Escape Room Herndon – 8-Bit Escape [Review]

8-Bit Escape is one of the best games in the Metro DC area. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms around Washington DC.

❤️❤️❤️

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.

Continue reading “Escape Room Herndon – 8-Bit Escape [Review]”

Cyber Raccoon – Train Robbery [Review]

Train Robbery is one of the best games in the Metro DC area. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms around Washington DC.

Wild Wild West Saloon

Location:  Falls Church, VA

Date Played: October 3, 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $50 per player for teams of 2 to $26 per player for groups of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

For a few years we’ve heard from DC-area locals something along the lines of, “Next time you’re in DC, you should check out Cyber Raccoon… they’re good.” At the risk of overhyping this company, our DC-area friends were seriously underselling the Train Robbery.

We had a blast in Train Robbery. The set was joyous, the puzzles were challenging yet fair, the interactions were well crafted, and the story came to a remarkably satisfying conclusion.

The puzzle difficulty was elegantly leveled out by a delightful hint system. (I only wish we had engaged it during the game, instead of finding out about it after we had finished.)

View from the saloon's bar of a beer keg, a golden cash register, and a stage with a piano beside it.

On top of it all, Train Robbery had one of the best subtle bits of game design/ narrative foreshadowing that I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to miss, and even if you catch it, it might not register, but if we meet in person, ask us about it. I’ll probably be talking about it until the end of time.

Suburban Washington, DC has a handful of great companies, but if you’re only playing one game in the region (though you should play more), it has to be Train Robbery. This game needs a bigger reputation than it has.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Integrated story, set, and puzzles
  • Amazing hint system
  • Plot twist… and so well executed within the gameplay.

Story

$6 million dollars had been robbed from a train in the mountains of Nevada. The heist had been well organized and it appeared that the robbers had used a powerful weapon of unknown origin.

To get to the bottom of this, Pinkerton National Detective Agency had been hired to solve the crime, and they’d sent us to find and follow the clues. The trail led to a saloon in Virginia City, and that is where our game began.

Continue reading “Cyber Raccoon – Train Robbery [Review]”

Escape Room Live Georgetown – Titanic [Review]

“Draw me like one of your French girls.” -Rose

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Titanic was a puzzle-focused escape room for newer puzzlers ready to set sail. The themed challenges were a lot of fun. Titanic combined lock-based gameplay with tech-driven interactions. With the addition of more in-game feedback, Titanic could flow more smoothly and feel more immersive.

If you’re a less experienced player looking for an interesting puzzle game, this is a great place to dive in.

If you’re more experienced, this a value judgment. Know that you’ll move quickly through this 45-minute experience, but there are some cool puzzles to grapple with. 

In-game: a chaise lounge beside a porthole in a large stateroom.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with little to moderate experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • The chaise longue
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

In our stateroom aboard the Titanic II, the unthinkable happened: we hit an iceberg. (No one could have seen that coming). We needed to escape our room and find our way to the deck of the ship in time to board a lifeboat, or…

Meme: Frozen Rose holding Jack says, "I'll never let go, Jack." Next panel, Jack is gone, reads, "LOL JK."

Setting

Our spacious stateroom was sparsely furnished with a few lovely antiques, some wall decorations, and a porthole with an iceberg view.

In-game: a porthole looking out over the water, an iceberg in the distance.

Aside from being a touch too Spartan and a little worn, the setting conveyed Titanic-style luxury well.

In-game: A portrait hanging on the wall over a mantle.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

In-game: a series of bells labeled "TITANIC."

Analysis

Titanic delivered fun, tangible puzzles. We particularly enjoyed a deduction puzzle.

+ We enjoyed the nautically-themed props and their use as puzzle components.

+ David especially enjoyed sprawling on the chaise longue and making jokes.

– Although we appreciated the theming, we would have liked to internalize more story – of the space, our characters, or the impending disaster – as we progressed toward the deck.

+/- There wasn’t a lot to find. On the one hand, we weren’t bogged down by searching through red herrings. On the other hand, the space felt a bit empty. It lacked depth.

– A few of the puzzles lacked feedback. In one instance, when we couldn’t tell if we were striking the right chord, we assumed the puzzle was out of play or broken. It was working, but it gave no indication of that.

– Later in our playthrough we solved a puzzle out of sequence, before receiving the appropriate cluing. The resulting interaction opened, but was not in play. Since we’d been conditioned earlier to proceed with puzzles even without feedback, we continued to hack at this interaction until our gamemaster noticed and nudged us back toward another unsolved puzzle.

+/- We were glad we couldn’t advance out of sequence because we would have missed a substantial portion of the game and some of the best puzzles. We wish the gamemaster hadn’t had to step in to redirect us.

+ The exit door was nifty.

+ Escape Room Live’s lobby and bar area is gorgeous; it’s a lovely place to hang out. I don’t normally get excited for lobbies, but this one is special.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Titanic, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Live Georgetown – The Mummy [Review]

Mummy may I?

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 21, 2018

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Mummy was about adventure over puzzles. The large-scale, interactive set pieces were exciting to manipulate. While some of the props and interactions were a touch too temperamental, the escape room delivered well-timed cinematic and memorable moments.

If you’re a new player in the area, try this one out.

