Trapped! – Operation X-13 (Online Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  We recommend 2-4

Price: $59 for the first 2 connections, $15 for each additional connection

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

…we’ll do it live!


From the Trapped! website:

You have discovered the enigmatic Cybortek corporation has been developing a formula, known as secret formula X-13, which they plan on using to genetically engineer normal people into killing machines for mercenary groups around the globe. You have learned the secret formula is being stored in their headquarters before it is sent to their secret lab for manufacture. Can you sneak into their headquarters and steal the formula while there is still time?

First Impressions:

We were invited by our fellow reviewers at Escape the Roomers for this, our first full scale live online escape room! We had played a live online escape before with YouEscape and had an excellent time, so we couldn’t wait to see what an actual room would be like to play remotely.


Special thanks to Escape the Roomers for inviting us on this adventure!

High Points:

The singular greatest thing about Operation X-13 during our remote experience was, hands-down, our in room Game Master/Avatar, the “Recruit.” The game was a great time on it’s own, but the inclusion of so much personality and character from our GM truly made this room special. He added so much humor to the game, (following even our stupidest requests, up to and including, “parkour that chair!”) subtly delivered in room hints to us via what I started to refer to as “idling animations,” and truly felt as though he was a part of our team. Throughout the experience the Recruit was well integrated, bolstering the story, immersion, and interactivity greatly. Another fantastic thing about this remote experience was the streamlining of the searching elements within the game. While we are naturally horrible at finding things in a room live, we figured it would be even more difficult to uncover hidden objects via a Zoom call. Luckily, the Recruit was able to pull those items together for us naturally, allowing for us to enjoy the puzzling without an arduous pixel hunt. In a time sensitive game that could be made so much more complex by the online element, it was great to have this streamlining present in order to ensure things were only as complicated as they needed to be to present a fun challenge.


The game flow is fantastic, and while it can feel a bit linear due to the limitation of there only being one camera within the room, this is alleviated via the amazing inventory system, which includes 360 views of each room in the game, allowing players to digitally search for new puzzles and items to look at, even while other things are happening on camera. Puzzles are woven superbly into the world of the game, and everything makes logical sense, with no red herrings or leaps to be found. All reveals and satisfying moments of revelation are just as effective from the comfort of our home as they would be live, and that in itself is a triumph for the designers! Actions that would usually require physical, in game interaction have been streamlined as well; incorporated digitally to allow players the freedom to take these puzzles on individually. There are loads of surprises, and a few interactions we would never have guessed would show up in this sort of adventure, all of which culminate in an immersive experience beyond what we figured to be possible for an at home game. It is obvious that a lot of care has been taken to ensure that this isn’t just an experience hastily put together for an online platform, and every element of the game fits naturally within the remote experience.


Low Points:

There wasn’t much I could denote as a weak point during this experience. The only minor quibble we had was that the ending wasn’t quite as climactic as it could be, but short of actually being in the room, this experience delivered the feeling of being in an escape room fantastically.


Operation X-13 is an amazing experience for enthusiasts stuck at home, and I highly recommend checking it out! Boasting a fun story, well crafted puzzling, and a truly entertaining in room GM, I couldn’t have asked for a better first remote escape room experience! Book your time investigating Cybortek with the Recruit here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Trapped! provided our team with a complementary game.




The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Prison Break (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Not to be confused with the tv show we all forgot about.


From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Brutality, violence, an attempted prison break, death… or, in other words, just another day at Valley Falls’ most infamous correctional facility. In a place filled with criminals and guards who are just as vicious as the inmates they supervise, anyone could be a killer. The only question is who is responsible for the newest murder…and why did they do it?

First Impressions:

After the insanely creative themes that Deadbolt has put out lately, it was interesting to see that their next box would take place during a prison break. A fairly ubiquitous escape room theme, it didn’t seem quite as exciting as some of the amazingly outlandish ideas they’d used for previous cases, but they certainly didn’t take this time to rest on their laurels! Prison Break may seem like a fairly basic theme, but this box takes things to the next level!


Let’s all go to prison!

High Points:

Deadbolt continues to iterate, expanding on mechanics and introducing excellent new elements, and this box is no exception. First, there is an extra layer to this box, as some elements for the late game are hidden within an envelope that can only be opened once a certain part of the mystery has been reached. (Well, you could open it early, but what’s the fun in that?) This adds greatly to the immersion by allowing the story to flow between two separate stages, while expertly avoiding gating things off in a way that makes it feel like a choke point. The flow is completely smooth during the transition, and the reasons behind the shift are explained excellently during the story. Secondly, the usual suspect mechanic is upended beautifully, as there is no one suspect to focus on at any time, but rather a shifting set of players that can change at any moment, leading to some great plot twists to keep detectives on their toes!

