RED VEIN Escape – Phobia [Review]


Location:  Ashland, VA

Date Played: October 2, 2021

Team size: 2; we recommend 2

Duration: 10 minutes

Price: $10 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We’ve played a handful of games in pure darkness, and generally like the genre in spite of the fact that it comes with a number of hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

Two of the more common issues that we see are:

  • Darkness becomes less scary over time.
  • There is a limited range of puzzle and challenge types that can be incorporated in a full-dark environment.

RED VEIN Escape’s solution to both of these problems was to make a very short experience, and it worked.

The dark and cramped space was elevated by a brilliant pre-game performance, and the gameplay itself worked with the sightless environment.

Phobia was short and small, but it got the job done. It works well as an add-on if you’re already visiting one of RED VEIN’s other escape rooms.

In-game: A completely black image with nothing visible.
Actual game photo.

If this kind of play appeals to you, it’s a fun implementation of the dark-game concept.

If it isn’t your thing, or you’re on a budget, skip this one. It isn’t an expensive game, but it is expensive for what it is: $10 per person for 10 minutes in a closet without any aesthetic design. It might be the most expensive escape room per square foot that I’ve ever played.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Fear fans
  • Any experience level
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Perfect game length for this style of game
  • Brilliant use of a small space
  • Game introduction that enhances anticipation


Paranormal researchers investigating the effect of fear on the human mind and body had enrolled us in a short study. All we had to do was enter a chamber and figure out how to exit it within 10 minutes.


There wasn’t much to see. The entire game occurred in a small pitch-black room. The experience was largely tactile and psychological.


RED VEIN Escape’s Phobia was a 10-minute, dark escape room. The challenge was in the environment.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and communicating.


➕ The gamemaster’s sincere, in-character introduction built suspense. This introduction heightened anticipation and enhanced the experience.

➕ 10 minutes was the right game length. We didn’t have time to fully adjust, so the darkness was impactful the entire time. The constrained gameplay didn’t overstay its welcome.

➖ While the short duration helped limit its impact, there was a tiny amount of light bleed which did affect the late-game in subtle ways.

➕ Given the constraint of darkness, the puzzles were well varied, in interaction design and thinking style.

➕ The finale shined.

➕ Players wear surgical gloves in Phobia (which RED VEIN Escape provides). This made us more confident to explore with our hands.

➖ At $1 per minute per person, Phobia was expensive. If you’re thrilled about the concept, it’s a stellar implementation of a dark room. If you’re on the fence, however, the value may not be worth the price.

➕ Phobia was a clever use of a small space.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your session with RED VEIN Escape’s Phobia, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: RED VEIN Escape comped our tickets for this game.

1 Comment

  1. My mind is churning with ideas as a result of this post, while my funny bone is tickled with the photo (which clearly includes spoilers and may have revealed too many secrets). I like the concept of a small novelty room and the price/duration point is basically my tip to the game master/proprietor for a normal experience with good service. I think there is a place for owners to experiment with small spaces (timed event, darkness, skill challenges, humorous experiences, cognitive distractions involving sound/movement/visual morphing, etc) to complement traditional rooms, table games and Hunts.

    Owners could incentivize participation by offering a BOGO ticket to the traditional rooms for those successfully completing the miniroom. In a dark room an IR camera trained on a participants face could be broadcast to the lobby for enjoyment/enticement of others.

    Since the cost to change the theme/style/manner of the small room can be done more frequently it may be helpful to attract previous players with “fresh” offerings.

    My experience with small rooms has been tarnished with amateurism, makeshiftism, temporaryism and afterthoughtism (think tent in a parking lot or fairground/haunted house).

    I would love to see the creativity of rooms I’ve played recently (Montreal Tour by REA) applied to the small room concept. The journey to bigger, electronically sophisticated, employee intensive and long duration rooms is a questionable economic venture in many markets. Perhaps quality small room short duration experiences could balance the offerings for the benefit of owners and enthusiasts.

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