ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… a good and challenging investigation into the mind of a serial killer sparks your interest.
Avoid if… you can’t watch an episode of “Criminal Minds” without all the lights in your house on.
Address: 201 Royal St SE, Suite F, Leesburg, VA 20147 (click address for Google Map)
Contact and Website: 703-777-4710
The Room – SERIAL (a.k.a. S3R1AL):
Description (from the company website): You awaken to darkness, and realize you are trapped.. a captive in a room you cannot see. You scream, but no one can hear you. Or can they? You hear something move. There is someone in there with you. Is it him?? No, thankfully HE is gone..but HE WILL be back. And you have 60 short minutes to free yourself and your fellow captives from his twisted lair. But HURRY! You remember what happened to the last group he caught trying to escape…
Difficulty (1-10): 9/10
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Cost: $29 per person – Use ERGUYS15 to get 15% off per person when booking your reservation for any of their rooms
Party Size: 2-8
Staging Area: EXIT Plan has a great reception area (two, actually) with lots of chairs. There is a large flight of stairs to reach the main lobby.
Metro Access/Parking: This spot is in downtown Leesburg in the historic district. Lots of street parking, and there is a small lot right behind Macdowell Brew Kitchen.
This is the video we took just after we completed the room:
Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to try out this room for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.
Description of the room: Picture the beginning of the first SAW movie (handcuffed to the walk, white bathroom tile, and some blood spatters on the walls, etc.) Yeah, that. But with some chairs.
Understanding of the Mission: You have 60 minutes before your killer comes back and you end up like the last of his/her victims to make your way out of his/her lair to freedom.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 18:54 (we made the leaderboard!)
Our Suggested Party Size: This room is rated 2-8; we had 6 and think that was perfect (if you all have some experience).
Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes (especially one of the Stephs because we left her in cuffs…)
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Steph, Steph and Heather
Worth the time and money? Yes
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:
- Macdowell Brew Kitchen – restaurant and bar right below EXIT Plan (the Hog Wings were awesome!)
- Fire Works – wood-fired pizza
- Delirium Cafe USA – restaurant and brewhouse (about half mile away)
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|When we decided to do S3R1AL we had already escaped their detention room. But before we left, having spoken to the owners, we got a glimpse of what S3R1AL looked like at the start and, as we generally don’t shy away from being handcuffed in the dark, we thought it would be fun for the next time we came out.
So, we made a day trip of it and planned to go back to Exit Plan to do their S3R1AL room, followed by Aftermath, and then hit some vineyards. I had high hopes for it just based on what we saw the first time we were there, and I was not disappointed one bit.
|We had previously been to EXIT Plan and completed the Escape Detention room just a few weeks before it closed. Based on the experience we had in that room, we had some high expectations set for the other rooms at this location.
When we had been here previously, we were given a very brief glimpse of the S3R1AL room, and once we were told that you started handcuffed and in the dark, it only intrigued us more since we had done a room or two (or three… Joker’s Trap, The Kidnapping, and Prison Bus) where you started off this way..
The fact that they considered this one of their toughest rooms was also really appealing.
|This was one of those “where are we going and why am I in this handbasket” moments. You wake up handcuffed, unaware of your surroundings and roommates, with only 60 minutes to escape before you become another victim.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve heard this one before. And we have. However, the difference was in the details.
One of the things we rate a story on is its Immersion Factor, and this one got a high mark. It is well done and does make you believe you are trapped.
|You and your group wake up groggy and in darkness. You find yourself handcuffed and in a room that is blood-spattered… very reminiscent of the first Saw.
A creepy voice booms out in the room and taunts you. Your captor has decided to give you a fighting chance…
While we’ve been in situations like this before, the creepiness factor for this theme really did set in, and I will say that trying to escape the handcuffs in this location was probably the biggest challenge of all the others we’ve done. It wasn’t a simple “find the key on the wall next to you…” We really had to search for those f&%$ers.
|The mission was simple and straightforward: Escape in 60 minutes with your lives intact or become another victim in a string of grisly murders.
