ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you’ve got the Midas touch.
Avoid if… you think that the Philosopher’s Stone originated with Harry Potter.
Insomnia Escape DC:
Address: 2300 Wisconsin Ave NW, #200B, Washington, DC 20007 (click address for a Google Map)
Contact and Website: 202-600-0419
Room – The Alchemist:
Description (from the company website): A perfect library with floor to ceiling bookshelves. The smell of old books that lingers here is distinctive, but it is hard to know exactly what creates the nostalgic aroma. The room looks like the place where Goldfinger would stockpile gold reserves. Oh, wait… Have I just said gold?
Well, that is right. Probably you have heard that the Order of the Alchemists has finally created the Philosopher’s Stone. The secret gathering of the Order is arranged to take control of the World with this powerful artifact. You are sneaking into the library of the Master of the Order just 60 minutes before the Order members will start arriving. You are the last hope of mankind, you have to stop them.
Our escape room could be filled with enough comfy chairs and reading material to call itself DC’s best-hidden library but you will not have time for such mundane activities anyway. This is the place where the Order of the Alchemist keeps their secret documents and your task it to find the Stone.
The Alchemist is an innovative escape room here in DC. Once you and a group of your friends cross the threshold, you are transported into a different world. Can you escape the library before the members of the Order come for you? Can you find the Stone before it is too late?
Difficulty (1-10): 9/10
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Cost: $29/per person
Party Size: 2-8
Staging Area: The staging area was basically a lobby with a couch, coat closet, and a water cooler.
Metro Access/Parking: The nearest Metro stop is either Tenleytown or Woodley Park metro (and then a bus), so it’s likely easier to drive/cab/Lyft in. There is street parking and one or two garages nearby.
This is the video we took before we entered the room:
This is the video we took just after we completed the room:
Description: Instead of describing it, we have a picture! (posted with permission from Insomnia Escape DC)
Understanding of the Mission: Pretty straightforward. Find the hidden Philosopher’s Stone before he comes back and catches you.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 13 minutes.
Our Suggested Party Size: We had 6; 4-6 should be perfect.
Did the room challenge the entire team? Not particularly
Members of the team (other than the ERG): Steph D, Heather, Rosemary, and Don
Worth the time and money? This room had previously been billed as their best and hardest room. We can tell you it’s certainly not the hardest.
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:
- Old Europe. Authentic German food a few minutes walk. Been there twice.
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|It’s been quite a while since we attempted an escape at Insomnia, and The Alchemist has been on our list for quite some time. So when Heather’s parents were in town and refused to do a room without Mike, I was approved to tag along on this adventure (along with my better half).
This room has received top ratings over the last few years and we’ve been eager to see what all the fuss was about. Well, I have at least. So let’s get right to it.
|Insomnia Escape has one room that we generally recommend to newer players (Cosa Nostra), so it’s been a solid location for us since we started doing escape rooms three years ago.
We recently went back to playtest The Patient, and the owner said that that room is likely going to replace The Alchemist as their hardest and best room.
With that in mind, we’ve been wanting to try out The Alchemist for about 1.5 years now, and it’s been a recurring recommendation for the DC metro area from some of the groups we belong to.
The perfect opportunity presented itself when Heather (my escape room gal) told me that her Mom and Dad wanted to do an escape room when they were coming to visit in mid-October. We wanted to make sure they got a good room to do, so we decided to finally do The Alchemist.
|An evil alchemist named Basilius, part of the Order of the Alchemists, has created the Philosophers Stone and plans on using it to take over the world. As apprentices to an opposing faction of Alchemists, you are sent to infiltrate his lab and steal the Stone before Basilius comes back to begin the ritual.
|An evil order of alchemists, led by a guy named Basilius, has finally been successful in creating the Philosopher’s Stone, the legendary stone that turns base metals into gold and produces the Elixir of Life that grants immortality to those who drink it. With unlimited funds and immortality at their disposal, this group of evil alchemists are primed to take over the world.
This is an interesting take on the alchemy/wizard rooms we’ve seen, considering that you’re in it to rescue the world vs. simply finding the stone to use for your own purposes.
But, let’s agree… that’s likely to happen anyway since unlimited funds and immortality have a way of corrupting even the purest souls.
|Infiltrate Basilius’s library, find the Stone, and escape before he starts a ritual to take over the world in one hour.
Not much to it. We’ve experienced this mission multiple times and this didn’t vary much (at all) from that formula. But at least it’s a solid formula, just with a fantastical spin this time.
|You are apprentice alchemists from an opposing sect, and have been tasked with getting into Basilius’ library, finding the secret lab, and stealing the stone before they can begin the ritual to use the stone.
Pretty basic mission here, so nothing that merits a long explanation. Find the stone and save the world from being ruled by evil. No pressure whatsoever, right?
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|This room had a mixture of puzzles not unlike we’ve encountered at Insomnia before. They can take tried and true puzzles and just put a spin on them that makes them feel fresh, as well as pertinent to the theme of the room.
