Break Out Myrtle Beach – CSI: Myrtle Beach (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

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

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Looks like he couldn’t… *sunglasses* escape his fate.

Theme:

The Myrtle Murderer is set to strike, and the only thing standing against them is your CSI team! You’ll need to head back to the scene of his last murder and solve the clues in order to unmask them and bring them to justice! Watch out, though, they may be closer than they seem.

First Impressions:

Despite a fairly shallow story, Break Out has always been a quality stop with some of the best games in South Carolina, so we were still very excited to get started. We’d been advised that while this room shares some similar puzzles with Break Out Charleston’s Escaping Death Row, it was different enough to constitute an original experience. I can definitively say this is true, but if you don’t want to repeat any puzzles or surprises, you might want to check out a different room if you’ve done Escaping Death Row before. This fact holds no bearing on my review of the room however, as the experience does hold up as a separate entity.

High Points:

CSI Myrtle Beach starts off interestingly enough, with a non-linear puzzle progression and a good flow to keep a larger group entertained. Again, perhaps not enough for the maximum ten people if you are a group of enthusiasts, but there is definitely a lot to do from the get go. There are several intuitive and entertaining puzzles and interactions to engage with, and some devious surprises to find throughout. One of my favorite puzzles in the room involves interacting physically with a prop in a very intuitive way, leading to a great ah ha moment.

Low Points:

After the initial stage of the room, the game flow and connective tissue breaks down quickly. Worse, the experience from that point forward is strictly linear, further frustrating things. The clever interactions and puzzling from the early game give way to a tenuous game flow and connections that can only be made from the largest logical leaps. Furthermore, there are two puzzles that require outside knowledge, both of which we luckily had, but still have no place in the room, as there’s nothing within the room that can assist with the solving other than having the answers already. This being an older room, there’s also a lot of the searching for hidden objects that you don’t really see much anymore as games have evolved to be more puzzle focused as a whole, and while it isn’t egregious, it’s not particularly interesting either.

The set itself is competent, if somewhat slapdash. It feels as though there are a lot of random items scattered about in order to create a room, without any clear, cohesive threads between them. This bleeds over towards the rest of the experience, as the theme and storyline never really come into play, and while there is a twist ending, it ultimately falls flat due to the fact that there is no set up to make a shocking finale matter. Unfortunately, this room is the first that we just didn’t really like at Break Out, and I believe it’s due to it’s age. While a puzzle room like this worked well in the early days of escape rooms, it has aged rather poorly.

Verdict:

All in all, CSI Myrtle Beach is a puzzle room, and not much more. It has a couple of good ideas here and there, but beyond those, there’s a palpable feeling of “been there, done that” to the experience. While classic games can still shine in today’s market, this one is past it’s prime in relation to the other rooms on offer in the area, including the others at Break Out Myrtle Beach. I’d definitely recommend trying one of those instead, and you can do so here.

4/10 (Subpar)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.

Break Out Myrtle Beach – The Curse of Volcano Island (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

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

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What a beautiful island! Pity about the curse.

Theme:

After your plane crash-lands over the Atlantic, you and your fellow survivors piled into a life boat and began floating, hoping for sign of land or rescue. Your pilot has spotted an island in the distance, and you paddle towards it in the hopes it is inhabited, but unfortunately when you arrive the whole place is deserted. Even worse, you find evidence that the island is likely cursed as well! Your presence on this forbidden land has been noticed by some greater power, and you’ll have to break the curse quickly before the volcano in the distance explodes!

First Impressions:

We have very much enjoyed Break Out Myrtle Beach’s sister locations in Charleston, SC, (Elite Escape Games, Break Out Charleston, and Charleston Escape Game,) so on our most recent trip to Myrtle Beach, visiting Break Out was a no brainer! Our first steps into Curse of Volcano Island presented the excellently immersive set design we’ve come to expect from these locations, and we were thrilled to start our escape!

Tiki-5

There’s that excellent Break Out polish!

