Location: Charlotte, NC
Players: 2 (no more, no less. Players must also be 18+.)
Price: $26 per person
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
They’re not coffins, they’re pods!
From the Exit Strategy website:
CTRL Pharmaceuticals is looking for pairs of people to participate in a clinical trial. The drug being tested has shown great promise and might increase brain function by 1000%!
Exit Strategy had teased their new room as being a one of a kind experience in Charlotte and Side Effects, the area’s only two person only room, is absolutely a novel idea! Beginning your experience in two separate “isolation pods” is a great, and somewhat unnerving (in a good way!) idea. In fact, after completing so many rooms, this is the first one in a long time in which I had no idea what to expect. Either way, we were excited to see what awaited us at CTRL Pharmaceuticals as we were led to the testing facility.
No better feeling than dropping a chip in the win column!
Side Effects was certainly a novel, and experimental concept! To begin the game, we were led to a small, spa like room in which we were given a short briefing in character from a research assistant, and were then blindfolded. After this, we were led separately behind the curtain and laid down in our personal sensory deprivation pods. After a short briefing about the “drug” that would be administered, were directed to take off our blindfolds and begin the experience. The effects inside the pod were immersive, and the seemingly hallucinatory effects were a cool touch. The pods themselves were minimalist, with a spartan, yet effective design. You won’t be experiencing a set along the lines of Exit Strategy North’s Hollywood style rooms, but this does not mean the room isn’t fun. In fact, this adventure reminded me a lot of the design style utilized by Twisted, which employed a very similar design aesthetic, but remains one of my favorite experiences at this location. Be forewarned, however, that if your top priority is a flashy set, you won’t get that here.
However, there are loads of intuitive and engaging teamwork puzzles throughout the experience. One of the most difficult things to do when splitting up teams, or just a couple escapists, is ensuring that the puzzles engage both sides of the room, and that each room is properly interesting. All too often, I feel as though I’ve been struck with the “Curse of the Less Interesting Room” when escaping a room that splits teammates, and I’m happy to report that both pods for this game are equally entertaining, keeping both members of the party engaged throughout. The puzzles themselves all felt of a similar style, as they initially seem esoteric, but by communicating what we both had in our separate areas, we were able to piece things together naturally and come to an intuitive, and satisfying conclusion. Even the puzzle we needed a separate hint on, we thought was incredibly clever and would have been able to solve if we had just thought to check a certain item again. The game flow was smooth, and most puzzles could be solved in any order from the start, you just needed a perceptive eye and the ability to think outside the box while inside the boxes. Communication was one hundred percent the key to this room, as every puzzle required some form of teamwork every step of the way.
Yay monthly record!
The experience ended on a rather anticlimactic note, due to a couple issues. Firstly, the final puzzle was somewhat banal. It was carried out interestingly enough, but didn’t quite have the cool factor we have become accustomed to from the ultimate puzzle in an Exit Strategy room. Secondly, we were definitely not expecting the experience to end at this point. At this stage of the story, we very much thought that there would be more to discover, and perhaps we’d end up learning what had happened to cause our need to escape, but unfortunately, the game just ended. The experience also felt somewhat lighter on puzzles, but that may have just been because a lot of the game flow just clicked for us overall.
Side Effects was an incredibly fresh new idea from Exit Strategy, and while it isn’t without some small faults, we very much enjoyed the experience. I absolutely recommend giving it a go, but make sure that you’re not claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. The pods were roomy enough for us, but there is definitely not enough room to stand or move very far within. Absolutely be sure that your chosen teammate is someone you communicate well with also. Your success lives and dies with your ability to puzzle things out together! Sign up for CTRL Pharmaceutical’s new drug trials here!