Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia – Federal Bank Robbery (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $17.50 (advance booking) or $25 (walk-in) per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Money, Money, Money, Money!

Theme:

Donald Trump has decided it’s high time his face be immortalized on a new banknote, and of course, it must be a one thousand dollar bill. (Weird, right?) Your group of thieves have decided that it’s high time you quit your nine to fives, so you’ve hatched a plan to steal the plates used to make the bill itself before the release of the money, ensuring you have plenty of time to crank out enough counterfeit bills to keep you comfortable for life.

First Impressions:

We were led into the main area from the huge entertainment center, and just like when we entered Riddle High, the sounds of shrieking children immediately faded away, leaving us in the dark environs of the Federal Reserve. After a quick briefing, we began scouring the room for our way in!

High Points:

There are some very interesting puzzles and interactions peppered throughout the game flow of Federal Bank Robbery that we hadn’t seen before, and even though some were quite simple, they still were a lot of fun to complete! A lot of great tactile interactions come into play, and moving around the thematically fantastic props really helps you feel the part of a thief raiding the Reserve. Many puzzles rely on technical solves, using that magic to create excellent challenges throughout the room, and ensure that surprises are well hidden until they are needed. The later part of the game really ramps up with a few of those surprises, and stays fairly intense from that point to the ultimate climax of the game. Though the storyline is fairly light, the movement through the game is intuitive and each gate along the mostly linear path provides a sense of ongoing progress throughout your heist.

Low Points:

The theme itself centers around Donald Trump, a highly divisive politician, and it’s weirdly jarring to have that be the basis of an escape room based on a heist. While it’s one hundred percent believable that he’d want to plaster his face on a new thousand dollar bill, it just seems weirdly out of place within an escape room. One puzzle in particular involves an ambiguous trivia question that requires outside knowledge, nothing that most Americans won’t already know, but outside knowledge is still unacceptable at any rate, especially at this location, which is geared towards families and kids. One puzzle’s solving method is fairly straightforward, but the trigger is fairly well hidden, and there’s no prompt to let you know that the solution worked until you see it, causing lost time and a small amount of frustration. The concept overall, however, is very cool once you notice it. For the Federal Reserve, the main area feels pretty sparse, as the set design is quite Spartan for the most part.

Verdict:

Playing Federal Bank Robbery was fun, though admittedly the inclusion of Trump throughout was fairly weird. Jarring nature of that addition aside, the game itself provides a fun, family friendly challenge that beginners and enthusiasts can enjoy. If you’re craving further escapes after your trampoline or VR adventure, you should definitely begin your Federal Bank Robbery here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Under Pressure (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Pressure, Pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man asked for…

Theme:

You and your team are sailors aboard the Steel Shark, a submarine tactically important to the United States Navy. You’re holed up in your bunks when suddenly, an alarm sounds and you notice that the oxygen levels are dropping at a dramatic rate! Luckily, there’s about an hour of air left for you and the crew. On the other hand, the whole area seems to be on lockdown! It’s up to you to discover the saboteur, find the oxygen tanks that have been removed, and return them to their proper place before you all sink to a watery grave!

First Impressions:

Entering the (possibly) doomed submarine was fantastic, as the initial set design of the first room presented a convincing bunk area of a submarine. We were disappointed that there was no Queen/Bowie music, but the room itself and our briefing got us excited to begin our escape!

High Points:

As mentioned, the bunk room is highly immersive and uses lighting, tech, and in theme props to transport you to 1944. The puzzling is also up to the task, presenting tactile challenges and historically appropriate interactions that work well within the game flow. Most of the game is linear, with a slow build of collecting various pieces for late game puzzles helping mark your progression organically. Teamwork is crucial within this room, as many puzzles require two or more players to pass information back and forth efficiently. Perception based interactions are fair, and don’t fall into the cliché trap of hiding things in out of the way places just to artificially increase the difficulty. The build to the final meta-puzzle is fantastic, and the ah ha moment we received upon solving it led to an appropriately climactic conclusion.

