The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Collector (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Hello detective. I want to play a game.

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When someone doesn’t pay their mini storage bill, the unit is eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder. Retired detective Arthur Dukes just purchased one of these mini storage units in hopes of reselling the contents for a profit. Art was hoping for a big score, but was disappointed to find that he’d won a virtually empty storage unit aside from a single box. However, after opening the box and seeing some of the contents his heart began to race and his palms became sweaty. Instantly, memories from his career with the Valley Falls Police Department flashed before his eyes and he was taken back to the times of tracking down some of the city’s most notorious serial killers. It now appears that a new evil has awoken in Valley Falls.

First Impressions:

After the announcement of The Collector as November’s Deadbolt Mystery Society box on their facebook page, I was filled with anticipation for this particular mystery! Though I’m personally a bigger fan of the supernatural enigmas Deadbolt has produced, this particular serial killer seemed to be a cut above the others that we’ve chased down. This one was actively taunting whoever found their secret hideaway, and the almost Holmes vs. Moriarty set up was super intriguing. When this box arrived, we couldn’t wait to begin hunting down this deranged killer!

High Points:

The search for The Collector’s latest victims starts off with a bang, and the adrenaline of solving is maintained throughout the adventure. I really love the set up, the desperate chase, and the astounding climax, which really does deliver some great story points and implications for further confrontations with the seedy underworld of Valley Falls. Each solved puzzle presents marked progress, and allows for more story to be uncovered, ensuring the mystery remains satisfying from start to finish. The Collector themselves is a tricky adversary, and their machinations and taunting reminds me of the great Holmesian villain Moriarty in more ways than one. As their motives and methods are further expounded on, the entire ordeal becomes ever more sinister, lending an impetus to work quickly, before they can strike again. The Collector definitely presents it’s enigmas as a clash of minds, and is all the more immersive for it!

Beyond the fantastically enjoyable story and devious villain, the puzzles included with the box are gloriously dense, layered, and clever. We really loved working through this one, and as we moved from point to point, the connections, while subtle, fell into place intuitively. Once we had put together the pieces of The Collector’s clues and plans, the game flow rolled along at a smooth pace. Per usual, the set up is very non-linear, allowing for players to approach the investigation in whatever way they see fit, and when one puzzle becomes too confounding, there’s always something else to work on until the light bulb goes off. And when it does, it is always enormously satisfying. The clues and props are presented wonderfully, and everything fits within the theme. While there are many QR codes to work through, none feel extraneous, and those that require passwords and those that do not are well presented in a superbly natural way. One of my favorite things about this box is it’s ability to present players with clues that are hidden right out in the open, waiting for detectives to finally make the connection and receive their reward for solving!

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The search for The Collector is on! And it begins… with a cute cat wearing sunglasses!

Low Points:

While not necessarily a hard and fast low point, it should be noted that some of the clues here even more subtle than usual, which could trip up folks less well versed in picking up said clues. We tended not to have this problem, save for one particular clue that completely flew over our heads (combined with a solve that we didn’t use for a good while, totally our fault for being so shamelessly disorganized,) so those who are easily frustrated might want to try a different box before tackling this one, which can be somewhat more challenging due to this particular facet of the investigation. One small bit of advice for potential detectives, don’t overthink, a lot of issues can easily be solved that way.

Verdict:

The Collector is another astoundingly good mystery from The Deadbolt Mystery Society! The implications of the story and the possibility for further exploration into the underworld that is presented by this box have me absolutely ready for the next stage of this investigation! I absolutely recommend checking this one out, especially to those who enjoy true crime and all the mad thrills that come with such a who done it! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.

Can You Rob the Bank? – Alien Blood Bank Robbery (Review)

Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes to us from Texas correspondent, Cathy Nanni! Thanks Cathy for another great review!

Players:  Up to 10 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28.00 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

I Just Took A DNA Test, Turns Out I’m 100% That Alien!

Theme

Eddie, the human loving alien, has had it! He’s tired of his alien superiors taking and experimenting on the DNA of humans. With his help, you must break into the Alien Advancement Laboratory and steal back your DNA.

