Game On Escapes & More – Grinched (Review)

Location: Cary, NC (Also Columbia, SC via The Final Door)

Players: 3-7 (We recommend families of any size!)

Price: $22 per person ($20 at The Final Door)

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!

Theme:

A certain green villain has stolen your letters to Santa! Not only that, but he’s made sure you won’t be able to find them by breaking into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, boarding up the chimney and sealing away Mrs. Claus’s magical cookie recipe! The Clauses are away on official Christmas business, so it’s up to you and your family to right the Grinch’s wrongs, and maybe leave behind some treats for Santa on the way!

First Impressions:

Game On is one of our favorite local escape rooms, and they’ve partnered with one of our favorite escape rooms of all time, The Final Door, to help families celebrate the magic of Christmas with a new seasonal escape room! I can’t think of a better holiday activity than an escape, (or several escapes, as every holiday trip to my parent’s house over the last few has evidenced!) Game On invited us to test out this new room as soon as they’d finished, and of course, we jumped at the chance!

High Points:

To start the room, we were given crayons and asked to write our letters to Santa, which we did dutifully, as you can see below! We asked for pretty standard stuff, I think…

A bag of clementines, World Peace, the vengeance of Ares. You know, easy gifts.

Our letters were then to be delivered by one of Santa’s best elves, but alas! The Grinch intercepted her and whisked them away, and thus our adventure began. Santa’s house itself is bright and colorful, with spectacular Christmas decorations all around, and so many (locked) presents to open. The game itself is perfect for families, with a non-linear flow for children to work separately if they like, but at a difficulty level that allows for kids to work at their own pace on each individual puzzle if that’s preferred. Difficulty isn’t too simple, however, so parents can still enjoy the room by assisting their little ones with their adventure. The room is highly accessible for junior escapees, and several teamwork puzzles are available to encourage everyone to work together as a family!

There are so many tactile puzzles to manipulate, and clever technical and mechanical workings that truly bring the room to life with Christmas Magic! From start to finish, the game is an absolute joy to engage with, and families are going to love popping open or activating each and every surprise contained within the room. In fact, there are a few awesome activities that I won’t spoil here that are absolutely brilliant. I’ve played a few seasonal rooms before, and it almost always feels like a step down from a permanent room, but Grinched does not skimp on quality, keeping up to the high standards that both Game On Escapes & More and The Final Door have set for their rooms!

Low Points:

As far as I can tell, Santa did not entreat Ares to smite my enemies. However, Christmas has not yet arrived, so I remain optimistic.

Verdict:

Even though this room is geared towards children and their parents, our team of three veteran enthusiasts loved puzzling through Santa’s house! Families are in for a treat, especially parents who love escape rooms but haven’t been able to find one to take their young puzzlers to! I absolutely recommend this room for any kid or kid at heart, but be quick, this room won’t be around long, so book your time saving Christmas here! This room is also available at The Final Door, where you can book here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Game on Escapes & More provided comped tickets for our team.

Game On Escapes & More – Trapped in the Jungle (Review)

Location: Cary, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $29 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

We need a hero!

Theme:

A team of researchers and explorers went dark within the most shadowy corners of the Amazon. You’ve been sent in to find and extract them, but unfortunately, every night, the scanners go haywire, making it that much more difficult to identify where they are. You’ve found a distress signal late in the day, and as you approach the area, your helicopter suddenly loses power and crashes! It’s up to you to figure out what’s going on before nightfall and get out of there before the mysterious anomaly occurs again!

First Impressions:

MacGregor Manor is hands down one of the best escape rooms in the RDU area, and when we saw that Trapped in a Jungle was going live soon, we had to come back to Game On for more excellent escapes!