Low Points:

Though the initial set design is awesome, the further we delved into the submarine, the more basic the environs became. Unfortunately, by the end, the immersion was struck dead as I no longer had the feeling that I was in a submarine, but rather in the final room of a fairly basic escape room.  The solution to one of the codes comes across very strangely, as the method to solve would suggest full words, but we ended up confused for a while before trying what seemed to us to be a random amalgamation of letters. This was a one off deviation from the norm, so it was extra strange to find. One puzzle interaction is one we experienced within another room at Escapology, and it was a fairly basic one we’ve seen several times, so it ended up being a fairly bland interaction overall.

Verdict:

Under Pressure is Escapology’s most difficult game, and it presents an enjoyable, if sometimes flawed, challenge! The historical nature of the room, as well as the initial set design are more than enough to entice anyone interested in the nautical World War II theme. I’d recommend experienced groups giving it a shot, though beginners should do a few rooms first in order to get a feel for how escape rooms work. Book your time in the Steel Shark here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia – Riddle High (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $17.50 (advance booking) or $25 (walk-in) per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Busted!

Theme:

You’ve been caught in acts of delinquency one too many times, and now it’s time to serve your time… in Detention! You’ve got better things to do, so your fellow detainees decide to sneak into the school to find and destroy your detention slips. You’ll have to be quick, smart, and devious in order to get it done, or you’ll be spending the next few weeks serving time!

First Impressions:

Adrenaline isn’t solely an escape room venue, their main attraction is their trampoline park, and their focus is towards families and kids. We’d heard their rooms were a bit on the easier side, but still a lot of fun, so we decided to check them out while we were in town. Upon walking in, the chaotic sounds of children at play abounded, but as we were led into the room itself, those sounds faded away, so props to the set designers for the excellent sound proofing! In fact, during the room, I almost forgot there was a huge warehouse of kids behind the door!

High Points:

Riddle High has a great set, invoking the nostalgic days of high school with an escape room twist! The theme of a classroom/high school is underutilized, and when it is presented, the game generally is composed of cast off school props, but Riddle High eschews cheapness in order to create a very clean and engaging set. Many of the props brought me back to my high school days, and it was a lot of fun to interact with certain technology of yore in clever ways to solve the conundrums within the room. Effort has been made to ensure the surprises within the room are able to keep even our veteran group guessing, as the game opens up in very clever ways.

Game flow is mostly non-linear, with several puzzling paths converging towards an exciting climax and escape! All interactions within the room were highly intuitive, and melded with the theme of the room excellently, delivering the full puzzling package! Though the room itself is only 45 minutes, there has been no skimping on content here, and we were able to keep engaged for the entire time.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle triggers the next step silently, so even when the solution has been found, you’ll have to scour the room again to find it. Some sort of sound or obvious light trigger would be appreciated since the puzzle comes later in the game, long after you’ve already searched the room from top to bottom once! There is one late game interaction that makes sense within the theme, but is something I’d rather not encourage groups to do during a game, similar to messing with electrical outlets. A small bank of puzzles can be bypassed due to some of the props having hidden information that’s a bit less hidden than it could be.

Verdict:

Riddle High is an awesome game that newcomers and enthusiasts alike will enjoy. Adults will love the nostalgic look back at high school, and kids can find a lot of fun within this one as well, making the room fantastic for the targeted family demographic. You can book your time in detention here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Adrenaline Entertainment Center Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Mayday (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Get off my plane!

Theme:

As members of the Secret Service, you are accompanying President Reagan back from the G7 Economic Summit in Europe. Meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev broke down, and it looks like discussions with the Soviet Union have become impossible, ratcheting up global tensions. Without warning, the plane’s instruments go haywire and it becomes obvious that you’ve been sabotaged! With only 60 minutes of glide time remaining, it is up to you to figure out what went wrong, and make an emergency landing before the inevitable crash!

First Impressions:

Mayday is the newest room for Escapology, and is only available at Escapology Columbia as of this writing. It’s always exciting to be one of the first to play a room, and we have been looking for a good airplane themed room for a while, as the last couple we’d tried weren’t that great. Also, as the first room of our 17 room escape room weekend, we were hoping to start things out on the right foot! Escapology’s lobby is very comfortable, and the rest of the business is just as lushly appointed, with a steampunk theme that I really enjoyed.