First Impressions:

After boasting about the great experience I had at Can You Rob the Bank? to my girl friends, we decided to head there for our monthly Moms’ Night Out. The owner, Jill, was once again very easy to work with in booking our room. Her employees were very helpful in getting us signed in and we were even able to start the room early. We were also given costumes to wear to play the parts of humans pretending to be aliens. I love any excuse to wear a costume! Also, as a plus size woman, I appreciated that they had lab coats in a large variety of sizes.

High Points:

When we stepped into the room, we immediately felt as if we were in a space age laboratory. Everything from the white walls to the reflective ceiling tiles fit the alien blood bank theme perfectly. One of my favorite parts of the room was Eddie our “alien on the inside”. He has a very quirky personality a his character shines through via the clues to the puzzles. Eddie is very passionate about something that adds a really fun twist to the room; I promised I wouldn’t spoil it, but I will say it is an addition that adds so much whimsy to the room, differentiating itself from your typical alien spaceship escape room. I really felt like it was very important to the designers that the story was integrated well into the puzzles and props for this room, and it absolutely shows throughout the experience. You have engaging scientific equipment to investigate, including a giant microscope, as well as nods to Eddie’s janitorial career such as his locker and cleaning supplies. There is an enormous variety of puzzles in the room that are sure to excite players new to the hobby as well as enthusiasts. Even though it is a sci-fi themed room, there is a good mix of tech and non-tech puzzles. All of the technically based puzzles worked flawlessly which I know is something enthusiasts will appreciate!

Can You Rob the Bank? does an impressive job of scaffolding their puzzles. They start players off with easier puzzles to build confidence before hitting you with so more challenging ones that take a little more time to figure out. As an educator, I do this with my students as well, helping them feel successful so their confidence is raised when things get a little more challenging. This confidence boost and smooth difficulty curve ensures that when the going gets tough, things stay fun, and it takes them longer to reach their frustration level. This really communicates to me that Can You Rob the Bank? understands that this hobby is meant to be challenging but fun.

Low Points:

If you are color blind, this is not the room for  you. There were at least four color based puzzles in the room, one of which involved varying shades that became quite challenging due to the mood lighting in the room. There is also one puzzle that caused us to miss a clue that would be needed in a later puzzle because it was too easy to just guess the answer.

Verdict:

With a challenging, yet entertaining room that boasts a wide variety of excellent puzzles, Can You Rob the Bank? presents another amazing room! If you’re looking for a really entertaining twist on an alien themed room, definitely check out the Alien Blood Bank here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Can You Rob the Bank offered a discount and private room to our group.

 

Escape Room Fairfax – The Frightful Feast (Review)

Location: Fairfax, VA

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

They did the mash… they did the Monster Mash!

Theme:

From the Escape Room Fairfax website:

You and your teammates wake up in a poorly lit cell and can’t quite remember how you got there. As you come to your senses, you can just make out three monstrous voices planning a party. It seems they’ve decided to have you over for dinner…in a manner of speaking. The ghastly group has left you unattended for just one hour to attend to the last details of their frightful feast, giving you just sixty minutes to avoid becoming tonight’s main course.Can you escape this disastrous dinner before the next course? Only time will tell. Good Luck.

First Impressions:

Escape Room Fairfax has a sprawling complex, housing a huge amount of rooms, and requiring marathoners to bop between various areas of the complex the games are housed in. It was impressive how many rooms they had, and navigating our way between them was made interesting via the directions presented in an escape-roomy way. After solving the puzzle of how to find our rooms, we were interested to see how excellent the actual games would be!

High Points:

The Frightful Feast is just the right amount of spooky and cute for families and those seeking a game more akin to the works of R.L. Stine than Stephen King. With some goofier and sometime cuddly monsters about, and a storyline that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s the perfect Halloween experience for those who prefer a bit of light spoopyness. There are a good bit of beginner friendly puzzles that will introduce a fair few escape room tropes, making this a good room for first-timers to get a taste of the basic workings of the genre. Further, the game flow is very non-linear, with several separate threads to prevent any unnecessary downtime. A few of the puzzles are very clever, with a good bit of humor mixed between the puzzling and light frights. The story is fun, starting out a little spooky and leading up to a silly, yet satisfying climax that ties everything together at the end. Sound effects, surprising delivery of key items, and some interesting lighting keeps the room in theme, as an obviously haunted house of yore. Overall the room is solid, not bad, but never quite inventive enough to rise above that basic competency.

