Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) – Mansion Murder [Review]

A family affair

Location:  Dallas, Texas

Date Played: March 30, 2022

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: No

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mansion Murder was defined by a hint of luxury, a dab of family intrigue, and a couple of multi-part connections that carried the bulk of its difficulty. It didn’t have many standout moments, however; the puzzles and set elements were fairly standard escape room fair. A detailed family history lesson provided the narrative, but most of it was superfluous to our efforts.

Wide angle view of an old mansion with painted portraits and a large family tree all hung on the wall.

The pacing of this experience was curious. It positioned the most relevant plot points, most difficult puzzles, and most exciting reveals before or near the halfway point. A deeper interest in the story might sustain committed story seekers in the second half. To us, the final puzzles felt scattered and inconsequential.

As a set of puzzles in a pretty setting, there was nothing wrong with this room, and newer players may find it quite challenging. There are, however, other rooms in the Escapology franchise (Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle and Budapest Express, for example) that use more compelling theming, set pieces, and/ or puzzle integration to offer a more interesting experience.

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Escapology – Austin – Lost City [Review]

Hidden temple? Lost explorer? LET’S GO…

Location:  Round Rock, TX

Date Played: April 8, 2022

Team Size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

This room was emblematic of my typical Escapology experience: everything was satisfactory yet underwhelming. It was a solid escape room, but it won’t linger as a favorite. It was fine.

Among Escapology rooms, this one stood out for the consistent approachability of its puzzles and some well-designed multiplayer activities. It also used a couple of fancier escape room mechanisms in straightforward but effective ways, which is always fun and would be delightful to experience for the first time.

Flaw-wise, the puzzles sometimes enabled experienced players to take shortcuts, leading to unused clues and minor confusion. At other times, there was a lack of precision that might cause newer players to give up rather than try different interpretations. The game’s lengthy runbook presented a similar duality: experienced players may be annoyed that it breaks immersion, but newer players may be overwhelmed by it.

This room could reasonably excite newer players while seeming trite to those with more experience, and that’s okay. As a “fun but not memorable” endeavor, it would be a great starting point for anyone and a decent way to spend an evening for those who have played out the more compelling rooms in the area.

A Halloween skeleton in adventurer's clothing in a corner.
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Finders Seekers – Chicago Mystery [Review]

The next best thing to a deep-dish hot-dog pizza…

Location:  at home

Date Played: April 15, 2022

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 1-4

Duration: no time limit, but likely less than an hour

Price: $30

REA Reaction

The Chicago Mystery from Finders Keepers was a solid representation of what the series has to offer: rich details of a famous location (Chicago!), simple and contained puzzling, and a quality, reusable object from the focal locale (here, a Cubs foam finger).

Finders Seekers box beside an assortment of paper components and a large, blue, foam hand that reads, "Go Cubs!"

As in other Finders Seekers episodes, this game’s priority was presenting historical and geographical details of a particular place within the context of a light puzzle-hunt. Here, using evidence to solve a decades-old mystery proved to be an effective framework for structuring these details. The educational information was superfluous to the tasks at hand, but its bite-sized delivery made it more available to a broader audience.

Concerning gameplay, each puzzle was approachable and straightforward, relying on making the appropriate connection between 1-2 game materials. Most puzzles were simple presentations of common structures, but they were all fair and thematic. Newer players might find challenge here; experienced players will not.

As with the rest of the Finders Seekers series, I wouldn’t recommend this game to enthusiasts whose primary focus is puzzling. The puzzles were neither novel nor challenging enough for that use case. However, anyone who thrives on accumulating facts and images of the world may enjoy this game and/or series. Those details are what set Finders Seekers apart from other puzzling games.

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Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) TX – 7 Deadly Sins [Review]

Here is the church…

Location:  Dallas, TX

Date Played: March 30, 2022

Team Size: 2-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: As far as we and our gamemaster could tell, one puzzle did not display correctly on a monitor.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

7 Deadly Sins held thematic and narrative promise, enticing us with the lore of Crickley’s Church and its haunting past. Indeed, much of the set and the puzzles lived up to that potential. We enjoyed the initial the decor, appreciated various prop-supported puzzles, and recognized many of the story points foretold in the introduction. These features were not without flaws, but overall this was a fairly elaborate production for Escapology.

A small wooden church beside a well.

However, the room began to falter about midway and didn’t fully recover. One puzzle seemed to malfunction due to technical issues, making it impossible to sync our experience with the expected behavior. The theming for other puzzles expanded in nonsensical ways. Lastly, we found an underwhelming final set compared to previous spaces. We still enjoyed the puzzles therein, but evidence of 1-2 ghost puzzles made us wonder if the conclusion had been simplified, losing some of the promised adventure. We expected to work harder for our goal, but much was just given to us.

Nonetheless, this seemed to have the bones of a stronger room and had certain standout aspects among Escapology games. It would be interesting to compare notes across different locations.

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The Ultimate Escape Game – Dead by Dawn [Review]

“Give me back my hand!”

Location: Dallas, TX

Date Played: March 27, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25.99 – $35.99, depending on the number of players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: One player must crawl

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As the room’s title suggests, Dead by Dawn was inspired by the cult classic Evil Dead 2. Instead of a blatant riff on the movie, this room offered a more subtle homage. The set mimicked the infamous cabin, and the overarching motivation for our quest followed Evil Dead lore, but most puzzles and props seemed to fall into the more generic space of campy horror. One could interpret some of these as opaque references, but even then it felt like part of the movie’s essence was missing. With the appropriate expectations, this isn’t a bad thing, especially for a broader audience. Indeed, the room was approachable as an unintimidating intro to horror rooms.

A wood cabin with an assortment of items in front including a toolbox, a wagon wheel, and a barrel.

For enthusiasts who have played many rooms, many of the puzzles and reveal mechanisms here will be familiar. Players encountering them for the first time will be delighted, and more experienced players might still enjoy them as part of a quick-paced series of solves and some spookily playful set interactions. Also, the final puzzle was fresh and challenging. We spent quite a while analyzing it afterwards.

This would be a good room for local players to share with newbie friends. If you’re looking for a more challenging experience, try the Ultimate Escape Game’s Fallout or Flight 2157.

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