Mission X – Hurricane (Beta Preview)

Location: Durham, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Hurricane Beta

Theme:

From Mission X’s website:

You and your friends are on vacation in a rental beach house. Without warning, a category five hurricane suddenly appears in the horizon. Waves of thunderstorms and strong winds are pounding the house relentlessly. The house suffered considerable damage and is on the verge of collapsing. The power is out and you are trapped in the dark! The emergency channel warns the devastating landfall is within the hour. Staying in the house is not an option. You must escape to safety!

First Impressions:

Though the theme sounded a little bit far fetched, (a category five hurricane suddenly appearing on the horizon,) Mission X is usually a lot of fun, so we were excited to help out with their most recent beta test for Hurricane. This would would be replacing their most difficult room, Butcher Shop, so we were ready for the challenge as well!

High Points:

Taking a cue from Butcher Shop, there is an item in the room that helps direct players to answers with some slight clues, but this has been improved as the prop is a puzzle to solve in itself, adding to the experience rather than just making it simpler. A couple of highly original puzzles encourage teamwork and allow for multiple players to engage in an otherwise linear room. In fact, the initial puzzle of the room starts the whole experience off on an exciting, team based moment we really enjoyed. The soundtrack was good, bringing environmental tension to the game, but could definitely use more dynamic implementation by adding lights and perhaps by ratcheting up the intensity as the timer ticks on. The connective tissue of the game is mostly excellent, with bread crumbs leading from room to room intuitively, allowing for a couple awesome ah ha moments.

Low Points:

A few of the puzzles were vaguely clued, leading us to feel as though we needed to read the minds of the designers in order to solve them. Fortunately, we were able to make several of the leaps of logic after some intense brainstorming, but for some of these issues, we needed to call for hints. While hints were delivered quickly to keep us going, GMs still enter the room in order to give them to us, and they were a bit too direct to keep the puzzle puzzling. The set itself was much more basic than we expected, as the house seemed to have sustained very little damage. It would help the immersion to have more damage showing and to perhaps have the damage seem more extensive as players make their way through the room. The linearity of the room tended to ensure that at least one member of our team of four was standing around while others solved the riddles within, making the maximum team size of eight highly dubious. Escaping felt fairly anticlimactic because the room itself didn’t really deliver a story, but was more of a puzzle room.

Verdict:

Overall, Hurricane was a fun room, but didn’t really feel as immersive as it’s predecessor, Butcher Shop. Our newest teammate, however, had a great time, so new players will probably enjoy Hurricane more than enthusiasts. This is complicated slightly due to the high difficulty rating, so newer players might want to get a room or two under their belts before taking the Hurricane on.  here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Note: The score above is based on the beta test we completed. We, and the other beta testers, identified areas of improvement, so I expect the room will have been adjusted by the time this preview goes live.

Full Disclosure: Mission X provided comped beta testing tickets for our group.

Mission X – Candy-land (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

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

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!

Theme:

You’re stuck in the candy factory and the Gingerbread Man has run off with the key! You’ll have to chase him through the magical Candy-land around you to find the exit and escape before you’re locked in for the night! Not that that really sounds like such a bad thing, really…

First Impressions:

Two of Mission X’s other rooms, Vampire Manor and Butcher Shop, are horror themed, and their other, Mirage, is sort of a surreal, spooky experience, so the theme of Candy-land is a massive tonal shift! I was interested to see how this new, family-friendly room would come across, but definitely had high hopes due to how much I had enjoyed their other top-notch, tech-focused rooms!

High Points:

One immediate positive I noticed was that Mission X had reduced their per ticket price to $25 and upped their room times to 60 minutes, adding puzzles in order to lengthen the experience and give customers more bang for their buck! Within the room, we very much enjoyed the bright and colorful nature of our surroundings, which fit the theme perfectly. There was a focus on puzzles that were solved using the scenery and props, allowing us to interact with the factory and immerse us in the theme. Game flow worked great for the most part, and there was plenty of non linear puzzling to do, allowing our group of 4 to stay involved in the experience.

