Clue IQ – Crane Manor [Review]

Ichabod’s heir

Location:  Frederick, MD

Date Played: October 3, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $32 per player for teams of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Growing up in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, the legend of the Headless Horseman was a recurring part of Halloween. I hadn’t seen this story told through an escape room before, and I was pretty excited about it.

The silhouette of the headless horseman on a wall in front of a candle lit alter.

From a gameplay standpoint, we enjoyed Crane Manor. It had interesting, meaty puzzles that weren’t especially hard, but did demand a little more thought than your typical escape room fare. There were some late game puzzle interactions that felt half-baked, but those notwithstanding, it felt good solving Crane Manor.

From a narrative and thematic standpoint, Crane Manor had a bit of an identity crisis. We were never sure whether it was supposed to feel spooky, scary, or simply intriguing? Similarly – and perhaps relatedly – we felt like the set and story weren’t pulling in the same direction. Crane Manor needed to commit to a mood.

Crane Manor had a lot going for it if you have some escape room experience. It was an unusual and puzzley escape game, and well worth checking out if you’re from the area. Newer players should strongly consider playing Clue IQ’s Operation Jingle Bells or Excalibur first.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • For a puzzle-forward game
  • Moody, atmospheric set

Story

Legend tells of a man who fought for the British during the American Revolution, and neither bullet, nor bayonet could kill him. He eventually met his end when a cannon ball removed his head… but he returned as the vengeful ghost known as the Headless Horseman.

Years later, a man named Ichabod Crane encountered the Headless Horseman. Narrowly surviving his encounter, he became obsessed with the Horseman, studying magic to learn how to control the ghost for his own villainous purposes.

It had become our duty to break into Crane Manor and finally put the immortal Horseman to rest.

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Escape Room Herndon – Maritime Mutiny [Review]

A bounty

Location:  Herndon, VA

Date Played: October 2, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $39 per player for teams of 2 to $28 per player for teams of 5+

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

No matter how many times it happens, I am still surprised when I walk into an escape room in a strip mall, enter a game, and find myself in another world. Walking through the doors of Maritime Mutiny took us onto a pirate ship. A picture is worth a thousand words:

View of a brig and a cannon on a wooden pirate ship.
Image via Escape Room Herndon

In Maritime Mutiny, Escape Room Herndon nailed the classic thematic escape room style. The story was present, but this game was all about solving puzzles in a compelling environment. It was a ton of fun. This game is a regional standout, and if you’re nearby, absolutely go play it.

My word of caution is to consider whether you want to tackle the bonus puzzles. They were a serious leap in difficulty and brought a change in tone that, for us, didn’t do the game any favors. They were certainly solvable, but we would have been happier walking out of the game with the vibe of the base game’s conclusion instead of the studious tone of the bonus puzzles.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level (newbies will want a larger team)
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Fantastic puzzles
  • Compelling ship set
  • For a serious challenge, the bonus puzzles pack difficulty

Story

Our crew had realized that Captain Ravensbeard had been cheating us out of our fair share of the plunder. He’d barricaded himself in his quarters, but we were committed to finding our way in and enforcing a change of management.

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Clue IQ – Operation Jingle Bells [Review]

The HR department saves Christmas

Location:  Frederick, MD

Date Played: October 3, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $46 per player for teams of 2 to $28 per player for teams of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We’ve generally had a lot of fun in Christmas-themed escape games, and Clue IQ’s take on saving Christmas was one of our favorites.

Operation Jingle Bells had a great aesthetic, and an entertaining mix of smart, joyous, and funny puzzles.

Flight Command in Santa's Workshop.

This game was explicitly designed for large families to enjoy. The large volume of approachable content, blended with the theme and non-linear gameplay, reinforced that design decision. As a result of its non-linear nature, experienced puzzlers will blow through this game. Bring a team size (and mentality) that fits your goals for Christmas puzzling.

