Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic [Review]

“Draw me like one of your French girls.” -Rose

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Titanic was a puzzle-focused escape room for newer puzzlers ready to set sail. The themed challenges were a lot of fun. Titanic combined lock-based gameplay with tech-driven interactions. With the addition of more in-game feedback, Titanic could flow more smoothly and feel more immersive.

If you’re a less experienced player looking for an interesting puzzle game, this is a great place to dive in.

If you’re more experienced, this a value judgment. Know that you’ll move quickly through this 45-minute experience, but there are some cool puzzles to grapple with. 

In-game: a chaise lounge beside a porthole in a large stateroom.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with little to moderate experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • The chaise longue
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

In our stateroom aboard the Titanic II, the unthinkable happened: we hit an iceberg. (No one could have seen that coming). We needed to escape our room and find our way to the deck of the ship in time to board a lifeboat, or…

Meme: Frozen Rose holding Jack says, "I'll never let go, Jack." Next panel, Jack is gone, reads, "LOL JK."

Setting

Our spacious stateroom was sparsely furnished with a few lovely antiques, some wall decorations, and a porthole with an iceberg view.

In-game: a porthole looking out over the water, an iceberg in the distance.

Aside from being a touch too Spartan and a little worn, the setting conveyed Titanic-style luxury well.

In-game: A portrait hanging on the wall over a mantle.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

In-game: a series of bells labeled "TITANIC."

Analysis

Titanic delivered fun, tangible puzzles. We particularly enjoyed a deduction puzzle.

+ We enjoyed the nautically-themed props and their use as puzzle components.

+ David especially enjoyed sprawling on the chaise longue and making jokes.

– Although we appreciated the theming, we would have liked to internalize more story – of the space, our characters, or the impending disaster – as we progressed toward the deck.

+/- There wasn’t a lot to find. On the one hand, we weren’t bogged down by searching through red herrings. On the other hand, the space felt a bit empty. It lacked depth.

– A few of the puzzles lacked feedback. In one instance, when we couldn’t tell if we were striking the right chord, we assumed the puzzle was out of play or broken. It was working, but it gave no indication of that.

– Later in our playthrough we solved a puzzle out of sequence, before receiving the appropriate cluing. The resulting interaction opened, but was not in play. Since we’d been conditioned earlier to proceed with puzzles even without feedback, we continued to hack at this interaction until our gamemaster noticed and nudged us back toward another unsolved puzzle.

+/- We were glad we couldn’t advance out of sequence because we would have missed a substantial portion of the game and some of the best puzzles. We wish the gamemaster hadn’t had to step in to redirect us.

+ The exit door was nifty.

+ Escape Room Live’s lobby and bar area is gorgeous; it’s a lovely place to hang out. I don’t normally get excited for lobbies, but this one is special.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Live Georgetown – The Mummy [Review]

Mummy may I?

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Mummy was about adventure over puzzles. The large-scale, interactive set pieces were exciting to manipulate. While some of the props and interactions were a touch too temperamental, the escape room delivered well-timed cinematic and memorable moments.

If you’re a new player in the area, try this one out.

If you’re more experienced, this a value judgment. Know that you’ll move quickly through this 45-minute experience.

If you’re in Georgetown looking for a good adventure, checkout The Mummy.

In-game: A massive sphinx head on the wall of an Egyptian tomb.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Beautiful set pieces
  • Exciting, set-based interactions
  • Cinematic moments
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

As archeologists, we were exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb when the main doors sealed shut. We needed to escape because… Egyptian curses aren’t favorable.

In-game: A blue glowing ankh set in sandstone.

Setting

The set felt small; there wasn’t a ton of room to walk around. (Note for the claustrophobic folks: It’s not that small.)

The props felt enormous. The Egyptians had carved life-sized – and larger – stone depictions of their gods to guard this ancient burial place.

The floor was covered in real sand and the entire set was a bit sandy.

In-game: A sarcophagus leaning against the wall of an Egyptian tomb.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s The Mummy was a standard escape room with a compelling set.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and determining interactions.

Analysis

+ The set had scale. The space may have been smaller, but the props and scenery felt immense.

The Mummy was an adventure. We interacted with it and it reacted to us.

– While we weren’t a rough group, our gamemaster repeatedly told us not to touch or investigate the set pieces with our hands or other in-game props. The continual admonishment diminished the fun of exploration. More player-proofing would go a long way; we felt like we needed permission to play.

