The Box (France) – The Diamond Heist (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 Players (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: €110 per room (About $129.97 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

Never work again? That sounds great!

Theme:

From the The Box website:

They say that diamond merchants safe boxes are tamper proof. In this escape game, we challenge you to grab the biggest treasure ever. Outmaneuver the Diamond Center security and become richer than ever!

First Impressions:

We’ve been doing a lot of virtual globe trotting with our virtual escape experiences recently, and we have added France to our Escape Room passport with The Box! A tried an true escape room theme, heist rooms are generally reliable and exciting, so we couldn’t wait to try this one out.

High Points:

The set for Diamond Heist was pretty great, with a sleek, streamlined design aesthetic that really hammered home the “ultra-modern bank vault/offices” vibe. A few really cool surprises kept us feeling immersed within the theme, and our doofy avatar Bob did a great job of following our instructions and getting generally freaked out by the alarms. We enjoyed interacting with him and having some improvisationally silly fun while solving the puzzles. The room effects were great, using sound and lighting to set the mood, and there were very few basic locks in the room, which relied on hidden tech to give the vault a believably high tech flair. Puzzles themselves consisted of a lot of research puzzles and making connections between props within the room, and also included a fun vault hacking mini-game that we enjoyed for the most part. The whole experience culminated in a fast paced, intense finale that had us frantically searching for our main goal within the vault itself, as well as trying to steal as much treasure as possible before the police arrived on the scene. The early game had some intense moments as well, however, and certain areas were secured in different ways, ensuring that we always felt as though this was a high stakes mission in which failure was not an option! Though the experience moved through different game stages linearly, there was enough to work on at each stage that our whole group could remain engaged with each step, dividing and conquering to tackle different puzzles together.

Low Points:

A lot of virtual escape rooms cast the avatar as “lovable doofus,” and while that is funny to start and allows for a reason why they can’t do whatever tasks are presented on their own, in the long run, it is a lot more fun, in our experience, when the avatar acts more as a teammate. It is especially frustrating when the avatar is “unable” to search on their own. Virtual games do not lend themselves well to hidden objects, and it generally needs to be streamlined as players cannot see the whole room or anticipate hiding spots well in this medium, so when, in this room, there were objects that were very well hidden, it took entirely too long for us to find while adding nothing to the experience itself. The inventory method for the game was via google docs, and access was given as we went. This slowed down the game substantially, and left us with loads of useless information near the later stages of the game. Telescape is the gold standard for inventory systems, and comparatively, google docs did not do near as well a job during this game. There is a large mix of digital and in room puzzling to do during the game, but they did not mix overly well, leading one or the other to be neglected while puzzles were being worked on. The final puzzle was good, but was repeated over and over several times, leading to burnout while trying to finish up the heist. There was also an element of randomness that could frustrate players on their last few minutes.

Verdict:

Overall, The Diamond Heist wasn’t a bad room, but didn’t quite go above and beyond compared to other virtual escape offerings available. A lot of streamlining would help bolster the game itself, but it is still good for an hour’s entertainment. Enthusiasts will get their fix from this room, but newcomers might find the presentation a bit overwhelming. On the whole, our adventure with Bob was fun, but not particularly mind-blowing. Book your time pulling off the heist of the century here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: The Box provided our team with a complementary game.

Emergency Exit Escape Games UK – The Beast (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: Up to 6 connections (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: £100.00 per room (About $128.06 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

The number of the Beast is 10/10

Theme:

From the Emergency Exit Escape Games UK website:

Exclusively play a unique experience – only available online – combining Conjure + Poltergeist! The game includes spoilers from both physical games. The rooms may LOOK the same online, but the game-play isn’t!

Deep in the forest of Crowley Manor lies a secret as dark as the house itself; maybe even worse?

There’s a cabin in the woods with a legend of the supernatural. Long abandoned, there have been strange sightings and many people have disappeared, as reported in the news over the years, never to return.

You should NOT enter! The question is… can you escape parts 2 and 3 of the Crowley Manor story? There’s lots of puzzles to solve before you can.

Based in the same reality as our Exorcist game, Crowley Manor. You’ll be playing in the actual Conjure and Poltergeist rooms by controlling a Game Master.

First Impressions:

We have been anxiously waiting to play The Beast since the second we were told there would be a sequel. Exorcist was, and still is, our favorite virtual escape game we’ve done, and honestly, is probably one of the best escape games we’ve experienced, period. We could not wait to get back into the horror filled universe that Emergency Exit has created, and when the day finally came, we were more than thrilled to be returning to Crowley Manor!

