Escape Room Herndon – Room 213 (Review)

Location: Herndon, VA

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

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Rest Uneasy Hotel

Theme:

From the Escape Room Herndon Website:

You’re a team of paranormal investigators who have been requested by a hotel owner to investigate strange happenings inside the mysterious room 213. As soon as you enter the room you can sense that something else is going on. Before you can ask, your host has quickly left the room. As you hear the door lock, you realize you’ve been trapped. Can your team uncover the Mystery of Room 213?

First Impressions:

Escape Room Herndon boasts some of the best rooms in Virginia, and I love a spooky, haunted theme, so Room 213 became more highly anticipated as we adventured through their other rooms! Stepping into the ominously appointed hotel room, I couldn’t wait to see what creepy puzzling was in store for us!

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High Points:

As always for a Ravenchase production, the set design of this room is great, encapsulating the theme within its walls perfectly, and oozing spookiness out of every pore. As we delved deeper into the room’s secrets, the set, utilizing the grimily gorgeous design as well as great lighting and sound effects, gradually became even more sinister and ominous. The storyline helps compound this feeling of uneasiness, and the more we discovered, the creepier the experience felt! Several of the larger props hide some real surprises that kept us on our toes until we finally escaped, never sure what was going to pop up next. All of this melded together during the climax, delivering an exciting finish to the room.

The room is very tactile, which I always love, with loads of interesting and theme relevant props to mess around with. Some we initially figured were just set dressing ended up being part of an incredibly creative puzzle that became one of my favorites on the day for its elegant simplicity and intuitiveness. This tactility and streamlined puzzling carries throughout the adventure, and though the room feels somewhat sparser than the other three at this location, it certainly remains an exciting experience to puzzle through! There is just enough technology integrated into the room to give off the spooky vibe via the enigmas within without overdoing it or including technology for technology’s sake, and the few jumps that are included are done expertly. The final bit of tech ties into the story fantastically, and helps cap off things nicely.

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Low Points:

Though the room is sometimes non-linear, it felt mostly linear in our experience, leading to a few unfortunate choke points that stop up the action. At the same time, however, there are a couple moments at which groups can accidentally get ahead of themselves by solving certain puzzles before they are meant to, so a mite bit more gatekeeping in areas could help alleviate that problem. The game flow works well for the most part, but at times, there are some small logical leaps in which the connections break down, muddling the logical waters a bit. We enjoyed the story within the room, but at times, it felt as though the “why?” of the room was lost between the cracks, leaving a loose end here and there. Finally, though the room does ramp up the spookiness well, the puzzles overall don’t feel quite as exciting as some of Escape Room Herndon’s other rooms. However, this is still an excellent experience, which just speaks to how amazing the rooms here are!

Verdict:

Room 213 is an exciting haunted romp to adventure through, and although there are a few small bumps in the road here and there, they don’t detract overmuch from the experience. I absolutely recommend this room, as you cannot go wrong with any room at Escape Room Herndon; they’re all so fantastic! Book your time in the haunted hotel room here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Escape Room Herndon provided comped tickets for this room.

 

Gnome & Raven – The Tomb Ruins (Review)

Location: Richmond, VA

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $25 per person, every experience is private, with a 4 person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It belongs in a museum!

Theme:

From the Gnome & Raven website:

Ever since archaeologists uncovered the tomb of the young pharaoh Nekauba and took his favorite ruby, strange things have happened in every museum to display it. Inexplicably, museum workers would find nearby exhibits damaged or broken and mysterious power outages plagued every building to store it. Some even claim that a ghostly red light fills the hallways at night. It was finally decided that the ruby needed to be returned to its beloved and rightful owner. Your job is to navigate Nekauba’s tomb and restore the ruby to his tomb once again. But beware – the tomb is still protected by traps and ancient puzzles and getting to the pharaoh’s room won’t be easy!

First Impressions:

After a fun romp through a fairy tale museum, we were very interested to delve into the ancient tomb of Nekauba! We began our trek at the archaeologist’s base camp, ready to seek out the stolen treasures. Though the Museum of Light and Dark was pretty large, the scale of The Tomb Ruins was even more magnificent in it’s size and décor. As our game master began to brief us on our mission, I could tell we were in for an excellent adventure.

High Points:

Katie, our game master, was phenomenal. She did an excellent job portraying the story and psyching up our group for the mission. It’s great that Gnome & Raven has game masters that introduce their rooms in character, and have ensured that the folks they’ve hired are all in for the performance. As mentioned before, the tomb itself is huge, with a Hollywood quality to its design, and the soundtrack that goes along with the experience lends it an astounding measure of immersiveness. Lighting also serves to keep the tomb dim and spooky, without making it arduous to complete puzzles due to lack of light. There were a few traditional locks at the base camp, but the tomb’s puzzles, barring a couple instances of locks explained by the story, utilized hidden technology to great effect, making the solving process feel mystical while still sticking to the over arching theme of the game. The whole experience was very tactile and intuitive, with many excellent surprises sprinkled throughout, and a few set pieces that provided large scale “wow” moments.

The game flow worked splendidly, with a non-linear run of puzzles during any given stage of the game keeping our group entertained and fully engaged. I really enjoyed the fact that the room begins with your team breaking into the tomb itself, rather than starting us out already in the ruins. There’s something about busting into the escape room ourselves that adds to the fun, and I think a lot of rooms would benefit from not beginning in medias res. The definitive beginning, middle, and climax really solidifies the flow of the game, and when we did reach the end, it felt like a triumph. There’s not a specifically deep story, but the adventure exhibits shades of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider by presenting a tomb full of traps and puzzles and a mystical treasure to find.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle was a bit irksome, and required us to engage in a banal interaction that seemed out of place in the tomb. It was over fairly quickly, but was still a weirdly ho-hum puzzle in a sea of otherwise amazing interactions. There were also several hidden drawers that would trigger, and while they were luckily easy to find when they triggered due to the sound they made, they were also very, very slow to open. It wasn’t too big of a deal, but the whole team did have several occasions to crowd around drawers, crack a few jokes, then go back to marveling at how slow the drawer was moving.

