The Box (France) – The Diamond Heist (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 Players (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: €110 per room (About $129.97 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

Never work again? That sounds great!

Theme:

From the The Box website:

They say that diamond merchants safe boxes are tamper proof. In this escape game, we challenge you to grab the biggest treasure ever. Outmaneuver the Diamond Center security and become richer than ever!

First Impressions:

We’ve been doing a lot of virtual globe trotting with our virtual escape experiences recently, and we have added France to our Escape Room passport with The Box! A tried an true escape room theme, heist rooms are generally reliable and exciting, so we couldn’t wait to try this one out.

High Points:

The set for Diamond Heist was pretty great, with a sleek, streamlined design aesthetic that really hammered home the “ultra-modern bank vault/offices” vibe. A few really cool surprises kept us feeling immersed within the theme, and our doofy avatar Bob did a great job of following our instructions and getting generally freaked out by the alarms. We enjoyed interacting with him and having some improvisationally silly fun while solving the puzzles. The room effects were great, using sound and lighting to set the mood, and there were very few basic locks in the room, which relied on hidden tech to give the vault a believably high tech flair. Puzzles themselves consisted of a lot of research puzzles and making connections between props within the room, and also included a fun vault hacking mini-game that we enjoyed for the most part. The whole experience culminated in a fast paced, intense finale that had us frantically searching for our main goal within the vault itself, as well as trying to steal as much treasure as possible before the police arrived on the scene. The early game had some intense moments as well, however, and certain areas were secured in different ways, ensuring that we always felt as though this was a high stakes mission in which failure was not an option! Though the experience moved through different game stages linearly, there was enough to work on at each stage that our whole group could remain engaged with each step, dividing and conquering to tackle different puzzles together.

Low Points:

A lot of virtual escape rooms cast the avatar as “lovable doofus,” and while that is funny to start and allows for a reason why they can’t do whatever tasks are presented on their own, in the long run, it is a lot more fun, in our experience, when the avatar acts more as a teammate. It is especially frustrating when the avatar is “unable” to search on their own. Virtual games do not lend themselves well to hidden objects, and it generally needs to be streamlined as players cannot see the whole room or anticipate hiding spots well in this medium, so when, in this room, there were objects that were very well hidden, it took entirely too long for us to find while adding nothing to the experience itself. The inventory method for the game was via google docs, and access was given as we went. This slowed down the game substantially, and left us with loads of useless information near the later stages of the game. Telescape is the gold standard for inventory systems, and comparatively, google docs did not do near as well a job during this game. There is a large mix of digital and in room puzzling to do during the game, but they did not mix overly well, leading one or the other to be neglected while puzzles were being worked on. The final puzzle was good, but was repeated over and over several times, leading to burnout while trying to finish up the heist. There was also an element of randomness that could frustrate players on their last few minutes.

Verdict:

Overall, The Diamond Heist wasn’t a bad room, but didn’t quite go above and beyond compared to other virtual escape offerings available. A lot of streamlining would help bolster the game itself, but it is still good for an hour’s entertainment. Enthusiasts will get their fix from this room, but newcomers might find the presentation a bit overwhelming. On the whole, our adventure with Bob was fun, but not particularly mind-blowing. Book your time pulling off the heist of the century here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: The Box provided our team with a complementary game.

Emergency Exit Escape Games UK – The Beast (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: Up to 6 connections (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: £100.00 per room (About $128.06 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

The number of the Beast is 10/10

Theme:

From the Emergency Exit Escape Games UK website:

Exclusively play a unique experience – only available online – combining Conjure + Poltergeist! The game includes spoilers from both physical games. The rooms may LOOK the same online, but the game-play isn’t!

Deep in the forest of Crowley Manor lies a secret as dark as the house itself; maybe even worse?

There’s a cabin in the woods with a legend of the supernatural. Long abandoned, there have been strange sightings and many people have disappeared, as reported in the news over the years, never to return.

You should NOT enter! The question is… can you escape parts 2 and 3 of the Crowley Manor story? There’s lots of puzzles to solve before you can.

Based in the same reality as our Exorcist game, Crowley Manor. You’ll be playing in the actual Conjure and Poltergeist rooms by controlling a Game Master.

First Impressions:

We have been anxiously waiting to play The Beast since the second we were told there would be a sequel. Exorcist was, and still is, our favorite virtual escape game we’ve done, and honestly, is probably one of the best escape games we’ve experienced, period. We could not wait to get back into the horror filled universe that Emergency Exit has created, and when the day finally came, we were more than thrilled to be returning to Crowley Manor!