The props provided are great, as usual, and include some opportunities for tactile puzzling, which I always enjoy! Everything fits thematically within the prison itself, and there are some fantastically creative ideas within this box. A favorite of mine included a little state hopping through a fantastic coded message, and most of the codes served up by Prison Break are brilliantly varied, allowing for a wide array of solving styles to shine. Though the experience is mostly linear, (which benefits the story, ensuring that it takes a natural track,) there were a few points at which there were multiple puzzles to solve, and we never reached any choke points that stymied progress unnecessarily. The mystery itself is a great challenge, but works intuitively, ensuring that while there are mind bending puzzles to solve throughout, the solutions never feel illogical or unfair, as connections are easily made once the subtle clues leading to them are uncovered. This box is absolutely dense with enigmas as well, and it feels even more chock full due to the exciting new blast of puzzles that appear once players reach the halfway point.

Low Points:

While the story was certainly interesting, the climax and epilogue wasn’t quite as exciting as some recent boxes. This is a somewhat minor point, as it’s still a good send off for the box, and is more a comment on just how awesome some of the recent climactic endings for Deadbolt have been. There are a couple points during the game where the text is very difficult to read due to the small size of the font. Mostly this is due to the amount of information being conveyed, but from time to time, it detracts from the experience.


Prison Break is a great take on a usually basic theme, expanding not only the “prison” genre of escape experiences, but the Deadbolt formula itself. I really enjoyed all the new mechanics and twists that were included within this box, and was pleasantly surprised by how excellent the experience was, as a whole. A great challenge for veteran solvers, but approachable for newcomers, this is definitely a great mystery to pick up! 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

The Conundrum Box – Emerald Isle (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box


From The Conundrum Box website:

The Great  Explorer Society’s resident Irish historian,  Dr. Ronan Gallagher has devoted the waning years of his life to the study of the fairy realm and the magical beings of Ireland.

His obsession came decades prior when his wife died of Influenza in the 1790s.  He heard the banshee’s call, and he dedicated his life to unlocking the mysteries of the unseen world, the realm of the fairies.  Ultimately, he believed that if he could capture a banshee, he would be able to reverse the death of his wife.  However, the banshee eluded him.  He became obsessed with Leprechauns, believing that they were the lowest level of fairy,  and therefore his gateway into the fairy realm.  He thought once there, he could finally capture a banshee and bring back his lost love. Nobody has seen Dr. Gallagher for months now, and you, the newest member of the Great Explorers Society, were sent on this meaningless errand… errr, special mission to find out where Dr. Gallagher is.  Most members of the GES believe that the old kook probably finally caught himself in one of his leprechaun traps and has met his end, others believe that he is held somewhere remote, and only steps away from finally achieving success.

Either way, he owes the society his dues, so go collect… errr, figure out what he is up to!   The last contact the society had with him was an empty dues collection envelope with a return address to his cottage in a remote village of Ireland.

First Impressions:

The Emerald Isle was definitely a hotly anticipated box for me, as I’m always interested in all things Celtic! Just off the heels of the fantastic Storyteller series, I could not wait to see what The Conundrum box had in store for us this time. This absolutely sounded like the most fantastic due collecting errand we’d ever been sent on!


There is a lot to do before this guy is gonna cough up his dues money.

High Points:

I was certainly excited about the theme, and The Conundrum Box delivered on the Celtic vibe in spades. With their extras page for every box, there are a few recipes and historical notes, along with what have been some very excellently curated Spotify playlists to build upon the immersive experience of the adventure. The Emerald Isle’s playlist is one I’d be happy to listen to at any time, and I really appreciate the effort the designers put forth to ensure the game is just that much more special. The story itself was a lot of fun, and tracking down our missing comrade through the realms of the fae, (for his dues, of course,) was appropriately exciting. I really enjoyed the inclusion of one particular character, whose trickery and general begrudging helpfulness was enjoyable to engage with. I still recommend a page reader for some of the longer sections of narrative, but the story included within this chapter of The Great Explorer’s Society is wonderfully woven, and probably my favorite of the lot.

