Escapology Columbia – Mansion Murder (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Keyed Up, Consulting Detectives

Theme:

From the Escapology Columbia website:

Scottish Highlands; New Year’s Eve, 1999.

You are Robert Montgomerie, the only remaining direct heir to the Kildermorie Estate and the Montgomerie family fortune. You’re attending a family gathering, hosted by your Grandfather, Hugh ‘Monty’ Montgomerie, the 9th Earl of Kildermorie to celebrate the dawn of the new Millennium.

As the guests raise a toast, a scream fills the air…Your Grandfather is found dead in the library – and it looks like MURDER!

Suddenly, you’re bundled into the Drawing Room and the door is locked. Confused, you bang on the door and call for help until it dawns on you… that as the direct heir, all fingers are pointed at you! You realize you’ve been framed! But who would want to kill your Grandfather… and why?

 

First Impressions:

Our final room at Escapology Columbia was Mansion Murder, and we were still jazzed to solve the mystery after five straight rooms! There’s not much more to be said that we haven’t already in our five other reviews, (which you can read here,) so let’s jump right in!

High Points:

The room itself was very well designed, boasting perhaps the best set we’d seen at Escapology, and the décor kept up to that standard throughout. There were several great surprises held within this Scottish mansion, with several points at which triggering a puzzle solution opened up a seamless door or prop. The game flow is an excellent mix of tactile interactions, clever puzzling, and intuitive searching. The mostly non linear game kept our group of four very entertained, with multiple puzzles and interactions available at any given time.

We also enjoyed that there was a particular puzzle that could be solved in a couple different ways, allowing us to stretch our brains a little more than usual. Of course, this came at the expense of us doing it the easier way, and was most likely not the intended way to solve this conundrum, but it was a fun solve in any case. The storyline that evolved throughout the room was a great touch, and continued to evoke an Agatha Christie-esque feel, which if you’ve read our review of Budapest Express, you know we love! It’s so sadly rare for an escape room to remain on theme throughout the experience and truly deliver an immersive story, so it was fantastic that Mansion Murder was able to do so!

Low Points:

One puzzle involves math, which is always a bummer, but this particular one was also entirely too vague for something that demanded such a specific answer. It was one of those that makes sense only after you’ve solved the puzzle as other, more straightforward answers tend to be more reasonable. There was also the issue of a red herring appearing during this puzzle that further threw the flow out of whack, leading to more frustration than enjoyment. We were also able to accidentally trigger the solution to one puzzle from idly playing with one of the larger props, but it’s very unlikely to happen, and was more a result of sheer, ridiculous luck.

Verdict:

Easily one of the best rooms at Escapology Columbia, I highly recommend trying out Mansion Murder for a story based mystery that will keep you immersed until the end! Boasting an excellently built set, mostly smooth puzzling flow, and some great hidden surprises, it’s definitely an excellent time for beginners and enthusiasts alike! Book your time in Grandpa Monty’s manor here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Th3 C0d3 (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Hack the World!

Theme:

The notorious hacker Nitr0 is plotting something big, and as a team of rookie FBI agents assigned to the case, you’re looking to bring him down! You’ve recently stumbled across what you believe to be his current location, and in a mad rush to make a name for yourself, you rush to the scene in order to take him down! Unfortunately, this was all an elaborate ruse, and you’ve been locked inside by Nitr0, who tells you that he has alerted your office to “Nitr0’s” whereabouts and will be framing you for his crimes! With only an hour to escape, you’ll have to beat the hacker at his own game and escape!

First Impressions:

We were jazzed for a high tech hacker themed room, and couldn’t wait to see what was in store within Th3 C0d3, leetspeak aside. Other rooms promising high tech themes had ranged from disappointing to awesome, so I was eager to see what Escapology could do with this theme. Imagine my surprise when we entered Nitr0’s lair and it was… a dorm room with Dorito wrappers strewn about. Obviously we’d yet to reach the inner sanctum, so we got to puzzling immediately!

High Points:

It was super obvious that Nitr0 was evil, due to his University of South Carolina Gamecock decorations! (Go Tigers!) Kidding aside, it was fun to see that an evolving, if light, story was told through our timer. Every so often, we were interrupted by our hacker “friend” for a nice round of taunting, reminding us of how little time we had left, and how close the FBI was to finding us. It was an interesting twist on a basic item you’ll find in almost every escape room. A couple of puzzles stood out from the norm, with one excellent tactile one surprising us with its simple, yet elegant conveyance of a code. The puzzling itself was fine, if a little basic, and tended to work well for the most part. The use of a news broadcast also added a fair amount of flavor to the room, and kept us immersed in tension!

Low Points:

There was a distinct absence of many tech based puzzles, which is ok in general but for a hacker themed escape room, this feels like a missed opportunity. I understand that a hacker might be distrustful of utilizing too much technology in his lair, but the theme would be better served with more ubiquitous technical wizardry about. The set was ok, but was a far cry from what we expected, since our foe’s lair was a college dorm room. The set itself really improved as we progressed, but unfortunately, when it got really cool, we were moments away from the end. Quite a few logical leaps abounded, with tenuous connections stalling the game flow and leaving us wondering how we were supposed to intuitively come up with some of the answers. Overall, the game flow would’ve benefitted from more robust connective tissue between puzzles. There were moments of nonlinearity, but overall, there just wasn’t quite enough for all four of us to keep entertained for the full experience, and by the end, one person was responsible for halting the evil schemes of Nitr0. This ended up being a very bland climax, which could’ve been made so much better if the choice that seems to be presented through audio clips was a true one, or if the puzzle itself wasn’t so very banal.

