Rush Hour Escapes – Medieval Heist (Review)

Location: Fuquay-Varina, NC

Players: 2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $24 per person (Wed-Thurs) or $26 per person (Fri-Sat)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Ocean’s 1311

Theme:

The scheming crown prince has stolen the throne from his father; unceremoniously exiling him from his own kingdom! It is up to you and your fellow rogues to break into the castle, steal back the crown, and ensure that order is restored by returning it to the rightful king! Do it quickly, however! The new king is not known for his gentle dealings with spies.

First Impressions:

We were pleasantly surprised with the more detailed set design of Medieval Heist, as well as the readily apparent realization that the room was much less linear than The Inheritance. It was already obvious that there would be several tactile interactions to be had, with several creative looking puzzles beckoning us!

High Points:

The non linear threads wove around each other expertly throughout the experience, and came together at perfect points throughout. The sheer variety to be had in this room was a lot of fun, and allowed everyone to pitch in with their areas of expertise. Puzzles were interesting and thoughtful, leading up to many eureka moments. Story was light, but everything remained on theme, and many puzzles added to the immersion by being an integral part of the heist. Even though we still had 38:54 left on the clock when we completed the room, we felt as though we’d been puzzling for much longer, as the flow of the room was extraordinarily good. All members of our 5 person party were engaged throughout, and we experienced no boring dead time. The ending was appropriately climactic, and provided an excellent capstone to the adventure.

Low Points:

One instance of outside knowledge may frustrate some players. A couple parts of the set near the beginning did not feel quite as polished to fit within the medieval theme, but this was a minor issue.

Verdict:

Medieval Heist is a rare room in that it contains an amazing game flow that didn’t lull at all! Puzzles lead from one to the next in an intuitive way, and very little ambiguity is experienced during solving. The experience is great for beginners and enthusiasts, as the room contains a lot of interesting things to do, while still maintaining an excellent cohesion. The maximum of 10 may be far too many, especially during the early game, but 5 players felt just right for us. I highly recommend checking this room out! You can book your daring heist here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full disclosure: Rush Hour Escapes provided media discounted tickets for our group.

Rush Hour Escapes – The Inheritance (Review)

Location: Fuquay-Varina, NC

Players:  2-8 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $24 per person (Wed-Thurs) or $26 per person (Fri-Sat)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Show me the money!

Theme:

Grandma has been sent away to a nursing home by her greedy children, who’ve done so in the hopes of finding the cash she’s hidden away. Luckily, her late husband set up puzzles and traps to keep it safe for just this sort of situation! Unluckily, he never got the chance to tell grandma how they worked. She’s sent you to her home to pick up her medicine for her, and if you are able, find the money! If you can, it’s all yours.

First Impressions:

Rush Hour Escapes is part of the a new set of escape businesses that have been popping up in shopping centers, which is great for visibility, and an obvious evolution from older locations hidden away in business centers and warehouse districts. Easy to find, cleanly laid out, and a great advertisement for escape rooms by virtue of its visibility. Staff is personable, and very helpful!

High Points:

One particular puzzle was very tactile and enjoyable to put together, leading us through a fairly satisfying run of connections toward the solution. GMing was well done, and hints were given as needed when we needed a nudge forward. The soundtrack in the room was unobtrusive, but added a nice vibe to the experience overall. The theme itself is original and creative, and well out of the escape room norms. A few of the puzzles had a nice vibe that encouraged thinking outside of the box, and were innovatively done.

Low Points:

The room was vastly linear, and unfortunately not in a way that allows more than two people to work on a puzzle at a time. For the majority of the experience, it felt as though there was a lot of waiting around for at least 3 members of the team. Many puzzles felt overly ambiguous in their solutions, and on a couple of occasions, the solutions themselves were unsatisfying and caused us to groan. One large unintentional red herring caused us significant frustration, and the room at several points felt like it was meant to trick players, but not in an enjoyable way. Décor was appropriate for a grandma’s house, but did little to excite. The experience as a whole had few real standout points, feeling average at best.

Verdict:

The Inheritance is a room that feels more adversarial than most escape rooms I’ve been in. Though the theme is based on a booby trapped, hidden away inheritance, escape rooms should not be frustrating to experience. With a bit of fine tuning and clearer cluing, I feel like this room could be much better, but as of right now, it’s just run of the mill. Funnily enough, I feel like beginners will have an easier time with the room, due to red herrings seeming to be positioned to mix up enthusiasts, but don’t think this room would be a good introduction to escape rooms for a new player. Enthusiasts themselves will more than likely feel underwhelmed by the experience, and frustrated by unclear puzzling. Hopefully, further iteration can make this a more worthy experience, but based on our visit, I cannot recommend this one. If you’d like to book a search for the Inheritance, you can do so here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full disclosure: Rush Hour Escapes provided media discounted tickets for our group.