High Points:

Emergency Exit continues to impress with yet another brilliant foray into the dark confines of Crowley Manor. Every facet of this game is polished, and impresses from start to finish. From the moment we entered our Zoom meeting, an intro video was playing, reacquainting us with Crowley Manor and setting the mood while counting down the time until the game would begin. The anticipation was absolutely palpable, and the production values were already high, and we hadn’t even entered the room yet! Once we were connected to our avatar, Ronnie, we picked up right where we left off at the end of Exorcist. From there, we broke back into Crowley Manor, (bad idea number one,) found our possibly possessed cameraman inside, (bad idea number two,) and began messing about with a bunch of creepy dolls, (you guessed it! Three’s a charm.) The set was beautifully well designed, and the videos and effects all work together to ensure that we were appropriately spooked, and that there was never any certainty as to what creepy happening was around every corner. An amazing attention to detail and beautiful design work is apparent in every room we visited, and though we were not physically in the room, the designers have done an awesome job of ensuring that the atmosphere and ambiance is preserved for the virtual experience through some of the best lighting and sound design we’ve seen in a virtual room. In fact, this is one of those rooms that just oozes immersion, combining the sound effects, music, and characterization of Ronnie and Liam, our avatar and cameraman, respectively. Truly, Emergency Exit has continues to set the bar for what a remote escape room should strive to be.

The game flow is wonderfully smooth within this room, and runs linearly, with subtle hints and clues to ensure that players never feel lost, but are still challenged to put together the pieces. The whole experience is intuitive, and filled with a variety of puzzle types that allows all different types of puzzlers to shine. There are loads of amazing interactions in The Beast, and it is honestly hard to pick a favorite moment. One section of the game near the midpoint that I really adored subverted our expectations fantastically, and allowed for a few minutes of unsettling uncertainty and scares while still presenting some great puzzles to solve. The experience is absolutely filled to the brim with immensely satisfying ah ha moments, and each puzzle is integrated into the room’s theme convincingly. I really loved how during our solves, bits of story and lore were drip fed to us by our host, who despite the creepy situation he finds himself in, still finds time to be a good ghost tour guide! Other bits of story were realistically integrated into the rooms via notes, radio broadcasts, and haunting happenings, and the mystery kept us guessing until the end. The climax of the story is an unexpected, yet fantastic conclusion to the saga, but leaves things open to interpretation, keeping us guessing even long after the game had ended. Overall, The Beast mixes immersive theater, escape rooms, and haunts together to create an experience that is second to none. Though The Beast caps off the Crowley Manor saga excellently, if Emergency Exit releases another remote game, we will be ready to book without question.

Low Points:

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Verdict:

I can say without hesitation that Emergency Exit has outdone themselves with The Beast. Exorcism was an amazing room that absolutely must be played by any escape room enthusiast, but The Beast is a worthy sequel and an evolution that somehow manages to be even better than its predecessor! I cannot recommend this one enough, and encourage players new and old to book Exorcist and The Beast as soon as you can, as these are without question the best remote escape games you will find. Book your return to Crowley Manor here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Emergency Exit Escape Games UK provided our team with a complementary game.

Mystery Mansion Regina – Seen (Virtual Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.14 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

I seen’t it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

Searching for a job, but having little luck due to the whole COVID-19 thing, you decide to turn to Craigslist. Everything seems pretty sketchy and illegal, until you come across a posting from DirkyDirk420. The posting reads: “Babysitter needed. To watch a baby. A big one. No physical contact; only watching via video link.”A little odd, but definitely the least strange you’ve found so far. You contact DirkyDirk420 and he hires you. He says he will send you another email with more details closer to the date of the job.Fingers crossed this Dirk guy isn’t some sort of pervert. I mean, you did find him on Craigslist…***Rated 14A For Coarse Language, Dark Comedy, and Inappropriate Themes***

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First Impressions:

We very much enjoyed Mystery Mansion Regina’s Night Terrors, but recently, they have made their in person room, Seen, available for online play. The most interesting thing about Seen, other than it being a horror comedy, is that there are two rooms, (side A or B,) that can be played competitively, or in our case, as a two-part online escape extravaganza!

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High Points:

Our team is custom built for low-brow humor, and the comic sensibilities of Seen and our in room avatar, the aforementioned “baby,” appealed greatly to us. While Seen is still a horror room, it never ceases to be silly and all around weird. Adding to the excellence, our avatar/game master played to our enthusiasm, ensuring the jokes and puzzles continued to come at us fast and furious! Both rooms flow pretty well, and are, for the most part, fairly linear, which plays to the strengths of an online live experience. Though there is generally a fair amount to do in each room, it is generally pretty clear what comes next in the puzzling sequence, and the challenge remains in determining how to solve the various conundrums rather than sorting through too much information at any given time. The rooms themselves are more “Generation One” style escapes, consisting mostly of locks and codes, but this does not hinder the adventure at all, as these sorts of games tend to shine in the virtual space. I really enjoyed how the story had been adjusted for a virtual audience, and hamming it up with our GM was a brilliant time.

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Puzzles ran a wide gamut, and there was a little something for everyone within each room, and while the experience was linear, it never seemed as if anyone was feeling left out or just waiting around for something to do. There were several ways Telescape, the inventory system used by Mystery Mansion for this room, was integrated in order to ensure the teamwork based interactions remained solvable by multiple players, as intended, and allowed us a little freedom to divide and conquer virtually. Each separate room has their own personal style, and conveys a particular facet of the overall story, ensuring that while each room works as a stand alone adventure, those that take on both rooms will get the extra bonus of seeing how everything ties together! We really loved the side that dealt with the gruesome and ridiculous traps the antagonist had been using to take out his enemies.