– We found one search puzzle more frustrating than fun, especially given the small search tool and the admonishment for certain types of set exploration.

+ We loved one particularly larger-than-life set piece’s reaction. It engaged and impressed the entire team.

The Mummy looked worn and not in a ruins kind of way. Escape rooms with sand wear more quickly than most and need additional maintenance.

+ The initial room setup subtly clued late-game gameplay. This small detail probably makes a big difference for many teams. It was thoughtfully designed.

– One prop fit exactly into a place where it didn’t belong. We ultimately used it for a completely different purpose where size and shape meant nothing. This was confusing, unsatisfying, and avoidable.

– The gameplay relied on a run book: a journal contained a good portion of the clue structure. While the run book made some sense narratively, in an escape room with a visually interesting set, it was disappointing to have my nose in a book.

+ The opening and closing puzzles were cinematic. Escape Room Live Georgetown designed the puzzle flow around memorable moments. It worked. The final puzzle was a great choice.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.
  • The floor is covered in sand. We recommend closed-toe shoes.
  • Note that this is a 45-minute game. If you are experienced player, it will move quickly and feel short.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s The Mummy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Ghostbusters [Review]

“Ray. If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say . . . . . YES!” – Winston Zeddemore

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

This officially licensed Ghostbusters was beautiful. Escape Room Live Georgetown pulled iconic characters and moments from the original Ghostbusters films and produced an experience that was a great escape room and a fun homage to the source material.

The difficulty curve on Ghostbusters was a bit steep for newbies, so I’d encourage players get at least a game or two under their belts before taking on these ghouls. Experienced players should note that Ghostbusters is a 45-minute game, so if you get in a groove, it’s possible to knock this one out quite quickly.

We think this one is worth checking out if you’re anywhere nearby.

In-game: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man peering in through a window.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Collectors of spores, molds, and fungus.

Why play?

  • It’s an official Ghostbusters escape room
  • A beautiful set
  • Strong puzzles
  • Seeing some classic movie characters
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

Slimer, the Librarian, Mr. Stay Puft, and Vigo the Carpathian were on the loose in New York City. Who were Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zeddemore gonna call?

Us. They called us.

In-game: The main set of the Ghostbusters firehouse. There is a large box in the middle of the room for manipulating hazardous objects.

Setting

Ghostbusters was staged in famed firehouse. The set was loaded with details and Easter eggs that called back to the original Ghostbusters movies.

This was a beautiful and fun environment to explore.

… And no, there was no pole to slide down.

In-game: Closeup of a Ghostbusters trap.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Ghostbusters was a standard escape room with nonlinear gameplay and a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and capturing ghosts.

In-game: The portrait of Vigo the Carpathian.
He is Prince Vigo!

Analysis

+ In this licensed Ghostbusters escape room, Escape Room Live Georgetown made great use of the most iconic magician/ tyrant, god, and class 5 full roaming vapor.

In-game: The Librarian ghost.

+ The set looked fantastic and felt Ghostbusters-y.

– There wasn’t much of an on-ramp. Ghostbusters threw us into the deep end and it was difficult to figure out exactly how to make progress (especially for the newbies in the group).

In-game: A close up of the proton pack schematics and the Ghostbusters logo.

+ Once we got rolling and learned how the game wanted us to play it, there were good, satisfying puzzles.

– Most of the puzzles were technology-driven, with serious lag and delay. We found ourselves staring at solved puzzles for long stretches of time waiting for the puzzle-concluding sequence to trigger.

– One of the core puzzle’s input mechanisms offered almost no feedback. When I was inputting the solution, I wasn’t even sure that it was working until the puzzle resolved.

+ The hint delivery system made perfect sense given the source material.

“He’s looking at me Ray.”

+ There was a smart augmented reality sequence.

+/- The finale had a great interaction, but it was missing a satisfying puzzle. This escape room was begging for a final boss battle.

+ The Escape Room Live Georgetown lobby is really something to behold. It’s a massive full bar with ample seating and tables. This was a lovely place to hang out.

