Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro – Murfree’s Manor [Review]

Grandma’s got a cool clock.

Location: Murfreesboro, TN

Date Played: July 26, 2018

Team size: 4-#; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro stepped it up in their latest creation, Murfree’s Manor. This puzzle-centric company leaned into their strengths and produced a wonderful collection of themed mental challenges in an environment that truly captured the vibe of a Midwestern grandmother’s home. They snuck in a few surprises that added drama to an otherwise low-key theme.

If you’re anywhere nearby and love a strong puzzle game, give Murfree’s Manor a shot.

In-game: A view through a dark wood passthrough with pink walls into an old living room.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A strikingly believable set
  • Strong puzzle-centric design
  • The clock

Story

In-game: The front door of a home and a flier for an estate sale.

Setting

Murfree’s Manor looked convincingly like a midwestern grandma’s home. The furniture, woodwork, and color palette were decades out of date. It all came together in one homey and buyable package.

Murfree’s Manor nailed the aesthetic that it needed to pull off this theme and hid quite a bit of detail that honestly surprised us.

In-game: An old kitchen and dinette. The refrigerator has letter magnets arranged as "REA."

Gameplay

Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro’s Murfree’s Manor was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: an old record player beside a strange and ornate wooden grandfather clock.

Analysis

Murfree’s Manor nailed the grandma aesthetic with the decor.

+ That grandfather clock. It continued to impress us throughout the escape game.

+ The gamespace felt much larger than it was. Considering the layout and the distinctly decorated rooms, Murfree’s Manor felt far more expansive than it should have given the square footage.

– There was a backstory, but the story didn’t have much bearing on the puzzles or gameplay. It also didn’t make a ton of sense as a premise for the experience.

+ Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro created some honestly challenging puzzles out of simple cupboard odds and ends.

– We encountered a number of combination locks with similar digit structures. We recommend additional cluing between locks and puzzles so that players don’t have to run all over the house trying combinations.

– We played Murfree’s Manor before it was officially open, but one reveal was already wearing poorly.

+ The layered final puzzle sequence was varied, tangible, and exciting. It was a fantastic conclusion.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking out front.
  • We enjoyed the muffins (and other delicacies) at Mimi’s Cafe.
  • To fully enjoy Murfree’s Manor, you need to be comfortable climbing stairs with an irregular rise. As long as a couple of teammates can climb the stairs, you’ll be able to play.

Book your hour with Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro’s Murfree’s Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locked: Escape Game Murfreesboro comped our tickets for this game.

The Escape Game – Playground [Review]

Game on!

Location: Nashville, TN

Date Played: July 25, 2018

Team size: 4-12; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Playground was a joyful escape room. The Escape Game captured the elementary school vibe with a bright and ever-so-slightly cartoonish take that made this relatable space entirely delightful to revisit (and one of the rare games to justify fluorescent tube lighting).

While the puzzling was at times chaotic, we could track our collective progress with a giant glowing report card, and the teamwork-centric gameplay kept us all engaged.

If you’re anywhere near Nashville or one of the other The Escape Game locations, Playground is absolutely worth visiting.

In-game: a bright and colorful jungle gym on green turf.

Who is this for?

  • Kids & kids at heart
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The playground
  • From a puzzling standpoint, there was something for everyone
  • It was joyful

Story

It was the last day of 4th grade and the start of the annual Summer Kickoff Kickball Tournament. We were set to play against our rivals, the 5th graders. If we couldn’t complete all of our assignments before the start of the game, however, we would be forced to forfeit… and that was an unacceptable option.

In-game: A pair of classroom desks with strange projects resting on top of them.

Setting

Playground let us loose in an elementary school classroom and adjacent playground. Both segments struck a fantastic balance of realism and bright fantastic fiction. It looked almost realistic, but better, in a Hollywood sort of way.

It was a joyous environment. We all took a turn wandering away from the gameplay to simply enjoy the wonderful gamespace with childlike glee.

In-game: A red apple sitting on the teachers desk in front of the classroom.

