The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Prison Break (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Not to be confused with the tv show we all forgot about.


From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Brutality, violence, an attempted prison break, death… or, in other words, just another day at Valley Falls’ most infamous correctional facility. In a place filled with criminals and guards who are just as vicious as the inmates they supervise, anyone could be a killer. The only question is who is responsible for the newest murder…and why did they do it?

First Impressions:

After the insanely creative themes that Deadbolt has put out lately, it was interesting to see that their next box would take place during a prison break. A fairly ubiquitous escape room theme, it didn’t seem quite as exciting as some of the amazingly outlandish ideas they’d used for previous cases, but they certainly didn’t take this time to rest on their laurels! Prison Break may seem like a fairly basic theme, but this box takes things to the next level!


Let’s all go to prison!

High Points:

Deadbolt continues to iterate, expanding on mechanics and introducing excellent new elements, and this box is no exception. First, there is an extra layer to this box, as some elements for the late game are hidden within an envelope that can only be opened once a certain part of the mystery has been reached. (Well, you could open it early, but what’s the fun in that?) This adds greatly to the immersion by allowing the story to flow between two separate stages, while expertly avoiding gating things off in a way that makes it feel like a choke point. The flow is completely smooth during the transition, and the reasons behind the shift are explained excellently during the story. Secondly, the usual suspect mechanic is upended beautifully, as there is no one suspect to focus on at any time, but rather a shifting set of players that can change at any moment, leading to some great plot twists to keep detectives on their toes!

The props provided are great, as usual, and include some opportunities for tactile puzzling, which I always enjoy! Everything fits thematically within the prison itself, and there are some fantastically creative ideas within this box. A favorite of mine included a little state hopping through a fantastic coded message, and most of the codes served up by Prison Break are brilliantly varied, allowing for a wide array of solving styles to shine. Though the experience is mostly linear, (which benefits the story, ensuring that it takes a natural track,) there were a few points at which there were multiple puzzles to solve, and we never reached any choke points that stymied progress unnecessarily. The mystery itself is a great challenge, but works intuitively, ensuring that while there are mind bending puzzles to solve throughout, the solutions never feel illogical or unfair, as connections are easily made once the subtle clues leading to them are uncovered. This box is absolutely dense with enigmas as well, and it feels even more chock full due to the exciting new blast of puzzles that appear once players reach the halfway point.

Low Points:

While the story was certainly interesting, the climax and epilogue wasn’t quite as exciting as some recent boxes. This is a somewhat minor point, as it’s still a good send off for the box, and is more a comment on just how awesome some of the recent climactic endings for Deadbolt have been. There are a couple points during the game where the text is very difficult to read due to the small size of the font. Mostly this is due to the amount of information being conveyed, but from time to time, it detracts from the experience.


Prison Break is a great take on a usually basic theme, expanding not only the “prison” genre of escape experiences, but the Deadbolt formula itself. I really enjoyed all the new mechanics and twists that were included within this box, and was pleasantly surprised by how excellent the experience was, as a whole. A great challenge for veteran solvers, but approachable for newcomers, this is definitely a great mystery to pick up! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.

Total Escape – Prison Break (Review)

Location: Winston-Salem, NC

Price: $30 per person

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4)

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Let’s blow this popsicle stand!


You and your partners in crime, for one reason or another, have found yourselves convicted and thrown into jail. But worry not! Your pal Donny knows a guy, (who knows a guy,) who busted out of this place before. Apparently, he left clues around about how to escape, and Donny previously followed them to obtain his freedom before you. Just stick to the clues, and you’ll be outta here in no time! But do it within an hour, because the diversion Donny set up for the guards is only going to hold for so long!

First Impressions:

Our game master, whose name I unfortunately did not get, was phenomenal! Delivering a light hearted introduction to our cells, and playing along with our pre-escape shenanigans, she really helped set a fun tone for our experience. I could tell from her interactions with us that not only would the room be a great experience, but the staff at Total Escape were having a good time as well. All of which boded well for our adventure!

High Points:

Prison Break initially split our team between two different cells, and most times, the execution of this sort of game mechanic leaves much to be desired. Total Escape, however, ensured there was no “Curse of the Less Interesting Cell” by making sure that both teams had plenty to do, and peppered this whole stage of the game with great teamwork puzzles that ensured that all of us were able to remain engaged with the game every step of the way. Even when there was one interaction that was reserved for one team, the rest of us felt involved with what was going on, and were never left to twiddle our thumbs waiting to be rescued from our cell. The game flow for the entire experience was incredibly smooth, climbing a steady difficulty curve and weaving clues, solutions, and inputs together well, leaving no room for uncertainty once we had solved any of the game’s myriad challenges. The puzzles were also very original for the most part, and were presented in a mostly non-linear fashion, keeping us immersed in the experience from lock-up to jail break!

Technology implemented within the room was fantastic, and really elevated the experience beyond many other prison themed rooms we’ve done before. Interacting with the set was a thrill, and in many cases, provided a clever clue to keep us on the right track. There are several excellently tactile puzzles scattered throughout the game, and one in particular was a great addition. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it was a small thing I think all of us have wanted to do in an escape room from time to time. This tiny addition to the game really adds to the experience, and it’s a willingness to do things like this that can make a good game really great and engaging. Progress is well measured, and it was always clear where we stood during the game, even without a timer present. In fact, the removal of a game timer added to the immersion greatly, and had us worrying less about how much time remained, allowing us to truly lose ourselves in the experience. Though we could ask for a time check at any time, we never thought to ask for one, the game was so immediately gripping.

Low Points:

The set and story are fairly simple, and the experience remains a standard prison break from start to finish, so escape veterans who’ve tired of the theme may not be as impressed. There’s some searching to be done, and while we didn’t have too much of a problem with it, another puzzle or two to find these rather small items would be generally more engaging overall. Enthusiasts might run through this game fairly quickly, (ours clocked in at around 26 minutes in room total,) and though it felt like a full experience to us, players looking for a longer challenge might want to try Temple of Tikal instead.


Prison Break was a great game, boasting an excellent game flow and some truly original puzzles. Though we were in and out fairly quickly, it certainly felt like a much longer experience in the best way possible, and for Total Escape’s first room, Prison Break is a lot of fun! Beginners will really love the intuitive adventure, and enthusiasts looking for an entertaining and engaging run of puzzles will not be disappointed. Book your time in the slammer here!

8/10 (Great)

Full disclosure: Total Escape provided media discounted tickets for our group.