Virtual Escape – Ben’s Big Heist (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: We recommend 3-4 players

Price: $45 AUD per person (About $32.05 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Needs the more money! All the more!

Theme:

From the Virtual Escape website:

Ever wanted to rob a bank? Now’s your chance! You’ve got 60 minutes to steal as much loot as you can.

Bypass security, crack vaults, fill the loot bags and safely escape.

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First Impressions:

We always enjoy knocking over banks… in escape rooms, of course! As a puzzling team of Bonnie and Clydes, trying to rob a vault blind is always an intense and exciting adventure. Virtual Escape looked to be a bit different than a usual virtual escape, as it would be played through WhatsApp, which I downloaded especially for this game. I was interested to see how the game would flow through a texting based platform, as we were very much used to seeing our Game Master live and working through puzzles through Zoom. Thanks also to EscapeTheRoomers for inviting us along!

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High Points:

For Ben’s Big Heist, we were contacted by our Game Master through WhatsApp, acting as Ben, who was just about ready to get started breaking into his first bank! He needed our help however, as he, like so many other escape game avatars, was completely unable to solve the puzzles on his own! The first couple interactions were straightforward, helping us get used to how we interacted with the game, and then the real challenges began. While some of the starting puzzles threw off the difficulty curve a bit, later puzzles flowed supremely well, and once the game found its footing, the linear puzzling provided some great ah ha moments and clever enigmas! Almost all of the challenges presented by the game are teamwork based, ensuring that every member of the team remains fully engaged with the experience, and allows for multi-level solving that keeps things interesting. Even one of the more banal interactions still created a sense of teamwork that elevated it somewhat over basic math.

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Later on in the game, things become much more intense, as time began to run low and we still had a vault to clear! Once we cleared out the bank, (setting a, at the time, record of $4,845,000,) the game wasn’t over, and we had to solve a couple more conundrums before the police arrived. This end game run of “boss level” vaults and a daring, if somewhat silly, escape truly ramped up the stakes and delivered a fantastic level of intensity to the adventure. The final vaults are a choice between the easier level vault for a smaller reward and a more difficult vault for a much bigger reward. Luckily we had time to take on both, and I can definitely confirm that both are a satisfying bunch of multilayered puzzles. Though I liked the more difficult vault more for its truly satisfying solves, the easier vault was still a lot of fun and a close second. Speeding away from the bank was highly satisfying, and receiving our final score was a fantastic way to cap off the experience.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle involved some translation that would be a bit more cumbersome than usual. Our team was very lucky in that one person was able to quickly translate for us, but had we been on our own, this would’ve been a fairly clunky puzzle for us. There were a few math based puzzles, which were banal for us. I know some folks really love math puzzles, but the majority of the people I play with tend not to enjoy them unless they’re really well integrated with the room. If the math was somewhat more interactive, it would be a little more interesting, and while it does present a good teamwork challenge, the presentation leaves a bit to be desired. The game itself started out a little rough, and most of the issues presented in this section are overcome by the second half, so a smoother introduction would definitely help. One puzzle required the use of a QR code, which, as I was already using my phone for WhatsApp, was not readable by me. Luckily, one of our teammates sorted it out and sent the link, but it may be better if the GM could just send the link along. Finally, WhatsApp isn’t quite the best method of presentation for the game, it was fairly wonky overall, and felt like more of an impediment to overcome than anything. Most of the time, I was translating links onto my desktop in order to better experience the puzzles. Zoom or other web conferencing sites have chat functions, so it wouldn’t be hard to change over to a somewhat more intuitive platform.

Verdict:

Ben’s Big Heist has some hurdles to overcome to become truly a great game, but it is still a solid time, and fun to work through on the whole. Enthusiasts who enjoy bank heist rooms that measure how much you can steal will enjoy this the most, but newcomers can still enjoy the room’s clever puzzling and heist based excitement. I recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something a little bit different from the norm. Book your time helping Ben liberate some cash here!

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7/10 (Good)

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

 

 

 

Roobicks – Escape the Basement (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 🙂

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 6 players total, 2 per team

Price: $20/person or $30/shared device

Theme:

From the Roobicks’ website:

You’re on your way to an open house at a rustic country cottage. You’re expecting an idyllic retreat, but arrive to find the house in shambles. You can’t help having have a look downstairs…but then you hear the door lock behind you. There’s an elevator with a keypad, but you have to find the code. To do so, solve puzzles with your team by drawing together on the screen!

First Impressions:

We were invited to this competition room by our friends at Escape the Roomers, and were also joined by Review the Room. I’m usually not *that* competitive of a person overall, but was certainly curious as to how things would go!