High Points:

Emergency Exit continues to impress with yet another brilliant foray into the dark confines of Crowley Manor. Every facet of this game is polished, and impresses from start to finish. From the moment we entered our Zoom meeting, an intro video was playing, reacquainting us with Crowley Manor and setting the mood while counting down the time until the game would begin. The anticipation was absolutely palpable, and the production values were already high, and we hadn’t even entered the room yet! Once we were connected to our avatar, Ronnie, we picked up right where we left off at the end of Exorcist. From there, we broke back into Crowley Manor, (bad idea number one,) found our possibly possessed cameraman inside, (bad idea number two,) and began messing about with a bunch of creepy dolls, (you guessed it! Three’s a charm.) The set was beautifully well designed, and the videos and effects all work together to ensure that we were appropriately spooked, and that there was never any certainty as to what creepy happening was around every corner. An amazing attention to detail and beautiful design work is apparent in every room we visited, and though we were not physically in the room, the designers have done an awesome job of ensuring that the atmosphere and ambiance is preserved for the virtual experience through some of the best lighting and sound design we’ve seen in a virtual room. In fact, this is one of those rooms that just oozes immersion, combining the sound effects, music, and characterization of Ronnie and Liam, our avatar and cameraman, respectively. Truly, Emergency Exit has continues to set the bar for what a remote escape room should strive to be.

The game flow is wonderfully smooth within this room, and runs linearly, with subtle hints and clues to ensure that players never feel lost, but are still challenged to put together the pieces. The whole experience is intuitive, and filled with a variety of puzzle types that allows all different types of puzzlers to shine. There are loads of amazing interactions in The Beast, and it is honestly hard to pick a favorite moment. One section of the game near the midpoint that I really adored subverted our expectations fantastically, and allowed for a few minutes of unsettling uncertainty and scares while still presenting some great puzzles to solve. The experience is absolutely filled to the brim with immensely satisfying ah ha moments, and each puzzle is integrated into the room’s theme convincingly. I really loved how during our solves, bits of story and lore were drip fed to us by our host, who despite the creepy situation he finds himself in, still finds time to be a good ghost tour guide! Other bits of story were realistically integrated into the rooms via notes, radio broadcasts, and haunting happenings, and the mystery kept us guessing until the end. The climax of the story is an unexpected, yet fantastic conclusion to the saga, but leaves things open to interpretation, keeping us guessing even long after the game had ended. Overall, The Beast mixes immersive theater, escape rooms, and haunts together to create an experience that is second to none. Though The Beast caps off the Crowley Manor saga excellently, if Emergency Exit releases another remote game, we will be ready to book without question.

Low Points:

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Verdict:

I can say without hesitation that Emergency Exit has outdone themselves with The Beast. Exorcism was an amazing room that absolutely must be played by any escape room enthusiast, but The Beast is a worthy sequel and an evolution that somehow manages to be even better than its predecessor! I cannot recommend this one enough, and encourage players new and old to book Exorcist and The Beast as soon as you can, as these are without question the best remote escape games you will find. Book your return to Crowley Manor here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Emergency Exit Escape Games UK provided our team with a complementary game.

Daydream Adventures – The Witch’s Forest (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 😊

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $95 CAD + tax (flat rate, up to 4 players; $10 CAD + tax per extra player)

Walking in a Witch’s Wonderlaaaaand! 😀

Theme:

From Daydream Adventure’s website:

In a realm of dreams and magic, a trickster has upset the witch who lives here. Hilda has been away from the forest. Upon returning home, Hilda discovers someone has mischievously interrupted what she was working on. She is locked out of her cabin. She suspects a human may have done this, as she knows many humans detest her.

In this realm, spirits often watch and listen. Spirits of the forest, such as yourself, are very wise. A witch calls upon forest spirits for guidance. When Hilda calls for your help, your spirit can tell Hilda exactly how to undo the trickster’s mess.

First Impressions

I had my fingers crossed that the game would be as good as the pictures on their website, because they looked stunning!

Yay Points

This game’s theme and aesthetic was definitely a departure from our usual MO for escape rooms (read: NOT horror-themed :D) – and was right up my alley! If The Witch’s Forest is any indication, “Daydream Adventures” is an absolutely apt description for this escape room company. I was in utter awe of the beautiful setting of this game. The attention to detail in the decorations was astounding and really created a wonderful aesthetic. From the grasses to the trees to the inside of Hilda’s cabin, everything seemed very captivating. I was super sad I couldn’t experience it in person!

I enjoyed how cute many of the puzzles were (especially the first one; the in-game characters were hilarious!). The riddles were presented linearly and were relatively straightforward in nature, though they did level-up in complexity after you moved into the second “room” of the game. We were pleasantly surprised by the way the game incorporated some player choices/interactions – these added nice touches and I feel like they would be fun for players who enjoy those types of things.

