Xscape Factor – Al Capone’s Revenge (Review)

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $26.50 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

The hunt for Tax Evasion documents!

Theme:

It’s 1930 and Al Capone is on trial in one hour! Unfortunately, Eliot Ness has left his files locked away in his office, and needs that evidence to put the infamous Mob Boss away for good. He’s sent you to retrieve the files, but trusting no one, has set up a series of puzzles in order to keep the files safe. Get those files to the courthouse asap, or risk the newly freed Capone coming for you next!

First Impressions:

Xscape Factor was two for three at this point, with the excellent Haunted and Circus of the Damned blowing us away, but the less than thrilling Abduction tempering our expectations. Our GM was excited for us to play Al Capone’s Revenge, however, stating that it was their most difficult room, but that he was sure we’d absolutely kill it. (Spoiler alert: whenever a GM is sure we’ll set a record, that always means we won’t. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though!)

High Points:

Xscape Factor does a good job with their sets with limited space, which is commendable. The props and room feels convincing and belong within the 1930s. Even the materials used to keep notes during the game are updated to match the theme, which is an excellent touch! A historically minded game always works best when dressed appropriately, and it really helps the immersion immensely. A lot of hard work was obviously put in to make the room look great, and match with the storyline, which is why I feel bad that I’m about to rake the rest of the experience over the coals for a little while.

Low Points:

It is not clever to hide clues in hidden drawers or compartments without having a clue or some part of game flow to direct you to them. It’s probably one of the most frustrating things I’ve seen in any escape room, akin to being asked to shine a black light everywhere because we have a black light. We started this room spinning our wheels because of this, and unfortunately, the game didn’t really improve from there. The difficulty of this game does not stem from clever puzzling or really great and devious design, but rather from randomly hidden clues, a lack of connective tissue, and leaps of threadbare logic. In fact, one particular puzzle had us poring over a map, using imprecise clues to find a tiny word that barely made sense as the solution. These problems were further exacerbated by a strictly linear game design that did not accommodate our group of four well, much less the maximum of eight players. Too often did I or one of my teammates seem to be standing around waiting for something to do since there either wasn’t enough space for all of us to work on a puzzle, or it was just an uninteresting one-person puzzle to begin with. The room is fairly forgettable on the whole, and it’s unfortunate that the interactions I remember the most are those that we despised. Of the rest, I only thought they were run of the mill at best.

Verdict:

It’s unfortunate that Al Capone’s Revenge isn’t a better game. It’s serviceable, but it seems to be one of those games that was was designed for “difficulty” rather than a well designed game flow. As I’ve told many owners, never design for difficulty, as too often doing so results in artificial difficulty. This room is much too arbitrary to be much fun, but I know that Xscape Factor is definitely capable of better, and hope that this room is given a much needed facelift during the next update! For now however, I recommend checking out the much superior Haunted and Circus of the Damned. You can do that here!

4.5/10 (Subpar)

Full Disclosure: Xscape Factor provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Xscape Factor – Circus of the Damned (Review)

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $26.50 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

A Smorgasbord of Spooky Serial Killer Clowns!

Theme:

A deranged killer has been terrorizing Fayetteville, and now he’s come for you! You’re (possibly) lucky, however, because he hasn’t killed you yet, and it seems like he wants to play a game with you. He’s hidden the evidence from his last kill all around his lair, and if you can find them and make your way out of the room in time, he’ll spare your lives. Promising to pin his spree of chaos and murder on you should you fail, you’d better work quickly!

First Impressions:

Having just finished the great Haunted in record time, we were raring to get started with our next Escape Adventure at Xscape Factor! Well, I was at least. The rest of my party does not like clowns. At all. I caught a lot of flak for booking this one, sorry guys! After a short wait, our GM returned to blindfold us and lead us into the lair of the most psychotic clown we’d ever seen.

