Are There Any Bio-Chemists in the House? – Room: Mad Scientist – February 15, 2018

THE QUICK AND DIRTY

Play if… you loved science and chemistry in high school.

Avoid if… equations give you anxiety.


THE BASICS

The Great Xcape:

Address: 8314 Browns Lane, Ste. 201, Manassas, VA 20111 (click address for Google Map)

Contact and Website: 703-334-2628
www.thegreatxcape.com

The Room

Description (from the company website): Since the apocalypse, things just haven’t been going your way. You’ve lost all your worldly possessions, and have been trying to survive in your dystopian neighborhood with the few survivors you’ve managed to meet along the way. And your chances of survival keep getting slimmer, what with this new outbreak of a horrible virus which is fatal, and rapidly spreading. Luckily, a brilliant scientist works in your neighborhood, and he created the only known cure. Being a rather paranoid individual, he protected the formula in his lab behind a safe wall of codes and puzzles. Now that he has fallen victim to insanity, he has disappeared and left his antidote in his lab. If you and your fellow survivors can work quickly, you can acquire the antidote before the virus infects you.

Difficulty (1-10): not rated

Time Limit: 60 minutes

Cost: $30 per person, but check Yelp and their Facebook page since they often have coupons (that give codes for discounts when booking on their website)

Identifier: R1

Party Size: up to 8 people

Staging Area: A nice lobby with lots of seating near the front desk. They have bottles of water and a coffee machine(!) with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Restrooms are in the lobby of the building just before you enter their sitting room.

Metro Access/Parking: It’s Manassas, so you’re going to need to drive. Plenty of parking in the lot, however.


OUR EXPERIENCE

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.

Logistics:

Description of the room: A room with scientific equipment and lots of equations on the walls. The person who lived and worked here was either a genius… or crazy (or maybe a bit of both?).

Understanding of the Mission: Find the antidote to the virus before becoming infected.

Did We Escape: Yes

Time Remaining: ~7:30 remaining

Our Suggested Party Size: 6-7 is good for a group of experienced people, but you’re going to need a full 8 if you don’t have experience with escape rooms.

Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes!

Members of our team (other than the ERG): Angie, Birgit, Sasha, Fahima, and one other.

Worth the time and money? Yes

Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:

  • You’ll have to use Google since we didn’t go anywhere in the area after the room.


OUR SCORING:

JASON SAYS: MIKE SAYS:
Overall Expectation (Summary)
If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect to do this room so I had no idea what it was about going in. We had gone there to do Shipwrecked with our colleagues at Escape Room Woodbridge, but since we plowed through that one pretty quickly, the owners told us to do this room so that we could “get our money’s worth”.

Additionally, it was something like 70 degrees that night so there was some incentive to drive out there with the top down. This would prove annoying later as I ended up with the flu, but that’s another story.

We literally had no expectation of doing this room. We had talked with Julie about checking out their location and doing a review of rooms in the future, but we were there that night to do Shipwrecked (using a Groupon). Julie allowed us to go right into Mad Scientist as a bonus for completing Shipwrecked so quickly (and making the leaderboard).

We did get to peek in all the rooms before we started, and this one looked the hardest. In that snap judgement, I was not wrong (or disappointed).

Story (Rating)
You’re in the lab of a mad scientist who was researching a cure for a virus that is decimating what’s left of the human population. It seems that no one was listening to him when he said that the population explosion would be a problem and, as such, took matters into his own hands and tried to create a cure. (Hmmm… I wonder if he’s related. No one ever listens to me either…)

I wouldn’t say there was a terrible amount of detail that went into the story, however, the way the theme was built and how the room was populated, primarily all of the stuff on the walls, helped immerse you in the room itself.

Rating: 7/10

Apparently, the Apocalypse has occurred, and the wonderful system of society has broken down and it’s everyone for themselves. And to make matters worse, a deadly virus has broken out and is killing lots of the survivors. You meet up with others in your neighborhood, and make your way to the house of a crazy(?) but brilliant scientist who has found a cure for the virus, but it’s in his house. So, you and your new friends break into his house and find the scientist missing, but with the antidote to the virus hidden behind a series of locks and scientific puzzles.

