Clue IQ – Crane Manor [Review]

Ichabod’s heir

Location:  Frederick, MD

Date Played: October 3, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $32 per player for teams of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Growing up in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, the legend of the Headless Horseman was a recurring part of Halloween. I hadn’t seen this story told through an escape room before, and I was pretty excited about it.

The silhouette of the headless horseman on a wall in front of a candle lit alter.

From a gameplay standpoint, we enjoyed Crane Manor. It had interesting, meaty puzzles that weren’t especially hard, but did demand a little more thought than your typical escape room fare. There were some late game puzzle interactions that felt half-baked, but those notwithstanding, it felt good solving Crane Manor.

From a narrative and thematic standpoint, Crane Manor had a bit of an identity crisis. We were never sure whether it was supposed to feel spooky, scary, or simply intriguing? Similarly – and perhaps relatedly – we felt like the set and story weren’t pulling in the same direction. Crane Manor needed to commit to a mood.

Crane Manor had a lot going for it if you have some escape room experience. It was an unusual and puzzley escape game, and well worth checking out if you’re from the area. Newer players should strongly consider playing Clue IQ’s Operation Jingle Bells or Excalibur first.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • For a puzzle-forward game
  • Moody, atmospheric set

Story

Legend tells of a man who fought for the British during the American Revolution, and neither bullet, nor bayonet could kill him. He eventually met his end when a cannon ball removed his head… but he returned as the vengeful ghost known as the Headless Horseman.

Years later, a man named Ichabod Crane encountered the Headless Horseman. Narrowly surviving his encounter, he became obsessed with the Horseman, studying magic to learn how to control the ghost for his own villainous purposes.

It had become our duty to break into Crane Manor and finally put the immortal Horseman to rest.

Setting

Crane Manor had a stately aesthetic, with high ceilings and a long hallway that made the large space feel even larger.

A hallway in a manner. The walls are painted blue with gold accents.

As the game progressed, the aesthetic felt a little more creepy, but didn’t cross into horror.

Gameplay

Clue IQ’s Crane Manor was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ At first, Crane Manor felt intimate, but it quickly opened up as we made our way down a long hallway.

➖ As the gamespace continued to expand, however, the set lacked the grandeur it needed for us to suspend disbelief. Although Clue IQ minded little details, large portions of the set felt sparse. The final act was especially under-developed.

➕ Clue IQ crafted button housings that didn’t scream button.

➕ Crane Manor was at its best with meaty, layered solves. In one case, we had to think through a few branches.

➕ We loved peeking into Clue IQ’s unusual blacklight implementation.

➖ Crane Manor wanted to be more than it delivered. It tried to tell a story, but it felt more like a puzzle-driven escape room than a narrative-driven experience. The story was a bit hard to follow.

➕ A puzzle that felt inspired by Survivor was a pleasant surprise.

➖ The final sequence didn’t jibe with the vibe of the rest of the space. It seemed to come from a more modern game. A bit more feedback from the interaction would also go a long way.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • There are lots of restaurant options within walking distance.

Book your hour with Clue IQ’s Crane Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue IQ comped our tickets for this game.

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