ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you’ve always wanted to re-enact that scene with Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment (get your mind out of the gutter… THIS scene… well, on second though… maybe not ALL the way out of the gutter).
Avoid if… you are claustrophobic or get freaked out by Russian criminal masterminds.
Brain Storm Adventure: – LOCATION CLOSED
Address: 312 Victory Drive, Herndon, VA 20170 (click address for Google Map)
The Room – The Heist: RETIRED
Description (from the company website): An extremely dangerous, criminal mastermind and his crew have stolen Johnny’s – my top client – very valuable diamonds, gold, and more. Johnny has given us the information necessary for you and your team to complete this operation…
- Wanted by all International Security Agencies
- Considered Extremely Dangerous
- Professional Thief/Assassin:
- Historic Art & Jewelry
- Precious stones, diamonds, and gold
- Classified Documents
- Travels with highly trained bodyguards
- Many connections
- Security on Premises
WARNING! THERE HAVE BEEN MANY AGENTS BEFORE YOU THAT HAVE BEEN UNSUCCESSFUL. ALL HAVE FAILED THE OPERATION TO RETRIEVE MY CLIENT’S STOLEN ITEMS.
- Assemble your team
- Report to location
BE PREPARED • BE DILIGENT • BE FOCUSED
- Find the clues
- Solve the puzzles
- Search all rooms
- COMPLETE EACH TASK AS DIRECTED!
- Don’t set off the silent alarm
- Find all stolen items
- Follow THE directions
- Be careful of the lasers
Difficulty (1-10): not listed, but no one (to date) has ever successfully escaped with all 10 items
Time Limit: 55 minutes
Cost: $30 per person up to 4, and slight price breaks after that. We paid $26.88 each for 8 people. If you pay full price, you are eligible for the prize money if your team is the first to complete the room. Otherwise, you can search their website for a hidden code that will give you a discount off the price when booking the room (and, no, we didn’t find the code, but we didn’t really look, either). [Update: Jason found the code right after completing his part of the review.]
Identifier: R1 (but this room has the clues and puzzles reset every week, allowing you to come back and try again)
Party Size: up to 10 (max), but at least 6 is suggested
Staging Area: This is located in an indoor game room facility (indoor golf simulator, anyone?), and has plenty of seating on couches and chairs. Restroom is right next to the seating area. Food and libations are also available in the Bar-n-Lounge area.
Metro Access/Parking: Not metro-accessible, but it’s out near Dulles Airport and easy access from the Dulles Toll Road.
This is the video we took before we entered the room:
This is the video we took just after we completed the room:
Description of the room: You start in your mission briefing area outside of Dimitri’s house with your handler (handlers for this mission, not Game Masters). After your briefing, you enter the first room…
Understanding of the Mission: Go through Dimitri’s house and accomplish the objectives for each room, solve the tasks assigned, avoid security, make your way to the safe room, and find and escape with all 10 of your boss’ stolen items within 55 minutes. If your time runs out, you get captured and executed (even if you have found some items). Otherwise, you can abort your mission and escape with what you recovered.
Did We Escape: Well, we escaped (aborted said mission) with two items, so we didn’t exactly fail, but were told that the client was pissed that we didn’t recover everything. However, we did make the leader board in recovering 20% of the stolen items and escaped with those.
Time Remaining: 10 seconds
Our Suggested Party Size: We had 8, but we’d probably recommend 6 since it got a little crowded (and loud) at points.
Did the room challenge the entire team? Hell, f#$&ing yeah!
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Tasha, Tara, Mark, Eric, Matt, and Steph
Worth the time and money? Absolutely
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After: Try Google. We headed back to Alexandria (our home base for most of the Disturbed Friends) for drinks at Portner Brewhouse.
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|I think I got blinded by a cash prize here. Who knows. We were supposed to be trying to GM the rest of the team at another facility, but since everyone basically cancelled on that, we did this one last minute, mainly because Matt (Mark’s brother) was in town and wanted to try one out with us. So, I looked through the spreadsheet of locations that we haven’t been to yet and chose this one because it was (a) nearby-ish and (b) there was a prize if you fully completed the mission.
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much, though after looking at the pictures posted on their website of the groups that have come before us, I was a little flummoxed by what some of the text on their boards meant. I would soon learn what it all meant…
And as Mike said, the ‘lasers and silent alarms’ were something to get us curious.
|So, Jason has been researching all escape rooms within a few hours’ drive and putting them into a spreadsheet.
The Heist at Brain Storm Adventure really jumped out at us because of the cash prize (if your team pays full price and completes the mission, you get the pot – no, not THAT kinda pot – which increases with each group that fails), and the simple fact that NO ONE has fully completed the mission (escaped with all 10 items).
Also, the fact that the room description mentioned lasers and silent alarms caught my eye and told me that we were in for one hell of an experience.
I was not wrong.
|Well, I thought the story on their website was good until we actually got there and were briefed. It just got better and more detailed.
