ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you truly still believe that Elvis is alive or the pyramids were built .by aliens.
Avoid if…you have a friend who is a conspiracy theorist who is always trying to get you to believe his/her stories (our condolences).
Cville Escape Room: (MOVED TO NEW LOCATION June 1, 2018)
Address: 310 E. Main St., Charlottesville, VA
Contact and Website: 434-566-9499
Room – Conspiracy X:
Description (from the company website): Obsessed with conspiracy theories, a friend sends a final desperate message: one of his theories is true! Separate fact from fiction before time runs out! An intriguing mystery for up to 8 investigators.
Difficulty (1-10): unlisted
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Cost: $25 + tax per person
Party Size: Up to 8
Staging Area: They put us in a small waiting room with chairs and then came in to give us the briefing. It’s cool that Cville Escape Room has a Lock & Key Club for players who have done 4 rooms at this location. Once you hit your 4th room, you get your name on a ribbon attached to an antique key, and for every successive room, you get a small key pin added to the ribbon.
Metro Access/Parking: There’s a pay-parking lot about 1.5 blocks away and street parking, if you can find it.
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: The room is a cluttered apartment littered with stuff all around, and tons of posters, newspaper articles, and other stuff on the walls.
Understanding of the Mission: We have to explore the different conspiracy theories of a friend of ours (who has since gone into hiding) to determine which conspiracy theory is correct.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 4:47
Our Suggested Party Size: 6 was good, but only if you have experienced people with you (there is a LOT to do in this room… see below).
Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Heather, Steph, Corey, and Brittany
Worth the time and money? Yes
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After: It’s downtown Charlottesville right off the main pedestrian walkway, so there are tons of options. We ate dinner at the place below.
- Fellini’s – good cocktails and beer selection. Food was okay.
- Citizen Burger Bar – excellent burger place and a good selection of beers
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|It’s been quite some time since I had been to Charlottesville, let alone an escape room there, so while in town of course we took a trip over to see Cville Escape Rooms new location.
Last time we were there was about 2 years ago when we did Spy’s Demise for my birthday. That room was a little crowded, but that was our fault for bringing so many people. But the build quality was pretty high and that led us to expect the same this time around from one of their new rooms. Since this was a room about conspiracy theories, I expected it to be entertaining, at a minimum.
|We had been to C-Ville Escape Rooms about two years ago for the weekend with a large group of friends to celebrate Jason’s birthday. We ended up doing Spy’s Demise, and having a great time with the experience.
When we found ourselves going back there for a long weekend with a smaller group of friends, we decided to try it out one of their new rooms at their new location.
|A good friend of yours, who happens to be obsessed with conspiracy theories and has a room dedicated to everything from the JFK assassination to a faked moon landing, sends you a single, desperate message. He has found that one of the theories that he has been closely following is actually true and he fears for his safety. Of course, when you get to his apartment, you find that he’s gone missing.
Well naturally, what else would I be doing in a(n) (escape) room filled with conspiracy theories except being the only one there? Just chalk it up to another Saturday afternoon for me folks.
|One of our friends is obsessed with conspiracy theories, and has spent his adult life researching them… everything from Bigfoot to the Moon Landing to JFK’s Assassination to Area 51. One day, you get a message from him saying that he’s discovered that one of the theories that he’s been researching is actually true, and now he’s in fear for his life (well, what conspiracy theorist WOULDN’T be concerned about being found?). You rush to his apartment and find that he’s gone missing… and you have to figure out which of his theories is actually the one that is true.
This is an interesting spin on a regular conspiracy-themed room in that you have to look at MANY theories and determine which one is the correct one.
