Omescape DC – Omega (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2)

Price: $27.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Don’t go there. That way lies madness.

Theme:

You are the students of a renowned scientist who is pushing the limits of time travel research. You’ve come to his lab to see a new project he has been secretly working on, but his assistant has not seen him. Find out where he’s gone, but be aware that his new invention is unstable, and could cause serious complications if you can’t solve the mystery!

First Impressions:

My first impression of Omescape DC came two days before we played Omega and it was not good. As a bit of background, we were originally booked to play Kingdom of Cats on a Friday evening, but about three or so hours before we were to be there, I received a call from them saying that the room had been broken due to a previous group. Repairs were being made, but we would need to reschedule. This would’ve been fine if the tone of the call had not been seemingly exasperated with us. Fast forward two days later, and two hours before our new time, we call to find out if we are still good to go for Kingdom of Cats. We are not, and are rebooked in a fairly confusing jumble of new rooms and times. I was still confused after our call, so I walked into the lobby early in order to just confirm we were booked for the time I assumed. When we did arrive for our game time, we noticed that the only person working was at the front desk on their phone, and we heard another team calling for hints in a back room, which she eventually went to answer. She was also to be our GM while this room continued. This did not instill confidence.

High Points:

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Low Points:

First off, the room is sweltering, as there is no a/c. There are a very small amount of puzzles within, and none of them are terribly interesting. In fact, the first was the most exciting, and it wasn’t much. There’s very little to in the extremely empty room at all stages, and the majority of the props were broken. The room has so little to do and is strictly linear, but still manages to have so little connective tissue to be bewildering at times. One of the mid-game puzzles isn’t clued and barely works, so it’s hard to tell if it is even part of the room. There is outside knowledge required for one puzzle, and the logic to figure it out is some of the most tenuous I’ve ever seen. The penultimate puzzle required remembering a fact that is not included in the room, and the cluing points towards something completely different anyway. Written props and hints contain multiple grammatical and spelling errors, which aren’t part of a puzzle either, and feel sloppy. So much of the room is slapdash an busted, it’s actually quite amazing it still runs. When asking for a hint, our calls went unanswered several times, and had I not been hyper assertive with my requests, I am certain we’d still be waiting to hear back. My teammate, after only 20 minutes in the room, wondered aloud if we could just leave. I thought the same thing, but felt obligated to see this awful experience through so that you don’t have to.

Verdict:

I had honestly thought I’d seen the worst room I could think of before entering Omega, but this one smashed my already low expectations. I mulled over the score for this one for a while, and felt as though the dead bottom of a 1/10 was not quite enough to convey my displeasure with this cut rate experience. Therefore I’ve instituted a new, lower rating to let you know that you should never, under any circumstances, consider visiting this room. I usually include a link to the room, even on low ratings, just in case you’d like to visit, but cannot bring myself to do so here. Therefore, Omescape DC’s Omega room receives a:

0/10 (Atrocious)

Insomnia Escape – Oblivion (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: Varies, see here for details.

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

I am Computer. Do you love Computer?

Theme:

A brilliant scientist has recently created the most advanced AI the world has ever seen, ELIZA! After fully integrating ELIZA into his lab, however, he has mysteriously disappeared, and it is up to you and your team of investigators to find out what happened! Power up the AI, and with her assistance, you may be able to unravel the case! But something seems a bit… off.

First Impressions:

Insomnia came highly recommended to us, and their new theme promised a unique experience, so we were definitely looking forward to how they implemented Virtual and Augmented Reality into the room. Insomnia’s friendly Gamemaster provided us with a briefing on the room, and our first clue, which delivered a bit of the backstory in a much more immersion friendly way than delivery via GM, after which we were ushered into the powered down laboratory.

High Points:

The entire room, due to it’s technical theme, was extremely high-tech and futuristic feeling. In fact, during the game, the entire room responds to your actions, which is fantastic for getting you more and more immersed in the story. Many times, the room responded to us personally in ways we absolutely did not see coming, and it was an amazing treat have the room itself interact with us. Puzzles are easy to find, and solving them is incredibly satisfying, due to their technical nature and great feedback. VR is handled well in the room, and does not overstay it’s welcome, and remains a tangible challenge that involves the whole team instead of being a one-person puzzle, which is highly commendable. The story is delivered in a fun way, and though the acting is not taken too seriously, it works, and builds to a climax that is worthy of such an ambitious room.

