Escape Room Herndon – Maritime Mutiny (Review)

Location: Herndon, VA

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Here there be py’rates!

Theme:

From the Escape Room Herndon Website:

The pirate captain Ravensbeard has been cheating you and the crew out of your rightful share of plunder! Now that hornswoggling scoundrel has barricaded himself in his quarters. You and your mates must break in to reclaim what be rightfully yours and send that scurvy dog to Davey Jones’ Locker. If you’re crafty enough, mayhaps you’ll even commandeer the whole galleon. All hands on deck!

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First Impressions:

Most of the Keyed Up! A-team love a good pirate theme. While they’re fairly ubiquitous, especially over on the east coast, our main stomping grounds, we still have a soft spot in our hearts for them. Knowing Ravenchase rooms’ proclivities for great sets and interestingly engineered puzzles, we were excited to see what sort of high seas mischief we’d be getting into!

Mutiny

High Points:

Maritime Mutiny is housed within yet another beautiful set from Escape Room Herndon, who does an amazing job with their designs. The set reminded me of the astounding Lost Jewel of the James from sister company Escape Room RVA, with a more streamlined and easier to traverse set. Every technical item has been hidden away well, and the room itself has been artistically created to evoke a high level of immersion. Lighting and sound design add to the experience greatly as well, and I always appreciate a good ambient sound track that ensures players feel as though they’re within a living world rather than a converted office space.

The game flow itself works fantastically, with a bevy of well clued puzzles that will cater to an array of puzzlers. Each prop within the room feels important, and the intuitive nature of the enigmas within Ravensbeard’s pirate ship ensure that everyone will be completely engaged with the adventure at all times. The signposting is subtle, and presents an almost invisible road map for players that keeps the game challenging while ensuring that there are no red herrings to drive them off track. This is a very tactile game, and when the set opens up to present its secrets due to an action taken in the room, it’s a very satisfying. Progress is well marked during the game, and it never feels like the game is dragging at any point.

Maritime Mutiny is a special game in that the advertised difficulty is a 5/10, unless players opt for the bonus puzzles, in which the game becomes a 10/10. The decision to take these puzzles on is made after escaping the initial room, so no need to worry about if there’s time (or mental energy,) until the option presents itself. This is an awesome way to ensure folks who tend to fly through easier rooms still get their full 60 minutes with the game. I also love that solving these puzzles grants a better climax to the room, as hinted at in the room description. Our team definitely felt the pressure as these were some devious challenges, but know that the reward for solving these optional puzzles is absolutely worth it!

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Low Points:

While the bonus puzzles are a great addition for seasoned players, they were more puzzle hunt style than most are used to seeing in an escape room. I personally am not the biggest fan of this style of puzzle, which tend to feel overly vague and logically unsound. However, most of the puzzles presented are well implemented and they are, of course, optional, so it’s a small matter of mostly personal preference as to whether you’ll enjoy the bonus. Overall, we did, but I can certainly see where they would become frustrating. The initial set of puzzles are definitely some of the easier ones, so escape room veterans looking for a challenge will have to wait for the bonus puzzles. Overall, the dichotomy of the room is best for new players who don’t mind missing out on the bonus and better climax, or hardened escape enthusiasts looking for a bigger challenge, but not as much for those in between experience levels.

Verdict:

Maritime Mutiny is an astounding room that accomplishes the impossible task of being a great room for new players and those looking for a mind melting challenge as well. Couple that with the beautiful sound and set design, and you’ve got a game that I can absolutely recommend to everybody! Book your time escaping your Maritime Mutiny here!

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9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Room Herndon provided comped tickets for this room.

 

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.