Written by: The Bat
Escape rooms all involve being “locked” into a room, right? Wrong!
Thanks to Mental Mansion, the Daring Damsels were able to try our first outdoor escape room. Yes, I said outdoors. In Vegas, where we are based, that would not be too much fun. So it makes sense that we haven’t done one before. But in Eugene, Oregon, where everything is green and pretty, the idea actually seemed like something fun to try. So we booked the game.
The way it worked was this: You show up for your game, and the host reads the rules. Pretty normal start. But then instead of showing you into a room, they hand you a big box and a tablet.
Then they introduce you to the contents of the box. Some are basic laminated clue sheets. But some are much more interesting…..I’ll get to that in the props section.
Quick sidebar: the host at Mental Mansion is awesome! He is the owner of the business, and he is funny, but also professional, and very personable. We went to play another game almost completely because of him.
We inventoried the box and the host explained the tablet program. Then we walked back out the front door and started our game. The tablet functioned like the maps program you use to navigate in your car. At each stop, it would have a pop-up that contained a puzzle. Then, whether or not you completed the puzzle, you were taken back to the map and told where your next destination was. Pretty simple, but also super fun.
Now that you know what an outdoor escape room is, My Readers, it’s time for the review of Operation Mindfall!
Props & Decor:
I can’t really give the escape room too much credit for the decor. They didn’t plant the trees, place the cool houses we walked past, or plan the pretty weather. But they did pick the path we had to take, and it was beautiful. The houses in that town are unique and fun to look at. The game led us past a school and into a pretty little park next to a stream. As people who did not live there, I will admit, that being outside was a bit distracting. The Dragon kept stopping to look at houses and I stopped to take pics of a murder of crows that took over a field. But that is not a critique of the game as much as our inability to focus. (Yes, my readers, the Damsels are both neurodivergent, with ADHD being one of our quirks).
Dragon: And this time there were literal squirrels to distract us!
The props were the most fun part of this game. I’m not sure exactly how it worked, but the box contained little cards that, when you aimed the tablet at them, brought up a moving, talking figure! It was as if the hologram things in the movies were flat. There was also a mini chemistry-type set, which we did get to play with during the game. That was probably my favorite part, even more than the crows!
The tablet program was pretty user-friendly. The host explained the few quirks it had at the beginning, so it wasn’t an issue as far as gameplay went. The box was a bit bulky, but they warn you when you sign up for the game that you will be carrying something like that. We didn’t mind toting it around at all, but sometimes it was hard to balance the props and the box at eye level. We didn’t want to put it on the ground because it had rained, and it was a bit muddy.
How many puzzle types can you fit into a box the size of a large briefcase? When you have the technical savvy and the creativity of Mental Mansion, quite a few. We had number puzzles, riddles, obvious puzzles, and obscure ones.
My favorite was the physical puzzle. The story of the game has you trying to stop a villain from poisoning the water supply. So you have to mix an antidote. And instead of just writing about the antidote or using pictures on the screen, they actually let you mix it! It was a bit nervous making too because there were not enough materials to do it more than twice. You couldn’t try over and over if you failed. But the directions were good enough that we didn’t have to.
One of the puzzles required you to guess and use the process of elimination. Not a problem in and of itself, but some escape room enthusiasts are accustomed to being told not to guess. The answer should present itself in the puzzle. So I kept looking for an actual clue, which made the puzzle take a bit longer than it should.
We did get derailed from our quest by construction on the road and by our distractions, but the puzzles do not lock once the timer ends. So we did get to finish the game. And with all of that, I am still counting it as a win, even though we went over by about 7 minutes.
There were two outside escape games offered on the website, Magic Portal and Operation Mindfall. I simplified it and asked the Dragon if she wanted to be a fantasy character or a spy. She picked spies, so Operation Mindfall it was.
The website description of the game says:
“You and your team of covert operatives have to stop a shadow organization before they launch a Bio Hazard that will allow them to control the global population and take over the world!”
While walking through a small town park doesn’t seem particularly spy-like, the props and gameplay brought it to life pretty well. You had an agent guiding you along the way, spy movie type music playing on a tablet, and some real life interactions with the storyline. For example, the Bio Hazard was supposed to have been released into a water supply, and the game takes place right next to a stream. So it did encourage you to imagine that the contagion could have been released right there in Eugene.
Operation Mindfall was a unique experience and we loved it. We got to take a walk, get some exercise and fresh air. And we got to have the rush of completing an escape game at the same time! The game was well made and the puzzles were varied levels of complexity. Both of us were able to use our strengths and share in the game. It fits all the qualifications I look for in a top-notch escape game.
After the game was over, the host mentioned that we had done so well on these puzzles, that he would love to see how we did on his indoor games. And this game was so fun, it made us want to accept! Read Mayhem on the Menu to see how that went.
If you go to Eugene Oregon for any reason, I highly recommend visiting Mental Mansion for a game. This small, family-run escape room is one of the best I have played in a long time.