One of the highlights of last summer was Nicole and I got to participate in one of the hottest crazes to hit since fondue restaurants. If you haven’t heard about escape rooms, then you’ve been living under a rock. Grab a half dozen or a dozen of your closest friends, get locked in a room and try to solve puzzles and mysteries to unlock the door before the timer runs out. Sounds like a fun evening, right? Let me tell you, it’s a blast.
Ours was a smallish 15′ x 15′ space with a locked bathroom. The rest of the room was decorated like a 2-person office. We heard growling from inside the bathroom, but since it was locked there was no need to investigate. We began by looking for clues, finding some locked boxes, broken equipment, some slides, pictures on the walls with odd inscriptions – a little of everything! About 10 minutes in, the bathroom door unlocked…
AND OUT RAN A VERY TALL & MUSCULAR MAN WITH A WEREWOLF’S MASK ON!
In our group of mostly men, there were still a couple girlish screams. Luckily this werewolf was on a chain and could not get very far out of the bathroom. The moderator explained that every time he appeared from the room, his chain would be a little longer. If he touched you, you were dead and couldn’t participate any longer.
But we weren’t worried. Our group consisted of accomplished puzzle creators, NASA engineers and others with advanced mathematics and physics degrees. Surely these puzzles would be no match and we’d exit long before the hour was up.
Sometimes being too smart leads you to overthink things. That is exactly what our party did. Although we were on the right trail, we overlooked a very abstract piece of the puzzle that would have allowed our exit. 55 minutes into the event our last member died and the night was over.
If I recall correctly, the fee was $20/person and you can do the math for our 12-person party. Not a bad return for the company for an hour’s work for two employees! But it was money well spent for a memory that will stick with us for a very long time. This particular one wasn’t kid-friendly, and that is the case for many escape rooms around the country. Most focus on a murder or some type of fantasy creature that is stalking you. For many children it would just be too intense. But this summer we discovered an alternative that any family can enjoy! An escape room experience in a box! ThinkFun‘s Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor.
This is the part where I usually like to go over the rules and gameplay a bit so you can decide for yourself if it is a good fit for your family. Herein lies my dilemma: if I do that for Escape the Room, I’ll completely spoil it for you! In fact, when you first begin to read the rules, it clearly instructs you NOT to read further if you are one of the participants. You are instructed to just sit down and begin, that the game will come together as you progress and open sealed envelopes.
You’ll also need a timer and a pad of paper and pen to take notes. Escape the Room is rated at 90 minutes for 5-8 players and 120 minutes for 3-4. I’ve always said I have exceptional kids, so take note of the timer on the right. That’s how much time we had left after completing the whole thing!
And without going into too much (or any) detail about what’s inside, I can show you this decoder wheel. It is the key that will tell you if your answers are right or wrong. You’ll be solving a wide variety of puzzle types, which should keep everyone involved.
In fact, we found the experience very much like our actual escape room visit last summer. One puzzle at a time trying to be solved by many people. If nothing else, it is certainly a fantastic team-building exercise! Everyone will have their own ideas on how to solve the puzzles, and since there are very few instructions, figuring out what to do before actually solving it is half the fun!
Lest you think this is a game you can only play once, ThinkFun offers repackaging instructions on their website so it can be passed around among friends and family. Yes, each person will only be able to participate one time since they’ll know the answers. But rest assured knowing there is a second version on the way! Be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter timelines to find out exactly when!
Have you ever participated in a real escape room?