River City Escape Room  – Manhattan (Review)

By: Johnathan Byerly

Location: Richmond, VA

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Theme:

To grandmothers house we go! But wait, oh no, the ground rumbles and shakes, could it be thunder? For goodness sake! For it is 1940, and the Manhattan project awaits! Not all may make it out alive, what will be your fates? A bomb is dropping and safety you must find! Before the radiation leaves you all behind…

First Impressions

River City is a long-time favorite of ours, so returning felt comfortable. All new faces, but the same comfortable waiting room and staff. Plus all the Halloween candy we could eat! We were excited to try their newest room, having played all of their previous experiences when possible.

High Points

What a beautiful experience! The set design immediately makes you feel like you’re in grandma’s home, and there are lots of set and prop details that both put you in the location and the time. Props were durable and mostly intuitive to use.

The room is almost entirely linear, but the puzzles are designed well for group work, so not a lot of people crowding around a single item in a scramble of hands and thoughts to figure out a solution. The use of locks and tech felt natural, so this isn’t a room just covered in different types of locks for no apparent reason.

There are a few clever reveals that were both tactile and pleasantly unexpected, opening up the experience as we progressed through the puzzles.

Low Points

As beautiful as the set was, it was also easily the room’s largest pain point (literally). Including multiple levels in the standard office space of about 10 ft vertical made for a lot of stooping, bending, and accidentally banging your head. As someone just over 6ft tall, it was not a comfortable experience.

Take their warning of the room being physically active seriously. If anyone in your group couldn’t navigate the average child’s play space at a fast food restaurant or arcade, they’re not going to be able to fully participate. 

There is a transition between rooms that feels outright dangerous and a few of us didn’t feel comfortable using it more than the 1 time required to move to the next space. This room really needs another 3-5 feet of vertical space for comfort and safety. Lack of lighting in the second space amplifies this sense of danger, as well as makes some of the puzzles unnecessarily difficult.

It was also felt that a number of puzzles had been removed or deactivated. Perhaps the initial test runs had proven too difficult? Sadly, the room hasn’t been reconfigured to remove these elements and you’re left feeling like you’re skipping puzzles at some points.

Although the props were spot-on for their era and purpose, it was an odd mix of some that were used and some that weren’t, and not always with the best cluing between function and decoration. At least once we “solved” a puzzle in our first interaction with a prop, not fully understanding what it did. Also, the dreaded “black light for no reason” made a return, but this time with some added physical difficulty of locating the writing.

The biggest letdown was that the final puzzle didn’t have an automated ‘win’ declaration. You feel certain you’ve done the correct thing (and don’t know what else to do), but have an easy 30 seconds of dead air while the GM rushes to the room to manually trigger the last experience. It felt wildly out-of-place for a business with a history of well-hidden and immersive tech.

Verdict

We can’t recommend this room in its current state, especially with their Alice room being right next to it and easily one of our favorites. Save this one for the completionists and go for the other experiences first.

You can book your experience by clicking here.

4.5 out of 10

Full Disclosure: We received a media discount on our ticket purchases

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