Why only you would have access to his apartment is only one of the small questions I have that relates to the theme. I would have definitely figured out something to place between us between his apartment of “proof” to add to the level of excitement and immersion on going about solving the mystery.
|You get to your friend’s apartment to find that he is completely gone but naturally has left clues all around the apartment to point you in the direction of the conspiracy theory that he found was true. Your job is to find and follow the clues, figure out which theory is not just a theory, and escape with your life intact before time runs out. Think MIB2 but not to get your memory back. Yeah, like that.
|You have to sift through your friend’s messy apartment and find clues and solve puzzles in order to determine which of the theories he’s been researching is the correct one. I can’t remember if there was a story to the level of urgency beyond this (like the government is on its way, or something would happen to eradicate all the evidence), but that would be a good addition the story to add to the immersion factor.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|I have to admit, when they told us in the briefing room that any clue we found was likely for a puzzle “in that area”, I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant until I walked in and saw literally walls of locks. If you are a person that does not like padlock after padlock after padlock, I highly recommend not doing this room. By the end of the room I was totally fatigued of locks and did not want to see another one.
That said, there were many different types of puzzles while there were essentially only two different lock types (one of which was the aforementioned alpha/numeric lock), however there were multiple paths through the room to get to the final puzzle. This was good as there were six of us, so it was easy to break into groups and do a set of puzzles while someone else was doing the same thing in another corner of the room (literally). Puzzles ranged from simple shape recognition to deciphering text to following items on the bulletin boards in the room. But again, plenty of things for everyone to do.
|So, regarding diversity… the types of puzzles in the room required a lot of attention to detail and working together on the many theories that you find. We were told before we went in that “everything you find is used in the general area where you found it.” We found out why (and this will be explained in the Flow/Cohesiveness rating further down).
I liked a lot of the puzzles and there was enough variety to allow everyone to do their part… we have a group that has strengths in different areas (such as maps, putting puzzles together, deciphering codes, or having a keen eye for observing small, minute details that are the answers to some of the puzzles we found).
The one area that rates this room down is the sheer number of locks (combination and key) that you find. I always try and see how the locks themselves fit the room, and it’s understandable that a conspiracy theorist would want to lock everything away, so some of them can be explained. However, 90% of the room was behind a combination/padlock. I would think that a conspiracy theorist would also not want to be that obvious in case someone did break in, so I would have thought there would be more hidden in plain sight to throw people off the track.
The exception was the final puzzle, which was pretty cool, and did something that I wasn’t really expecting, so kudos to C-Ville for that.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|Here’s where things got kind of interesting. Each stack of puzzles in the room got progressively harder as you went down the stack. Think questions in Jeopardy. You could have done the first or second puzzle on your own but by the bottom of the stack you probably needed at least one or two other people to finish it, unless you just happen to know everything. Some puzzles actually required more than one person to complete, or at a minimum to make solving the puzzle easier.
I don’t recall anything being terribly difficult, however there were times where we were stumped on seemingly obvious things that turned out to be as obvious as they sounded. Whenever I get stumped, I always end up saying “I feel stupid right now and I know if I ask for a clue it’s going to be obvious”. This was exactly what happened at least twice.
Oh and there was a properly done black light puzzle. The first one we’ve encountered in a while.
|This room had a lot going on, and it was designed well with puzzles that you solved quickly (within 30 seconds) and others that took some time (a few minutes apiece). This worked well with the number of theories that you had to research in the room, and the complexity got harder and harder the further into each theory that you got.
We were only stumped a few times, and it’s really because we were overthinking things. We ended up asking for a clue and had started to get the solution just as the GM walked into the room and started providing the hint.
That, however, is also the sign of a good room when you cause people to doubt themselves or overthink things… kind of like they are leading you down the path of a mental trip through the conspiracy theorist’s mind.
|Because this was a room about conspiracy theories, and somebody who was a little bit nutty, saying that the room felt like it didn’t flow is actually saying that the room was a cohesive theme. If you think about it, if someone’s a little bit crazy the room was going to be disjointed and not everything would seemingly fit together.
