ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you have your own bunker or have one designed in your head.
Avoid if… the fear of being locked in an underground bunker by an automated computer system for the rest of your life makes you a little, um, well, uneasy.
Address: 201 Royal St SE, Suite F, Leesburg, VA 20147 (click address for Google Map)
Contact and Website: 703-777-4710
The Room – Aftermath:
Description (from the company website): Earth’s nuclear holocaust is over and after several years the air is finally breathable again. The shelter Network has unlocked the airlock for one hour. If the airlock is not utilized in that hour, the Network will assume everyone is dead and seal the shelter forever. It is up to you to follow the clues and unravel the puzzles the Caretaker created to ensure his safety. In the end it led to his demise…will it lead to yours??
Difficulty (1-10): 8/10
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 before we entered the room:
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: You start out in a very bare bunker with nothing but a flashing light [Kill me now… -Jason] and a locker and some stuff on the walls, but that changes quickly (in our case, at least).
Understanding of the Mission: A very straightforward mission: find your way out of the bunker into the airlock so that you’re not sealed in forever.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 10:06 minutes
Our Suggested Party Size: This room is rated 2-8 people, and we had 6 experienced people, which should be good number.
Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Steph, Heather, Steph
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)|
|Having just come off the heels of a thrilling escape from S3R1AL, we took a quick break to shoot a video for Facebook and then went right into the briefing for Aftermath.
We expected the same level of production value that we saw in S3R1AL in Aftermath and, while we weren’t disappointed in that regard, we did have an issue with some of the…storytelling? (For lack of a better term.)
While the room itself was well done, and we got to see some of the mechanics at work after, there were two puzzles that we either over thought or we’re just oblivious? Read on.
|On this trip to EXIT Plan, we were invited out to do a double header of S3R1AL and Aftermath.
I was actually excited to do both of these rooms, as they were highly touted by the owners and manager, and the storylines seemed to be pretty interesting and engaging.
Plus, we had a great team with us, and I was confident in another win, which would bring our escape rating back to 90%.
|This escape was a slight spin on a post-apocalyptic world, the “Aftermath” of a nuclear holocaust.
Having been locked in Vault 13 for over 2 years, the computer network that supports the vault has found that the air is now breathable and unlocks the vaults for 1 hour. If nobody opens the door, the computer system will assume everyone has died and will lock again forever, trapping you inside for good.
Lucky 13. I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall having had a bad Friday the 13th…
|You are survivors of a nuclear bombing, and in the post-apocalyptic world, you’ve been protected underground for 796 days in a bunker called Vault 13 that was created by the Caretaker. However, now that the outside air has become breathable again to support people living on the surface, your computer network has unlocked the air vent to Vault 13 for 60 minutes. If the air vent is not accessed, the computer system will assume that everyone has died and seal the vault forever.
Can you make it back to the surface and survive the Aftermath of the destruction?
The storyline is pretty cool, and is different from other bunker or nuclear holocaust rooms we’ve done (most of which have you trying to prevent a nuclear missile launch). So, this one is a bit more sobering since you’ve already gone through Hell and your town/country? has been destroyed.
They also have a great video to accompany your briefing, which has a nice production value to it.
|The mission for Aftermath was pretty straightforward. Figure out a way to open the vault door and survive to live another day in the post-apocalypse. Cut and dry, one thing to do.
|Your mission is clear: you have 60 minutes to make your way to the air vent and back to the surface. Otherwise, you’ll be entombed in Vault 13 forever.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|If I recall correctly, if I can speak correctly (I dictate these to my phone before putting them in the blog), I would say that there weren’t any combination locks or padlocks. We started out with a directional puzzle that Mike and I have seen a variant of before, so once we started on that we progressed quite quickly through the first few minutes of the Escape. (We were told later that that first puzzle has stumped teams for upwards of 20 minutes.)
The next section however proves to be a little more cumbersome, as this is where we encounter the two puzzles that would cause us the most amount of discomfort.
There were of course some things that we honestly just overlooked, not that we hadn’t found everything but the way in which we were supposed to arrange them. There was one puzzle that we all marveled at when we were shown how it worked after escaping. There was another one that used one of my favorite tweaks in a room, and if you don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re having a conversation, you would be able to figure this out without a prop. (That is one hell of a cryptic clue, if I do say so myself.) [So much so that I don’t even remember what I was talking about…]
Ooh, and there was even something we saw in The Chocolate Factory that, the second I saw it, I was like, ooooh, this is going to happen! Then, I abruptly found out that it was locked. *sad face*.
|I really loved how this experience started. We had essentially only a few puzzles to solve before getting into the main part of the game. The first puzzle that I worked on is similar to one Jason and I had seen before, but the way we solved the puzzle was a bit different so that was pretty cool (hope someone with you was a Boy or Girl Scout!).
From there, we were able to all break apart and attack parts of the room and try and solve a number of puzzles on our own.
The middle part of this experience had a lot of stuff to do, and ranged from testing your actual puzzle-solving skills, attention to detail, ability to use props, and ability to scan a location without losing focus on the task at hand. Yes, I’m being cryptic here, but I’m not wanting to spoil the fun. However, we did get to see how one of the puzzles operated once the game was over while the GM was re-setting the room. That was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a room, and to hear him explain how the puzzle worked and how it was programmed was Pretty. Fucking. Awesome.