The Escape Room Live Georgetown bar. It looks posh.
Yup. That’s a bar. No, we didn’t drink before our games. We are professionals.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.
  • Plan to spend some time in at the Escape Room Live bar.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Ghostbusters, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape From West Texas on CNBC’s West Texas Investor’s Club: Interview with Ginger Flesher-Sonnier

Ginger Flesher-Sonnier is the Owner & CEO of Escape Room Live. The company currently operates Escape Room Live DC near Glover Park and Escape Room Live Alexandria. They will be opening a second Escape Room Live DC location in Georgetown later this summer, and their Alexandria-based games have been some of the most wonderful room escapes we’ve encountered.

West Texas Investors Club is a television show on CNBC. As described on the CNBC website, “Self-made multimillionaires Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam invite ambitious entrepreneurs from across the country to come down to West Texas and make their case.”

“Escape From West Texas” (Season 2, Episode 10) aired on June 14, 2016. The episode features Ginger pitching for a $4 million investment in her escape room business. She accepted $800,000 for 40% share of her company and their help expanding her business into corporate resorts.

The full episode is available on CNBC’s website.

We recently spoke with Ginger about her experience on the show and where her company goes from here:

Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your experience on Escape From West Texas. For context, when was this filmed?

Ginger: Mid-February, 2016.

How did this all come about?

They actually reached out to me and asked if I would be on the show. I had seen their show after Shark Tank one night last summer and really enjoyed it – so much more than Shark Tank, surprisingly – so I agreed to go through the casting process. They had 10,000 applications this season so I am honored to have actually been approached by them.

What was it like seeing yourself walk off a private airplane in slow motion?

Surreal! But fun. The whole experience was amazing.

How much of your experience in West Texas do viewers see?

An extremely small part! Imagine boiling down about a week of filming to mere minutes. My pitch actually lasted 3 hours. Same with the negotiations, which wound up taking place into late Friday night (hence my puffy face… it was an exhausting week). The entire ride with Gil never made the show, nor his serenade at the end.  

In the episode, the investors play one of your games. How long did you have to design and fabricate the room on the show?

All I can say is that I did have longer than one day! That would have been impossible. But I can say that we did construct it from scratch completely ourselves (my husband and I). 

Wide view of the "Escape West Texas" jail game. The key focal point is a large megal safe that reads "Wells Fargo Bank."

What specific design considerations went into this game?

I really wanted to create something that spoke to their West Texas heritage, so we decided on the West Texas Jail Break. It was much more appropriate than my Edgar Allan Poe room would have been!

Close up of the marshal's desk in the Escape West Texas jail.

Were you worried that these guys were going to be terrible at your game?

Ummmm…. they were.

In their defense, they had no idea what the heck to expect. Editing, editing, editing! The game was so much longer than that what viewers see, with many more puzzles. They edited it down to two or three. They even mismatched puzzles and their endings with editing… it was surprising but looked fine.

Close up of the wall in the Escape West Texas jail dipicting a high level of detail in the room's design.

The investors weren’t too keen on your restaurant & bar concept or locations in Vegas, Disney, or Times Square. What do you think of their assessments?

They are dead on about the low profit margin of restaurants. We ARE adding bars to our locations wherever it is possible, though. I still disagree about being in a place like MGM in Vegas and that is still not off the table.

The investors pushed the importance of the corporate client and you’ll be using their connections to open in corporate resorts. When should we expect to see these resort games opening?

We are meeting with Hyatt and Hilton in the next couple of weeks. A television show is also in discussions. Things have been crazy, especially with us opening this new location in Georgetown complete with a liquor license.

The good news is, we have paired up with Larry Kirchner from The Darkness, a haunted house in St. Louis, to build all of our rooms and he is AMAZING! You will be blown away by the Titanic, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Friday the 13th, and Mummy rooms. They have CGI, lighting effects, sound effects, and incredible theming. They aren’t cheap though, and all in all will come in at about $100,000 apiece.

Larry’s ability to build multiple rooms quickly in his warehouse from the ground up, disassemble, ship, and reassemble onsite has opened up a whole new world. Getting consistently themed rooms into resorts now seems much more feasible.

We are also working with a professional and seasoned puzzle designer who has vast experience in designing for the best puzzle hunts in the world. He is local to us and we work extremely well together.

What new design considerations do you see as factors for resort-based games? 

Simply put: more automation, including automatic reset of the games. This is in addition to the increased immersion through true set design and special effects, of course.

How will you handle quality control in these diverse locations?

Our Director of Operations and his VP of Operations are gearing up to be mobile. They are very excited.