Low Points:

There were much fewer do not touch stickers than usual, which was a good step, but they were still about and were fairly immersion breaking when they did appear. Hints are still delivered via the Game Master entering the room, which still brings immersion to a grinding halt. One particular puzzle uses a less common answer type, but doesn’t give a clue that it should be done this way, so it isn’t very intuitive, and the puzzle itself feels very out of place itself. The room lacks a story beyond the basic theme, so it is more of a puzzle room than a full escape experience.

Verdict:

Candy-land is a great beginners and family focused room and is a great one to introduce new players to the hobby! Enthusiasts may still find a few new puzzles here and there, but would definitely find more of a challenge in Mission X’s horror themed experiences. All in all, though, I recommend giving it a shot for some light-hearted puzzling fun! Book your escape from the candy factory here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Mission X provided discounted tickets for our group.

Mission X – Mirage (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

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

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

I must be dreaming…

Theme:

You’ve fallen into a deep deep sleep, and have ended up in a room that feels familiar, but is all wrong! It’s dark, everything has twisted around, and the only way to wake up is to find a your way back to normalcy! Sort through the dream and figure out how to move through the twisting perspectives and awaken!

First Impressions:

After a good chat with the staff at Mission X, we were quickly briefed and set upon the darkened room, each armed with a flashlight. Though not quite as elaborate in design as Vampire Manor or Butcher Shop, Mirage’s décor delivered an thoughtful take on a more abstract theme, which was an interesting way to begin.

High Points:

Puzzles play with perspective in fun and imaginative ways, building upon the theme of the room while delivering new challenges that require keen observation. The twisting nature of the room is an entertaining approach, delivering original approaches to puzzle design and room flow as well as a floaty, dream-like theme. The room is set in darkness to create effective mood and immersion, but every player is equipped with a flashlight, so it serves it’s purpose without being an unnecessary  detriment to the game.

Low Points:

Hints are still the weak point of Mission X, as the gamemaster must enter the room to deliver hints, though it is appreciated that they pause your time to do so. Hints during this trip were less hints than actual walkthroughs of the current puzzle, which was frustrating as it removes a sense of accomplishment. The room itself was a bit sparser than the other two rooms we’d played with Mission X, due to the less elaborate décor, and also because this was an easier room than the others.

Verdict:

Though perhaps a bit too simple for enthusiasts, Mirage is a great introductory game for beginners and families, delivering a light hearted theme along with an easy to follow game flow. I definitely recommend giving it a shot if you’re looking for a good starter room, or an approachable one for friends new to the hobby. If you’re an enthusiast, however, it will be a fun if simple room, but if that isn’t your style, I’d recommend you try out the more challenging Vampire Manor or Butcher Shop instead. Book your time in the dreamlands here!

7/10 (Good)

Mission X – Vampire Manor (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

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

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

Dracula’s surprisingly high tech manor

Theme:

Dracula has been terrorizing the Transylvanian countryside for centuries, but his reign is to come to an end tonight! Your team of vampire hunters has finally decided to take on your greatest challenge yet, the Grandfather of all Vampires himself. You’ve broken into his manor home, but you must collect the source of his immortality, a gemstone of immense power. Once you do so, you’ll be able to strike him down and escape! But do it quickly, who knows when he’ll catch you snooping about!

First Impressions:

Dracula’s got a posh little place going on here. Vampire Manor was dimly lit but very well decorated, with a strange assortment of odds and ends hidden around the room. We found a note from Dracula’s most recent thrall to get us started, and these continued to lead us through the story of the room. Where she got the tape to stick these notes around everywhere, I’m unsure, but it’s a minor issue.

High Points:

Props all fit the room very nicely, and there was a plethora of well disguised technology in the room, which helped bolster the supernatural theme this room is going for. Puzzles were imaginative and well thought out, and cluing for each was, on the whole, well done. Sound cues helped ensure that we were given proper feedback on most technological puzzles, and we rarely felt we were at a loss for what to do next. One particular interaction was very original and led up to a very appropriate reveal. The final big puzzle took a good amount of teamwork to solve, and was a lot of fun to figure out.