The client, Johnny, has had 6 gold bars, 2 diamonds, and 2 stacks of cash stolen. Your objective is to break into Dimitri’s house, take out the guard, and find where these 10 items are in a safe-room (that’s a room of safes, not one you’ll be safe in). Mini-spoiler (highlight the area after this if you want to know). Little did we know how many safes there would actually be. (I thought we’d be finding the items strewn about as we progressed. I was very, very wrong.)
We had less than an hour to get through the house, find the stolen goods, and GTFO, otherwise we would get captured and the mission would be an utter failure.
At one point, in the second room (they tell you there are 3 rooms, so no spoiler), I was crawling on the floor so as to not trip any lasers (don’t think I did at least…) as they knock 30 seconds off the clock per trip. And no, this wasn’t like one of those stupid laser rooms you find on the boardwalk.
Back to the story, though. Dimitri is flying into Dulles and the time remaining on his flight plus his trip home is all the time you have, and your handlers keep you posted throughout with information on when he’s coming, turning off alarms, etc. By far the best, most integrated and detailed storyline we’ve encountered thus far.
|This might be the best background story briefing we’ve had to date and they put a lot of thought into the details. We are a group of agents who have been hired to recover 10 items that were stolen from our boss by Dimitri Chechenkov, a criminal mastermind/thief and assassin, who has stashed the stolen loot at his house, complete with state of the art security and security guards on the premises. We’re about to enter the house and have 55 minutes to make our way to the safe room and recover the 10 items (two large diamonds, 6 gold bars and two stacks of cash).
Once the briefing was completed, we entered the first room and started the mission. Now, I’ll say again that a great back story is what pulls you from “normal reality” into the whole experience (this – and the mission section – is where most of the rooms we rate skimp and are graded down a bit) and the level of detail they provided actually got the adrenaline immediately running (I can only speak for myself, but as soon as we entered that first room, the team shot to different corners and started searching for clues and puzzles).
Even little details were not overlooked… from telling us that Dimitri was arriving at Dulles (local airport), to listening to our handler (again, not a Game Master), and the details on the client were pretty well interwoven.
|We always say the more objectives the merrier. (And I always complain about not having red herrings…)
As stated above, break into the house (this is the easy part) and progress through the rooms until you find all the stuff and get out. We had to take out the guard, figure out how to get to the next room, get through the labyrinth, find out how to open the safes, try and open them and find stuff, all on top of getting out ‘alive’. This was just crazy. I wish we had settled down a little bit towards the end. That was all we needed and we probably would have been golden.
|SO. MANY. MISSION. OBJECTIVES!! I’m so freakin happy!!! I think this is also the room
Avoid security, don’t trip the lasers or the silent alarm, complete the task list for each room before progressing to the next one, utilize some of the props to help you get into the next room (that’s all I’m saying here) and – by the way – find the 10 stolen items and escape Dimitri’s house before he returns and finds you there… because if he does, you’ll be executed with extreme prejudice.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|Well, shit, where do I even begin. Yes, there were a few combo locks. And yes, there was even a miniature toy squirting toilet (for aesthetic appeal and a little comedic relief), but there were bombs, well…Actually, no, I’m not going to spoil it. There’s so much cool shit in this room that I’m just going to say go do it. Half the stuff we’d not seen before and I doubt we’ll see it again (until they revamp this room at the end of the summer or we build one of our own).
As I think I’ve made clear via previous posts, I like cool shit and some of the things in here blew me away (one set of puzzles in particular). All I’ll say is the stove was my favorite thing. If you want to know what that means, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.
|There was a good level of diversity in the types of puzzles that you had to solve, and the corresponding locks associated with them. I did see one of my favorite puzzles in the first room, so that was an immediate bonus. There were a few combination or key locks, but that’s expected when dealing with this type of theme. There were a lot of other types of puzzles to resolve, and Brain Storm Adventure uses a lot of tech and special effects with great results as part of your puzzle-solving, many of which we’ve not seen in any room before (and this is room #36 for the ERG, so that’s saying something).
We did fall prey to a number of red herrings, so that’s a great bonus (not many locations use these effectively) in making sure you can figure out that they are dead ends ASAP before spending too much time on them. They keep your game skills sharp.
Oh, and the lasers… (again, not a spoiler because they have it on their website).
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|I think this room might finally make me want to make Rule #10 (which would be LOOK UNDER THINGS). It’s bitten us in the ass twice before, and I think the third time’s the charm for new rule creation. That said, I agree with Mike that nothing was *overly* complicated in there, but we made some things more difficult because we weren’t working together.
Part of that was the large group (and when we go back, we’re going to have 8 again…) but also we got very loud for some reason. We’re normally not that loud a group but at times I couldn’t hear our handler over the walkie and had to go stand in a corner and ask for a repeat.