Low Points:

There was an instance in both sides A and B of a puzzle that relied on searching in a way that doesn’t quite translate to the virtual experience well. A small puzzle or something to direct remote players a bit more would help alleviate these choke points, as searching in a virtual game usually has to be streamlined to ensure players don’t get hung up because they aren’t physically in the room. When clues would come up in telescape during our first game, there was a fart noise that was hilarious at first, but became old through repetition, however, during our second run, it was cut down to levels that remain silly and not grating. One of the sides definitely gives off a better “SAW parody” vibe than the other, and we tended to enjoy this side more, though there have been a few updates to the other side to ensure the theme and creepy vibe carry through a bit better.

Verdict:

Seen is a great set of rooms, and we enjoyed playing through both sides in order to get the full story! We aren’t overly competitive folks, so we didn’t play competitively, but both rooms seem balanced for head to head play. I do love the asynchronous nature of the game, as it allows players like us to essentially have two different rooms to play, and for those who really love to compete, they can swap rooms afterwards. These rooms are approachable for new players, and enthusiasts will definitely get their escape room fix from Seen. I highly recommend it for folks who enjoy darker humor and horror comedies! Book your time taking care of the baby here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

Complex Rooms – Legends of Canada (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  We recommend 1-2 players

Price: $15.00 CAD per connected device (About $11.27 USD at the time of writing.)

Oh, Canada!

Theme:

From the Complex Rooms website:

As proud Canadians we at Complex Rooms believe that our stories deserve a world stage in a venue that rivals the richest kingdoms of all time! Since we don’t have that sort of budget… We built an escape room instead!

This game replicates the in-room experience and challenges you to explore the legends, solve the puzzles and escape. No knowledge of Canada is required but, if you learn a thing or two… don’t blame us! So how would you like to play?

First Impressions:

A lot of businesses have created online point and click escape rooms in order to provide escapists with a fun outlet during the pandemic, but I hadn’t come across one that was based off a physical escape room just yet. I was interested to see how Complex Rooms converted their Legends of Canada room to this format, and I’m happy to say it translates pretty well!

High Points:

Legends of Canada is based off Complex Room’s live escape experience, and it definitely shows within the online version. The puzzles are a lot of fun, and certainly feel like they belong within a physical escape room. There’s a large variety between each puzzle, and things are never bogged down within repetition of the same style of puzzle. With this sort of variety, multiple folks can take on the enigmas that appeal to them, and enthusiasts will discover a wide range of engaging interactions to solve. The set up is simple, but well implemented, and we really loved how players are subtly encouraged to search the room, and then begin making connections between the locked boxes and the displays throughout the experience. These displays include some fantastic subtle cluing, and the signposting is well implemented, ensuring that while the puzzles are a challenge, determining where the solutions are to be entered is streamlined and easy to determine. The displays are also densely packed with interesting Canadian facts, which are all well incorporated into the puzzling threads, making the room educational without feeling banal.

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Making connections is a major theme within this room, and there are several points at which things just click together, revealing a satisfying moment of revelation. I played this game solo, and thought it worked perfectly for an enthusiast, but the puzzles also work well as teamwork based interactions as the group comes together to figure out how everything interacts together. The game flow is mostly non-linear, ensuring there aren’t any choke points, and the hint system further alleviates any worry about being stuck by providing increasingly revealing nudges for players. The hint system is also very directed and graduated, ensuring that you only get help with what you’re looking for, when it is needed. The difficulty curve works fantastically, with a few quick wins to get things going, building towards some more challenging puzzles as the adventure progresses.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle wasn’t very intuitive overall, there were certain extraneous bits as well as a couple similar pieces that could go in a couple different places which threw us off a lot. It is overall a good puzzle however, but a little bit of tightening up of the cluing would make this one a bit more intuitive without sacrificing the challenge. Enthusiasts might blow through this one, so $15 CAD might seem a bit steep for an online point and click game that cannot be replayed, but I think the price is on the whole, fair for new players or folks looking to scratch the escape room itch on their own time. Some boxes have a question mark button on them, and it seems like they might tie into a puzzle, but the boxes are triggered via a different method, leaving these buttons to be red herrings. The removal of these would prevent players rushing down unintended rabbit trails and remove some frustration caused by red herrings.

Verdict:

Legends of Canada is an enjoyable experience that will appeal to escape room enthusiasts and new players alike. I think this one works best for a solo enthusiast or a group of newer players, but either way, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this Canadian focused room! As someone who enjoys a good point and click adventure, it was very satisfying to work though the room, discovering the surprises Complex Rooms has implemented, and absolutely recommend giving it a shot. Book your time discovering the Legends of Canada here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Complex Rooms provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

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.