Location: Richmond, VA
Players: 2-10 (We recommend 2-4)
Price: $25 per person, Private Sun-Thurs or any day with a 4 player/$100 minimum
Time to Escape: 60 minutes
Some secrets should remain buried.
From the Room Escape USA website:
Grandpa Earl has been drugged for the last 30 years by your parents who have been running an illegal medical clinic. He has since escaped, sobered up, and he is angry! He has kidnapped you and your cousins and we’re not sure what he has planned. Handcuffed in a darkroom with the temperature rising, you must escape before grandpa Earl returns!
The first thing that I should note is that this room utilizes handcuffs, but do not include a safety for removing the handcuffs. Recent events have proven that this is unacceptable, and while there is a way to remove what keeps you stuck in the room, this requires an extra step and still does not rid players of the cuffs should an emergency situation arise. I’m all for handcuffs for immersion, but there should always be some way to quickly rid yourself of them should an emergency arise. This issue, coupled with the fact that the initial room is pitch dark could become a recipe for tragedy should a crisis strike.
I really enjoyed one specific puzzle that, while we’ve seen one very much like it before, worked very well within the theme of the game. There were also a couple of surprises when we solved certain parts of the adventure.
As I’ve pointed out previously, there are some serious concerns about safety with this room, and while they aren’t the most egregious I’ve seen, they’re still an issue and can and should be easily corrected. Further, the handcuffs really do little to add to the experience overall, and provide only discomfort. Safety issues aside, the room just really isn’t that fun. The game starts in a pitch black room, with one dim light that fades in and out, and several tiny tea candles for players to use. The dark only serves to make the initial, severely banal puzzles somewhat more difficult, but in a way that only serves to frustrate players. The set is also very bare, and looks like a converted office space rather than a creepy basement and bedroom.
Beyond the set design, the hum-drum puzzles and choppy game flow continue to make the experience feel incredibly dated. None of the enigmas included within Family Secrets is very memorable, in stark contrast to the great run of interactions we found in Room Escape USA’s newest room, Rock Star. The initial room definitely would be uncomfortable with the maximum 10 players, and even if a group charged forward with this many, a lot of folks are going to be at a loss for anything to do in this slightly non-linear room. The puzzle that provided the most items to work on at any one time is a dreaded process puzzle, proving that sometimes, sitting around with nothing to do is preferable.
Family Secrets just feels like a game that’s far past its prime. With safety issues, a much too large player count, choppy game flow, and average at best puzzles, it’s high time for Family Secrets and Grandpa Earl to be put out to pasture. I don’t recommend this one, especially since the much more engaging Rock Star can be escaped at this venue, but should you wish to book yourself a kidnapping, you can do so here.
Full Disclosure: Room Escape USA provided media discounted tickets for this room.