Dare 2 Escape – The Dig (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-5 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It belongs in a museum!

Theme:

From the Dare 2 Escape website:

Dare to face the sandstorm in the Dig of the century? Your colleague, archaeologist Dr. Eleanor Harding, has uncovered the fossilized remains of a new dinosaur species in her dig site located in the heart of the northern Sahara Desert. She has contacted you and your team of paleontologists from London to help stake claim to this find of the century. Upon arriving at her campsite, your team finds it abandoned because Dr. Harding was forced to evacuate from the path of a massive sandstorm that came through overnight. She is bunkered down in a safe refuge, but the secret location of the dig site was compromised when she radioed for help. Her longtime nemesis, Dr. Arthur Tillman, intercepted the transmission and his team is on the way to unjustly steal this once-in-a-lifetime find! Satellite images of the area show that Dr. Tillman and his team are only one hour away from the dig site. You must now use the clues that Dr. Harding left behind for you, find the dinosaur fossils, and escape from the African desert before you competition arrives and claims the find of the century for himself!

First Impressions:

The Tillman Family saga had been a great adventure so far, so we were thrilled that we were only halfway done exploring this excellent meta-story when the time for The Dig came around. Dare 2 Escape’s smallest room would also veer away from the horror themes I’m rather fond of, but with this business’s track record, I wasn’t worried at all!

High Points:

The Dig was a wholly different adventure than the previous two horror focused rooms we had experienced at Dare 2 Escape in regards to story and theme, but the level of quality we had come to expect stayed consistent. This family friendly experience had more straightforward puzzles, but did not skimp on the challenge overall. The game flow works well, and a few teamwork based puzzles keep everyone involved in the action. The game makes sense the whole way through, and the linear puzzling thread that winds through the whole room always makes sense from point to point. All clues lead nicely into each other, and we were never at a loss for what to do next. There are a lot of incredibly creative puzzles to discover within the Egyptian sands, and some of my favorites within this game were great hand crafted interactions that I had never seen before!

The set is fantastic as is usual for Dare 2 Escape and transitioning between each area of the game is natural and convincing. The tomb itself is immersive and boasts some archeological fun that players young and old will enjoy digging into! The story tied into the game cleverly, and from start to finish we enjoyed facing off against our rival Tillman, who threatened to steal away our prize. The Dig was also a great reprieve from the more intense horror based rooms we had just completed, with its bright lights and more light hearted theme, so its place in the overall chronology makes great sense for marathon players. Dare 2 Escape really knows how to make a room come to life using story, lighting, and sound, and The Dig is certainly no exception.

Low Points:

The Dig is very much a smaller room. It still is comfortable for the maximum group size, but the adventure can feel somewhat more limited due to the size of the room and the linear nature of the game flow. However, there were a lot of props to go through, and things can begin to feel cluttered if you aren’t organized and careful. At one point, there was a lock that needed a lot more finesse due to the environment in which this box was located causing it to jam. One particular puzzle felt just a smidge out of place, but it was not unenjoyable, just a little off when compared to the rest of the room’s challenges.

Verdict:

The Dig is yet another awesome chapter in the epic Tillman Saga, as well as a great room for new players and families! Though it lacked the thrills and chills I’d enjoyed in their previous rooms, this was more than made up for with the great puzzling and immersive set. I wholeheartedly recommend this room, and cannot wait to see what the masterminds at Dare 2 Escape come up with next! Book your archaeological expedition here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Dare 2 Escape provided our team with discounted tickets.

Lockbusters – Cremlocke Manor (Review)

Location: Orlando, FL

Players:  2-7 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $29 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Mr. Cremlocke is quite the lady-killer.

Theme:

Cremlocke Manor has always been the subject of immense speculation and suspicion. The former owner has long since passed away, and the sordid history of the manor has passed into the status of an urban legend. The master of the mansion’s previous four wives all died under mysterious circumstances, and it’s said they, and their treacherous husband, continue to haunt the halls of this once great manor to this day. As paranormal investigators, it’s up to you to see if you can finally put these spirits to rest. Careful, though, as others have gone in with the same good intentions and have never returned!

First Impressions:

For our last spontaneous room of the day, we were taking on Lockbusters’ forty-five minute haunted manor! I always love a spooky room, and this was definitely one of the rooms I was most looking forward to during our time at Lockbusters, even though it was a shorter experience.

