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April 18, 2021

Claustrophobia: Dream Factory (Online, Moscow, Russia)

Dream Title

Claustrophobia invited us to play another large scale Zoom game called "Dream Factory". Like their first game we played (World Domination), there were six teams (four-five players per team) but this time each team represented a different movie studio. Each studio plotted towards achieving the biggest box office hits. This was more of a strategic game and not a traditional escape room as there were no puzzles to solve. We also teamed up with Room Escape Artist Hive Mind reviewers because of the scale of the game (see their review here). 

In every round of this game, each studio had to choose the genre of movie they wanted to produce, attempt to sign a celebrity to play the star, invest in advertising, tap into the paparazzi or buy marketing forecasts for industry intel.  Teams would meet in Zoom breakout rooms to discuss their selections in secret and then at the end of each of the five rounds, all teams would meet up and present their ideas.

Here is a breakdown of what each team had to be aware of.
  • Movie Stars: Each round you had to submit a single bid for one of four celebrities. If you were outbid, your movie would have no star and be adversely affected in terms of ticket sales. We asked if we could bid on two stars but were told that we probably shouldn't.
  • Genre: Each round, a genre was also chosen and the box office forecasts for each genre could be known ahead of time if money was spent on a marketing forecast. The tricky part was that the box office dollars were split equally by all studios that had the same genre so it could be better to choose a less popular theme in order to get the full earnings potential.
  • Paparazzi: Some celebrities would be caught in some scandals, thus affecting their movie box office performance. A studio could avoid this actor if they paid money for some intel.
  • Advertising: This somehow affected your revenue as well but it wasn't quite clear as to how much of a difference it made.

Highlights and Memorable Moments

Every round, each team had to present their film and it was fun but also quite stressful to come up with anything coherent in as little as eight minutes! At the end of the presentations, teams voted for what they thought was the best movie of the round and a score was presented. The goal of this game really wasn't to "win" but more to have fun with some ridiculous story telling. Once a studio had a box office lead, we noticed that they never got any votes for best movie, despite getting the most laughs or having the most clever punch lines. This was one of those games where everyone could team up and slow down the leader by simply not awarding them any votes. Nonetheless, this experience provided a ton of laughs and was highly dependent on the personalities of the individuals who participated. 

One of the movie hits was an extremely inappropriate, but hilarious NC-17 rated blockbuster that was concocted by some dirty minds.

Dream Factory
Really amazing group of people!

Room For Improvement

While there was a scoring system in the form of box office revenue, it wasn't quite clear how this was affected by the different elements in the game. How bad was it to not have a movie star or to not put any resources into advertising? We didn't have a clue. There was also some text that was still in Russian but we were able to Google translate it pretty quickly. 

Another aspect that should be considered was that shy people found themselves standing back as an observer. Perhaps a game mechanic that made everyone present something could have mitigated this?

Dream Score
From Claustrophobia

Overall Thoughts

I always appreciate the large style online games (+30 players) as it's incredibly difficult to craft an activity where so many people, for the most part, can actively participate in. Dream Factory's free flowing structure opened the door to whatever was in the minds of its participants which led to something entertaining and hilarious. It was almost like watching an Improv show where all the participants were winners. We recommend playing this game with people who don't take themselves too seriously and who perhaps have a tad of silliness in them.
  • Difficulty: Just have fun!
  • Number of players: 12-35 (we recommend 24)
  • Duration:  1.5-2 hours
  • Overall Rating: ★★★

Disclosure: Claustrophobia comped the tickets for this game

March 27, 2021

The Secret Library: Escape Atlantis (Online)

Escape Atlantis


Secret Library's newest game, "Escape Atlantis", was the first escape room game that we played in 2021. It has been a slow year and we are really hoping that things pick up soon and that everything returns to normal. Nonetheless, we happily took our group of six players into this game with no prior knowledge of what to expect which was a rarity for us! From Secret Library's site:

"Escape Atlantis is a traditional escape room with challenging puzzles and a unique storyline within the Secret Library narrative universe. This experience ventures beyond the common videoconferencing experience to include an integrated floorplan to encourage immersion and autonomy. Search for clues and work collboratively as you uncover the mysteries surrounding this ethereal realm of knowledge. This experience utilizes interactive features to bring you into the story even before the event even begins."

The layout of the game was something that we had not seen before in the previous online escape rooms played. There was a mini-map of Atlantis where we could click on different locations in order to "travel" there. Once at the location, we had access to puzzle elements and the input mechanic was typically typing in the answer. The novel part was that people in the same room were able to see and talk to each other with what seemed to be some sort of Zoom video integration. When players left the room, you could no longer communicate with them so this was a pretty realistic way of simulating a physical escape room. The game also utilized videos in order to tell the story throughout the experience. 

The puzzles in the game were standard for escape rooms and involved logic, ciphers codes and pattern recognition. 

Highlights and Memorable Moments 

The technology used to move people around the virtual space was great. Popping in and out of a location and seeing who was in the room with you provided a strong sense of connection that we normally take for granted when everyone can always see each other. The finale also provided some inadvertent laughs as we botched the last riddle with some ridiculous logic. 

Room For Improvement

The puzzles were similar to puzzles that you would find on paper in an escape room. The puzzles were all fair and logical but we felt that they didn't leverage the online medium in a way that other online escape rooms did. Also, looking at puzzles pieces on multiple tabs was a bit clunky.

Overall Thoughts

This game would be great for players who like a traditional "point and click" game and who are itching to get back into playing escape rooms. 




