Room 5280 – Sherlock (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Even the smallest detail may be important.

Theme:

Sherlock Holmes’s archenemy Moriarty is getting ready to unleash a reign of terror on London! He has been directing an accomplice to plant explosives all around the city in order to create the most chaos and destruction possible! Holmes has deduced where Moriarty has been hiding out, but it is up to you to find out who his accomplice is and where he has hidden the bombs before London begins to erupt in flame!

First Impressions:

After Room 5280’s amazing room, The Experiment, we quickly hopped over to experience their most challenging room, Sherlock! In a lot of cases, when a room is denoted as highly challenging, this can mean there’s a lot of red herrings, leaps of logic, or artificial difficulty involved, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case with this room!

High Points:

This room delivered an engaging and clever black light puzzle that I really enjoyed, which is a testament to how much fun it was, since I’ve been regularly quoted as having a massive distaste for lazy black light puzzles. It was intuitive, fun to solve, and relied on a fair amount of teamwork. There was also an extra black light provided, which is almost always overlooked but highly appreciated. Another particular prop that I’ve seen in other rooms that is regularly made too obtuse or just plain frustrating is used to great effect here! It felt like this game helped reintroduce how played out or frequently misused items from other escape rooms could be implemented in a clever and entertaining way. There are so many interactions in this room that just ooze simple yet genius game design, and though the technology involved is low, the tactile and mechanical nature of the room is superb.

The game flow itself positively shines, proving that a Sherlock game can actually communicate the idiom that every small detail is important, and the simple set design works towards this advantage by excising the superfluous. Connections are logically made and the knowledge that everything in the room has a purpose creates a sense of puzzling nirvana that rarely gets tapped into. Though the set itself is more complicated than that of The Experiment, it never strays beyond the elegant and streamlined design sensibilities that made that game such a pleasure to play.

Low Points:

One of the last puzzles involves an interaction that could be fairly difficult for those with poor eyesight, and even though I have 20/20 vision, it was hard to decipher at times. There wasn’t really a thematic reason I could deduce for why the puzzle was set up this way either, so it definitely wasn’t my favorite. One other puzzle required a fair leap of logic, but was the standard version only for enthusiasts, and those who come across it will probably have the meta-knowledge to succeed. However, it was easy to overthink due to the lack of direction and the nature of the puzzle itself.

Verdict:

Sherlock is yet another feather in the cap of Room 5280, delivering a clean, innovative, and engaging adventure to the Raleigh area! Whether you’re an enthusiast or a newcomer, this challenging yet highly satisfying game is sure to deliver a fantastic experience. You can help stop Moriarty’s criminal plans here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Room 5280 comped our tickets for this room.

Room 5280 – The Experiment (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Complete my work!

Theme:

Professor Chladni has been working on an experiment that he claims will change the way we think about sound for years to come. Unfortunately, the Professor has gone missing; disappearing without a trace! It is up to you to visit his lab and find out just what it was he was working on. If you can solve the clues and riddles within, you’ll be able to complete his experiment and truly revolutionize the science of sound!

First Impressions:

Room 5280 is situated in Downtown Raleigh, a hence untapped area that seems perfect for an escape room. Even better, the rooms are housed within a historic home on Glenwood Avenue! When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by the owner, who was enthusiastic and obviously very passionate about escape rooms. The set up of this business truly was excellent, all that was left was to get our mission briefing and find out how the rooms stack up!

High Points:

Experiments and labs are an extremely common trope in escape rooms, but Room 5280 manages to take what could be a tired theme including zombies or a nebulous plague, and makes it into something way cooler! Based on the experiments of the historical “Father of Acoustics” Ernst Chladni, The Experiment really blew us away with its originality! Even before our escape, we were very excited to see what such a creative and historically scientific room could offer. The set is very streamlined, and presents a clean environment for the puzzling adventure. Very little is left to ambiguity and there aren’t a bevy of random and useless props scattered about to get in the way of the game flow or the environment. When the fantastic owner Andrew let us know that everything within the room was important, he really meant it! The items in the room are cleverly hidden, even in what is a very clean space, which is a testament to how excellently designed this room is. Each puzzle step is challenging and tactile, demanding that you challenge how you think about the mysteries, and involve some excellent perception based interactions. The ending is appropriately climactic, and caps off the room’s challenge in an exciting way we hadn’t experienced before.

The whole experience encapsulates an amazingly designed, multi-level puzzle into a room that presents just those things which are important, and though that could lead to an overly simple experience elsewhere, the folks at Room 5280 have managed to use a simple and elegant set design to develop a wholly original and engaging escape adventure!

Low Points:

The set itself is definitely a plus in my book, but if you’re an enthusiast that demands Hollywood set design, you’ll be disappointed as it this experience very much focuses on the game flow and experience above all else. The story itself also tends to make less sense if you focus too strongly on it, but is a very minor nitpick when looking at the experience as a whole. I would have liked to have a bit more closure about where the Professor went and why he disappeared, but the room’s focus is more on the Experiment itself, so any additions would probably throw off the extremely tight game flow.

Verdict:

The Raleigh escape scene has really upped its game with the addition of Room 5280! The Experiment really made an impression on our team with it’s awesome game flow, original content, and solid design. I cannot wait to return for their upcoming fourth room, and absolutely recommend giving them a shot if you’re ever in the area! You can book your time completing Professor Chladni’s Experiment here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Room 5280 comped our tickets for this room.

Tic Toc Escapes – The Locker Room (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Score a Touchground in the Big Zone!