I will say the room definitely looked the part though. One thing that bothered me was the payoff at the end, to me at least, left something to be desired. The room ended abruptly, where you find out which one of the theories is true, however the theory itself never really comes up in the course of the room. So to have that one be the one that is true feels like there should have been some build up to it. I kind of expected there to be multiple theories that would show through during the room progression and get weeded out on the fly, but that didn’t happen. You got all the clues to the final puzzle, solved it, and there was your answer. Kind of a let down.
|The room is decorated exactly as what I would envision a “true” conspiracy theorist’s place would look like. Lots of posters and maps and photos on the walls, and just stuff EVERYWHERE! Lots of things to look through and determine if they are relevant… and just because they were not relevant at one point during the experience doesn’t mean that they don’t become relevant once you find something later on.
There was a LOT to do in this room… so much that I would say there is plenty for a full booking of 8 people to do in this room, and I rarely, rarely ever recommend the maximum a location has on its website. You have to research every theory and there are different levels to every theory, so you need to eventually figure out which one is true, which is a puzzle in itself.
I would say that the room flowed well… this is not linear at all until you get to the end, but there is a linear feel that you get when you’re going through the room (and that’s all I’m going to say).
I think they could have tied what happened to your missing friend into the final reveal, so that you not only solve the original mystery, but also why your friend went missing.
|At some point throughout the room I was just beginning to get increasingly more frustrated by the sheer number of locks I had to go through, and it was very reminiscent of another escape room that I always harp on for being too lock heavy. So at one point during the room I just wanted to finish it and be done.
Additionally, I was getting frustrated with some of my teammates for either taking too long doing certain things (when I wanted to give them a try; Rule #8) or for just generally being combative in the room.
|To be perfectly honest, I had a good time playing the room, but it was more of a manic experience versus fun. There is a lot to do, and as soon as you hit a stumbling block, then the anxiety gets kicked up a notch (unless that is the intent of the design). I think we did a pretty good job of switching out when we hit roadblocks, or in asking for help or to be double-checked to make sure we weren’t overlooking anything.
I would say that this room is more challenging than fun, but that is IMHO.
|Game Master (Summary)|
|Our Gamemaster was good. The way they use their Game Masters to provide clues when asked is unique in the fact that they want it to be very personal and customized, so when you ask for a clue (by holding up a giant foam ?), they literally run run run down the hall to your room and come in to take your question. Then they give you your clue or point to something in the room and haul ass back up to the front.
So while it’s unique and customized, it could come off as impractical and un-timely.
|Our GM was attentive and asked only occasionally if we needed some help. When we did, she raced down the hall and provided the relevant clue.
In speaking with the owner afterwards for the interview, Cville feels that this adds a personal touch to the game. I agree that it’s effective and they can see exactly what you need to be clued into because they are in the room with you, but I also feel that it takes away from the immersive effect by having your GM run into the room while you’re supposed to be searching your friend’s place for evidence of the conspiracy theory.
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|The clues were fine as clues go. I’m just angry that we missed the information because it was so obvious that we felt pretty dumb.||The clues were good and helpful. One, however, was being given just as we figured out the solution, so we didn’t need as many as we actually asked for.|
|RAGE Meter||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I’m giving this one 2 fists mainly due to (1) the number of locks and (2) how stupid I felt after getting our clues.
|I’m going to give this a 3 for not knowing better and for realizing what we should have done too late in the game.
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 7.3/10
Final Thought: This was a pretty challenging room, and had a lot to do, so go with the maximum number of people unless you really, really want a frantic experience! With that many puzzles and locks, it’s difficult to reflect on the entire experience because we didn’t work on every puzzle (in most rooms, there are only a puzzle or two that we (Jason and Mike) did not particpate in one way or another). However, we will say that it’s not often that we’re frantically working on the room from the moment we enter until the moment we leave, so that did kind of add to the immersion… if you like that sort of thing. We do like mixing up our room experiences from just having plain fun, to a mix of fun and challenge, and then a full challenge, so it was a good break to have.