Charm City Clue Room – Edgar Allan Poe Room [Review]

Nevermore?

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Date played: April 26, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

Story & setting

It was 1849 and Edgar Allan Poe, the famed poet and cryptographer, had just died under dubious circumstances. We had been granted the opportunity to search his home to solve the mystery surrounding his death.

The Edgar Allan Poe Room had a decidedly old-school escape room look and feel about it. The set was reasonably cohesive, but neither eye-catching nor immersive.

In game: A close up of a raven in a bird cage with a key dangling above its head.

Puzzles

Puzzles were the focus of the Edgar Allan Poe Room. They were largely based on ciphers, which was appropriate for the subject matter.

Standouts

There were some good cipher-based puzzles.

One particular puzzle component was lovingly handmade; realizing its purpose was delightful.

I enjoy when escape room companies pull from local history and culture. In this case, I also liked the way that Charm City Clue Room presented a hypothesis as to the cause of Poe’s death.

In game: A bird cage sitting beside a bookcase.

Shortcomings

The game flow was a little jittery. We were easily able to solve puzzles out of order because we were picking up pieces as we progressed. We had a search fail and missed critical items, but still managed to make it through the game using reason and a little bit of brute-force guessing.

The set was not inspiring.

One inviting late game interaction was available from the start of the room escape. At three different points we approached it and each time we were warned by the gamemaster that it wasn’t in play yet. If this interaction had been unavailable until the appropriate moment, it would have simplified gamemastering and removed a recurring moment of annoyance. The regular wrist slapping, while polite and useful, should not have been necessary.

Should I play Charm City Clue Room’s Edgar Allan Poe Room?

The Edgar Allan Poe Room was a touch too dreary for my taste. The puzzling was fine, but the gameflow needed work.

The space was a dozen shades of brown both literally and metaphorically. I kept waiting for the excitement to show up, but it never did.

Our team had a good enough time together in this room, but as I look back on it, I simply cannot tell whom it was designed for. Beginners will likely find themselves getting caught up in a mixture of gameflow hiccups as they battle to understand how an escape room functions. Experienced players should know that there are far more interesting room escapes out there.

Poe is great subject for an escape room, but this room didn’t deliver on the potential. Nothing was terrible in the Edgar Allan Poe Room, but nothing was fantastic either. In the end, the game felt weak, and upon leaving, I was a bit weary.

Book your hour with Charm City Clue Room’s Edgar Allan Poe Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Baltimaze – Ex Machina [Review]

The ghost in the vault.

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Date played: April 24, 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.50 per ticket (adults), $24.50 per ticket (children & students)

Story & setting

During the renovation of an old Victorian mansion previously owned by an eccentric world traveler, a mysterious room was discovered. We had to explore this space and find our way in through the long-sealed vault door.

The setting was essentially a puzzle room in an old house. Parts of it were deliberately unusual, like the vault door, which added an element of adventure to an otherwise standard escape room set.

In game: A big metal, vault door with a series of elaborate mechanical locking mechanisms and strange green weathering.

Puzzles

Ex Machina was a puzzle-driven escape room. It used a fair amount of tech and kept interactions tangible. Some of these puzzles were legitimate challenges and demanded diverse skills including reasoning and dexterity.

Standouts

The vault door looked great. Its handcrafted mechanical locking mechanism was deeply satisfying. We were literally playing with it long after we opened it.

Nearly every detail of Ex Machina had a purpose.

Many of the puzzles were challenging, tangible, and fair. Solving them was satisfying.

Shortcomings

The set was inconsistent. Some portions of the game looked and felt fantastic, while others felt a little rushed.

One of the later puzzles was a blind guessing game that allowed only one player to participate at a time. While I am assuming that many teams breeze through this, we spent 10 minutes watching each other fail with literally nothing else to do. Even if it went smoothly, it wasn’t an exciting or collaborative challenge for such a prominent, late-game interaction.

Should I play Baltimaze’s Ex Machine?

I really enjoyed my visit to Baltimaze. Ex Machina had challenging, yet sensibly designed puzzles that forced us to earn our little victories.

Baltimaze is upfront about the higher difficulty level in this game. Beginners should, without a doubt, take a stab at an easier room or two before battling it out with the puzzles of Ex Machina.

So long as you haven’t already played Ex Machina at Baltimaze’s sister company Escape Rhode Island in Providence, experienced players should test their wits against Ex Machina… even if it’s just to see the vault door… which I wanted to take home with me.

Book your hour with Baltimaze’s Ex Machina, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.