Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) – Mansion Murder [Review]

A family affair

Location:  Dallas, Texas

Date Played: March 30, 2022

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: No

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mansion Murder was defined by a hint of luxury, a dab of family intrigue, and a couple of multi-part connections that carried the bulk of its difficulty. It didn’t have many standout moments, however; the puzzles and set elements were fairly standard escape room fair. A detailed family history lesson provided the narrative, but most of it was superfluous to our efforts.

Wide angle view of an old mansion with painted portraits and a large family tree all hung on the wall.

The pacing of this experience was curious. It positioned the most relevant plot points, most difficult puzzles, and most exciting reveals before or near the halfway point. A deeper interest in the story might sustain committed story seekers in the second half. To us, the final puzzles felt scattered and inconsequential.

As a set of puzzles in a pretty setting, there was nothing wrong with this room, and newer players may find it quite challenging. There are, however, other rooms in the Escapology franchise (Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle and Budapest Express, for example) that use more compelling theming, set pieces, and/ or puzzle integration to offer a more interesting experience.

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Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) TX – 7 Deadly Sins [Review]

Here is the church…

Location:  Dallas, TX

Date Played: March 30, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: As far as we and our gamemaster could tell, one puzzle did not display correctly on a monitor.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

7 Deadly Sins held thematic and narrative promise, enticing us with the lore of Crickley’s Church and its haunting past. Indeed, much of the set and the puzzles lived up to that potential. We enjoyed the initial the decor, appreciated various prop-supported puzzles, and recognized many of the story points foretold in the introduction. These features were not without flaws, but overall this was a fairly elaborate production for Escapology.

A small wooden church beside a well.

However, the room began to falter about midway and didn’t fully recover. One puzzle seemed to malfunction due to technical issues, making it impossible to sync our experience with the expected behavior. The theming for other puzzles expanded in nonsensical ways. Lastly, we found an underwhelming final set compared to previous spaces. We still enjoyed the puzzles therein, but evidence of 1-2 ghost puzzles made us wonder if the conclusion had been simplified, losing some of the promised adventure. We expected to work harder for our goal, but much was just given to us.

Nonetheless, this seemed to have the bones of a stronger room and had certain standout aspects among Escapology games. It would be interesting to compare notes across different locations.

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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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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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Escapology – Dallas (Victory Park) TX – Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure [Review]

Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure is one of the best games in the Dallas area. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms around Dallas.

There’s a very logical explanation for all this.

Location: Dallas, TX

Date Played: March 30, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $36 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As an experience built around a cherished piece of nostalgia, Scooby Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure delivered a thorough homage to the show. The main characters (and their voices) each made important appearances, the entire set felt like a cartoon (if not necessarily a castle), and several more minor allusions appeared throughout. Beyond the licensed IP content, however, the escape room elements also reflected the show’s essence. The puzzles fit in the Scooby world, and Mystery Inc.’s sole purpose of solving mysteries was ripe for this escape room adaptation. Scooby fans should be pleased.

A case with knight's armor beside a box of Scooby Snacks.

Of course, not every Scooby fan is an escape room fan, so the other thing that this room did well for its audience was scaffolding the puzzle-solving process. As puzzle difficulty steadily increased throughout the room, we were provided explicit instructions for how to think toward the solutions. There were still reveals, minor ahas, and some tricky execution points within this process, but it was the most explicit training I have seen in an escape room.

Ultimately, this room did what it set out to do: enabled Scooby Doo fans to enjoy a thematic, puzzle-focused adventure, even without prior puzzling experience. It clearly prioritized Scooby Doo fans of all ages over escape room enthusiasts, but the latter may still appreciate this game if they have any nostalgia for the show or fans to entertain.

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