We found physical manipulation, logic, visual puzzles, one of dexterity, and some visual association (not to be confused with the aforementioned visual puzzles). There are things you will miss if you don’t look at everything twice, so…um…look. Twice. And use Rule #3. It’s a MUST.
|I think the room had a lot of diverse puzzles, ranging from riddles to ciphers to observational to “find and place” or “find and resolve.”
Having 6 people in the room was a bit much at first, but we started pairing off and solving puzzles. There was a lot of stuff to look through and a number of things that LOOKED like clues but weren’t really anything.
One thing that surprised me was when I asked one of our standard questions at the beginning (if anything was used more than once), the GM said “possibly.”
And then I promptly forgot about that, which caused us to stumble at one point, where we – thankfully – decided to use a clue.
There was a good mix of the types of locks in the room as well. As soon as we saw certain props or things in the room, we knew what we were looking for (based on seeing similar things in other rooms). One of the problems we encountered was that there were so many people in the room searching and doing certain actions that we didn’t know what ended up opening some of the locks we found.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|I don’t think there was anything overly difficult in this room, but considering the things that did make us stumble were, coincidentally, things I didn’t actually look at… ?
Yeah. So anyway, we plowed through the room pretty quickly and, as I said, stumbled on a pair of puzzles. (I say pair because it was 2 things that went together that we just didn’t put together.) Once we got the clue on that, it was smooth sailing and we made the leader board (which is reset monthly, by the way).
The mixture of puzzles was good and fit the theme but, again, nothing terribly difficult (maybe a range of 2-6).
|The room was easier than I expected it would be (we got out with 13 minutes remaining, which was about 30 seconds short of the top space on current leaderboard… so we came in second), but there was some complexity as to how you had to progress through the room. We’re generally good with observational puzzles and finding out what to do with certain items, but we did get stuck at one point and needed to ask for a clue. Once it was provided, I felt really, really stupid because we didn’t follow our Rule #3.
Two of our group were doing their second room, and I think they got lost for a little bit, so I tried to include them on some of the items we were working on.
There was one puzzle that no one really wanted to work on, so I partnered with Rosemary and we plowed through it. This puzzle was a good one to include, but was missing some context as to WHY it was in the room, and it had a number of things to solve that weren’t really necessary (I think it was just there to kill time), which was a bit frustrating/annoying to me.
The last part of the experience we really moved through quickly and solved everything within a few minutes.
|Considering the speed at which we made it through the room, there was quite a bit to see. Everything fit the room extremely well and, as you progress, it’s made even more apparent where things should be used or found as you actually run out of things in the room.
I really love how you find the Stone itself at the end, but the way you discover it…not so much. Remember that this is ancient times. That’s all I’ll say to that. There could have been myriad other things to do, but they chose what they did. Oh well. That was really the only thing I didn’t like.
|The decoration in the room is really well done (see photo above) and you do find what you would expect to find in an alchemist’s lab. I would say that I was missing some of the potions or beakers/flasks that I would envision to be there.
I did like how they used certain items in the room, but others seemed a bit out of time in terms of how they were organized. I wouldn’t expect an alchemist to use something that was invented in the late 1800s, unless this was the time period they were looking to present within the experience.
I also didn’t get how one of the puzzles with a particular symbol was related to the overall experience, unless that was supposed to be part of the subtext to the story-line as to who the alchemists were.
The flow of the room was good, but went linear faster than we expected, so we did have a bit of people waiting around while others were working on that final puzzle to move forward.
There was a lot of unique stuff here, and I had a lot of fun going through it. I would say the second half of the experience was more fun than the first, so keep at it and you’ll have lots to do.
|Had a good time in this room. It was on the easier side, so felt really fast, but still took 47 minutes.||The room was a lot of fun, and it fit with what I’ve heard about it in terms of the experience, but not in terms of the level of challenge.|
|Game Master (Summary)|
|He was clear in his correspondence, and pretty hands off until we requested help. I had introduced him to who we were before we started so he understood.||Our GM was pretty hands off, but was there to offer us some clarification points when we were trying certain solutions (confirming we had the correct one), and then stepping in once we asked for a hint.|
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|We did ask for a clue or two, but they were well timed because we were all starting to get frustrated that we were at a stand still.||Clarification was good and helped us determine we were correct, and the clue he provided for the puzzle we were stuck on was a head slapper for me, especially since I asked specifically if things were used more than once. Should have remembered that.|
|Anger Level Score||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I’m a little miffed that I didn’t review everything to stop us from getting a clue, but there’s always the next room I guess.
Additionally, this is billed as their hardest room. I have to disagree there. Cosa Nostra was harder.
|I’m giving this a 4… once we got the clue, I think I actually did facepalm.
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 7.75/10
Final Thoughts: We’re glad that we finally got to do this room, and we weren’t disappointed by the consistency of the experiences we’ve had at Insomnia Escape. After doing The Patient and speaking with the owner about the location’s offerings, we would agree with his assessment that The Patient is probably a bit more challenging, while The Alchemist is likely better for (small) groups seeking just a fun experience.