High Points:

The centerpiece of the Jungle itself is not only amazing to look at, but is a great hub for a series of well thought out and engaging puzzles! In fact, set design is very well done, and include a wonderful lighting effect to keep a general track of the time before sundown. Though the puzzles themselves seem esoteric at first glance, once you have collected everything you need to solve each interaction, the solutions become clearer and clearer, while still remaining challenging. One of the best parts of this room is that for many of the puzzles, you’ll find props and décor that seems out of place, and as you solve, those items will reveal their relevance in an extremely satisfying ah-ha moment! Even props that seem like mere decorations can surprise you here, and almost everything we touched ended up being important due to the tight puzzle design and excellently directed game flow.

The shift from the early to late game puzzles is thematic, and the beginning of the second half of the game is appropriately mysterious and caught all of us off guard. The later game is more mechanical, and meshes with the new environs in a fantastic way. Care was obviously taken to ensure each step of this adventure related to the theme of the room, and furthered the story. The climax of the game is excellent, and allows you to make a choice I haven’t seen before in an escape room, so kudos to the designers for adding in that excellent interaction!

Low Points:

The only puzzles we needed hints on could’ve used a smidge more direction, though it could be that our team is generally terrible at this type of interaction. One of them, is being iterated per the designer, so it shouldn’t be a problem by the time of this writing. There was an unintentional red herring we came across that took us some time to resolve as meaningless, which we also discussed, and steps are being taken to remove the effect this particular item causes. One puzzle made total sense to us, but could use a slight bit of feedback in order to ensure teams know they’re on the right track.

Verdict:

Trapped in the Jungle is another excellent addition to the Raleigh Durham area escape scene, and I am excited to see what comes next for Game On! The obvious care and attention to detail allows their rooms to shine, and this one is no exception. You should absolutely give them a shot when you’re in Cary, and you can book your time escaping the Amazon here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Game on Escapes & More provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Game On Escapes & More – MacGregor Manor (Review)

Location: Cary, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $29 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

A Haunted House Worth Getting Trapped In!

Theme:

You’ve foolishly decided to purchase the MacGregor Manor sight unseen. What you didn’t know is this “Dream House” was such a bargain because of the supposed curse that was placed on it decades ago! In fact, no one has been inside since 1974, and the group that entered then was killed in a car accident just one hour after they left. You only have an hour to break the curse and prevent misfortune from falling upon you!

First Impressions:

Game On Escapes & More is located in a cozy suite within a large shopping center in Cary, NC, and was well outfitted for having been open for just a few weeks when we visited. The owners were great and very personable, and we found that we had several favorite rooms in common. They were obviously escape room enthusiasts as well, so we were very optimistic to see what they had cooked up for MacGregor Manor! The experience did not disappoint!

High Points:

This room is absolutely chock full of technological interactions that evoke a supernatural feel, all of which have a natural place within the theme of the room. A mix of basic locks are also included, but are placed realistically, preventing any breakage in the immersion. The story is mysterious enough to peak our interest and leads into the room well. Set design is excellently crafted, combining with lighting and sound effectively in order to create a spooky atmosphere without being blatantly scary. Mostly a non-linear experience, this room kept our group of four fully engaged for the most part, allowing us to break apart and come together through the weaving threads of game flow. After a small speed bump at the beginning of the game, the connections were intuitive and full of a ha moments. The room opened up in surprising ways, allowing for the room to hide secrets in unexpected places.

Low Points:

There was one point near the beginning where the most obvious puzzle we could engage with was more of a red herring than anything, leading to a good bit of fumbling about before finding what we actually needed to be working on. One puzzle was interesting, but caused part of our group to have actual physical headaches due to the nature of the task itself. There were a couple of spots we felt could benefit from slightly more cluing in order to be less obtuse, as we stumbled upon these solutions rather than find them naturally through the game flow.

Verdict:

MacGregor Manor is the first really great escape room in Cary, NC, and I look forward to seeing what Game On Escapes comes up with next! We were able to have a sneak peak at their upcoming Trapped in the Jungle room, and we have very high hopes for the future! You should absolutely check them out here!

8/10 (Great)