Low Points:

There are a lot of old school “noticing” puzzles that, for veteran players, may feel like old hat, and some are a bit too directionless for our tastes. A couple of puzzles feel completely out of theme, and while one of them is an old favorite of mine that I enjoyed solving, I couldn’t quite justify why it was included within the room, other than “because escape room.” As one of Escape Room Fairfax’s older rooms, it is definitely a lot more basic overall, in terms of set design and puzzling, and while it is certainly a solid adventure, it isn’t going to blow your mind. There are a few red herrings here and there, nothing that can’t be overcome with a little logic, but seems to leave threads hanging that could otherwise be tightened up. A few of the props around the room have started to show some serious wear and tear, and some of the… gooier, we’ll say, items could bear replacing.

Verdict:

The Frightful Feast would be a fun room for families and those looking for a cute spooky jaunt without much in the way of scares. There’s nothing too world changing for enthusiasts, but is good for an hour’s fun. The room itself certainly left us satisfied with the experience, but I’d recommend trying out the newer 2233: Fighting for the Future or 1960: History of the Future rooms for those seeking a more updated challenge. Book your time escaping the dinner bell here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: Escape Room Fairfax provided media discounted tickets for this room.

 

Sleuth Kings – Case 026: Sparky (Review)

Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes from my wife Kara, who has been on a roll with reviews lately! Thank you, Kara!

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Mascots are creepy.

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Celest St. Claire never expected that she’d be targeted by a dangerous stalker dressed as a giant mascot. Little is known about the stalker other than the fact that they’ve put multiple people in the hospital. With only three days to play their game and meet them face-to-face, Celest needs your help before she becomes their next victim. Can you help Celest and Sullivan find the stalker and put an end to their masked mayhem before it’s too late?

First Impressions:

Okay, so I have been low-key shipping Sullest St. King (Celevan St. Clair?!? Eh, I’m working on it!) since the beginning and ~spoiler alert~ WE FINALLY HAVE OFFICIAL CONCRETE EVIDENCE THAT THEY’RE ON THE SAME PAGE AND ARE AN OFFICIAL COUPLE. SULLIVAN HAS FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH EVERYONE ELSE ON THIS: CELEST, PSYCHO KILLERS (remember the Cupid Killer?) – EVERYONE!

Needless to say, I was excited to do another box that involved the both of them. It’s been months! Unfortunately, Celest has once again become tangled up in some creepy guy’s sights. And stalkers are never something to be taken lightly. But, I have full confidence in the power of love! And our ability to solve puzzles. Love and puzzles!

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High Points:

One great effect of the Sleuth Kings’ design is that you are instantly immersed into the story. This box was no different, and the invitations from both Sullivan and Celest made me feel like I was a valuable member of the team.

In fact, Sleuth Kings always does a great job in building characters and giving them clear, consistent voices. Be it the main/reoccurring protagonists, such as Sullivan and Celest, the side characters that pop up every so often, or the antagonists that are only there for that one box. Here, Sleuth Kings builds a deluded and egotistical stalker who is definitely disconcerting. Without giving too much away, Sleuth Kings adds some nice touches to the story that keeps Sparky’s character consistent and believable. Additionally, I was very happy with the ending, which ends on a cliff hanger that’s (thankfully) readily resolved with the epilogue, which really captures the spirits of our favorite Sleuth couple and their partnership with one another.

I always enjoy the visual nature of the Sleuth Kings boxes and how well the details reflect the theme. I imagine that in Sparky’s mind, the messages he sends Celest are meant to be cute, but they, of course, end up being as twisted as the pictorial clues he chooses. Each interaction is meaningful, well-themed, and satisfying to solve. There was a lot of connectivity among the puzzles, which were pretty intuitive to figure out once you have the right pieces. Also, one type of process puzzle that I usually do not prefer was pretty seamless in this box, which was a relief to me!