Whether you’re new to escape rooms, or you’re just looking to enjoy a great Christmas-themed escape room, check out Operation Jingle Bells if you’re in the DC area.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • You’re feeling the Christmas spirit
  • Great for any experience level, but fantastic for newbies

Why play?

  • A true large-team game
  • For joyous, cheerful fun

Story

While all of Santa’s elves were busy watching the annual Reindeer Games, the mischievous elf Slappy had broken into North Pole Flight Command and made a mess of all of Santa’s systems. It was up to us to restore them and save Christmas.

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Clue IQ – Excalibur [Review]

The trials of the sword

Location:  Frederick, MD

Date Played: October 3, 2021

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $46 per player for teams of 2 to $28 per player for teams of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Excalibur was an amazing newbie-friendly game. We took my aunt to her first escape room (and my cousin and her friend to their third), and I don’t think we could have picked a better first game for her.

Excalibur had a fantastic blend of solid puzzles, ambiance, and magical tech – all set in an approachable environment.

A sword set in a stone, fog lit dramatically behind it.

If you’re an experienced player, there’s a fun game for you here, but I’d suggest savoring it rather than speed running it. There’s a lot to enjoy. Beyond that, I’d encourage you to bring some newbies and play it a little cool. It was a lot of fun watching my family make the right connections and experience the magic.

If you’re in the DC suburbs, check out Excalibur.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Fans of swords & sorcery
  • Great for any experience level, but fantastic for newbies

Why play?

  • To introduce your friends to escape rooms
  • Magical triggers

Story

As King Arthur grew old, he asked his wizard, Merlin to set his mythical sword Excalibur back into the stone from which he’d pulled it so that another who was worthy could lift it.

Generations had passed and no one had been able to pull the sword from the stone. It was our turn to face the Trials of the Sword.

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Escape Room Herndon – 8-Bit Escape [Review]

❤️❤️❤️

Location:  Herndon, VA

Date Played: October 2, 2021

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $39 per player for teams of 2 to $28 per player for teams of 5+

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I’m about to gush… a lot. The creators of 8-Bit Escape who watched me play know that I’m about to gush… a lot. They saw me play their game, and they witnessed me transform into a giddy child for the duration of my stay in their experience.

In a very personal way, 8-Bit Escape was one of my favorite escape room experiences ever. That doesn’t mean that this game was fancy or mind-blowing… it wasn’t. It was a fairly traditional escape room, executed well – and – the execution of the 80s gamer theme was so dead-on that I nearly ODed on nostalgia.

Typically 80s escape rooms feel like a pastiche of the 80s; 8-Bit Escape felt more like a time machine to a very particular late 80s experience that closely mimicked my own. The toys, music, video games, magazines… everything in this space felt like something that I owned (or more likely, played with at my friend Danny’s house. His parents bought him everything).

An old CRT television in a room with wood panel walls and shag carpet.
Image via Escape Room Herndon

There was a moment in 8-Bit Escape where I picked up an old copy of Nintendo Power Magazine, flipped to a random page, and found a map/ walkthrough of the infamously difficult dam level in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I just sat on the floor between the couch and television looking it over. I legitimately felt like I was 4 again. I found dozens of other items throughout this space that resonated with me in the same way. Furthermore, there was an authentic way that these moments all came together into a cohesive experience.

Whether you’re playing 8-Bit Escape to remember, or to get a glimpse into a world that wasn’t yours, the love and care that went into this experience is something to behold. It’s not the greatest escape room in the world, but it’s a really good one… and for me, it’s a special one.

Who is this for?

  • 80s kids
  • Retro video game fans
  • David Spira
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Nostalgia… to relive your youth (or someone else’s)
  • The loving representation of a video game nerd’s life in the late 80s
  • Authentic props and music

Story

It was the late 80s and our friends had all come over to play a new video game… but our mom had locked our games up until we’d finished our stupid homework.

We had about an hour to get our hands on the game before everyone got bored and went to Wade’s house to play. We couldn’t have that. Wade sucks.

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