  • Set design: 2D Map
  • Difficulty: Average
  • Price: $100/game
  • Number of players: Up to 8, (we recommend 3-4), private
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating (For Online games): ★★★★
See their website here: https://www.secretlibrary.io

Disclosure: The Secret Library comped the tickets for this game

February 1, 2021

World Domination (Online, Claustrophobia/Tulleys Escape)

Global dominance banner

One of the world's largest escape room creators, Claustrophobia, has created an online game called World Domination, where six teams (four to five players per team), each representing a different country, plot towards achieving...world domination. We played the English version of this game via Tulleys Escape Room in London, where we actually had the pleasure in 2019 to play their wonderful physical escape rooms

In this game, each country can focus on growing their economy, which in turns gives them more money to spend on actions the next round, or developing a nuclear program and bombing other cities. There are 6 rounds and before each round, there is a 15 minute negotiation period where teams can decide how to spend their money and also visit other countries to negotiate whatever nefarious plans they may have. As countries develop their cities, their average standard of living score increases but if a city is bombed, that city's score goes to zero. The country with the highest score after six rounds is the winner. This online game takes place via a Zoom conference call.

Each country can spend their money on the following actions:
  • Develop their cities and helping grow their economy (more $ for the next round)
  • Put a shield on one of their own cities
  • Research nuclear technology (eventually make and launch bombs)
  • Improving the world ecology
  • Sanction another country to reduce their economy


Highlights and Memorable Moments

The game is not an escape room but more like a game of Risk mixed in with a lot of behind the scenes negotiations. The people that you play with will have much more of an impact on how entertaining the game is even when compared to an escape room where your teammates are really important. The fun really happens when you act as an ambassador and visit another country's zoom chat to try and strike a deal or get insights. Improv and charm will go a long way and if you are not comfortable with that, it might be a bit awkward. At the end of each round, the UN Speaker (i.e. game master) will show the status of the standard of living for every city and this is how everyone can see if some countries have been investing their economy or...weapons!

Zoom screenshot of the group

As the President of each country voices their opinions for the state of affairs, many things can be taken out of context which is actually how real life politics works. For example, our President was making small talk and congratulating the countries with the highest standard of living with no ill intentions, yet we found out that those countries thought we were trying to paint a target on their backs. It was really fun to see some people doing their best to act Presidential and everyone in our game happened to be really polite and almost too nice. It would have been funnier to have a bad boy who did crazy stuff. :)

It was amazing to get such a big group of people together and to interact with them in such an engaging manner. My country, the Bahamas, was able to coordinate precise attacks on two of the top cities in the game to radically change the leaderboard. The final round had TONS of bombing with basically every country losing at least one city. Here were the results of the game:

Game Leaderboard
Game Results

Room For Improvement

From a technical aspect, some players got stuck in another country's Zoom meeting as you had to press the help button and wait for a UN representative to transfer you back to your own country's Zoom break out room. This was generally fine for all but the final frantic round where everyone was trying to strike deals. It was difficult to get a meeting with another country because the UN representatives were super busy and it was nerve wracking to see the clock ticking down while your game depended on reaching out to another country to take down the leaders.

There was some dead air in between rounds when the Presidents of each country were allowed to openly discuss things. I think that more prompting by the UN for each country to at least give some words each round would have made things more interesting. Of course, this is where having colorful people in the game makes things super funny.

One more round, for a total of seven rounds, would have been preferable as all the action takes place towards the end. 


Overall Thoughts

World Domination was a unique and entertaining experience. The group dynamics is even more fun when you know the majority of the people in the game. While there were some frantic moments and some logistics that can be improved upon, the game really worked well with such a large group and the more extroverted the people, the funnier it will be! If you can wrangle a sizable crowd or want to celebrate an event, this would surely be memorable and enjoyable.
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: £9.95/person
  • Number of players: 12-35 (we recommend 24)
  • Duration:  1.5-2 hours
  • Overall Rating: ★★★

Disclosure: Tulleys Escape Rooms & Games comped the tickets for this game

January 5, 2021

2020 Escape Rumors Achievement unlocked Medalists


2020 was a crazy year and we wanted to look back at the positives and announce a short list of top escape rooms that we played.  The winners below are a mix of both traditional physical rooms and online based games.

Achievement unlocked medals are awarded every year to the top escape rooms played by Escape Rumors. There is no limit in terms of rooms awarded and they are sorted alphabetically.

The escape rooms with direct links have reviews. Feel free to contact us at info@escaperumors.com for any comments or questions.

Escape Rumors Achievement unlocked Medalists

Frost Base Z (Rabbit Hole, Denver, Colorado)
Frost Base Z takes place on a magnificent frozen base straight out of the movies!

Ghost Patrol (Trivium, Emeryville, California) - Review to come
The clean design along some great puzzle evolution all the way to the finale makes Ghost Patrol a satisfying experience from beginning to end!

Plight Of The Margo Part 1 & 2 (ConTRAPtions, For Collins, Colorado)
This puzzle-heavy escape room has the most intense starship set design we have ever seen, along with some serious equipment to go along with it!

Pursuit of Assassin Artist (Omescape, Online)
Pursuit of The Assassin Artist delivers a top of class experience with a novel game mechanic that will reset your expectations of an online escape room!

Starlight Motel (Escape Artist, Greenville, South Carolina)
Some fun actor interaction, sprinkled with some tense moments within a creepy motel is what makes this room standout when compared to others in the genre!

The Truth About Edith (Mad Genius Escape Co., Online)
The Truth About Edith blends a whimsical storyline, fun mini-games and a 97 year young lady all into a comedic and delightful experience not to be missed!

Virtual X-Caper (Agent November, Online)
If you are looking for a lighthearted, witty and genuinely hilarious online escape room, you should definitely play Virtual X-Caper!


Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to 2021!

December 5, 2020

2020 Online Escape Room Recap

One of the many fine online games played this year!