International Spy Museum – Operation Spy (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: Up to 15 (As an interactive theatre experience, any amount will do)

Price: Depends on your ticket package, see here.

Length of Mission: 60 minutes

No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

Theme:

Accepting your first mission with a shadowy government spy agency, you and your team are transported to Khandar for a mission filled with intrigue and betrayal! A possible political assassination, a stolen doomsday device, and shifting alliances are only a few problems you’ll have to deal with during your mission! Based on actual CIA case files, Operation Spy is promised to be an experience unlike any other!

First Impressions:

Going in, I knew Operation Spy was more of an interactive theatre experience than an escape room, even though it was built by the highly recommended 5Wits. We enjoyed the Spy Museum before embarking on our mission, and it is top notch, containing a huge James Bond exhibit with a lot of interactive exhibits and props from a whole range of movies to marvel at! Upon our arrival at the briefing point, we were introduced to each other and the world of Khadar before meeting our contact.

High Points:

Our contact kept the high energy pace going throughout the experience, and helped lead us from point to point during this interactive adventure. There were several points throughout that felt like an “escape room lite” especially a hectic and pulse quickening bit during the middle of the game, and the puzzles that were delivered were fun and responsive. The story is well crafted, and evolved throughout the experience, with parts of the narrative branching based on the group’s actions. Throughout the many different areas we moved through, transitions were smooth and convincing, and the theatrical sets were incredible. For each puzzling interaction, there was enough for each member of the group to work together with others, leaving very little downtime.

Low Points:

On the flip side, having a large amount of strangers to work with can be difficult. In an escape room, random teammates can be good or bad, but are usually a certain type of person who has fun solving real life, large scale puzzles. The nature of the Spy Museum ensured we encountered a few teammates who were just along for the ride, and couldn’t quite pull their weight for their sections. Those going in expecting a full escape room experience will be disappointed, and most puzzling will be fairly simple for those who are enthusiasts. The show itself runs at a fast pace, and we’d hit a great part of the experience, only to have to shuttle out long before we’d exhausted the fun we could have in each segment.

Verdict:

As an interactive theatre experience, Operation Spy is a great addition to a visit to the International Spy Museum. There’s no real need to visit if you’re only interested in an escape room, but as a live, interactive show, it’s great fun! It’s also a good breather during DC escape marathons, as the puzzling is light, and allows several points where you can catch a rest. I definitely recommend checking it out! You can book your mission here!

7.5/10 (Good)

The Escape Lounge – Escape the Oval Office (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 4-10 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

“Scandal”

Theme:

As a group of White House correspondents, you’ve gotten wind of a brewing scandal surrounding the President. The details are all nebulous right now, but you’ve found your way into the Oval Office, and have an hour to find out what’s going on so you can break the story once you escape!

First Impressions:

When entering the Escape Lounge, we were greeted by the upbeat owner and her well decorated lobby just up the stairs from the street. They were preparing for a birthday party, but were happy to stop and help us get briefed and ready for our room.

High Points:

The room itself was a decent facsimile of the Oval Office, and the centerpiece was quite convincing, it was, unfortunately, not oval, but building codes being what they are, we didn’t think much of it. Some unique props were to be found, and were satisfying to open. A few surprises were to be had, opening up parts of the room that seemed rather solid at first glance. The hint delivery system itself was cute.

Low Points:

So many escape room sins were committed here, and they built upon each other as we went, culminating in what may be the most disappointing conclusion to a room we’ve seen in a good while. The room had a CD player belting out overly loud, random music, which we were luckily able to turn down. A massive amount of double cluing ended up developing several dead ends along the way that only made sense once puzzles were solved. Some parts of the room had no bearing on anything, and were egregious red herrings. Many hiding spots were unintuitive and seemed to be placed for artificial difficulty rather than adding to the experience. A lot of the room felt as though it drifted off theme, and the over use of one particularly cliché prop exhausted us with its over implementation. The story didn’t build in a coherent way, and the climax fell completely flat. As a whole, the room felt like a random collection of average puzzles, glossed over with a political sheen.

