My rating: (4 / 5)
Do you watch the show “Big Bang Theory”? Did you happen to see the episode where they attend an escape room?
Ever since I saw that episode, I’ve wanted to try it. And when I was investigating things to do on our trip to Chicago, I came across a groupon for Escape Chambers. That was it! I had to try it!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s like a real-life game of Clue. You’re locked in a room with your team – either people you’ve brought with you or strangers who happened to book the same puzzle at the same time – and you have to escape before your hour is up. There are clues scattered throughout the room, ranging from easy to hard, and it’s your job to interpret them.
We chose to build our team of Richard and myself, and my mom and dad, whom we were visiting on our Chicago trip!
We had chosen the room “The Job” which you can see in the poster to the right in the picture. The rooms are rated by physicality, fear, brainpower and teamwork, and I chose The Job for us because of the low rating for the physical, with my Dad’s age and my mom’s physical issues. The website recommends that at least one member of the party be able to handle physical stuff, and we had the two of us for that.
Or, more accurately, I had Richard. “Well, honey, that’s what you’re here for. Now climb in there!”
The reality is, there was only enough room for one person, really, to do the clamboring when it was needed, so that was just fine for us. Other rooms are rated more highly on the physical, and honestly? When we were almost done I was wishing we’d chosen some of those – the brainpower puzzles were hard!
Here are some tips if you decide to try an escape chamber/room somewhere:
- Work together. There was nothing worse than having things lined up together then turning back to see they’d been moved around. Make sure the whole team is on the same page.
- Don’t try to “clean up” while the rest of your team is still working. The only thing worse than missing clues you just had a second ago is running out of time and being unable to do/get something because someone else is in the way, “cleaning up”!! The employees will clean up later – they have to re-hide the clues!
- Beware of red herrings. If something doesn’t seem to make sense right away, don’t spend too much time on it. It may not be worth it!
- Define a leader quickly so the group has someone to follow and listen to. Too many people going in too many directions isn’t helpful.
- Pay attention and be quick! Slow reactions or not listening costs precious minutes. Totally not the time to daydream!
That may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how quickly common sense can disappear under pressure!
Overall, this was a fun experience. I really enjoyed the way the clues were laid out and the scenario played out. It took all of us to figure some things out, and just finding everything in time was an issue; there are so very, very many clues to locate in a room where it doesn’t seem like much is hiding that we really needed a couple more people on the team. That said, the rooms are very small, and it was a bit claustrophobic even with just four of us in there. With many more, you had better be pretty close friends as much as you’ll be all up in each others’ business.
You are given an iPad when you start, which has your timer on it so you can keep track of what you’re doing. The room is filled with QR codes on the clues and on puzzles you have to solve, so that if you get stuck, you can scan them with the iPad and get an extra clue, or an answer to a puzzle. Clues and answers to the puzzles cost you various time penalties. We wound up using clues when we got super frustrated, and probably should have used one on the last puzzle as well.
The room was a little beat-up, some of the furniture worse for the wear. It was supposed to be a mafia don’s office, and though it sort of had that feeling of 1970’s Godfather chic, it also felt like he must be a pretty broke don.
I understand that many people go through these rooms and they take a lot of wear-and-tear, but the furniture was badly scratched, the clothing items a bit smelly and torn up… it took a little bit away from the
experience. I didn’t expect things to be pristine, but it did break that “suspension of disbelief” for me here and there.
Or I’m just picky. Probably.
We also ran into an issue where one clue left for us was just plain… wrong. I won’t lay out what it is, as they planned to correct it, and I don’t want to give anything away. But if it hadn’t been for the attendant watching on the camera and contacting us through the two-way baby monitor in the room, we would have been stuck there permanently. This is something that isn’t as easy to forgive; the clues should be well-tested, and that is why I dropped a star. There was another puzzle; the last one in the room, which we wound up not solving, that was so convoluted that I’m not sure how they expected people to solve it. Maybe we would have had time if we hadn’t spent a bunch of time on a clue that was mis-written!
This was a fun experience, and I would definitely try it again! We’ll be looking for more from Escape Chambers in other cities, and looking to try out other companies as well. If you’d like to try Escape Chambers Chicago, check out their website for more information. They are also on Facebook! While the half off groupon we used is no longer available, check the Groupon site for future deals on this and other escape rooms!
Can you beat us? (Probably. Don’t rub it in…)