Verdict:

The Tomb Ruins is one of Richmond’s most amazing games, and is absolutely one of my favorite rooms in the area, and of all time! Families, friends, new players, and old veterans will definitely find something to enjoy within the ancient tomb of Nekauba, and I recommend checking it out without reservation! Book your time in The Tomb Ruins here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Warehouse 29 – The Dark Raven Museum (Review)

Location: Richmond, VA

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

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

Our biggest escape yet.

Theme:

From the Warehouse 29 website:

Come explore the mangled heart of the Dark Raven Museum. An institution that once stood at the forefront of machine learning technology, has now fallen to chaos in the wake of an unforeseeable event. The museum’s custodial AI, a meticulous recreation of Edgar Allan Poe himself, has become infected with a madness much like that of his namesake. He has escaped his programming, seized control of the museum technology, and taken his creators hostage. So far all attempts to shackle the AI and restore order have ended in disaster. We are counting on you to succeed where everyone else has failed: face Poe, and restore the Dark Raven Museum to its former glory.

First Impressions:

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Warehouse 29, as we’ve heard many good things, and the site promises something truly unique. Further, it is a collaboration between Escape Room RVA and River City Escape Room, our two absolute favorite escape room businesses in Richmond. It’s putting it mildly to say that we had very high expectations for this game. To begin our experience, we met at Legends Brewery, where we were instructed to be ten minutes before our start time. Luckily, we were there very early and were able to enjoy lunch at the Brewery before our game, and I highly recommend it. At the appointed time, we gathered at the meeting point, and the adventure started with a highly immersive bang!

High Points:

After making our rendezvous with the agents of Warehouse 29, (and being denied our usual $100,000 upfront fee for these kinds of things, which we are still waiting on,) we were introduced to Warehouse 29 and the Dark Raven Museum itself. The experience itself takes place within a 7,000 square foot area, and upon glimpsing the initial areas, we knew that none of that space would be wasted at all. After an excellent in-character briefing, we set to work by donning our VR packs and jumping in! The Dark Raven Museum uses VR for about a third of the game to bring the experience to life in an incredibly unique way. The implementation is superb, and the whole experience benefits from it; allowing your team a full range of motion over a large area that’s fully part of the virtual space. This part of the game is very smooth, and involves some great interactions and wildly immersive puzzles and atmosphere. It truly is something that has to be experienced, and I look forward to seeing what can be done with this burgeoning tech in the future.

As we moved to the next part of the experience, we were once again greeted by an actor who definitely added to the experience while still allowing us the freedom to continue puzzling and cracking jokes. At this point, we were inside what felt like a more traditional escape room, but on a much larger scale. The whole thing is filled to the brim with amazing set design and well thought out enigmas. This area on it’s own would be a crown jewel in a traditional escape room, and it is only another third of the experience! While large, it didn’t feel junky or full of red herrings, and everything we found felt important to the over arching experience. The game flow was non-linear enough to keep our team engaged, and I can definitely see the maximum of eight players getting their money’s worth as well. All of the puzzles and interactions played well into the theme, and there were several points at which we were appropriately wowed by the design. On top of all that, fans of Edgar Allen Poe’s work will be very pleased to see that the game is saturated with easter eggs based on his many stories and poems. These are well placed and feel like loving homages rather than items placed without purpose.

We’d only been through about two thirds of the game at this point, but we were still having the time of our lives with the awesome game flow, fantastic signposting of clues, and particularly great storyline. When we finished up with this area, we were once again treated to what felt like a live action, interactive cut scene from a video game, and yet another large area was introduced, along with another great game mechanic that truly ratcheted up the tension. This part of the game tied in very well, and brought up some hanging threads that had been hinted at during the earlier parts of the game. These surprises were insanely fun, and the final puzzles and the climax of the adventure were some of the best story telling I’ve seen in an escape room. Honestly, everything about this adventure knocked it out of the park. I’ve never quite experienced something so full of action, adventure, and interactivity beyond a video game, and Warehouse 29 is much, much more than a game, it’s a phenomenal escape adventure!

Low Points:

The only thing I’d say would’ve made our experience better is if the actors were a little more improvisational with us. We’ve had games in the past where the live actors read our group and adjusted to fit our, admittedly weird, sense of humor, and those moments really shined for us while still immersing us in the story. While the actors did a fantastic job overall, especially during the beginning, where they did respond to our input well, there were a few parts in the middle section where we could tell they weren’t quite sure what to do with us, (mostly me, really,) so they stuck to the script. Overall, not a bad thing, but really the only “low point” that sticks out to me at all.

Verdict:

Warehouse 29 is a wholly unique event that is truly second to none! The marriage of VR, live action interactive theatre, and escape rooms works perfectly, and this adventure is something any escape enthusiast or thrill seeker should absolutely experience! Beginners and veterans alike will find something new and exciting here, and I cannot recommend The Dark Raven Museum enough. If you only have the time to visit one escape room while in Richmond, make it Warehouse 29. You can book your time battling rogue AI Edgar Allen Poe here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Warehouse 29 provided media discounted tickets for this room.