Backstage Escape Games – The Cabin at Beachstone Lake (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-7 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Santa’s not here right now.

Theme:

From the Backstage Escape Games website:

Are you ready for a chilling Christmas story?
In the small town of Parkview Point, something strange has happened at the long-abandoned cabin on Beachstone Lake. Quiet for years, the cabin has suddenly sprung to life with Christmas decorations and cheer. All across town, children noticed that their gifts under the tree and letters to Santa were missing, replaced with a terrifying note from Krampus. The half-goat, half-demon evildoer has challenged anyone to enter the cabin and escape with the gifts. If they do, then the town will experience joyful Christmas seasons for decades to come. If they fail, then Christmas will be forever canceled in Parkview Point.

First Impressions:

We happened to be in Myrtle Beach during December, and while this room runs all year, it seemed like the perfect time for some holiday themed escapes! Even better, this room wasn’t all warmth and tidings of good cheer, there’s a Christmas-hating demon on the loose to outwit! Krampus is such an interesting character, and to have a room revolving around him seemed like it’d be an excellent time!

High Points:

What an immersive room! The initial game briefing takes place at the front of the titular cabin, and sets the tone with a quaint exterior accentuated by whimsically tortured Christmas decorations. To add to the charm, a radio announcer comes over the loudspeaker to deliver the half-wacky, half-creepy story, and keeps the immersion going by starting up a fantastic Christmas themed playlist that’s ever so slightly ominous. The inside of the cabin is just as awesome, with perfect décor and fantastic technology that removes you entirely from Myrtle Beach and transports you to the chilly winter world of Krampus! The story is well delivered through every facet of the game, whether it be puzzles, the evolving room itself, or the notes left behind, keeping us wholly engaged throughout the experience.

Puzzles are excellent, and highly varied, allowing for our team to divide and conquer this non-linear room. The game flow is hugely intuitive, and will make sense to even the newest of players with it’s tactile and creative interactions. Every step of the way gives excellent feedback, and so many of the creative enigmas housed inside the room are just pure fun to solve. It constantly feels like you’re truly working through the demented machinations of Krampus brought to life as you work through the many physical activities and manipulate the various props. There are a lot of hidden items, but they are stashed at key points during the game, ensuring the experience doesn’t become a glorified scavenger hunt, and the meta-puzzles build towards satisfying ah ha moments. Almost every step of this game is pure puzzle solving bliss.

Low Points:

There is one point within the room that can be absolute auditory torture if you don’t achieve your goal quickly. We did not, and our sanity eroded. I think that was the point, but still, that was rough. Near the end, I had flashbacks to a couple of the overly long puzzles from Backstage’s other room, The Legend of Atlantis. In an otherwise excellent game flow, these puzzles can really bog a group down, however, there was only one in The Cabin at Beachstone Lake, and I jumped on that grenade willingly since I tend to be at least decent at solving that type of puzzle. Our group of 3 was fairly comfortable in the room, but still tripped over each other now and again, so I can’t imagine stacking the maximum of 7 in here, so I’d recommend attempting this one with a smaller group if at all possible.

Verdict:

The Cabin at Beachstone Lake keeps up the stunning quality that Backstage Escape Games initially produced with Atlantis, proving once again they’re the bar for Myrtle Beach escape adventures! This room is perfect for anyone looking for a truly memorable outing, and if you’re in the area, you absolutely should try it out! Book your time matching wits with Krampus here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Backstage Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

Break Out Myrtle Beach – Red Beard’s Revenge (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

At this point, Black Beard needs to look out for me… I’ve robbed him at least five times!

Theme:

As part of Red Beard’s crew, you’ve infiltrated Black Beard’s ship! Apparently there’s a beard color based pirate war going on right now. Luckily Blue Beard isn’t here, that guy is creepy! Anyway, it’s time to get your revenge and steal the treasure you know Black Beard has squirreled away on his ship, but in order to do so, you’ll need to follow the clues hidden within. You’ll have to do it quick, however, since the ship is only docked for an hour. Once your time’s up, you’ll be off the ship, just hope it isn’t from a plank!