Additionally, the handful of red herrings in there actually DID slow us down a few minutes. I have a strategy in mind to counteract that, however, so the next time we’ll be a little more streamlined.
|Looking back on this, I don’t think that any of the puzzles were overly complex, but they worked together really well. We both utilized and failed to follow Rule 3. We had so many people in a confined space that it was easy to have people double-check each other (and most of the team were some of our veterans), but we also easily overlooked a few clues. LOOK LOW, people! I’m 6′ 1″ so I’m leaving the lower lying areas to my shorter counterparts.
I will agree with Jason that LOOK UNDER THINGS should be the premise of a new rule. We’ll add that soon.
Now, that being said, we did get stuck on some obvious things… even in the not-so-subtle directions provided by our handler, and the last room is just a time suck in trying to solve the final locks.
|I think it’d be easier to rate this in the opposite; what did NOT work, but I won’t do that. Why’d I even bring it up? I don’t know. Anyway…
From the pre-entry briefing outside Dimitri’s house to the clues/updates from our handlers to the way the puzzles linked together in each room, everything just worked. My only complaint was the transition between rooms 1 and 2, because there wasn’t that much room for all of us to get in there so we didn’t trip the damn lasers.
I think room 2 was both my favorite and least favorite part of this game. There was an animatronic in there that kept pissing me off by going off every time. Of course, it happened to be right in front of a red herring, too, so mostly my fault (and I assume next time we go in there that red herring will no longer be one [I’m onto you…]).
Long story short, everything just WORKED.
|So, um, yeah. This room is INCREDIBLY well put together, and has a mix of both everyone doing their own thing and then becoming linear, which is actually tough to design effectively. This kept everyone engaged for the most part, until we had to funnel through one of the other rooms. The last room was a mad scramble because time was running out.
This place is really unique for offering the cash prize and in allowing you to determine if you’re going to go until time is out, or abort the mission; a decision which ultimately determines whether you fail, draw, or win.
The tech in this room is very well done (sometimes a bit overdone… once the effect goes off, it should not keep going off LOL).
Overall, every clue and puzzle fit the theme of the room. The only critique is that Dimitri is a Russian criminal mastermind, so maybe work some Russian in somewhere? That’s tough because of the alphabet, but I’ll leave that to the designers at Brain Storm Adventure (unless they want to engage the consulting services of the Escape Room Guys LOL).
|We’re going back to try it again. This one’s being called a draw on our scoreboard.||This was an awesome room, if you didn’t get that from the rest of my review. .|
|Game Master (Summary)|
|As Mike says, we did have 2 handlers, so I won’t repeat that part. I was expecting to hear Anastasia on the walkie, rather than Rick (or “Duke” as he was going by for most of our debriefing). However, he was the one on the other end talking us through and giving us blatant verbal clues that (a) we didn’t ask to have and (b) that we just didn’t pay any attention to (and that’s not to say they weren’t welcome; I just mean that as they didn’t count toward the 5 clues we can ask for).
He eventually gave us the background on where this story line came from and I think that was just as intriguing as the game was.
I hadn’t actually looked at the ‘future games’ link on their website, but as Mike pointed out, there is a competitive room coming. Rick, more than happy to run through for you; we’ll have to talk about our services next time we’re there.
|So, we actually had two. One (Anastasia) who was monitoring us on the video feed and giving us updates as to where Dimitri was. Rick, our main handler, was the one on the other side of the walkie talkie and was providing us with the clues/hints, time updates and that needed urgency to “you need to get this room done NOW.”
We got to speak with Rick after we finished the experience and it was great to hear some of the background as to how this theme was developed and how other groups progressed through the room. We also found out that they are switching the room up around October and turning this theme on its head where YOU switch sides and become part of Dimitri’s crew, and have to steal the diamonds, cash and gold bars from the client. Their website also mentions them developing a competitive room, so that’s pretty awesome too.
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|We did ask a few times (I think the official count was 3) and they were helpful and not overly blatant. Well, ok, the 1 was because it was keeping us from going to the next room, but RULE #10 is probably coming up.||Yeah, the clues were helpful. On your first trip through, you get five. We used three. Any successive trip through, you get busted down to three (since you have a bit of insight as to how the room is getting done).
The clues were extremely helpful, and nudged us in the right direction. We were close in solving them, but needed that last little push.
|Anger Level Score||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I’m going with 2 here. 1 because why the hell were we so loud??? And 2 because we only found 2 freakin’ things. 2! BAD ERG!
Rating: ?? Fists – 2/5
|Just once or twice when the answer was staring us in the face.
Rating: ?♂️ ?♂️ FacePalms – 2/5
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 9.65/10
Final Thought: It’s rare to find a room that hits high marks on every part of our rating scale, but The Heist was very well done, and is the only room that Brain Storm Adventure currently operates. We’re looking forward to doing the room again this weekend (stay tuned for our Version 2 review) and the rooms they have currently in development. Their offer of a cash prize to the first team that completes the entire mission, and the chance to do the room again at a discounted rate (if you don’t complete the mission the first time) when the puzzles and clues are reset is a pretty great business plan. It keeps the room fresh and people coming back to make the leader board. Great job.