I’ve heard of Escape rooms before, but never experienced one personally. So, when a friend of mine had a birthday event (at 40, I’m not sure that you can legally call them parties anymore) where the main event was an Escape room, of course I was going to go.
This particular friend, like many of my friends is a computer analyst, so the attendee list was largely inclusive of other analysts, plus a doctor, and various spouses and significant others. Long story short, we felt that we had assembled the right team of folks for tackling an hours worth of puzzles.
The Escape room we attended was called “Escape Anchorage” (which is not actually in Anchorage, for some reason). It was actually in Peter’s Creek, which is something akin to a suburb of a suburb.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the town, it’s definitely small. According to Wikipedia, it’s alternate name is “Petersville” and, according to the 2000 census, there were 27 people living in 189 housing units.
That tells me a few things:
- The census is wrong. I don’t know how 27 people share 189 housing units. 189 houses is far more accurate than 27 people, but the data is all questionable. Having been there before, 189 houses does sound about right–especially 20 years ago. They have a gas station and a single restaurant that I’m aware of. I’d call it the boonies if it weren’t a mere 15 miles from my house.
- Petersville is a term I’ve never heard of before and I’ve lived here for 30+ years. Someone is smoking something…
We carpooled to the site because we had started the evening at a local brew-pub and carpooling was the safe thing to do. We considered the ramifications of driving out to the (near) boonies to do an escape room. It seemed a legitimate question as to whether we’d be trapped in a pit for real.
The actual building was ominous, but not objectively terrifying. On the drive in, we felt it was a distinct possibility that this might be in some guy’s basement, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that it was a rather large building with poor signage overall, but at least it was on the main road.
When we arrived, we were asked to sign off on a disclosure form. I remember thinking it was a liability waiver, but that wasn’t really it. It didn’t say much of anything. In hindsight, I presume it was more of a justification for reimbursement: should we cause any damage to the place. Everyone was instructed to put their cell phones away (I figured it was so that we didn’t use them to cheat our way out of things, but it might very well have been to keep things secret for future parties). They provided a safe that some folks could use to lock up their valuables, though some also chose to lock them up in the car instead.
We had a relatively large group of nine folks, so that limited our options for events. We underwent a scenario about escaping from Emma’s mind. Our group was broken into three teams: Balance, the Brain, & the Subconscious. Each group was sequestered into separate rooms and given little guides as to how to start the endeavor. I was lumped into the brain category by chance, where we were central to each of the other teams.
The actual event lasted 75 minutes, wherein we had to solve a series of puzzles. Each puzzle would unlock clues or parts to other puzzles, which would eventually lead us to escape out of the room. Each of the three (eventually four) rooms were covered with various trinkets and knick-knacks. My note for the beginning was that I was supposed to figure out a way to pass things between the balance group and us. That was as simple as solving a riddle about conversation and applying the answer to a lock.
And boy were there a lot of locks. The whole thing certainly had more than a dozen locks (probably closer to 20). Some of them had keys, but most of them were combination locks, including a variety requiring numbers and letters. Most of the clues eventually lead in some way to a combination.
Going into it, we figured that we would need some sort of leader, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Each of us basically started working on our own puzzle and wandered off to do it, loosely communicating with the rest of the group. One of the guys really seemed to focus on the math puzzles (that apparently, is his speciality), while another focused on cyphers. The rest of us, just did whatever task was laid out in front of us.
I wouldn’t say that we were ever properly stumped at any part, but there were clues given to us through monitors throughout the space. One of those clues was to illustrate where we had done some of our math wrong, and others were helping to point us to see something we might have overlooked. Frankly, I was engrossed throughout the process, that I rarely made use of the clues–which I suspect was true of most of us.
In the end, we managed to solve the final cypher and place a series of books in the right order with a little over six minutes to spare. When we came out, we were alerted that we were only the second group to solve this particular puzzle and that we had bested the previous record by almost five minutes. In the end, we took some celebratory photos before going out and continuing the evenings’ festivities at other local watering holes.
Having never experienced an Escape room, I have nothing to compare this too, but I will say that everyone really enjoyed it. Everyone contributed in some way, though we did have our rock stars in the group–and nobody felt like dead weight. I believe the total cost was $30 per person–which is definitely on the pricey side for an hour’s worth of entertainment, but as a one-off, it didn’t feel so bad. I would recommend it to any one who likes puzzles and wants a bit of a challenge (though from what I recall, none of the puzzles were particularly challenging–it was just a matter of trying to figure out which pieces went to which puzzle).
I could certainly see myself doing something like that again…