It’s a nightmare situation, really – a claustrophobic’s worst fears, complete with a “clue master” like Jigsaw who watches your frantic confusion through a security camera. Even without direct fear of death or dismemberment, or the promise of any reward beyond glory for you and your friends, the pressure is on to crack every puzzle, open every lock, and Escape the Room. And if you live in New York City (with new cities being added across the country) the new attraction is a must for your inner nerd.
Escape the Room is the real-life analog to that adventure video game you loved, or if you have enough imagination, that old episode of Batman: The Animated Series where they have to escape Riddler’s labyrinth called “Riddle of the Minotaur.” Batman and Robin were forced into a mind experiment of puzzles and deadly stakes on their way to the center where they solved one final riddle to save a man’s life. And while there’s no risk of harm in Escape the Room, your ego’s at stake when the door closes behind you and your friends, and the large digital clock looming above you on the wall begins counting down.
You have 1 hour to follow every clue, solve every riddle, and unlock every lock to escape with your friends, and here’s the thing: only 20% of teams pull it off. I thought about that pass rate when I went in with 9 other friends into “The Apartment” and remembered Batman and Robin in the Riddle of the Minotaur, which was a modified version of a computer game at which Robin was fairly good. At one point of peril, Robin looks at Batman and says, “I guess this isn’t a good time to tell you, but no one’s ever made it to the center.” At least your odds aren’t that bad, but they’re not very good either.
What type of riddles do you have to solve? There are many, ranging anywhere from finding out-of-place objects and learning their hidden meaning, to deciphering a coded rhyme that leads to another clue. All the clues lead to a series of keys that open the door to freedom.
How did my experience go? It was amazing. Of course, spoiling any details would ruin the fun for others, so you won’t find any specific answers here. Actually, do yourself a favor and don’t even try researching answers; the game runners have done a great job of keeping secrets away from the Internet, and rumor has it they scour the Web literally every day to search for spoilers from any asses sabotaging their hard work. They can’t stop everything – the Internet is going to be the Internet – but trust me when I say the game is more fun when you think it through yourselves.
Anyhow, the door closed behind us as we stood in a living room and the clock began to count down at 59:59. We scanned the room in moderate chaos at first, the 10 of us looking throughout the kitchen, living room, and bathroom of the Apartment in search of different clues. At the 50-minute mark we reconvened in the living room to take inventory on what we found, and then it was time to divide and conquer. Some clues immediately resulted in keys whereas others led further into a rabbit hole of more riddles. The most fun part of the game came in the last 20 minutes when the easier clues had already been solved, and the whole team was huddled together trying to solve the final clues. In action movies there comes the inevitable climax where our hero is faced with a ticking bomb and has to cut the right wire before it’s set to explode, and that’s the feel you have as a team when there’s 10 minutes left on the clock and you still have 2 keys to go. You have to hold it together, make moves, and hope they’re the right ones.
If Escape the Room is the closest I get to the Riddle of the Minotaur, I’m more than satisfied – at least for now, until other entrepreneurs join the market and make more intense experiences, complete with character extras and in-game consequences, in which case I’ll need to face those rooms, too. Until then I’ll hold on to our victory with pride, having escaped the room in 54:47 with some of my best friends. We foiled Edward Nygma and had a crazy fun hour doing it.
Interested in testing your wits with your smartest friends? If you’re in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Phoenix, or Houston, you’re in luck, as the game is already available in your city as it continues to expand nation-wide. Check out their website and get started. But before you do, I have a question:
“I have billions of eyes yet I live in darkness. I have millions of ears yet only four lobes. I have no muscles yet I move 2 hemispheres. What am I?”
Batman and Robin solved the Riddle of the Minotaur. 20% of teams successfully Escape the Room. Can you?