Gameplay

The Escape Game’s Playground was a standard escape room with a lower level of difficulty and a lot of content.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, dexterity, and puzzling.

In-game: The exterior of the school building with a PA and American flag.

Analysis

+ From the moment we entered the gamespace, we felt like excited children on the last day of school. When the gamespace opened up to a playground, we were positively giddy as we explored the set.

+ The set felt overly bright, but authentically so: elementary school meets Disney.

+ This was one of the rare games where fluorescent lighting felt appropriate.

+ If we didn’t know our teammates, introductions were built in, and stayed right up on the wall… as they would all year in the classroom.

In-game: A wall poster with balloons where each player (student) wrote their name.

+ The storyline was both ridiculous and relatable. This escape room didn’t take itself seriously, in a good way.

+ The introductory video was hilarious.

+ We could track our progression through Playground with our report card. This gave us a pretty good sense of how much longer we’d be in class before we escaped to summer break.

– The subjects were a bit abstract and we often had no idea what subject any given puzzle belonged to. One in particular only revealed its true colors upon completion.

In-game: the game's report card, featuring an A+ in every subject.

Playground included gamified dexterity challenges, which made sense on a playground.

+ Many of the puzzles required collaboration. These were some of our favorite challenges.

– When I graphed the data from this game, it became clear that one puzzle overstayed its welcome.

– Nobody wants to do math on the playground.

– One of the larger set pieces didn’t contribute to anything. It seemed like there should have been a puzzle climb.

In-game: a bookshelf, ant farm, and hamster cage.

? We opened up most of the gamespace pretty early in our playthrough. This immediately upped the group energy level. That said, it caused us some confusion as to where to focus our energy, even with the report card’s guidance.

+ The Escape Game created a sweet moment that filled us with a bit of unease, then cracked us up.

+ Throughout Playground, solves resolved to a variety of exciting reveals.

+ This was a low-stress escape room and a joyous experience.

Tips for Visiting

  • Playground is at The Escape Game’s East Iris location.
  • There is a parking lot nearby.
  • Check out the map on the wall in the lobby.
  • At least 2 players need to be able to step over, climb up, sit down, crawl… and generally play on a playground.

Book your hour with The Escape Game’s Playground, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Escape Game comped our tickets for this game.

Murfreesboro Escape Rooms – Skinner’s Box [Review]

Conditioning

Location: Murfreesboro, TN

Date Played: July 26, 2018

Team size: 4-12; we recommend 6-8

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Skinner’s Box’s split-team design was conceptually brilliant and superbly zany. The whimsical and weirdly interconnected rat sets delighted us.

The design introduced gameflow problems as the team congregated in the mundane scientist sets for the majority of the puzzle solving, and the game petered out.

Skinner’s Box was certainly outside of the box, as far as escape rooms go.

The physical challenges were nifty, but not comfortable. Your enjoyment of Skinner’s Box will vary heavily based on your physical limitations and the role you choose to play.

If you’re looking for a split-team, physically interactive, communication-focused escape room that’s unlike any other, it’s worth stopping in for Skinner’s Box.

In-game: a bright and happy rat cage with rubes, ladders and a rat toy.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A unique approach to split-team gameplay
  • Pure puzzle-based play for some
  • Physical challenge-based play for others

Story

Behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner had split us up and placed us his operant conditioning chamber, also known as a Skinner Box. Through reward and punishment we had to learn how to free ourselves.

In-game: a rundown laboratory with a glowing box for handing hazardous materials and a periodic table of elements.

Setting

Although we were split into four groups, there were three distinctive sets. (Two of the sets where quite similar.)

The scientists entered white-walled lab environments that any escape room player would instantaneously recognize as a lab-themed game.

The happy rats and sad rats inhabited the most unusual and intriguing portion of the game. Each group was locked in an oversized rat cage, but with decidedly different aesthetics.

In-game: a dark rat cage with a large throw switch, a number pad, and an oversized caricature of a rat.

