ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you have one of those lights in your bedroom that makes it seem like you’re sleeping under the ocean.
Avoid if… shimmering lights make you queasy.
Room Escape DC:
Address: 3949A University Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030 (click address for Google Map)
Contact and Website: 703-270-0377
Room – Bowl Voyage:
Description (from the company website):You and your teammates are the prized collection of Wilfred Larium, senior citizen and rare fish collector. You live happily in his aquarium, for fish, but stormy waters are on their way: Larium’s rambunctious granddaughter, Lily, is on her way to his house for a visit. The last time she visited, Wilfred gave her a choice of any of his fish to take home with her. You never saw the last pick once he was selected, but the look of horror on his face when placed in the energetic hands of Lily will haunt you forever.
The only way to escape is to find a way to get Wilfred to take you out of the tank so you can make make your way into the sewer line before Lily arrives. Do you have what it takes to escape the chaotic kid before you’re sleeping with the fishes?
Difficulty (1-10): 1/3
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Cost: $27 per person, but use ERG15 to save 15% off your price on games booked between Mondays and Thursdays
Party Size: 2-4 people
Staging Area: Small-ish lobby with plenty of seating and vending machines
Metro Access/Parking: No metro access, but ample garage/lot parking
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 enter a small room that has swimming lights and is decorated like a fish tank.
Understanding of the Mission: Find out a way to have your owner take you out of the aquarium so you can escape before his granddaughter, Lily (squisher of animals), claims you as a new pet, thereby shortening your already short life span.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 22:30
Our Suggested Party Size: 2 was good
Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes
Members of our team (other than the ERG): None
Worth the time and money? Yes
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:
- French Quarter Brasserie – great if you like Cajun food
- The Auld Shebeen – a good ole’ Irish Pub
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|Room Escape is nothing if not consistent with their builds and puzzles, so knowing this room was in the works, we waited until we got their newsletter saying it was opening before emailing them to have us come play-test.
My first impression of the room when we walked in was that it was a kids-type room, kind of cutesy, but we quickly found otherwise.
Also, the space this room is in used to be where their VR games were, so don’t go expecting to jump in any HTC Vive goodness after. They’ll be reopening that later.
|Room Escape DC is one of the few locations that we generally have a long lag in-between visits because as soon as they open a new room, we’re there within a few weeks. They have high expectations from us, and it’s well-deserved.
We had been hearing a bit about this room for awhile, and when they contacted us to let us know it was finally open, well… Jason and I were there a less than a week later.
Seeing that the room was set at a maximum limit of 4 people was intriguing (because this is also the location where we’ve done most of the rooms just by ourselves), so we were definitely up for a challenge.
I will say, however, that I was expecting the room to be a lot easier than I thought it would be because it has the easiest ranking on their website, and it looks like a kids’ room when you first walk in. However, that may be exactly the perception they’re looking to foster to put you off guard from the moment you step in the room.
|The story was somewhat reminiscent of a certain movie about a clownfish (and ONLY a clownfish… nothing about his schizophrenic sidekick) plus a little bit of Elmyra from Tiny Toons (back in the day). This was acknowledged after the fact but it was mostly obvious to your ERG.
You are a fish in the collection of a… collector… whose granddaughter is on her way for a visit. The price upon her arrival? YOU! When one of your friends was chosen last time she was there, you could not forget the sheer look of terror on his face.
So… SAVE YOURSELF!!!
|You and your friends are fish, swimming happily in a beautiful aquarium owned by rare fish collector, Wilfred Larium. It’s a good life to be a fish owned by this sweet old senior citizen. One day, your simple life changes when you find out that Wilfred’s animal-loving [to death] granddaughter, Lily, is coming to visit.
The last time she was here, she was given her choice of fish to take home as a pet, and you’ve never heard anything about your friends since. Did they get a royal flush to bury them at sea, or were they offered to the family cat as a tasty treat?
Is this what the next hour has in store for you?
