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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

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

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!