Verdict:

Overly banal and haphazard, Escape the Oval Office is a disappointment. Our expectations of its theme remained unachieved, turning what could’ve been a story of puzzling political intrigue into a groanworthy flop. Enthusiasts will have seen it done much better before and beginners should steer clear. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, however, you can do so here.

3/10 (Poor)

Escape Quest – Black Widow (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Y’know, after the death of husband #3, you’d think she wouldn’t be so alluring…

Theme:

The Black Widow is a notorious alleged serial killer whose previous three husbands have all died under mysterious and violent circumstances. Her fourth husband has recently gone missing, and though the police have nothing so far, they’ve hired your group of private investigators to break into her home and find out what happened. Uncover the truth quickly, though, as you don’t want to get caught in her web!

First Impressions:

The Black Widow’s home is lovely, and eerie, with signs of her subtle madness hidden throughout the room. As always from Escape Quest, the attention to detail and production values are wonderful and immediately immersive. Rooms feel nothing like the usual converted office spaces, and help transport you into a new space while telling their stories.

High Points:

Along with the immersive and beautiful room, comes a slew of thought provoking puzzling. Each item leads from spot to spot, but in a subtle way, allowing for quite a few moments of revelation. While building toward the meta puzzle, new revelations are found, and each step is satisfying in it’s feedback when solved. All details of the room are woven into the puzzling, and finding small details or prop interactions were very enjoyable. The reveal near the end is exciting, and the climax feels appropriate and fun. One puzzle in particular is tactile and feels great when solving, but also helps build a creepier atmosphere once it has been completed.

Low Points:

We accidentally skipped one puzzle, which was optional, but became a sort of an unintentional red herring for us near the end. The solution for a couple puzzles felt a bit tenuous and in one case, we found that a certain puzzle was used twice in different ways, which was fairly unusual.  

Verdict:

Black Widow was our final room during our DC trip, and I couldn’t have asked more a more enjoyable experience for our capstone. This adventure left me wanting more, and I cannot wait to return to Escape Quest to see what they can cook up next. As with all of their rooms, I very much recommend you give them a try. Beginners and Enthusiasts will find something to enjoy here, and I would say that Escape Quest is the overall best company to visit in the DC area, definitely give them as shot if you’re in the area. Book your investigation into the Black Widow here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Quest – Captain’s Quarters (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players: 2-6 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

We’re bad guys, but we’re not THE bad guys!

Theme:

As a crew of privateers, you’ve been patrolling the high seas with your letter of marque, taking down enemies of The Crown and keeping a tidy bit of the spoils for yourselves. But your pirate past beckons when you find a rival Captain has commandeered a large chest of gold and jewels for himself. Under the cover of night, you sneak into his quarters with a trusted few in order to take the bounty for yourselves! But be quick, the Captain will return shortly, and he’ll be none too pleased to find you lurking about…

First Impressions:

We were told that Captain’s Quarters was one of Escape Quest’s earliest rooms, and though our GM thought we’d be less impressed by this room due to this, we were still wowed by the great production value of this room. There was an exciting soundtrack playing to spur us along, and though this was our 3rd room in a row here, we were energized and excited to continue escaping!

High Points:

Though this was a strictly linear, Generation 1 room that included limited tech and mostly lock inputs, it fit the theme and remained an enjoyable escape. The room itself was comfortable for our group of 4, and could easily fit the maximum of 6, which is rare for escape rooms, I find. Props were convincing and enjoyable to work with, and puzzles connected well from one to the next. One particular teamwork puzzle was a fun surprise, and searching through the room turned up some entertaining hidden compartments. One thing I very much enjoyed about Escape Quest, was that they took the standard after escape photo inside of the room, using props you’ve found throughout, turning the usual memento into something a bit more exciting.

Low Points:

Some players will be disappointed by the lack of technical items in the room, especially if they’ve recently played one of Escape Quest’s more technology heavy games. One entertaining teamwork puzzle was a bit more well hidden than felt necessary, but was fun once we’d found it. A couple props felt a bit off theme, but weren’t enough to break the immersion. Some puzzles I had seen before, and were, we were told, part of a prepurchased set, so there may be some repeats for Enthusiasts, though the puzzles were well done overall.

Verdict:

The Captain’s Quarters is a fun experience, but is probably best suited for those new to the Escape Room hobby. Beginners will enjoy this as a low-tech introduction to escape rooms, but Enthusiasts will escape quickly, and may have a few repeats in puzzles. I recommend trying this one out if you’re into the theme or are introducing new players to Escape Rooms, but if you’re more experienced, check out the excellent Black Widow, King’s Ransom, or Lost Temple rooms at Escape Quest, which are newer, and should be more challenging for you! Book your heist in the Captain’s Quarters here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

There was enough room for Jack on that door.

