International Spy Museum – Operation Spy (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: Up to 15 (As an interactive theatre experience, any amount will do)

Price: Depends on your ticket package, see here.

Length of Mission: 60 minutes

No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

Theme:

Accepting your first mission with a shadowy government spy agency, you and your team are transported to Khandar for a mission filled with intrigue and betrayal! A possible political assassination, a stolen doomsday device, and shifting alliances are only a few problems you’ll have to deal with during your mission! Based on actual CIA case files, Operation Spy is promised to be an experience unlike any other!

First Impressions:

Going in, I knew Operation Spy was more of an interactive theatre experience than an escape room, even though it was built by the highly recommended 5Wits. We enjoyed the Spy Museum before embarking on our mission, and it is top notch, containing a huge James Bond exhibit with a lot of interactive exhibits and props from a whole range of movies to marvel at! Upon our arrival at the briefing point, we were introduced to each other and the world of Khadar before meeting our contact.

High Points:

Our contact kept the high energy pace going throughout the experience, and helped lead us from point to point during this interactive adventure. There were several points throughout that felt like an “escape room lite” especially a hectic and pulse quickening bit during the middle of the game, and the puzzles that were delivered were fun and responsive. The story is well crafted, and evolved throughout the experience, with parts of the narrative branching based on the group’s actions. Throughout the many different areas we moved through, transitions were smooth and convincing, and the theatrical sets were incredible. For each puzzling interaction, there was enough for each member of the group to work together with others, leaving very little downtime.

Low Points:

On the flip side, having a large amount of strangers to work with can be difficult. In an escape room, random teammates can be good or bad, but are usually a certain type of person who has fun solving real life, large scale puzzles. The nature of the Spy Museum ensured we encountered a few teammates who were just along for the ride, and couldn’t quite pull their weight for their sections. Those going in expecting a full escape room experience will be disappointed, and most puzzling will be fairly simple for those who are enthusiasts. The show itself runs at a fast pace, and we’d hit a great part of the experience, only to have to shuttle out long before we’d exhausted the fun we could have in each segment.

Verdict:

As an interactive theatre experience, Operation Spy is a great addition to a visit to the International Spy Museum. There’s no real need to visit if you’re only interested in an escape room, but as a live, interactive show, it’s great fun! It’s also a good breather during DC escape marathons, as the puzzling is light, and allows several points where you can catch a rest. I definitely recommend checking it out! You can book your mission here!

7.5/10 (Good)

The Escape Lounge – Escape the Oval Office (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 4-10 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

“Scandal”

Theme:

As a group of White House correspondents, you’ve gotten wind of a brewing scandal surrounding the President. The details are all nebulous right now, but you’ve found your way into the Oval Office, and have an hour to find out what’s going on so you can break the story once you escape!

First Impressions:

When entering the Escape Lounge, we were greeted by the upbeat owner and her well decorated lobby just up the stairs from the street. They were preparing for a birthday party, but were happy to stop and help us get briefed and ready for our room.

High Points:

The room itself was a decent facsimile of the Oval Office, and the centerpiece was quite convincing, it was, unfortunately, not oval, but building codes being what they are, we didn’t think much of it. Some unique props were to be found, and were satisfying to open. A few surprises were to be had, opening up parts of the room that seemed rather solid at first glance. The hint delivery system itself was cute.

Low Points:

So many escape room sins were committed here, and they built upon each other as we went, culminating in what may be the most disappointing conclusion to a room we’ve seen in a good while. The room had a CD player belting out overly loud, random music, which we were luckily able to turn down. A massive amount of double cluing ended up developing several dead ends along the way that only made sense once puzzles were solved. Some parts of the room had no bearing on anything, and were egregious red herrings. Many hiding spots were unintuitive and seemed to be placed for artificial difficulty rather than adding to the experience. A lot of the room felt as though it drifted off theme, and the over use of one particularly cliché prop exhausted us with its over implementation. The story didn’t build in a coherent way, and the climax fell completely flat. As a whole, the room felt like a random collection of average puzzles, glossed over with a political sheen.

Verdict:

Overly banal and haphazard, Escape the Oval Office is a disappointment. Our expectations of its theme remained unachieved, turning what could’ve been a story of puzzling political intrigue into a groanworthy flop. Enthusiasts will have seen it done much better before and beginners should steer clear. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, however, you can do so here.

3/10 (Poor)

Escape Quest – Black Widow (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players:  2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Y’know, after the death of husband #3, you’d think she wouldn’t be so alluring…

Theme:

The Black Widow is a notorious alleged serial killer whose previous three husbands have all died under mysterious and violent circumstances. Her fourth husband has recently gone missing, and though the police have nothing so far, they’ve hired your group of private investigators to break into her home and find out what happened. Uncover the truth quickly, though, as you don’t want to get caught in her web!

First Impressions:

The Black Widow’s home is lovely, and eerie, with signs of her subtle madness hidden throughout the room. As always from Escape Quest, the attention to detail and production values are wonderful and immediately immersive. Rooms feel nothing like the usual converted office spaces, and help transport you into a new space while telling their stories.

High Points:

Along with the immersive and beautiful room, comes a slew of thought provoking puzzling. Each item leads from spot to spot, but in a subtle way, allowing for quite a few moments of revelation. While building toward the meta puzzle, new revelations are found, and each step is satisfying in it’s feedback when solved. All details of the room are woven into the puzzling, and finding small details or prop interactions were very enjoyable. The reveal near the end is exciting, and the climax feels appropriate and fun. One puzzle in particular is tactile and feels great when solving, but also helps build a creepier atmosphere once it has been completed.

