Mystery Mansion Regina – DTF: Drag Task Force (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-10 (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.11 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Work it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

The devious Ruby Hymen has betrayed the Drag Task Force and has stolen all of their powers. The leader of the DTF, Flo Mingo, has selected you and your team to help the DTF infiltrate Ruby’s secret lair. You must find a way to stop Ruby and help the members of the DTF get their powers back!

A portion of each ticket will be donated to the Regina non-profit organization, Lulu’s Lodge.

*All content of this room has been reviewed and approved by the Drag Community and is not intended to offend any parties*

First Impressions:

DTF: Drag Task Force might be the most creative theme I’ve ever seen. Drag Queen superheroes, a robot avatar, and a puzzle that involves making a mixed drink for your avatar to choke down all come together to create what can only be described as one of the wildest online escape rooms we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing!

High Points:

DTF is a hilarious game, and if players relax and let themselves joke around with the avatar, they’re in for a fantastic time! Our game master was, as always with Mystery Mansion Regina, brilliantly quick on their feet, dishing out jokes and responses at lightening speed. Everything was incorporated with the awesome story, and I loved how much humor was injected into the experience. It is rare to see an escape room that truly excels at being funny, and the folks at Mystery Mansion Regina really know how to develop a fun puzzling flow while bringing the laughs. Just like their Night Terrors room, DTF is built from the ground up to be an online only experience, ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation. A favorite mechanic of this room is made possible by its online only nature, as one of the main goals of the game is to upgrade our robotic avatar using items that give the Drag Task Force their powers. Though it is as simple as finding a prop and asking to activate a power, it really lends a satisfying sense of progression to the experience, and adds a little extra something that we wouldn’t see in an in person room.

The puzzles themselves are very clever, and one in particular was an astoundingly fun interaction that had us laughing even after the game was over. At several points in the game, telescape was incorporated, allowing our team to solve in room puzzles concurrently with online puzzles, shaking up the usual linear nature of online, avatar based games and allowing for more non-linear progress to be made. This is great for bigger teams or players who like to break off to solve on their own, as it ensures that everyone can remain engaged without trying to lead an avatar to look at something across the room while others are attempting to solve something else entirely. Though the puzzles themselves were, for us, on the easier side of things, they were no less fun, and the room is absolutely packed with interactions, so we didn’t blow through the experience either. Overall, DTF is all about having a great time, and it definitely succeeds in its mission!

Low Points:

During our play, the decor was still in development, so the room didn’t quite have as much personality as it could’ve, however, it should be even more decked out now, so no worries here! The puzzling can sometimes ride on the easier, more basic side, so enthusiasts looking for an intense challenge may be disappointed, but we had more than enough fun running through the flow of the game and just enjoying the great story and banter with our game master/avatar!

Verdict:

DTF: Drag Task Force is easily one of the most creative, fun filled online escape rooms available. I whole heartedly recommend trying it out, as the entertaining puzzling flow and laugh a minute interactions with our game master delivered one of our favorite experiences of the pandemic. Book your time helping the Drag Task Force regain their fabulous powers here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.

The Box (France) – The Diamond Heist (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 Players (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: €110 per room (About $129.97 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

Never work again? That sounds great!

Theme:

From the The Box website:

They say that diamond merchants safe boxes are tamper proof. In this escape game, we challenge you to grab the biggest treasure ever. Outmaneuver the Diamond Center security and become richer than ever!

First Impressions:

We’ve been doing a lot of virtual globe trotting with our virtual escape experiences recently, and we have added France to our Escape Room passport with The Box! A tried an true escape room theme, heist rooms are generally reliable and exciting, so we couldn’t wait to try this one out.

High Points:

The set for Diamond Heist was pretty great, with a sleek, streamlined design aesthetic that really hammered home the “ultra-modern bank vault/offices” vibe. A few really cool surprises kept us feeling immersed within the theme, and our doofy avatar Bob did a great job of following our instructions and getting generally freaked out by the alarms. We enjoyed interacting with him and having some improvisationally silly fun while solving the puzzles. The room effects were great, using sound and lighting to set the mood, and there were very few basic locks in the room, which relied on hidden tech to give the vault a believably high tech flair. Puzzles themselves consisted of a lot of research puzzles and making connections between props within the room, and also included a fun vault hacking mini-game that we enjoyed for the most part. The whole experience culminated in a fast paced, intense finale that had us frantically searching for our main goal within the vault itself, as well as trying to steal as much treasure as possible before the police arrived on the scene. The early game had some intense moments as well, however, and certain areas were secured in different ways, ensuring that we always felt as though this was a high stakes mission in which failure was not an option! Though the experience moved through different game stages linearly, there was enough to work on at each stage that our whole group could remain engaged with each step, dividing and conquering to tackle different puzzles together.

