ESCAPE ROOM REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… your belief in government conspiracies grows every year as you get older.
Avoid if… you think that your Amazon Echo (or Echo Dot) is secretly spying on you. (Seriously, ask Alexa if she works for the CIA…)
Address: 103 S. Carroll St. #1A, Frederick, MD 21701 (click address for Google Map)
Room – Conspiracy:
Description (from the company website): Trust no one.
Uncover the truth.
Step inside of a thrilling mystery centered around some of the greatest conspiracies of our time. Players will need to piece together the clues and connect the dots before time runs and the truth is lost forever. Strap on your tin foil hats and uncover the truth beneath the lies.
Time Limit: 60 minutes
Cost: $31 per person, but use ERG15 to take 15% off your games booked (not valid on Saturdays)
Party Size: 4-8
Staging Area: A small waiting room with a reception desk, and small fridge with water (don’t they have a fridge here???) and some small puzzles to work on while you wait.
Metro Access/Parking: It’s in the historic part of downtown Frederick, so if you’re going to visit from DC, you’re gonna need to drive. There is a parking lot right next to the building, or ample street parking nearby.
We actually forgot to do the pre- and post-videos because we had such a good time talking (at length) with the owner. W0mp W0mp
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 walk into a room with 2 tables, a bunch of string-pointed diagrams on the walls, and what we could only guess to be a clean room in the back.
Understanding of the Mission: Uncover the clues in Icarus’ hideout, determine where he hid all the information, and get out with it before the Feds find you there.
Did We Escape: Yes
Time Remaining: 3:30
Our Suggested Party Size: We had 4 with one novice and one escape room virgin (ERV), and that was tough. We’d likely recommend 5-6.
Did the room challenge the entire team? Absolutely
Members of our team (other than the ERG): Alex and Anna
Worth the time and money? Yes
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After: You’re in downtown Frederick in the historic district. Lots of places nearby to eat and drink (we don’t have a recommendation because we didn’t stop anywhere).
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|We’ve known about this place for quite some time (the owner of this room and those of 2 of our favorite locations go back and forth all the time on Facebook recommending each other), so all it took to finally get there was to be stood up at another room in PA on our way back to the DMV.
I knew literally nothing about this place going in, but we had plenty of time to talk with the owner before starting the room as well as after when we interviewed him.
|ClueIQ is a location that we’ve been wanting to try out for about 2 years, and we just haven’t gotten the opportunity to get up there (they’re about 1 hr 15 min north of Alexandria). They’ve been recommended by a few other locations, and the owner is active on some of the groups we belong to.
So, we were coming back to the DC area after delivering a room to a client in PA, had an escape room cancel on us, and we had to drive right by Frederick, so we reached out to ClueIQ to see if they had any spots open that night. The owner booked us into Conspiracy, and that’s how we got to check out this location. We were doing the room with two strangers (an Escape Room Virgin (ERV) and a novice), so it would be interesting to see how we worked together with people we’ve never met.
We also did get an opportunity to do a great interview with him (check out the link Jason posted) and learn more about what philosophy he uses to design his rooms.
|“Icarus” is dead and he’s left you one of those “If you’re watching this, then I’m dead”-videos. He tells you that you may be the only people that believe in his conspiracy theories, and he’s got proof that you, as investigative journalists (***YAWN***), will want to hear.
The conspiracies include the government trying to brainwash the population, mind control (Project MK Ultra, which we’ve encountered in several other rooms), deaths of NASA astronauts who question missions, and Area 51.
He’s left you coordinates to find his save house and clues around it to help you expose them. You’ve got 60 minutes before the place self-destructs and all of his hard work is for naught.
|A conspiracy theorist named Icarus has disappeared and is presumed dead, and he left instructions to contact you with information that some conspiracies he’s been researching are actually real. Factions of the government are trying to manipulate worldwide events and get a stranglehold on the population and powers that run the globe.
As investigative journalists, he’s contacted you with this information to bring all of this to light, but there’s a catch…
This is another conspiracy-themed room and there’s not too much you can do to make it fully original, but I did like the immersion factor that was laid into this story, and it provided enough detail that I had enough background to start drawing a connection to the mission.
|Get to the safe house, unravel the clues to discover all the information “Icarus” has hidden, and leave before the Feds break in and find you there (and destroy all the evidence).
This was similar to the “House Arrest” room that we did a while back, but without the well-timed pounding on the door.
There was actually a lot to see here, so while it sounds like a simple ask (find the stuff and GTFO), it was significantly harder (for the 4 of us) than it sounded.
|Icarus has given you the coordinates to his safe house, where he’s secured all of his research. Unfortunately, there’s a time limit on this knowledge because factions of the government have also been alerted to his death or disappearance and they’re on their way there too (and note the correct use of the their/they’re/there all in one sentence 🙂 ).
If you don’t plow through his research, find the evidence, and release it to the public, the information will be destroyed and the shadow government will keep its control over the population.
I did enjoy this mission because it posed a good challenge, had a different spin on the “find the proof and uncover the conspiracy” theme, and was pretty clear in what we had to do… but not exactly how to do it, as that unraveled a bit during the experience.
|Puzzle Diversity (Rating)|
|There was a lot of…weirdness in this place. Not in a bad way.
One of the things I liked about this room was the fact that there was a lot of out-of-the-box thinking required. For example, there was a lot in plain sight (some literally), but things we’ve seen before didn’t act the way they did in all the other rooms. I really, REALLY want to give you an example, but that’d be against my better judgement. (Hey, sometimes it’s actually good.)
There were 2 or 3 lock boxes (which didn’t surprise me), but everything else was either tech or some sort of hands-on thing that was weird (and I mean that all in a good way).
