Review: Escape the Room – Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat

The year is 1913 and you are the lucky winner of a free stay at Foxcrest Retreat, where the famed Dr. Gravely has improved upon the latest in spa treatments and relaxation for those of high social standing. You take a long all-expense-paid train ride to the retreat. Upon your arrival, however, you and your fellow guests may find the “health retreat” is not what it seems… Work with your guests to discover the dark secret of Dr. Gravely’s retreat by finding clues and solving puzzles. In the story, the doors have shut and locked behind you. Will you and your guests discover the secret and escape the room before time runs out?

The Good

Learn New Skills! (+7)

The game has refreshing surprises that are not necessarily traditional puzzles in here; at least, not necessarily puzzles that I’m used to. I don’t think I would encounter the type of puzzle that was in this game in another game again but these are skills that I’m now proud of having for the real world.

Practice Old Ones (+6)

Standard puzzles like arts and crafts, “put it together”, and match the colors are major staples in this game. So while you may be smacked in the face with new material, there will be “Oh of course I know what to do with this” moments that encourage you to keep pressing forward.

Get That Unboxing Fix (+6)

The way in which you explore more areas of the retreat is through the opening of envelopes. You start off the game with a few hefty ones and it becomes clear as you start the typical “How heavy is it?” check that there are indeed nested envelopes. It’s such a great thrill to be able to start opening things!

The Bad

To Destroy or Not Destroy (-2)

*sigh*, I accidentally broke a thing I shouldn’t have. This felt reminiscent of telling people not to use force on anything but I seriously couldn’t find anything obvious in the rules saying I couldn’t… so now I can’t pass along this game to just anyone! I’ll need to tell this entire story to the next person about my predicament to explain away the terrible state of one of these puzzles.

Red Herrings (-2)

After several solutions in, I eventually ran into one red herring here that required a hint to avoid. It was a significant puzzle, one that blocked several other items so we just didn’t want to risk the chance of losing. When we reviewed the first level hint, lots of groaning here because really we could have escaped without using any hints and we simply needed to use one to escape the herring.

The Ugly

Asylum Themes are Yuck (-1)

I really don’t like asylum themes in tabletop games because of the use of harmful experimentation on humans. Although I personally GM an escape room with an asylum theme, my escape room doesn’t have experimentation, tropes, or creepy reveals. Since this game is all about dealing with puzzles that open envelopes that have more puzzles, that unboxing delay is just long enough to create fear.

Inaccurate Time Frame to Finish (-0.5)

We finished within the time limit with just 2 players (inclusive of me), so I have no idea why you could ever have more than that and still enjoy the game. Puzzles are linear and often have items broken up across puzzle solutions. There doesn’t seem to be enough to do for even 3. The rulebook estimates that 3-5 players need 2 hours, so arguably 1-3 would be 2.5 hrs? We did it in half the time.

Components and Stop Signs Need Work (-1)

As usual it’s always hard to accomplish immersion for these escape-at-home games, and the components were just okay. Some use of high quality cardboard, but for the most part — I’m assuming to keep costs down — it was just a lot of paper. The decoder disk is glossy and sticky, so did not spin easily without really grabbing each disk individually then continually correcting where it landed. As for stop signs, the first thing I interacted with was the rulebook and it had way too many of them. If you’re someone that really follows the rules like I am, it’s an incredibly debilitating design.

Difficulty Level: 2/5 for Advanced
Satisfaction Grade: B (83.3%) for Great
Worth Your Money? Yes.