Location: Washington, DC
Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-4)
Price: Varies, see here for details.
Time to Escape: 60 Minutes
Back to the 80s!
From the Insomnia Escape website:
Our newest room “The (sic) Dungeon Things” is inspired by our favorite books of Stephen King. Find your missing friend while fighting with the ancient evil living in the town… Great for kids and adults! A terrible thunderstorm caused a power outage and created a unique opportunity to go back in time, find the missing friend and investigate the mystical disappearance of kids that plagued a small sleepy town of Lindale for decades. You always knew that this town is not like other towns…
I love Stephen King, and Stranger Things, with its 80s themed D&D horror, is a great entry into the genre as well, so a mashup of the two seemed like an interesting way to set up an escape room. Though rooms that aren’t based on an existing property are usually more creative, I was intrigued to see how Dungeon Things panned out, as the glimpses I’d gotten of the room previously made it look pretty fun.
The set design of the room is well executed, and while it isn’t Hollywood level, it certainly gets the job done, evoking the design sensibilities of an 80s home. The game begins spookily, and one of the puzzles to start things off sets the tone well. There is a particular set piece in this game that is really cool, and though the game comes back to the well for this interaction a few times, it’s interesting enough that it does not feel like a repeat and remains fresh for the full run time of the experience. This, along with a few other technical moments within the game, creates a nice sense of supernatural magic and mystery to the journey. There were also some great sound design moments, one of which felt rather real and was paid off well, though it was a subtle addition. The climax, (or what we were able to experience of it, more on that below,) was great, ending with a cool teamwork interaction, though that instance would have benefitted from better cluing overall. The early game was good for larger teams, as it started with a non-linear run of puzzles, allowing us to divide and conquer.
As a huge fan of Stephen King, I can definitely say there’s a couple of nods to Stephen King in Dungeon Things, but the overall room is not really inspired that much by King, but does take heavy inspiration from Stranger Things. To the point that it starts to feel somewhat like a ripoff, which is a shame, as it feels like it could’ve been a cool idea without the need for previously existing properties. This aside, the climax of our game unfortunately sputtered out during what should’ve been a very cool moment due to a technical failure. Luckily, the owners were advised independently by our game master, and they were kind enough refund the cost of the room to us, which we appreciated. While the room is advertised for a maximum of 10 players, even with just five there were some major choke points during parts of the room that became linear, and there was a good bit of standing around for some of our players. As most of the linearity compounded upon itself as we ventured further into the room, this could only have been exacerbated had our group been double the size. As previously stated, there were a few good and subtle nods to Stephen King and Stranger Things, and when they were subtle, they were great, but when they weren’t it was far too on the nose, breaking the immersion. One particular puzzle involving a fusebox was not particularly well explained, and a bit more cluing would help smooth out this interaction.
Dungeon Things has some good ideas, but ultimately there were enough issues that it was only a little better than average. Ultimate tech failure aside, some tweaking to the overall game flow to remove choke points and clarify some logical leaps, as well as a bit of reworking of the story to make it its own thing, would go a long way towards creating a really great room. As of this writing, though, I’d recommend other rooms in the area first. You can book your time going back to the 80s here!
Full Disclosure: Insomnia Escape provided media discounted tickets for our game.
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