Low Points:

For a room filled with tech, we were wary that something might go haywire to derail the game, but luckily, we only experienced one malfunction, and it was extremely minor. The room is vastly linear, so a much larger group may have members feeling left out.

Verdict:

Oblivion is an original idea that shoots for a lofty goal, and hits on almost every mark. Gameplay is well balanced with the story, and should be exciting for beginners and enthusiasts alike. I highly recommend you try it out, as this is one of the best games we saw while visiting DC! Book your time with ELIZA here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Insomnia Escape provided media discounted tickets for our game.

Escape Room Live Alexandria – Poeanormal Activity (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 Minutes

Nevermore!

Theme:

Edgar Allen Poe’s study has been opened up recently, as rumors of a secret manuscript have taken the nation by storm! Discovery Channel’s Destination America is the first on the scene, ready to seek out this lost tale, but unfortunately, one of the two reporters hitting the scene first have gone missing.  You are a paranormal investigation team hired by Destination America to seek out this manuscript, and discover what happened to the missing crew member! Act fast, though, as the lingering spirits have grown restless…

First Impressions:

Boasting a comfortable lobby, Escape Room Live Alexandria makes quite the first impression, that carries into the room itself, as no cost has been spared to bring Poe’s chambers to life! Hollywood style sets and lighting heighten the spooky vibe, and gets your blood pumping for an exciting escape! We’ve seen great sets before, though, and they’re nothing without great puzzling, so how did that go?

High Points:

Along with the set, there were several technological interactions to help you get immersed in the story, and are well hidden, adding to the supernatural aura of the room. You are separated into two groups at the beginning, and locked away from each other by a door in the middle, demanding teamwork in a puzzle-centric way. The final few steps through the room are a fantastic climax, and many of the puzzles along the way hearken back to the literature of Poe, which was fun for the Poe aficionados among us.

Low Points:

Unfortunately, with a large amount of tech, can come technical difficulties. We experienced only one, but it caused several cascading problems. In fact, due to the malfunction, we took a hint after minutes of aimless wandering, which informed us we needed to do the thing we had already tried twice and written off. To add insult to injury, we were denied the ability to get on the leaderboard because of it! We don’t usually try for best times, but the fact we would have made it without this “hint” made our quick victory feel a bit hollow. The experience went by entirely too quickly for the money, and we escaped in around half that time, even with this being one of the hardest rooms Escape Room Live has to offer. While the technical puzzles were impressive, there wasn’t a whole lot we hadn’t seen before in other rooms, and many of the fun looking props and set pieces did not play into the solving of the room at all. A couple parts of the room seemed to be leftover puzzles that were scrapped, but left in as red herrings, which was disappointing. Our customer service experience was just alright, as our GM was there to greet us when we escaped, but then quickly disappeared soon thereafter, leading us to wonder if we were going to take a picture, and with whom.

Verdict:

While the set of Poeanormal Activity impresses, the game overall is lacking in depth of puzzling. Newcomers will enjoy this room much more than enthusiasts, since they will probably speed through the room. I had a good time, however, but feel that the technical and customer service snafus dulled what could’ve been a more engaging experience. Sign up to investigate the Poeanormal Activity here!

6/10 (Alright)

 

PanIQ DC – Prehistoric (Review)

Location: Washington, DC

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: Varies, check here for details

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

History of the World: Part One

Theme:

You and your team are a band of cavemen during the year 6,000 BC. You were out hunting when a terrible storm kicked up, sending you all scattering to search for shelter. Luckily, there was a highly convenient cave nearby! Unluckily, it belongs to a band of cannibals! You’ll need to solve their clever puzzles and escape before they return and put you into their stew! (Why we can’t just walk out of the cave, I’m unsure, but it sure is a unique theme, so let’s roll with it!)

First Impressions:

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Do you see this door? It’s fuzzy and wonderful and I love it.

High Points:

The room was very well decorated, with animal skins, cannibal necklaces, and various cave stones and detritus. The game starts with a small area, and gradually opens up, giving a nice flow, while drip feeding pertinent bits of puzzles. While the story is fairly dark when you think about it, the room itself is very lighthearted and fun, and doesn’t get too caught up in the cannibal grossness. The mostly non-linear, teamwork based focus is enough to keep a group entertained, and the interactions have intuitive logical connections. A few puzzles in particular stand out as either enjoyable tactile experiences, or interesting mechanical activities, and the room as a whole feels satisfying to play with and solve.

