Exit Strategy South – Twisted (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Forget Meta-puzzles and enjoy this meta-room!

Theme:

A quick note to start. Per usual, when I review a room, I try to stay as spoiler free as possible. For this review in particular, I’m trying to be even more vague while still touching on the pertinent points. One of the best parts of Twisted is the constant surprises, so if it seems I’m being less descriptive than usual, that’s because I am. To that point, I’ll just leave you with the theme description from Exit Strategy South’s website.

It’s not that you’re smart, but your record is pretty good! You’ve played 52 rooms and you beat 43 of them. Not bad! You and your crew now go into any escape room and, within seconds, have already figured out the skills that each of you will need to use to beat this thing.

So, you get your group together and set off to play this new room that you heard about.

The game starts and before you know it you realize that being a so-called expert will not help. You’re no longer playing the story, you are the story.

First Impressions:

One thing that I’ve wanted so badly since starting my escape room hobby is for someone to build a meta-escape room. An escape room within the universe of escape rooms just sounded like the coolest theme possible in my head, so when I saw that the previous home of our favorite escape room of all time, The Final Sacrifice, had built that very thing, I got excited. Overly so, some would say! This was my most anticipated room for our recent trip to Charlotte, easily.

High Points:

Twisted is a smorgasbord of creative and tactile puzzles. Anyone who knows me knows that interactive and physically engaging puzzles are my favorite, so it should be no secret that this was extremely exciting to me when I entered the room. Set design is enacted in a thematically appropriate way, and reflects the theme excellently, though it’s very surprising at first. The best part about Twisted is how the room is such a great bundle of the unexpected from the start, presenting an amazing story and a tense adventure wrapped within an awesome challenge that delivered a fantastic bang for our buck! The fact that our group, who is so used to busting out of rooms with at least 20 minutes left on the clock, had only 6ish minutes remaining at the end truly speaks to the fantastically crafted game flow within Twisted. In fact, one of the coolest things about the room is that it doesn’t rely on too many escape room tropes that allow escape room veterans to blow through rooms, but rather creates an original puzzling adventure that is an absolute must play for any enthusiast! Finally, we had such a great GM for this room in Mylene! She was excellent from start to finish, delivering the story and hints to us in an engaging and humorous way. Talking to her before and after the room was a pleasure, and we hope to see her again soon!

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We also still love dropping our Keyed Up! chips in the win column every time we visit!

Low Points:

The finale is fun, but can be a bit frustrating for one player due to the nature of the game, but overall, it’s a great climax to the room that keeps everyone on their toes!

Verdict:

Twisted is an absolute masterpiece of a meta-room that beginners can access and enjoy, but enthusiasts will get the biggest kick out of! This escape will absolutely blow your mind and keep your heart pumping for the full experience, and I cannot recommend it enough. Definitely my favorite current room at Exit Strategy South, and I cannot wait for what comes next! Book your Twisted adventure here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Escape in 60 – Egyptian Tomb (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Unwilling protectors of the tomb!

Theme:

You are the loyal servants of the Pharaoh, who has just passed on into the Duat, and as is tradition when the Pharaoh dies, you are to be sealed within the tomb as well, so that you may serve him for all eternity! Not feeling quite so loyal anymore, you and your fellow servants are determined to escape. But you’ll have to act fast, as not only is the tomb being sealed, your oxygen within the burial chamber is running out fast! Figure out the ancient riddles, and find your way out before you find yourself on the path to Anubis as well!

First Impressions:

Egyptian Tomb is Escape in 60’s newest room, and it definitely shows within it’s set design. Excellently designed props and puzzles littered the room, and felt as though it was full of secrets to uncover. We could not wait to get started! Our favorite GM ran us through the rules again and we were off to the races!