Yay Points:

Story-wise, this room was simple, but effective. Everything was presented in a very smooth and effective way, and the story line progressed very nicely as you overcome each task. Though our goal was to “escape”, the game seemed more of a “pub quiz”, but with puzzles instead of trivia. It made for a light story, but not in a bad way, as it gave enough context for each brainteaser and made them into the focus.

The puzzles had a mixture of types, which will definitely cater to those with a diverse skillset (and makes for an interesting competition!). We had a nice oooh moment when we figured out how to interpret one riddle. And there were a couple of neat twists/effects that elevated some puzzles. The game design also allowed each team to experience the same activities with the only pressure being time (a true “friendly” competition in my opinion). I really enjoyed this aspect, and it was fun to hear about how the other teams progressed and approached each task after we were all done. If I remember correctly, I believe this game may have intended to be geared towards corporate team building. I think it does well to serve that purpose!

This was my first virtual competitive room, and I’m happy to say that the overall set-up of it went pretty smooth as well. Though we were all in one Zoom call, each team was given their own breakout room. We were also able to annotate the screens for each task as needed, partially for ourselves and partially so our GM could keep tabs on our progress. Our experience was a little more unique since we had one GM that managed all 3 teams (though I think typically there’s one GM per breakout room), but it went overall smoothly.

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Pondering Points:

This game might seem a bit easier for enthusiasts. I think there were about 5 puzzles total, and Brandon and I took first place, finishing the game in about ~25 minutes, and the last team taking ~37 minutes to complete the game). I would definitely recommend this game to be played competitively, in particular for enthusiasts as that might bolster your experience.

The puzzles definitely progressed in complexity, which is a great thing, though the last puzzle is definitely a more time-consuming puzzle that players will either love or hate depending on their time preferences.

Verdict:

If you’re looking for corporate team building or some friendly competition between family/friends, I think this game would work really well. I certainly had a good time and it was fun to see who would “get out” first! Book your frantic escape from the basement here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Roobicks provided us with a complementary game. 

District 3 Escape Rooms – The Cabin (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: $27 CAD per person (About $19.87 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Serial Kidnappers and Puzzle Filled Cabins… the new Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Theme:

From the District 3 Escape Rooms website:

There has been a series of kidnappings near a cabin. After locking your group up, the kidnapper leaves to find more trespassers. In trying to escape, you begin to learn more about who’s cabin it is, who the enemy is, why he kidnapped you, and what he is trying to hide.

First Impressions:

District 3 Escape Rooms came highly recommended to us by another escape room in the area, Mystery Mansion Regina, and I’m glad they gave us the heads up about these virtual rooms, and we had an excellent time working through an escape room double header during our lockdown! It may not be the 8-23 room marathons we’re used to, but taking on more than one room in a day helped us feel just a little bit more normal during the pandemic.

High Points:

As with most rooms we’ve experienced virtually, we would have loved to take this one on in person, but due to the pandemic, we are glad we were able to visit District 3 virtually! This room translates very well to the remote play experience, and it is, as always, a great time seeing our “Keyed Up!” team for some weekly escapes. Our Game Master/Avatar ensured we had a great time by interacting with us as we joked around, and assisted us with giving the room a thorough, streamlined search. Once we’d had a good look around, he was very responsive in reacting to our requests, and piecing together exactly what we were trying to say when we asked him to “put the doo-dad in the whatzit.” Truly, all remote escape game GMs absolutely deserve a pay raise for their long-suffering patience with us. The inventory system is great, displaying those items that were harder to read virtually, or we needed to come back to reference, and as we utilized props successfully, they automatically disappeared from view so as not to clutter up the window.

Puzzles themselves glide well across the linear game flow, and as we revealed new clues, it was fairly intuitive what needed to be done next. The breadcrumbs that have been sprinkled along the path are clear, and never become obtuse, ensuring that challenges remain fair. Though this is an older room with a few puzzles that may have popped up a time or two for expert players, these puzzles are still presented in an entertaining way, and don’t give off a feeling of “been there, done that,” but rather conceal a twist or two to ensure the process of solving stays fresh. One particular favorite of mine took a style of puzzle we’ve seen a few times, and tweaked it ever so slightly to ensure that we had to think just a little bit further out of the box than usual in order to put everything together. I thought it was a fun tweak that displayed the creativity of the designers well. As referenced in our previous review of Haunted, District 3 does a great job ensuring that the final debriefing continues the fun by presenting us with achievements that tie into their point system. It’s fun to see what sorts of milestones your team overcame during your game, and the extra personal touch to the finale is a fantastic way to cap off a room.