High Points:

Beyond the aforementioned set design, Curse of Volcano Island seeks to create a highly immersive experience by utilizing a great soundtrack and awesome lighting effects. All these touches combined really bring the adventure life in the best possible way. The game is set up semi-non-linear fashion, with a few puzzles or interactions to solve available during any given stage of the game, which generally lead towards a puzzle to open up the next stage. This would keep a mid-size group entertained and engaged throughout, as many of the puzzles require a fair amount of teamwork to solve. Most of the room is set up in such a way that progress is easy to gauge naturally and within the theme, with new props being obtained and new areas opening as the team solves their way towards saving the island, and themselves! Perception is challenged throughout the game, and outside of the box thinking is not only encouraged, but required to best the many original puzzles that are housed inside!

The game flow works excellently for the most part, with intuitive revelations to be uncovered constantly. The density of puzzles and fantastic integration within the theme will keep most groups happily engaged, though the maximum of ten might make for too many cooks in the kitchen when enthusiasts are involved. Technology is seamlessly integrated within the room, and creates an atmosphere of magic while still providing excellent feedback during play, keeping groups on track during the entire experience. The storyline is engaging, and while mostly front loaded, the climax is appropriately satisfying, and tied everything up nicely.

Tiki-6

The volcano belches smoke on the horizon!

Low Points:

At one point, a small process puzzle may stymie progress and leave larger groups with little to do. Our team somehow bypassed this one with what must be the luckiest run of events leading to a lock opening extremely early, but we still solved a portion to confirm how the puzzle is solved. Luckily, after our accidental advancement within the story, our GM confirmed our incredibly unlikely guess was a freak accident, and advised us to ignore this particular box so we didn’t accidentally derail the experience for ourselves! There are a lot of really intuitive puzzles and interactions, but for two or three moments in which cluing becomes very sparse, and you’ll either know just what to do or you won’t, and these portions of the game can really grind everything to a halt. Our Gamemaster was very helpful in hinting us back on track, but for the most part these sections seemed to require outside hints rather than relying on information intuitively gathered from the room itself. There are a few points at which it feels like deja vu when a puzzle type is repeated, but this isn’t overly egregious, and overall, the puzzle or interaction is changed up enough that it doesn’t become repetitious.

Verdict:

The Curse of Volcano Island is an immersive romp, if minorly uneven in parts. The story and set design are amazing, as usual, and the puzzles are original and engaging, though the flow tends to suffer from time to time due to some deficiencies in cluing. However, I recommend giving it a shot as on the whole our escape was a lot of fun! You can book your time on the island here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.

Time Traveler Escape Games – Lavinia Fisher’s Boarding House (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Have a nice slay!

Theme:

You and your friends have been travelling all day in order to reach Charleston, SC, but the sun has just dropped below the horizon and you need to rest. Luckily, the Six Mile Wayfarer House is just down the road, and the congenial Lavinia Fisher has plenty of room for all of you. She offers you all a cup of tea while she prepares your room, andyou gladly accept. After you’ve settled down in the attic boarding room however, you begin to feel uneasy and find that the door has been locked from the outside! Unnaturally sleepy, you must fight through the effects of the now obviously poisoned tea, or fall victim to America’s first female serial killer!

First Impressions:

Like Dr. Trott’s Apothecary, Lavinia Fisher’s Boarding House is based off the local Charleston legend of the first female serial killer in America. An interesting take on the usual trope of escape room serial killers, a favorite guilty pleasure of mine, I was excited to see how this historically based game would turn out!

High Points:

The infamous Lavinia Fisher was notorious for poisoning her guests with tea, and our visit to the Six Mile Wayfarer House was no exception. After downing some Snapple tea, (which we all agreed was definitely not poisoned, no sir,) we were ushered into our accommodations and locked in! The historical building offered a very authentic looking boarding room, with strange architecture and interesting furnishings, keeping us immersed in the early American theme. There’s a particular prop that most enthusiasts have seen that is presented in a slightly more interesting way, keeping our usual distaste for it at bay. There are a couple original interactions that we really enjoyed, one of which required some excellent teamwork and communication. The puzzle threads lead towards a great reveal, showing us the startling handiwork of our host and bringing the creepy vibe which had only been hinted at throughout the early stages of the room. Slow burn horror truly is the best horror.

