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)
Continue reading “The Secret Chambers – The Poe Adventure [Review]”

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
Continue reading “Grapevine Escape – The Wine Vault [Review]”

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]”

Red Door Escape Room – Entrapment [Review]

[At the time of this review, Red Door Escape Room was called The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth.]

Another giant game in Texas.

Location: Dallas, Texas

Date played: November 2, 2015

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Price: $25 per ticket

The Escape Room - Dallas Fort Worth Logo

Story & theme

Continuing the story from The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s first episode, Confinement, Entrapment had us playing the role of private investigators looking into the crimes that we had previously uncovered.

Entrapment was far less dark and edgy than Confinement. It alluded to the themes from the first game, but never dove into them. It was a generally friendlier game.

The themes and setting were all over the place. There were three distinct locations in this room. Each one felt too different from the others, even though each one looked good individually.

The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth – Entrapment

Still huge

This was another massive game. Because Texas.

However, in spite of Entrapment’s size, there was one point when it became cramped and we experienced a tedious bottleneck.

Ranging quality

The puzzles in Entrapment were far more diverse than those found in Confinement.

There were a lot of incredible puzzles with interesting and unusual clues. There were also a few unexpected devices that added to the intrigue of the experience.

On the flip side, Entrapment hit its low points when the game leaned too heavily on devices. There was a point in the game where we had to ask for a hint just to make sure we knew how to use a device. Later, we were held back because we weren’t familiar with how to operate an unusual lock (which is one of my pet peeves).

Should I play The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s Entrapment?

Entrapment was more family friendly than Confinement. It offered attractive settings and a number of interesting puzzles.

I wish it were as consistent as Confinement was, but the gameplay was held back by its reliance on more gimmicky locks and contraptions.

It was a solid game, and well worth playing, even if it could have used more polish.

Book your hour in The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s Entrapment, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Red Door Escape Room – Confinement [Review]

[At the time of this review, Red Door Escape Room was called The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth.]

The rumors are true… Everything really is bigger in Texas!

Location: Dallas, Texas

Date played: November 2, 2015

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-5

Price: $25 per ticket

The Escape Room - Dallas Fort Worth Logo

Story & theme

The story in Confinement isn’t immediately apparent. The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s website introduced it cryptically:

“A mysterious dwelling, a dark secret, and the foreboding presence of a shadowy enemy await you.”

Over the course of the game, the dark, twisted, and strangely soap operatic tale unfolds through angsty notes and journal entries.

The game itself is equally dark, twisted, and angsty. I wouldn’t quite classify it as horror, but it’s damn close.

The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth - Confinement

Expansive game

The Escape Room started us off in a small room. That one room was equivalent to half the space of a typical New York City game. But as this Dallas game progressed, it revealed its immense size.

It was huge. Because Texas.

The space that fit Confinement would easily hold two to three games in most cities.

Fluid, well-paced gameplay

In keeping with the size of Confinement, there was a lot going on in this game. It was manageable because most of the puzzles had solid clues, and especially for its size, the game wasn’t bogged down with a ton of red herrings.

Every puzzle ended in a lock, but I wasn’t bothered by this because it flowed well and felt intense.

Dark & edgy

My hat is off to our gamemasters… They legitimately scared my whole team (of coworkers from my day job). They did it only once, but they got us so good.

The Escape Room’s website warns that Confinement is for mature audiences. I have to agree (especially considering where it is located). One of my coworkers, a Texan, was pretty surprised by the themes covered in the game. We all had a good time, but if you’re thin-skinned about darker themes, pick another game to play.

Serialized games

The Escape Room currently offers four games. Each one is an episode in an on-going story.

The story itself is hard to follow. I wish I found it as compelling as our gamemasters wanted me to, but I did love that they attempt to convey a larger narrative.

Should I play The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s Confinement?

My team of coworkers crushed the record in Confinement (we work really well together) and we had a ton of fun doing it.

Escape Room - Confinement - Room Escape Artist

Confinement offered thrills and challenging puzzles that were produced with a lot of maturity. I can only think of one puzzle where the hints were a little bit confounding. Overall, this was a highly refined game. It is absolutely worth playing.

If you’re jittery or politically hypersensitive, then Confinement isn’t going to be your game. If you’re up for it, this game is well worth the money.

Book your hour in The Escape Room Dallas Fort Worth’s Confinement, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.