Theme:

You are an elite team of athletes preparing to participate in the biggest game of your lives, but the opposing team has decided to play a prank on you, locking you in your locker room 60 minutes before you are due out on the field! They’ve given you a sporting chance, however, and set up a series of puzzles you’ll have to decode and unlock in order to get to the big game on time!

First Impressions:

I really liked how the locker room opened, as we began our experience in the lobby, where we started the game in a highly appropriate fashion with a coin toss, the outcome deciding whether we got to start the game with a certain (non-essential, but helpful), item. Once that had been decided, we made our way into the locker room and began the game.

High Points:

Tic Toc continues to build big, colorful rooms filled with tactile and enjoyable props and puzzles. As usual, the connections in the room between puzzle solutions and inputs are clear, but done in such as way as to be small puzzles themselves. Several surprises popped up throughout the room, adding an element of suspense and excitement. One puzzle involved a comedic moment as we interacted with a “gross” prop that we really enjoyed. Upbeat and energizing sports music played in the background, which was well incorporated, and the sports theme itself was great, even if you aren’t a huge sports fan. The room incorporated all of its parts into the puzzling, and everything felt like well integrated into the game throughout. Well hidden tech is used sparingly, but to great effect. The non-linear and varied puzzle threads keeps even larger teams occupied throughout.

Low Points:

One small physical puzzle required teamwork to solve, but it felt more of a system of trial and error, causing more frustration in obtaining the item. One item was hidden in a weird way that we were unsure about.

Verdict:

Tic Toc again delivers a great, light-hearted theme along with engaging puzzles to create a fun escape experience for beginners and veterans alike. The Locker Room is another fantastic example of Tic Toc’s unique brand of upbeat and imaginative escape rooms, and I cannot wait to try out more! Book your time here, sports fans!

9/10 (Excellent)

Bull City Escapes – Enchanted Kingdom (Review)

Location: Durham, NC

Players:  2-6 (We Recommend 2-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Your Kingdom awaits!

Theme:

Beyond the forest lies a hidden Kingdom, a place where faeries and dragons exist and magic is real! The crown jewels have been hidden away, and it is up to you to find them and return them to their rightful place in the throne room. But first, you’ll have to find the Kingdom itself, and that’s no small task for a mortal.

First Impressions:

Enchanted Kingdom is extremely well decorated and themed, and the atmosphere created by the décor and soundtrack was very immersive and playful. It’s always nice to see a more light-hearted theme when a lot of the main standbys are prisons, murderers, and monsters. This room was one I’d been in before when it was Bull City’s 90s Room, but they had done an excellent job making it unrecognizable!

High Points:

Beyond the fantastic themeing of the room, puzzles were a great mix between set interaction, code finding, and searching. Though there were standard locks around, there were also a good few technological interactions that surprised us in the best possible way. I wish we’d had  someone in the room to take a picture of our faces after one early “magical” interaction, as it’s definitely one of my favorite puzzles I’ve seen lately, and the payoff was a lot of fun. Flow between puzzles was very smooth, and it was almost always easy to determine what to work on next. Difficulty was handled well, and ramped up at the right points. The hint system is clear, but unobtrusive, and allows for the experience to be adjusted based on the team size and experience.

Low Points:

One puzzle gave very little clear feedback upon solving, to the point we solved it by accident and didn’t even realize it. There was also one particular puzzle that had multiple possible answers, causing it to come into play as a red herring too often.

Verdict:

Enchanted Kingdom is an excellent new room that builds on the successes of Bull City’s previous rooms and delivers a magical feeling experience. The diverse and exciting array of puzzles make it a great room for anyone to start with, and is filled with enough tricks to keep Enthusiasts entertained. This is definitely one of the best rooms in the Triangle area, and I cannot recommend it enough. Book your time in the Enchanted Kingdom here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Raleigh Room Escapes – Stronghold (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players:  2-4

Price: $20 per person

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Theme:

A unique new piece of real estate has appeared on the market, and it might just be a great buy! It’s an old Cold War era fallout bunker, moderately priced, and just eccentric enough for your tastes. It even comes with it’s own AI, making it a sort of Smart-home. You’ve ventured out with your real estate agent to have a look, but when he leaves you to have a look at the property yourself, the door locks behind him, and the AI lets you know that the air filtration systems have been shut down! There’s 45 minutes worth of oxygen left, and you’ll need to make your escape before then, or suffocate!

First Impressions:

Raleigh Room Escapes builds a great set, and Stronghold feels very much like its namesake. The whole experience has that Fallout meets Bioshock vibe to it, and everything looks like it came out of the 50’s. The acting from our Real Estate Agent was convincing and perfectly over the top, and the introduction from our new AI frenemy set the tone well.

High Points:

Though this was a 45 minute room, it did not lack puzzles or feel overly short. The room was non-linear, and comfortably fit all four of our players. The room had many enjoyable technological interactions that made the smaller space feel much bigger as we explored. All puzzles flowed well one into the next, and connected to each other well. The hint system was creative, and we didn’t fully realize what it was at the time since it was so immersive. The finale felt appropriately climactic and exciting.

Low Points:

Our objective felt unclear at first, and we eventually worked out the mission on our own, but a slight bit more cluing as to what was going on wouldn’t be out of place. There was one instance where a hidden blacklight felt anachronistic.

Verdict:

For a 45 minute room, Stronghold felt like a full experience, which I’ve found is rare for rooms shorter than an hour. The excitement of the room keeps up for the full game, and getting out felt like an intense victory. It will be a very fun starter room for beginners, but the puzzles are tricky enough that enthusiasts will feel challenged. Book your showing of the Stronghold here!

8/10 (Great)