Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Gold Rush @ The Escape Game Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, December 22, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
We played this room immediately following Prison Break, so I will skip the first impressions. 🙂

Setup
The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“For nearly two centuries, the hope of gold has lured people to the hills of Northern 
California. No one was captivated more than Clyde Hamilton, a greedy gold prospector 
who loved to gamble. Clyde made too many bets with the wrong crowd and now he’s 
missing. You’ve been tipped off to where he stashed his gold.. but so has the mob. 
Find it first!”

Game Play
We had some bad luck in that our group of 4 was paired with a group of 4 strangers for this room. Since we had just finished playing Prison Break with a group of 4 newbies that caused some issues, we were again not thrilled at having strangers in the room with us. This group had 2 children in it, and overall things went smoothly with the game play. There were a few moments when I think some people in my group would have liked to have been more involved in something and couldn’t, or would have liked to have completed something and couldn’t, but I’m sure they felt that way at times too. Just another example of why all escape rooms should be private.

I will say right off the bat: this room became my new favorite at The Escape Game, and it made it into my top 3 favorite games overall. I have learned through experience that the main thing I love in an escape room is quality immersion, and this room did a great job of that. I like when puzzles are about average difficulty, or maybe even erring on the easier side. If I can be in a really well constructed space and feel like I’m in the environment, and then have puzzles to solve that aren’t super frustrating but just hard enough to be satisfying to solve, that’s the sweet spot for me.

The room design of Gold Rush is wonderful. It begins “outdoors” near a cabin in the woods, and it’s just fun to step into something that feels so different. I loved how they made the ground with real dirt/gravel, and the cabin with real wood. The puzzles in that first section were cute, and definitely geared more towards beginners, but I loved them. There was a puzzle that used technology in a fun way, something I had done before in other rooms, but it was more enjoyable (and executed much better) in this room.

As we moved through the room, the scene design stayed at a very high level. I loved every space they created. The puzzles also were very good. They used the theme in creative and fun ways, they had things that were easy for kids to do, they had puzzles that required different kinds of strengths/abilities, and they had some really fun effects! I also think The Escape Game proves really well that you don’t need to include any red herrings in a room. Make everything useful, and the room works beautifully, without causing any frustration for the players.

I really liked this room. I wish we had been able to play with only our group of 4, but I was still able to appreciate the game design and the puzzles. We escaped with around 12 minutes left on the clock, which was a little disappointing because of course I wanted to get our money’s worth and use the whole experience. But with 8 people and our level of experience, there was no way it was going to take us the whole 60 minutes. Still, I’m glad we escaped and I think everyone had fun.

Final Touches
Our GM was really nice, and he said he knew we would escape since we had already escaped Prison Break. We looked back at the room and talked for a few minutes, and then we were on our way.

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You are new to escape rooms
-You have kids in your group
-You like immersive environments

Skip This Room If…
-You want to solve really complex or difficult puzzles
-You have a large group (I think this would be best for 2-4 players with some experience)

Overall rating:  5 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com

Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Prison Break @ The Escape Game Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, December 22, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

This review took an extra long amount of time to write, due to an incredibly frustrating laptop that badly needs replacing, and also some slow internet service. Please leave your recommendations for great laptops in the comments!

First Impressions
Since I’ve been to this location several times already, I had no new impressions of the company or lobby. I would like to mention that we used Spot Hero to reserve a spot in the parking garage at 33 W Ontario and we only BARELY got a spot. We drove through the whole garage several times and saw no empty spaces (even though we had prepaid to reserve a spot) and we were in very real danger of missing our game time. We saw 2 cars that looked like they were about to leave, and when we circled back around, someone was already taking one of those spots. We just happened to luck out that the other car was also leaving and we were able to take that spot. But needless to say, I would not recommend that garage to anyone coming to this location. In the past we have parked in the garage at 50 E Ohio and have always had plenty of spots to choose from there.