Over the course of this crazy year, we had the opportunity to play a few more online escape rooms, in addition to some great ones like "The Truth About Edith" and "The Ruins" earlier this year. Here is our recap of new games played


Play-At-Home Escape Room Recap


Lost Escape: The Steampunk Adventure (Lithuania)

This was a physical room that was available for online play via an avatar who was extremely friendly and welcoming. Prior to playing the game, we were sent an email with some images that provided a closer look at some elements in the actual room. While the gameplay was standard for a linear escape room, the contraptions and steampunk devices were just wonderful to see and "play" with. It was one of those rooms that would have been great to play in person because of all of the tactile puzzles (no padlocks) and cool gadgets to fiddle around with. There were some nice special effects (again, wish we saw them in person) and you could the passion that the creators had in producing a nicely polished game. 

The Steampunk Adventure game transports you into an immersive world with tons of delightful and interactive mechanical devices. To top it off, we had a superb Avatar that perfectly helped us along the way and we can't wait to play their next adventure!
  • Set Design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: €10/person
  • Number of players: Up to 6 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★
Steampunk Adventure

Agent November: Virtual X-Caper (London, UK)

Based on previous experiences, I believe that games in London always have great actors. This could be due to either of the following reasons: Actors are London's greatest export / Anyone with a British accent sounds prestigious. Virtual X-Caper was no exception as the actor in this game was brilliant in a comedic and whimsical fashion. The game starts off with you seeing/hearing everything that your avatar sees and they did a great job in making us feel that we were in his head.

As you might have guessed, the highlight of this game was the actor interaction that took place in what was otherwise a basic set and a common spy theme. Sometimes we would laugh as our spy proceeded to be silly while in the back of our minds we wanted to shout out "we don't have time for this you fool!". There were a decent amount of padlocks to open, paper puzzles to solve, some meta video games nods and some nice touches of real life elements. While this game might be a bit on the lighter side for puzzlers, I think that anyone with a good sense of humor will appreciate the game for what it is. I tend to prefer immersion over puzzles and I quite thoroughly enjoyed this experience because of the puns and the witty character at hand. 

If you are looking for a lighthearted, witty and genuinely hilarious online escape room, you should definitely play Virtual X-Caper! Can we have more of Agent November please?
  • Set Design: Basic
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: ~$20/person
  • Number of players: Up to 6 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★
Virtual X-Caper

Omescape : Pursuit of The Assassin Artist (Sunnyvale, CA)

This is another really fascinating online only game where we had a video game-like mechanic of having "multiple lives". The decisions we made could lead to our Avatar's death and the game would start over from scratch and we'd have to repeat our actions in order to advance again. The element of role-playing was big so if you are into that, you would definitely like this game. While the puzzles were not overly complex, there were a few times where we had to do things that are not permissible in an actual escape room. Overall, the unique format and the great dynamics of having two actors makes this a great room if you could swallow the price tag of $190/game. 

Pursuit of The Assassin Artist delivers a top of class experience with a novel game mechanic that will reset your expectations of an online escape room!
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $190! flat fee per game 
  • Number of players: 2-8, (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★

60out : Orion's Ridiculous Revenge (Los Angeles, CA)

This was a free game offered by 60out and was a mix of a point-and-click game with cut scenes that were used to move the story along. There was a live game master that helped with setting everything up but was for the most part not part of the game. At first when I heard about the format, I had my doubts but the game was well done and funny if you are ok with some raunchy humor. There were a lot of adult-only references so keep that in mind if you are thinking about playing this game. We had a lot of laughs and your enjoyment will be a lot more dependent on who you play even with compared to other games. At times, we could fast tracked our way through or half-heartedly play along with some of the sillier elements but we were all fully engaged!
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Price: Was free but now $15/person
  • Number of players: Up to 8, (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★


Society of Curiosities : Mysterious Map Heist (Online/Physical)

We received an envelope in the mail that brought us on a treasure hunt for. The contents of the envelope were some paper puzzles and some clues to help find an artifact of some sort. What was really clever about this game was how they integrated real life concepts that blurred the line between game play and reality. One of the most gratifying aspects involved interacting with one of the characters in the game via actual text messaging. We didn't know if we were texting a bot or an actual person so we tried some off topic messages and it really felt like there was a real person on the other end. If we can't tell the difference, then does it really matter?
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30-$40/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8, (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★
Mysterious Map

Image from societyofcuriosities.com


The Escape Game: Truth Seekers (Nashville, TN)

This game was a modified version of The Escape Game's "The Heist" room and a tie-in to a new show, "Truth Seekers, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on Amazon Prime. Just like their other game (Ruins) that we played, we had a live avatar who took directions from the group and played through a physical room. The same 360 degree room view and inventory was used which really helped with any sort of motion sickness that one might experience. Our avatar was helpful and very professional and The Escape Game seems to always excel in this aspect. Overall, the game was pretty short (32 minutes) but a great entry into the world of online escape rooms.
  • Set Design: Fine 
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Price: Free
  • # of Players: 2-8 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★


Wild Hare Escapes: Serf's Quest (Online Only)

This retro-style point-and-click game was a parody of games like King's Quest. The 8-bit look along with the old school feeling were spot on. One of the highlights of this game was all the puns which gave the team a few good laughs. One room for improvement would be to automate hints with text boxes as opposed to having a live game master read them out to you. We were two remote groups that were essentially playing the game independently so any tasks that one group did, the other would have to backtrack and do the same.  This format would be better suited as a single player/connection game.  
  • Set Design: Nice 8-bit graphics
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $25/person
  • Number of players: Up to 10 (we recommend 2-3 with one connection)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: N/A, not an online escape room
 
The Room VR: A Dark Matter (Oculus Quest) 

This multiple award winning VR game was extremely polished and clean. So far, this game was the closest a virtual game could get in terms of replicating the feel of a physical escape room. While the old school theme wasn't one of my favorite, the game play was so gratifying and smooth that I kept getting sucked back into it.
  • Set Design: Amazing VR sets
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30
  • Number of players: 1
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★


Other Online Rooms Previously Played

We hope this post helps out anyone who is looking for some online escape rooms to play!