Low Points:

I felt as though the theme would have been better served with well hidden technological interactions, or clever “prehistoric” locking mechanisms, as the cannibal cavemen from 6,000 BC had a good number of modern locks and accouterments peppered about their cave. One puzzle felt a little laborious in it’s solving, but was otherwise well implemented. There are a couple tight spots may make accessibility difficult for some players, and having more than 4 or 5 players will more than likely feel very cozy. The room may feel a little simplistic for experienced players, but as PanIQ DC provides private rooms as the default, you can book fewer teammates to customize your difficulty.

Verdict:

Prehistoric is a light-hearted puzzling romp, containing one of the most unique themes I’ve seen lately. The story is light, but the puzzling is solid and well woven into the room. Beginners will be provided with an immersive and fun romp, and it is a good room for enthusiasts to tackle with a smaller group. Book your time inside the cannibals’ cave  here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Escape Quest – King’s Ransom (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Long Live the King!

Theme:

The King has been taken hostage and a hefty ransom has been demanded in exchange for his safe return, but a firm deadline has been set, removing any hope for a negotiation or time to muster a force to find him. As his most trusted advisers, you are tasked with putting together a ransom of gold and jewels before the King is executed, which is sure to begin a long and bloody war!

First Impressions:

As previously mentioned in our Lost Temple review, Escape Quest boasts a beautiful and comfortable lobby, as well as an excellent space for briefings. Our experience with GMs here was also top notch, as they provided excellent customer service and help whenever needed.

High Points:

The room itself is, as we’ve come to expect from Escape Quest, beautiful and highly immersive. In fact, I’d say King’s Ransom is the best looking game we saw while in the area! Progression is linear, but builds in a way as to include multiple teammates and encourage teamwork. Tech is well hidden, and is used sparingly, in order to evoke a sense of mystery. King’s Ransom is Escape Quest’s hardest room, so puzzles are generally a bit more esoteric in their solutions, but were not frustratingly done. Once methods to solving were figured out, there were many ah-ha moments to be had. Props felt overall like they belonged, and were fun to manipulate and use in our puzzling. The story was light, but continued to be uncovered throughout, leading to a climactic and satisfying conclusion to the experience.

Low Points:

One puzzle in particular was very weakly clued, and we the connection between the solution and input was tenuous at best. An interaction we had solved fairly quickly was finicky and required a lot of unnecessary jiggling and guess and check in order to finagle it into the right position. One particular prop felt anachronistic, and confused us a little bit.

Verdict:

King’s Ransom is another great addition to the DC area escape scene, and delivers a more challenging experience for enthusiasts, while still remaining accessible to newcomers as well. I would, however, recommend getting at least a couple rooms under your belt before attempting King’s Ransom. In short, I highly recommend this room for it’s fantastic set design and exciting puzzling. You can help Ransom the King here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Quest – The Lost Temple (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-10 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Fortune and Glory, kid. Fortune and Glory.

Theme:

Dr. Dakota James has gone missing in SouthAmerica while on the hunt for an ancient artifact, leaving you, his proteges, to find his campsite and figure out what happened. Unfortunately, you’ll have to act fast, because a nearby volcano is threatening to blow soon, taking the entire area with it! Find out where Dr. James went, and find the treasure before you go missing too!

First Impressions:

I don’t know what it is about DC, but it is the land of the amazing escape room lobbies! Escape Quest’s front door leads up a flight of stairs that leads to an excellent waiting area, filled with odds and ends, and a few interesting puzzles to while time away as you wait. Staff is extremely friendly and customer service is top notch here. The briefing room is separated from the lobby and the rooms, which is always a plus, and the briefing itself is succinct and to the point. The room itself was very well done, and felt immediately like stepping into a temple far from Washington!

High Points:

The immersion factor in The Lost Temple is top notch. Props and scenery feel realistic, and technology inserted within is hidden well, giving a magical feel to some puzzle solutions. Progression is mostly linear, but there are several instances where other puzzles can be solved, so there’s no shortage of things to do while exploring the temple. Puzzles are clever and give satisfying feedback when solved, and are mostly tactile in nature, which is always appreciated. The variety of things to do in the room mix escape room standbys and new interactions in surprising ways, and the build towards the climax of the room is excellent.