High Points:

Usually with horror themed rooms, things are spookily themed rather than going for out and out terror. This was definitely not one of those rooms. The creep factor was severely high within Circus of the Damned, and I definitely liked how horrific the room felt at the beginning. As we puzzled, the uneasiness died down, but the set design provided excellent ambiance throughout. A fairly linear room, the Circus still kept us all fully entertained while we worked through the twisted machinations of the killer clown. Puzzles are varied, and bigger ones are doled out slowly as we continued to solve, allowing for everyone to start solving different parts of the room in tandem. There was a lot of fun tech, and only a few mechanical locks, ensuring that the game flow felt varied, and that the answers all had logically sound places to go. The room itself slowly got creepier and darker as we moved through the story, leading us down into the most crazed parts of the killer’s mind.

Low Points:

The storyline is a bit of a jumble, as it seems that the clown is going to frame you for the murders he committed, but he also says he’s going to flay you alive? If you go missing because he killed you, it seems like the frame job would be vastly hard to pin, but we went with it. He’s a psycho anyway, right? There was only one light in the room cycling between several different colors, which helped establish the ambiance, but at the same time made solving some of the color based puzzles much more difficult than they had any right to be. Players with poorer vision will definitely have a hard time with this. This is alleviated in the second half of the room, but just barely. The final puzzle was fun to solve, but unfortunately, the tech fizzled out even though we had the correct code, leading to an ending that fell a bit flat, as we had to confirm our answer with the GM and just… walk out.

Verdict:

Circus of the Damned is a fun if sometimes uneven room that provides a chilling serial killer story and excellent game flow. I’d recommend trying it out if you have an affinity for the horrific and decent vision! The story in this one gets really dark (story-wise and lighting-wise) though, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, I’d check out the less scary, more spooky Haunted instead! You can book your trip to the Circus of the Damned here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Xscape Factor provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Xscape Factor – Abduction (Review)

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $26.50 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

I want to believe.

Theme:

On the edge of town there’s a secret government lab, where many disappearances have been said to take place. Curious as to what’s going on, you and your friends have been poking around to attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing persons. Just as you find an unlocked door, one of your friends rushes ahead with reckless abandon, trapping herself and a couple more of your friends in an irradiated zone! Work to save your friends, and uncover the enigmas behind this abandoned facility before it’s too late, and you find yourselves on the back of a milk carton!

First Impressions:

After the high quality of Haunted and Circus of the Damned’s sets, we were excited to see how Xscape Factor handled a multiple room, cooperative escape. We were once again blindfolded, but half our group were taken into the deeper reaches of the lab, while my half were put in the front office. We took off our blindfolds and were disappointed to see the set was actually rather banal. I was sure the curse of the less interesting room had stuck me again as we began our search for clues.

High Points:

If you’re lucky enough to be the group that rushed ahead into the irradiated zone, your tradeoff for possibly glowing for the rest of your life is that you’ll get to do most of the puzzles. I wasn’t personally in this room, but our teammates expressed that it wasn’t much to write home about, really. However, it was more interestingly decorated, and the puzzles seemed a lot more tactile overall, which was disappointing for those of us in the other room. Some of the code breaking was entertaining, and running through alien messages can be an enjoyable past time during this room’s finer moments. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

Low Points:

Though the splitting of the group is a fun idea, it seems I always get locked in the less interesting room by some twist of fate. The other room, once we’d freed our teammates from the radiation, was a lot better decorated, and had loads more puzzles. We were assured that the puzzles themselves weren’t all that mind-blowing, but it would’ve been nice to have that much to do in our room as well. On our side of the door, we immediately solved the first cooperative puzzle since we had a basic knowledge of the subject, and as far as we could tell, there weren’t many other cooperative puzzles between the two rooms, or we had just been able to solve them separately. Either way, the one basic design of these types of rooms seemed mostly absent. One of the worst parts about this, was that by the time our teammates were out of their room, everything in there was solved, so there was significantly less to do for our group. At that point, why not just have everyone in the initial area? There were several points at which we needed to flip through random books to obtain clues and parts of codes, which is always underwhelming, and the set design of this experience was so far behind Haunted and The Circus of the Damned that we were really surprised by the simplistic offering. One of our most frustrating puzzles not only was based off a throwaway line in one of the files we found, but also led to our Game Master telling us the answer since the puzzle item we were supposed to use was known to lead to imprecise answers. Blacklights continue to be the cliché they’ve always been, as they are used in “search everywhere because blacklight” puzzles again, which is disappointing because blacklights were used effectively in Haunted. Though some puzzles were more quickly solved using outside knowledge, a particular one relied on it, and was once again based off a throwaway line in a file, with no connective tissue to guide us. There were also quite a few typos in said files, which we originally thought were clues, but later found were just typos when they didn’t amount to anything sensible.