The ending part wasn’t as challenging, but we did have to gain a new perspective on some of the room, while also figuring out how to operate in a dead part of the bunker before reaching the air lock. We saw a similar puzzle to this in the Chocolate Factory room, and we both rushed to it to see which one would get there first and get to do it. Jason got there first, and I ended up moving to another part of the room when I saw another puzzle I wanted to work on.
LOTS of puzzles to solve, and just when we thought we were done, we had like 4-5 more to do.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|Well, slap me around and call me Susan.
We started off really strong and thought this room was going to be a breeze. Then a door opened. The next part of the room really screwed us, but I swear in a good way.
Some of the puzzles were… well simple is an understatement. Or overstatement, actually. I’m not sure so forget I said it. Anyway, we did not get through the remaining puzzles and tasks as quickly as we had hoped but that’s not necessarily to say they were overly difficult. We were surprised to find certain things happened in the way they happened, while other times, as I’ve mentioned before, we sat there contemplating our existence and what the future would hold when the computer locked the doors on us.
See? Even the experts can be stumped. Hahaha
|We had a great start to this room. We finished the first part in less than 5 minutes (we were told later on by our Game Master that some groups got stuck for more than 20 minutes on the first puzzle).
The middle part of the experience is where everything went to hell and our egos may have gotten a bit of the best of us. We used two of the three of our clues in this room simply because we got stuck at one point and everyone was just searching, searching, searching. One puzzle we even all took a stab at and didn’t solve it on our own. I was intrigued by what we were told afterwards that they had to have an alternate puzzle for this one for when particular circumstances were in play. Totally understandable once we figured out what to do.
One prop in the room I found to be kind of a red herring because it seemed to lead to one puzzle. I ended up totally overthinking it and that cost us some time.
I would even say that this room challenged us even more than S3R1AL, which they deem their toughest room.
Knowing how the room works now, I liked the subtly in how the room was designed and the puzzles delivered, which all went right to the complexity.
|First off, the aesthetics are top notch in here. You definitely feel like you’re in a bunker that’s as home-y as possible. The… internal storyline fit pretty damn well, and only one thing felt out of place to me (I’m going to vaguely say “8” as a reminder in case I’m asked). Ok, two things, but I give the second one a pass because, well, string theory (and that’s more a clue/reminder to me again than it has to do with physics).
Ok, I fear I’m starting to ramble. Perhaps the claustrophobia from being in this bunker for 2+ years has finally gotten to me…
The final few puzzles seemed more like they were a test of your worthiness to repopulate the planet than anything else, and the way to get there left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, but I was happy to see everything come together in the end.
|The start of this room really does set the stage. Flashing warning light and a time clock running against your eventual entombment is a pretty good way to want to GTFO of “Lucky” Vault 13. I guess it ended up being lucky in the end because we did get out (with just about 10 minutes remaining) and that re-set our escape percentage back to 90%.
The flow… well, it ebbed and flowed. There were parts at the beginning where the room took on a linear fashion, and then flowed out to allow everyone to do their own exploration and attempts to solve what we found, and then went back to linear, and then flowed back in the final part before going linear for the last puzzle or two.
This was REALLY well done, and I guess really forced us to work together (as you would be expected to do after being trapped together underground for 2+ years). It’s also the first room that expanded and contracted in this fashion to extreme levels, so that – in itself – was pretty cool.
|I had fun in the room, considering the amount of frustration we all went through with the two puzzles that stalled us. Literally everyone gave it a shot, and even after the hints and help that we received, it was so hard to solve one. After that Eureka moment, however, we all collectively groaned and pressed on.||We had some really long lags in this room as we got stumped on a few of the puzzles, and ended up needing two clues for the middle part of the experience. It’s not as if one of us couldn’t do it… ALL SIX of us failed with this one.
However, even though we encountered some difficulties, it was still a lot of fun to play, and I’m glad that we had the team we did when we took on this room.
|Game Master (Summary)|
|We did hit a snafu in the beginning, as we noticed that the music that had been playing when we started began to fade until we could no longer hear it. It was at that point when we were asking a clarification question where we realized we couldn’t hear our game master. Luckily, he could hear us and rectified the situation almost immediately.||Our GM was pretty great. He saw that we were having a problem hearing him, and did something to fix the issue. Other than that, we did have to ask for clarification (one of our favorite questions is “what % are we through the room,” which would let us determine if we wanted a clue or not. After being stuck at about 12% for more than 15 minutes, we got a clue and started moving forward again.
And one clue we just overlooked a potential solution.
And the final one made us shake our heads slowly in disgust. Should have been obvious as to what we needed to do, and we definitely should have nailed it.
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|Aside from the aforementioned puzzle we all were stuck on, the clues and nudges we received were helpful in that not-blatantly-obvious making-me-feel-stupid kind of way.||We got 3 or 4, and definitely needed them for at least two of them. Not our best problem-solving outing, but we all missed them.|
|RAGE Meter||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I give this one 2 (“annoyed”) fists to the junk for frustrating me to no end for about 8 minutes.
That’s right, I said it – to the JUNK.
|I’ll admit that I felt pretty stupid after two of the clues were given (not the main clue that everyone screwed up), so I’m giving this a
Rating: FacePalms – 4/5
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8.15/10
Final Thought: After we completed what they deemed their hardest room, and made the leaderboard, we may have gone into this room a bit too cocky, and that is where our egos may have tripped us up. We blew through the first part, and then got stuck and then had to work hard to solve everything else to complete this room. So, a nice blow to the ego is a good thing to get every now and again, and we thank EXIT Plan for the level set!