Setup
The rules explanation and the storing of personal items both took place inside the room, as is always the case with The Escape Game. I still think it would be better if they did this in another room or in the lobby, but maybe space is just limited at the Chicago location.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“The year is 1955. You’ve been wrongfully accused of a crime, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Your new “home” is a cell that once belonged to an inmate who disappeared without a trace…or did he? Some claim he escaped. Others swear he was murdered by the infamously cruel warden. But no one actually knows…can you escape before you suffer the same fate?”

Game Play
This was a new experience for me, in that it was the very first time I ever played the same escape room twice. I previously played Prison Break back in March 2018 (blog post here) and it became my top favorite game at the time. I never, ever expected to revisit the same room again, but I had such a great time playing it that I really wanted some of my friends to experience it too. And the first time I played this room, it was one of only 3 rooms to date that I did not escape from, since we only had 3 people playing and the other 2 had never done an escape room before. So there were some things that I hadn’t gotten to do before, and it seemed worth it to play it again. (I had some fun reading my previous post about this room, where I said: “But how many people would really pay to play the exact same room again, especially if they almost completed it the first time? That’s something I don’t believe I would ever do, even as an enthusiast!” I guess you can never say never!)

This game begins with players split up into 2 different cells, and I made sure to ask that I be placed in the “left” cell, since that was the one I had not been in the last time. After now having played in both cells, I can definitively say that the “right” cell is more fun. 🙂

My team of 4 played with a group of 4 strangers. None of them had ever done an escape room before, so you can imagine how we felt going into the game. We decided to split up and put 2 of us in each cell and 2 of them in each cell, which I think was the best thing to do. I just have to repeat my constant refrain again: escape room companies in the US: PLEASE make all your rooms private! PLEASE! Don’t make customers have to pay to buy out 4 extra spaces just to have a private experience. Don’t be greedy. Those new players that don’t know what they’re signing up for? They will choose another open date and time and come back, and they won’t know any different. The first group of 4 that booked will LOVE that they get to play by themselves and it will make their experience, and their view of your company, SO much better. There is just nothing worse than finding out that a group of 4 newbies has added themselves to your room, especially when you know it’s not their fault. They saw 4 open spots and didn’t realize what that meant. (Why people don’t read more information and try to book their own private experience, I’ll never understand.) But please, for the sake of the customers and the experience they are paying for, MAKE ALL ROOMS PRIVATE.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out.

The first part of the game was just ok for us. I loved being able to compare and contrast between my 2 experiences playing the room, because some things were solved in vastly different ways and it was fascinating to me. You are able to pass items between the two cells, and we realized afterwards that our cell gave away too many things. Because of this, the other cell solved a few things and we were kind of left doing nothing. I’m glad that I had played before and knew that it didn’t have to be like that, otherwise my idea of the room would have been very different. But the beginning wasn’t great for our cell.

The intro video for the room mentions that there is a thunderstorm going on, and that it will help cover your sounds as you escape. When I played back in March, I thought that those effects weren’t working, since we had normal lighting and no sound. I confirmed beforehand that the effects would be working this time, but they let me know they were very subtle. I’m glad they said that, because this time I realized that the effects had been working before too, they are just basically nonexistent. It’s a shame because it could have been REALLY cool to have lightning effects and thunder crashing and the sound of rain, but the lights stayed normal and the only sounds we heard were prison noises like alarms. A missed opportunity for cool sound immersion, I think.

There were still the same cool puzzles I had enjoyed before, and I was happy to get to experience more of them this time around. I tried very hard not to give away things that I already knew or to say too much, but I don’t know how successful I was. I think there were a few moments that I probably could have stayed quieter, but overall I hope everyone else still felt like they got to experience the game as normal.

We had another problem with our group of strangers, where they wrangled a clue out of a location that was still locked. They kept referring to it and trying to solve it, even though we weren’t there yet. Our group tried fruitlessly to tell them to ignore that for the time being (or better yet, to just put it back where it belonged until we accessed it like we were supposed to), but they didn’t really get it. I know as new players you don’t really get what’s going on all the time, but that seemed over the line to me. They also stood on the furniture at one point, reminding me that Game Masters go over those seemingly ridiculous rules for a reason.