Low Points:

There were a couple puzzles in particular that seemed like they were out of place, one of which blatantly required the use of technology in what overall felt like a Victorian theme and was fairly poorly clued, while the other required unintuitive leaps of logic. Like in the Butcher Shop, Do Not Touch stickers were overused and took away from the immersion, as did the hint system which requires your Gamemaster to come into the room. We also felt that we hadn’t quite finished once we opened the final door, as not all of the storyline objectives had been conquered, but we were assured that we had, in fact, completed everything.

Verdict:

We very much enjoyed our time in the Vampire Manor, as it evoked a sense of mystery throughout and the puzzles flowed well into each other. The storyline was interesting, though it never seemed to wrap up in a wholly satisfying way. At 45 minutes, it was a fun experience, but I would very much love to see what Mission X could do with a full hour experience. Beginners and enthusiasts alike will enjoy the technologically advanced nature of this room, though I recommend bringing a smaller than maximum group as the room does not seem quite big enough to hold eight players comfortably. Book your faceoff with Dracula here!

Full disclosure, we beta tested this room, (and were the first ever to escape it!) so our tickets were comped and some elements may have changed since our run.

8/10 (Great)

Mission X – Butcher Shop (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

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

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

That’s a Spicy Eyeball!

Theme:

The town butcher shop has been under investigation recently after a string of disappearances. Your team of detectives have been on the case, as neighbors have reported suspicious noises and smells coming from the area. Recently, your partner has gone to investigate on his own, but hasn’t come back! I’m sure that’s all just coincidence, and he and the butcher are having a lovely chat over some filet mignon! That’s usually how these things work out, right?

First Impressions:

Mission X builds great, high quality sets. Entering the dark Butcher Shop started our experience out with the right tone and was just eerie enough to foreshadow the surprises to come. We were told that this room was their hardest, with a very low escape rate, so we came prepared to puzzle our hearts out, hopefully not literally!

High Points:

Our descent into each layer of the Butcher Shop was well themed. Props were very high quality, and each room felt just a little more unhinged as we found more clues to take us deeper into the story. Mission X likes to use technology in their rooms, and all of these interactions worked smoothly and were interestingly utilized. I particularly enjoyed the big reveal we found near the end, as well as a hidden clue that helped us sort out the room. Puzzles flowed one into the next fairly well, and there were a couple distinct puzzle threads groups can split up to conquer. The use of space feels natural and nothing feels like it goes to waste.

Low Points:

For how well the room was themed, the dreaded Do Not Touch sticker abounded. I understand the purpose of these stickers, but they always feel out of place and pull you from the immersion unless used very sparingly. Mission X’s hint system also breaks immersion, as staff members come into the room to help you out. I appreciate that they pause the clock for you while they do so, but it would be much more immersive to have a hint system that just used the intercom. One puzzle solution felt a little goofy and out of place, but it was a minor one and didn’t detract overmuch. Our final escape felt a little anticlimactic, and we weren’t 100% sure we were done, (even with the final door unlocked,) as our Gamemaster was not there to congratulate us at the end. This lead us to roam a little bit in the hall, confused. I did, however, get to shoot back through the room in the pitch dark to call them just in case, and the walk through the now completely dark room was creepy and fun.

Verdict:

Mission X’s hardest room felt moderately challenging, if a little short, to our experienced group. We did capture the room record, with around 14ish minutes to spare, and therefore got our picture at the top of their Wall of Fame, which is an exciting touch. 45 minute rooms always feel oddly paced since we’re used to the industry average of an hour, but the Butcher Shop flowed well. Overall, this was an enjoyable room that I think escape room fans will enjoy, but beginners might be overwhelmed by. I’d recommend at least a couple rooms of experience before attempting the Butcher Shop. Book your investigation of the Butcher Shop here!

7/10 (Good)