What overlap or conflict does this deal have with the partnerships you’ve formed with movie studios? 

None.

In the negotiations, you counteroffered with $800,000. That was a very specific number. How much time did they allow you to research before giving them this number?

No time. I replied immediately.

If we do the math, you valued your company at $2 million. Given that you’ve grossed $2.3 million in 15 months, help our readers understand why you took the deal.

I agree that the valuation was not good, especially since our gross receipts for 2016 should be over $4 million. Here was my thought process, although things are still fluid in the deal: These guys have far more connections than you can even imagine – in Hollywood (Rooster is Matthew McConaughey’s brother, after all), New York, Wall Street – so the growth potential here goes beyond anything I could do myself. Given that fact, as an example, 60% of $100 million is a lot more than 100% of $10 million, don’t you agree?

And are you happy with the outcome?

I love these guys. I love creating. And I really love being a successful entrepreneur. I’m happy as hell.

Ginger and Rooster clinking beer cans in celebration of their deal on The West Texas Investors Club.
Escape Room Live Owner and CEO Ginger Flesher-Sonnier pitched investors Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam on “West Texas Investors Club,” which airs Tuesdays at 10PM/ET on CNBC.

Escape Room Live Alexandria – Poe-ranormal Activity [Review]

“The generous Critic fann’d the Poet’s fire, And taught the world with reason to admire.”

Edgar Allan Poe

Location: Alexandria, VA

Date played: May 28, 2016

Team size: 8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

We were the team of paranormal investigators called in when a historian vanished while searching Edgar Allen Poe’s old chambers for a lost manuscript. The game started just after the our investigative team had split up (because that’s always a good idea when searching a spooky location) and been locked in separate rooms by the building’s ghosts.

The story worked.

The set was well constructed, beautifully designed, and immersive. It captured the aura and symbolism associated with Poe.

Interior game image depicts a silhouette of a woman, a painting of a naval battle, and a sconse.

Puzzles

The early puzzles required communication between our two groups, separated by a locked door. The split was balanced and the puzzles were expertly intertwined.

Poe’s work inspired the puzzles in Poe-ranomal. Not surprisingly, this escape room leaned heavily on word-related puzzles. While clues in the game provided us with all the necessary information to solve the room’s puzzles, a bit of familiarity with Poe’s work proved advantageous.

Standouts

Poe-ranomal was no exception to the immersive design we’ve come to expect from Escape Room Live Alexandria. In this instance, they built a relatively mundane stage that delivered dramatic interactions through hidden magic.

The ghost tracking device added to both the game mechanics and the ambiance.

Late in the game, dramatic practical effects truly enhanced the climax of this escape room.

The attention to detail in the theming demonstrated that the game designer had, in fact, read the works of Edgar Allen Poe… which, tragically, is not always the case in escape rooms themed on authors.

A statue of a raven, perched on a stone.

Shortcomings

When our two teams reunited part way through the game, we now inhabited all together the same game space we had thoroughly explored independently. We spent significant time explaining to each other which items had already been solved, or what their unsolved status was. Throughout the game, we had to be particularly mindful of teammates starting in on already-solved components.

Some of the technological interactions lacked clear feedback in the form of obvious new information. In multiple instances, we were positive that our actions had triggered something, but couldn’t quickly figure out what was now available to us. This solution confirmation delay briefly stifled momentum.

We experienced a mechanism failure with the final interaction of the game. It was disappointing not to see this game’s dramatic conclusion. Escape Room Live Alexandria refunded our tickets to make good on this shortcoming, as they would for any customer in this situation, and for that we salute them… not enough companies follow this practice after significant failures.

Should I play Escape Room Live Alexandria’s Poe-ranormal?

Poe-ranomal was a beautifully simple stage that revealed complex design mechanics as the game unfolded. It expertly wove the paranormal into a story flow. The theming and story demonstrated subject matter expertise in a way that many literary-themed escape rooms do not.

Even with the ghost tracking, this game was not scary. There were dramatic moments, but this was still a family-friendly experience.

Escape Room Live Alexandria is a company that minds the details of their experiences: from their magnificent waiting room, to their humorously delivered rules and setups, to the staging, and puzzles. Even when things go wrong, they are on top of it. It’s a fun operation to visit.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Alexandria’s Poe-ranormal, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.