Low Points:

One late game puzzle felt a bit obscure in its cluing, but once it is figured out, is enjoyable to solve. The story itself was very front loaded, and while the room does not suffer from it, peppering more story bits throughout would not hurt.

Verdict:

The Lost Temple is one of the best rooms I experienced in DC, and would recommend it to enthusiasts and beginners alike. Despite a couple minor hiccups, it is an extremely entertaining and well thought out experience that will engage veterans and hook newbies into the hobby. Book your time in The Lost Temple here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Escape Quest comped our tickets for this game.

Psycho60 – Quantum (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Last one, I promise.

Theme:

You’re going back in time because something something, someone is messing with the timeline, maybe? You’re not sure where you’re going, but it’s going to be to save someone important. Maybe? I don’t know, this was a mess.

First Impressions:

Hey, there’s an old Mac in here, this’ll be some good nostalgia, I hope! We did this one after Hostage, so as you can imagine, the bar was not set very high.

High Points:

It was better than Hostage, but not by much. I liked the old Mac computer, but wish there was more to do with it. The movie posters from the 80’s were also a nice touch as well.

Low Points:

This room did not have walkie talkies like the other two, so the GM was in the room with you, which was enormously awkward. A teammate opined that this was because the game is not solvable without someone leading you by the hand, which, for some parts, I’d have to agree with him. Puzzles continued to be fairly banal to illogically maddening, with one puzzle being reset incorrectly. One “puzzle” was particularly lazy, I won’t spoil what it is, but at least it was the “easy” version of one of these. More puzzle boxes, which at this point felt more and more uninspired. This room was lightest on the outside knowledge, and felt a little bit more forgivable than that found within the other rooms. The story was fairly incomprehensible and the escape was random feeling and anticlimactic. One large puzzle felt like a huge missed opportunity, as it’s solution was lame, but the several theories we had during the solving process felt like they’d have been much more exciting.

Verdict:

There’s not much more to be said beyond what I’ve already written for the previous two rooms, (Infectious Lab and Hostage), other than to say that it’s really not a great experience, though we were really hoping they’d be. I try to make sure rooms I take teams to are at least good, but I felt I needed to apologize to my team for us having to make the trip out to Kernersville for these. Obviously not recommended, however if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

2/10 (Bad)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Psycho60 – Hostage (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It’s worse than I thought.

Theme:

You are bank employees who have been taken hostage during a bank robbery and forced into the manager’s office with bombs strapped to your legs. The bombs are set to go off in an hour, and you’ll be disappointed when they don’t, really.

First Impressions:

After the Infected Lab, I was not expecting much, and was still greatly disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of writing bad reviews, but trust me, this one deserves it.

High Points:

Eventually, you are allowed to leave. I’m not trying to be facetious here, I discussed the room at length with my team later, and we could not come up with one thing we liked about this room, it’s that bad.

Low Points:

There are more problems in this room than I initially thought possible. Puzzles ran the gamut of unintuitive, illogical, and off theme, most were a combination of all of these. We were made to strap chain “bombs” to our legs at the beginning of the game, which were uncomfortable and unnecessary. I took mine off immediately, but others on my team who did not reported varying levels of discomfort and pain. Outside knowledge is required at two points of the game, a definite no no, and the hints given to overcome these poor puzzles were confusing and delivered condescendingly. The connective tissue of the room is completely absent, and there is no flow to gameplay whatsoever. When doing the after game walkthrough, it was revealed that many of the puzzles relied on guess and check, which is an unsatisfying time sink. One guess and check puzzle, we were assured each item appeared only once, but this was patently wrong once we took a closer look. There were random puzzles boxes about, with tenuous clues as to how they should be opened. Cluing is extremely vague, in a misguided effort to be “difficult.” Don’t get me wrong, I like a difficult room, as two of my favorite rooms of all time was a failure and one in which we escaped with :27 to go! The difference between those rooms and this one was that those were fair, and solvable without hints. This was just a disaster overall, and the worst part is, I have no idea how this could be fixed.

Verdict:

This was the first room I have ever been in which after 20 minutes in, I did not care if we escaped. It is touted as “difficult,” but in truth, it’s just an exercise in frustration. I recommend you stay very far away from this one. Beginners will not get a good introduction to escape rooms, and enthusiasts will balk at this poor imitation of an escape experience. However if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

1/10 (Rubbish)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Psycho60 – Infected Lab (Review)

Location: Kernersville, NC

Players:  2-8

Price: $25 per person Fri-Sun, $20 Mon-Thurs

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

On second thought, let’s not go there, ’tis a silly place.