Additionally, the game design very effectively included videos to reveal the plot or show what happens when puzzles are solved or things are opened. These were fun to watch and really helpful in making sure we didn’t miss anything. We also appreciated that the site had specific pages dedicated to each stage of the game. Thankfully, this helped us avoid a lot of unnecessary searching or guessing at what might be needed, and ensured that we were able to focus on what was actually relevant for a given puzzle.

Our avatar, Hilda, was extremely on-point. We always appreciate when game masters/avatars are interactive and can adapt to our team’s – shall I say “unique?” – personalities. Hilda did a great job playing off of us and making the experience all the more entertaining. Because this game seems more naturally inclined to be both beginner- and family-friendly, Hilda’s character seems like the perfect way to tailor the experience to groups. In addition to providing a more immersive experience, our Hilda was able to provide as much or as little direction as we needed.

Pondering Points

Some of the puzzles may make a little more sense in person, and some seem to be of the “you get it or you don’t” variety. They were pretty straightforward overall, but there was one puzzle that was a little unclear for some of us. It wasn’t hard to figure out what we were supposed to do process-wise, but the instructions seemed to (unintentionally) include a red herring in what format the answer would be. It was also a little confusing (for me at least) to figure out certain reference points based on how the instructions were presented.

While the game was generally full of new surprises behind each door, we were surprised when one path seemed to end abruptly.

Lastly, while I liked what they did with the ending, it does rely a little bit on chance. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be neat for players to be able to make more choices for this interaction.

Verdict

While I think this game would be all the more fun in person, Daydream Adventures did a great job in turning it into an online experience. The Witch’s Forest is beginner-friendly, and is definitely geared more towards those who are looking for family-friendly fantasy genres. If you’re at all into such dreamland experiences like me, then I highly encourage you to check it out! Book your time in Hilda’s Forest here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Daydream Adventures provided our team with a complementary game.

Mystery Mansion Regina – Seen (Virtual Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.14 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

I seen’t it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

Searching for a job, but having little luck due to the whole COVID-19 thing, you decide to turn to Craigslist. Everything seems pretty sketchy and illegal, until you come across a posting from DirkyDirk420. The posting reads: “Babysitter needed. To watch a baby. A big one. No physical contact; only watching via video link.”A little odd, but definitely the least strange you’ve found so far. You contact DirkyDirk420 and he hires you. He says he will send you another email with more details closer to the date of the job.Fingers crossed this Dirk guy isn’t some sort of pervert. I mean, you did find him on Craigslist…***Rated 14A For Coarse Language, Dark Comedy, and Inappropriate Themes***

mysterymansionseen-1-orig

First Impressions:

We very much enjoyed Mystery Mansion Regina’s Night Terrors, but recently, they have made their in person room, Seen, available for online play. The most interesting thing about Seen, other than it being a horror comedy, is that there are two rooms, (side A or B,) that can be played competitively, or in our case, as a two-part online escape extravaganza!

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High Points:

Our team is custom built for low-brow humor, and the comic sensibilities of Seen and our in room avatar, the aforementioned “baby,” appealed greatly to us. While Seen is still a horror room, it never ceases to be silly and all around weird. Adding to the excellence, our avatar/game master played to our enthusiasm, ensuring the jokes and puzzles continued to come at us fast and furious! Both rooms flow pretty well, and are, for the most part, fairly linear, which plays to the strengths of an online live experience. Though there is generally a fair amount to do in each room, it is generally pretty clear what comes next in the puzzling sequence, and the challenge remains in determining how to solve the various conundrums rather than sorting through too much information at any given time. The rooms themselves are more “Generation One” style escapes, consisting mostly of locks and codes, but this does not hinder the adventure at all, as these sorts of games tend to shine in the virtual space. I really enjoyed how the story had been adjusted for a virtual audience, and hamming it up with our GM was a brilliant time.

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Puzzles ran a wide gamut, and there was a little something for everyone within each room, and while the experience was linear, it never seemed as if anyone was feeling left out or just waiting around for something to do. There were several ways Telescape, the inventory system used by Mystery Mansion for this room, was integrated in order to ensure the teamwork based interactions remained solvable by multiple players, as intended, and allowed us a little freedom to divide and conquer virtually. Each separate room has their own personal style, and conveys a particular facet of the overall story, ensuring that while each room works as a stand alone adventure, those that take on both rooms will get the extra bonus of seeing how everything ties together! We really loved the side that dealt with the gruesome and ridiculous traps the antagonist had been using to take out his enemies.