Note that some of the above games may have been complimentary to our team.




November 21, 2020

Denver Escape Room Recap

Rabbit Hole Paradox

A short stop over in Denver allowed us to play a handful of really fun games. We did not have much time but we were still able to hit most of the top locations in the area. We were also fortunate enough to make our way to Fort Collins for a day as well and the below will recap our experiences.


Impressions & Observations During Our Denver Escape Room Trip


Getting Around

We opted to use ride apps to get around because renting a car for some reason was almost $100/day. It worked out cheaper for us this way and were lucky to get a lift up to Fort Collins.

Game Impressions
The level of polish for the games that we played was high and the puzzling was also challenging. One of the games we played had such a stunning atmosphere and another was difficult to the point where I could see a lot of people struggling to enjoy the moment. More on this to come.

Do Other Things 
We really did not have much time but many people have recommended a visit to Colorado Springs. Perhaps the next time we visit we will be able to see a little more of the area and the surroundings.


Denver Escape Room Recap


Rabbit Hole  (Louisville, CO)
Games played: "Frost Base Z" and "Paradox"

"Frost Base Z" took place on a magnificent frozen base straight out of the movies! While the "virus in the lab" theme was far from unique, the execution of this game was at another level compared to most games out there. The puzzles were thematic and it made us feel that we were in a different world. It might be because I am a huge sci-fi fan but I really enjoyed the tech used to integrate the puzzles and move the story along. This was our favorite room in Denver.

"Paradox" had an inventor's theme and the central gameplay revolved around a sleek looking centerpiece. The game started off in an ordinary fashion and there were some really visually spectacular effects that took place. Solid game play, similar to "Frost Base Z", but with less discovery.
  • Set Design: Amazing!
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30-$40/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8, (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Frost Base Z ★★★, Paradox★★★★½
Frost Base Z
Rabbit Hole Lobby


Conundrum (Arvada, CO)
Games played: "Experiment C73", "Hollywood Mystery"

"Experiment C73" was a psychological experiment that had a lot of "aha" puzzles. There wasn't anything flashy but the gameplay was clever, clean and different enough to be a very enjoyable room. I am biased towards rooms that make me chuckle. 

"Hollywood Mystery" was a standard room meant for beginners and it would actually be a great starter room for anyone. It's easy and gets your feet wet in the world of escape rooms.

  • Set Design: Average 
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium
  • Price: $25-$40/person 
  • # of Players: 2-8 (we recommend 2)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Experiment C73 ★½, Paradox ★★★

303 Escape (Thornton, CO)
Games played: "Homicide Hotel"

"Homicide Hotel" was the new kid in town and almost nobody we knew had the chance to play this game. I normally skip horror rooms but was assured this was more creepy than scary. The room turned out to be a pleasant surprise with great immersion and discovery. It was on the easier side but it is defintely work playing if you are in the area.
  • Set Design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Price: $30-40/person
  • Number of players: 2-6 (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½
303 Escape

 
ConTRAPtions (Fort Collins, CO) 
Games Played: "Plight of the Margo Part 1 & 2"

"Plight of the Margo" was an interesting game. The set felt like an actual industrial spaceship like what you see in the movies. The computer interface was something out of a movie. The props were great and there were so many things in the room that...we often did not have a clue what to do. This 3 hour game had a LOT going on and the level of difficulty was very high. We played with two newbies and you could tell that it was just too much. At times, some teammates would spend 20 minutes on a task where they knew exactly what to do, it just was hard to get right. Indeed a polarizing game but nonetheless quite impressive for seasoned veterans looking for something different.
  • Set Design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Price: $76/person 
  • Number of players: Up to 10 (we recommend 4-6)
  • Duration: 180 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★ (for the puzzle inclined only) 
Margo Group


Other Escape Rooms In The Area

Some other rooms that we heard great things about during our research and talks with locals but did not play were:
  • Rabbit Hole: We didn't get to play "Ruins of the Mystic Temple"
  • Fort Collins Escape Room: Just a few blocks from ConTRAPtions but we didn't have time to swing by.
We hope this post helps out anyone who is hoping to venture off to Denver to play escape rooms!


October 18, 2020

North Carolina & South Carolina Escape Room Recap

Crystal Cave at Valcarol
One of North Carolina's escape room stand outs: The Crystal Cave @ Valcarol
The Carolinas are often touted for having great Southern food but how is their escape room scene? Not many people in our network have played games in the area and this was not planned as an escape room trip but, as usual, I threw in a few games here and there :) There was a prominent local blogger (www.escapeadventurer.com) that we relied heavily on for recommendations so here is a shout out to Brandon for answering all our questions!

We based ourselves in Charlotte, NC and traveled to a few cities that were all within a two hour drive, as noted below. Based on our research, we believe we hit up pretty much the best rooms that were open in the area.
  • Concord, NC - 30min northeast of Charlotte
  • Indian Trail, NC - 30min southeast
  • Greenville, SC - 1h45min west
  • Columbia, SC - 1h35min south

Impressions & Observations During Our Charlotte Escape Room Trip


Responsive Escape Room Owners & Employees
We sometimes reach out to owners/employees in order to facilitate the booking of back to back rooms and almost every single one was super responsive. Not only were they responsive, they were also extremely kind and friendly and more so than almost any other city that we have been to! It must have been the Southern hospitality you hear about! 