The Great Xcape has created videos for each of their rooms to give you the backstory, but they are custom made and are pretty nifty. The video (and story itself) goes into a lot of detail… not just that there is a virus loose and you have to find a cure/antidote. It STARTS with the Apocalypse, which is a nice little nugget of detail that puts you right into the storyline and provides a sense of urgency.

Rating: 8/10

Mission (Rating)
It seems that the mad scientist actually created a working cure! Decipher all the gibberish in his lab and find said cure before it’s too late!

So, basically you need to really only do one thing, but to do it you have to do a million other things. Sounds like an escape room to me! Hell, maybe you should just let everyone die. Natural Selection at its finest!

Rating: 7/10

I liked this mission because – while it was still a “find the cure/antidote” room – zombies were not mentioned so it was kind of unique from other virus-based rooms we’ve done.

It was pretty clear that we had to “find the cure,” but the story added a level by telling you that the crazy professor hid the vials behind a series of scientific puzzles and other things you had to solve. Unfortunately, the overall mission was ultimately to do one thing (no multiple parameters), so the challenge was only centered around this one point of the mission.

If you are trying to save the world from the virus and a dystopian society, maybe it could have been “find the virus and call the formula into the CDC and escape the lab before not-so-nice neighbors (who saw you enter the professor’s house) find a way to break in and steal the cure from you… and you have 60 minutes before the door gives way.”

Rating: 7/10

Puzzle Diversity (Rating)
Insert generalized “new things” comment here. (I had to say it.)

There was some cool shit in this room, to say the least. (I changed that from ‘some interesting things’ because I’m tired of repeating myself.) The room started off kinda slow; there’s a lot of stuff on the walls to screw with you (useful and otherwise). But the briefing video gives you a hint on where to start. Well, yeah, it wasn’t helpful (to us). We stumbled in the beginning. I started working with the ping pong balls. That’s all I’m saying about that.

There’s an interesting range of puzzles in this room. Some of it looked like simple word/number games but turned out to be much, much more complicated. (If we had a collective IQ of 100 going into the first room, I would say we maxed out at about 45 by the time we got started in this room. That also could mainly have been from me.) Other puzzles required a little more brain power and, for whatever reason, I think I went braindead halfway through the room.

Needless to say there’s some interesting tech in the room when you first run around and look at everything. Once you get to the point where you have to use the item, that’s when you get to see the *real* fun of that item. This happened, for me at least, no fewer than two times. (Hell, there was even an IR keyboard in there that I’ve kind of always wanted and never bought for myself. First time I actually got a chance to play with it.)

Rating: 9/10

This was a pretty cool room and it had a large number of puzzles to solve… there were brain teasers, ones that focused on logic and application of details across multiple pieces, in addition to just plain stamina when trying to find the answers. I worked on one for about 15 minutes before realizing that one of my teammates moved a piece of the puzzle to the other side of the room, so I was essentially trying to solve the puzzle with only 3/4 or 2/3 of what I needed in order to do so, so we really didn’t follow our First Rule.

There were also some puzzles where multiple people really had to work together to solve it (just sheer volume of the pieces of one of the puzzles), and others that could be done by one person.

We saw some cool locks here as well, in addition to some standard key locks and combo locks.

Rating: 8/10

Puzzle Complexity (Rating)
I’m not sure anything was overly difficult (deja vu much?) but again, we started off slow and had trouble getting over that first-puzzle hump. I think the puzzle that gave us the most trouble may have been what might have been the simplest one. (Obviously not going to tell you which one (or ones) that is (or are).)

There were a few times when someone blurted out what sounded like an epiphany, which is always fun to hear, but mostly it was just frantic running around with people saying “WTF am I not seeing?” for half the room. (Which was both funny and frustrating because I was one of those people.)

Rating: 7/10

There were a good mix of puzzles that we solved quickly, and others that took some time. And it’s not because ALL were overly complex, but in how they were designed (easier to do with multiple people vs. one).

A few of the puzzles were really tough, and you’re going to spend time working on them no matter how smart or – um – “not as smart” the people you have in the room are.