The game flow worked well, with a difficulty curve that started with a few easier wins to get the ball rolling, culminating in some deviously clever and challenging puzzles as we made our way towards the climax! Though mostly linear in nature, there were usually at least a couple puzzles revealed during each stage of the game, allowing us to divide and conquer as we solved, or take a break from a particularly difficult conundrum. For the most part, it was clear what bits went together, and many of the enigmas come together intuitively to provide some great moments of revelation. A puzzle similar to one I really enjoyed from The Storyteller makes another appearance, but iterates on the design, expanding how it is solved and creating a great challenge that was hugely satisfying to unlock the secrets of. I also thought that a puzzle we used to “make a new friend,” as it were, was brilliant, using colorful, multilayered clues to find our new pal.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle is clearly very clever after having solved it, but the cluing can sometimes feel almost too subtle due to the overload of information from the time the clue is found, to the point it needs to be engaged with. Since several props need to be used multiple times, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,) and there is a lot of information to go through, (especially as more envelopes are opened,) clues appearing somewhat nearer to their relevancy might prevent the flow from becoming mired. The late game was definitely bogged down through the need to review everything, breaking the flow, and though the revelation of what we needed to do was satisfying, it was a slog to get to that point. We found one other puzzle had a small typo, causing a letter to be off, but it was still easy to identify what the code was meant to say otherwise. Overall, this box was fun to quest through, but it was missing a little bit of magic that was what made The Storyteller such an immediately gripping box. This may be due to the amount of paper handouts that are included with Emerald Isle, which are quite as tactile as the many props The Storyteller provided.


In all, the Emerald Isle is a good time, with a dense assortment of challenging, yet approachable puzzles, ensuring that Conundrum veterans and new players alike will be able to enjoy the fantastic story within. While the game flow tends to flag a little at the end, on the whole, I absolutely recommend checking this game out, as the clever puzzling and great storytelling are one hundred percent worth the price of admission! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

Sleuth Kings – Case 032: Two Ring Circus (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 🙂

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Are those… bells?


From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan’s office has been ransacked and one thing is clear – the Moretti crime family is behind the break-in. The thieves were after a diamond and found one – just not the one they wanted. Instead, they stole a wedding ring that once belonged to Sullivan’s late mother. Worse, before they could sell the ring, they managed to lose it. Can you help Sullivan race against the Moretti family to get his mother’s ring back?

First Impressions:

FYI, Though I’ve attempted to be vague, there may be some potential, unintended (but hopefully harmless) meta-spoilers. Read at your own risk. 🙂

While waiting for Brandon to set up the box and email Sullivan, I decided to take a quick skim of the “Investigation Report”. I immediately noticed “ring” and “keep this from Celeste” and became SUPER excited about the not-so-subtle implications! I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but do humbly propose to all Sullest fans: do this box ASAP as this is an ultra-important case! 😊


Brace yourselves, this is the most important case you’ll have solved to date!

High Points:

This was such a fun and light-hearted story! It’s pretty obvious that I particularly enjoy the Sullest boxes and am (perhaps unusually) very invested in their relationship, so it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite boxes of late.

Sleuth Kings is fantastic at story continuity as well as character consistency. It always gives us some chuckles to see Sullivan’s consistent character among the cases – in this case, his hilarious attempt at being mysterious, (for a detective, he’s not the best at keeping secrets – at least from us.) A seemingly small thing, but I was also happy to see that Celeste’s contribution to the case, (via her hint system,) was updated to reflect how she can still be involved while still being kept in the dark. I was also delighted to be instantly gratified with the epilogue for this case – and that’s all I’m going to say about that. ^_^

Also, it’s very amusing to me to think of the big bad crime family of the case figuring out how to code their secret messages into such family friendly material. We inadvertently guessed what the answer to the final solution of the case would be as a joke, and were pleased when that turned out to be right!

Storyline aside, the box itself was a fun and smooth experience. It was probably one of the fastest boxes we’ve solved. Overall, I really appreciated how the puzzles were set up. One puzzle in particular was structured in an extremely helpful way. When we first started solving it, I was concerned that there would be multiple possible answers, leading to a guess and check situation. However, I was happy to have worried for nothing!

The box was enhanced by its cute and well-designed props. In addition to being visually exciting, it also made it easy to find and link together props and clues. Even though some clues and solutions were exclusive to a single prop, they inter-wove with the other material as the puzzles built upon each other in pretty straightforward and linear fashion. It’s amazing how multi-purposeful everything can be.

Pondering Points:

We did end up bypassing one of the puzzle interactions by accident, and it was very clear to us that we missed something. After we solved the case, we used Celeste’s hint system to help us backtrack and figure out what was supposed to happen. It was certainly an interesting puzzle and subtle by nature. I’m not sure if this means the puzzle was hackable and/or the clues weren’t strong enough for us, (though honestly, we could’ve misinterpreted the puzzle/clues completely.) However, I suppose this can also be a good sign, (in a way,) in that clearly the solution makes sense! In retrospect, I do think we would have easily solved it the right way had we looked at the Clue Analysis or Celeste’s website though, and would highly recommend them if you’re stuck.

