Dare 2 Escape – The Archive (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $36 per person

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

This is it! The culmination of all your hard work!

Theme:

From the Dare 2 Escape website:

Do you dare to follow the coordinates sent to you by a mysterious source and be the first group of urban explorers to make it out with the deepest, darkest secrets of the Tillman Family? Do you dare to face the unknown and expose these secrets, with the ultimate risk of being trapped underground and becoming part of the secret that might be buried forever?

First Impressions:

This is it! After three fantastic rooms at Dare 2 Escape, it was time for the room that would tie up the stories of The Asylum, The Ringmaster, and The Dig into one epic conclusion. To say anticipation was high amongst our group would be an understatement. When we stepped into this room for the first time, it was immediately evident our excitement was not unfounded.

High Points:

The Archive boasts the best set of all of Dare 2 Escape’s rooms, and that is high praise. You’re not just told by the game master that you’ll be delving into the sewers of New York to seek out the mysterious Tillman family’s archive, you legitimately step down into the dank looking sewers as the first introduction into the game. The effort gone into making this experience look dank and murky without actually being so is commendable, and it really adds to the immersion of the adventure. Perfectly placed lights and excellent sound design ramp up the feeling of urban exploration, and the multi-floor game remains thrilling from start to finish because of the amazing work done to keep the room looking brilliant. Transitions between each contrasting level of the game were done fantastically, and the reveal of the Archive itself is truly really cool. The set had a few points at which we would climb or crawl, and it was nice to see that there were comfort and safety features added in a way that were non-intrusive, but still ensured we wouldn’t experience any pain during these segments. Story-wise, The Archive expertly weaves together the previous three rooms into an epic conclusion and delivers a superb, twisty climax that leaves the door open for new adventures.

The game flow was incredibly packed with loads of original puzzles, keeping our team engaged for the whole adventure. There are a few different stages to the game, and are, for the most part, non-linear, allowing us to split up to unearth all the secrets that the Tillman family Archive had to offer. And there were so many! Call backs to previous rooms and new story revelations that wove through the entire saga were an excellent way to wrap up the four room experience that Dare 2 Escape has put together. Connections between puzzles and their solutions remained very smooth, and at no point did we feel as though we were stonewalled due to deficiency in the design of the game. There were many different puzzle types to enjoy as well, and enough variety that everyone was able to find an interaction they excelled in. I had several favorite puzzles within The Archive, many of which seemed wholly enigmatic until we discerned the secret behind their moving parts, leading to incredibly satisfying moments of revelation we won’t soon forget!

Low Points:

There weren’t many low points to the experience, honestly. One particular puzzle could have used a little bit more cluing as to the order the solution should be placed in, and another felt as though it required some slightly aimless searching, but these are very small criticisms overall.

Verdict:

The Archive is truly a masterwork of an escape adventure. Very rarely do we see a business that has tailored their rooms into one over arching story, and rarer still is the climactic room so incredibly well done. The Archive is a splendid crown jewel in the Tillman Family Saga of rooms, and I absolutely recommend doing it, especially if you can try out the three rooms that lead up to it. For ninety minute experience that will fly by in the best possible way, you can’t go wrong with this room. Book your urban exploration into the New York sewer system here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Dare 2 Escape – The Dig (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-5 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It belongs in a museum!

Theme:

From the Dare 2 Escape website:

Dare to face the sandstorm in the Dig of the century? Your colleague, archaeologist Dr. Eleanor Harding, has uncovered the fossilized remains of a new dinosaur species in her dig site located in the heart of the northern Sahara Desert. She has contacted you and your team of paleontologists from London to help stake claim to this find of the century. Upon arriving at her campsite, your team finds it abandoned because Dr. Harding was forced to evacuate from the path of a massive sandstorm that came through overnight. She is bunkered down in a safe refuge, but the secret location of the dig site was compromised when she radioed for help. Her longtime nemesis, Dr. Arthur Tillman, intercepted the transmission and his team is on the way to unjustly steal this once-in-a-lifetime find! Satellite images of the area show that Dr. Tillman and his team are only one hour away from the dig site. You must now use the clues that Dr. Harding left behind for you, find the dinosaur fossils, and escape from the African desert before you competition arrives and claims the find of the century for himself!

First Impressions:

The Tillman Family saga had been a great adventure so far, so we were thrilled that we were only halfway done exploring this excellent meta-story when the time for The Dig came around. Dare 2 Escape’s smallest room would also veer away from the horror themes I’m rather fond of, but with this business’s track record, I wasn’t worried at all!