High Points:

Cremlocke Manor is definitely a spooky game, with a fantastic story to go along with it. With new story beats popping up fairly frequently, new tidbits of narrative help develop the narrative as we solved. The mystery continued to build until everything culminated in a fantastic climax, propelling us towards a frantic race to complete the final puzzles and set everything right at the end. Cremlocke may be a smaller room than some of Lockbuster’s other experiences, but it has the biggest story of all of them, which really helps with the immersion factor. The puzzles themselves are well integrated into the story as well, and many tie directly into the mystery, allowing each moment to hold a bigger significance than just another roadblock along the game flow. The puzzles became more and more creative as the game continued, and we greatly enjoyed the use of tech within the room to help the ghastly manor become magically alive with supernatural power!

The set itself is fantastic, and feels convincing as the sitting room of an opulent manor home. The lighting effects and creepy sound effects build an atmosphere of creepiness without relying on cheap jump scares and provides a more horror themed than horrific experience overall. The experience provides many clues as to what needs to be done from the start, and does a masterful job of ensuring that the threads of the ultimate solution are intuitive and evident once everything comes together in the final, frantic interaction. Though the room is very linear, this approach works well in delivering a well fleshed out story that did an excellent job surprising us with it’s twists and turns.

Low Points:

The beginning of the room starts off fairly directionless, and the initial interaction doesn’t really have much in the way of cluing to get players going. We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, and by the time we asked for a much needed hint to get started, we were already feeling the time pressure of a forty-five minute room. One particular early stage puzzle was made even more difficult as we had a little trouble snagging what we needed, which wasn’t an intended challenge. At one point, there’s also a bit of a red herring due to the nature of one of the props used to solve the presented challenge, adding a little too much uncertainty to what exactly we needed to be doing. Due to the room’s linear set up, a bigger group might have trouble staying fully engaged since there’s only so much to work on at one time.

Verdict:

Cremlocke Manor is a great experience for smaller groups and newer players, with a linear game flow that allows for an expansive, and hauntingly excellent story! Enthusiasts will enjoy the immersion level of this room, and the mystery to be solved within is absolutely to die for. If you’re looking for an escape that provides mystery, original puzzles, and a gripping narrative, you definitely cannot go wrong here. Find out what happened in Cremlocke Manor here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Lockbusters provided our team with comped tickets.

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Captain Spoopy Bones and the Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirate’s Treasure (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  4-8, Always Private (We recommend 4-12)

Price: $33.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

That dastardly… uh… other pirate won’t know what hit ’em!

Theme:

From the Doldrick’s Escape Room website:

Raise the anchor and set sail with Captain Spoopy Bones in this lighthearted tale of nautical nonsense! Navigate the treacherous waters aboard the Captain’s massive ship, and race against time in this grand adventure on the high seas. With teamwork, determination, and a little bit of luck, the players will uncover the secret of Captain Spoopy Bones and the magnificent quest for some other pirate’s treasure!

First Impressions:

Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome was easily one of the absolute best games that I had ever played, so when it was time for Captain Spoopy Bones and the Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirates Treasure, (henceforth to be known as “Spoopy Bones” for my sanity and yours, as much as I’d like to artificially inflate my word count,) we were jazzed.

High Points:

Spoopy Bones starts off with the team separated into two different cells. All seems lost until the titular Captain appears on screen to… tell us a story? About us? Intriguing! And the genuinely hilarious adventure only builds from there. The entire experience takes the ubiquitous pirate escape room, and absolutely refuses to fall into stagnant tropes. While the story line boils down to the usual, find the treasure and win the day style room, the character of Spoopy Bones and the journey to the treasure, (and it truly feels like an epic journey,) allow the room to evolve beyond the usual trappings of a pirate themed escape! The puzzles and interactions included within the beautiful set are, for the most part, highly original, with some awesome set pieces that will only reveal their secrets to the most inquisitive, and determined, minds. The room utilizes the space provided well, and packs a highly dense game flow into each area. In fact, once we had reunited and made our way to the ultimate room, we figured we were almost at the end of our quest, as most other games would have been just about out of ideas at that point. Not so, as we were presented with loads more to do, which was an excellent surprise!

Speaking of excellent surprises, Spoopy Bones is absolutely chock full of them, especially during the climax of the game. There was a point in the game in which the story really started to pop off, and when it did, it was astounding the level of detail that had gone into making this area feel highly authentic. It was just capital c, Cool. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, really. The lighting and sound design really helped tie the whole game together into an immersive experience, and it’s really something that has to be experienced. Words can’t quite capture how fun the atmosphere of this room was. Teamwork is really the most important part of this room, and success or failure truly hinges on how well the group works together. Luckily, this room is always private, so you don’t have to worry about going in with someone you aren’t going to work well with.