Sounds like a typical Saturday for me!
|Your captor has decided to give you a sporting chance rather than simply killing you. All you have to do is escape your handcuffs, and find a way out of his lair before he returns in 60 minutes.
Now, finding your way out of the lair is definitely a challenge, and it’s totally clear what you have to do to avoid being the next victims, but
… is being handcuffed really all that bad? Maybe so in this instance LOL
I’m actually going to add a point for this section simply because your goal isn’t to capture the serial killer and simply escape.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|If I recall correctly, there were only two sets of locks in the room. One was to unlock the grate over the TV that is in the room and the other was the sets of handcuffs that we were all in. Everything else in the room was hard to describe. (And I say that because, as I’m dictating this, I literally stopped mid-sentence to think before saying hard to describe.)
This might just be one of those rooms that is hard to talk about without giving too many things away, so I’ll do my best to talk about it while being vague.
As I said, you start off handcuffed to your chair and everyone needs to work together to find the requisite keys to free yourselves. Well, we missed one. However, even though we missed it, we were still able to progress through the escape while one of the Stephs was still handcuffed.
One or two of the puzzles were quite tricky and somewhat subtle in the way they were to be solved. Mike and I are not generally bad at subtle puzzles, however, non-handcuffed Steph was able to immediately pick up the answer to the puzzle while we looked at each other…puzzled. (See what I did there?)
Handcuffed Steph was able to work with me on a puzzle while still chained to her chair, which in itself was hilarious, however the puzzle was ingenious. While craning our necks to the sky, I was able to figure out part one of the puzzle but part two of the puzzle was all her. The resulting calamity, or lack thereof actually, was hilarious.
Oh, and the movie references were spectacular. I could have done without my ET moment however (it took me too long to figure out…). You’ll know what I mean as you complete the room.
I think that said enough without saying anything at all, right? I should have been a salesman…
|So, one of the reasons that this category exists is to test not only how diverse the puzzles are as compared to the other puzzles in the room, but also from what we’ve seen in other locations. This may not seem fair, but with the ability to simply purchase props from stores, it’s sometimes disappointing to see the same puzzle in room after room.
That, thankfully, is not the case here. This room gave us a wide range of experiences. Very few actual locks to open (other than your handcuffs), which was cool. It depended on what the mind of a serial killer might come up with to torture his victims as they grasp at a slim hope of escaping the lair.
I loved the uniqueness of some of the puzzles in this room… and they hit you with those from the very beginning and continue through as you hit the last one to escape. There are some types of puzzles that we’ve seen before, but they use some great design and planning to put totally different spins on what we’ve seen before.
My favorite puzzles were probably among the last three in the room, which really test how well you pay attention to details. I love puzzles that are solved with items hidden in plain sight, and you have to use some logic here as well. I figured out the solution to one of the last puzzles in a few seconds, and that saved us some time too. It was a take on something I had seen before, but I was able to see the logic/pattern behind it. My little contribution to our leaderboard score.
There is also one about mid-way through the room that you THINK that you can solve on your own with a bit of outside knowledge, but NOPE (this puzzle that I’m referring to is loosely related to the theme of a well-known thriller).
There were some AWESOME puzzles in this room. We did breeze through a lot of the experience (everyone on the team had done a number of rooms before, so we knew what to look for and how props could operate), but we did get stumped on a few items, which led us to asking for hints. In this location, you could ask for three hints and still make the leaderboard.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|If I were to say a 1-3 was easy and a 7-9 was hard, the easiest puzzle was a three or four.
(Actually, that’s not a bad way to start rating puzzles from now on. Might have to think on that a bit.)
Only one or two puzzles were tricky, as I said earlier; nothing was *overly* difficult or had some illogical leap to make. We did get stuck in one or two places.
Being as this is a room about a serial killer, it would be logical to think that some puzzles would have elements to make you think one way versus another, to throw you off the proper track. That happened once or twice, but others in the group were able to quickly reset expectations.
|Now, I wouldn’t say that the room is overly complex. You just have to REALLY, REALLY pay attention to your surroundings and determine how things fit together, and some of the puzzles just take time to solve so you have to invest that as you go through the room.