High Points:

The Dig was a wholly different adventure than the previous two horror focused rooms we had experienced at Dare 2 Escape in regards to story and theme, but the level of quality we had come to expect stayed consistent. This family friendly experience had more straightforward puzzles, but did not skimp on the challenge overall. The game flow works well, and a few teamwork based puzzles keep everyone involved in the action. The game makes sense the whole way through, and the linear puzzling thread that winds through the whole room always makes sense from point to point. All clues lead nicely into each other, and we were never at a loss for what to do next. There are a lot of incredibly creative puzzles to discover within the Egyptian sands, and some of my favorites within this game were great hand crafted interactions that I had never seen before!

The set is fantastic as is usual for Dare 2 Escape and transitioning between each area of the game is natural and convincing. The tomb itself is immersive and boasts some archeological fun that players young and old will enjoy digging into! The story tied into the game cleverly, and from start to finish we enjoyed facing off against our rival Tillman, who threatened to steal away our prize. The Dig was also a great reprieve from the more intense horror based rooms we had just completed, with its bright lights and more light hearted theme, so its place in the overall chronology makes great sense for marathon players. Dare 2 Escape really knows how to make a room come to life using story, lighting, and sound, and The Dig is certainly no exception.

Low Points:

The Dig is very much a smaller room. It still is comfortable for the maximum group size, but the adventure can feel somewhat more limited due to the size of the room and the linear nature of the game flow. However, there were a lot of props to go through, and things can begin to feel cluttered if you aren’t organized and careful. At one point, there was a lock that needed a lot more finesse due to the environment in which this box was located causing it to jam. One particular puzzle felt just a smidge out of place, but it was not unenjoyable, just a little off when compared to the rest of the room’s challenges.

Verdict:

The Dig is yet another awesome chapter in the epic Tillman Saga, as well as a great room for new players and families! Though it lacked the thrills and chills I’d enjoyed in their previous rooms, this was more than made up for with the great puzzling and immersive set. I wholeheartedly recommend this room, and cannot wait to see what the masterminds at Dare 2 Escape come up with next! Book your archaeological expedition here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Dare 2 Escape provided our team with discounted tickets.

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Captain Spoopy Bones and the Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirate’s Treasure (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  4-8, Always Private (We recommend 4-12)

Price: $33.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

That dastardly… uh… other pirate won’t know what hit ’em!

Theme:

From the Doldrick’s Escape Room website:

Raise the anchor and set sail with Captain Spoopy Bones in this lighthearted tale of nautical nonsense! Navigate the treacherous waters aboard the Captain’s massive ship, and race against time in this grand adventure on the high seas. With teamwork, determination, and a little bit of luck, the players will uncover the secret of Captain Spoopy Bones and the magnificent quest for some other pirate’s treasure!

First Impressions:

Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome was easily one of the absolute best games that I had ever played, so when it was time for Captain Spoopy Bones and the Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirates Treasure, (henceforth to be known as “Spoopy Bones” for my sanity and yours, as much as I’d like to artificially inflate my word count,) we were jazzed.

High Points:

Spoopy Bones starts off with the team separated into two different cells. All seems lost until the titular Captain appears on screen to… tell us a story? About us? Intriguing! And the genuinely hilarious adventure only builds from there. The entire experience takes the ubiquitous pirate escape room, and absolutely refuses to fall into stagnant tropes. While the story line boils down to the usual, find the treasure and win the day style room, the character of Spoopy Bones and the journey to the treasure, (and it truly feels like an epic journey,) allow the room to evolve beyond the usual trappings of a pirate themed escape! The puzzles and interactions included within the beautiful set are, for the most part, highly original, with some awesome set pieces that will only reveal their secrets to the most inquisitive, and determined, minds. The room utilizes the space provided well, and packs a highly dense game flow into each area. In fact, once we had reunited and made our way to the ultimate room, we figured we were almost at the end of our quest, as most other games would have been just about out of ideas at that point. Not so, as we were presented with loads more to do, which was an excellent surprise!

Speaking of excellent surprises, Spoopy Bones is absolutely chock full of them, especially during the climax of the game. There was a point in the game in which the story really started to pop off, and when it did, it was astounding the level of detail that had gone into making this area feel highly authentic. It was just capital c, Cool. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, really. The lighting and sound design really helped tie the whole game together into an immersive experience, and it’s really something that has to be experienced. Words can’t quite capture how fun the atmosphere of this room was. Teamwork is really the most important part of this room, and success or failure truly hinges on how well the group works together. Luckily, this room is always private, so you don’t have to worry about going in with someone you aren’t going to work well with.