The puzzles remained within the theme throughout, keeping us working together with fantastic nautical props and interactions. A favorite puzzle of mine involved a satisfyingly tactile interaction that helped us overcome our piratical competition in an explosive way, and was an exemplar of how engaging Doldrick’s rooms can be. The game flow itself was mostly non-linear, and with the minimum of four players, we stayed very busy throughout. This is one of the few rooms I could see a maxed out group staying occupied. I wouldn’t recommend it to enthusiasts, but could definitely see a group of new players staying busy with the dense amount of puzzling to do here.

Low Points:

Splitting up the teams is always such a good idea on paper, but the charm unfortunately always wears out its welcome. Splitting the group really only works, it seems, when the game has been strictly designed for all puzzles leading up to the reunion to demand teamwork. When they don’t, one team inevitably runs out of puzzles to solve before the other, and it becomes a less than ideal waiting game for that team. It is also disappointing because each team effectively misses out on a few of the puzzles, and while you can always ask what they did, it isn’t the same as helping out during the puzzle. Or at least having the option to. One, and only one, puzzle was a fairly common riddle that was intended to clue a certain solution, but the leap of logic was vast and somewhat nonsensical. It was the only puzzle I didn’t enjoy within the room, however. Actually, I think it was the only one I didn’t like in the entire business, which is saying something!

Verdict:

Though I enjoyed Super Bomb Squad a bit more than Spoopy Bones, I think this room is still spectacular and one of the finest we’ve done! This pirate adventure is truly a step above the rest, evolving the overdone pirate theme of escape rooms beyond the simple cliches. I whole heartedly recommend assembling a team you communicate well with and joining Captain Spoopy Bones on his Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirate’s Treasure here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Doldrick’s provided our team with discounted tickets.

Dare 2 Escape – The Ringmaster (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 2-5)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Step right up, and be… see the next freak!

Theme:

From the Dare 2 Escape website (Truncated):

As you are standing in line for the Freak Show, an elusive figure wearing a top hat and a red jacket approaches you and your friends. He waves his wooden cane at you, beckoning you to follow him to the best seats in the house because you have been chosen as the lucky ones. Thrilled with this opportunity, you and your friends follow the Ringmaster into a side entrance to the main tent where he welcomes you into his personal dressing room. The musky room is covered in red and is illuminated with marquee lights and a small lamp. It’s quite dark, but there is enough light for you to see photos of grotesque freaks on the walls. You ask the Ringmaster about what you see, but the last thing you see is his scarred face before he hits you over the head with his wooden cane. In the background, as you are fading away, you can hear a cynical voice in the distance saying, “Welcome to my Carnival, where the lucky ones become part of the show!”

First Impressions:

After the thrilling escape from Dare 2 Escape’s haunted Asylum, (easily the best Asylum we’ve ever escaped from,) we were more than excited to be jumping right into our next chapter investigating the illusive Tillman family! There’s nothing creepier than a weird circus run by a mysterious ringmaster, (save maybe for our friend Lizzie from the Asylum,) so we steeled our nerves and started searching the Ringmaster’s office!

High Points:

The Ringmaster took the story begun in The Asylum and upped the game in several fantastic ways! The puzzle branches are even more non-linear than before, and presented us with a denser game flow that challenged us to remain on our A-game throughout. Dividing and conquering was the name of the game within this room, and while it remained a great challenge for our team of escape enthusiasts, it always felt like a balanced, if difficult, adventure. The Ringmaster’s office and tent are constructed believably and the highly tactile puzzles and props lend a sense of immersion to the experience from start to finish. Not once did any of the interactions dip outside the theme, and the solutions were cleverly hidden, sometimes in plain sight! One of my favorite puzzles involved a bit of decor that I had puzzled over for a while, mainly writing it off as just a swath of the scenery, but once I had connected it with another clue in the room, the moment of revelation was supremely satisfying.

The story is expertly integrated into the puzzles as well, and not only from overt storytelling via clues found, but via the set design and puzzles types that were found during each stage of the experience. Never before had I seen quite this level of attention to detail, and the whole thing is elevated from a simple game to a truly immersive adventure by it. The story throws twists at the players multiple times, subverting expectations and keeping everyone on their toes until the electrifying climax, and even then we were unsure if one more curve ball might be tossed our way. The entire room is the very definition of excellent design as every part of the set, down to the shape of the rooms, contributes to the overall story that Dare 2 Escape is telling. Gripping narrative in escape rooms is difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to ensure players fully experience, but when it’s done this well it grabs your attention and refuses to let go!