Gameplay

Murfreesboro Escape Rooms’ Skinner’s Box was an unusual, split-team escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The scientist rooms were typical escape rooms. The scientists’ core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, communication, and puzzling.

The rat rooms relied heavily on crawling and physicality. The rats’ core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, communication, and dexterity.

In-game: a rundown lab with a letter/number grid along with a variety of locked compartments and cabinets.

Analysis

+ For the rats, Skinner’s Box was ridiculous and exhilarating. We’d never played anything like it.

? For the scientists, Skinner’s Box played like a fairly traditional split-team escape game.

+ The Skinner’s Box theme was inspired.

– We wished Murfreesboro Escape Rooms had leaned into the theme more heavily, creating more conditioning loops between the rats and the scientists.

+ The rats were crawling through the walls; the scientists could hear rats in the walls. This was an incredible, interactive spatial design.

+ The rat sets were great. They were thematically sound, rat-inspired, and ludicrously fun to explore.

– The set had a few logistics issues. The crawling surface wasn’t padded. It worked aesthetically, but it wasn’t comfortable. There was a door that doubled as a key game component, which meant bumping the door into someone solving a puzzle as another person tried to push it open or closed.

Skinner’s Box offered substantial puzzle variety and challenge.

– The puzzle distribution was uneven. Most of the puzzle-solving took place in the scientist rooms, which were the less dynamic sets.

Skinner’s Box leaned heavily on communication puzzles, which worked well with the split-team dynamic.

– Because of the uneven puzzle distribution, the rats (and anyone who wished) had free rein of the set pretty early on. We would have liked more forced communication between the different roles. This also would have reduced the crowding on the scientists and the yet unsolved puzzles.

– Skinner’s Box struggled with the reconvening conundrum. The rats ultimately emerged in the scientist rooms where they wanted to help solve puzzles. This frustrated the scientists who knew what was solved and what was in play. It was hard to effectively work together in the scientists’ space.

– We struggled with one misleading search puzzle in challenging lighting. It took a lot of time and sapped the energy from the group.

– The finale was lackluster. We escaped, but that didn’t do the game justice. Skinner’s Box demanded a dramatic conclusion to the rat conditioning.

Skinner’s Box was insane and zany. With the right people in the rat and scientist rooms, the madness was a lot of fun.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking out front.
  • We enjoyed the muffins (and other delicacies) at Mimi’s Cafe.
  • There are 4 distinct gamespaces. You cannot complete this room with fewer than 4 players.
  • At least 2 players need to be comfortable crawling quite a bit in relatively tight spaces. They will play as rats.
  • Note that less mobile players can play comfortably as scientists.

Book your hour with Murfreesboro Escape Rooms’ Skinner’s Box, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Murfreesboro Escape Rooms comped our tickets for this game.

60 Minute Escape – The Fallout [Review]

Rush in.

Location: Murfreesboro, TN

Date Played: July 26, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $26 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

60 Minute Escape opened with The Fallout. It was a strong first game that combined searching and puzzling with narrative elements and revealing moments. Despite a few frustrating design decisions, The Fallout flowed well.

If you’re a new player in the area, The Fallout would be a fun place to start. If you’re a more experienced player, 60 Minute Escape’s newer Pharaoh’s Chamber was a far more special game.

In-game: the exterior for a rundown and boarded up home.

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?

  • Detailed and grim set design
  • Puzzle-driven gameplay

Story

We stepped through time into an alternate history where Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was on the brink of nuclear annihilation. We had to work together to gain entry into a fallout shelter before the bomb fell.

In-game: A wooden door with a nuclear symbol painted on.

Setting

Low lit and grim, The Fallout had an ominous, spooky vibe. With a highly detailed set, the staging felt intense.

While we knew something bad would happen at the end of our 60 minutes, it seemed like something terrible might have already happened in this place.

In-game: the grim livingroom of an old rundown home.

Gameplay

60 Minute Escape’s The Fallout was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The opening set looked intense and exciting.

+ 60 Minute Escape incorporated cluing in the form of story. Or maybe story in the form of cluing. It worked well.