While we found the puzzles to be overall fairly easy, it’s very possible the clues to the final puzzle need to be stronger or contain more direct hints for newer players who don’t have a puzzling background, (I certainly would’ve never thought of it before playing these boxes with Brandon.) The method of solving this puzzle is likely either to be something you know or don’t know. Seasoned players may find the in-puzzle hints to be enough, but newer players may need to utilize the hint system more or possibly do some internet searching.


This box is one of my personal Sleuth Kings favorites, and I would highly recommend it. I think it’s a great introduction to puzzling for newer players, and would also be a fun adventure for veteran sleuths. I’m also super stoked to see what’s next for Sullest! 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!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

YouEscape – Magnum Opus (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  We recommend 2-5

Price: $30 per team

Time to Escape: 60 minutes.

Escaping together even while apart!


From the YouEscape website:

The greatest alchemist of all time has mysteriously vanished. It rests upon you, his loyal apprentice, to discover the reason behind his disappearance. Your alchemy guild allows you to access his rooms for 60 minutes, before sealing them completely to prevent the misuse of his secrets.

First Impressions:

At the time of this writing, the world is currently in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and many of us are still in lockdown. YouEscape seemed like the perfect remedy for our current situation, providing a live puzzle experience via the magic of Google Hangouts. As we had not been on one of our escape room marathons with our regular team, Keyed Up! in over three months, we were excited to get the band back together for a puzzling adventure!


We had a live screenshot, but it unfortunately did not survive the computer shutting itself down. Thanks Windows!

High Points:

I can say with certainty that YouEscape does a fantastic job bringing escape rooms directly to you in the comfort of your own home. I’m sure all of us have been feeling isolated during this pandemic, and the ability to see friends and puzzle through an adventure like this with them in real time was wonderful, especially knowing we may not be able to get a new escape marathon together for a while yet. YouEscape’s format is unlike anything we’d seen before, but does an excellent job of mixing together an online puzzle experience with the feel of an escape room. Our GM, Jared, sent along a Google Hangouts call, and once we had all connected, he went over the rules with us via a concise, but informative introduction. We were given a link to a google drive that would contain pieces of the puzzles, and were also informed that we would use anything we could see on his screen to work our way through a series of locked boxes and ultimately unlock the Alchemist’s greatest secret! Jared was an amazing GM, and worked brilliantly with our group to ensure we had an excellent time.

The game flow is very linear, but works well within the format and conceit of the game, ensuring there isn’t too much visual overload while still allowing players to discover all the secrets of the game for themselves. (Even those players, like ourselves, who are still absolutely horrible at finding hidden objects when there are only like, three to five things on screen. We wear the cone of shame.) The difficulty curve is very smooth, starting off the game with a fairly simple win to get players used to the format and jump start the experience, and slowly ramps up towards the final, multilayered conundrum that had us really thinking to unlock that final box! At no point did anything feel frustrating, and moments of revelation were just a few logical steps away. Puzzles ensured that we needed to work as a team, especially during the latter stages of the game, when it truly took all of us working together to crack the final locks. My favorite puzzles involved some cool interactions that played with perspective, as well as a couple of puzzles that, had they been set up in a normal escape room, would usually be solo endeavors, but had been expanded to allow for a more team focused interaction. Everything included within the “room” is important, and all props are used effectively to deliver a great run of puzzles throughout the game’s run time.

Low Points:

There is one specific interaction that doesn’t quite have an on screen “clue,” and though it does make sense on the back end, it would be nice to have a subtle marker on screen to denote that the action that needs to be taken is available. It was still a very clever puzzle, however, I felt there could have been more of a visual representation in order to ensure players know that this is an option. The set is also very basic, so those looking for something flashy may be disappointed. We thought everything was used effectively however, and in the overall scheme of things, this is a minor detail. The story itself is a good framing device, but generally is fairly basic and feels secondary to the puzzling, which we don’t necessarily mind, but a well integrated storyline would elevate the game even higher.


YouEscape is the perfect antidote for lockdown boredom, and is a brilliant way to get together with your favorite group of escapists for an escape! Using everyday props to deliver an exciting, smoothly produced and excellently designed game experience, I heartily recommend giving YouEscape a shot, and cannot wait to try out another of their adventures. Book your time with YouEscape here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: YouEscape provided our team with a complementary game.