Verdict:

Abduction has some great ideas, but the execution is lacking. Having one group solve half the puzzles while the other half spins their wheels is never fun, and we would’ve liked the room to allow for more involvement and cooperation overall. Fortunately, the room is due to be updated soon with more technology and a brand new game, so I’m optimistic that the next chapter in the story will be on par with Xscape Factor’s other rooms. You can book your time in the lab here.

4/10 (Subpar)

Full Disclosure: Xscape Factor provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

Xscape Factor – Haunted (Review)

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $26.50 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Solve the murder. Release the ghost!

Theme:

As a member of the Fayetteville Paranormal Crime Unit, you solved the infamous murder of Mr. Pennylock. Now, however, you’ve been called to return to his foreboding manor to investigate reports that Pennylock’s ghost has been haunting the manor, fueled by anger over the theft of his wife’s prized necklace! You only have an hour to find the necklace and set his soul to rest, otherwise, it will be trapped inside the manor forever!

First Impressions:

From my conversations with enthusiasts from the area, and from speaking with the owner and employees of Xscape Factor, not only is this room “haunted,” but the historical building the business resides in holds a bit of spectral history as well. According to them, they’ve had some strange occurrences pop up here and there, ranging from strange sounds to Game Masters being locked in the rooms at night when trying to reset rooms after the final customers have left. It all helped to set the stage for a spooky escape experience!

High Points:

The room itself was very well set up, with an excellent set design that included dim, flickering lighting, creepy Victorian photos on the wall, and antique looking furniture all around. Unfortunately, 30 seconds into our game, we ran into a freak accident where all the power surged for the whole building, leading us to find the necklace before we were supposed to, spoiling the hiding place for the ending. This, however, was taken care of quickly by the staff, who apologized profusely, then ushered us out and reset the room asap so that we could start again. Game flow worked excellently, and solving the mystery of who stole the necklace was a great meta-puzzle to work towards, and the non-linear nature of most of the room kept the four of us puzzling throughout. We required no clues, which is a testament to the room’s fair design. (Trust me, we usually need clues somewhere!) This isn’t to say the room is easy by any means, it was definitely a challenge, and we had to work through a lot of great conundrums to secure our victory!

Low Points:

The dreaded lockout safe makes a unwelcome return after being absent from our games for a blessedly long time. Per usual, we were so covetous of our 3 precious entries that we didn’t want to put in a certain code we’d found, and we were told we could only confirm a code with the GM one time, so our skittishness cost us a few precious minutes. Really, if a lockout safe is deemed necessary, (and they never are,) checks through the GM should be unlimited for this universal design flaw. There were a lot of laminated papers about, and though it wasn’t the worst thing, it did remove some of the immersion. A late game piece of tech was also pretty finicky, requiring quite a bit more specificity to it’s code than is usual for this type of puzzle. There was also one puzzle that identified a bit of information which required locating and reading a very particular article, which seemed to be overkill, and required an answer that was a fair leap of logic.

Verdict:

The spooky mystery of Haunted is a great mashup of the murder mystery and supernatural themes, with a exciting mix of classic and technological locks to keep players on their toes! Working through Pennylock’s office was a great adventure, requiring teamwork and communication, and I highly recommend giving it a shot, as it was definitely my favorite room at Xscape Factor. You can book your paranormal investigation here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Xscape Factor provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.