We escaped with I think 2-3 minutes left on the clock. I knew right away that this would no longer hold the spot for my top favorite room, and I was kind of sad that my friends hadn’t gotten to have the great first experience with the room that I did back in March. Having to play with strangers that didn’t know what they were doing definitely affected the whole experience for them, and for me. I had already been reconsidering my top 3 rooms for awhile, but this experience confirmed for me that I had to do some rearranging. Check out the Hall of Fame page to see the new rankings!

Final Touches
Our GM was really nice about answering questions after the room was over. The ending had happened so quickly that I had missed seeing some things, so I appreciated him taking the time to explain things.

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You can arrange to have a private experience
-You have a group of 4-6 people. I think 2 people per cell is ideal, but 3 could work.
-You like very immersive, realistic environments

Skip This Room If…
-You are a beginner and have not played any escape rooms before
-You will be playing with younger kids (I think Gold Rush would be a better fit)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com

Chicago · Escape Artistry · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews

Operation G.R.A.N.I.E @ Escape Artistry (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, August 18, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
This room was located in the Time Gallery location of EA. There was a full, big lobby area with games and restrooms and a water fountain. This was much more polished than The Railcar location and had the professional front I was expecting.

Setup
We went over the rules in the lobby and were able to lock our personal items in a locker. We were then shown a story video in a hallway before proceeding to the room, and then yet another video played once we were inside the room. I’ve come to realize that I don’t care much for the overall story in escape rooms. Give me a general premise, like I’m escaping from prison, and I’m good. Once I’m there, I just want to play, and not spend time watching videos.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“A high-stakes game of espionage and baked goods! Over the (Chicago) River and through the ‘hoods to Grandmother’s house we go. But hurry! The Greater Retired Alliance of National Intelligence and Espionage needs your help!

Game Play
The setting of this game is at grandmother’s house, so the room looked like a house. I tend to prefer fancier settings where I wouldn’t normally be in real life, but as a house it was still very well decorated with lots of attention to detail. Decor spoiler: there is a piano in the room. When I began playing Pachelbel’s Canon on it, our Game Master commended me for it, and that was one of my favorite parts of the experience. 🙂

I thought Escape Artistry did a great job of tying the theme into the puzzles. Pretty much every puzzle was somehow connected to things a grandmother wold like or do or have, and I appreciated that.

The puzzles themselves were great overall. There was lots of variety, some creative things, and plenty to be done. The biggest downside of this room to me was just a general fact that goes along with escape rooms: you won’t get to work on every puzzle. There were 8 of us in the room and everyone was always working on something, which was great because there was enough to do for everyone to be involved, but it also meant that SO MANY THINGS were happening that I had no idea about. I felt mostly sad that I had missed out on seeing most of the puzzles get solved. We did get to ask a few questions afterwards, but to this day I still don’t know what many puzzles in the room were, or how we solved most things. I am someone who plays escape rooms mostly for the puzzles, so for me this room was kind of a disappointment. I enjoy all the other aspects, but what I really like is the satisfaction of solving something. If we had had fewer people I don’t think we would have beaten the room, so I guess it was for the best. But it was not my favorite experience.

Our GM was great at giving hints, and this was done through a speaker. I kind of liked that in lieu of the traditional TV screen. They also make the clue-giving process silly and fun, and that was great even though we were with strangers.

We escaped with ONE minute left on the clock! I happened to be the person who obtained the final answer we needed and we literally shouted it to the other members of our group, who ran to put it to use. It was a great way to end the game.

Final Touches
Our GM answered a few questions and showed us a few things in the room, and then we went back to the lobby for a group picture. We lucked out with a really great group of strangers to play with!

 

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of at least 8
-You have mostly experienced players in your group
-You don’t mind missing out on puzzles as you work on something else

Skip This Room If…
-You have not played any other escape rooms yet
-You want more unique scenery than just a house setting

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escape-artistry.com

Chicago · Escape Artistry · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews

The Railcar @ Escape Artistry (Chicago, IL)

Date played:  Saturday, August 18, 2018
Number of players:  8
Max number of players possible for this room: 10
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
I had heard many good reviews about this room, and I’m glad I had, because otherwise I think I would have been somewhat wary upon arrival. Escape Artistry has 2 locations on Milwaukee Ave, so I’m sure many people get confused and go to the wrong place, even though I think things are clearly explained on their website. (The Railcar room is in one location, and all the other rooms are farther south on Milwaukee.) The group of strangers that were playing with us arrived about 10 minutes late and I think the location was part of the issue.