– The setting was unnecessarily dark. Throughout much of the game, the set and lighting felt more “horror” than “bunker.” It wasn’t scary and it didn’t really enhance our mission. The low lighting also made puzzle-solving far more frustrating.

+ Although the staging for The Fallout was intense, the cluing was at times humorous, which we enjoyed.

+ We enjoyed how 60 Minute Escape set one lock during reset so that we wouldn’t go off on a wild goose chase.

– At times The Fallout lacked feedback, especially when multiple puzzles had to be solved to trigger one reveal.

– The Fallout included an input mechanism that didn’t make a ton of sense in the experience, and didn’t seem to be used with intent.

The Fallout was heavy on searching in low light. 60 Minute Escape hid clues well, but fairly.

+ We enjoyed the layered puzzle solves.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking out front.
  • We enjoyed the muffins (and other delicacies) at Mimi’s Cafe.
  • Players must be able to duck through a low entrance.

Book your hour with 60 Minute Escape’s The Fallout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60 Minute Escape comped our tickets for this game.

LiveMinds Adventure Escape – Knight Sky [Review]

Key Points

Location: Franklin, TN

Date Played: July 26, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Oh my, few escape room sets are as stunning as the city streets of Knight Sky. Merely setting foot in this game was joyous. However, the more time we spent playing, the less joy we found, all culminating in a tedious finale.

LiveMinds Adventure Escape should be a world class escape room facility. They should be a company that people travel to from all over just to marvel at their creations… but they are a game designer and probably a few arduinos away from reaching the peak that they so rightfully deserve.

In its current state, I can only describe Knight Sky as a must see… not a must play. It’s not as strong as their other game Treasure of Pacari.

I really want these folks to sort out gameplay; greatness is within their reach.

In-game: A city street surrounded by beautiful brick buildings.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The massive and detailed opening set
  • The awesome LiveMinds facility

Story

Our mission: Stop a terrorist cell that had acquired a supercomputer and the software necessary to assume control of critical systems around the globe.

In-game: a Mini Cooper that crashed through a garage in front of a graffitied wall.

Setting

Knight Sky dropped us into the streets of a rundown city. It looked spectacular.

This cityscape was a unique setting that most other escape room companies could not pull off. It really highlighted LiveMinds’ skills.

Unlike in Treasure of Pacari, as the game progressed, the scale and detail steady dropped. By the end, the set design quality was still above average, but was no longer dumbfounding.

In-game: Power lines with a transformer sparking over the city.

Gameplay

LiveMinds Adventure Escape’s Knight Sky was a standard search-heavy escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around detailed searching, dexterity, deduction, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ The opening set was breathtaking. The city streets were magnificently detailed, expansive, and unlike any other set we’ve seen to date. We were captivated by the gamespace.

– While the set was huge, the interactions generally felt pretty small, sometimes even tiny. Tragically little of the incredible set was incorporated into the puzzles and gameplay.

Knight Sky’s search-heavy gameplay forced us to truly experience the entire set.

– Repeatedly searching an immense set with a single handheld light became painstakingly frustrating. We spent a lot of time pixel hunting.

– Each subsequent gamespace was less detailed than the one before it. Our intrigue dwindled as we progressed through the game.

+ We enjoyed the oversized, tangible connections in one later-game puzzle. The puzzle produced satisfying solves.

– One late-game puzzle overstayed its welcome. Although it was a neat concept, our tool proved to be less than ideal for the task at hand and only 2 or 3 teammates could effectively work on – or even fully view – the puzzle. With each subsequent cycle through the puzzle, the task became less interesting and more tedious.

– As Knight Sky progressed, the game’s momentum petered out and our energy levels dropped.

– Knight Sky lacked a finale. The opening moments were far more dramatic and energetic than the lackluster hoorah for saving the world.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is parking out front.
  • We enjoyed The Tin Roof 2, especially their signature sandwich.

Book your hour with LiveMinds Adventure Escape’s Knight Sky, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: LiveMinds Adventure Escape comped our tickets for this game.