Break Out Charleston – Serial Killer (Review)

Location: Charleston, SC

Players:  2-10 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

You know, it’s really troubling how many people want to murder us.

Theme:

A series of serial murders have broken out in Charleston, 10 victims accounted for so far. The city lives in fear as authorities seem to be incapable of finding the perpetrator. You’ve woken up locked in a dingy shack, made even more disquieting due to the trophies that litter the room. A shiver runs down your spine as you begin to piece together what happened. Luckily the Killer has left a series of puzzles about to help you find your way out! Mighty kind of him.

First Impressions:

After our short briefing in the admittedly cool lobby (and a short conversation about the random Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS that was on the front desk) our Gamemaster led us to the room and locked us in. Serial Killer rooms saturate the market of escape rooms, but I really enjoy horror themes so it’s fun when the room is well done.  The Killer’s abode itself was very well decorated, and really felt decrepit in the best way possible. We didn’t stay mystified for long, however, since we knew we needed to get puzzling!

High Points:

Can a Serial Killer’s grimy cabin be called beautifully done? Probably not, but the décor was grungy and immersive. It was great, however, that while the room looked dirty, it didn’t feel that way during our interactions. The room was mostly seek and find along with object interactions and used technology sparingly, which I enjoyed as it fit the theme well. Puzzles that did show up were mostly well clued, and collecting similar items felt like it built towards the next puzzle instead of feeling like a chore. The Gamemaster’s interactions with us were fun, if goofy, and helped alleviate some of the tension. Space was used very well, and to great effect.

Low Points:

One long term puzzle was obtuse in it’s presentation, and is solvable in a slightly less satisfying way, but not well clued enough to have led us to the “proper” solution. There are several red herrings around, which didn’t really add much to the story, but at least felt on theme. There wasn’t a huge amount of cluing present in what inputs went to which locks, which added an unneeded trial and error element to the game. Some props felt a little too silly for the theme, but these were rare.

Verdict:

This was a well done room that was short on deep story, but had a fair amount of puzzles to keep a mid size group occupied. Serial Killer has a horror theme, but Break Out keeps it light-hearted enough that skittish people need not worry, which could be a plus or minus depending on the group. I feel like this is a great room to start with, due to it’s emphasis on escape room tropes, while still adding some original elements, but seasoned escapists may feel a little bit of déjà vu. I still recommend it though, it’s great fun! Book your Serial Killer escape here!

As a side note, my favorite story to tell about this room is that our briefing included the comment, “Please do not lick any of the electrical outlets in the room.” When asked why this became a rule, our Gamemaster informed us that a previous player had done so, explaining that he was an electrician and he wanted to short-circuit a door to make it open.

7/10 (Good)

Code Escape – The Experiment (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-9 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Scary in all the wrong ways.

Theme:

You were caught wandering around the grounds of the old Central State Asylum, delirious and babbling, so you’ve been brought inside by the attendants to get the help you need. Or so you’ve been told. You know you and the other patients aren’t crazy, and you’ve got to get out!

First Impressions:

They say first impressions are everything, and The Experiment made a terrible one. The barren first room had very little to do, and although it was obvious that there would be more in subsequent rooms, I didn’t hold out much hope. With seven players, it felt like there’d be a lot of standing around for some of us, and unfortunately, that was the case. We started off with three puzzles, one of which was well clued, one of which would be irrelevant and soon forgotten for a good while, and another that had no clues whatsoever, and for the unlucky, impossible to solve without serious help. We then were given a way to make it through the next door we found, but this puzzle for one person made no sense to anyone, and the solution was triggered by utter accident. The worst part is that it got much better, and then so much worse from there.

High Points:

Once we’d made it through that slog, we were treated to a set of pretty great puzzles. Everyone had something to do, and all interactions made sense. It was unfortunate that section only lasted for maybe seven minutes, as it was all downhill from there.

