Escape rooms are a fast-growing business. These attractions, where groups of friends have to work together to find clues to escape a room, are popping up across the U.S. In fact, according to The New York Times, there were 22 escape room companies in 2014, and now there are over 2,000. I tried The Escape Game in NYC, so I know why there’s so much buzz.
The popularity of escape rooms lead to the movie Escape Room, which raked in $150 million worldwide and is slated to be the next Saw franchise, with a sequel in the works. Escape Rooms are relatively new to the U.S., and they originated in Japan (of course).
I tried an escape room this week. The Escape Game NYC, a popular company with locations throughout the U.S., was already intriguing with its random location at 41st and Madison (you’d expect it to be somewhere young and hip like Lower East Side or Brooklyn).
I was joined by two cast members of The Illusionists on Broadway, including Eric Chien (who made it far on America’s Got Talent this year), and Paul Dabek, a hilarious illusionist from the UK. These guys are major magicians/mentalists, ya’ll… wonder how our Escape Game turned out?
Anyway, if you’ve never done an escape room, here are answers to questions you might have based on my experience doing Gold Rush (7/10 difficulty) at The Escape Game. If you’re coming to New York City after the lockdown lifts, go ahead and try The Escape Game in NYC.
Is an escape room fun?
If you like solving problems, analyzing and critical thinking, then yes, this is for you. There was a total of five people in my group, and we were all good-ish about working together as a team. The only thing is that Eric and Paul (and another guy) were insanely good, and this gave me little time to work out clues, because they were always two steps ahead. This wasn’t their first rodeo.
However, there were a *lot* of clues you had to work out in one room (out of three total). For instance, in the first room, one clue led to another clue which led to another clue, and one thing would open a lock to open another lock to open another lock to get you past the first room. So it’s not like we’re all trying to figure out one thing at the same time all the time. The guys would sort of solve the easiest things, then get to the hard stuff, and again, they were so fast, so for me, it was more about sitting there and seeing how everything worked, putting my mind to the creator’s to determine what he might do in the next room. In fact, I was quite happy observing as much as trying.
What are the puzzles you have to figure out?
The puzzles were fun. Many involved hieroglyphics, numbers, robotics, props (like guns and gold), word games, etc. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so let’s leave it at that. Honestly, you get in a room and literally just have to figure out how to open the door to the next room, and that involves solving at least a dozen problems, observing *everything* in the room. It’s very hands-on, and you really have to be a critical thinker. Otherwise, you’re stuck in the room and get frustrated when you can’t figure it out.
Luckily, if you are stumped, there is a button where you can ask for a clue. You get 3 clues per room. We only had to use this button twice, and according to the staff member, this was extremely good. He said that people use up all their lifelines. That’s just how it goes at The Escape Game in NYC.
Is there a time limit?
That’s the fun of the escape room. You have an hour to get past the entire game. We did ours with 9 minutes to spare, so I don’t know what happens if you don’t escape in time. I do know that you feel great about yourself for winning. When we made it, I felt like that final scene in The Goonies. Super good feeling…we won!
Is an escape room scary?
No, not at all. Some of them in other cities might give you goosies, but this one was not scary at all. In fact, after reading reviews of other escape rooms, they tend to be less scary. Like, no one is going to jump out in a Scream mask. It’s not a haunted house.
The set, however, is awesome. They really put a lot of thought into the design. I was impressed with the design, and not everything is what you think it seems to be.
Honestly… is it worth it?
Listen. I get you. It feels really dorky. I’m not into boardgames, and an escape room is like a real-life boardgame. But it’s fun and challenging, and makes you think. If you like Soduku or crossword puzzles or whodunits, you will like this. You might be really into it, on an absurd level. It’s for that type of person.
You really need to be a team player, though. I am not a team player. I’m pretty independent and like doing things on my own, so it was different for me, but it taught me how to be a team player. For most of it, I sort of just watched the Illusionists in action, and was in awe of how they figured out some of the clues.
Also, like I said, there are *many* clues you have to figure out in one room, so I would just sort of spend time on one clue and try to figure it out while they were focusing on other clues.
OK, but seriously… is this thing worth $42 a person?
If you like to do boardgames and charades or whatever with friends on weekends, then YES, absolutely. This is going to take your game to the next level, especially at The Escape Game in NYC.
If you’re on a date with someone who’s a member of MENSA, yes, you will surely impress.
If you’re so over the movies and clubs, yes, go with friends.
If your employees are not team players, and you need them to learn this skill, absolutely.
If you loved the movie Escape Room, go for it!
If you hate everything, then probably sit this one out.
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