So, this is a pretty unique room (although the story is loosely based a certain fish tale (tail… hahahahaha) and a character from Loony Toons, Hugo the Abominable Snowman, Hugo the Abominable Snowman), so it was pretty cool to see Room Escape DC’s take on a popular story.
|You get in this room (that is really supposed to be a giant fish tank) knowing that you’re trying to escape. You really need to GTFO before the granddaughter gets there so it’s imperative you figure out how to back up the filter before she gets there, forcing your owner to remove you from the tank so he can clean it.
|With Lily coming in just over an hour, you and your friends have to find a way to make Wilfred take you out of your tank, so you can try and make your way to freedom by escaping to the sewer lines.
Your only shot is to work together and figure out a way to possibly make your own living quarters uninhabitable so your current owner rushes to the rescue.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|Considering the type of room this was, theme wise, there was nothing you would find in a typical escape room. Which is absolutely perfect. The puzzles were primarily fish and fish tank related in one way or another. The pirate ship-esque one was probably my favorite.
The puzzles in this room range anywhere from a simple mag lock to something as complicated as, well, I can’t say this without giving it away. So I’ll just leave that part out. But again, there was nothing typical of an escape room. No combination locks that I recall, some was logic involved, oh, and some manual dexterity. This room almost ran the full gamut of lock types we’ve encountered over the course of the last 2 years.
The only thing that disappointed me, was what should have required a ship wheel did not require a ship wheel. However, as we found out by talking to our GM after the game, the puzzle *used* to require a wheel of some sort but had been broken and subsequently changed.
|I believe that most of the puzzles that we saw in this room were custom-built for this room. We may have seen one of the props before used in some other fashion, but everything else about this room was brand new… and it was awesome.
I think that we had only one key lock to the entire room, and everything else was based on some other mechanism.
The puzzles themselves required use of all of our previous escape room experience… from memorization to some slight logic to puzzles to some manual dexterity.
I loved how the decoration was used in the puzzles themselves, and thoroughly enjoyed one of the final puzzles that required both some memorization and some deciphering. I’m trying to not give too much away, but it was really cool… and I kept playing with that damn puzzle at times throughout the room until we figured out how it operated… and then how to solve it.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|We hit our stride quite early on in the game, and only one specific thing slowed us down. There were two sensors required to complete the game, and we only found the pieces for one of them. The puzzle that stumped us which would have given us the second one was mainly my fault, because of the ship wheel that I mentioned in the last section. Mike took the clue quite literally, which is usually my thing, and solve the puzzle opening a “door” of sorts to give us the equivalent pieces for the second part. Once we got that done, the rest of the game fell into place until the very last puzzle. Well, next to last. That last one requires a good amount of attention paid to it, and considering they were only two of us, it took a little longer than it may have needed. But as we enjoy doing rooms just the two of us, to prove we still have it, we took it in stride and completed it in mere minutes. Of course, there was one point where we didn’t follow our own rules (I know, I know, typical), but that didn’t necessarily slow us down (much).
Puzzle difficulty itself, I wouldn’t rank this entirely too high. Now, this room is rated a 1 of 3 difficulty for two to four people, so it is on the easier side but there are some tricky things to it. It’s not necessarily simple yet deceptive as I’ve described some other rooms, however it could be. I would write the overall puzzles on a range from 1 through 6/7, so a good spread.
|This room was simply deceptive.
As I mentioned, we walked in and assumed that it was rated the easiest on their scale because it was a kids’ room.
The puzzles were very well crafted and played quite a bit on being subtle. We moved quickly through the room at first, and then hit a stumbling block. We asked for one clue, and Andrew (our GM) gave us a nudge in the right direction. Sometimes you have to remember what it’s like living in a fishbowl.
As we got towards the middle of the room, I think we really began to enjoy ourselves. We passed back and forth between working on puzzles, one giving directions and the other entering the potential solutions into the puzzle itself. The last puzzle in the room really tested how well we listened to the story and applied that knowledge to the task at hand.
Sometimes it’s also really easy to also overthink things, but we only got caught in that trap once.
However, the puzzles themselves did give a nice range of complexity, going from quickly-solved to “observe, think, and then apply that knowledge.”
|This is one of the few rooms we have done in recent memory that actually perfectly fit the theme and storyline of the room. You walk into this room, and I will say that word loosely, feeling like you’re in a fish tank. The decorations feel apropos, and the things in it are rather reminiscent of what you would find in a fresh or saltwater fish tank.