Theme:

As passengers on the Titanic, you’ve prepared for a trip of luxury and decadence aboard the world’s biggest and most unsinkable cruise-liner! However, midway through the trip, you feel a jolt, and when you look out your window, it seems the water is rising at an alarming rate! You’ve only a limited amount of time before you’re trapped in your stateroom, but the doors are locked and the emergency exits are malfunctioning. You’ll need to solve your predicament soon, or you’ll go down with the ship!

First Impressions:

After an amazing time in the Ghostbusters room, we had very high hopes for Titanic. Located in the same area, and decorated on the outside just as well, the experience seemed promising. After being assured that this would be an equal challenge to Ghostbusters, we were ready to escape!

High Points:

One early puzzle was fun to figure out, and required some interesting perspective and physical manipulation. Interactions in the room were mostly technical, and only required a few traditional locks and keys. Feedback when solving a puzzle was clear and consistent. While the room was competent, and worked reasonably well, it was banal.

Low Points:

Entering the room was not quite as exciting here, as the room itself felt much more sparse. Decorations and lighting was competently done, but were implemented in a way that didn’t give us the sense of excitement that Ghostbusters or Poeanormal Activity delivered. The room itself didn’t really feel like much of a stateroom, and was relatively empty overall, withlater parts of the game feeling as though they did not expand or add much to the experience. Multiple puzzles were exact repeats of others we had previously experienced, some even in DC, and the experience as a whole felt uninspired. Other puzzles that were original to the room weren’t very satisfying to solve, and in some cases, didn’t make much sense as part of the room. Do not touch stickers were more copious in this room than others at Escape Room Live, and that combined with several worn down props made the room feel less cohesive and well maintained.

Verdict:

Titanic, as an experience, feels overly plain. It is a fairly well decorated room, with some interesting technology, but nothing that we haven’t seen done before, and better. We left this one feeling overall underwhelmed with the experience, which was a downer after the amazing Ghostbusters room. Beginners will more than likely feel lost in the overall difficulty, while Enthusiasts will be unimpressed with the lack of variety. It’s not a bad room, generally, but it’s average at best, and there are much more impressive rooms in DC, one of which is mere feet away! I feel like the room would be a good first attempt elsewhere, but for the high budget nature and prestige of Escape Room Live, it doesn’t measure up. You can book your time on the HMS Titanic here!

5/10 (Mediocre)

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Ghostbusters (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Who ya gonna call?

Theme:

New York is under a supernatural attack, and the Ghostbusters phone is ringing off the hook, but they’re nowhere to be found! It’s up to you and the rest of the Ghostbusters new B-team to trap the spirits terrorizing the city and put them back into the containment unit before it’s too late!

First Impressions:

Escape Room Live Georgetown boasts an amazing lobby, with comfortable places to relax while waiting to begin your game, as well as a full bar and space that can be rented for parties. The artwork on the walls is a hilarious series of classic portraits redone with animals, my favorite being this Otter portrait!

The rooms themselves are under the lobby, and are housed in an excellently designed area with each exterior matching the theme inside. Ghostbusters being one of my favorite series, we had very high expectations.

High Points:

Ghostbusters did not disappoint. The theming of the room was on point, and the easter eggs peppered throughout were great callbacks to the original movies. The ghosts you catch and ghostbusting tools you interact with are true to the film and will be a great treat for fans. While a lot of Ghostbusters themeing is woven throughout the puzzles, no knowledge of the films is required, which is perfect. Our game master for this room was more than excellent, and provided engaging commentary as we progress through the room. Interactions throughout were unique and engaging, and the non linear nature of most of the room allowed our larger group to all stay busy puzzling. Ghostbusters is also a great challenge, and provides original brainteasers over a wide range of puzzle types. The room was so immersive, that even though we were only in for less than a half hour, we felt as though our experience was much longer! When we were told our (record breaking!) time, we could not believe it. We were left wanting more, but in a good way!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle had obviously been experiencing technical difficulties previous to our game, but the fix was handled well and in an immersive manner.

Verdict:

Ghostbusters is a fully immersive experience, and delivers an amazing time! Every inch of the room is excellently done, and the puzzling experience is the top for Washington DC. Beginners may want to experience a few rooms before attempting this one, as it was definitely a more difficult challenge, but enthusiasts will love the full package that Ghostbusters delivers! Book your time calming the mass hysteria here!

