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.

The Panic Room – CSI: Stranglehold (Review)

Location: Your home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 1-6 (from the same or different locations) – we suggest 2-3

Price: £20 ($26.73 at the time of this writing.)

Gripping

Theme:

From the Panic Room website:

Blood has been spilled across the streets of London, ‘The Eastside Strangler’ has yet to be caught, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. You must follow in the footsteps of the previous detective on the case and finally get some justice. Find out his identity and location before he strikes again! The power is in your hands detectives.

CSI: Stranglehold is a web-based escape game you can play at home, solo, or with a group. Includes audio, video, and visual files that are gradually unlocked as you solve your way through the exciting and fiendish puzzles to find the identity of the ‘Eastside Strangler’ before he chooses another victim.

First Impressions:

After finishing up The Panic Room’s Sherlock Holmes game, I was more than ready to jump forward a bit in time, and take on a new mystery! CSI: Stronghold’s somewhat flashier presentation, and inclusion of video and a grittier story line appealed to me immediately, and I couldn’t wait to see how the adventure would unfold!

High Points:

CSI: Stranglehold is a more complex mystery than Sherlock Holmes, ramping up the difficulty and the deductions needed to solve the puzzles, which appeals to the puzzling enthusiast in me. I also enjoyed the whole production of this game, with it’s snazzy videos and slick presentation. The videos themselves did a great job of upping the interactive feel of the game, and definitely helped pull us into the world of the mystery, for the most part. I also noticed that many of the locks and files we needed to interact with were shown from the start, giving this game more of an escape room feel overall. Inputs are clear, and the challenge remains in solving the puzzle, rather than figuring out what goes where, with clues subtly hidden in order to signpost what is important for progression. There are ongoing clues that come from a particular item, and it is always satisfying when a puzzle presents itself, and a connection is made, revealing the importance of something we previously thought to be innocuous. The game flowed very well from place to place, and while the experience is linear on the whole, this works in the game’s favor by ensuring that the story can progress smoothly. While some of the puzzles were real thinkers, we never came across a point where the logic became obtuse, so the adventure continued to move at a nice clip.

All interactions within the game are intuitive, and though some are particularly challenging, a good amount of brain power and some team work always ensured we’d be able to suss out the answers in due time. One early game favorite hid its solution well, and as we slowly determined what was important and how to apply these pieces, the ah ha moment slowly came into view. We continued to solve, working through this fast paced mystery; eventually making our way to the fantastic ending. We really liked the overall deduction of the who dunnit, (or the “who has done this,” for fans of Captain Raymond Holt,) as it comes together in an engagingly fun way. The climax was excellent as well, presenting us with a congratulations and denouement via another well produced video.

Low Points:

Some of the puzzles in this game are a bit “escape-roomy” in that they don’t quite tie into the theme overly well, taking us out of the immersion somewhat. The puzzles were interesting however, so it is entirely forgivable, but those looking for complete immersion throughout will find these moments a little jarring. We liked the audio soundtrack included as an optional immersion aid, but unfortunately, due to the amount of videos, it didn’t play nicely with hearing the actors as well, so it was paused and unfortunately forgotten about. Some of the portrayals within the game were somewhat hit or miss, but get the point across as needed.

Final Verdict:

CSI: Stranglehold is a great hour or two of mystery solving fun, and I definitely recommend checking it out. Though the difficulty is somewhat higher than that of Sherlock Holmes, it is a great next step for beginners who have completed that game or enthusiasts looking for a bigger challenge! The mystery presented was engaging, and I had a brilliant time working to uncover the identity of The Eastside Strangler! Book your time going toe to toe with a vicious killer here!

8.5/10 (Great)

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

The Panic Room – Sherlock Holmes (Review)

Location: Your home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 1-6 (from the same or different locations) – we suggest 2-3

Price: £15 ($19.77 at the time of this writing.)

Elementary!

Theme:

From the Panic Room website:

The year is 1912, the location: London town.

You and your group think yourself to be a top-notch group of detectives and are raring to take on your first big case. What better than a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve?

You’ll need your wits about you, a keen eye for detail and don’t forget to take notes!

During your investigation, you will come across quite a few individuals who will hopefully help connect the dots and lead you on the right path. Perhaps you will even be able to catch up with Sherlock and solve the case yourself?

Think fast, look closely, and of course just remember…Don’t Panic!

First Impressions:

It’s been so long since I’ve done a Sherlock-themed puzzle/escape anything! (Or has it? 2020 has been a long decade so far – what is even time?) Not that I haven’t enjoyed the various horror-themed rooms we’ve been playing recently, but I found the return to a classic a breath of relief and was excited to see what the Panic Room had to offer.

sherlock-holmes-online-escape-room-experience-457411_720x

Yay Points:

Sherlock Holmes is a great beginner-friendly introduction to the world of puzzling. The style, I think, was very apropos for a Sherlock-themed game. The puzzles were woven well into the storyline, and I really enjoyed how the case unfolded with each step of the way, with each win unlocking the next destination and a new piece of the mystery. I particularly enjoyed that we were able to use different pieces of evidence via embedded materials in the webpages. The interaction with these materials were thankfully smooth to both use and navigate (always appreciate the zoom-in feature and links to images!), and they seemed to have some nice, thoughtful details to them.

Additionally, the overall mechanics of the game play were intuitive and well set-up. It was easy to navigate back and forth between the pages, and we were happy to find that the site saves your progress so that we didn’t have to enter passwords to order to check back with previous pages. We were also pleasantly surprised when we happened upon a secondary way to get you to where you needed to go. A thoughtful use of materials! Optional audio narratives were also available for each story element, which (as it has been documented) we definitely appreciated.

The flow of puzzles we navigated contained a nice progression. Starting off with an easy win, your deductive skills are increasingly called upon as you strive to catch up to Sherlock and solve the case. The game makes it very clear what questions you need to answer and, for the most part, it’s straightforward as to what you need to use and do to solve each conundrum that appears. There were a couple of a-ha moments on my part when I realized what I may have been overthinking though, but then it was smooth sailing from there.

sherlock-holmes-online-escape-room-experience-225251_480x

Pondering Points:

Now that I know the answer for the climactic puzzle, I understand how we were supposed to arrive at the correct solution. However, we seemed to get tripped up by a clue that pointed us to different resources and thus a different conclusion than what was intended. I’m not sure if the evidence we focused on was unintentional or a red herring, but it seemed to be a more noticeable signal (to us at least) than what we were supposed to latch onto. Thus, the correct solve ended up being slightly anticlimactic for us, perhaps in large part due to our previous efforts on the erroneous rabbit trail.

While the passwords themselves were typically clear, they were on the longer side, so it might have been nice to be able to have the option to ‘reveal’ what answer you were typing to confirm you were entering it correctly.

Final Verdict:

I would definitely recommend Sherlock Holmes for beginners or enthusiasts who wanted to introduce their friends/family to the puzzling experience. For enthusiasts alone, it’ll definitely be on the easier side, but it’d still likely be a leisurely fun time. I think this was a great starter game before players try one of the Panic Room’s other virtual experiences, CSI: Stranglehold (review coming!) Try your hand at assisting the great Sherlock Holmes here!

8/10 (Great)

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