5 / 5 Claws
The writing behind this escape room is impressive. The opening video (which deserves some kind of award) introduces the ridiculous pirate whose character is reflected, not only in the theme, but in the personality of the puzzles themselves, and players succeed by catching on to how that pirate thinks. We had to get to know the room personally, in other words, because it was a character in itself. That’s not easy to pull off, and most rooms don’t even try.
In terms of game design, this room is ambitious. The production values are sometimes high, sometimes… less so. They made it look gorgeous in places, but when they couldn’t (or didn’t want to), they prioritized being interesting and fun, which is the right choice. But it’s the ambition within the overall game that has me intrigued. There are ideas in here I never would have attempted, and in this venue’s hands, they all succeed. Some parts feel more DIY than others. You won’t care. To me, this makes the visuals even more inspiring. When something in a theme park looks spectacular, I think “Wow, that looks expensive!” But the ingenious devices in this room made me think, “Wow, maybe I could have built this, but I never could have thought of it.” I learned about game design from playing this room.
A downside for some purists might be the uneven difficulty level. Some challenges are a cinch, others are tough. None of them are unfair or maddening, but in general, there’s an in-story reason for a puzzle to be where it is… which is an ironic drawback, because when there isn’t a good reason for a puzzle to stand between you and something you want to play with, the game becomes time-consuming for the wrong reason. On the one hand, most players are used to puzzles being nonsensical. But, in this ludicrous and comedic room, we’d grown used to things making sense even within the silliness, which made for a rocky endgame when the puzzles started occurring in less logical places.
There are some jaw-dropping effects here. One part of this game is so delight-inducing, I’d be a monster if I spoiled it. You might feel, as many of us did, that finally someone built the playground you always wanted. Don’t get too distracted though, because trust me, you want to win. It’s one of the most rewarding conclusions I’ve ever experienced. Family-friendly and hilarious, I highly recommend a visit to this room if you’re in the Orlando area.
This room was utterly delightful! What made it particularly enjoyable was seeing the newcomers to our team perform so wonderfully well on their first outing. While Michael and I have been playing escape rooms for years now, we rounded up three first-timers for our trip to Doldrick’s Escape Rooms. Players in Captain Spoopy Bones begin the game in separate cells in the ship’s brig, but unlike other games that begin by splitting up teams, the two groups were kept apart for what felt like an abnormally long time, reuniting toward the end of stage 2. This allowed new players the time and space to think & try things out without the veterans getting in their way.
There are some truly unique surprises in this room and though each player had the opportunity to shine through the wide variety of puzzles, I think our first-time players may have had the bar set pretty high for all their future games when it comes to their expectations of Awe. It has been easily at least 100 rooms since I gasped so loudly with surprise, but the bells and whistles in this room were certainly worthy of the honor.
Aside from splitting up players, one of the aspects that really allowed players to shine was that so many of the challenges strongly connected to the theme of the room, something characteristic of Green rooms. It was very natural for players to question why things were found where they were, and manipulating those elements often led them to the solution to the challenges they were working on. Whether patching a hole on the ship or helping to raise the sails, each puzzle conveyed a sense of progress on getting the ship seaworthy so we could go grab that treasure.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one of my favorite parts of this room [Editor: Paul actually didn’t point it out prior to publication but later insisted on a reprint.] While many venues try to solidify the post-game experience with complimentary beverages, souvenirs, and photo opportunities, Doldrick’s post-game exemplifies the thoughtfulness and Care that permeates all aspects of their rooms. Some larger venues, typically those of a national chain or franchise, provide generic ‘yey, we won’ or ‘it was so close’ signs which may as well have been made with a Sharpie on cardboard for all the impact they have. For someone like me, who insists on a photo after every room, venues who don’t take that extra step of providing a customized prop leave us with anywhere from 4-8 nearly identical photos without preserving any of the actual memories we were trying to capture. Now, take a look at our post-game photo below; themed props to play with, a background that doesn’t reduce your photo to free advertising for the venue, plenty of room to goof around, and the room’s marquee & mascot along with our team name and completion time right on the photo the staff took for us and e-mailed each player before we even put the swords back. It’s this level of detailed planning, forethought, and seamless followthrough (particularly in such small, often overlooked places) players can expect in everything Doldrick’s does.
While there were one or two wasted opportunities in Captain Spoopy, the overall strength of the execution of this room makes this one of Orlando’s ‘must see’ experiences.
2943 Vineland Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746