There is no “Escape Artistry” sign outside the building for The Railcar, and then on the directory in the lobby it’s only listed as “The Railcar.” It’s inside an older building on the third floor with no A/C. (The room where the game was located did have A/C.) The building is a studio arts building so there were lots of different hallways to choose from with artwork displayed. It wasn’t necessarily that confusing to find The Railcar, but it also wasn’t incredibly straightforward either. I think a couple more signs could have helped direct people a little more clearly.

In all honesty, I was expecting the location to appear more polished/professional than it did. I had originally thought that The Railcar was a refurbished old train car, but I learned that it was actually just constructed from scratch. I thought that was pretty cool, so even though I thought the location was a little unkempt for a business, I did feel like it was at home in an artsy building.

Setup
Since The Railcar is the only room at this location, when you arrive, the “lobby” is just the area right outside the railcar. This is where you go over the rules and where you can place personal items in a bin. There is a video shown that provides some background and story for the room.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“What starts off as a normal commute quickly becomes a race against time. Can you unravel the mystery, find the clues, solve the puzzles, stop the train, and save Chicago?

Game Play
First of all, the decor in the room was on point. It definitely looked and felt like a replica of an L car, but I wouldn’t say I felt totally immersed. Maybe that’s just because the lobby area was right outside the car, but I didn’t feel like I had stepped into a story. Still, all of the signage and the seating and the construction of the car was done very well.

The puzzles in the room had a lot of variety. Some seasoned players might not enjoy some of the more cliche/overused puzzles that are present in many escape rooms, but they were still executed well in the room. Anything that needed outside knowledge to be solved was given in the room, and in some cases if you happened to know the outside knowledge, you could solve the puzzle more quickly, without waiting to find/open something else in the room that would have provided that knowledge. I think that strikes a nice balance, because you can feel smart and get a leg up on the game if you happen to know the information, but if not, you’ll still have everything you need to solve it eventually.

Because the room had the design of a train car, members of our group could be working on different puzzles at the same time without me feeling like I was totally missing out on what others were doing. This is often a concern of mine, as I always want to be sure I experience the whole room. So in that respect I really liked the layout of the space.

A small note: most of the locks in the room had hints next to them to tell you which puzzle they went with. I thought that was great. Having to try the same combo on 10 different locks doesn’t really add to the fun of a room in any way, so I liked that this room helped you keep track of where you were at.

Our group of 4 adults was paired with a family with 2 adults and 2 pre-teen boys, and everyone was able to contribute to solving things. The youngest boy even solved something that most of the adults were stumped by for a long time, so this game is great for kids!

Hints were provided on a screen inside the car. I don’t remember being given instructions for how to ask for a hint, so most of the time we just kind of yelled. There was no other tech in the room and I was glad, since that meant all the puzzles were pretty tactile things.

We escaped with two minutes left on the clock and it was fun to have things get down to the wire. I always want to be sure that I get to experience the entire game when I play an escape room, so it’s always a little nerve wracking if I feel like clues aren’t coming fast enough, since I don’t know how much of the room is left to go. There were a few times where I felt like we asked for help but didn’t get it, so since we still won the game, I’m going to assume that the Game Master didn’t want to help us too much and have us get out of the room too early. I’m not sure if that’s actually what happened or if we just got lucky, but we won, so I’m not going to question it too much.