Low Points:

A lot of the problems that we saw at the beginning filtered over to the rest of the experience, and after a promising uptick, everything fell apart. Too many people and not enough puzzles became a problem, as crowding around one puzzle or standing around idly started to become the norm. One particular interaction was amplified in it’s annoyance due to the always infuriating problem of not being allowed to write anything down. A sound based puzzle that goes by too fast as part of a long spiel that must be listened to again and again without the aid of a whiteboard enters the frustrating territory of difficulty without fun. The endgame was interesting on paper, but the execution quickly fell flat, and all final puzzles were poorly designed for any more than 2-3 people. 

Verdict:

Having heard great things about Code Escape in general, I’d love to go back and try their other rooms, but if this had been my first exposure to Escape Rooms, I don’t think I’d have done a second without major encouragement. An all around major letdown, and probably my least favorite room to date. Without a major revamp and drop in the maximum players allowed in the room, I cannot recommend this one at all. If you’d like to book an escape at Code Escape, you can do so here.

3/10 (Poor)

Tic Toc Escapes – The Green Room (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $30 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

For those about to rock this room, we salute you.

Theme:

As a rock band getting ready for a gig that could be your big break into superstardom, you’ve found yourself locked in the green room with only one hour to showtime! You’ll need to figure out the musically themed puzzles and break out, or you’ll never break into the industry!

First Impressions:

The first thing I noticed walking into the Green Room was the classic rock playing on a radio nearby, and the sheer amount of excellent decorations that abounded. The theme of the room was well encapsulated, and held steady throughout the experience. Nothing felt cheap or out of place, and we were instantly excited to begin our adventure.

High Points:

This is one of the best rooms Raleigh has to offer. The original and interesting theme, interactive décor, and sheer amount of well flowing puzzling rocks. Tech is used sparingly, but to great effect, and all puzzles include interesting interactions and wonderfully on theme ideas. One puzzle in particular that I really enjoyed included sound, which is rare, and even rarer are instances where it doesn’t feel out of place, but it was perfect for this room. There were plenty of non linear puzzle threads expertly woven throughout the room, which more than kept everyone in our 7 person party occupied. Every inch of the room felt like it had been lovingly put together for maximum entertainment, and the little touches here and there really made the room immersive.

Low Points:

This room is so well put together, that it was hard to think of anything that could be described as a “low point.” As a very minor critique, there was one puzzle that we found the solution for, but didn’t feel clued enough to lead us toward where we needed to input it, but we quickly figured this out.

Verdict:

This is a particular favorite of mine, and one I recommend to anyone who has asked me what rooms they should try when they come to the Raleigh-Durham area. Tic Toc has wonderfully original ideas, and create fantastically crafted rooms around those ideas. An all around great room, The Green Room is approachable for beginners, but has enough puzzling meat for enthusiasts as well. I could gush all day about this room, but you should book your escape here and experience it for yourself!

10/10 (Sublime)

The Box Room Escape – Ventriloquist (Review)

Location: Charlotte, NC

Players: 2-7

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What’s that boy? Little Timmy’s gone missing in the old theatre?

Theme:

The old Ventriloquist’s theatre has been under investigation recently after a rash of child disappearances in the area, but after a fire broke out in the building, the inquiry has come to a halt. Another child has gone missing, and now it’s up to you and your team of detectives to break into the theatre to save him, and hopefully put an end to the horror.

First Impressions:

From the start, The Box was a fantastic experience. The lobby is decorated like an old movie theatre, and the gentleman at the front desk played his part well. It’s always good for the immersion to begin immediately, and The Box had this down perfectly. As we were led behind the velvet rope, it felt as though we were sneaking backstage into the Ventriloquist’s lair. The game began soon after a great in-theme briefing by our game master, so with only an hour to solve the mystery, we drew back the curtain on our adventure and wow, was it a creepy good time.

High Points:

From our first step into the Ventriloquist’s old theatre, I felt like we were really there. Theming was on point, with a creepy mood set, and held, throughout. The puzzles were fun, but not overly taxing, and our searches found something new at almost every turn. Clever hiding spots abounded, and there were quite a few moments that made me say ah ha! There was an extremely good twist on an old escape room favorite, as well as a few spooky touches that activated as we made our way through the mystery.