10/10 (Sublime)

Escape Artist DC – House of Pawns Episodes 2 & 3 (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 1-10 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? I don’t know, but I intend to find out.

Theme:

House of Pawns is an interesting series of escape rooms, in that they follow the evolving story of Senator Frederick O’Connor and the Asteroid Bill he champions. Part 2 focuses on a group of alternative energy activists searching for the ability to convert the asteroid’s natural properties into abundant fuel in order to help the bill pass, and Part 3 is about the murder of an esteemed scientist involved with many of the previous players in Part 2. It is a story full of intrigue and political maneuvering, and you’ll have to unravel the conspiracies in only 45 minutes!

First Impressions:

This was our first time doing a room that changed to reflect a new episode in the story, so we were interested in seeing how the room shifted between the two. The story briefing for these rooms were a bit heavier in exposition than Night at the Museum, and we were excited to see that special attention had been paid to crafting a narrative, which is always an excellent addition. We were led into the Senator’s office, and though the theme necessitated a fairly standard office scene, it was the mystery beneath that we were itching to uncover!

High Points:

Both experiences were adept at delivering an evolving story through puzzling and props. Not only did we need to escape the room, but we needed to put each piece together to further the narrative itself, which is much more engaging than your usual solution to lock situation. In both rooms, but especially Part 3, there are some interesting gadgets to play with, all of which are hand made and unique to the game. The puzzles themselves are perfectly logical and once the solution is found, it is obvious that you have determined the right answer; there is very little ambiguity at any point. Nothing feels out of place, and even the most unassuming prop can hold a hint to propel you forward. The attention to detail in these experiences was wonderful.

Low Points:

The office itself stays mostly the same in between episodes, so the set design, while convincing, is minimal. The logic of some puzzles, while understandable, could feel a bit too lofty at times, leading us to solve as much as possible before trying out remaining solutions.

Verdict:

The House of Pawns series is an exciting narrative based escape experience that builds immersion though storytelling and excellent, logic-based puzzling, rather than big budget set design. I felt well immersed in the story throughout, even more so than some other rooms which focus solely on Hollywood style sets at the expense of well-rounded puzzle design. A pleasantly different experience from the norm, I highly recommend checking these rooms out, and look forward to Episode 4! Book your time unraveling the political intrigue here!

8.5/10 (Great)

 

Escape Artist DC – Night at the Museum (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 1-12  (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Wanna black out and tear up some paintings?!

Theme:

As employees of a prestigious art museum, you’re gearing up for an unveiling of a brand new exhibit, the centerpiece of which is sure to bring patrons from all over the world! It’s the night before the big day, and you’ve decided to have a party at the museum after hours. Everything is going swimmingly, until the celebration gets a bit out of hand, and the priceless painting is ruined! You’ll need to fix it before the museum security locks down in one hour, or be fired, never to work in the art world again!

First Impressions:

Escape Artist DC has a great lobby filled with fantastic local art that we found  was created by the owner. The customer service is excellent, and we were greeted warmly by the staff and briefed on our upcoming room after a short chat. The briefing room was nice, and provided a video going over the story of the room, as well as a succinct rules rundown.

High Points:

Escape Artist DC is different from other rooms that I’ve done, and not just from those in the DC area. The puzzles provided tend to be a bit more cerebral in nature and require a different method of thinking than your usual escape room. Puzzles are a good mix of technical interactions and basic locks, and most are impressively hand crafted. Two levels of an interesting hint system were available, and were very well implemented; I understand that more iteration is being done to continue to refine this system. Puzzles felt highly original, and those that were familiar to us had a pleasant twist to them that we enjoyed.

Low Points:

There was one technical malfunction that held us up for a while in the early game, but was fixed quickly once it was recognized. One late game puzzle felt overly convoluted, and the method for solving was fairly unsatisfying to our group, but in the middle of solving, we circumvented the solution through an accidental method. Some instances of outside knowledge are present, but aren’t as egregious as some other instances have been.

Verdict:

With Night at the Museum, Escape Artist DC delivers a unique take on escape rooms, and challenges players to think outside the box even more than usual. There are a couple blemishes here and there, but overall, this was an enjoyable experience. Beginners may find it difficult to overcome the initial learning curve, but help is available at all times, and enthusiasts will enjoy the unique experience this room has to offer. Book your Night at the Museum here!

7/10 (Good)