Final Touches
We all took a group picture outside of the room and then we were off.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of about 8
-You have children in your group
-You’re from out of town and want to play a Chicago-themed room

Skip This Room If…
-You feel you just cannot complete some of the more cliche puzzles out there one more time
-You dislike rooms with a little grunge (it is a train car, after all)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.escape-artistry.com

Chicago · Escape Room · Private Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

Special Ops @ The Escape Game Chicago

Date played:  Friday, June 15, 2018
Number of players:  4
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
Having been to this location several times already, my “first impressions” were the same as before, but I will say that they always have a neat and clean lobby and very friendly staff members. 🙂

Setup
The rules explanation and the storing of personal items both took place inside the room, as is always the case with The Escape Game. I will say that I like when companies incorporate the rules into the intro video, as was the case in this room. It’s a fun way to tell players not to break anything or use excessive force, but to do it “in character” and make it seem like it’s because of a reason related to the story.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“It started as a routine operation. As the closest team of agents in the area, your group has been asked to investigate the Ansar market. The market is closed for the evening and is not known to be a criminal hotspot. However, your “routine check” ends up taking a quick turn and suddenly, the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. With no time to send backup, can you rise to the occasion and save the day?”

Game Play
I want to start off by saying that any kind of military-themed room is usually not my first choice, so I will admit that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the story in this room. I still understood everything that happened and knew how the game connected to the story, but this kind of theme doesn’t interest me greatly and so my review comes from that bias.

As the story on the website hints at, there are two parts to this room: the setting at the beginning and the setting after the “quick turn” they mention. Because of that description, I was actually expecting something big to happen, something that would ignite some adrenaline and really feel like a “quick turn” where “suddenly” things have changed. That was not the case, in my opinion, and so I felt a little deflated. If I could, I would reword that description to something more like “During your routine check, you find that something bigger is at stake.” Just to set appropriate expectations, in case anyone else reads the stories as closely as I do. 🙂

Everyone in my group agreed that we all liked the first setting of the room best. The scene setting and decor were both great, as always with TEG. I really liked the puzzles in this part too – they had a few different tangible type of puzzles that were really enjoyable to do. Our Game Master even complimented us afterwards on how quickly we solved a few things, which was so nice. I felt like everyone in our group was able to contribute using different strengths and solve things at the same time, which was perfect.

There were also more technology-based puzzles to solve, and those are never my favorite, but I didn’t mind them too much. I think I enjoyed them more because they were paired with other puzzles too, and it wasn’t a tech-only room.

One thing that I dislike anytime it comes up in a room: only 1 flashlight for 4 people! Why? Why must this be the case? Is it to purposely make it frustrating or to make players use up more time by not all being able to see things at once? Would it really be that bad for everyone to get to use their own flashlight? I don’t have great vision so I might be more sensitive to this than other players, but I just don’t see valid enough reasons for not having one for each player to use. At one point, we actually ended up without a flashlight to use and the GM popped in for just a second to bring us one. I thought that was fantastic. I know it might break the immersion for some people and they might see it as a negative, but I think it was exactly the right call. Again, maybe this is just because I rely on flashlights to help me see more than other people, but I felt like our GM was really looking out for us and wanted us to have the best experience possible. A gold star for service from me!

We escaped with 1:26 left on the clock, which made the ending of the game pretty fun. I think there were a few moments when all of us thought we probably weren’t going to make it, so it was exciting to end with so little time remaining.

Final Touches
Our GM was super nice and talked to us about the room a little afterwards, and even allowed us to go back and review a puzzle at the beginning that we wanted to. (I had solved something different at the time and was curious about the puzzle I hadn’t been involved in solving.) She gave us our “I escaped” stickers and then we were on our way.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You have a group of about 4 people (I think even 6 people would be too many)
-You like a mix of tangible and technology puzzles
-You’re into military themes

Skip This Room If…
-You have poor vision and would want a flashlight to yourself the whole game
-You only have time for one room at TEG (I recommend Prison Break instead)

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com

Chicago · Escape Room · Private Room · Reviews · The Escape Game Chicago

The Heist @ The Escape Game Chicago

Date played:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Number of players:  4
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome:  Escaped

Since we played this room immediately after Mission: Mars I’m going to just skip ahead to the relevant sections.