Getting Around
As you would expect, a car is needed in order to get around. Traffic seemed to be light, even during rush hour except when we were driving back to Charlotte from Greenville (Sunday evening) where the opposite direction was backed up for miles.

Local Charm
All the games that we played were crafted with TLC. Some ranged from high quality homemade to some pretty elaborate sets. While the themes we encountered were not original, we still had a lot of fun playing every game.

Do Other Things 
If you are visiting Charlotte for the first time, here are some ideas of what you can do other than escape rooms:
  • U.S. National White Water Center (Charlotte): This is a must visit if you love any sort of outdoor activity. You can choose over 30 different things to try, ranging from a man-made white water rafting course, rock climbing over a pool, treetop climbing, ledge jumping, zip-lining, etc. Plan to spend the whole day here!
White Water Center
  • Food (Charlotte): Try out "Oh My Soul", a South African plant-based comfort food restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area. It is located in the NoDa neighborhood, which is absolutely charming to walk around.
  • Food (Columbia, SC): "A Piece of Soul Vegan Kitchen", arguably the best chicken sandwich I've ever had in my life!


North Carolina & South Carolina Escape Room Recap


Escape Artist Greenville (Greenville, SC)
Games played: "Starlight Motel", "Classified" and "Zero to Hero"

"Starlight Motel" was a favorite amongst locals, including other owners, and had the traditional creepy serial killer theme. It had the largest footprint of all the games we played at this location and the highlight was the actor interaction. I typically find that a good actor enhances the immersion of a room and that was definitely accomplished in Starlight Motel. Other than a few light jump scares, it was not that scary relative to other rooms we have played in cities like LA.

"Classified" was the preferred room by some team members as the theme was cute and more unique. I did not know what the theme was before booking and I think it would be more fun going in not reading anything about it. I would say that this room is just as fun as Starlight but in a lighthearted way. I highly recommend doing this room along with Starlight Motel if you are passing by the area.

"Zero to Hero" was a split room game that was fun but there was a lack of adventure. Think of it as a test or a trial of sorts, which fit the theme perfectly but then took away from the immersion. Like the other two rooms, there was actually a good amount of technology embedded in the puzzles.

All three games we played were extremely polished and clean. Set designs were great and puzzles were all pretty fair. Escape Artist was definitely one of the highlights in the area!
  • Set Design: Great!
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $30-$35/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8, private (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Starlight Motel & Classified ★★★★½, Zero to Hero ★★★½
Starlight Motel
Starlight Motel
Zero To Hero
Zero To Hero

The Final Door (Columbia, SC)
Games played: "Down The Rabbit Hole", "The Vampyre"

"Down The Rabbit Hole" was one of the top rooms that we played on our trip! We do tend to favor lighthearted themes and games with a large footprint which both fit this game perfectly. I've played a few Alice in Wonderland games and this so far has been the best one. I have never seen the movie so there were probably some references that flew over my head but I knew enough to have a really good time. Most of the puzzles utilized padlocks but that didn't detract from any of the gameplay. A must play in Columbia!

"The Vampyre" was also a high quality room with some nice effects. I would say that this room had a similar calibre in terms of execution to "Down the Rabbit Hole" but with more technology wrapped in a more common theme. There were some nice customized elements in this game though that will be sure to make you smile.

Both rooms had a great sense of discovery as you moved along the game. Ratings are for both rooms.
  • Set Design: Great! 
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium
  • Price: $30-$35/person 
  • # of Players: 2-8 (we recommend 2-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½
The Final Door
Down The Rabbit Hole & Vampyre

The Valcarol Missions (Concord, NC)
Games played: "The Hidden Lab", "The Crystal Cave" 

"The Crystal Cave" was set in the year 3049 and we were a crew trying to repair a water filtration system in a post-apocalyptic world. This game was a real treat as we were greeted with a spectacular set with some awesome technology. With a good variety of puzzle types and spacious area, the game was a standout in the market.

"The Hidden Lab" had us search for a vaccine to save humanity. Once again we are in the year 3049 where padlocks no longer exist! As you develop the vaccine, you get to interact with a futuristic centerpiece that you don't often see in escape rooms. Along with some nice reveals and some nice effects, this game is on par with "The Crystal Cave".  

Both games are part of the same storyline and form two parts of a trilogy created by the owners of Valcarol. The set design and immersion were one of the best in the Charlotte area and the amount of automation that was programmed was impressive. We got to peek at the control center for all the games and what was created by a team of two people was unbelievable.  Ratings are for both rooms.
  • Set Design: Amazing!
  • Difficulty: Medium/Hard
  • Price: $26/person
  • Number of players: 2-8 (we recommend 2-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Valcarol graciously provided complimentary games for us!

The Lab Valcarol
The Hidden Lab

Masterpiece Escapes (Indian Trail, NC)
 
Games Played: "Deadwood Saloon" and "Drained"

"The Deadwood Saloon" had a standard theme but was more involved them many of the other Western games that we played. For a group of two, we were pretty busy figuring out how to solve everything. 

"Drained" was designed for kids and while there were some out of the box puzzles, there were many things in the room that were not to be touched. Given that there was searching involved, this rule made it somewhat awkward with the in-room GM.
  • Set Design: Deadwood Salon - Great, Drained - Average 
  • Difficulty: Medium/Easy
  • Price: $25/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8 (we recommend 2-4)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: Deadwood Saloon ★★★★, Drained ★★★
Deadwood Saloon
Deadwood Saloon
Drained
Drained

The Box (Charlotte, NC)
Games Played: "Cold Case Killer", "The Ventriloquist"

"Cold Case Killer" had a nice start where we were greeted by the GM in character. The room itself took place in a standard home with a nice twist along the way. 

