Xcape Adventures – Dr. Gene Etics [Review]

Someone’s been monkeyin’ around…

Location: Mesquite, TX

Date Played: March 30, 2022

Team Size: 3-10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $24.95 per player (must pay for a minimum of 3)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Dr. Gene’s lab brought a sinister yet cartoonish premise to life, leading us through a series of creepy and macabre interactions to complete our quest. Although the room sometimes used common puzzling materials and situations, it generally added a tactile twist to these efforts and combined them into meaningful sequences. It felt more like we were participating in an old-school adventure game than we were solving undirected puzzles. This feeling was heightened by escalating reveals, meaningful responses to our actions, and plot-driven tasks.

A mad scientist's lab that looks a little like a dungeon.

This room took pride in supporting the success of newer players, using overt and, at times, immersion-breaking strategies to point their attention in the right direction. This was noticeable and decreased the opportunities for aha moments. However, even from our enthusiast perspective, we found the pure fun and physicality of this experience to outweigh these distractions. Play this game for the novelty, not to feel like a brainiac.

If you visit Xcape Adventures, also check out Steampunk 2.0 for a less directed, more environment-driven experience. We enjoyed both rooms and plan to try the rest the next time we’re in town!

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Mad scientists
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • For a playfully disturbing jaunt through some delightfully strange tasks. This lab has heart…and brains…and more…
  • For a strongly clued, task-focused starter room

Story

Dr. Gene Etics had been doing ethically questionable experiments on monkeys. When his assistant expressed qualms about this, Dr. Gene kidnapped him. We needed to explore the lab, find the assistant, and help him escape before Dr. Gene returned.

A monster in a small cage.

Setting

Dr. Gene’s lab emanated campy science vibes throughout. Maybe it was the enshrined heart, the caged monkey, or the larger-than-life plinko machine, but it was pretty clear that something sinister and bizarre was hidden in these walls.

A strange creature in a device.

Gameplay

Xcape Adventures’s Dr. Gene Etics was a standard escape room with a low-to-moderate level of difficulty.

Puzzling involved making observations and connections while finding logical uses for objects. It felt like a vignette from a point-and-click adventure game.

Analysis

βž• The set pieces, puzzles, and tasks worked together to create a campy, playfully disturbing tone throughout the room. We simultaneously giggled and recoiled in reaction to several discoveries.

βž• We got to play with an oversized plinko-like contraption and earn a prize, just like Dr. Gene’s monkeys. It was tantalizing and rewarding.

βž– The aforementioned contraption lacked in-game instructions for operation. Instead, our gamemaster explained how it worked before we began. This information would be more immersive and memorable if the room or machine could communicate it somehow. Nonetheless, it was still a fun and unusual challenge.

A rolltop desk and a large dexterity game.

βž– Some elements of this room had noticeable wear and tear, occasionally casting doubt over whether we were experiencing a clue as intended. Even though the pure fun of the experience overshadowed this issue, refreshing some elements would do better justice to the gameplay.

❓ Several puzzles were identified or reinforced by a thematic runbook. This made complete sense within the premise of the room, but still presented more centralized reading than we prefer. To its credit, the runbook offered clues rather than procedures, and we still had to connect them to the appropriate sequences of the experience. Some of its revelations were deducible separately, so it seemed to partially serve as a backup for newer players.

βž• A couple of particularly unnerving discoveries later in the room escalated the creepiness factor and added a foreboding presence.

❓ Some discoveries had overt hints written next to them to help us make the necessary connections. This broke the immersion; we were confident that Dr. Gene wouldn’t help us in this way. However, it was a suitable training mechanism for newer players. Ideally, these hints would be more embedded into the content they supported.

βž– One space in the room was too tight for more than two people to investigate comfortably, leaving larger teams with little to do in the interim.

βž• From beginning to end, using props for theme-driven interactions was a highlight of this room. Even when these activities were straightforward, they gave the sense that we were role-playing a treacherous adventure.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking at this location.

Book your hour with Xcape Adventures’s Dr. Gene Etics, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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