Locurio – The Vanishing Act Online (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 3-5 players)

Price: From $35 per person

Time to Escape: 70 minutes

What fun’s magic without a little possible death and dismemberment?

Theme:

From the Locurio website:

Step Right Up

The Great Noximillian, world-renowned magician, is hiding more than just tricks up his sleeve. His past five assistants have mysteriously gone missing, each after their 13th performance with Noximillian. Now his latest assistant, Casey, has contacted you for help in uncovering the truth behind these disturbing disappearances.

On the night of Casey’s 13th show, you are tasked with investigating The Great Noximillian’s private dressing room while the magician is busy on stage.

You have 70 minutes to find what Noximillian has been hiding and solve the mystery before the show is over and Casey’s time is up!

This game includes low lighting, as well as spooky elements and mature themes that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

First Impressions:

I hadn’t done an online escape room for a bit when the offer to play Locurio’s The Vanishing Act came through. I was excited to jump back in, and had heard that Locurio is pretty top notch, so I was curious to see how their games translated to the virtual space.

High Points:

The Vanishing Act began with a cool intro video that convincingly portrayed our trip to Noximillian’s dressing room. Honestly, we didn’t realize that this video was prerecorded until well after we had finished up. There are other videos involved with particular points as well as the fantastic climax, and all of them are seamlessly integrated into the experience. I really loved how the room’s story took center stage, and was woven into the puzzles, ensuring that we were just solving puzzles to unlock a door, but participating in a race against time to ensure our friend would make it out of her 13th performance alive! The jump between stages of the game was excellently executed, and while there is a cool tonal shift at one point, the experience remains light hearted on the whole, and never overtly scary. Our in game avatar did a great job of lightly hinting towards what to do next, and searched the room thoroughly for us, ensuring that we weren’t held up due to an inability to find the items we needed. The set was beautifully designed, and the dressing room, as well as what lay beneath the magical facade, are convincing.

The puzzling experience within The Vanishing Act is no slouch either, with loads of intuitive connections to be made, which lead to a myriad of ah ha moments. Best of all, almost every puzzle involves the group in some way. We haven’t seen teamwork based puzzles implemented quite this well, but Locurio has done an excellent job in utilizing Telescape, (the inventory management program,) in order to ensure that players get the cooperative feeling of working through an escape room together. This may be the best implementation of teamwork puzzles I’ve seen yet from a remote room, and the effect is uniquely satisfying. There are several moments of non-linearity, and the way things are set up, groups can work on separate things at the same time, ensuring that there is little to no down time for individual players, nor are there glaring choke points that hold progress up. The final run of puzzles was my favorite, as the ultimate task of the game requires a full set of fantastic puzzles to be solved, and culminates in an interaction that not only feels intense, but caps off the game amazingly.

Low Points:

We couldn’t be there live! I’m certain this room would only get better during a live play, but their online offering was just as good as many in person games we’ve played!

Verdict:

The Vanishing Act from Locurio was, in a word, brilliant. I absolutely recommend checking this one out as soon as possible, as the story, puzzles, and avatar interactions are top notch, and must be experienced! Beginners and Enthusiasts alike will have a great time, as many of the puzzles are a fantastic challenge, but the hint systems in place will keep groups who are struggling on the right track. Book your time saving Casey here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Locurio provided our team with a discounted game.

Mystery Mansion Regina – DTF: Drag Task Force (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.11 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Work it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

The devious Ruby Hymen has betrayed the Drag Task Force and has stolen all of their powers. The leader of the DTF, Flo Mingo, has selected you and your team to help the DTF infiltrate Ruby’s secret lair. You must find a way to stop Ruby and help the members of the DTF get their powers back!

A portion of each ticket will be donated to the Regina non-profit organization, Lulu’s Lodge.

*All content of this room has been reviewed and approved by the Drag Community and is not intended to offend any parties*

First Impressions:

DTF: Drag Task Force might be the most creative theme I’ve ever seen. Drag Queen superheroes, a robot avatar, and a puzzle that involves making a mixed drink for your avatar to choke down all come together to create what can only be described as one of the wildest online escape rooms we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing!

High Points:

DTF is a hilarious game, and if players relax and let themselves joke around with the avatar, they’re in for a fantastic time! Our game master was, as always with Mystery Mansion Regina, brilliantly quick on their feet, dishing out jokes and responses at lightening speed. Everything was incorporated with the awesome story, and I loved how much humor was injected into the experience. It is rare to see an escape room that truly excels at being funny, and the folks at Mystery Mansion Regina really know how to develop a fun puzzling flow while bringing the laughs. Just like their Night Terrors room, DTF is built from the ground up to be an online only experience, ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation. A favorite mechanic of this room is made possible by its online only nature, as one of the main goals of the game is to upgrade our robotic avatar using items that give the Drag Task Force their powers. Though it is as simple as finding a prop and asking to activate a power, it really lends a satisfying sense of progression to the experience, and adds a little extra something that we wouldn’t see in an in person room.

The puzzles themselves are very clever, and one in particular was an astoundingly fun interaction that had us laughing even after the game was over. At several points in the game, telescape was incorporated, allowing our team to solve in room puzzles concurrently with online puzzles, shaking up the usual linear nature of online, avatar based games and allowing for more non-linear progress to be made. This is great for bigger teams or players who like to break off to solve on their own, as it ensures that everyone can remain engaged without trying to lead an avatar to look at something across the room while others are attempting to solve something else entirely. Though the puzzles themselves were, for us, on the easier side of things, they were no less fun, and the room is absolutely packed with interactions, so we didn’t blow through the experience either. Overall, DTF is all about having a great time, and it definitely succeeds in its mission!

Low Points:

During our play, the decor was still in development, so the room didn’t quite have as much personality as it could’ve, however, it should be even more decked out now, so no worries here! The puzzling can sometimes ride on the easier, more basic side, so enthusiasts looking for an intense challenge may be disappointed, but we had more than enough fun running through the flow of the game and just enjoying the great story and banter with our game master/avatar!

Verdict:

DTF: Drag Task Force is easily one of the most creative, fun filled online escape rooms available. I whole heartedly recommend trying it out, as the entertaining puzzling flow and laugh a minute interactions with our game master delivered one of our favorite experiences of the pandemic. Book your time helping the Drag Task Force regain their fabulous powers here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

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:

[This Space Continues to be Intentionally Left Blank]

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.