Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $14.99

Night at the Museum

Theme:

From the Thames and Kosmos website:

A classic tale of murder on the Orient Express, reimagined. The culprit of a grisly crime is still on board your train. It’s a race against time to piece the clues together before the train reaches its destination. The case is perplexing, and you must solve it quickly so the assailant does not escape.

First Impressions:

Exit: The Game is such a great series of at home escape games, and years after diving into the many at home escape series that are available from your friendly local game store, it remains my favorite to crack open and play. It doesn’t hurt that this one is based off the work of my favorite mystery author, Agatha Christie! Of course, after Unlock’s ill-designed Scheherazade’s Last Tale, I made sure to keep my expectations tempered, just in case.

High Points:

There was no need to temper my expectations, as this game easily blew them out of the water! Taking heavy inspiration, but not ripping off, the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express, this game packs a lot of great nods to the source material in while remaining it’s own experience. Another thing this adventure is chock full of is clever puzzles and interactions. Though the usual ten are set up via the puzzle dial, there is an overarching meta puzzle that you’ll need to solve to truly catch the murderer, so a keen eye and attention to the many details placed within the game will be required in order to reach the best ending. This excellently added sleuthing portion really ratcheted up the fun and intensity of the experience, as well as the story. Although older Exit games tended to focus more on puzzles rather than storylines, these most recent entries have definitely stepped up the quality of the mysterious stories while ensuring the puzzle quality stays high!

The experience is fairly linear, but this is not a bad thing as it allows a small group to stay focused on the task and clues at hand, while gating the story fantastically. Clues that belong to the overall murder mystery as well as the individual puzzles will need to be identified and sorted out as you go, and everything is meted out more effectively in this linear manner. New rooms and items are presented excellently, ensuring that each new step deeper into the investigation remains integrated into its place in the story. Further, the move from just opening new journal pages to revealing all new rooms after most solves makes each successful interaction all the more satisfying. Every puzzle is wonderfully tactile, and Exit continues to find glorious ways to integrate interactions into the most unlikely places while still ensuring that each enigma is intuitive and well balanced. The difficulty of this game is higher than most Exit boxes, but it never felt unfair, ensuring that each and every solve provided some superb moments of revelation. The game also serves a wide range of puzzle types, which will engage and satisfy all members of the team, allowing everyone a moment to shine. The climactic puzzle is involved and very satisfying to solve, and depending on your answer, can lead to one of two different conclusions, offering a great finale to an amazing at home escape adventure!

20190718_2212122070079683360739956.jpg

Diamonds, Cryptic Wheels, and Prescient Help Cards that will help you bust the case wide open!

Low Points:

I have no real complaints. One puzzle can be easily circumvented with what I believe to be a completely valid work around, but it didn’t feel like a let down, and we solved the puzzle we were missing as well, so the experience wasn’t diminished.

Verdict:

Dead Man on the Orient Express is easily my favorite new mystery from Exit: The Game, and I certainly recommend giving it a shot! Only one caveat, however, as though this is absolutely the best entry into the Exit series, it’s definitely one of the most challenging as well, so I wouldn’t recommend starting out with it. Pick it up along with one of the easier entries so you can get a handle on how the games tend to work first, but absolutely get this one as well. Buy your copy from your friendly local game store today! We recommend checking out Atomic Empire in Durham, NC, check out their online store here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Escape Adventurer Gets Married! (and goes on hiatus)

In just a few short days, I’ll be getting married to the love of my life! It’s been an exciting and very busy last few weeks and months, and I’m so eager for the day to finally arrive. There’s still a lot to do, and a honeymoon to go on, so we’ll be taking the next few weeks off. Not to worry however, Escape Adventurer will return with new content beginning June 11th.

Kara, I love you more than words can express, but I will do my level best to make sure I show you how much every day. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you, making memories and maybe escaping a room or two (or a few hundred, let’s be real.)

~Brandon

Codescape – Deep Space (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

In space, no one can hear you scream

Theme:

From the Codescape website:

Is humanity truly alone? Radio signals have been received from a distant part of the known universe, suggesting the existence of intelligent life. As a team of exobiologists, you have been sent on a mission to deep space, in hopes of making first contact. But somewhere along the way, a breach has compromised the spacecraft’s security… Will you discover alien life, or will it discover you first?

First Impressions:

After a tangle with the ghosts in The Residents, it was time to shoot into space to deal with some aliens! This was our final room to play at Codescape, so we were interested to see how it played. It certainly looked interesting, and we’ve been looking for a great outer space themed game, so we were excited to get started!

