The Detective Society – The Professor’s Missing Potion [Review]

Kids on the Case

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 18, 2021

Team size: We recommend 1-3 kids plus an adult

Duration: 45-60 minutes

Price: £8.99

REA Reaction

Within the genre of puzzling games for kids, The Professor’s Missing Potion stands out as a well designed, satisfying experience that did many things well for its audience. It offered an introduction to some common puzzle types within a cartoonishly immersive plot and environment. It used smart design choices to make the gameplay manageable for kids while still engaging them in delightful and authentic ways. Its fantastical plot, variety of interactions, and subtle humor connected well with my kids’ imaginations, effectively convincing them that they might actually be doing something real.

A man in a white lab coat with goggles, and a green background.

My main critique regards some minor quality control issues that detracted from the experience. First, no orientation materials were included in the downloaded files. This undermined my ability to set expectations and to make sure we were referring to the print materials as intended. This unease dissipated as the game progressed, but the scarcity of information between purchasing and beginning the game was a gap in the customer journey that could easily be bridged to give players (or their adult sidekick) more confidence. Also, the final puzzle seemed to have an error that forced us to guess rather than solve, resulting in anticlimactic feelings about the conclusion.

Ultimately, though, The Professor’s Missing Potion was a solidly entertaining kids’ activity that literally evoked childlike wonder. We’re glad we played and hope The Detective Society makes more games for this audience.

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Nordo – The Interrogation of Alice [Review]

“Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 6, 2021

Team size: We recommend 2

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: $117 plus shipping

REA Reaction

If you’re a Through the Looking Glass fan, a collector of berry curds, or a devotee of absurd theater, Nordo’s The Interrogation of Alice may be for you. From the post-purchase email through the very end of the video credits, it’s clear that the creators of this game invested extraordinary attention to the details of its source material. They infused every aspect of…well…everything with references to the book. If I’d played a game like this about one of my personal obsessions, I would absolutely die. In a good way.

A box filled with smaller red and black boxes that are labeled, "eat me," "drink me," & "evidence."

If you’re an average escape room enthusiast who prioritizes puzzling and/or has just a passing knowledge of Alice lore, this is a much harder sell at $117. Nordo’s background and strengths lie in immersive theater, so the details woven throughout the videos, puzzles, and food were well executed and delightful. However, we found the story to be disorienting in a way that, while honoring the nonsense of its source material, left us constantly uneasy that we were missing something. Ultimately, that confusion was irrelevant because the handful of simple puzzles didn’t hinge on clues from the videos, and the characters seemed to solve the overall mystery on their own. This was both a relief and a disappointment that left us feeling like befuddled observers rather than useful participants. Fortunately, there were some exquisite berry curd and biscuits to soothe our feelings.

Overall, this concept has enormous potential for filling a gap in the world’s offerings for a premium date night at home. With a more intelligible script and a tighter interrelationship between the puzzles and performances, there would be a huge opportunity to transform an experience like this from a collection of impressive details into a more thorough engagement of the audience. This was a respectable effort in that direction, but at the price point, it needed to be exceptional.

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The Secret Chambers – The Poe Adventure [Review]

“There is no beauty without some strangeness.” – Edgar Allen Poe

Location: Arlington, TX

Date Played: July 18, 2021

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player (you must pay for a minimum of 4 even if fewer play)

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: at least one team member must be able to navigate stairs and tight crawl spaces; the gameplay included dexterity challenges

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As soon as we stepped into the lushly decorated Poe manor and met our disembodied gamemaster, it was evident that The Secret Chambers was deeply invested in delivering a haunting and haunted experience. The décor and gameplay delivered an immersive exploration of the world of Edgar Allen Poe that, while suitably chilling, was not overtly terrifying. Anyone comfortable with Poe’s works would be comfortable with this room.

A skull on a railing in an ornate room with portraits hung on purple walls.

Small design details contributed enormously to the smooth flow of this experience. Sound effects drew our attention to the next points of interest, clear labels helped us associate information efficiently, and there was even a way to track our progress. Being comfortable with our pace was invaluable because it gave us permission to fully absorb our surroundings. The main detriment to the room’s flow was a bottleneck in the middle of the experience; spatially, there was only room for two players to participate, leaving larger parties with little to do.

