Southern Pines Escape – Da Vinci’s Office (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review is brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Southern Pines, NC

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

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Da Vinci’s Other Code

Room Description, from the Southern Pines Escape website:

Leonardo da Vinci was one the greatest minds the world has ever known. He invented, painted, sculpted and did so many things that we are still trying to figure out. We can’t do it alone. Many have tried and failed. Time and time again Leonardo’s riddles baffle us. You and your friends have been granted a rare private viewing of Leonardo’s own private quarters. Now it’s up to you. You’ve got an hour. Can you do what many before you have tried and failed time after time?

Pre-Room Thoughts

Surprisingly, I have not done a Da Vinci themed room before. There are so many possibilities that such a room can cover – art, science, math, history, etc. – so I was excited to see what this one would hold!

Yay Points

When I first walked into the room, I immediately appreciated how big it was. It is definitely able to hold the maximum of 8 people the entire time! It had great and large on-theme decorations, and I could tell there was a lot of effort put into the creation of some of the props in this room.

There were interesting ideas behind some of the puzzles, and we really enjoyed one in particular early on in the game.

Pondering Points

I was told this was one of Southern Pines Escapes’ oldest available rooms, and unfortunately, that made our experience make a lot more sense.

Even though I liked the ideas behind many of the puzzles, the execution of them was marred by the fact that they seemed worn. This slowed us down because we had to repeat some puzzles multiple times or make guesses to some of the answers because the puzzles did not always get their placement exactly right, which was pivotal to solving them. One puzzle was held up by locks, of which some were broken so that they were coming off the wall. It was a potentially interesting idea, but its broken state made it hard to solve and confusing to approach. Another puzzle also got in its own way by accidentally obscuring its own clues, which was a shame because it was also a more unique idea. The directions to both of these puzzles were also a little confusing, and we ended up needing to guess and check at the right answers.

Those puzzles weren’t the only ones we had those issues with as there seemed to be more than a few logical leaps within this room, sometimes due to incomplete directions or just a general lack of cluing, which made a number of the puzzles more difficult to solve, but in the worst possible way. There were also some intentional (or perhaps unintentional) and unnecessary red herrings. While I do admit my bias against red herrings, this definitely made an already tiring room more frustrating, and made it harder to figure out what was actually important to solving a couple of the puzzles. (That being said, one of the puzzles to which I am referring likely had a lot of great effort that went into it, and I do appreciate the information it otherwise contained.)

A couple of times, we had to guess at which set of clues went with which puzzle, as the style of the clues overlapped with each other. The room also contained many of the same-type locks without an easy way to match locks with puzzles, which made us need to try our answers on multiple locks until we found the right one.

I do not often see destructible state puzzles, which become impossible to solve if you move things around (and therefore mess up the information you need to solve it), but we had to use a hint on one because that is exactly what we did. (Editor’s Note: Also, there was no indication that there was a destructible state puzzle in play, further muddling things.)

Despite some great uses of the theme, there were a couple of missed opportunities with some of the room’s decorations – and I mean that literally because they didn’t serve more than an aesthetic purpose. Of course, this is not inherently a bad thing (as most rooms have amazing decorations that solely serve to exhibit the theme of the room), but is surprising given the prominence of the props, the types of props they are, and the effort it likely took to build them when there were likely easier ways to do them.

Final Verdict

The Da Vinci room has a lot of potential, but would certainly benefit from some updates and added cluing. It was not the best room we did at Southern Pines Escapes, so I would definitely recommend their other ones first – in particular, the Wizard Thief (review to come!) However, you are definitely welcome to check the room out for yourself here.

2/10 (Bad)

Can You Rob The Bank? Dallas, TX – Wild West Bank Robbery (Review)

Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes to us from Texas correspondent, Cathy Nanni! Thanks Cathy for another great review, and for making us jealous about this room!

Location: Dallas, TX

Players:  Up to 10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28.00 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Get the gold and get out before the white hats arrive!


Strap on your chaps and put on your ten gallon hat. It’s time to rob the local bank. Following the footsteps of Billy the Kid, can you and your team of bandits grab the gold and ride off into the sunset before the sheriff catches you?

First Impressions:

Jill, the owner of Can You Rob the Bank?, was incredibly warm and welcoming, and her passion for her business and the hobby of escaping was evident from the minute I walked in the door. If you recall my last review, I experienced one of the worst rooms I’d ever played, (also a Western Bank Heist,) with some friends who were new to the hobby. Jill assured me that we would have a much better time at “Can You Rob the Bank?” so I invited a few of those friends back to join me. I’m so glad I did because we had a fantastic time!

