No-Da Escapes – Jurassic Bone (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

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

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Boned.

Theme:

From the No Da Escapes website:

A team of modern archaeologists have found the remains of a Giganotosaurus inside an old gem mine. The Giganotosaurus is one of the rarest types of dinosaurs and is related to the T-Rex. A mole has worked their way into your group and has stolen a piece of the skeleton for personal profit. The stolen bone is believed to still be hidden in the cave where the dinosaur’s skeleton was found. Your mission is to retrieve the stolen bone and return it to the head archaeologist. The problem is, you only have 60 minutes before the cave collapses and you are sealed inside forever.

First Impressions:

After the terrible Dracula’s Lair, it was time to take on No-Da’s more recent creation, Jurassic Bone. We didn’t exactly have high hopes after what we’d just experienced, but perhaps some lessons had been learned along the way to make Jurassic Bone more palatable? The theme certainly was original!

High Points:

Jurassic Bone is rather large, so a bigger group won’t feel smushed into the room, though there wasn’t as many activities as there was room for. There are a few interesting ideas around, with a water based puzzle that we enjoyed working through, as well as a couple out of the box items we hadn’t seen used in quite the way they were here. The room did a good job of connecting puzzles to locks on the whole, though there were a few repeats, but on the whole didn’t overlap during the game flow. The theme itself is a great idea, though it isn’t fully capitalized on.

Low Points:

Jurassic Bone is a really large escape room, but at many points during the game, it just feels empty. “Big to be big” was the general sentiment of our group. For a game that has a maximum of ten players, it just doesn’t have all that much to do, and a mostly linear game flow does not help matters any. The experience itself also feels rather static, as the puzzles and interactions are generally mildly interesting, but don’t really feel like they add to the room or theme in a dynamic way. Solving them allowed us to move forward, but didn’t really trigger much excitement, or carry a greater impetus for why these actions were important. One particular puzzle had a creative and out of the box idea behind it, but it’s inclusion felt random, and it was extremely finicky to boot. Though I had performed the correct action, it didn’t trigger, causing me to leave it behind before someone else tried it in a slightly different way, popping the obstinate lock.

One of the major selling points listed for this room is that it takes place underground. Technically it does, but it is like a half basement in that it still opens up to the outside and never really feels truly underground, nor does this partial underground-ness really add anything. Parts of the room also feel unnecessary, as we were able to trigger a late game puzzle’s solution without properly placing certain bits, leading to a weird anti-climax that wouldn’t really have benefitted much from us placing those bits anyway. The big reveal at the end it laughable, with one of the poorest looking props we’ve ever seen in the giant foam bone. Unfortunately, this was also the only part of the room that really stuck to the Jurassic theme we were hoping for as well.

Verdict:

While a marked improvement from Dracula’s Lair, Jurassic Bone just doesn’t quite measure up to the other rooms available in the Charlotte area. On the whole, it’s just an average experience and I would recommend checking out one of the many other rooms in the area long before this one. If you’d like to try your hand at retrieving the big foam bone, however, you can do so here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: No Da Escapes provided our group with Media Discounted tickets.

No Da Escapes: Dracula’s Lair (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-3)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

I’m being strong, and not going for the low hanging fruit on this one.

Theme:

From the No Da Escapes website:

The long history of Dracula has burdened a small town in Romania for centuries. Time and time again, people have tried to slay him and have been unsuccessful. You and your team of vampire hunters have been given a slim chance of success by none other than Van Helsing himself. Can you help the small town in Romania finally finish the long blood feud or shall you perish like the ones before you?

First Impressions:

No Da Escapes has a couple of interesting concepts on their website, including a room that takes place underground, so we were definitely interested to see how well they executed these grand ideas! Dracula’s Lair was also set to be my fiancée’s 100th room, so I was hoping it’d be a great one to celebrate this milestone!

High Points:

The room has an interesting idea for the climax, which ultimately falls flat, but if it were iterated on, I think it would be a cool ending. The fact that I have to jump immediately to the end in order to think of a high point is definitely telling. I suppose one prop we used at the start was interesting, from a design standpoint, but that was the first and last clever puzzle we encountered here.

Low Points:

Everything about the experience felt like an alpha test. So much of the room gave the impression that it was unfinished; very much in the early stages of the design. To start, we were in a dark room, with the maximum six players, and were given one flashlight total. The set was incredibly sparse, and there was even a large leak in the ceiling that apparently had been there for a while. The room was dirty, (and not in a set design “dirty” way,) and cobbled together with several random props which all, save for one, were pretty low rent. The immersion factor was severely absent via the room’s décor. Puzzles and game flow were also scant, with only a few highly linear puzzles mostly presented via paper clues. There was also one clue hidden within a mostly blank journal, which seemed a huge waste of a prop.

A couple of the puzzles were half baked, with built in logical leaps that made little sense, and clues that just vaguely hinted at the answer. One such puzzle even presented several numbers that had to be input randomly until they clicked; there was not in game way to figure out the order properly. Not helping matters was a random jump scare that didn’t even feel like it belonged, triggering for the sake of being there. Instead of causing us to jump, it was just a loud annoyance that added little to the experience. The ending was an interesting idea, but the way the idea was delivered fell completely flat, wrapping up the experience completely anticlimactically. All in all, the set, and gameplay, are much too minimal to entertain a group of three, much less a full complement of six players.

Verdict:

Dracula’s Lair just isn’t worthy of the legendary vampire. There is one or two interesting ideas, but the room is already in disrepair, and there really isn’t much here to salvage. It would take a large overhaul to become recommendable, and at that point, it’d be a whole new room. Not the worst in the area, but it ventures pretty close. I would advise skipping it, but if you want to satisfy your curiosity, you can do so here.

2/10 (Bad)

Full Disclosure: No Da Escapes provided our group with Media Discounted tickets.