That said, there is a logical flow to the room, however linear it may be. As crazy as this may seem, I typically enjoy a room where I have to get down on the floor. There were multiple times where we were sitting on the floor. It cracks me up for whatever reason and just adds a little something extra.
Additionally, this is a non-typical theme for a room. So when booking it you may think it sounds like a kid’s room, but it doesn’t play like one. Now I could easily see a family of four doing this room together in 35 minutes, I could also see them not getting out. So it definitely runs the gauntlet for what a two to four person room could be. So, well done I say.
|The flow of the room was fully linear, but that’s to be expected when you have a room for only 2-4 people. The puzzles were complex enough to sometimes require more than one person working on them, so we were (and would expect that other groups) would be fully engaged throughout the whole experience.
The decorations were pretty phenomenal. The swimming lights in the room makes you feel as if you are swimming underwater, with the sunlight glimmering across the surface and glinting across portions of the room. The props and the other decorations fully fit what you’d see in the bottom of a high-end fish tank, complete with pirate ship, sand, ship’s wheel, and some technical gizmos to keep the water flowing and clean.
We saw a lot of new things here, and they all fit in with the theme and mission of the room. I don’t think that I saw one thing that I could say took away from the immersive experience.
|This was, in recent memory, one of the more whimsical rooms we’ve encountered. And, as such, lends itself to being fun in general. You do not have to know anything about the subject matter for it to count for anything, it certainly helps if you do, but takes nothing from the experience.||I was surprised at how much fun I had in this room, and how much more of a challenge it was than I thought it would be. I loved the one puzzle that you had to operate by finding other parts elsewhere in the room… you’ll know it when you see it.
We still escaped with just over 22 minutes to go, but we worked our asses off during the whole time we were in the room. It’s good that Jason and I know how to work together in a room on our own (I joke that we should go on the Amazing Race sometime), so we communicated well and solved a lot of puzzles in under a minute or two. However, it truly did allow us to escape the outside world for the time we were in there and experience living under da sea! LOL
|Game Master (Summary)|
|Andrew has always been a staple of Room Escape DC and we have come to expect certain things from him, and the location in general. He knows us well enough to not step in unless we are struggling, but that usually means we will ask for help. So he is generally hands-off with us, but is both accommodating and open to our requests for help, as well as a conversation after we escape.||Andrew was great. While we were in the room, he was pretty much hands off until we asked for one clue, and then another clarification that we were doing what was necessary to trigger the puzzle (we find it’s best to ask for clarification versus trying to brute force something in case we accidentally break a mechanism). We did get to speak with him afterwards about his role in designing the room and how they came up with some of the puzzles, so it’s always cool to get that background history to help fill in the gaps of the experience we just went through.|
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|I believe we asked for a nudge, a clarification, and a full clue in this room. Mike and I generally work our best magic when it is just the two of us, but I think the fact that this room is designed with two to four people in mind made us feel a little more cocky than general, so we did stumble once or twice. What we did get from Andrew was useful and not condescending, which is the perfect balance in a clue.||We got one clue when we got stumped for more than a few minutes (we figured we’d ask since it was only the two of us, which makes it hard to recover from later on if you wait too long and then find difficult puzzles with only two minds to work on them).
The clarification we asked for was very helpful as well, since we had the puzzle done correctly… it just needed to be adjusted slightly to trigger the mechanism.
|RAGE Meter||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I didn’t end up turning into the Incredible Hulk in this room, so a big 0. Which is a good thing, here. (Lower is better…)
Rating: Fists – 0/5
|Nope… didn’t feel stupid here.
Rating: — FacePalms – 0/5
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8.3/10
Final Thought: This was a fun room to do, and had a whimsical feel that was probably part of the deceptive nature of how subtle the room was. We felt it fit well, considering that you never know what lies beneath the surface, and that could have been part of their overall grand design. Go and have fun, take your kids, but know that this isn’t a children’s room.