Low Points:

A lot of virtual escape rooms cast the avatar as “lovable doofus,” and while that is funny to start and allows for a reason why they can’t do whatever tasks are presented on their own, in the long run, it is a lot more fun, in our experience, when the avatar acts more as a teammate. It is especially frustrating when the avatar is “unable” to search on their own. Virtual games do not lend themselves well to hidden objects, and it generally needs to be streamlined as players cannot see the whole room or anticipate hiding spots well in this medium, so when, in this room, there were objects that were very well hidden, it took entirely too long for us to find while adding nothing to the experience itself. The inventory method for the game was via google docs, and access was given as we went. This slowed down the game substantially, and left us with loads of useless information near the later stages of the game. Telescape is the gold standard for inventory systems, and comparatively, google docs did not do near as well a job during this game. There is a large mix of digital and in room puzzling to do during the game, but they did not mix overly well, leading one or the other to be neglected while puzzles were being worked on. The final puzzle was good, but was repeated over and over several times, leading to burnout while trying to finish up the heist. There was also an element of randomness that could frustrate players on their last few minutes.

Verdict:

Overall, The Diamond Heist wasn’t a bad room, but didn’t quite go above and beyond compared to other virtual escape offerings available. A lot of streamlining would help bolster the game itself, but it is still good for an hour’s entertainment. Enthusiasts will get their fix from this room, but newcomers might find the presentation a bit overwhelming. On the whole, our adventure with Bob was fun, but not particularly mind-blowing. Book your time pulling off the heist of the century here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: The Box provided our team with a complementary game.

Emergency Exit Escape Games UK – The Beast (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: Up to 6 connections (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: £100.00 per room (About $128.06 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

The number of the Beast is 10/10

Theme:

From the Emergency Exit Escape Games UK website:

Exclusively play a unique experience – only available online – combining Conjure + Poltergeist! The game includes spoilers from both physical games. The rooms may LOOK the same online, but the game-play isn’t!

Deep in the forest of Crowley Manor lies a secret as dark as the house itself; maybe even worse?

There’s a cabin in the woods with a legend of the supernatural. Long abandoned, there have been strange sightings and many people have disappeared, as reported in the news over the years, never to return.

You should NOT enter! The question is… can you escape parts 2 and 3 of the Crowley Manor story? There’s lots of puzzles to solve before you can.

Based in the same reality as our Exorcist game, Crowley Manor. You’ll be playing in the actual Conjure and Poltergeist rooms by controlling a Game Master.

First Impressions:

We have been anxiously waiting to play The Beast since the second we were told there would be a sequel. Exorcist was, and still is, our favorite virtual escape game we’ve done, and honestly, is probably one of the best escape games we’ve experienced, period. We could not wait to get back into the horror filled universe that Emergency Exit has created, and when the day finally came, we were more than thrilled to be returning to Crowley Manor!

High Points:

Emergency Exit continues to impress with yet another brilliant foray into the dark confines of Crowley Manor. Every facet of this game is polished, and impresses from start to finish. From the moment we entered our Zoom meeting, an intro video was playing, reacquainting us with Crowley Manor and setting the mood while counting down the time until the game would begin. The anticipation was absolutely palpable, and the production values were already high, and we hadn’t even entered the room yet! Once we were connected to our avatar, Ronnie, we picked up right where we left off at the end of Exorcist. From there, we broke back into Crowley Manor, (bad idea number one,) found our possibly possessed cameraman inside, (bad idea number two,) and began messing about with a bunch of creepy dolls, (you guessed it! Three’s a charm.) The set was beautifully well designed, and the videos and effects all work together to ensure that we were appropriately spooked, and that there was never any certainty as to what creepy happening was around every corner. An amazing attention to detail and beautiful design work is apparent in every room we visited, and though we were not physically in the room, the designers have done an awesome job of ensuring that the atmosphere and ambiance is preserved for the virtual experience through some of the best lighting and sound design we’ve seen in a virtual room. In fact, this is one of those rooms that just oozes immersion, combining the sound effects, music, and characterization of Ronnie and Liam, our avatar and cameraman, respectively. Truly, Emergency Exit has continues to set the bar for what a remote escape room should strive to be.

