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Review: Once Upon a Time

RATING: 2 Keys          RESULT: Win          REMAINING: 0:52

Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin lived in a not so magical fairy tale.


Trouble is brewing in the kingdom as treasured magical items have gone missing.  The evidence points to Rumpelstiltskin being the culprit and rumors have circulated that he is trying to enact a curse on all the land.  Brave adventurers are called upon to break into Rumpelstiltskin’s castle and find the missing artifacts and stop him before it’s too late!

Once Upon a Time starts in the forest outside of Rumpelstiltskin’s castle.  Throughout the adventure, there are references to many popular tales – King Arthur, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella.  One must gain entry to the castle, solve the trickster’s riddles, and obtain control of the three missing artifacts.  The kingdom must regain peace before its cursed for eternity.

A fairy tale should feel magical, whimsical, and happy.  Instead, Once Upon a Time feels ordinary, worn, and frustrating.  It never quite lives up to what a fairy tale should be.


This fairy tale adventure starts in the forest outside of the castle.  There are several realistic looking trees with initials carved into them.  The walls simply have painted pictures of trees to give the impression that the forest is much larger.

Scattered throughout the trees, there are many colorful mushrooms.  The centerpiece of the forest is a sword lodged into a stone – paying tribute to King Arthur.  The entrance to the kingdom has some impressive masonry work and a lion head fountain.

Rumpelstiltskin is a short man, so his castle’s quarters have similarly short ceilings.  The floors are made of wood, and it looks like he has not dusted in awhile – the set is needlessly dirty feeling.  There is a non-functional spin wheel resting in the corner and a low-hanging chandelier dangling above a trapdoor.  Other than those few items, the space is sparsely decorated.

The adventure ends in the dungeon of Rumpelstiltskin’s castle.  A wooden pillory is in the center of the room to restrain any prisoners, and there are a couple other wooden devices resting along the walls.  The floor is made of a hard rock, and the room, again, has an overall worn and dirty feeling.


Once Upon a Time’s greatest weakness is its lack of intuitive and creative puzzles.  The adventure requires you to find a magic lamp, a poisoned apple, and Cinderella’s slipper.  It is a linear game, so the maximum capacity of six players would have some people sitting idle.

One of the first tasks doesn’t have any clear indication as to whether or not it has been correctly solved.  This causes needless aggravation and some guess work.  Also, the door to the castle drags the ground – it wasn’t cut to proper size.  Therefore, it takes some force to budge open even when the player has properly unlocked it.

Inside the castle’s quarters, there is a physical puzzle that uses a weak magnet – so weak that it’s almost unusable.  Also, there is a riddle hidden in the room that verges dangerously close to requiring a bit of outside knowledge, which is one of the biggest cardinal sins of escape rooms.

Ironically, the castle’s dungeon has one of the most torturous puzzles of the entire adventure.  There is a sudoku-style puzzle with five variables.  Additionally, there is nothing to write on in the room, so it makes the puzzle virtually unsolvable unless you happen to be a member of Mensa.


Fairy tales are supposed to immerse you into a world of wonder.  Unfortunately, Once Upon a Time is plagued with frustrations and no magical moments.  The set is tattered instead of bright and colorful, and the puzzles are illogical and frustrating instead of whimsical and fun.

There are several “sins of escape rooms” such as the aforementioned giant soduko-style puzzle.  Story-lovers may enjoy the numerous references to the fairy tales that they adore, but their enjoyment will most likely end there.

Venue Details

Venue: Red Door Escape Room

Location: Southlake, Texas

Number of Games: 6


Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 6 people

Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.

Cost: $28 per person


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