Low Points:

There were only a couple moments at which The Ringmaster hiccuped, and honestly, they were both pretty minor issues. There was a puzzle during the initial stages of the game that just wasn’t clued quite well enough to lead to an intuitive and natural solution. Another puzzle had another layer added to the solution after we had solved the initial stage. The addition of a new level of the solve wasn’t so much the issue as the way this was introduced, which felt natural theme-wise, but not so much mechanically. Overall, though, both low points weren’t too much of a downer in the grand scheme of things.

Verdict:

The Ringmaster was easily my favorite room at Dare 2 Escape, and thinking back on the experience, one of my favorite rooms period. Though I think anyone who’s thinking about trying out Dare 2 Escape’s fantastic experiences should follow their generally recommended order of play (The Asylum, The Ringmaster, The Dig, The Archive,) this one absolutely stands on it’s own. If you only have time for a few games in the Orlando area, this one should absolutely be on your short-list. Book your time escaping the clutches of the sinister Ringmaster here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Dare 2 Escape provided our team with discounted tickets.

Lockbusters – Chopper Down (Review)

Location: Orlando, FL

Players:  2-7 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $32 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Blackhawk Down

Theme:

Your team of military operatives has crash landed behind enemy lines, and have been subsequently captured by the enemy. Determined to complete your mission, you must first break out of your cell, gather what equipment you can from the wreckage of your helicopter, and infiltrate the enemy fortress. Once inside, you’ll need to find their missile and use it against them!

First Impressions:

After a rollicking good time during Pirate Adventure, we were ready to take on Lockbuster’s most difficult game, Chopper Down! Well, not quite ready. Before our previous game, we met a couple of enthusiasts and stuck up a conversation before they headed into Lockbuster’s version of Cannibal Collector, a game that we had played previously and loved. Knowing we might need a couple more experienced hands for this one, we were happy to hear they were down to escape another room! (And we absolutely needed their help!)

High Points:

Lockbusters does an excellent job with their sets, and Chopper Down is absolutely no exception. The sound design and lighting really enhanced the mood, and one giant set piece was a wonder to behold. (Though I am a bit disappointed we didn’t get to root around in it.) Great care has been made to ensure the wreckage feels immersive and authentic during the adventure, and it shows. The story is fairly simple, but original, and once the room starts, it’s very clear what your mission is, you just have to figure out how to complete it. This room absolutely lives up to it’s reputation as a challenging room, and for the most part, it isn’t obtuse or difficult for the sake of difficulty. With a good group of enthusiasts, this one feels like an appropriate challenge.

The game flow was almost completely non-linear, which kept the four of us completely engaged, as there was something to do one hundred percent of the time. Bouncing back and forth between the rooms, the game naturally presented us with clues that allowed us to make intuitive connections between props, as well as separate what was important from what wasn’t. The puzzles presented throughout the room are highly original, and many rely on interacting with the set in entertaining and tactile ways. One of the final few puzzles helped culminate a large seek and find game we had played throughout, and though we usually are underwhelmed by item hunts, this one was satisfying and had an entertaining conclusion. The final sequence was awesome, and the climax was appropriate, ending the adventure on a high note.

Low Points:

For all the fun of Chopper Down, it did have a few hiccups that derailed our experience now and again. A couple puzzles were rather banal compared to the rest, one feeling a bit too simplistic, and the other being… somewhat weird with the answer given. The non-linear nature of the game caused a little havoc from time to time when something solved in one area opened something in a vastly different area, creating some confusion on what had opened. Luckily, the feedback was such that we knew we were correct, it was just the matter of finding what opened. Usually, there were bells connected to the item, but if everyone was farther away, this would go unnoticed. Several puzzles would benefit from just a smidge more cluing, as either it was entirely unclear what the rules of the interaction were, or there was no indication where a certain answer would fit. The weak cluing in a couple instances were the only points in which the room felt obtuse, or difficult to be difficult, and I think just a tiny bit more direction could improve the puzzles while still remaining a challenging experience.

Verdict:

Chopper Down is a doozy, no question about it! But with a determined group of enthusiasts, I’m sure the mission can be completed. Newbies may want to try out a different room or two before tackling this one, but overall, it’s a really entertaining romp. I definitely recommend getting a group of at least four seasoned teammates together for this one, and when you do, you can book here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Lockbusters provided our team with comped tickets.