No Da Escapes – Dracula’s Lair (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-3)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

I’m being strong, and not going for the low hanging fruit on this one.

Theme:

From the No Da Escapes website:

The long history of Dracula has burdened a small town in Romania for centuries. Time and time again, people have tried to slay him and have been unsuccessful. You and your team of vampire hunters have been given a slim chance of success by none other than Van Helsing himself. Can you help the small town in Romania finally finish the long blood feud or shall you perish like the ones before you?

First Impressions:

No Da Escapes has a couple of interesting concepts on their website, including a room that takes place underground, so we were definitely interested to see how well they executed these grand ideas! Dracula’s Lair was also set to be my fiancée’s 100th room, so I was hoping it’d be a great one to celebrate this milestone!

High Points:

The room has an interesting idea for the climax, which ultimately falls flat, but if it were iterated on, I think it would be a cool ending. The fact that I have to jump immediately to the end in order to think of a high point is definitely telling. I suppose one prop we used at the start was interesting, from a design standpoint, but that was the first and last clever puzzle we encountered here.

Low Points:

Everything about the experience felt like an alpha test. So much of the room gave the impression that it was unfinished; very much in the early stages of the design. To start, we were in a dark room, with the maximum six players, and were given one flashlight total. The set was incredibly sparse, and there was even a large leak in the ceiling that apparently had been there for a while. The room was dirty, (and not in a set design “dirty” way,) and cobbled together with several random props which all, save for one, were pretty low rent. The immersion factor was severely absent via the room’s décor. Puzzles and game flow were also scant, with only a few highly linear puzzles mostly presented via paper clues. There was also one clue hidden within a mostly blank journal, which seemed a huge waste of a prop.

A couple of the puzzles were half baked, with built in logical leaps that made little sense, and clues that just vaguely hinted at the answer. One such puzzle even presented several numbers that had to be input randomly until they clicked; there was no in game way to figure out the order properly. Not helping matters was a random jump scare that didn’t even feel like it belonged, triggering for the sake of being there. Instead of causing us to jump, it was just a loud annoyance that added little to the experience. The ending was an interesting idea, but the way the idea was delivered fell completely flat, wrapping up the experience completely anticlimactically. All in all, the set, and gameplay, are much too minimal to entertain a group of three, much less a full complement of six players.

Verdict:

Dracula’s Lair just isn’t worthy of the legendary vampire. There is one or two interesting ideas, but the room is already in disrepair, and there really isn’t much here to salvage. It would take a large overhaul to become recommendable, and at that point, it’d be a whole new room. Not the worst in the area, but it ventures pretty close. I would advise skipping it, but if you want to satisfy your curiosity, you can do so here.

2/10 (Bad)

Full Disclosure: No Da Escapes provided our group with Media Discounted tickets.

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