High Points:

To start the game, there was a really fun technical interaction that encouraged teamwork from the start, and was a simple, yet fun start to the room with a fun payoff. Most puzzles and props were really cool, with some interesting designs throughout the game, most notably after solving the penultimate puzzle. The payoff to this is one of the most fun engagements I’ve seen in an escape room recently, and the unexpected nature of it just added to the experience. The set design was colorful and the soundtrack and lighting matched the theme well. Game-flow also worked, but with the caveat that it begins to break down after you have more than three or four players present within the room.

Low Points:

Unfortunately, the entire room began to feel rather same-y, as the mostly linear experience tended to boil down to the same type of interaction. While varied enough to veil this, a lot of the game can be seen as a “simon says” type room. Further, because of the mostly linear design and lower amount of puzzles, a maximum of eight players will definitely see a lot of the players facing large amounts of downtime with little to do. The biggest puzzles require a maximum of three people to comfortably complete before becoming an issue of too many cooks, and unfortunately, without buying out the rest of the tickets, there’s not much you can do to prevent overbooking. One particular puzzle presents a color based conundrum, but the lighting and solution choices tend to make several spots look overly similar, causing difficulty in solving not due to the challenge, but because the parameters of the interaction are not clear. During the final puzzle, the soundtrack is amped up with techno music that not only feels out of place, but is far too loud, adding artificial difficulty to a teamwork puzzle that relies on communication.

Verdict:

Deep Space is an interesting game that divided our group quite a bit. Some of us thought it was good, while others hated it. It all comes down to the fact that several folks ended up on the edges of the puzzles looking in due to the mostly linear game design and low actual maximum people that could work on any given puzzle. I’d say this is a fun room for beginners and those who can ensure that their group stays small, but if you’re looking for an experience that can handle more players, I’d look elsewhere. Book your expedition into the unknown here!

6/10 (Alright)

 

Unlock! Mystery Adventures: The Tonipal’s Treasure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: $14.99

Hoist the Black Flag!

Theme:

You’ve been on the trail of Captain Smith’s fabled buried treasure, and are on your way to Tonipal Island to claim it when the Governor throws you in prison for some contrived reason! Not coincidentally, the treasure hunter Johnson has started to make his way to the treasure himself, and will snatch it out from under you soon if you don’t hurry! You’ll need to escape from prison, find a treasure map, and enlist the help of a Voodoo practitioner along the way if you hope to succeed!

First Impressions:

The Tonipal’s Treasure is right up my alley, presenting a pirate treasure hunt full of swashbuckling adventure and devious puzzles! I noticed that the cards themselves were a bit different from their usual design, and this hinted at an excellent surprise that was in store for later. The full design of the game is one of the best in the series, and I couldn’t wait to see if the content matched the excellent packaging!

20190313_0848516655175247321247086.jpg

Talking parrots, broken compasses, and a treasure to seek!

High Points:

The Tonipal’s Treasure is jam packed full of puzzles, and working through it is an absolute blast! There are loads of creative interactions to play around with, and at no point do any of the puzzles presented feel boring. This adventure is also full of surprises, as many of the cards will be used in creative and innovative ways, unlocking various ah ha moments every step of the way. The game flow is impeccable for the most part, with only one point creating a roadblock due to insufficient cluing. This treasure hunt is also the most challenging, but fair, Unlock! game I’ve experienced to date. The game presents several locations all across the fictionalized Caribbean, and there are always several puzzles to solve at any given moment. Regarding the puzzles, they’re highly logical, and do not require any strange leaps to be made, and on the whole, each one provides just enough hints to lead players to fantastic moments of revelation.

The atmosphere that is set up by the Unlock! app is also fantastic, boasting a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque score, and loads of audio hints that are revealed by many of the cards. Feedback from the app is great, and the ability to take hints, track time, and work on certain “machine” puzzles in a more interactive way all combine to bolster the experience and make it more immersive than a basic at home escape room. The story develops throughout the game, and though it isn’t particularly deep, it accompanies the game well, and presents a climactic and satisfying finale.

20190313_1038386061527123187894355.jpg

It wouldn’t be an excellent Unlock! game without a friendly puppy to help you out!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle is very poorly clued, and involves a fair bit of math that doesn’t make much sense on the surface. Honestly, it feels as though there’s something missing throughout the solve, and the reasoning behind one number never made much sense at all until we realized that a certain letter was actually a number. If you’re unfamiliar with the metric system, this one will become even more difficult.

Verdict:

The Tonipal’s Treasure is a fantastic addition to the Unlock! line of at home escape games. Innovating on the basic formula and including loads of surprising new ways to interact with the cards, I highly recommend checking it out. A more difficult adventure, veteran players will definitely enjoy the challenge, but I don’t think newer players would be lost thanks to the excellent game flow and helper app. We bought ours at the ever excellent Atomic Empire in Durham, NC, check out their online store here!

9/10 (Excellent)