The puzzles remained within the theme throughout, keeping us working together with fantastic nautical props and interactions. A favorite puzzle of mine involved a satisfyingly tactile interaction that helped us overcome our piratical competition in an explosive way, and was an exemplar of how engaging Doldrick’s rooms can be. The game flow itself was mostly non-linear, and with the minimum of four players, we stayed very busy throughout. This is one of the few rooms I could see a maxed out group staying occupied. I wouldn’t recommend it to enthusiasts, but could definitely see a group of new players staying busy with the dense amount of puzzling to do here.

Low Points:

Splitting up the teams is always such a good idea on paper, but the charm unfortunately always wears out its welcome. Splitting the group really only works, it seems, when the game has been strictly designed for all puzzles leading up to the reunion to demand teamwork. When they don’t, one team inevitably runs out of puzzles to solve before the other, and it becomes a less than ideal waiting game for that team. It is also disappointing because each team effectively misses out on a few of the puzzles, and while you can always ask what they did, it isn’t the same as helping out during the puzzle. Or at least having the option to. One, and only one, puzzle was a fairly common riddle that was intended to clue a certain solution, but the leap of logic was vast and somewhat nonsensical. It was the only puzzle I didn’t enjoy within the room, however. Actually, I think it was the only one I didn’t like in the entire business, which is saying something!

Verdict:

Though I enjoyed Super Bomb Squad a bit more than Spoopy Bones, I think this room is still spectacular and one of the finest we’ve done! This pirate adventure is truly a step above the rest, evolving the overdone pirate theme of escape rooms beyond the simple cliches. I whole heartedly recommend assembling a team you communicate well with and joining Captain Spoopy Bones on his Magnificent Quest for Some Other Pirate’s Treasure here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Doldrick’s provided our team with discounted tickets.

Dare 2 Escape – The Ringmaster (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-8 (We recommend 2-5)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Step right up, and be… see the next freak!

Theme:

From the Dare 2 Escape website (Truncated):

As you are standing in line for the Freak Show, an elusive figure wearing a top hat and a red jacket approaches you and your friends. He waves his wooden cane at you, beckoning you to follow him to the best seats in the house because you have been chosen as the lucky ones. Thrilled with this opportunity, you and your friends follow the Ringmaster into a side entrance to the main tent where he welcomes you into his personal dressing room. The musky room is covered in red and is illuminated with marquee lights and a small lamp. It’s quite dark, but there is enough light for you to see photos of grotesque freaks on the walls. You ask the Ringmaster about what you see, but the last thing you see is his scarred face before he hits you over the head with his wooden cane. In the background, as you are fading away, you can hear a cynical voice in the distance saying, “Welcome to my Carnival, where the lucky ones become part of the show!”

First Impressions:

After the thrilling escape from Dare 2 Escape’s haunted Asylum, (easily the best Asylum we’ve ever escaped from,) we were more than excited to be jumping right into our next chapter investigating the illusive Tillman family! There’s nothing creepier than a weird circus run by a mysterious ringmaster, (save maybe for our friend Lizzie from the Asylum,) so we steeled our nerves and started searching the Ringmaster’s office!

High Points:

The Ringmaster took the story begun in The Asylum and upped the game in several fantastic ways! The puzzle branches are even more non-linear than before, and presented us with a denser game flow that challenged us to remain on our A-game throughout. Dividing and conquering was the name of the game within this room, and while it remained a great challenge for our team of escape enthusiasts, it always felt like a balanced, if difficult, adventure. The Ringmaster’s office and tent are constructed believably and the highly tactile puzzles and props lend a sense of immersion to the experience from start to finish. Not once did any of the interactions dip outside the theme, and the solutions were cleverly hidden, sometimes in plain sight! One of my favorite puzzles involved a bit of decor that I had puzzled over for a while, mainly writing it off as just a swath of the scenery, but once I had connected it with another clue in the room, the moment of revelation was supremely satisfying.

The story is expertly integrated into the puzzles as well, and not only from overt storytelling via clues found, but via the set design and puzzles types that were found during each stage of the experience. Never before had I seen quite this level of attention to detail, and the whole thing is elevated from a simple game to a truly immersive adventure by it. The story throws twists at the players multiple times, subverting expectations and keeping everyone on their toes until the electrifying climax, and even then we were unsure if one more curve ball might be tossed our way. The entire room is the very definition of excellent design as every part of the set, down to the shape of the rooms, contributes to the overall story that Dare 2 Escape is telling. Gripping narrative in escape rooms is difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to ensure players fully experience, but when it’s done this well it grabs your attention and refuses to let go!