First Impressions:

While we were a bit underwhelmed by CSI: Myrtle Beach, it was the first time we’d been disappointed with this designer’s rooms. Upon entering Black Beard’s ship, we instantly knew this game was newer, as the set design was more up to par with what we are used to from Break Out. As a pirate aficionado, I was excited to bust through Black Beard’s ship once again!

High Points:

As previously mentioned, set design in Red Beard’s Revenge is up to the usual par for Break Out, with the whole area feeling like the underbelly of a docked ship. Lighting is done well, setting the mood without becoming too dim to see properly. The puzzle flow is fairly linear, with a couple points allowing for non-linearity for a short period, and can handle a group of 3-5. There were a few really engaging interactions, both of which were enjoyable variations on some old favorites. Most props and puzzles integrated well together in order to make intuitive sense for a good ah ha moment here and there. Our GM was engaging and helped with hints that she would graciously expand on when were contracted a case of the dumbs on one puzzle.

Low Points:

Luckily, newer rooms at Break Out Charleston and Myrtle Beach aren’t guilty of this, but older rooms tend to contain things that are hidden just for the sake of being hidden. These scavenger hunt items have thankfully fallen out of fashion in today’s market, but unfortunately they persist here. Aimless searching should generally be replaced by a puzzle or clue about how to find these items, as wandering around looking for secrets is fairly banal at this point. There are a couple points at which the connective tissue breaks down, making for some intense logical leaps we are still puzzling over, but overall the room doesn’t stumble down that path overly often. One particular puzzle requires some outside knowledge, which we luckily had but still, math in escape rooms feels more like homework than an engaging puzzle.

Throughout the experience, we ran across a lot of similar locks that required us to guess and check against each one once we had solved a particular puzzle. A bit of cluing as to what goes where would improve this facet of the room greatly. On the whole, the room feels like another puzzle room rather than a fully engaging escape experience, with a story that doesn’t really evolve beyond, “find the treasure,” and puzzles that jump in and out of theme. Reaching the conclusion is anticlimactic since there really isn’t a compelling story there, but it serves well enough as this room’s ending.

Verdict:

I can’t really say that Red Beard’s Revenge is a bad room, but it never really rises above average, as most rooms at Break Out have evolved past the early days design sensibilities seen in Red Beard’s Revenge, so I can’t say it’s too good either. Honestly, it’s a serviceable room that newcomers will enjoy a lot more than escape room veterans, but with four much better rooms rooms available at this location, I’d recommend trying out those instead. You can book your time Black Beard’s Pirate ship here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.

Escape! Myrtle Beach – The Great Granny Rescue (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-5 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Granny v. Girl Scouts: Dawn of Moonshine

Theme:

Your grandma has been kidnapped by the Girl Scouts! They’ve been branching out from cookies and have decided that moonshine is a better racket, so they want Granny’s world famous moonshine recipe. Unfortunately, her memory hasn’t been so good here recently, and she’s had to set up a series of reminders around her shack in order to recall how to make her alcoholic delicacy. The Scouts have given you one hour to get a sample for them or you’ll never see your dear sweet grandmother again, so be quick and solve her codes!

First Impressions:

What a perfectly bonkers theme! During our last trip out, we enjoyed the light hearted nature of Escape! Myrtle Beach’s other room, Race Against Time, and were told that The Great Granny Rescue was on it’s way, so when we returned, this room was a must play. Upon being led to the room and seeing the surprise waiting for us upon the door, (I won’t spoil it,) I knew this one would be hilarious fun.

High Points:

Upon entering The Great Granny Rescue, it was immediately apparent that the set design had been stepped up immensely! While Race Against Time was a fun game in its own right, it had a more basic environmental design to it, so our expectations were blown out of the water upon seeing how great Granny’s shack looked. It absolutely made me feel as though I’d just stepped into the home of an elderly southern lady, every touch was just right! All around the room were fantastic details that not only helped with the immersion of the set, but added humorous touches to the game we really appreciated. Escape! Myrtle Beach excels at actually making comedic themed games genuninely funny by going the extra mile to be original with their humor and storylines. The whole room had unique and charming puzzles sprinkled throughout, but didn’t feel cheap; I could tell this whole experience was a labor of love from the very start.