High Points:

The interior is made out to resemble a high class plane from the 80s, and extreme effort has been made to help Air Force One look authentic and comfortable. Each subsequent room took us closer to the cockpit, and once we arrived, the front of the plane was very well decorated to present a pilot’s domain within the puzzle focused world. Puzzles are hidden in believable ways, and flow excellently between interactions, leading us through the story while we continued to work through the game. The game itself weaves excellently between linear and non linear paths, keeping our group engaged and entertained from start to finish.

The game takes place during the height of the Cold War and contains a lot of fun historical easter eggs to find for history buffs. Working through the final parts of the adventure, and landing the plane properly is climactic and tense, requiring an excellent amount of teamwork and group cohesion. Completing the game truly feels like cause for celebration as Air Force One touches down!

Low Points:

Newer players will enjoy some of the basic code breaking that is included, but for enthusiasts, this will be a chore you’ve done several times before. One particular puzzle had what seemed to be a very straightforward presentation, but baffled our group due to a lack of clues pointing towards the solution. Even more frustrating for us was that we activated the puzzle solution twice without knowing how we managed it. We didn’t need it spelled out, but a bit more cluing within the game would be great. One door also opened accidentally after an incorrect code was entered due to a slight nudge opening it prematurely.

Verdict:

Mayday is an excellent historically themed and airplane based experience. Combining a thrilling story with a clever puzzling flow, it is definitely one of the best rooms at Escapology Columbia, and I definitely recommend giving it a shot! You can book your stint as a Secret Service Member here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escape Plan Columbia – Floor 23 (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-5 (We recommend 3)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Beautiful, but flawed

Theme:

Floor 23 of the Jefferson Hotel is rumored to be a hotbed of supernatural activity, and you are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Unfortunately, you have no idea what to expect during your investigation, as all previous expeditions have disappeared after taking the elevator up! You’ll need to unravel the enigma before whatever happened to them, happens to you!

escape-plan-columbia-floor-23-1

First Impressions:

Having been told that Floor 23 is Escape Plan Columbia’s newest game, we were excited, as The Wizard was definitely head and shoulders above Missing and Espionage, the older games. Also, I’m always excited to try out a new room themed after supernatural horror, as it isn’t done nearly as often as the less spooky serial killers and traps themes.

High Points:

Once you make your way to the main part of the experience, the décor, lighting, and theatrical sound sell the environment and bring a great sense of immersion into the experience. The story itself is also very captivating, and should be the main draw of this room, as well paced and detailed stories are an unfortunately rare feature of many escape rooms.

Low Points:

The main problem with Floor 23 lies with the core experience. The bells and whistles of the game are all there, but the main event, the game and puzzles themselves, do not flow well at all. The room is a linear affair, but there really isn’t much to guide you through the puzzles, making most of them feel like guessing games of varying degrees, a major disappointment when compared to the beautiful set and creepy story. The early game, for us, started off frustrating, as the simple interaction to begin was made overly difficult to overcome due to the need to apply way more force than we were instructed would be necessary. One particular technical failure saw us attempting a solution that did not work before wandering aimlessly and taking a hint, which told us to do the thing that failed to trigger, leading to further frustration. Another late-game puzzle was not only completely nonsensical in it’s solving, but was an unsatisfying end to an otherwise well thought out storyline. Too much obscurity takes what could be a tense and satisfying story based adventure, and bogs it down into a wholly frustrating slog.

Verdict:

The thing that disappointed me most about Floor 23 was that it shows a lot of promise through it’s secondary elements, but fails to deliver through it’s core experience. This could definitely be one of the top rooms in the area with a good bit of tweaking to the game itself, adding connective tissue between puzzles, ensuring technical interactions are clear and working well, and making sure that each part of the game feels purposeful, rather than random. At the moment, however, the excellent set design and story are brought down by a below average game. Escape Plan Columbia are definitely on to something with this one, though, and I hope that they are able to turn this one around. You can investigate the mystery of Floor 23 here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Escape Plan Columbia comped our tickets for this room.