We did get stumped twice, and had to ask for hints… which we normally don’t do because it goes against our general escape room experience. However, we had a goal to make the leaderboard, so we employed some strategy here. We asked for a clue within minutes of being stumped on one puzzle (after everyone had a crack at it), and that gave us a few minutes jump on the next one.
We found, in fact, that sometimes having a number of people working on a puzzle isn’t the best way to solve it… a “too many cooks” thing.
As I mentioned in the last section, I loved working on three of the puzzles that I found (some others I didn’t get to work on at all, so I had to ask once we completed the room to see how everything fit together).
There was also a good range of complex puzzles vs. lesser complex challenges, and that helped with the overall flow (see next section).
|Boy did this room have a chemistry to it.
Elements of various horror movies were prevalent, but nothing felt campy or blatantly stolen from one of the movies. Progressing through the Escape felt natural, and the settings, while somewhat disjointed amongst themselves, fit the overall theme quite well.
This is billed as being trapped in the lair of a killer. Well, I believe it. That should say about enough.
|The decor of the room just fit. As a big fan of the thriller and horror movie genre, I saw nods to some of my favorites. You are fully immersed in the room and it starts from the moment the clock starts.
The design of the room was really well done and all of the pieces fit the mission and the theme… some almost too well!
Starting off handcuffed really is a handicap. As I mentioned before, we’ve been handcuffed in rooms before (that’s ESCAPE rooms, you perverts) and this is the first room that we’ve actually had to work hard at getting out of those things. One of our team members spent about half of the time locked in hers since we couldn’t find the key to get her out (we eventually rescued her too… we don’t leave anyone behind!).
The flow of the room was actually pretty quick-moving after we accomplished the goal of most of us getting out of the cuffs, and that goes back to both the skill of the team and how well we tackled the different challenges. We just seemed to work together really well in this room.
The killer (who also serves as your GM) makes “appearances” throughout the experience so don’t be too caught off guard.
One of my favorite things in this room was watching one of the Stephs trying to solve one of the puzzles and was scared to do what was necessary. This happens early in the experience, so I hope you have some people with some nerve on your team.
|Handcuffed to a wall in the dark? Again, sounds like a Saturday afternoon to me!
This escape was a lot of fun. You are going to be much better off booking this room with a bunch of friends rather than finding a random stranger in there. Conversely, it might actually be a better experience with a bunch of total strangers. I can’t talk to that as I knew everyone, but it is an interesting thought now that I think about it…
|I’m really glad that we decided to do this room next (and the first one of the two on this trip). It had aspects of haunted houses, horror movies and thrillers, yet really made you have to investigate tons of different avenues before you can find the right “paths.”
It was also really fun to see how your friends handle attempting to solve puzzles that put them out of their comfort zones.
|Game Master (Summary)|
|This was probably one of the top three things about this room. The game master was in character and any help given was indicative of that.||As I mentioned, the GM was the serial killer and he creepily involved himself throughout our experience… whether with a taunt or a hint hidden in a creepy riddle.|
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|We did ask for one or two Clues as well as several clarifications. Everything was helpful and not in a you’re-a-dummy kind of way.||We played this one strategically. We asked for a clue early off when we were stumped, and then decided to use our max of three to attempt to get out in time to make the leaderboard. That strategy paid off and Disturbed Friends is, I believe, number 2 or 3 for that room.|
|RAGE Meter||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I give this a 1 of 5 (“miffed”) solely for the fact that Steph was shackled for way too long. I blame that on the fact that something in the briefings we have come to know and expect was neglected, so we then double neglected. Oopsie…
|I think that we overlooked something, but I didn’t feel stupid. We approached the investigation of the room really well, and there is always something that you miss.
Rating: FacePalms – 1/5
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8.2/10
Final Thought: EXIT Plan bills this room as their most difficult, and there are some great challenging elements that makes this a true claim. While most people aren’t used to being handcuffed on a regular basis (this joke never gets old), it does start you off really immersing you in the experience, and having you feel “trapped.” The flow of the experience does really also lead you to believe that you’re competing against a serial killer who is watching you on closed-circuit TV, and in a time crunch to avoid being among his next victims.
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