Game On Escapes & More – Grinched (Review)

Location: Cary, NC (Also Columbia, SC via The Final Door)

Players: 3-7 (We recommend families of any size!)

Price: $22 per person ($20 at The Final Door)

Time to Escape: 45 minutes

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!

Theme:

A certain green villain has stolen your letters to Santa! Not only that, but he’s made sure you won’t be able to find them by breaking into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, boarding up the chimney and sealing away Mrs. Claus’s magical cookie recipe! The Clauses are away on official Christmas business, so it’s up to you and your family to right the Grinch’s wrongs, and maybe leave behind some treats for Santa on the way!

First Impressions:

Game On is one of our favorite local escape rooms, and they’ve partnered with one of our favorite escape rooms of all time, The Final Door, to help families celebrate the magic of Christmas with a new seasonal escape room! I can’t think of a better holiday activity than an escape, (or several escapes, as every holiday trip to my parent’s house over the last few has evidenced!) Game On invited us to test out this new room as soon as they’d finished, and of course, we jumped at the chance!

High Points:

To start the room, we were given crayons and asked to write our letters to Santa, which we did dutifully, as you can see below! We asked for pretty standard stuff, I think…

A bag of clementines, World Peace, the vengeance of Ares. You know, easy gifts.

Our letters were then to be delivered by one of Santa’s best elves, but alas! The Grinch intercepted her and whisked them away, and thus our adventure began. Santa’s house itself is bright and colorful, with spectacular Christmas decorations all around, and so many (locked) presents to open. The game itself is perfect for families, with a non-linear flow for children to work separately if they like, but at a difficulty level that allows for kids to work at their own pace on each individual puzzle if that’s preferred. Difficulty isn’t too simple, however, so parents can still enjoy the room by assisting their little ones with their adventure. The room is highly accessible for junior escapees, and several teamwork puzzles are available to encourage everyone to work together as a family!

There are so many tactile puzzles to manipulate, and clever technical and mechanical workings that truly bring the room to life with Christmas Magic! From start to finish, the game is an absolute joy to engage with, and families are going to love popping open or activating each and every surprise contained within the room. In fact, there are a few awesome activities that I won’t spoil here that are absolutely brilliant. I’ve played a few seasonal rooms before, and it almost always feels like a step down from a permanent room, but Grinched does not skimp on quality, keeping up to the high standards that both Game On Escapes & More and The Final Door have set for their rooms!

Low Points:

As far as I can tell, Santa did not entreat Ares to smite my enemies. However, Christmas has not yet arrived, so I remain optimistic.

Verdict:

Even though this room is geared towards children and their parents, our team of three veteran enthusiasts loved puzzling through Santa’s house! Families are in for a treat, especially parents who love escape rooms but haven’t been able to find one to take their young puzzlers to! I absolutely recommend this room for any kid or kid at heart, but be quick, this room won’t be around long, so book your time saving Christmas here! This room is also available at The Final Door, where you can book here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Game on Escapes & More provided comped tickets for our team.

The Final Door – The Sacrifice (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $25 per person (Tues, Wed, Thurs) or $28 per person (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

The Pact is sealed with blood!

Theme:

You’ve been kidnapped by a fanatical cult, intent on using you as a human sacrifice in their next dark ritual! You and your fellow kidnappees have only one hour to figure out how to get out of the dark holding cell before they come back for you to complete their evil work, summoning forth who knows what vile creatures!

First Impressions:

For The Sacrifice, there are two versions, standard and advanced; we played the advanced version. The offering to increase the difficulty is a nice touch, and fun for enthusiasts looking for a greater challenge! As we were led to another masterfully themed briefing room, we could already smell incense in the air. It was a great touch to get us excited for our 3rd room of the day, and was yet another small detail that helped up the immersion factor of the room. There was a good, if lighter, introduction to this room and afterwards we were left in our cell to rot.

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High Points:

As we had come to expect from The Final Door by now, barring one major hiccup, the room’s puzzles connected incredibly well from one to the next, and an evolving story that tied everything to the theme was woven throughout. The progression from the early to mid and late game felt natural, and the set evolved to reflect our progress. Another great out of the ordinary hint system was in place, keeping everything within the universe of the room. Fantastic interactions that rose above and beyond locks and keys, (or even basic technological interactions,) enveloped us in the narrative and made for some amazing storytelling. The penultimate puzzle pulled everyone together to finish the room with a thrilling and appropriate culmination, capping off an amazing run of escapes from The Final Door.

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Low Points:

The room stumbled quite a bit at the beginning. Our initial excitement became frustration as we worked out the solution for a puzzle, but were unable physically to complete it, causing us to spend an overly long time uncomfortably attempting over and over to finally get past it (with a wee bit of assistance from our fantastic GM,) and onto the rest of the room. (After our visit, I was told that the game flow has been reworked to alleviate the frustration of this particular puzzle, and though I cannot comment on its effectiveness, I think it is definitely a positive change!) It was, fortunately, all uphill from there. The room itself was very well designed, but felt a bit less complex than Blackout and The Vampyr. That being said, it was still head and shoulders above most other rooms in terms of presentation.

