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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Mission Escape Games – The Ultimate Bank Heist [Review]

Currency Exchange

Location:  Anaheim, CA

Date Played: March 6, 2022

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $120 for the team for teams of 2-3 players or $32 per player for teams of 4-10 players (Monday-Thursday); $135 for the team for teams of 2-3 players or $35 per player for teams of 4-10 players (Friday-Sunday)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We go way back with Mission Escape Games and The Ultimate Bank Heist is one of the few games that they have produced that has never been available in their New York City location. So while we were in Anaheim, we had to make a withdrawal.

An old bank tell's counter in Mission Liberty Bank.

The Ultimate Bank Heist felt like it was more focused on beginner players… which made a lot of sense for its location in the Anaheim GardenWalk mall. The set was elegant, the puzzles were well-executed, and there were a few memorable effects that functioned as short cut-scenes.

Overall, it felt like a sort of prototype for the style that Mission Escape Games is developing and realized more fully in their newest game Carbon: 3708 in NYC.

If you’re newer to escape rooms, The Ultimate Bank Heist is a fantastic choice of adventure. Mission Escape Games introduced us to many of our favorite early experiences, and this game feels like it’s part of that tradition. If it were closer to me, I’d take newbie friends there.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Bank heist fans
  • Newbies

Why play?

  • Solid, puzzle-focused gameplay
  • Creative cut-scene interaction moments

Story

Mistakes were made, and we were in a lot of debt… debt that we couldn’t pay. We figured we might liberate some cash from the local bank.

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Project Avatar (Hypno Dive) – Mystery Hotel [Hivemind Review]

Mystery Hotel is an avatar-led online escape game created by Project Avatar of Hypno Dive based in Ukraine.

Card reads, "This escape room created in Ukraine."

Format

Style of Play:

  • Adaptation of an in-person game
  • Avatar controlled by the players
  • Includes video segments

Who is it For?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-8

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $100 for a team of 4 players plus $25 for each additional player

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Mystery Hotel is first-person avatar-led escape game with graphic overlays and cut scenes that give it a videogame style.

First person view, with a HUD. Hands reaching out to open an ornate book.
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Grapevine Escape – FocusTec Labs [Review]

Fix it…if you dare

Location:  Grapevine, TX

Date Played: March 28, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.99 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

FocusTec Labs delivered a well-paced, polished experience that combined classic escape room tropes with some special touches that distinguished it from average experiences.

Enthusiasts will recognize the lab as a common environment, and this room indeed relied on mainstays of that genre. However, the lore around this lab was less typical, and the evolving narrative raised the stakes as the game progressed. A curated, voice-acted hint-and-narration system added both reassurance and intrigue to the experience.

Wide angle view of a lab with man many locked cabinets, lab coats, and lab equipment.

The puzzles were fairly straightforward and well-clued. They were at their best when they required interactions with props or served a narrative purpose. Even though they didn’t break new ground, we legitimately had fun collecting quick wins and interacting with the set.

Like the other rooms at Grapevine Escape, FocusTec Labs is a solid, enjoyable play for local enthusiasts and escape-room curious individuals.

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Escape Artistry – Duck & Cover Classroom [Review]

๐Ÿงจ ๐Ÿข ๐Ÿงจ

Location: Chicago, IL

Date Played: March 10, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34 per player for 3+ players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Duck & Cover Classroom demonstrated an alternative model for how to build escape rooms. Nearly every element in the room was recycled or sustainably sourced. Especially for the 1950s classroom theme, this set design aesthetic looked fantastic. And while this game was built a good few years ago, it had visually aged quite well.

At a time when the budgets to build escape rooms continue to rise rapidly and most rooms use new materials and props shipped from far-off places, Escape Artistry has shown that sets can be both lower budget and more environmentally sustainable without necessarily sacrificing on appearance.

An old classroom, with desks lined up and tall blue lockers.

The gameplay in Duck & Cover Classroom felt similarly creative and appropriate for the theme, with many puzzles that naturally emerged from the items one would find in a primary school classroom. Most props were decently maintained, with the exception of two interactions that were in need of a significant face lift and required gamemaster assistance to function.

Escape Artistry got their start with The Railcar, and continuing in a recognizably theatric style, Duck & Cover Classroom was an admirable step up in terms of scenery cohesion and streamlined puzzle design. If you are in the Chicago area, Duck & Cover Classroom would make an enjoyable addition to your itinerary.

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