High Points:

In the spacious lobby, there is an interactive wall display of all the various locks used in the rooms at Can You Rob the Bank? As an educator, I appreciate this because many people are tactile learners and would therefore benefit greatly from learning how to use the locks before entering the room. Though several escape rooms do demonstrate how to use their locks during their briefings, having a hands on experience is much more beneficial. It was a small touch but another indicator of how important it is to Jill that her players have fun and aren’t bogged down by mechanical errors.

The room itself was decorated excellently with many “wild west” touches, including pictures of outlaws on the walls, cowboy boots, and wood paneling.  Even though the room contained all the props that I’ve come to associate with a wild west bank themed room, (safety deposit boxes, poker table, and a vault,) the puzzles and clues were so entertaining that it didn’t feel overdone.  The clue delivery system was also on theme which I always appreciate. When a hint is needed, players use an antique wall mounted phone providing a fun and immersive way to interact with the GM. I appreciate it when a room has a thematically appropriate clue system especially when it runs smoothly as this one. The puzzles were fun, intuitive, and on theme. My favorite was one that gave you a chance to test your quick shooting skills allowing you to feel like you truly are participating in a bank heist. The puzzles are also a good mix and easy and challenging. Even with the more difficult puzzles, we didn’t reach a level of frustration that lessened the fun we were having and our party of three felt fully engaged with the room throughout the experience. I appreciated how on theme the puzzles where, as even when looking for codes for numeric and alpha locks, the clues were crafted in a way that ensured everything remained in theme.

Low Points:

There really weren’t any low points for this room, but if I had to be nit picky, I’d say there is one puzzle involving pictures that caused a bit of a time suck due to our team having different interpretations of the clue. My only other low point was that I enjoyed the room so much I was ready to do a second room after, but unfortunately, my friends needed to eat dinner. Next time, I’ll bring snacks!


My friends and I can’t wait to return to Can You Rob the Bank? to try their other rooms! Jill, the owner and our GM, was a wonderful host and the room was fantastically engaging for veteran players those new to the hobby. If you’re in the Dallas area, I recommend checking out this local business! You can attempt your Wild West Bank Robbery here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Can You Rob the Bank offered a discount and private room to our group.


The Escape Game Dallas – Gold Rush (Review)

Today’s review comes from friend of the site, once and future teammate, and progenitor of the Keyed Up team name, Cathy Nanni! We’re sad she moved to Dallas, depriving us of her excellent escape skills, but are happy she’s been busting out of rooms recently, and hope to team up with her again real soon! Thank you to Cathy for writing this review for us, and we look forward to hosting more of her reviews in the future!

Location: Grapevine, TX

Players:  Up to 8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $31.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

AU, find the gold before the mob arrives!


Clyde Hamilton was a prospector in Northern California, and a pretty successful one to boot! Rumors stated that he had stashed his treasure somewhere in his cabin, but for obvious reasons, no one has verified this claim. Unfortunately, Clyde’s love of gambling has gotten him tangled up with the wrong people, and he has gone missing. Fortunately for you, this gives you a shot at finding his gold! Unfortunately, the people that disappeared Clyde are members of the mob, and they’re looking for his gold as well! You’ve only got a small window of opportunity before they arrive, so you’ll need to be in and out with the gold before then!

First Impressions:

The Escape Game Dallas is located inside the Grapevine Mills Mall. It took us a few minutes to find it;  some signage outside the mall would have been helpful. The lobby is small but they make great use of the space by having a counter on wheels that can be moved for group pictures at the end of your escape.

The Game Master took us into the room right away and we immediately felt like we’d been transported to a forest in Northern California.  The lighting was set to feel like twilight and the air smelled of trees.  We stood outside a cabin that had been built with wood imported from Northern California! That’s the kind of attention to detail that was apparent throughout our experience in Gold Rush. Before we began, we were shown two briefing videos, one regarding the rules and regulations of The Escape Game and the other an intro to the story behind the room. I’m not a big fan of when venues show their intro videos while you’re in the room because I find it hard to focus and not begin solving puzzles, but these videos were well done and entertaining.

High Points:

The set was fantastic! It really transported us to a rustic cabin in the middle of the forest. The puzzles flowed nicely and even though there were seven people in our party, none of us felt as though we were just standing around with nothing to do. The room was really interactive with some creative and fun puzzles that fit the theme. All of the puzzles used props or activities that you would expect to encounter in an old prospector’s cabin including an interaction that involves firing a rifle!  As you progress through the room the type of puzzles evolve via the storyline you’re following. For the most part the puzzles were nonlinear so multiple people could be working on the room at once. It was impressively thought out!

