurant, and a strange note that all exuded mystery in their own way truly encapsulated the feel of a Sleuth Kings mystery. We couldn’t wait to get started and see how everything tied together!

20180712_1942171038705486.jpg

I love the fact that there’s a kid’s menu included. It’s such a weird, yet perfect fit.

High Points:

One of the best things about Case 010 is how clues that are so disparate from each other come together in such a perfect way. The aforementioned wallet, note, and kid’s menu all tie together thematically and appropriately. This case also allows for multiple endings, tasking you with deciding how you’d like to solve the case. In fact, puzzle clues cleverly lead toward the branching paths, and allow for some slightly non-linear solving in what is usually a fairly linear experience! Like a good, story-focused video game, this case also affords you the joy of going back through the story to see what would’ve changed had you made a different decision, and seeing both of the possible endings was highly satisfying. Due to these branching paths, there were a couple more puzzles than usual, which is always appreciated, and at some points, the two of us working on this box were able to split the puzzles we were best at and work in tandem! The puzzle flow is flawless, and even with some steps leading towards other possible paths, they don’t become accidental red herrings, as your goals are always clear and well explained within the narrative. As always, the epilogue letter we received a week later was highly anticipated, and contained a fun keepsake and denouement. The addition to the meta-narrative of Sullivan’s missing father continues to build towards the next bonus case, and we cannot wait to find out what happens next!

20180716_211945417615195.jpg

A coin for your troubles!

Low Points:

There is one specific puzzle included in this case that we’ve seen a couple times before in other Sleuth Kings cases, so it has become old hat for us to solve. I don’t dislike the puzzle itself, there’s just not as much mystery surrounding it as when it was fresh, so it becomes more of a speed bump than an engaging clue. The branching storyline is great, though it seemed strange that of the two options given for catching the bad guys, the one that was denoted to be more difficult actually involved a couple fewer puzzles and was actually much more direct, game flow wise.

Verdict:

Sleuth Kings is an always excellent series of mysteries that we look forward to receiving every month, and this month was no exception! Continuing to boast a phenomenal blend of puzzle solving, deduction, and superb world-building, Sleuth Kings is a must have subscription for any mystery enthusiast! The ongoing meta-narrative continues to be highly engaging, and we love the fact that the story follows up in real time through the mail! You absolutely should try it out, and you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! As always, I highly recommend it! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Elite Escape Games – Area 51 (Review)

Location: Mount Pleasant, SC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Beam us up!

Theme:

You’ve somehow managed to make your way into the highly classified Air Force base called Area 51 in search of the Truth you’ve heard is out there. Entering the bio-labs, the pneumatic door seals behind you and you’ve become trapped! Find out what secrets lie inside this shadowy facility and get out with the prize before the Men in Black return to wipe your memory with the flashy thing!

First Impressions:

Elite Escape Games is one of my absolute favorite businesses period. They have some of the best sets, highly original puzzles, and most innovative gameplay that I’ve ever seen, and with each new room, they continue to improve! Their staff is always top notch as well, and provide an amazing experience from start to finish. When I saw that their Area 51 room that I’d been anticipating for over a year was finally opening, I immediately began making plans to visit!

High Points:

When I am anticipating a room as much as I was this room, usually I find that I am let down in some way. This was absolutely not the case here. Area 51 is easily my new favorite in Charleston, eclipsing my previous number one, Undead Outbreak, which is saying something! The game is set up in a completely non-linear fashion, with successive levels of the facility to overcome, ensuring that even a larger group will have plenty to work on and explore. This was probably the first time I’d ever experienced a game that gave the group complete freedom to work on whatever they want from the beginning of the escape. Puzzles were very tactile and delivered highly satisfying feedback once they had been completed, and each clue was intuitive, providing extremely gratifying ah-ha moments throughout. Every time we moved to a new level of the room, I would spot new puzzles that instantly caught my eye and imagination, continually renewing my excitement to solve the next enigmas! Set design was perfect, and immersed us immediately, and each successive area was more exciting than the last! Elite Escape Games used a top of the line 3D printer to create custom props for this experience, and it truly allowed the room shine beyond any others I’d experienced in Charleston so far. The tactile nature of the room was a delight, and props included in each level of the adventure helped track our progress in a simple, but incredibly enjoyable way! The best part, however, is that Area 51 was my 153rd room, but it perfectly captured the absolute wonder and joy that accompanied my first escape room experience. Any escape room veteran can tell you that is no small feat, and I commend the crew at Elite for putting together such an awesome game! Special thanks to my girlfriend for putting up with the fact that I was physically unable to shut up about how crazy good this game was for days after.

Low Points:

After we had completed the game, we talked a while with the manager, Dan, and went over what we thought of the room. After running through the game a few times physically and in my head, I literally could not think of a moment that I did not enjoy during this adventure! Believe me, I tried to come up with some constructive feedback, but no matter what, I could not come up with any at all. For us, this experience was flawless!

Verdict:

Area 51 is the crown jewel of Elite Escape Games, truly a culmination of the best parts of their previous games. A challenging room without being obtuse, I cannot recommend this room enough! If you have time for one room in Charleston, absolutely make it this one. You can book your time in Area 51 here! Do it now!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Elite Escape Games provided Media Discounted tickets for our game.

Charleston Escape Game – The Cannibal Collector (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Serial Killers hate them! They escape using this one simple trick!