Low Points:

There is one particular part of the room that is technical in a way that doesn’t quite fit the overall adventure. The puzzles it is integrated with feel off theme and random; technical for the sake of having tech. Two early game puzzles are triggered by the same input, and the clues to open them are very similar, so we spent an undue amount of time spinning our wheels when we started up a later part of the game early, figuring that the original puzzle was solved. Luckily, the GM set us back on track after a while, but this could be prevented by having different input devices or making the interactions a bit less similar. A lot of the puzzles in the room are vague, without much connective tissue between them to lead towards intuitive solutions, and in some cases, we only figured out one of them because it looked like there would be some technical interaction at a certain point in the room. New players will have a lot of trouble in these spots, due to the already obtuse presentation of these puzzles.

The room itself looks very convincing, but unfortunately the ceiling is very low in points. I’m not the tallest player by any stretch of the imagination, but I banged my head no less than five times, even as I was trying to be careful not to. Our usual group didn’t play this one, but our over six foot teammate would’ve had a headache by the end of this one for sure. The room is otherwise spacious, and will fit the maximum of eight players, but the linear game flow really doesn’t. We had five, and it was really difficult to have more than two people physically working on any one puzzle; enthusiasts will find the flow very cramped. Again, as in their previous room, there is no timer, which can help or hurt depending on your preferences, but we really prefer to measure our time independently, so I mention it here. Finally, we had some severe trouble with the final puzzle due to faulty feedback, stretching an already banal interaction into a much longer ordeal. The climax wasn’t overly exciting, and made very little sense within the theme, which was disappointing given the much more engaging nature of Dr. Trott’s Apothecary.

Verdict:

If you have only a couple players, Lavinia Fisher’s Boarding House might be more exciting, but the game flow issues and uneven storyline make this room a hard sell. Newcomers will be frustrated by puzzles that seem to cater to enthusiasts being able to spot tech rather than being clued naturally, and enthusiasts will feel limited by the overly linear gameplay. If you’re visiting Time Traveler Escape Games, I definitely recommend trying Dr. Trott’s Apothecary instead, but if you want to try your hand at escaping the Six Mile Wayfarer House, you can do so here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Time Traveler Escape Games comped our tickets for this room.

Time Traveler Escape Games – Dr. Trott’s Apothecary (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

A bit of heroin for your cold will fix you right up!

Theme:

It’s 1867 and the rain has been falling in Charleston, SC for four straight days. Citizens are beginning to worry that Dr. Trott is the reason for all their woes, due to the fact that he’s captured a mermaid within his apothecary and refuses to set her free! The unprecedented storm threatens to bury the whole city underwater unless you can find the mermaid and set her free. Dr. Trott returns in an hour, though, so you’d better act fast!

First Impressions:

Dr. Trott’s Apothecary is based on a local legend that you can read about here! It’s really quite fascinating that people truly rioted outside of a pharmacy because they thought that the owner was holding a mermaid hostage, but that’s the 1800’s for you. An escape room based on the hidden legends of Charleston really sounded like a fantastic idea, so we were very excited to give Time Traveler Escape Games a visit during our most recent trip out!

High Points:

Dr. Trott’s Apothecary is well decorated, housing some excellent tech, lighting, and sound effects to simulate the storm, as well as other hidden surprises to assist with the immersion factor of the game. Though there are a few trick puzzle boxes and locks, generally a huge escape room sin, they are clued cleverly and justify their inclusion by being more than just a box purchased online and sat in the room for no thematic reason. The game flow runs nicely, and is non linear for the most part, with a subtle clue to start off the room’s puzzling threads. Each section of the apothecary feels like it’s own level of sorts, with all the threads coming together to unlock the next segment, leading to another challenge that repeats the process. We are big fans of this video game like style of escape room puzzling and are glad to see it catching on in Charleston!