Setup
Once again, we were shown the intro video while inside the room. We actually picked up an item in the room during the video and were told by the Game Master not to touch anything yet, and it hurt my soul.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“Get ready for an exciting challenge of beating a thief at his own game. A famous piece of artwork has gone missing and it is up to your covert team to recover the invaluable masterpiece. If you succeed in your mission you will become national heroes! If you fail, you will be treated as a common criminal by the authorities. Good Luck!”

Game Play
Out of the 3 rooms at The Escape Game that I have played up to this point (Prison Break, Mission: Mars, and The Heist), this room was the weakest in my opinion. I think this was partly because the theme lent itself to decor that ended up being fairly generic. I’m kind of over any game that consists of an office in some way because it just makes for such boring, run of the mill sets. I can go in an office any normal day of my life; what I can’t immerse myself in is a prison cell. Part of the fun of an escape room is finding yourself in a world that you otherwise wouldn’t be in, so that resulted in some points lost for me.

There was one mechanical type puzzle that I liked towards the beginning of the room. I tend to like things that are manual/hands on (as opposed to just intellectual), and they had a puzzle like this that I thought was unique. On the other hand, there was a later puzzle that to me felt more like busy work than fun. I believe at two different points, at least two members of our group figured out what had to be done in a puzzle or mostly figured out the steps, and then walked away from it without doing it. That is not the “Oh, I get it!” fun type of puzzle, it’s the “Oh, we have to do that…” resignation type of puzzle. More points lost.

I listed at the beginning of this post that we escaped this room, which was great; however… we did so by accidentally skipping a bunch of the puzzles. I was checking out a puzzle that needed a specific sequence of 4 for its solution, and there were 10 options available to select from for each part. I need a mathematician to run the numbers for me on the odds of this, but I somehow randomly guessed the correct sequence just by chance. This allowed us to jump way ahead in the game. The other members of my group were working on different puzzles at the time, and we actually thought my solution came from something they had done, so we didn’t even realize what had happened until after the game was over. I of course can’t blame any of this on the company or the game design, because who would ever think that was even possible, but it did make for a confusing game for us. Still, it was kind of worth it just for the story.

Final Touches
Because of the way we escaped, there was some confusion when the game was over. The game had a clear ending that fit the story, but we still had a bunch of puzzles unsolved and things that were still locked. The GM explained to us how we accidentally jumped ahead and walked us through the steps we skipped, which was nice. There was one puzzle in particular involving a piece of the decor that I thought was really cool that I was sad we missed, although I’m not sure we would have even known to look at it/use it without prompting. We again got stickers for escaping the room.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You really like art?? (This room was so middle-of-the-road to me that even though it wasn’t bad per se, I can’t think of any strong reason to recommend it over other, better games at TEG and elsewhere.)

Skip This Room If…
-You’ve already played a heist theme elsewhere
-You only have time for one room at The Escape Game

Overall rating:  3 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com

Chicago · Escape Room · Public Room · Reviews · Technology-Only Room · The Escape Game Chicago

Mission: Mars @ The Escape Game Chicago

Date played:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Number of players:  6
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game:  Public
Outcome:  Escaped

First Impressions
My impressions of the building and lobby were not much different from when we played the Prison Break room, so I won’t go into detail about that. One thing I do want to note was something that came up during the booking process on the website. We wanted to play two rooms back-to-back, so naturally I looked for two time slots next to each other that didn’t include the Prison Break room. The booking on the website was not set up for this at all on the day we were going to visit. The 5 rooms were listed in repeating order on their booking schedule in such a way that if you booked one room from 6:00-7:00pm, the room that would begin at 7:15pm would always be that same room you had just played. The only way to play a different room would be to have a large gap between the two. I don’t know how many groups come in to play two rooms at once like we did, so maybe it’s a rare issue that not many people have. It was just a bit of a headache at first. We ended up booking two rooms that had about 30 minutes in between them and it ended up being a perfect break, so all was well. I also looked back at the scheduling on their website today and it seems that not every day is scheduled the way that one was, so it might be easier on certain days to book things back to back.

