Downtown Escapes – The Studio (Review)

Location: Goldsboro, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Killer Art.

Theme:

From the Downtown Escapes website:

The year is 1987. The place Vienna. An up-and-coming artist named Pierre Eville was gaining recognition for his incredible colorful works of art. Many said he would one day be famous. That was until he had psychotic breakdown. No one knows exactly what happened but many have their theories. From that moment on he was never the same. His colorful masterpieces turned twisted and dark. He was constantly looking over his shoulder as though someone were out to get him.

His fears came true when he was found dead in his art studio on Friday, October 13th. The crime was never solved and the cause of his death remains a mystery. His most famous paintings have still not been recovered. Many people came to his studio in search of them but all of them left in fear, claiming the studio was haunted. Some say it’s Eville himself who occupies the gallery trying to protect what is left and lead others to the truth behind what really happened.

That was many years ago and no one has been in the studio since. You have been given one last opportunity to explore his gallery in search for his missing famed art pieces, and to uncover the mystery of his death and find out what truly happened.

First Impressions:

Our previous visit to Downtown Escapes was fantastic, with two incredibly engaging rooms that really brought the wow factor! So once we’d heard The Heist was retiring, to be replaced with The Studio in October, we were raring to get back to downtown Goldsboro for another challenge! It was a long wait until we finally made it back this June but the anticipation was absolutely worth it!

High Points:

The Studio is basically what would happen if you took Downtown Escapes’ The Heist, ensured it was haunted, and added all new puzzles as well as some real effective spooky tension! I mean this in the most positive way, as the shades of The Heist were felt, but the room was absolutely it’s own thing. Even though we had taken our team through a successful heist of the previous room, this one felt supremely different and the revamp that was done to change it over to the new experience was fantastic. The previously bright and clean atmosphere is gone, replaced with the abandoned and dimly lit ambiance of an abandoned haunted manor, and the old artwork has been replaced with the masterworks of a madman. Fantastic lighting ensures that everything that needs to be seen is easily spotted without sacrificing the creepy mood that The Studio is going for. The art is appropriate, and tells a story all its own as you begin to wind your way down the twisted story of Pierre Eville, granting even more gravitas to his tragic tale.

The game flow is spectacular, with several non-linear tasks to overcome, all of which help develop the mystery and assist players with unwinding what really happened the night of Pierre’s death. The puzzles engage players in several varied ways, with some cool interactions allowing escapists to test their bravery and spatial reasoning in new and clever ways. Some brilliant and insidiously crafted scares lie inside, and are more than simply cheap jump scares! The technical and practical effects inside The Studio really wowed us, and a lot of thought obviously went into crafting the room and the challenges within. Art mixes with horror several times, and meld together into some really fantastic interactions, most of which have some hidden effects to make them feel truly supernatural. The difficulty curve is great, starting players off with some simpler puzzles to get started, and eventually twisting into larger scale solves that provides some amazing moments of revelation! The room is definitely a superb challenge for enthusiasts, but is still an excellent experience for new players, as the game masters are great at ensuring puzzles never become too frustrating by delivering pointed hints without giving too much away.

Team Keyed Up! has taken both leaderboards at Downtown Escapes! Come challenge our times!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle could have been clued slightly more, as it was initially a bit too vague before a hint was given. There is also one interaction that, while cool, tended to force the team to shut down any side solving while it was deciphered. One puzzle in particular may seem very familiar to those who have escaped The Heist, but it’s a brief and still enjoyable interaction.

Verdict:

As sad as we were to see The Heist go, The Studio is a more than worthy successor! Downtown Escapes has some brilliant games, and we cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future. I absolutely recommend giving this one a go, as well as checking out Jay’s Sushi and Burger Bar just down the road for an after room celebration. Book your paranormal investigations here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Downtown Escapes comped our tickets for this room.

Downtown Escapes – Decipher (Review)

Location: Goldsboro, NC

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Oh yay handcuffs!

Theme:

As members of a counter terrorism unit, you’ve tracked a new threat to an abandoned warehouse in Goldsboro, but as it always goes, it isn’t truly abandoned. You’ve mis-stepped somewhere, however since the doors slammed shut and the room filled with gas before you passed out. Unsure how long it has been since then, you awaken in a room, handcuffed and in the dark, with no clue as to how you got there, and no clear way out!

First Impressions:

As an aside, I really like the leaderboards that Downtown Escapes keeps. They’re very nice and include the “movie poster” like pictures for the two rooms. Did I also mention this was the last time we escaped using our old team name, Puzzvengers? I bring this up for no reason.

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High Points:

It has become common for our team to be handcuffed and blindfolded together, but when done correctly (and safely,) it’s still a fun experience. The puzzles throughout the room are excellently put together and provide many fun interactions and puzzle types. Technological interactions are implemented seamlessly, providing ways for the room and the game flow to open up unexpectedly. One prop that has become fairly common and unexciting in rooms is much sleeker and well functioning than we have seen before, and is a welcome improvement. The gradual spatial shifts in the game as certain puzzles are solved is also a fun touch, and a good way to introduce an appropriate level of gating between stages of the game.

Low Points:

There were several moments in this room where having a tall person became a necessity. Fortunately, we have one such teammate, but this could create some problems for shorter teams, as I could barely reach some items and puzzles at 5’7’’. An unintentional red herring that confused us greatly could be eliminated with the addition of some slight gating to the puzzle flow.

Verdict:

Providing another non-linear experience and fantastic set design, Decipher is another room worthy of escaping! Definitely a more challenging experience than The Heist, enthusiasts will very much enjoy the game within, as well as some new takes on a couple favorite puzzle types. Try it out and attempt to beat our record here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Downtown Escapes comped our tickets for this room.

Downtown Escapes – The Heist (Review)

Location: Goldsboro, NC

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

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Ocean’s 2-8 Players

Theme:

The art collection of Juan-Carlos is without equal, and a new acquisition is rumored to be the most exquisite, and expensive, addition yet! Therefore, your team has decided to steal it. Posing as a janitorial crew, you’ve been given an hour inside the gallery, but you’ll still need to disable the security protecting the most valuable collections and find the prize! Make sure you’re out within an hour, though, as Juan-Carlos didn’t get to be as rich as he is without being ruthless towards his enemies.

First Impressions:

Downtown Escapes has a cozy location in downtown (obviously,) Goldsboro. We got started soon after we arrived, and were given a story rundown before being left outside of the room, waiting for our contact to get in touch. Once we were cleared to enter the art gallery by the mysterious voice, we broke in ready to get our hands on some priceless art!

High Points:

The room’s reveal was excellent, as it was extremely well designed and flawlessly sold the theme of Art Gallery. The gorgeous set design also allowed for many tactile interactions as well as myriad places for surprises to be hidden. Props fit the theme well, and allowed for some really engaging design. A good mix of puzzle types and a non-linear structure ensured that our entire team was engaged from start to finish and the props and set pieces were a joy to interact with. Game flow was well planned, and it was always clear what was next, though not too clear as to be simplistic. The climax of the heist was appropriately exciting, ending the room on a high note.

Low Points:

One puzzle that gave us some serious issues felt somewhat burdensome due to it’s unwieldly nature, but was otherwise interesting. Another late game one made sense once we’d figured out the solution, but would benefit from slightly more direct cluing.

Verdict:

The Heist is an amazing first effort for Downtown Escapes, and is a great introductory room for beginners, as well as an enjoyable enthusiast romp. An immersive and beautiful experience, I definitely recommend trying it out, especially since it is rare for escape rooms to allow you to be thieves or other “bad guys.” Stage your art heist here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Downtown Escapes comped our tickets for this room.