Low Points:

There were only a couple moments at which The Ringmaster hiccuped, and honestly, they were both pretty minor issues. There was a puzzle during the initial stages of the game that just wasn’t clued quite well enough to lead to an intuitive and natural solution. Another puzzle had another layer added to the solution after we had solved the initial stage. The addition of a new level of the solve wasn’t so much the issue as the way this was introduced, which felt natural theme-wise, but not so much mechanically. Overall, though, both low points weren’t too much of a downer in the grand scheme of things.

Verdict:

The Ringmaster was easily my favorite room at Dare 2 Escape, and thinking back on the experience, one of my favorite rooms period. Though I think anyone who’s thinking about trying out Dare 2 Escape’s fantastic experiences should follow their generally recommended order of play (The Asylum, The Ringmaster, The Dig, The Archive,) this one absolutely stands on it’s own. If you only have time for a few games in the Orlando area, this one should absolutely be on your short-list. Book your time escaping the clutches of the sinister Ringmaster here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Dare 2 Escape provided our team with discounted tickets.

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome (Review)

Location: Kissimmee, FL

Players:  2-8, Always Private (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $33.99 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Press start to play!

Theme:

From the Doldrick’s Escape Room website:

As part of an elite group of commandos, The Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome are on a mission to find and deactivate a newly developed weapon of mass destruction, capable of obliterating the entire planet! Only the Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome have what it takes to break into the evil corporation and deactivate the explosive!

First Impressions:

Doldrick’s came highly recommended by… pretty much everybody. The word of mouth was overwhelmingly positive, and after taking a look at the themes on their website, Doldrick’s was easily the top, must-see escape room to visit during our stay in Orlando. It didn’t hurt that they have bought fully into the humorous trope of extremely ridiculous and long-winded titles that I love so much. I had, to quote the local radio’s apparent favorite song, high high hopes.

20190604_1746543605332769066655504.jpg

And they have a *pool table*! We didn’t play, but it was an *option*! Which is *awesome*! Kind of like *asterisks*! And running *jokes* into the *ground*!

High Points:

Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome is a trek into the world of a Super Nintendo game. Full of nostalgic ’80s theming (without being a strictly ’80s experience,) slick set design, and a bombastic story and cast of characters, this room remained an absolute blast from start to finish. Let’s start with the story. You’re sent on an elite commando mission to take down a doomsday device, and you’ll be accompanied, via intermittent cut-scenes, by support from your pixelated pals back at the Super Bomb Squad base. It’s over the top and even more exciting than it seems. And this room absolutely nails the humor, making it one of those rare rooms in which the experience is actually funny rather than playing at being funny or making references. It really is a rollicking good time.

Starting off in the room, things are mostly linear, but with enough non-linearity and a lot of teamwork based interactions that I’m sure even larger groups will find plenty to keep engaged. Every puzzle was excellently themed towards the room’s storyline, wonderfully clever and inventive, and challenging without becoming frustrating. Most steps along the journey provided us with brilliant feedback and enormously satisfying moments of revelation, and nothing seemed out of place or run of the mill. It’s difficult to choose a favorite puzzle, as even the simplest of them provided the thrill of solving, but I have to say that some of the enormous and layered room spanning interactions we came across were fantastic. Many of them had bits and pieces sprinkled throughout the rooms, and by gradually uncovering new clues and props, we could naturally come up with the highly intuitive solutions as we came to them.

The climax of the room was slick, as was the rest of the set, and the doomsday device itself was absolutely beautiful; sticking with the theme and just being a cool set piece to mess around with. The room had very few physical locks, relying on really awesome and tactile tech to bring the experience to brilliantly colored life! The effects and soundtrack kept the adrenaline pumping throughout the escape, and when we finally shut the doomsday device down, we felt really accomplished and satisfied with the whole experience.

Low Points:

The Power Glove we used in the after room picture didn’t actually work anymore? I dunno, I got nothin’ for this.

Verdict:

If you are in the Orlando/Kissimmee area, you have to play Super Bomb Squad: Commandos Awesome. Full stop. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars, go straight to Doldrick’s. This place is a jewel in the crown of Florida area escape rooms and I cannot recommend it to you enough, and I can’t wait to go back for their newest room. Book your time as one of the illustrious Commandos Awesome here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Doldrick’s provided our team with discounted tickets.