From a gameplay perspective, the puzzles and tasks were simple yet satisfying. Indeed, experienced players shouldn’t expect a challenge here; this “adventure” (like others we played at The Secret Chambers) was more about participating in an immersive environment and delighting in its revelations. Our favorite puzzles delivered joy via interactions with one-of-a-kind set pieces that required unusual feats of collaborative dexterity.

Despite the extensive thematic coherence of the props and puzzles, there wasn’t a strong rationale for why things were happening. Regardless, this room’s impeccable atmosphere and captivating interactions make it well worth your time if you’re near the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Fans of Edgar Allen Poe
  • Any experience level (but must be older than 10 to play)
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Grapevine Escape – The Wine Vault [Review]

A Harmonious Blend with a Smooth Finish

Location:  Grapevine, TX

Date Played: July 19, 2021

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 2-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: some interactions require height, though the room includes a step stool

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Grapevine Escape’s The Wine Vault was a solid escape room with a classy set designed to honor the surrounding locale, the northern Texas wine country. The environment and props paid due diligence to this context, particularly with the interactive casks, wine bottle-based puzzles, and a display of local wine selections. I found myself wishing I’d paired the room with a local wine tour; it mimicked that aesthetic well.

Gated and padlocked divider in a wine cellar.

The puzzling leaned more into the “vault” aspect of the title rather than wine, so expect to be opening locks more than stomping grapes. The puzzles often used wine paraphernalia, but they didn’t require reasoning about wine and could have been adapted to other themes. Several puzzles involved pleasant variations of familiar mechanics, with the best examples resulting in satisfying interactions with set pieces. All were fairly clued.

One of the more distinctive aspects of The Wine Vault was an expansive back story that we uncovered throughout the course of the experience. This narrative progressed in parallel to the puzzle flow, with each new clue contributing either to that story or to a different puzzle. Ultimately, the back story added flair to the experience, but had no effect on our success or failure. I wished that some part of the puzzle-solving had forced me to think more deeply about the back story. As is, it felt more like a distraction to wade through than a critical part of the room. However, it did provide an interesting payoff for players who invested in processing it.

Overall, if you’re interested in savoring everything Grapevine, TX, has to offer, add The Wine Vault to your list!

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Wine enthusiasts
  • Best for players with at least some experience
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The Perfect Escape – Wong’s Chinese [Review]

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

Location:  Arlington, TX

Date Played: July 18, 2021

Team Size: 3-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27-$33, depending on number of players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Wong’s Chinese is an homage to the creators’ childhood experience of helping in the family Chinese restaurant. As such, its story and setting are strikingly realistic, yet fairly rare in the world of escape rooms.

Wong's Chinese escape room looks exactly like a Chinese restaurant, with all of the right furniture and decor.

This room was a stellar example of how a simple but well-executed narrative can add energy and purpose not only to the entire experience but also to every interaction along the way. The room contained quite a large number and variety of puzzles that ranged from somewhat typical math and counting tasks to truly original interactions with delightful props, set pieces, and characters. Whether familiar or not, each interaction felt justified by the narrative, adding motivation to even the more common puzzle types. It always felt like we were making necessary and valuable contributions towards our goal, and usually it was joyful to do so.

The narrative was made all the more plausible by the realism of the environment. Every space in this room was believable, begging us to appreciate its details and play with its props. Thankfully, the goal-oriented nature of the tasks along with strong cluing made it easy to distinguish the relevant details from the general ambiance. The only issue with the set was a mid-game sequence that felt too small for larger groups to comfortably explore. This contrasted with the rest of the experience, which would both support and benefit from a large team.

The unique plot, authentic setting, and story-driven puzzle selection of Wong’s Chinese make it a highlight of the Dallas/ Fort Worth escape room scene and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Anyone curious about the inner workings of a Chinese food restaurant
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
Continue reading “The Perfect Escape – Wong’s Chinese [Review]”