Verdict:

Th3 C0d3 has an interesting theme, but unfortunately the puzzles and set don’t quite do it justice. Still, the room is competently made, and newcomers will more than likely  find it engaging. Enthusiasts will have seen a lot of the challenges inside before, so I recommend trying out Mayday or Budapest Express instead. You can book your time matching wits with Nitr0 here!

6/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Antidote (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Not quite the cure for boredom

Theme:

It’s a tale as old as escape rooms. Mad scientist meets deadly toxin. Mad scientist falls in love with deadly toxin, and devises a way to trigger the apocalypse with deadly toxin. Mad scientist sets a plan in motion, but accidentally tips off the authorities. You are said authorities, stop the deadly toxin! It’s not a terrible theme, but it isn’t overly imaginative, and as we’ve seen recently with Room 5280’s The Experiment, there are ways to implement a scientific theme while creating something wholly new and exciting!

First Impressions:

We’d had a fun time in Escapology’s three previous rooms, so even though the theme here wasn’t the most original, we were excited to see how they approached it. After turning down the option to play this one as a competitive room, (Our team sticks together no matter what! Keyed Up for Life!) we were led into the lab and set upon our goal of stopping the virus!

High Points:

There is one enjoyable interaction that involves performing specific actions to sterilize the room before moving on, and with just a bit more theatrics, could help this room stand out a little more. The game flow makes sense on the whole, and though the room does have a couple points at which it becomes non-linear, the mostly narrow path through the room’s puzzles is a good start for beginner groups, which we were advised Antidote was designed for as it is Escapology’s easiest room. The props are fun to play around with, and a couple of highly tactile interactions make for a satisfying few moments.

Low Points:

Unfortunately, the experience on the whole is very basic. The set looks like your run of the mill lab, and doesn’t do much to excite, executing the bare minimum to qualify as a mad scientist’s lair. After the elaborate first rooms of Budapest Express, Under Pressure, and Mayday, it was a bit of a let down to enter what felt ultimately like a repurposed office space. One puzzle demands teamwork, but is next to impossible to line up correctly due to the way it is set up, and though we had our tallest member manipulate the half of the puzzle that seemed to demand height, we never quite got it to work properly. It’s a good idea, but a lot of adjustment needs to be made, as we eventually puzzled out the answer via different means than what was intended. Overall, almost none of the puzzles stand out, with one seeming to correlate to a different solution due to the vagary of its cluing, and so many relying on laminated pages in a notebook to present the riddles. It’s never really that bad of a room, just overall stark and plain, with puzzles all but the newest escapees will have seen before.

Verdict:

Antidote isn’t a bad room, but it never really becomes good, with a banal run of puzzles that lead toward the escape. Very new players might have a good time with it, but any level of experience will more than likely make it a paint by numbers experience. Sadly, Antidote is the most average experience I’ve had with an escape room, which isn’t necessarily horrible, but very forgettable. If you’d like to check it out, though, you can book your time stopping the deadly toxin here!

5.5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.

Escapology Columbia – Mayday (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $29.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Get off my plane!

Theme:

As members of the Secret Service, you are accompanying President Reagan back from the G7 Economic Summit in Europe. Meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev broke down, and it looks like discussions with the Soviet Union have become impossible, ratcheting up global tensions. Without warning, the plane’s instruments go haywire and it becomes obvious that you’ve been sabotaged! With only 60 minutes of glide time remaining, it is up to you to figure out what went wrong, and make an emergency landing before the inevitable crash!

First Impressions:

Mayday is the newest room for Escapology, and is only available at Escapology Columbia as of this writing. It’s always exciting to be one of the first to play a room, and we have been looking for a good airplane themed room for a while, as the last couple we’d tried weren’t that great. Also, as the first room of our 17 room escape room weekend, we were hoping to start things out on the right foot! Escapology’s lobby is very comfortable, and the rest of the business is just as lushly appointed, with a steampunk theme that I really enjoyed.

High Points:

The interior is made out to resemble a high class plane from the 80s, and extreme effort has been made to help Air Force One look authentic and comfortable. Each subsequent room took us closer to the cockpit, and once we arrived, the front of the plane was very well decorated to present a pilot’s domain within the puzzle focused world. Puzzles are hidden in believable ways, and flow excellently between interactions, leading us through the story while we continued to work through the game. The game itself weaves excellently between linear and non linear paths, keeping our group engaged and entertained from start to finish.

The game takes place during the height of the Cold War and contains a lot of fun historical easter eggs to find for history buffs. Working through the final parts of the adventure, and landing the plane properly is climactic and tense, requiring an excellent amount of teamwork and group cohesion. Completing the game truly feels like cause for celebration as Air Force One touches down!

Low Points:

Newer players will enjoy some of the basic code breaking that is included, but for enthusiasts, this will be a chore you’ve done several times before. One particular puzzle had what seemed to be a very straightforward presentation, but baffled our group due to a lack of clues pointing towards the solution. Even more frustrating for us was that we activated the puzzle solution twice without knowing how we managed it. We didn’t need it spelled out, but a bit more cluing within the game would be great. One door also opened accidentally after an incorrect code was entered due to a slight nudge opening it prematurely.

Verdict:

Mayday is an excellent historically themed and airplane based experience. Combining a thrilling story with a clever puzzling flow, it is definitely one of the best rooms at Escapology Columbia, and I definitely recommend giving it a shot! You can book your stint as a Secret Service Member here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escapology Columbia provided comped tickets for our team.