Low Points:

There was an instance in both sides A and B of a puzzle that relied on searching in a way that doesn’t quite translate to the virtual experience well. A small puzzle or something to direct remote players a bit more would help alleviate these choke points, as searching in a virtual game usually has to be streamlined to ensure players don’t get hung up because they aren’t physically in the room. When clues would come up in telescape during our first game, there was a fart noise that was hilarious at first, but became old through repetition, however, during our second run, it was cut down to levels that remain silly and not grating. One of the sides definitely gives off a better “SAW parody” vibe than the other, and we tended to enjoy this side more, though there have been a few updates to the other side to ensure the theme and creepy vibe carry through a bit better.

Verdict:

Seen is a great set of rooms, and we enjoyed playing through both sides in order to get the full story! We aren’t overly competitive folks, so we didn’t play competitively, but both rooms seem balanced for head to head play. I do love the asynchronous nature of the game, as it allows players like us to essentially have two different rooms to play, and for those who really love to compete, they can swap rooms afterwards. These rooms are approachable for new players, and enthusiasts will definitely get their escape room fix from Seen. I highly recommend it for folks who enjoy darker humor and horror comedies! Book your time taking care of the baby here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

District 3 Escape Rooms – The Cabin (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4 players)

Price: $27 CAD per person (About $19.87 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Serial Kidnappers and Puzzle Filled Cabins… the new Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Theme:

From the District 3 Escape Rooms website:

There has been a series of kidnappings near a cabin. After locking your group up, the kidnapper leaves to find more trespassers. In trying to escape, you begin to learn more about who’s cabin it is, who the enemy is, why he kidnapped you, and what he is trying to hide.

First Impressions:

District 3 Escape Rooms came highly recommended to us by another escape room in the area, Mystery Mansion Regina, and I’m glad they gave us the heads up about these virtual rooms, and we had an excellent time working through an escape room double header during our lockdown! It may not be the 8-23 room marathons we’re used to, but taking on more than one room in a day helped us feel just a little bit more normal during the pandemic.

High Points:

As with most rooms we’ve experienced virtually, we would have loved to take this one on in person, but due to the pandemic, we are glad we were able to visit District 3 virtually! This room translates very well to the remote play experience, and it is, as always, a great time seeing our “Keyed Up!” team for some weekly escapes. Our Game Master/Avatar ensured we had a great time by interacting with us as we joked around, and assisted us with giving the room a thorough, streamlined search. Once we’d had a good look around, he was very responsive in reacting to our requests, and piecing together exactly what we were trying to say when we asked him to “put the doo-dad in the whatzit.” Truly, all remote escape game GMs absolutely deserve a pay raise for their long-suffering patience with us. The inventory system is great, displaying those items that were harder to read virtually, or we needed to come back to reference, and as we utilized props successfully, they automatically disappeared from view so as not to clutter up the window.

Puzzles themselves glide well across the linear game flow, and as we revealed new clues, it was fairly intuitive what needed to be done next. The breadcrumbs that have been sprinkled along the path are clear, and never become obtuse, ensuring that challenges remain fair. Though this is an older room with a few puzzles that may have popped up a time or two for expert players, these puzzles are still presented in an entertaining way, and don’t give off a feeling of “been there, done that,” but rather conceal a twist or two to ensure the process of solving stays fresh. One particular favorite of mine took a style of puzzle we’ve seen a few times, and tweaked it ever so slightly to ensure that we had to think just a little bit further out of the box than usual in order to put everything together. I thought it was a fun tweak that displayed the creativity of the designers well. As referenced in our previous review of Haunted, District 3 does a great job ensuring that the final debriefing continues the fun by presenting us with achievements that tie into their point system. It’s fun to see what sorts of milestones your team overcame during your game, and the extra personal touch to the finale is a fantastic way to cap off a room.

Low Points:

The Cabin itself was a very first generation room, and while that translate to a virtual setting well, the set isn’t quite as fancy, and the game itself is very much focused on locks, for the most part. The game can come across as a little “escape room-y” in parts, as the story tends to be more of a back drop for the puzzles rather than the puzzles being fully integrated into the story. There are a few puzzles that tie in, but overall, the story is most present at the beginning and only evolves slightly during the game. On the whole, we enjoyed the room, but the puzzles were generally geared more towards a less experienced crowd, so we didn’t happen across any particularly mind twisting enigmas or explosive moments of revelation.

Verdict:

The room is a good time, and is a solid experience, but is definitely more geared toward newer players, and enthusiasts might find it a bit easier. We enjoyed our time (virtually) inside The Cabin overall, however and would recommend it to players looking for a more introductory style room. Enthusiasts will still find a lot to like, as there are some good surprises and fun interactions to be found. Book your time escaping the mysterious kidnapper here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: District 3 Escape Rooms provided our team with a complementary game.