Low Points:

There were a couple clues that seemed to point towards the same puzzle, which was confusing, but we didn’t lose any time on this due to a small mistake in the reset. The puzzles trended toward the easier side for our group of enthusiasts, but that was a really minor nitpick as the room was so much fun. And that’s really it!

Verdict:

The Box has crafted a fantastically solid experience that ups the creep factor without being overtly scary, and draws you in from the second you enter the door. I highly recommend this room to anyone looking for an all around fantastic adventure. Book your escape from The Ventriloquist here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Breakout Greensboro – The Kidnapping (Review)

Location: Greensboro, NC (There are locations nationwide, however.)

Price: $25 per person

Players: 2-7 (We recommend 4-5)

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Getting chained up with your friends has never been so fun!

Theme:

In the Kidnapping, you and your teammates have been abducted by a serial killer, chained to a bedframe, and left in a dank stone room. A video by the killer sparks to life on the wall, and he informs you that he’s decided to give you a sporting chance at escaping his dungeon, proving that yes, sometimes escape rooms are a tiny bit like SAW. If you enjoy light horror themes and rubber body parts are your thing, you’ll have a good time with this one.

General Thoughts:

Going in, I’d already been kidnapped by several serial killers, as it seems this is an epidemic among room escape enthusiasts. This was one of the better of that subgenre, though at the start, the room felt a bit sparse. Getting around at the beginning was, for us, a barrel of laughs, which surely lightened the mood a bit, so I wouldn’t worry overmuch about the room being scary, though if you’re hesitant about being blindfolded and handcuffed, this will happen at the start. It is, as usual, all in good fun. Puzzles were solid, but there were points at which the flow of the room was disjointed, as sometimes there was zero cluing pointing us toward what to work on. This was usually temporary, as Breakout has a policy of unlimited hints.

High Points:

Breakout puts out very well themed rooms and interactions, and the Kidnapping is no exception. The room felt dank, but had a deep dungeon-ish feel with it’s high black ceilings. The technology used in the room was fun, and held a few surprises that I really enjoyed. The searching was really well done, minus one item that was just sort of there. Everything was on theme and felt like it belonged in the room.

Low Points:

Early on, there was a search item that was hidden in a groan-worthy way, and the way it was found made little satisfying sense. One larger puzzle felt disjointed in it’s presentation, but the journey there and the puzzle it set up were fun, so it was a minor hiccup. The room was also dimly lit to begin with, but not in a bad way, but we were able to turn on the fluorescent lighting almost immediately, which took away from the mood considerably. It’s a minor gripe, however, and I know others will be delighted to know they won’t have to spend long in the mood lighting.

Verdict:

The Kidnapping is a solid room, with just a few speed bumps in the way. The puzzles and the theme are all on point, and customer service, is, as always, perfect. As Breakout is a franchise, their rooms are very polished and their GMs are always well trained in my experience. This is a great spot for beginners to get their feet wet, and enthusiast can have fun with the room, even if it hinges on the easier side of things. Book a Kidnapping at your local Breakout here!

8/10 (Great)

Cipher Escape – The Geek Room (Review)

Location: Morrisville, NC

Price: $25 Per Person

Players: 4-12 (4 is a hard minimum, we recommend 6)

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

 

The Geek Room is proudly touted to be Cipher Escape’s most difficult room on their website, and it really does deliver on a tough, but fair, experience.

Theme:

The story of the Geek Room is that you’ve been asked to take care of your elderly neighbor’s cat, but once you’ve entered, the door has locked behind you and you need to search their techie house to escape. Why 4-12 people are needed to feed this cat is a conundrum in itself, but that’s beside the point. Overall, the story is just there to set up the “geek” theme, which doesn’t really hold up throughout the whole experience.

General Thoughts:

The Geek Room is very obviously just a big puzzle to solve, since the story and theme seem like more of an afterthought. This isn’t a bad thing, however, since the puzzling is solid, and the metapuzzle was fun to figure out. The room is littered with objects to find and interact with, and puzzles made good logical sense. Our group of four attacked the room fairly chaotically, which worked to our advantage, since there was just so much to do during our escape. There were a couple of fun technological surprises that worked very well and added to the fun, but I never felt immersed in a story.