Low Points:

We accidentally skipped one puzzle, which was optional, but became a sort of an unintentional red herring for us near the end. The solution for a couple puzzles felt a bit tenuous and in one case, we found that a certain puzzle was used twice in different ways, which was fairly unusual.  

Verdict:

Black Widow was our final room during our DC trip, and I couldn’t have asked more a more enjoyable experience for our capstone. This adventure left me wanting more, and I cannot wait to return to Escape Quest to see what they can cook up next. As with all of their rooms, I very much recommend you give them a try. Beginners and Enthusiasts will find something to enjoy here, and I would say that Escape Quest is the overall best company to visit in the DC area, definitely give them as shot if you’re in the area. Book your investigation into the Black Widow here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

Escape Quest – Captain’s Quarters (Review)

Location: Alexandria, VA

Players: 2-6 (We Recommend 4-5)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

We’re bad guys, but we’re not THE bad guys!

Theme:

As a crew of privateers, you’ve been patrolling the high seas with your letter of marque, taking down enemies of The Crown and keeping a tidy bit of the spoils for yourselves. But your pirate past beckons when you find a rival Captain has commandeered a large chest of gold and jewels for himself. Under the cover of night, you sneak into his quarters with a trusted few in order to take the bounty for yourselves! But be quick, the Captain will return shortly, and he’ll be none too pleased to find you lurking about…

First Impressions:

We were told that Captain’s Quarters was one of Escape Quest’s earliest rooms, and though our GM thought we’d be less impressed by this room due to this, we were still wowed by the great production value of this room. There was an exciting soundtrack playing to spur us along, and though this was our 3rd room in a row here, we were energized and excited to continue escaping!

High Points:

Though this was a strictly linear, Generation 1 room that included limited tech and mostly lock inputs, it fit the theme and remained an enjoyable escape. The room itself was comfortable for our group of 4, and could easily fit the maximum of 6, which is rare for escape rooms, I find. Props were convincing and enjoyable to work with, and puzzles connected well from one to the next. One particular teamwork puzzle was a fun surprise, and searching through the room turned up some entertaining hidden compartments. One thing I very much enjoyed about Escape Quest, was that they took the standard after escape photo inside of the room, using props you’ve found throughout, turning the usual memento into something a bit more exciting.

Low Points:

Some players will be disappointed by the lack of technical items in the room, especially if they’ve recently played one of Escape Quest’s more technology heavy games. One entertaining teamwork puzzle was a bit more well hidden than felt necessary, but was fun once we’d found it. A couple props felt a bit off theme, but weren’t enough to break the immersion. Some puzzles I had seen before, and were, we were told, part of a prepurchased set, so there may be some repeats for Enthusiasts, though the puzzles were well done overall.

Verdict:

The Captain’s Quarters is a fun experience, but is probably best suited for those new to the Escape Room hobby. Beginners will enjoy this as a low-tech introduction to escape rooms, but Enthusiasts will escape quickly, and may have a few repeats in puzzles. I recommend trying this one out if you’re into the theme or are introducing new players to Escape Rooms, but if you’re more experienced, check out the excellent Black Widow, King’s Ransom, or Lost Temple rooms at Escape Quest, which are newer, and should be more challenging for you! Book your heist in the Captain’s Quarters here!

7/10 (Good)

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

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic (Review)

Location: Washington DC

Players: 2-8 (We Recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

There was enough room for Jack on that door.

Theme:

As passengers on the Titanic, you’ve prepared for a trip of luxury and decadence aboard the world’s biggest and most unsinkable cruise-liner! However, midway through the trip, you feel a jolt, and when you look out your window, it seems the water is rising at an alarming rate! You’ve only a limited amount of time before you’re trapped in your stateroom, but the doors are locked and the emergency exits are malfunctioning. You’ll need to solve your predicament soon, or you’ll go down with the ship!

First Impressions:

After an amazing time in the Ghostbusters room, we had very high hopes for Titanic. Located in the same area, and decorated on the outside just as well, the experience seemed promising. After being assured that this would be an equal challenge to Ghostbusters, we were ready to escape!

High Points:

One early puzzle was fun to figure out, and required some interesting perspective and physical manipulation. Interactions in the room were mostly technical, and only required a few traditional locks and keys. Feedback when solving a puzzle was clear and consistent. While the room was competent, and worked reasonably well, it was banal.

Low Points:

Entering the room was not quite as exciting here, as the room itself felt much more sparse. Decorations and lighting was competently done, but were implemented in a way that didn’t give us the sense of excitement that Ghostbusters or Poeanormal Activity delivered. The room itself didn’t really feel like much of a stateroom, and was relatively empty overall, withlater parts of the game feeling as though they did not expand or add much to the experience. Multiple puzzles were exact repeats of others we had previously experienced, some even in DC, and the experience as a whole felt uninspired. Other puzzles that were original to the room weren’t very satisfying to solve, and in some cases, didn’t make much sense as part of the room. Do not touch stickers were more copious in this room than others at Escape Room Live, and that combined with several worn down props made the room feel less cohesive and well maintained.

Verdict:

Titanic, as an experience, feels overly plain. It is a fairly well decorated room, with some interesting technology, but nothing that we haven’t seen done before, and better. We left this one feeling overall underwhelmed with the experience, which was a downer after the amazing Ghostbusters room. Beginners will more than likely feel lost in the overall difficulty, while Enthusiasts will be unimpressed with the lack of variety. It’s not a bad room, generally, but it’s average at best, and there are much more impressive rooms in DC, one of which is mere feet away! I feel like the room would be a good first attempt elsewhere, but for the high budget nature and prestige of Escape Room Live, it doesn’t measure up. You can book your time on the HMS Titanic here!

5/10 (Mediocre)