Connections within the room are intuitive, and the meta puzzles for each step work smoothly, with the original and sometimes room spanning puzzles keeping our group of five engaged with the story throughout the entire adventure. When we needed a hint or two our GM provided clever clues that gave us just the right amount of push without giving the answer away outright, which is always appreciated. There’s quite a few props to play around with, and all of them are integrated well into the theme of a sea loving, (perhaps too much,) pharmacist from the 1860’s.

Low Points:

One puzzle failed spectacularly on us, and it seemed like there was no backup to overcome the technical problem. Though we eventually were able to force it to finally trigger, it burned a lot of time off of our clock. From behind the scenes looks of other tech heavy rooms I’ve done, I’ve noticed most have a program of backups in place should a puzzle be solved and the prop not trigger, so that might be worth looking into for Time Traveler Escape Games. Though light on hidden objects for hidden objects’ sake, there is one that felt overly well hidden, and without a puzzle or clue to help find it, it feels like a random scavenger hunt rather than an exciting solve. One early puzzle was interesting, but involved a fairly large leap of logic, coupled with searching for a small marking that just blends in with its surroundings, leading to some early frustration on our part. There’s also no timer within the room, which adds to the authenticity, but can make marking your progress within difficult, so this could really go either way based on your preferences.

Verdict:

Dr. Trott’s Apothecary is a fun room for first time players and enthusiasts alike, delivering multiple stages of puzzling fun. Though there are a couple points at which the room failed on us, these seem to be isolated cases of bad luck and I still recommend checking this one out in order to delve into the hidden history of Charleston for an hour, and commend Time Traveler Escape Games on coming up with such an excellent idea. Book your rescue mission here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Time Traveler Escape Games comped our tickets for this room.

Escape Artist Greenville – The Lift (Mini-Adventure Review)

Location: Greenville, SC

Players: 2-4 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $20 per group

Time to Escape: 10 minutes per episode

Cherie Berry would not approve.

Theme:

For The Lift, you choose from one of two different capers, The Gambler and The Pickpocket. For your chosen adventure, you’ve chased a notorious criminal into a nearby elevator, but they’ve turned the tables on you! Having rigged the elevator to rise to the tenth floor before plummeting into the basement, you have only ten minutes to figure out how to escape before disaster strikes!

First Impressions:

The Lift is installed within a side room of Escape Artist Greenville, and is apparently mobile, allowing the business to take this experience on the road for shows and events. We were impressed by the craftsmanship and versatility of this room, and were excited to try out our first mini-escape adventure! For each trip into the elevator, our GM handed us a piece of evidence recovered from our respective criminal, hit the button to start our journey, and left us to puzzle our way out of the elevator.

High Points:

Taking place over only a few short minutes, The Lift’s two episodes perfectly capture the frantic final moments of an escape room for the entire experience! From the second you begin, the lights flicker for every minute spent, announcing the current floor and slowly heralding your demise. There’s nothing quite like that frantic last few minutes within a well designed room, and the adrenaline these adventures provide is perfectly thrilling. The games themselves are short, containing two to three puzzles and satisfyingly tacticle interactions, but the length of each puzzle is appropriate for a ten minute room and each one is intuitive and connects well to the theme. We found The Gambler to be a great fit for a warm up game or for new players, with a simple game flow and some neat surprises to be discovered. The Pickpocket will cater to those seeking a more difficult challenge, having almost bested our team, who escaped with mere seconds left on the clock!

The sets are well implemented and excellently designed for versatility between games as well as a streamlined puzzling environment that will comfortably hold the maximum four players during the whole experience. Though simple, the sound and lighting design elevate the adventure into a pulse-pounding mission that is sure to keep even the most hardened escape veteran on their toes!

Low Points:

With such a short period for escape, the game definitely leaves you wanting more, which is certainly the point, but after finally experiencing a good elevator game, we’d love to see what could be done by expanding on this idea into a full 60 minutes!

Verdict:

The Lift is a great add-on challenge to any of the rooms at Escape Artist Greenville, so if you’re looking for a warm up or extra dessert challenge, definitely try out The Gambler or The Pickpocket while you’re there! You can book your rise to glory, (or sudden drop,) here!

Full Disclosure: Escape Artist Greenville provided media discounted tickets for our team.