I’ve been hearing about Escape Rooms for a while, but have been a bit hesitant to try one out because I’m kind of a weeny for anything scary. After my wife and I played through The Return of the Obra Dinn recently, though, we decided we wanted to give one a shot.
Last weekend we went with a few family members and a few strangers into the “Arcade” scenario at Portland Escape Rooms. Right away, the idea of this being scary was undermined by the door not getting closed when we all walked into the small room that served as Mister Smiley’s soon-to-be-closed Arcade. An audio recording started playing, telling us how we were all locked in the room with a bomb that’d go off in an hour with the door wide open, which sort of broke the illusion.
Once the door closed and we got started for real, it immediately became a lot of fun. I’m not going to go deep into details in case someone reading this wants to try this particular scenario in the future, but we quickly found several items sealed with various locks (including both keyed locks and combination locks with different numbers of answers, along with clues that helped us start opening these up. There were several waterfall scenarios, where figuring out one clue opened up a lock which had another clue that helped us open another lock… it was a lot of collaborative, creative problem solving, and a ton of fun!
I think one of the coolest things about this experience was that you didn’t need any information going in. There were a few puzzles where knowing a bunch of Arcade-adjacent trivia might have sped things along, but even if you went in with no information you’d be able to solve everything by being observant, creative, and perseverant.
It turns out that the room that we were in had a 38% success rate for people solving all of the puzzles and escaping inside of the 60 minutes allotted, and we got out with about 13 minutes to spare.
I had a lot of fun with this experience, and am eager to try another Escape Room. I’d like to find one that puts a little more pressure on, which I think would likely come with a more atmospheric environment. One of the things we were told at the start of our scenario was that there was a light switch in the room that we could turn on or off at will (being off helped with some black light puzzles), but I think being able to have a bright fluorescent light on made things feel a little too safe (having flashlights available to us would have been just as functional and way more intense). I do know that the same company runs a room called “Trapped in a room with a Zombie” where there’s an actor chained to a wall trying to reach out and “infect” you the whole time, and I think that would be too much for me.
I’m hoping the next room we try will fall somewhere between “brightly colored and lit arcade” and “strangers are trying to touch me against my will.”
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