High Points:

There were several puzzle paths to take, so none of us were at any point bored or lacking in things to do. All the technology worked smoothly and gave proper feedback, and many of the puzzles were well thought out and original. One interaction early on helped cement our need to work as a team, and had a satisfying conclusion.

Low Points:

One puzzle we spent the entire room coming back to and trying was one you’d expect grandma to buy and keep in her living room. It was off theme, cheap looking, and just a poor puzzle overall. In order to get past it, we asked for a hint and were told “I don’t have one for you.” This did nothing but frustrate us further, forcing us to give up and roll the dials on the lock until we’d skipped it. A couple of the puzzles were poorly clued, and one was already halfway open when we entered. It was explained that, yeah, it does that sometimes, which was a wholly unsatisfying answer.

Verdict:

Barring a frustrating gate puzzle, and a few failures on the part of the GM, The Geek Room was a fantastic time. Though it felt like a pure puzzle room rather than an immersive experience, this worked in it’s favor. Make sure you have a big enough group to tackle all the room has to offer, as though we escaped with only 4 teammates, we cut it close and were told that we were the first to successfully do so with the bare minimum. Beginners will enjoy the approachable puzzles, and enthusiasts will find fun technology to puzzle with. You can book your adventure in the Geek Room here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Welcome and A Word on Scores

Welcome to Escape Room Adventurer! Here you can expect to find reviews about a myriad of Escape Rooms, based mostly out of the South, an area I’ve found to be lacking in well thought out reviews. For each review, I’ll provide a score, and while many people don’t like to include scores, I find a simple 1-10 ranking scale can help quickly assess the quality of a room. They will be used subtly, however; casually added to the end of any review, so you can always ignore it if you don’t think it is useful.

Please also note that all reviews are the sole opinion of myself, the weirdo pictured here. Though my team photo is regularly featured, my opinion of the room is not necessarily in line with theirs.

Below, you’ll find a more in depth explanation of each score. I intend to use the full scale, with 1 being a functionally unplayable, or an experience devoid of joy, while a 10 will be reserved for those games that really blow the mind. Therefore, 5 is your average serviceable, if not all that interesting room.

10 (Sublime): A 10 represents the absolute best the industry has to offer. While perfection might be impossible, these rooms are pretty close. And rare. A 10 represents the current pinnacle of escapes, and are what all other rooms should seek to be.

9 (Excellent): A 9 represents a consistently excellent experience. While there may be negligible problems, these games are some of the finest I’ve played. Any enthusiast will enjoy this.

8 (Great): An 8 represents a room that most people will enjoy, even though the experience may include a blemish here or there. The room is a solid experience, and any hiccups are quickly recovered from.

7 (Good): A 7 represents an escape that is fun to play, and good for an afternoon’s fun, even if it may not be an exemplar of the genre. May have some dips in the overall flow, but is a serviceable game that will entertain those who like the theme or style of room.

6 (Alright): A 6 represents an acceptable game, these games are slightly above average, and would be an okay choice when booking a room. Nothing’s going to blow your mind here, but with the right team, you’ll have fun.

5 (Mediocre): A 5 represents “true neutral” on the scale. It doesn’t stand out in any way, but it doesn’t offend terribly. Could use some work to make it truly recommendable, these rooms do the bare minimum to qualify as run of the mill.

4 (Subpar): A 4 represents is an inferior experience. Though there might be a fun puzzle or interaction, it mostly gives way to banality. A lot of off theme, or just plain boring puzzles make this feel like filler rather than an adventure.

3 (Poor): A 3 represents a game with some serious problems. Any glimmer of hope is immediately squandered. Think a room that includes newspaper puzzles and those weird block games your grandmother had in her living room. Nothing much of note, but there are puzzles and it sort of counts as a room.

2 (Bad): A 2 represents a complete disaster. These games are broken, full of leaps of “logic,” and should only be attempted by the truly desperate. Might be worth going to if only for a laugh.

1 (Rubbish): A 1 represents a complete waste of time and space. A game here is offensive in it’s lack of redeeming factors. You will not have fun here. This room is bad, and the designer should feel bad.