There is math and logic in this room, so if that frustrates you, take a nerdy person with you who enjoys that sort of thing. However,  you won’t be left out because there are other puzzles in this room that are solvable by someone who had 4th grade science. LOL

Rating: 7/10

Flow/Cohesiveness/Uniqueness (Rating)
Well, first things first. The room itself looked like a mad scientists lab. That was categorically undeniable.
The problem I had with it lies solely in getting stuck on the time-consuming task of counting ping pong balls. Myself and one other person in the room spent the first I-don’t-know-how-long doing that, so we missed several of the things the others found and had to be brought up to speed quickly. Once you get past that fact, the puzzles themselves seem to, from what I actually *was* able to see, follow a path. I feel like I want to comment on linearity being an issue, but truthfully I just don’t know because I feel like I missed part of the room.
There were absolutely some new items in the room, things we have not come across at other Escape rooms before, yet things I have seen in real life, probably in chemistry class. This real life recognition added a lot for me. They seem to fit the theme of the room but somehow still lacked any real sense of belonging in the room. (I’m referring specifically to 1 thing on that latter point, but can’t speak on it so as to not spoil it. Grrrrr…)

Rating: 7/10

The room is NOT a linear room, which lends itself to the number of people they say can play the room at one time, so people were able to work independently and in groups, and you do come together at some point with all the things you need to solve the room. And, parts of the room progressed faster than others, so that allowed people to join and leave groups as puzzles were solved, or people got frustrated.

Everything in the room, from props to puzzles to locks, fit the the theme of being in a scientist’s hidden lab, and the decoration of the room was also appropriate… and a bit overwhelming… which fit the theme perfectly since the brilliant professor apparently went insane, so that leaves you to find what you need among his copies, notations, and scrawls.

There is one puzzle in here that was totally cool… to the point where we had to ask how it was designed since we wanted to know how it operated.

Rating: 9/10

Fun/Amusement (Summary)
This was a good room. I say that up front because I have come to the realization that if I am going to a location with the expectation of escaping one room, when extra rooms are offered to us I feel like I am not mentally prepared to handle a second or third room, and so I automatically am less amused and have less fun. Yes, a shame, I know. Again, however, this really was a good room. I was frustrated at points in this room, but that was because I was trying to solve a puzzle without all of the pieces (and I didn’t know that I DIDN’T have all the pieces). However, I really enjoyed the challenge of the room and had a good time completing it.
Game Master (Summary)
The Game Masters here are behind a computer screen and are not interacting by voice, so it’s a little harder to judge their abilities behind a keyboard rather than a walkie-talkie. However… (Go to next section). Julie was great. She wasn’t intrusive and only really came on line (they give the hints through a monitor) once we asked for a clue. I believe that we only asked for two clues, and maybe a point of clarification or two.
How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
The clues we asked for, and I feel like they were plenty, were to the point enough to set us back on the right track and get us an answer without (a) making us a feel stupid and (b) blatantly just giving us an answer. These are two qualities that can sometimes be hard to find.. Yes, they were helpful and we were able to solve them not long after, but I think I could have eventually gotten the one I was working on had I had all the godd@M% pieces.
Anger Level Score ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
I gave the rage meter a 40% (2 of 5) for reasons I can’t say without spoiling. Damn it. Can I give my review a 1 of 5 on its own anger scale for making me annoyed I can’t say something…?

Rating: 👊👊 Fists – 2/5
Sub-anger: 👊 

Yeah, I’ll admit I felt stupid here for both realizing that I didn’t have all the pieces and for all of us not following our first rule.

Rating:   FacePalms – 4/5

ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 7.6/10

Final Thought: While not expecting to do this room, it was a challenge and a lot of fun. We know that not all of our team members felt the same, so it might have been better had we done this one first with fully fresh minds. Remember that these ratings are subjective (but a 7.6 denotes a really good and solid room… anything we rate over a 7 is definitely worth doing), and sometimes don’t give the full experience in written form. However, we liked some of the unique concepts that came with this “virus among us” room, and thought it played well.

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