The game flow is wonderfully smooth within this room, and runs linearly, with subtle hints and clues to ensure that players never feel lost, but are still challenged to put together the pieces. The whole experience is intuitive, and filled with a variety of puzzle types that allows all different types of puzzlers to shine. There are loads of amazing interactions in The Beast, and it is honestly hard to pick a favorite moment. One section of the game near the midpoint that I really adored subverted our expectations fantastically, and allowed for a few minutes of unsettling uncertainty and scares while still presenting some great puzzles to solve. The experience is absolutely filled to the brim with immensely satisfying ah ha moments, and each puzzle is integrated into the room’s theme convincingly. I really loved how during our solves, bits of story and lore were drip fed to us by our host, who despite the creepy situation he finds himself in, still finds time to be a good ghost tour guide! Other bits of story were realistically integrated into the rooms via notes, radio broadcasts, and haunting happenings, and the mystery kept us guessing until the end. The climax of the story is an unexpected, yet fantastic conclusion to the saga, but leaves things open to interpretation, keeping us guessing even long after the game had ended. Overall, The Beast mixes immersive theater, escape rooms, and haunts together to create an experience that is second to none. Though The Beast caps off the Crowley Manor saga excellently, if Emergency Exit releases another remote game, we will be ready to book without question.

Low Points:

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Verdict:

I can say without hesitation that Emergency Exit has outdone themselves with The Beast. Exorcism was an amazing room that absolutely must be played by any escape room enthusiast, but The Beast is a worthy sequel and an evolution that somehow manages to be even better than its predecessor! I cannot recommend this one enough, and encourage players new and old to book Exorcist and The Beast as soon as you can, as these are without question the best remote escape games you will find. Book your return to Crowley Manor here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Emergency Exit Escape Games UK provided our team with a complementary game.

Mystery Mansion Regina – Seen (Virtual Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.14 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

I seen’t it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

Searching for a job, but having little luck due to the whole COVID-19 thing, you decide to turn to Craigslist. Everything seems pretty sketchy and illegal, until you come across a posting from DirkyDirk420. The posting reads: “Babysitter needed. To watch a baby. A big one. No physical contact; only watching via video link.”A little odd, but definitely the least strange you’ve found so far. You contact DirkyDirk420 and he hires you. He says he will send you another email with more details closer to the date of the job.Fingers crossed this Dirk guy isn’t some sort of pervert. I mean, you did find him on Craigslist…***Rated 14A For Coarse Language, Dark Comedy, and Inappropriate Themes***

mysterymansionseen-1-orig

First Impressions:

We very much enjoyed Mystery Mansion Regina’s Night Terrors, but recently, they have made their in person room, Seen, available for online play. The most interesting thing about Seen, other than it being a horror comedy, is that there are two rooms, (side A or B,) that can be played competitively, or in our case, as a two-part online escape extravaganza!

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High Points:

Our team is custom built for low-brow humor, and the comic sensibilities of Seen and our in room avatar, the aforementioned “baby,” appealed greatly to us. While Seen is still a horror room, it never ceases to be silly and all around weird. Adding to the excellence, our avatar/game master played to our enthusiasm, ensuring the jokes and puzzles continued to come at us fast and furious! Both rooms flow pretty well, and are, for the most part, fairly linear, which plays to the strengths of an online live experience. Though there is generally a fair amount to do in each room, it is generally pretty clear what comes next in the puzzling sequence, and the challenge remains in determining how to solve the various conundrums rather than sorting through too much information at any given time. The rooms themselves are more “Generation One” style escapes, consisting mostly of locks and codes, but this does not hinder the adventure at all, as these sorts of games tend to shine in the virtual space. I really enjoyed how the story had been adjusted for a virtual audience, and hamming it up with our GM was a brilliant time.

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Puzzles ran a wide gamut, and there was a little something for everyone within each room, and while the experience was linear, it never seemed as if anyone was feeling left out or just waiting around for something to do. There were several ways Telescape, the inventory system used by Mystery Mansion for this room, was integrated in order to ensure the teamwork based interactions remained solvable by multiple players, as intended, and allowed us a little freedom to divide and conquer virtually. Each separate room has their own personal style, and conveys a particular facet of the overall story, ensuring that while each room works as a stand alone adventure, those that take on both rooms will get the extra bonus of seeing how everything ties together! We really loved the side that dealt with the gruesome and ridiculous traps the antagonist had been using to take out his enemies.

Low Points:

There was an instance in both sides A and B of a puzzle that relied on searching in a way that doesn’t quite translate to the virtual experience well. A small puzzle or something to direct remote players a bit more would help alleviate these choke points, as searching in a virtual game usually has to be streamlined to ensure players don’t get hung up because they aren’t physically in the room. When clues would come up in telescape during our first game, there was a fart noise that was hilarious at first, but became old through repetition, however, during our second run, it was cut down to levels that remain silly and not grating. One of the sides definitely gives off a better “SAW parody” vibe than the other, and we tended to enjoy this side more, though there have been a few updates to the other side to ensure the theme and creepy vibe carry through a bit better.