High Points:

As previously mentioned in our review for Davy Jones Locker, the rooms at Escape in 60 really capture the vibe of some of my favorite online and app based escape rooms. Egyptian Tomb is no exception, and includes more technology, as well as custom made keypads in order to present a sense of magic when solving the puzzles within. I really liked the implementation of these unique keypads, which were able to replace the use of traditional locks in clever ways, as well as present brand new puzzle types we hadn’t yet encountered! Solving the game slowly opened up the room unexpectedly and displayed an excellent use of the space provided. Set design helped to conceal secrets perfectly, and was also Escape in 60’s best and most immersive set yet! Props included were excellent additions to the game, and a certain puzzle we’d seen a few times was made more interesting via it’s presentation. The experience is mostly linear with non-linear branches, but keeps the whole group entertained with it’s breadth of puzzle types and inclusion of fantastic hints you’ll have to scour the room to discover!

Low Points:

Game flow in this room included much less connective tissue than other rooms at Escape in 60. Though you want the game to have a sense of mystery and not be overly clear in order to present a challenge, this game crosses the line into being a little bit obtuse at times. One particular puzzle relies on a fairly vague clue that was clearly decipherable once we took a hint, but beforehand was very difficult to spot, some clearer direction might help immensely. Another puzzle that relies on a sense that isn’t usually used is presented in a great way, but does not allow for a method to “reset” between identifications. There is a red herring that was included which seemed like it would’ve been a lot more fun as a full fledged puzzle, and another that used to be part of a puzzle, and provided for what sounded like a much cooler solving method, but had been removed, while references to it were still included in the room.

Verdict:

Egyptian Tomb is a very good puzzling adventure with a few hiccups here and there that, when corrected, could help the room really shine. As it is, though, it’s still an excellent time, including clever puzzles, a beautiful set, and a lot of fun interactions within the ancient tomb! I definitely recommend giving it a shot. You can book your breakout from the tomb here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Escape in 60 provided comped tickets for our game.

Finders Seekers – Petra, Jordan (June Box Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players: We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Theme:

Each month, Finders Seekers invites you to accept a mysterious mission from the head seer. These “finds” are located in cities around the world and involve high stakes, cryptic puzzling, and shadowy societies! You’ll need a clever mind and some google-fu in order to piece together the puzzles and complete the find! And when you do, you might even receive a reward! This month, we travel to our most exotic city yet, Petra, Jordan via an invitation to prove our worthiness and uncover the secrets of the ancient city!

First Impressions:

I have previously completed Finders Seekers’ London and Washington, DC boxes, which were decent puzzle hunts, but didn’t really blow me away. The cities themselves were interesting, but nothing that stood out, and there was always at least one puzzle that just made no logical sense. I decided to give the subscription one more go before cancelling, however, and when I found out the next adventure would take place in Petra, I was already excited!

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Soap! Incense! They think we smell!

High Points:

The choice of city was already above and beyond the last two adventures we had received, and that was enough to captivate us from the start! Petra is an ancient city that we don’t really hear a lot about daily, so it was a blast to learn about while immersing ourselves in the puzzles! Like the London box, this one was fully non-linear, which is a much better setup than the fully linear Washington, DC experience, as when we were stumped with a puzzle, we could step back, let that simmer in our minds, and move to the next challenge. Several times, once we’d done that, we were able to come back to the previous riddle fresh, and successfully complete it. The props included are great, as are the puzzles and interactions that they are a part of, and each bit is excellently interwoven with the style and history of Petra. The adventure itself provides varied enigmas to work through, and as it is fully non-linear, everyone can remain immersed in the experience and take on the puzzles that play to their strengths. All in all, this box is what I was originally hoping for when I first discovered Finders Seekers. A well crafted puzzling adventure though an exotic and interesting city that includes fantastic surprises and immersive props!

Low Points:

The first thing about this box was both a great touch, and a terrible addition for certain puzzlers. The soap and incense that is included make the box smell amazing, and really adds to the authenticity of the experience. On the other hand, however, the scent was so strong, it triggered an allergic reaction in my girlfriend! Though she was ok and the reaction was mild, we had to put the soap away and ask for the answer from a member of the hint group on Facebook in order to solve that one. While there, we noticed that a lot of people were having this issue, so it’s definitely something to look out for! One particular puzzle involved quite a bit of tedious cutting, and a ridiculous amount of our solving time was dedicated to this mind-numbing task. A couple of perception puzzles included with this box don’t quite line up as one would expect, and even though we eventually deduced the answers, we still weren’t one hundred percent certain as to how parts of the answer could reasonably be derived. At some points during the meta puzzles, things can become confusing, as some words have been accidentally included multiple times within the puzzle.