Theme:

Nineteen people have gone missing in Charleston, and the city is starting to get very nervous. The police have set up several search teams, and you’re one of the best. In fact, you’ve found the killer’s lair! Unfortunately, however, this was all an elaborate trap and you are stuck within the dingy confines of The Collector’s sanctum, with only an hour before he returns! Worse, it looks like the reason you haven’t found any trace of the missing people is because he’s been eating them with some really tasty looking Chinese takeout! Work quickly, or he might use you as his next garnish!

First Impressions:

After finishing Taking Back Charleston, one of the best rooms we’d done on this trip, we were extremely excited to be entering another room at Charleston Escape Room. While the theme isn’t the most original, (I’ve escaped from no less than seventeen serial killers. I counted. They don’t really like us.) I have this soft spot for horror themes that aren’t zombies, so I was still pumped for the experience! Also, this room was purported to be more mature than the usual serial killer thriller, promising a bit more R-rated gore for the discerning horror fan!

High Points:

The Cannibal Collector is a vastly creepy room. Most serial killer rooms just play off the theme with a bit of tongue in cheek jump scares or decorations, but this one ups the ante with really nice props of a more visceral nature. The scares were well implemented as well, and kept my girlfriend and best escape partner running back to me in fright! The game flow works well for the most part, and gives just enough of a clue to keep you working towards the solution without being overly obvious. New surprises abound around every corner, and each room contains several unexpected surprises to enjoy! (or be startled by. Same difference.) Set design is top notch, as we’ve come to expect from these guys, and provides great atmosphere through sound, lighting, and convincing props. The climax is fantastic, and begins with an excellent fake-out moment that kept me guessing at what would come next. Several excellent puzzles and interactions we hadn’t seen before helped tie this experience together as one we won’t soon forget!

Low Points:

One interaction works, and is fairly surprising, but should have some sort of cluing associated with it, as currently, it feels very random and can halt game flow pretty severely. Another puzzle became an unintentional red herring for us, and while thematic, doesn’t quite jive with the logic of the rest of the room, giving off a supernatural vibe in a mostly grounded serial killer adventure. A code during the later game made sense as to which numbers would be needed, but the ordering was foreign to us, meshing poorly with the actual clue.

Verdict:

Charleston Escape Game kicks the serial killer theme up a notch with The Cannibal Collector, delivering an immersive horror experience with a bit more bite than your usual room! While the flow trips up from time to time, there a so many great puzzles packed inside, and I absolutely recommend giving it a shot! You can book your time as a main course here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Charleston Escape Game provided Media Discounted tickets for our game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Sleight of Hand (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Follow the spirits!

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When The Amazing Silverstone died, his Last Will and Testament was a source of much controversy due to a personalized note he left with his lawyer.  It read:

“To my dearest son, Peter.  If you are reading this particular draft then it means my unknown nemesis murdered me.  They will have gone to great lengths to cover their tracks, but I know the truth.  In time, hopefully, you will too.  There have been lots of unusual happenings at Silverstone Manor over the past few weeks.  Some of them I could have chalked up to simple coincidence, but the sheer number of strange occurrences has cast a sinister cloud overhead that has been too overwhelming to ignore.  Your reading of this will proves that I wasn’t paranoid or crazy.  I was right all along about the threat on my life.  That brings me to your involvement in this cryptic business.  In addition to my estate and the considerable wealth that goes with it, I am leaving you the contents of my safe which, I believe, contains the identity of the one who took my life.   Over the course of my life I have made many enemies, both personally and professionally, and I believe one of these is to blame for my untimely demise.  Determine the identity of my killer and bring them to justice.  I have the utmost confidence in you, my son.”

Although he had acquired considerable sleight of hand skills from years of apprenticing under his father, Peter Silverstone had no idea where to start with the investigation of his father’s murder.  As a result, he has brought the contents of his father’s safe to you at the Will Street Detective Agency and hired you to help solve the mystery surrounding the death of The Amazing Silverstone.

First Impressions:

 

While we were previously disappointed with the lighter story within The Wrath of Nero, we are always excited to see a new Deadbolt experience release. With Sleight of Hand, we were enthused to see the theme would lend itself more to the story based mysteries we’ve become accustomed to with The Deadbolt Mystery Society. The box featured a snazzy new design, and evoked a sense of mystical wonder, setting the tone for our next case perfectly!

20180711_0813321549688908.jpg

Prepare yourselves for magic and mystery!

High Points:

Sleight of Hand is an excellent return to form for Deadbolt, bringing back a heavy emphasis on delivering a deep story that slowly unravels as the players solve codes and hidden messages. Online interactions requiring passwords found through clever puzzling make a welcome return, and the box as a whole allows for incremental solving in a very satisfying way. The cast of suspects are all very interesting in their own right, though I think that the witch was my personal favorite, as I’d love to know more about this possibly mystical character! Like Asylum, this motley crew was so fantastic and I’d love to see more of them in the future! We were kept guessing by the enigmas up to the end, when everything came together in a logical, yet challenging, way. Although suspects were not eliminated in as clear cut ways as they were in Murder in 3B or Asylum, there were more connections to make that would lead to logical conclusions regarding the murder, culminating in a highly satisfying solve. Props and information included are top quality as always, and poring over the information and putting all the pieces together made for an enjoyable evening of puzzling.

Low Points:

The experience was great at capturing a magical aura and staying true to that vibe throughout, though it would’ve been interesting to have a few puzzles that were directly related to magic itself, rather than mostly code-breaking.

Verdict:

Sleight of Hand is everything that we love about Deadbolt, tied up in a lovely, magical package! The Deadbolt Mystery Society is definitely one of the best at delivering intricately woven mysteries to your door, and this box is another must buy for us! We cannot wait to see what’s in store next month with their new experience, Ransom! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code TRYDMS!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.