Gnome & Raven – Once Upon a Heist (Formerly, The Museum of Light and Shadows, Once Upon a Time) (Review)

Location: Richmond, VA

Players: 2-12 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person, every experience is Private, with a four person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Once upon a time…

Theme:

The Museum of Light and Shadows has been robbed! A mysterious raven and the most powerful magic wand in the land have disappeared, but no one was seen leaving the premises with these priceless relics. It’s very possible that the thief has stashed them inside the museum itself in order to create confusion and secret them away at just the right time. It’s up to you to find the missing items and restore the museum to it’s former glory!

First Impressions:

Gnome & Raven is Ravenchase’s newest family friendly experience, boasting the ability to not only entertain kids of all ages with their escape experiences, but also provide the space for a party replete with cake and all! Though we weren’t celebrating any particular occasion, other than being on another whirlwind escape adventure, we were excited to see what Ravenchase could do with this whimsical, family oriented theme!

High Points:

As is usual for a Ravenchase room, the Museum’s set is absolutely beautiful! Boasting a large table, ornate accoutrements, and fantastical props, The Museum of Light and Shadow is truly a sight to behold! The whole place is filled to the brim with elegant and whimsical items, befitting for a fairy tale museum. Though there is a lot to look at and use, there is very little clutter, and everything that seems important, usually is. The room itself would be mind blowingly magical for a group of kids set to celebrate a birthday, but challenging enough for a group of enthusiasts to enjoy. Gnome & Raven also provides a character actor for introduction to the room, as well as for game mastering, and though the actor doesn’t usually stay in the room, we were advised that they are available to for younger groups that might need a little more direction.

The game flow works well for the most part, with only a couple of spots where it stalled out. The museum itself is massive and packed with a fairly large amount of non-linear puzzles, which allowed our group to divide and conquer as necessary. The experience utilizes a fantastic mix of technical wizardry and mechanical lock based puzzles, instilling a sense of magic to the room, heightening the immersion within the mythical museum. All enigmas and interactions are themed well into the theme of the adventure, and most are introduced with a riddle that evokes the cadence of a childhood storybook, without being patronizing. The whole room struck a unique balance between family friendly and challenging, which is truly a feat on it’s own!

Low Points:

One particular part of the game advises against taking a certain course of action, which we later determined was supposed to be necessary in order to progress. This caused no end of confusion, and ended up stalling us for a good while as we put together a workaround that we were told was not the intended solution. The fact that we were told not to do something, then were given a punishment (albeit a small one, but there was no way to know that at the time,) for doing so is a poor way to design a interaction, and was frustrating to no end. Another puzzle was very unclear in it’s presentation, and could’ve used a bit more cluing to clean up the ambiguities inherent to the solution.

Verdict:

The Museum of Light and Shadow is a fantastic room to book for kids of all ages, and would be a wonderfully whimsical place to reserve for your child’s birthday! I one hundred percent wish that there had been something like this around when I was a kid; I imagine the adventure of finding your cake at the end of such an immersive experience would be stunning. Adults and enthusiasts can find a lot to like inside as well, as the usual Ravenchase challenge has not been dulled in favor of the theme. You can book your time in the fairy tale museum here!

7.5/10 (Good)

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