"The Ventriloquist" takes place in a single room but with some nice puzzles in a somewhat unique take on the serial killer theme.  

Both rooms are great for those starting to get into escape rooms.
  • Set Design: Average
  • Difficulty: Average
  • Price: $28/person 
  • Number of players: 2-8,  (we recommend 2-3)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating:★★★½

Ventriloquist
The Ventriloquist


Timed Out (Charlotte, NC) 
Games Played: "Precinct"

This started off as a standard "whodunit" mystery and with the help of a few plot twists, became much more exciting. Solving cases had never been more fun and even the opening of padlocks were enjoyable because of the theme. There were quite a few things that some enthusiasts will have seen many times before but the satisfying ending sets it apart from other games with the same theme. 
  • Set Design: Average 
  • Difficulty: Above Average Price: $28/person 
  • Number of players: 2-5, private (we recommend 2) 
  • Duration: 60 minutes 
  • Overall Rating:★★★½ 

Escape Plan (Columbia, SC) 
Games Played: "Floor 23" 

This game took place in an elevator and the setting was superb. There were some quality effects and jump scares all packed into a tight space. The puzzles however, often required leaps of logic on more than a single occasion so takes hints liberally. 
  • Set Design: Great! 
  • Difficulty: Hard 
  • Price: $28/person 
  • Number of players: 2-5, private (we recommend 2) 
  • Duration: 60 minutes 
  • Overall Rating:★★★½

Other Escape Rooms In The Area

Some other rooms that we heard great things about during our research and talks with locals but did not play were:
  • Exit Strategy (Charlotte): With 2 locations, this was the first company in Charlotte to open up escape rooms. They were unfortunately closed when we were in town.
  • Mind Games (Rock Hill, SC): CarnEvil was also recommended by owners and is directly in between Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC. 
  • Escape Plan (Columbia, SC): We didn't get to play Mutiny here
We hope this post helps out anyone who is hoping to venture off to Charlotte to play escape rooms!

September 7, 2020

The Escape Game: Ruins Forbidden Treasure (Online)


I have not played many online games and was debating whether I should play any rooms that were converted from a physical escape rooms to an online one.  Would I be doing myself a disservice by playing a top notch game (in-person) that was reduced for a virtual audience? Given the current state of affairs, I decided that I would play The Escape Game's latest room online with some friends who have not played many escape rooms before. From The Escape Game's site:

"You’re on a relaxing aerial tour of a remote jungle when everything suddenly falls apart. You’re stranded at the foot of ancient and mysterious temple ruins – home of a massive fabled treasure. Adventure has come knocking and the treasure could be yours for the taking! Fortune favors the bold. Will it favor you?"

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

This game was played via an in-game actor with a webcam. The actor would take directives from our group to solve various puzzles in a similar fashion to other online games we played. The main difference here was that once you entered a room, you had access to a 360 degree photo of it and could peruse the space at your leisure in order to determine what was important. That made a HUGE difference in terms of not getting motion sickness which basically forced me to quit games in the past. Having everyone search through this virtual interface was fantastic and an amazing way to recreate the escape room feeling at home. There was also a virtual inventory box where items would appear when the in-game actor found something, and then disappear when it was no longer needed. 

The set looked amazing, and did make me feel that I was missing out a bit on the immersion by not playing the physical room. There were some fun tactile puzzles and room transitions that would definitely have been better to play in real life but playing them virtually was still a great experience. 

The use of the technology was excellent, just like in their Special Ops game. We really did feel like the game took place on a movie set. Some enthusiasts might find the puzzles to be less challenging but for 98% of players, including myself, they were perfectly fine for the theme. 

If you are able to play this game in person, I would highly recommend that you do, otherwise playing this game online would be the next best thing.

Memorable Moments 

I love how The Escape Game perfectly immersed us into the world of adventure and the journey from room to room was seamless and exciting. Some of our teammates were in awe about what actually happened before our eyes!

Room For Improvement

One of the puzzles towards the end would have been much easier to perform in-person with multiple hands. Given this was adapted for online play, there wasn't much that could have been changed so it's understandable given the circumstances.

Overall Thoughts

I would think that this room is up there with one of the tops rooms I have played at The Escape Game (the other being Special Ops). I might actually even replay this room in person if I ever get chance!




  • Set design: Excellent
  • Difficulty: Average
  • Price: $28/person
  • Number of players: 3-8, (we recommend 3-4), private
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating (For Online games): ★★★★★
See their website here: https://theescapegame.com

Disclosure: The Escape Game comped the tickets for this game

August 3, 2020

Escape Rumor's Vlog #1: Room Escape Artist + Special Guests


We are happy to present our first vlog with David and Lisa Spira from RoomEscapeArtist (REA)! Some topics covered:

- Escape Rooms in Athens, Greece
- Upcoming RECON event hosted by REA
- Us playing games and laughing...this is the best part :)

We also had some guest appearances by some personalities that escape room enthusiasts would definitely know about.

We are wondering what the next topic should be. Given this vlog was really fun to create, we'd like to create more and are open to suggestions in the comments.

July 7, 2020

Logic Locks: The Secret Of Eliza's Heart (Online Game)


This post was written by Daniel M., who we had the pleasure of playing this game with. He has played escape rooms all around the world and one of our best teammates!

This was our first experience doing an escape room remotely and it definitely scratched my escape room itch while sheltering in place! The physical room is in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and was completed via video call with our game master/companion holding a camera as we instructed him on what we wanted to do in the room. The game master was in character throughout the escape which really added to the experience. We played as a team of four from two different locations which worked well. From their website:

"Greetings Investigators! My name is Richard Fimblewood and soon we will meet face-to-face - or at least screen-to-screen. I am quite relieved you signed up for the task of helping me to explore the study chamber of the infamous explorer Elizabeth van Leeuwenhart. I do have to admit that I am still a bit nervous. We have only one shot and a limited time to make this work… However I'm sure that with your assistance it should all work out."