The puzzling experience is fantastic, with a non-linear flow that easily kept the two of us busy for the full experience. I can absolutely see a party of the maximum six staying busy and comfortable within this room, though enthusiasts will obviously have a better time with fewer players, and Escape! Myrtle Beach’s policy of private rooms will be a boon to these groups! Our GM was very attentive, (and a really witty guy,) and if we needed assistance or there was something in the room that could cause undue confusion, he was quick to help us out. The hint system works very well within the theme, and was a fun surprise for the point at which we needed it. The game itself works off a truly excellent flow, with connective layers weaving between each other in one of the most satisfying ways I’ve seen in Myrtle Beach. Everything culminates into an exciting climax that can filter towards one of two endings depending on your performance, which is a cool touch.

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Missed the #1 spot by five seconds! Curse our late game hesitation!

Low Points:

There were a couple points at which red herrings confused us, but they were very small and easily explainable. Most rooms tend to eschew their use nowadays, so it was initially confusing for us to see. The late game had a weird flow to it, with the actions required causing us to stumble a bit due to the necessity of getting things right the first time. There were also some props that became finicky in the late game, but everything else worked a charm.

Verdict:

All in all, this bonkers room absolutely deserves a play if you’re ever in Myrtle Beach. The hilarious storyline and wonderful game flow build upon each other towards an exciting conclusion and great escape! The guaranteed privacy is a definite plus, and I could really tell that Escape! Myrtle Beach was 100% committed to ensuring we had a fantastic time. You can book your daring Granny rescue here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Break Out Myrtle Beach – CSI: Myrtle Beach (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Looks like he couldn’t… *sunglasses* escape his fate.

Theme:

The Myrtle Murderer is set to strike, and the only thing standing against them is your CSI team! You’ll need to head back to the scene of his last murder and solve the clues in order to unmask them and bring them to justice! Watch out, though, they may be closer than they seem.

First Impressions:

Despite a fairly shallow story, Break Out has always been a quality stop with some of the best games in South Carolina, so we were still very excited to get started. We’d been advised that while this room shares some similar puzzles with Break Out Charleston’s Escaping Death Row, it was different enough to constitute an original experience. I can definitively say this is true, but if you don’t want to repeat any puzzles or surprises, you might want to check out a different room if you’ve done Escaping Death Row before. This fact holds no bearing on my review of the room however, as the experience does hold up as a separate entity.

High Points:

CSI Myrtle Beach starts off interestingly enough, with a non-linear puzzle progression and a good flow to keep a larger group entertained. Again, perhaps not enough for the maximum ten people if you are a group of enthusiasts, but there is definitely a lot to do from the get go. There are several intuitive and entertaining puzzles and interactions to engage with, and some devious surprises to find throughout. One of my favorite puzzles in the room involves interacting physically with a prop in a very intuitive way, leading to a great ah ha moment.

Low Points:

After the initial stage of the room, the game flow and connective tissue breaks down quickly. Worse, the experience from that point forward is strictly linear, further frustrating things. The clever interactions and puzzling from the early game give way to a tenuous game flow and connections that can only be made from the largest logical leaps. Furthermore, there are two puzzles that require outside knowledge, both of which we luckily had, but still have no place in the room, as there’s nothing within the room that can assist with the solving other than having the answers already. This being an older room, there’s also a lot of the searching for hidden objects that you don’t really see much anymore as games have evolved to be more puzzle focused as a whole, and while it isn’t egregious, it’s not particularly interesting either.

The set itself is competent, if somewhat slapdash. It feels as though there are a lot of random items scattered about in order to create a room, without any clear, cohesive threads between them. This bleeds over towards the rest of the experience, as the theme and storyline never really come into play, and while there is a twist ending, it ultimately falls flat due to the fact that there is no set up to make a shocking finale matter. Unfortunately, this room is the first that we just didn’t really like at Break Out, and I believe it’s due to it’s age. While a puzzle room like this worked well in the early days of escape rooms, it has aged rather poorly.