This was only the second time I’ve seen a paper shredder in an escape room, though. Just saying. Also, the clean room (again, for lack of a better term) was an interesting touch.
|ClueIQ did a great job in integrating some great tech in this room, in addition to some standard and simple type of puzzles you’d see in other rooms.
The tech in this room is spread across multiple puzzles and situations that you need to resolve. The tech itself can either be the puzzle or the lock itself, so be prepared for looking for both.
One point I’d like to make, which we asked about but didn’t remember, is that there are things in the room that may be used twice… but not in the same way. This is an area that stumped us and led to asking for the first of two clues.
There were a few things we’ve seen before, while others were spins on other puzzles, and some brand new things too (again, one of the tech things was ingeniously done).
One problem with tech is that it’s sometimes very particular… so you’ll need to make sure that you do exactly what is needed to trigger the lock. We were working on this puzzle and I mentioned it to Jason (who is an IT guy and is used to some flexibility due to the systems that he implements… I work for a non-profit with older equipment so I’m quite familiar with “you must do this in this exact way or the world will explode” LOL). As we were working on it again the right way, our GM sent a clarifying message, which we didn’t need but solidified the fact that we were doing it correctly that time.
The last thing I’ll mention here is that with tech, it’s really, really important to be be observant, so you can figure out what is triggered once you’ve done what you need to do. So, it may be a good idea to have the group break up and work across the entire room in case that happens so someone can see what’s opened.
|Puzzle Complexity (Rating)|
|This room threw us for a loop multiple times (should that be ‘threw us for multiple loops’?) and I was quite surprised at that. Things we thought were going to lead us one way led us squarely in the opposite direction, so we were getting mental whiplash throughout.
In addition, puzzles and items we saw and immediately thought would be pretty simple and straightforward…weren’t. (For example, we were working with a cryptex that did not work as we expected it to, so trying to brute force it wasn’t going to work.)
There was a lot of back and forth between parts of the room, which I personally enjoy, and it worked well. It was a great way to keep us guessing.
Puzzles here ranged from something as simple as putting pieces of paper together to…I’m trying to think of another thing we did to use the other end of this spectrum but nothing non-spoiler-type comes to mind. I’d go with a 2-8 for difficulty range, though.
|The tech was a lot of fun, and quite challenging for only 4 people. There was a lot of stuff to observe, and figure out how things fit together, but there were quite a few things in the room designed to distract and throw you off your game.
The puzzles themselves were challenging at points, and yet we had some quick wins that kept us motivated to keep moving and plugging along at some of the harder ones.
There were points where we solved the puzzles quickly (and had to communicate with each other to make sure that we were all aware that that particular puzzle was solved), and others that had all 4 of us crowded around it offering input on how to solve it.
I’m happy that I kept at a few of the puzzles because it ended up that I had the correct way of solving them. There is a lot of chaos in a room when everyone is trying to do their own thing, but after I explained what I was thinking to another team member (who was standing in front of the lock) she took my suggestion and the lock snapped open which saved us some time at the very end of the game. This is why Rule 5 exists, folks.
|The room kept us moving along the entire time. There was pretty much no standing still (aside from one part that actually required it, and I don’t mean because of a motion sensor).
I felt like I was in some crazy guys lair. There was some crazy stuff going on here, or Icarus was kinda nuts. One of the other. I mean, the Feds were after him, after all.
The wall coverings were on par for what I would expect for this room and the video quality was top notch.
|The decoration of the room was good, but not exactly what I was expecting in terms of what I would envision as a conspiracy theorist’s safe house (I envisioned something a bit more cluttered and chaotic).
However, everything in the room, from decoration and props and puzzles, did fit the overall theme and supported the story and mission. I did like some of how I could envision that the tech stuff would be the brain child of Icarus to throw anyone off the track that didn’t belong there.
I loved the blend of the tech vs. non-tech in the room, which allowed us all to work independently at points (as in single individuals… not just small teams). This room was not linear at first, but went linear and then opened up again before coming to the final conclusion.
There is a LOT to look at in this room, so you are likely to get distracted on something that looks really cool that comes into play much later in the game, so keep that in mind so you don’t lose time. Plus, I will admit again to getting distracted by the tech, just wondering how it worked vs. focusing on completing the mission.
|This room was fun. And hard. And not just because there were only 4 of us or we were with strangers. It was just a tough room.||This room was a bit more challenging and chaotic than “fun/amusing,” but that fits the storyline and mission better. Absolutely, I had a good time doing this room and look forward to their other experiences (specifically Excalibur). I think we also worked well with our teammates (that we met 30 seconds before going into the room).|
|Game Master (Summary)|
|He was pretty hands off. This random couple that we were with were pretty good and we all worked well together, so there wasn’t *much* need for interaction with him.||Steven was great. Because we talked to him ahead of time, he knew how we generally operated, but with two other guests in the room, he made sure he was available at a moment’s notice if we needed a clarification or an actual clue. I think we asked for two of them.|
|How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)|
|We got a hint or two, yes, and they were eloquently provided. I don’t recall there being any issue with them.||We asked for two… one which confirmed that we were not using something correctly, and another that allowed us to get through the halfway point of the experience.
We did get an unneeded nudge at the very end, but we were already re-solving the puzzle when we got it.
|RAGE Meter||ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score|
|I was a little annoyed that some of the puzzles took us so damn long to figure out, and that 2 or 3 items were exactly NOT what I thought they were going to be. But hey, good design, right?
|Nope, I didn’t feel stupid in this room… in fact, I don’t think we had time!
Rating: — 0/5
ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8.55/10
Final Thought: As far as conspiracy theorist rooms go, this is definitely one of the better ones that we’ve played. We were glad to finally have gotten to ClueIQ and can’t wait to go back. After this room was over, we did our usual interview and were shown around the other rooms briefly. So suffice it to say we’ll be back.