Theme:

You work for the government building nuclear bombs, but your team has apparently also been working on bioweapons, and has let a parasite free through carelessness. Unless you find the antidote within 60 minutes, the world will end. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but lets just go with it for now.

First Impressions:

Psycho60 is located in a small office park, in a small town in NC. Pretty unassuming, but some of the best games I’ve played are very much out of the way, so no need to judge a book by it’s cover. The interior is interestingly decorated, if small. Our briefing was a standard, no-frills rules rundown, and there was effort made to bring a small theatrical bent to the room during the story delivery.

High Points:

There was a mouse in the room, and it was very cute, so that fit pretty well with the theme of a lab. Several props were standard for a lab, and fun to use. No puzzles really stood out to us, but the majority were at least fairly competent, if unexciting. The puzzles connected well, and there wasn’t much confusion about what was next.

Low Points:

Outside knowledge should never be required in an escape room but one puzzle in the room would have required it had we not been able to bypass it due to a fairly wild guess. A fairly complex algebraic problem was included, that will frustrate many players, and there were several red herrings peppering a couple of the puzzles. The game itself felt uninspired, and the linear nature was unable to keep our team of 4 engaged, so I imagine a group of 8 would have some serious issues with the amount of standing around while one or two others solve the puzzles. The ending was anticlimactic, and due to the unintentional ease with which we bypassed one of the steps of the game, we weren’t sure we had finished.

Verdict:

The Infected Lab was just not very exciting. The game itself worked, but did not do much to entertain our group of enthusiasts. We required no hints and set the room record by completing it in a little over 25 minutes, but it didn’t feel like much of a win, as we were completely underwhelmed by the entire experience. Unfortunately, after doing the other two rooms that Psycho60 has to offer, this one was the least offensive. I do not recommend this room unless some serious renovation is done. However if you want to check it out, you can do so here.

3/10 (Poor)

Full Disclosure: Psycho60 provided media discounted tickets for our team.

NC Escape – The Study (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players:  2-6 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $26 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Why would you want to save the world? Because I’m one of the idiots that lives in it!

Theme:

A mad genius has been under surveillance by a secret government agency due to their suspicions that he is building a doomsday device. Recently, he entered his mansion, and never came out. Your superiors are worried that he may have noticed he was being watched, and has escaped! Break in to find out what he’s been up to and where he is going, but do so quickly, since the trail is quickly going cold!

First Impressions:

The Study was nicely laid out, and while it may not have been as immediately impressive as Ex Machina, there were many different devices that slowly revealed themselves as we started our black ops mission. It felt very much like a dim study, and we felt very immersed in the story once we were given our briefing and set loose on the room.

High Points:

The non linear room ensured both of us had plenty to work on, but also included several teamwork based interactions so that we also enjoyed working together on several capstone puzzles. Technology was peppered throughout, and was well hidden and a nice surprise as we tackled the challenges. Feedback on puzzles was very clear and flowed well from one to the next. This room again did not allow us a method for taking notes, but this did not frustrate, and enhanced the few puzzles we would have taken notes on for teamwork purposes. One late game puzzle was particularly creative, and gave a great a ha moment when we finally figured out why we were undoing the locks we were working on.

Low Points:

Another late game puzzle was creative and straightforward, but the accuracy of the props were slightly off, leading to a bit of frustration in determining where things should be, rather than where they actually were. Some story related items felt under utilized, and just sort of felt like they were there for the sake of being there. The later stage of the game felt a little sparse, as it felt like there could’ve been much more room for theming. One puzzle in particular led us to work together, as it would’ve taken a long time for one person to follow through, but it felt like busy work and way overstayed it’s welcome. Some red herrings popped up due to unintentionally misleading cluing, which brought us off track. The ending was fairly anticlimactic, and didn’t seem to tie up the loose ends as well as we had hoped.

Verdict:

Despite a few hiccups affecting game flow, The Study was a good experience that should be a fine introductory experience for beginners, and an enjoyable time for teams of enthusiasts. I would definitely suggest doing this room before Ex Machina, though, as that one is a tough act to follow! I certainly recommend both, however. Book your time in the madman’s Study here!

7.5/10 (Good)