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles

One of the biggest downsides of doing a physical escape room remotely is that you lose a bit of atmosphere by not actually being in the room. That said, our game master’s narration (and trepidation!) as he interacted with the room and puzzles, and his quips and humor did help keep us fully engaged. Technology and set design were similar to what you’d expect in higher end generation one rooms. The puzzles were clever but overall there weren’t very many of them. However this is probably required since you can’t divide and conquer different tasks or even search due to the remote aspect of the game.

Memorable Moments 

This room will always stand out for me as our first endeavor with remote escape rooms. It's amazing to be able to experience an escape room halfway across the globe from the comfort of your home. Additionally the finale of the room definitely built suspense and left me satisfied.

Room For Improvement

The only slight complaint was how the video was filmed. While the GM tried their best to keep the camera steady one of our team members became nauseous and wasn’t able to complete the game. However, the rest of us felt ok.

Overall Thoughts

Eliza’s heart was a great introduction to remote escape rooms and I love the fact that we can now play rooms that we probably would never get the chance to go to. One other pleasant surprise is that they mail you a few additional puzzles for completion at home.

Envelope with a bunch of goodies!
These were fun and on par with upper end puzzles from box escape games. These were a great way to revisit the theme and have some more fun!
  • Set design: Fun and in line with Gen-1 rooms
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: 23 Euros per person/private
  • Number of players: 2-7 (recommend 2-4)
  • Duration: 80 minutes
  • Overall Rating:  ★★★★ (½★ bump for extra gameplay at home)
See their website here:  https://www.logiclocks.com/live-video-escape-rooms

Logic Locks graciously provided complimentary tickets

June 13, 2020

The Escape Game: Unlocked (Online Game)


The Escape Game is one of the largest corporate escape room companies in the world. Over the past two years, I played five of their games and if you are ever in one of the 17 cities they are present in, you should make an effort to stop by.  My favorite rooms were Special Ops and Playground and both were some of the top rooms I have ever played. We jumped at the opportunity to play a brand new, digital only game: TEG: Unlocked VOL 1 & 2. From their site:

"The Heist - Vol. 1: Chasing Hahn 
Work as a secret agent to thwart the infamous art curator and suspected art thief, Vincent Hahn. You’ll need to uncover his true identity, connect him to a crime, and work with the International Police to finally exact justice. With the help of your Intelligence Agent, you’ll need to stop Hahn before another masterpiece goes missing. *This volume, “Chasing Hahn”, is a continuation of The Heist story, but you don’t need to play The Heist escape game first. The experience will be the same whether you’ve played The Heist or not. 

The Heist - Vol. 2: The Silk Road: 
Vincent Hahn just barely escaped, but Intel has noticed some suspicious activity in Hong Kong. According to reports, Hahn is dealing with artifacts related to the Silk Road. Your mission is to go there, find Hahn, and capture him before he can get away. "

Design, Technology & Puzzles

The format of these games were as per the below:


The dossier was comprised of PDF files that acted as the evidence from the heist. There were quite a few files to go through and the game utilized an online terminal to verify your solutions to various puzzles. As you correctly determine answers to the mission, things opened up and you are granted access to more material to study. 

The Dashboard interface was slick and it reminded me of the what I have seen in one of their physical escape rooms. Think of it like something that you would see in a Mission:Impossible movie. Here is their trailer to give you an idea of how the game looks:

 


Vol. 1 was actually a physical kit that went sent out to people and then digitized and offered online.  The puzzles were focused on examining evidence from a crime scene and somewhat similar to what you would find in a standard escape room that had paper puzzles. The overall gameplay was definitely not as exciting as a physical room and going into it knowing this would help set expectations.

I believe that Vol. 2 was conceptualized as a digital only game which was why we felt that it was a lot stronger in terms of immersion and gameplay. There were some interesting puzzles that involved multimedia elements that really made it a lot of fun. We enjoyed the presentation and the flow quite a bit.

Memorable Moments 

Vol. 2 was definitely an improvement on its predecessor and the way that the story unraveled with the use of video was very clever. It seems so real despite not having a live person acting in the game! The feeling of being a remote secret agent and working with field agents was fantastic!

Room For Improvement

There was an instance in Volume 1 where outside knowledge was needed and it was not known to the group until we were forced to take a hint. I think we spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure it out and it was pretty frustrating to find out that we had to Google the answer.

In Volume 2, we almost missed a critical segment of the story by pressing the "back" button on the browser. We tried to go forward but the story was gone and we were able to get it back by going into incognito mode. Phew!

Overall Thoughts

Online games are definitely not the same as physical but for $10, we highly recommend playing Vol 2.




  • Design: Clean Input Interface
  • Difficulty: Above average for Vol. 1, Below average for Vol. 2
  • Price: $10/game
  • Number of players: 1-4
  • Duration:  Play at your own pace but likely 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: TEG Vol 1 ★★★, Vol. 2 ★★★★ 
See their website here: https://theescapegame.com/unlocked/


May 13, 2020

Mad Genius: The Truth About Edith (Online Game)


This post was written by Melanie R. from Montreal, Canada.