If you’re more experienced, this a value judgment. Know that you’ll move quickly through this 45-minute experience.

If you’re in Georgetown looking for a good adventure, checkout The Mummy.

In-game: A massive sphinx head on the wall of an Egyptian tomb.

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?

  • Beautiful set pieces
  • Exciting, set-based interactions
  • Cinematic moments
  • The Escape Room Live lobby & bar

Story

As archeologists, we were exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb when the main doors sealed shut. We needed to escape because… Egyptian curses aren’t favorable.

In-game: A blue glowing ankh set in sandstone.

Setting

The set felt small; there wasn’t a ton of room to walk around. (Note for the claustrophobic folks: It’s not that small.)

The props felt enormous. The Egyptians had carved life-sized – and larger – stone depictions of their gods to guard this ancient burial place.

The floor was covered in real sand and the entire set was a bit sandy.

In-game: A sarcophagus leaning against the wall of an Egyptian tomb.

Gameplay

Escape Room Live Georgetown’s The Mummy was a standard escape room with a compelling set.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and determining interactions.

Analysis

+ The set had scale. The space may have been smaller, but the props and scenery felt immense.

The Mummy was an adventure. We interacted with it and it reacted to us.

– While we weren’t a rough group, our gamemaster repeatedly told us not to touch or investigate the set pieces with our hands or other in-game props. The continual admonishment diminished the fun of exploration. More player-proofing would go a long way; we felt like we needed permission to play.

– We found one search puzzle more frustrating than fun, especially given the small search tool and the admonishment for certain types of set exploration.

+ We loved one particularly larger-than-life set piece’s reaction. It engaged and impressed the entire team.

The Mummy looked worn and not in a ruins kind of way. Escape rooms with sand wear more quickly than most and need additional maintenance.

+ The initial room setup subtly clued late-game gameplay. This small detail probably makes a big difference for many teams. It was thoughtfully designed.

– One prop fit exactly into a place where it didn’t belong. We ultimately used it for a completely different purpose where size and shape meant nothing. This was confusing, unsatisfying, and avoidable.

– The gameplay relied on a run book: a journal contained a good portion of the clue structure. While the run book made some sense narratively, in an escape room with a visually interesting set, it was disappointing to have my nose in a book.

+ The opening and closing puzzles were cinematic. Escape Room Live Georgetown designed the puzzle flow around memorable moments. It worked. The final puzzle was a great choice.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.
  • The floor is covered in sand. We recommend closed-toe shoes.
  • Note that this is a 45-minute game. If you are experienced player, it will move quickly and feel short.

Book your hour with Escape Room Live Georgetown’s The Mummy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Live provided media discounted tickets for this game.

PanIQ Room – Primal Quest [Review]

Grunt loudly and carry a bigger stick.

Location: Washington, DC

Date Played: April 22, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: ranging from $24 – $36 per ticket depending on weekday/weekend and team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Primal Quest was our first prehistoric escape room. It was a puzzle-focused game with enjoyable puzzles, set against a fun theme. The setting and the gameplay felt split from one another, as the set was prehistoric and the puzzles were modern. Pulling the puzzles and environment into a more cohesive unit could make this interesting game great.

If you’re in the neighborhood, it a fun playthrough.

In-game: A fire on the other side of a wooden cage.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • Some good moments

Story

We were hostages of cannibal cavemen. Before they returned from hunting, we needed to escape or we’d be the meal in our last supper.

Setting

The cave was dimly lit and dusty. PanIQ Room had treated the walls to give them a more cave-like vibe. Some rooms had been heavily augmented to create a cave feel while others remained fairly modern. The cave was decorated primarily with animal hides, bones, and a glowing fire pit.

In-game: The walls of the cave with a pelt on the wall, and light shining in from above.

Gameplay

PanIQ Room’s Primal Quest was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

+/- Primal Quest was our first prehistoric escape room. It was thoughtfully but unevenly themed in terms of set decor and props. Some portions of the game felt like they had received a lot of attention, while others strongly resembled the office building that housed the game.

– Some of the decor needed maintenance; it looked worn.

– A few modern details remained exposed. The escape room would have been better had these details had been hidden away.

– The set was dusty. After crawling through one low doorway, our pants were covered in grit. Especially considering PanIQ Room’s location in Georgetown, we recommend a cave aesthetic that looks and feels dirty without the actual dirt.

Primal Quest started off in a limited space with only a few challenges available. This offered an on-ramp for newer players.

Primal Quest escalated in difficulty and intrigue.

Primal Quest contained interesting, satisfying puzzles of varied types. We generally knew how to approach them, but to solve them, we had to think a little differently than we had upon initial glance. The puzzles resolved cleanly.

– The puzzles were escape room-y and generally felt modern, even though we were in a prehistoric setting. This created a schism between the setting and the gameplay.

– One heavy prop may stall a team of younger or smaller people for substantial time on a puzzle where hints won’t be any help.

+ We particularly enjoyed the late-game puzzle embedded in an early set piece.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
  • There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
  • For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.
  • This cave is dusty.
  • At least 2 players will need to crawl or otherwise get through a low doorway.

Book your hour with PanIQ Room’s Primal Quest and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PanIQ Room comped our tickets for this game.