River City Escape Room – Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Lord Byron’s Murder (Review)

Location: Richmond, VA

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

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Elementary

Theme:

From the River City Escape Room website:

Scotland Yard has brought you an intriguing case. Eccentric Lord Byron had a feeling his days were numbered, and now he has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. A will that benefits a distant cousin has been found, but his nephew claims it was forged. In his home, Lord Byron has left clues on where to find the original will and how to identify his killer. The judge will execute the forged will in one hour unless you can locate the original. Help the nephew by finding the original will before the greedy cousin claims the estate!

First Impressions:

After the stunning one two punch of Alice in Wonderland and Innocent!, we were raring to take on another room at River City Escape. After debriefing from Innocent! and having a quick chat about the room, we huddled into the briefing room again to get started!

High Points:

For this last River City Escape Room review, (for now, we’re definitely returning,) I would be remiss not to mention the fantastic game mastering done by Rachel and Dennis, our favorite GMs of all time! Thanks again guys for an astoundingly good experience. The room was well decorated, with a roomy set filled with puzzles to engage with, giving off the vibe of a cozy British study. The adventure starts in a non-linear fashion, and there is plenty to work on throughout to keep a larger group occupied. The room does encapsulate the spirit of Sherlock by presenting a game in which all the little details matter, and some of the biggest clues can be found in plain sight, as long as detectives know what they’re looking for! Many times, we would find items around the room that seemed innocent enough, but once we’d solved a puzzle, we’d find that our next step involved these newly identified clues. The mystery was very intuitive due to this, and we always felt like we were right on track, even if the solution was still evading us.

The game flow benefits greatly from the intuitive cluing included within Sherlock. The connective tissue of the game is well woven, and presents many ah ha moments throughout. Most stages of the game included a moment of revelation where everything came together, and the entire experience was an excellent run of satisfying solves. I actually have a difficult time determining what my favorite puzzle was, as the puzzles were constantly keeping me on that puzzler’s high while still presenting a fair challenge to us all. The quality of River City Escape Room is really evident from start to finish, and by the time we were done, we were already ready to return.

Low Points:

The introduction video for Sherlock is a bit silly. The theme it describes and the tone/word choices present the theme less like a Sherlock room, and more like a down home, country murder. This isn’t really a bad thing, it actually sounds like a super creative theme, it just doesn’t jive with the current stated ambiance of the room. It certainly didn’t dull our enthusiasm for the room, but it was fairly dissonant. Overall, the Sherlock theme wasn’t all that present, seeming more to be a light dusting of Sherlockian tropes to get the mystery started, and wasn’t really the main focus of the story. Black light usage was pretty heavy for part of this room, but all of it was properly directed, so this wasn’t a huge problem.

Verdict:

After sleuthing our way through Sherlock, it’s apparent that in terms of great customer service, engaging puzzles, and exciting escapes, River City Escape Room is tough to beat! I absolutely recommend trying out Sherlock, or any other room they offer, as their experiences are a delight. Book your time solving Lord Byron’s murder here!

8/10 (Great)

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

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.