RATING: 2 Keys RESULT: Loss REMAINING: X:XX
Murder Mystery. The real crime here isn’t murder, nor is it a mystery. Call the attraction police, because someone stole 60 minutes of our lives we’ll never get back.
Exit Strategy sets up Murder Mystery like this:
“You thought you could drive all the way home tonight, but you’re just too sleepy to make it. The only motel you could find was the “Sleepy Haven”. It looked sketchy, but you were just too tired to care… that was until you checked in and saw what happened in your room…”
This is a pretty typical “roadside motel” scenario and to further add to this story, Exit Strategy provided us with some verbal insight into what we were actually doing in this room prior to us starting the game. The objective here, as best we could tell, is to play detective in this raunchy motel room and find out who committed this assumed murder before the authorities arrive in a very convenient 60 minutes, lest you and your friends be implicated in the crime. Unless of course you escape.
No reason is given as to why we were locked in the room, but if we had to guess, we would like to think that the killer has somehow locked us in. OK… fine… Let’s just play Murder Mystery.
To preface this, but at the same time not to make excuses, Murder Mystery is one of Exit Strategy’s earlier games and doesn’t boast world-class scenery and sets. It is a dirty old motel room, after all. With that said, the environment in here is far from anything worth writing home about. The game takes place in a single, square room of which used to clearly be an office from the previous tenant—probably the Assistant (to the) Regional Manager. In here you’ll find your typical drop-in ceiling tiles with harsh fluorescent lighting, just like those old motels of yore.
The carpet had plenty of stains, no doubt pre-existing, but fit well with the story. The walls were just bland drywall with the occasional hole knocked in it and some wood lath placed on the backside to simulate broken plaster. To “enhance” this, they just sprayed black spray paint around it to make it look “old”, which looked more like bad graffiti than anything.
Don’t even get me started on the sad attempt at blood spatter on the walls… To be honest, I’m actually pleasantly surprised there weren’t contrived red handprints all over the walls and the words “HELP ME!” written out. On one of the walls was a window… No wait, it’s just some drapes hanging down with plain drywall on the other side. At the very least, just screw a window to the wall, something. Furnishings are typical of what you’d find in any motel. Bed, mini-fridge, chest, and a couple tables.
Being a scenic-focused person, I don’t like to present the problems without offering at least a simple solution. It wouldn’t have taken much to improve this space. Turn off the overhead office lights, and use the lamps that are already in the room anyways. Stay away from using black spray paint for aging things. Always. And, the window thing. Pretty cheap and simple.
Exit Strategy advertises this game as a more linear game than their others, meaning the flow of the game goes from one puzzle to the next as opposed to having your team work on multiple things at once. I would say this is mostly true, but at times our group was working in separate smaller teams of two to three. Exit Strategy offers three clues in the hour, typical of most venues, and to deliver those clues, they used a cheap 2-way radio that worked very sporadically. It made communication between us and our game master very difficult at times. I’m not against using 2-way radios, and in this game I can see where it could fit the theme, but these particular devices were faulty.
I felt most of the puzzles in this game were very disjointed and were not intuitive as to what went where. For example, there were some random numbers on articles of clothing, as well as a very colorful jigsaw puzzle of the United States, each of which had to be linked to their own successive puzzle or clue. Also framed on the wall were some very strange, what appeared to be cryptograms, but since we didn’t win the game, we never got to them.
Some of their hidden clues were exactly that, hidden. A particular example was a UV gag, but the invisible writing was so small, it would have been impossible to find without us burning a clue. Wait, did we just inadvertently burn two because we couldn’t understand the guy on the other end of the walkie?! Ugh!
Overall, as far as the puzzles and gameplay staying close to the story, it really did just the opposite. Not once did we encounter anything about who the victim was, how he met his end, or any slight indication of whodunit. I thought this was a murder mystery game?
Exit Strategy was first on the scene in a modest-size city that is now host to more than 25 games across six venues. So for a while, they were the only gig in town and without a doubt, many a guests’ first impression of an escape room game. The lobby is quite small but it is at least divided up into a sales counter area and a glassed-off area for waiting and I assume corporate meetings. This area is also where they give you your pre-game briefing and your objective. When we played, our game master didn’t seem very enthused to be there and also looked very unprofessional in his gray Nike tee. No nametags, no staff shirt, no uniformity among any of the staff. It doesn’t take much to establish yourself as a professionally run organization with some simple T-shirts for your staff.
As soon our game ended, the game master barged into the room exclaiming that we got caught and will promptly be sent to jail and questioned. After telling us we were only one step away from victory, we kindly asked if he could show us the end of the game to which he replied, “No, sorry, you’ll have to come back and play it again to see the end.” I’m sorry, did you say I’ll have to pay $25 to come back to see one final puzzle? Nah, I’m good thanks. I am really not a fan of venues that don’t show you the end of the game, especially when you get to a certain tipping point where it just wouldn’t be worth coming back for. To each his own I guess.
It has been well over a year since I played this game, so I hope Exit Strategy has upped the ante with the games they have built since, especially with all the other venues that have popped up around Charlotte in the past year.
Venue: Exit Strategy
Location: Charlotte, NC
Number of Games: 6
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $25 per person Weekdays