Verdict:

All in all, CSI Myrtle Beach is a puzzle room, and not much more. It has a couple of good ideas here and there, but beyond those, there’s a palpable feeling of “been there, done that” to the experience. While classic games can still shine in today’s market, this one is past it’s prime in relation to the other rooms on offer in the area, including the others at Break Out Myrtle Beach. I’d definitely recommend trying one of those instead, and you can do so here.

4/10 (Subpar)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.

Break Out Myrtle Beach – The Curse of Volcano Island (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What a beautiful island! Pity about the curse.

Theme:

After your plane crash-lands over the Atlantic, you and your fellow survivors piled into a life boat and began floating, hoping for sign of land or rescue. Your pilot has spotted an island in the distance, and you paddle towards it in the hopes it is inhabited, but unfortunately when you arrive the whole place is deserted. Even worse, you find evidence that the island is likely cursed as well! Your presence on this forbidden land has been noticed by some greater power, and you’ll have to break the curse quickly before the volcano in the distance explodes!

First Impressions:

We have very much enjoyed Break Out Myrtle Beach’s sister locations in Charleston, SC, (Elite Escape Games, Break Out Charleston, and Charleston Escape Game,) so on our most recent trip to Myrtle Beach, visiting Break Out was a no brainer! Our first steps into Curse of Volcano Island presented the excellently immersive set design we’ve come to expect from these locations, and we were thrilled to start our escape!

Tiki-5

There’s that excellent Break Out polish!

High Points:

Beyond the aforementioned set design, Curse of Volcano Island seeks to create a highly immersive experience by utilizing a great soundtrack and awesome lighting effects. All these touches combined really bring the adventure life in the best possible way. The game is set up semi-non-linear fashion, with a few puzzles or interactions to solve available during any given stage of the game, which generally lead towards a puzzle to open up the next stage. This would keep a mid-size group entertained and engaged throughout, as many of the puzzles require a fair amount of teamwork to solve. Most of the room is set up in such a way that progress is easy to gauge naturally and within the theme, with new props being obtained and new areas opening as the team solves their way towards saving the island, and themselves! Perception is challenged throughout the game, and outside of the box thinking is not only encouraged, but required to best the many original puzzles that are housed inside!

The game flow works excellently for the most part, with intuitive revelations to be uncovered constantly. The density of puzzles and fantastic integration within the theme will keep most groups happily engaged, though the maximum of ten might make for too many cooks in the kitchen when enthusiasts are involved. Technology is seamlessly integrated within the room, and creates an atmosphere of magic while still providing excellent feedback during play, keeping groups on track during the entire experience. The storyline is engaging, and while mostly front loaded, the climax is appropriately satisfying, and tied everything up nicely.

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The volcano belches smoke on the horizon!

Low Points:

At one point, a small process puzzle may stymie progress and leave larger groups with little to do. Our team somehow bypassed this one with what must be the luckiest run of events leading to a lock opening extremely early, but we still solved a portion to confirm how the puzzle is solved. Luckily, after our accidental advancement within the story, our GM confirmed our incredibly unlikely guess was a freak accident, and advised us to ignore this particular box so we didn’t accidentally derail the experience for ourselves! There are a lot of really intuitive puzzles and interactions, but for two or three moments in which cluing becomes very sparse, and you’ll either know just what to do or you won’t, and these portions of the game can really grind everything to a halt. Our Gamemaster was very helpful in hinting us back on track, but for the most part these sections seemed to require outside hints rather than relying on information intuitively gathered from the room itself. There are a few points at which it feels like deja vu when a puzzle type is repeated, but this isn’t overly egregious, and overall, the puzzle or interaction is changed up enough that it doesn’t become repetitious.

Verdict:

The Curse of Volcano Island is an immersive romp, if minorly uneven in parts. The story and set design are amazing, as usual, and the puzzles are original and engaging, though the flow tends to suffer from time to time due to some deficiencies in cluing. However, I recommend giving it a shot as on the whole our escape was a lot of fun! You can book your time on the island here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.