When we arrived, we learned that the air conditioning in the building was broken. So we had the unfortunate circumstance of playing in un-airconditioned rooms on a day with temperatures in the high 80s. I wanted to note this because it did affect my enjoyment of the games and some of my review might reflect that, but I also want to say that when I reached out to The Escape Game afterwards about it, they could not have been any kinder and their customer service was amazing. I think that kind of awesome service is part of what has made their company so successful – it definitely made me return and I’ll go back until I have played all of their rooms (2 more to go!) It’s impressive that they were able to take a less-than-positive experience and get a happy customer out of it. I know I’ll be spreading good word of mouth about them for years because of their great games and customer service.

Setup
Our group of 4 played with 2 strangers who had never played any escape room before (why does this keep happening to me?? USA, please transition to private rooms by default!) We walked into the room and placed our personal items in a bin on the floor, then we were then shown an intro video while the Game Master stood in the room with us and then asked if we had any questions. As always, I wish all of this had been done in a separate room, but I did like that there was a “real” point to watching the intro video. It outlined 3 objectives we would need to complete in the room, so I appreciated having that stated up front.

The story for this room on the website is as follows:

“You’ve just landed on the red planet for an exploratory mission, but your spacecraft experienced some major damage on the descent. Unfortunately, there is a larger problem at hand: a fatal amount of cosmic radiation is heading towards Mars, which will cause serious damage to the control systems, making it impossible to get back home. You have exactly 60 minutes to repair your ship and launch if you ever want to see Earth again.”

Game Play
As with their Prison Break room, The Escape Game made sure that this room had a detailed scenic setup that really placed you in the environment. It really looked and felt like we were on a spaceship. There was plenty of room to move around in and cool effects added into the game. Even though space themes aren’t normally my first choice for a game, I marveled at their design and especially enjoyed the non-spaceship part of the room. The clues were given to us on a screen and the Game Master did a great job of helping with extra nudges when needed.

Mission: Mars is advertised and priced as a “premium” room. This is because there are no combination/directional/manual locks in the room – everything is digital or uses technology in some way. This was the first room I had played in this style and I found that I enjoyed it less than “regular” rooms. Manually twisting a dial and feeling something open with your hands is much more satisfying to me than touching a button on a screen. It’s like Jerry Seinfield’s joke about the difference between hanging up on someone in the old days by slamming down a receiver, and doing it on a smartphone where you gently press a spot on the display. It’s not the same. I’m hopeful that technology-only rooms will not become the standard for premium/gen 2 rooms. I think in this theme it made sense, but I still enjoy a good old fashioned combination lock more.

The puzzles in the game were of high quality overall. There was only one that I felt was frustrating due to what I considered semi-poor logic. It’s very hard to describe without giving away spoilers, but we essentially solved the puzzle in its opposite form, because it made more sense for an action to be taken when something was “off” instead of “on.” Logically I just don’t think there was anything to lead us to believe that we should proceed the way the puzzle solution was designed, and we had to be told to do the opposite of what we were doing. I know that might just be the way that my brain works, and maybe most people have no problems with that puzzle, but to me the correct solution just wasn’t logical. I did very much appreciate the GM stepping in when he did to advise us on how to change our actions, since I don’t know that it would have ever occurred to us to do things the other way.

We did find a tennis ball in the room that turned out to not be part of the game, which we didn’t learn until afterwards. It was an accidental red herring that shouldn’t have been in the room at all. Part of me thinks that the GM should have put up a sentence or two on the clue screen to let us know that it wasn’t part of the game, but then the other part of me thinks that this might have broken the immersion more than was necessary.

I liked how the outline from the intro video was executed, and how there was no question about whether or not we had solved certain things. A few things in the game change as you go along and it made it feel more real. There was also a nice surprise thrown in that added some fun to the game.

Final Touches
The Game Master gave a nice wrap up at the end of our game, coming in to talk to us about a few things even though there was nothing to explain, as we had escaped. We were given an “I escaped” sticker and the staff was more than happy to take a few pictures for us. Again, great customer service and great employees working there.

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In conclusion…

Play This Room If…
-You want high-quality scenery
-You have a large group
-You have younger kids in your group

Skip This Room If…
-You prefer manual combination locks over screens/technology
-Their A/C is broken 🙂

Overall rating:  4 out of 5

Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com/