Verdict:

It says a lot that even though it wasn’t my favorite room at The Final Door, The Sacrifice was one of the best I’ve played. The business as a whole is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen, with only one puzzle I didn’t like during the course of three rooms, which speaks volumes about their amazing design! If you are looking for a place that combines all the best elements of escape rooms and elevates game design from craft to art, this is the place to go. I highly recommend anyone check out one or all of the rooms here, The Sacrifice included. Book your time with the cult here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Final Door provided Media discounted tickets to our team.

The Final Door – The Vampyr (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

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

Price: $25 per person (Tues, Wed, Thurs) or $28 per person (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Let’s hunt some monsters!

Theme:

A wealthy nobleman has contracted your team of monster hunters to take care of a big problem he has with his newly inherited castle. Unfortunately, it seems he’s unable to move in since an extremely powerful and ancient vampyr has taken up residence inside! It is up to you to break into the castle and find out where the fiend is currently hiding while he sleeps. Once you do, make sure to destroy him before the sun sets, or it’s lights out for you in more ways than one!

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First Impressions:

The lobby at The Final Door is well appointed, containing a bar as well as a nice selection of party games and puzzles to enjoy with your team while you wait. Staff is very friendly and are escape room enthusiasts as well, so trading war stories with them was great fun. Our experience started even before we entered the briefing room, which was a fantastic and mysterious way to begin the introduction. After our briefing, we were led to the castle and began our hunt!

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High Points:

What a room! It combined two of my favorite little things for escape rooms to do, the first being a well decorated entry door, and the second I can’t reveal so as not to spoil the surprise! As with other rooms at The Final Door, puzzle flow was marvelous, there were no points at which we felt the tasks were too ambiguous or we were flailing about to determine what we needed to do. Set design was convincingly done, and fully immersed us into the story of the room. Some rarely used senses came into play for a fun and, for our team, hilarious puzzle, and the hint system was interestingly integrated into the theme as well. The taks presented involved our entire team throughout, and rewarded communication and cooperation. The climax of the room was extraordinarily satisfying, delivering a great interaction and end to the story. This is, without a doubt, the best room I have done in South Carolina.

Low Points:

None. This is an amazingly crafted experience and we had no problems with it at all, it was truly great from start to finish!

Verdict:

Another astounding experience from The Final Door, The Vampyr excels at weaving together challenging gameplay, smooth flow, and immersive production values. As satisfying to puzzle through as it is to experience the set design, this room keeps the surprises coming throughout! This is definitely the most challenging room available at The Final Door, so beginners may want to try out an easier room or two, (such as the equally fantastic Blackout,) before taking it on. Enthusiasts and more seasoned players, however, will love the fantastic adventure that The Vampyr offers! Book your time in the castle here!

10/10 (Sublime)

The Final Door – Blackout (Review)

Location: Columbia, SC

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

Price: $28 per person (Tues, Wed, Thurs) or $33 per person (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

It’s weird that getting kidnapped by a serial killer has become a normal Sunday morning

Theme:

The Columbia Killer wants to play a game, and has taken you and your friends hostage in his basement making you unwitting players! A huge storm is sweeping across the area, and to make matters worse, it has caused a blackout. With only the lightning to guide you, you’ve no choice but to play along with the killer’s twisted machinations, or be yet another missing person in tomorrow’s news!

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First Impressions:

We could already tell that we were in for something very special when we were briefed in a specially tailored room that fit the theme perfectly! After the quick rules run down, we were very surprised by the beginning of the experience, which I won’t spoil here. Once complete, we doffed our blindfolds and got to the task of escaping the dank, dark basement we’d found ourselves in!

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High Points:

I want to preface this by saying that there is so much I enjoyed about this room that may not translate into words (or would be too big a spoiler,) and that you should absolutely go and have your mind blown like we did. The experience weaves immersive theatre and personal touches throughout in order to remove you from the outside world and truly set you inside a psycho’s basement. Special effects and set design are impeccable; providing a convincing environment without being so Hollywood that it still feels artificial. Puzzle flow is flawless, and each step is logical and challenging, but fair and direct enough to remove any possibility of frustration. Puzzles themselves are highly satisfying across the board, and deliver excellent feedback when they’ve been solved. Delivering surprises again and again, I can confidently say that Blackout is easily one of my favorite experiences to date.

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Low Points:

The introduction set the scene well, but it got a little too scream-y for our tastes, which took it a little further over the top than we reasonably wanted to go. Everything else was spectacular!

Verdict:

There is no doubt that Blackout is one of the finest escape adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing! If you are anywhere near Columbia, I highly recommend planning a trip out, as this room is like no other! This is a finely tuned, fully immersive escape room adventure that delivers an intense, well thought out spectacle that is sure to entertain beginners and enthusiasts alike. Book your kidnapping here!

10/10 (Sublime)

Full Disclosure: The Final Door provided Media discounted tickets for our team