Verdict:

Seen is a great set of rooms, and we enjoyed playing through both sides in order to get the full story! We aren’t overly competitive folks, so we didn’t play competitively, but both rooms seem balanced for head to head play. I do love the asynchronous nature of the game, as it allows players like us to essentially have two different rooms to play, and for those who really love to compete, they can swap rooms afterwards. These rooms are approachable for new players, and enthusiasts will definitely get their escape room fix from Seen. I highly recommend it for folks who enjoy darker humor and horror comedies! Book your time taking care of the baby here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

MPower Escape Rooms – The Cabin (Virtual Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: $49.95 for the first 2 connections; $14.95 for each additional connection

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Ain’t nothing but gators out there in the swamp!

Theme:

From the MPower Escape Rooms website:

Tracking your friend’s last known whereabouts, you find yourself near a cabin deep in the Bayou. You and your team will need to search for clues and crack the codes in order to solve the mystery.

First Impressions:

MPower Escape Rooms was interestingly set up, and after speaking to our Game Master regarding our upcoming experience, we were virtually taken to their lobby to be given our mission briefing as well as get set up within the virtual systems they are using. This was a great start, as I’ve not seen such an in depth, yet brief tutorial for a virtual room before. I could tell that they’d put a good bit of effort into ensuring players were comfortable with the system, so I had high hopes for the in room experience!

High Points:

During our time in quarantine, we’ve played a lot of virtual escape rooms, and they’ve all provided very different experiences. Some are highly theatrical, some remind me of popular video games and movies, and some are fun puzzle rooms. The Cabin, however, is a first for us, as it is the first virtual escape room we’ve played that replicates the feeling of being in an escape room with your friends very well! This is due to the incredible implementation of the Telescape software that MPower uses. While we have seen this software used to great effect in other rooms to provide inventory systems, MPower has done a fantastic job porting the entire room into Telescape, allowing our group to split up to search separate rooms, check out different puzzles and props, and work on different puzzles, all while being in the comfort of our own home! It was great to be able to fall into our old rhythm of searching a room and calling out what we’ve found; dividing and conquering based on our puzzle preferences and strengths. We still worked with our Game Master to search the room, but not in the traditional Virtual Escape Room way. Instead of the GM walking around the room as our avatar, we searched the room virtually on our own, and if we saw something suspicious or interesting, we could ask them if we found anything by searching said area. If so, we were rewarded with a new hot spot or video revealing what we discovered. Overall, the set up and presentation of this room was beautifully implemented, and working through it was about as close to doing the room live as I can imagine without popping on a VR headset!

Remote Cabin Picture - Brandon's Team

The room itself is a lot of fun, with a cool, well designed set that starts players off “outside” and tasks them with finding a way into the titular cabin. The difficulty curve of the room was great, starting us off with a few straightforward tasks, (one so straightforward that our group, notorious for overthinking, forgot to use the solution until a good 40 minutes after we discovered it,) and evolving into more challenging, layered conundrums. The puzzles were intuitive, and making connections between the subtle clues, puzzles, and locks was a great, challenging time. The room was also very technological in places, and while most rooms that have implemented tech don’t quite translate very well to the virtual space, we found that the way MPower has converted their room worked perfectly to make sure we got the magical feeling of the tech without actually being there. The room lends itself to teamwork and makes it easy for players to split between rooms and clues to ensure the challenge lies in the puzzle itself, and not the interface. A favorite puzzle of mine involved three of us making some highly satisfying connections in order to put together a tactile interaction into place while our fourth player sussed out the relevance of another puzzle in a separate room. Making a tactile puzzle satisfying is difficult remotely, and I’m pleased to say that MPower has made it happen. All told, this room did a wonderful job ensuring all of us remained engaged and puzzling for the full experience.

Low Points:

The story, while wild and crazy, mostly develops during the introduction and conclusion, and while we didn’t mind this, it would have added to the experience to have a little more story integrated into the puzzling. Sometimes there was quite a bit in the inventory, which made it difficult to keep track of what we had and where to find it. The owner, however, is working on streamlining this, so it should be a non issue soon. We also were sidetracked during one puzzle due to a particular word choice that was meant to be interpreted in a slightly broader way than the strict definition would entail. After speaking with the owner regarding this puzzle, though, they seemed receptive to adjusting the phrasing to ensure there were no unintentional red herrings involved with this one.

Verdict:

I am so glad we sought out MPower’s The Cabin for our team’s weekly escape room, as it was an amazing time! Working through this room together was as close to being within the room live as we could imagine, and though we have enjoyed some of the different ways other rooms have implemented their games virtually, nothing quite captured the escape room feeling like The Cabin did. Enthusiasts will love basking in the feeling of “being there” and I think new players will love the intuitive puzzles and great quarantine friendly introduction to escape rooms. Book your time in The Cabin here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: MPower Escape Rooms provided our team with a complementary game.