Verdict:

Though the Petra box still includes some tedium and an illogical puzzle, the pros well outweigh the cons for this hunt! In fact, it was enough to ensure I wanted to continue my subscription for at least another month. This is the first Finders Seekers box I’d definitely recommend to anyone without caveats, (well, maybe one regarding soap,) and I look forward to trying out their Athens adventure soon! Order your next puzzle hunting adventure here! If you sign up through our link, we’ll earn credits towards a free box, and can bring you more content! They also provide a fun free Chicago mini hunt if you’d like to get a feel for their style of puzzles.

8/10 (Great)

Escape in 60 – Davy Jones Locker (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Down to the depths with ye!

Theme:

Blackbeard has attacked the Charlestowne coast, and as a crewman for the colonial navy, it is up to you to help your ship repel the barrage of cannonfire! Unfortunately, Blackbeard proved too much for you and the rest of the crew, and he has trapped in a sinking ship with no way out! Luckily, a previous crewman has left behind some puzzles to help you escape! Break out in an hour, or sink to the depths of Davy Jones Locker!

First Impressions:

Escape in 60 was the first ever escape room business I visited, years ago! I’ve always enjoyed going back, and there is a certain charm to the historic building that they are housed inside! On my most recent trip to visit family in Charleston, I decided to swing by to check out their only room I hadn’t experienced, Davy Jones Locker, and was also informed that they’d opened a new Egyptian Tomb room which we were invited to try as well! I was excited to see how the experience held up after 150+ rooms of experience!

High Points:

As a bit of background, even before I started doing live escape rooms, I started playing escape room games online as far back as 2000. This little hobby has endured and flourished over the past 18 years, and live escape games really blew my mind when I started this journey! One of my favorite things about Escape in 60 is that more than any other experience, their rooms capture the feeling of those early online escape games the best. Puzzle rooms with fun themes, interesting logic, and set pieces that open unexpectedly were the hallmark of those games, and they’re well exemplified here! Davy Jones Locker is Escape in 60’s easier game, geared more towards new players, but we still had a great time solving the riddles inside! The game flow moved well from point to point, and everything was explained in such a way as to preserve the mystery but not give away too much. Initial set design was well done, and made us feel as though we’d stepped into the hold of a rickety old ship. The room was more of an old school code and lock design, with a little extra technology here and there, but this didn’t detract from the experience, in fact, it was one of the better classic rooms I’d experienced! Game Mastery was excellently done, and as always, the customer service at Escape in 60 was amazing!

Low Points:

One puzzle involved a directional lock that had become a bit sticky, causing us to disregard the correct solution at first due to it not working a couple times, which caused a little more confusion than normal, but when we tried the code one last time, it worked. This is minor, though, and a new lock would easily fix this issue. One puzzle warranted a fair amount of explanation at the beginning, and though it was necessary, added a bit too much to the initial game master rules rundown, which could overwhelm new players. Luckily, as enthusiasts, we knew not to stick our fingers in the outlets and could focus on the new stuff! Finally, a few of the props had started to wear a bit, this being one of the older rooms on the lineup. However, we were informed that a overhaul was due for Davy Jones Locker, and this should be corrected soon! A small bit of outside knowledge was required with a particular puzzle, though the riddles involved weren’t overly taxing, but this could present a problem for some groups.

Verdict:

Although we escaped with over a half hour on the clock, we enjoyed every minute of our experience within the pirate ship! Enthusiasts might be better served by one of the more difficult rooms at Escape in 60, but beginners will really enjoy the challenge that Davy Jones Locker presents! A well tuned run of classic puzzles leading to a climactic escape is always a great introduction to the hobby. You can book your time escaping Blackbeard here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape in 60 provided comped tickets for our game.

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.