Low Points:

The Cabin itself was a very first generation room, and while that translate to a virtual setting well, the set isn’t quite as fancy, and the game itself is very much focused on locks, for the most part. The game can come across as a little “escape room-y” in parts, as the story tends to be more of a back drop for the puzzles rather than the puzzles being fully integrated into the story. There are a few puzzles that tie in, but overall, the story is most present at the beginning and only evolves slightly during the game. On the whole, we enjoyed the room, but the puzzles were generally geared more towards a less experienced crowd, so we didn’t happen across any particularly mind twisting enigmas or explosive moments of revelation.

Verdict:

The room is a good time, and is a solid experience, but is definitely more geared toward newer players, and enthusiasts might find it a bit easier. We enjoyed our time (virtually) inside The Cabin overall, however and would recommend it to players looking for a more introductory style room. Enthusiasts will still find a lot to like, as there are some good surprises and fun interactions to be found. Book your time escaping the mysterious kidnapper here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: District 3 Escape Rooms 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!

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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.

 

 

 

Get the F Out Room – The Experiment (Remote Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-10 players (We recommend 3-4 players)

Price: $30 per person, 3 person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Digital Juice to be served.

Theme:

From the Get the F Out Room website:

Participants needed in an escape room study. Looking for all ages, male & female to participate in a psychological study of escape rooms.  It will take 60 min of your time. Juice will be served.

First Impressions:

I’d heard about The Experiment previously, from folks who made their way out to California, and it sounded exactly like a game I’d like to play. A meta-escape room experience, including some light horror themes masked within a pirate themed escape? Sign me up! Unfortunately, being on the other side of the country, it was dubious whether we would be able to experience this game, but luckily, due to the magic of the internet, we would finally get to see what all the fuss is about! We were invited to this experience by our friends at EscapetheRoomers, and we were excited to join them!

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High Points:

First and foremost, it is important to mention that there is indeed juice. While it was digital, and we could only look at it, the juice is not a lie. I repeat, the juice is not a lie. In other news, The Experiment was a beautiful room, boasting a huge set, great sound and lighting effects, and subtle touches that reward players who seek out story details. One particular moment stood out to me when all of us noticed a small detail that triggered us all to shout, “Oh that’s [REDACTED]!” (We actually shouted redacted, it was weird.) Technical wizardry is implemented in excellent ways, with some astounding reveals, both of which we did not see coming at all. Our Game Master, Josh, did a great job of ensuring that the camera was in just the right place to catch these moments as well, without giving anything away. Speaking of our GM/Avatar, Josh did a fantastic job of leading us through the room as his character, Bob. Virtual rooms are always one hundred percent more entertaining when the Avatar really gets into character and banters with us, so we really appreciate the extra mile Josh went to ensure his character was realistically portrayed. We also highly, highly, appreciate how streamlined Josh has made searching the room. It can never be overstated that enthusiasts are bad at finding hidden objects, and it becomes so much harder in digital rooms if this streamlining isn’t present.

The story line of the room is awesome, with things starting out fairly benign, and continuing to build intensely towards the finale. The puzzles and interactions play upon this theme beautifully as we worked though the experience, and enthusiasts will very much enjoy how even the simplest of escape room rules are subverted to create a highly entertaining experience on top of the game itself. One particular moment that I adored comes after a fantastic reveal, and all of our expectations about what would come next were turned upside down by the time we reached the excellent moment of revelation about what we were meant to do. The game flow is smooth, and though the room is fairly linear, we didn’t feel at any time that any of us were just sitting around while others solved. While the game itself isn’t overly difficult, it does present several good moderate challenges, and plays with perspective several times, encouraging out of the box thinking throughout. Several items have been translated to the virtual experience well, with PDFs sent to players before their game. These have been password protected, and while they don’t quite have the tactile feel of opening a lock, it is nice to “open” something when you’ve solved a puzzle.

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Low Points:

At one point, colors become important, and had we been physically within the room, I’m sure we would’ve noticed them immediately, but due to the remote nature of the game, we thought the color that should’ve been a hint regarding what to do next was just gray, which threw us off. A brighter color painted on for the virtual experience, or perhaps a call out by the Game Master might help ensure this puzzle doesn’t become unintentionally obtuse. A little bit of the experience is lost in translation to the virtual space, but not much, and it was definitely a fun experience! I would certainly be interested in playing the full scale, live version in the future, should fortune find me in California, however. The camera tended to be somewhat shaky at times as well, not quite triggering motion sickness feelings, but I did get a little dizzy.

Verdict:

The Experiment is a fantastic experience, and I’m glad we had a chance to check it out. Per their website, this is a limited time virtual game, so I recommend checking it out as soon as possible if you have a chance. If not, I feel confident that I can recommend the live experience as well! The great storyline, entertaining puzzling, and subversion of escape room tropes are sure to keep any group of players immersed and entertained. Book your session working with Dr. J. Elias here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Get the F Out Room provided our team with a complementary game.