This online escape room is perfectly suited for the current circumstances of the COVID-19 quarantine. It was a 4 player game and we played it as 2 players from Montreal (Melanie/Jay) with 2 players from California (Randy/Sarah). We were unsure of how an online escape room would work, but we were pleasantly surprised, to say the least! Randy and Sarah played the precursor to this game, The Cat Lady (a physical escape room in Portland OR that won the honors for a top Escape Room in 2018) and they loved the comedic elements and creativeness of it all. From the Mad Genius website:

"You may recognize Edith Humphreys, your sweet neighbor with 24 cats. You may have even helped her out, snooped around her apartment. But there's something about Edith that doesn't quite add up... she looks way younger than she is, she says she was born in 1902 but that she's 97 years young... and she lives at a business called Mad Genius Escapes?! What is going on here... "

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles

The game takes place over a Zoom meeting and even though my husband and I were in the same room, it was necessary to have separate computers to complete certain puzzles. It was truly a game for exactly four players who all need their own computer in order to play. 

There was a wonderful mix of prepared content, online navigating, dynamic puzzles and live online interactions. The game flowed extremely well, and with all the technology involved, there were absolutely no malfunctions. Mad Genius' description of "an eccentric mix of a video game, an escape room, and a great who-done-it story" was spot on and because it was created as an online game (versus adapting a physical room for online play), there were absolutely zero "shaky camera" elements. 

Memorable Moments 

The whole experience was very memorable. You can tell that there was a significant amount of energy that was put into preparing all the components of the "room" in order to give people an original and fun experience. It was fun to be able to play this with friends out of town, without hopping onto a plane! If we had to single out one part, it would be the finale where the more you play along, the more fun it is!

Room For Improvement

It is hard to suggest areas that would require improvement because it was such a different type of escape room experience. It probably would have been better to know in advance that players living in the same household should play in different rooms to avoid echoes and feedback. Some components were also meant to be played without seeing each other's screen.  

Overall Thoughts

We thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Within the category of online escape rooms, as of now we can't imagine anything better than this. This game was very well organized, challenging and highly interactive. An effort was made towards the teamwork component, which was very fun and interesting. Bravo!
  • Set design: Excellent for an online game
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Price: $80/team, private
  • Number of players: 4
  • Duration:  60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★★
See their website here:  https://www.madgeniusescapes.com

MODIFY Disclosure: Mad Genius graciously provided complimentary tickets

April 26, 2020

Jackbox Party Pack 3: Online Game

Online fun at it's best!

Times are tough due to the covid-19 pandemic and escape rooms are no exception to the shut down of all "non-essential" services. Quite a few online escape games from all over have popped up and to the surprise of many, I have not played any of them. I avoided online escape rooms because I love the physical nature of a normal escape room and I feel that playing an online game would ultimately be underwhelming. I know I will eventually play one of these virtual experiences and to ease into it, I started off with a party game: Jackbox Party Pack 3. Why this party pack out of the six that exist? Because Sarah played Party Pack 3 at work and that's what I wanted to try. From their site:

"The threequel to the party game phenomenon features the deadly quiz show Trivia Murder Party, the say-anything sequel Quiplash 2, the surprising survey game Guesspionage, the t-shirt slugfest Tee K.O., and the sneaky trickster game Fakin’ It."

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles

The set took place...in my apartment. Experienced players might find this set to be on the smaller side but all the props were authentic and it truly felt like you were in someone's living room. The environment was quite immersive and the sound of honking cars and screaming people on the streets was perfectly executed. You might even think you were in San Francisco or some other downtown metropolitan area. Some of the furniture had wear and tear but you could tell the decorators really tried to make the space as cosy as possible on a limited budget.

The experience in setting up the actual Jackbox game was interesting. The owner of the game opens the software and selects one of the party games to play. The game generates a code to be used by all participants in a web browser on their own mobile devices. The mobile devices become the "controller" to the game but each player must still be able to see the main game screen for instructions and questions.

If everyone was in the same room, they would all be looking at the same screen but when playing with remote players, you need to somehow share your game screen and see their faces (the latter for the fun aspect). Zoom video has this feature if you pay for it. Some friends only had a mobile device and that made it really difficult for them to play the game properly. My advice: play on two devices (i.e. a laptop to stream the main game, mobile device to the answer inputs to the game) or get a paid version of Zoom for $14.99/month until this quarantine is over.

As with most party games, the "puzzles" were more like random questions or coming up with witty phrases. We played three games:
  • Trivia Murder Party: A "Saw"-themed (the horror film), comedic trivia game with some funny one-liners and random questions. Almost everybody "dies" in this game and it was definitely the one game that could be dominated by trivia experts. I'm looking at your Rich Bragg :)
  • Quiplash 2: Involves coming up with funny "fill-in-the-blank" words or making up the meaning of acronyms that make for some good laughs if you are with creative people. It also seems to be more funny if you play with friends who can throw in some inside jokes.

  • Tee K.O.: Everyone draws funny images, then everyone comes up with funny tag-lines and the the two are combined to make funny t-shirts. The person with the most votes wins and you can apparently even get these t-shirt printed! Tougher for the less imaginative. 

Sarah takes the lead!

Memorable Moments 

There were numerous outbursts of laughter. I think Quiplash was probably the most enjoyable of the three games.

What's also a standout is the game design and overall polish. Everything flowed smoothly with great humor and fantastic aesthetics. This game was great online and it would be even better with everyone in the same room.

Room For Improvement

We only played the three games in two sessions (four hours in total) and there were already a handful of questions/phrases that were repeated. When I think of trivia type games, I would hope that there would be hundreds or even thousands of questions that help with replay-ability.

Overall Thoughts

Jackbox Party Pack 3 was loads of fun. We heard Party Pack 5 was the next best expansion and are looking forward to playing that as well!




  • Set design: Cute apartment, could use some soundproofing from street noise
  • Difficulty: Everybody's a winner!
  • Price: $24.99 (cheaper on sale), only one person needs to purchase the game
  • Number of players: 8 max, the more the merrier
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Overall Rating: ★★★★½
See their website here: https://www.jackboxgames.com/