You were allowed three clues and any additional clues would cause your time to be penalized. I’d never played with a clue system like that before so I was curious how I’d like it, however, we fortunately only needed the three allotted clues. To receive a clue you pressed a button and the Game Master responded on conveniently placed tv monitors. The button was the most modern looking piece in the room aside from the monitors used to communicate with the Game Master, which made it easy to find.

It was Mother’s Day when we visited The Escape Game and when we were finished they presented myself and the other mom in our group with flowers and a card. It was a nice personal touch.

Low Points:

There was one puzzle that was particularly difficult to see and would benefit from some more lighting.  It’s also quite a bit pricier than other rooms in the area. This was my first room in the Dallas metroplex and I had heard that The Escape Game had some of the best sets around. I think I may be spoiled because the rooms I had been to in Charlotte, NC had sets that also felt Hollywood-level and didn’t come with an extra cost.

There was one puzzle where the game master had to step in and warn us not to use a prop too soon. I find this frustrating in rooms because there’s always the chance the GM doesn’t catch it and you’re left with a puzzle you can’t complete.


Gold Rush was a great immersive room.  If you truly want to feel like you’re on the hunt for hidden gold in the mountains of Northern California, you will enjoy this room. The group we went with was a mix of ages from 7 years old  up to early 50’s and our experience varied from first timers to enthusiasts. Everyone seemed to enjoy the room and especially the fun surprises some of the puzzles offered, especially my seven year old son who said he felt like he was in a movie. There were enough interactions that nobody in our group became bored and what I really liked was that there was a good variety in the skill sets needed for the puzzles so everyone had a moment to shine. It wasn’t just about always finding keys or codes. Overall, we all left smiling and it was a great way to spend Mother’s Day. You can book your search for gold here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Escape Room Entertainment Melbourne, FL– Shipwrecked (Guest Review)

Bonus Review today! Our friend and regular Escape Room Teammate Cathy Nanni recently visited Escape Room Entertainment in Melbourne, FL, and offered to share her thoughts with us! Her review is below.

Melbourne, FL

Players:  Up to 8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Yo ho, yo ho a pirate’s unlife for me!


You’ve been shipwrecked on a Caribbean island. While searching the island for signs of life,  you stumble upon an old pirate’s ship. You go inside and as luck would have it, the galley door slams shut behind you. You’re locked in and have an hour to escape before the ghost of Captain Silver appears.

First Impressions:

Escape Room Entertainment was nicely themed. The lobby had a mysterious feel to it with dim lighting and dark walls. In fact, the 12 year old in our party was ready to start searching for puzzles the minute we stepped into the building!  After checking in, we were escorted into a briefing room where we met our game master and watched a video explaining the rules and the room scenario.

Another thing I really appreciated about Escape Room Entertainment is how family friendly they are. I really wanted to find an escape room that would allow my six year old son and my friend’s twelve year old son to participate. Most rooms have an age requirement of 14+ or require that you book the entire room if you bring children. Escape Room Entertainment is different in that two of its four rooms are family friendly, you don’t have to book the entire room if you’re bringing kids, and kids under 7 are free.

High Points:

The room was well themed. We definitely felt as if we were aboard a pirate ship. The walls and floors were covered with wooden planks.Chests, maps, skeletons, and gold doubloons  were scattered throughout the room. It was dimly lit but we were supplied flashlights. Later on tools were discovered that could help with players see everything better in the dim lighting. There was a fun puzzle involving a major prop that gave me a warm, fuzzy nostalgia for The Goonies (which happened to be our team name).

Escape Room Entertainment offered unlimited clues but if you used more than three you weren’t eligible to be on their Leaderboard. I thought that was a nice compromise to limiting the number of clues.

Low Points:

Even though it was a pirate themed room, I felt the use of treasure chests was a bit overdone in the room. They had a lot of creative puzzles in the room that give us the means to unlock the chests but it would have been nice to unlock something other than a treasure chest.

One puzzle was a complete time suck that required the focus, teamwork, and dexterity of two players for several minutes. After the game we found out that players could trade a hint for a magnet to make the puzzle easier. I’m glad it didn’t get to that point with us because that would be been even more frustrating. I also would have liked to have access to a whiteboard for some of the longer word puzzles. The final puzzle involved a lot of guess and check work on a lock that timed you out for a minute after three incorrect entries. Luckily, we had enough time on the clock but if we had been close to the time limit, it would have been very aggravating.


Shipwrecked was a great experience for the whole family. This was the first escape room for more than half of our group and I felt it was the right mix of basic puzzles for beginners and more creative ones to keep enthusiasts busy.  The room was fun to explore and most of the puzzles were a good mix of challenging and fun.

7/10 (Good)