Low Points:

I don’t have any clear cons for this box. We did put one of the end puzzles together successfully, and were surprised when we only were able to decode 60% of it. However, it wasn’t too long before we realized what we were (admittedly quite obviously) overlooking. This is definitely more on us, but – just putting it out there – perhaps there is a purrrfect clue at the beginning that could be used in a similar fashion here to help players like us. 😊

Verdict:

I am always excited to find out more about Sullest (and of course, do some puzzling!), and this box did not disappoint! It’s always a pleasure when Celest is a more active character, and I look forward to seeing her again! You can purchase this and other previous cases from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Escape Room Arlington – Secret in the Attic (Review)

Location: Arlington, VA

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Spill that tea!

Theme:

From the Escape Room Arlington website:

Everyone loves your Grandmother, including you. Baking cookies, knitting sweaters, and everything else on the good Grandmother checklist. But you’ve always felt that there was something off about her, she always seemed to have lived a life more adventurous than the stories told of her youth. After she retired and moved away, you took it upon yourself to find out her secret. What was your sweet old Grandma hiding in the attic? The answer may change your life forever.

First Impressions:

After escaping the harrowing, yet enormously cool Mind Trap, it was time for us to embark on a somewhat more light hearted adventure. While the theme could certainly make room for some dark revelations, (and of course after escaping a serial killer, we couldn’t help but wonder,) but Escape Room Arlington’s website assured us this was a family friendly, wholesome adventure. While we were the slightest bit disappointed grandma didn’t have literal skeletons in her closet, we were excited to see what the big revelation would be!

High Points:

Our first steps into the room was astounding, as grandma’s house truly felt like the home of a grandmother, minus the distinct scent of mothballs. Antiques, a strangely familiar late 60’s couch, and the ubiquitous touches of the home of an elderly lady were all well incorporated into the room, and it brought back memories of spending time with grandma when I was a child. The set design here is brilliant, and though we’ve done grandma themed rooms before none were quite as marvelously decorated or nostalgic as this one! The design of the room also pays off the promise of a secret attic in a literal way, leading us up some winding stairs into the titular room, which added to the excellent immersion. The room itself is completely non-linear throughout, and the open space of grandma’s house truly ensures that the maximum eight players will not only be able to spread out comfortably, but always remain engaged with the game flow as well.

Speaking of game flow, it was amazing to me just how much there was to do within the room. Though we flew through the room, it always felt like each of us were interacting with a puzzle or working through the connections from start to finish, and our engagement with the room ensured that though we were making our way through at a good clip, it did not seem like it. In fact, it was surprising to us when we were almost done with the room and saw that we still had quite a bit of time to finish, we were that lost within the game’s immersion! The solves were very satisfying, and though the room was one of Escape Room Arlington’s easier challenges, we still had to work for our escape. The connections made were intuitive, but it took a good bit of brainpower and collaboration to crack the various codes. By the time we reached the excellent climax, we were jazzed and ready for more.

Low Points:

There is one point we got hung up on due to a small, unintentional red herring that directed us away from the proper solution. It wasn’t egregious, but the inclusion was strange as it was simply there with no particular purpose. Another puzzle relies on searching a rather large area, so outside knowledge becomes very helpful, though not strictly required. The item used to derive the code for this puzzle was also a little finicky, leading us to need to guess and check at one point. Veterans are gonna bust out of this one very quickly. As noted, it didn’t feel like we escaped in under twenty minutes, but we did. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but folks looking for a challenge should bring a small team or try out one of Arlington’s more difficult rooms, like Glitch. That being said, we really enjoyed this room overall.

Verdict:

Secret in the Attic is an excellent game that mixes tactile props, clever and hugely inventive puzzles, and a light hearted and wholesome storyline that families and new players will love. This would be an awesome way to start a new players escape room obsession, and though this room is easier, a small group of enthusiasts should not miss out on the beautiful set and satisfying puzzles within. I recommend giving this one a shot, and savoring your time searching for the Secret of the Attic! You can book your time in grandma’s house here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape Room Arlington provided media discounted tickets for this room.