Date played: Monday, March 26, 2018
Number of players: 3
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game: Private (only because no strangers booked with us)
Outcome: Did not escape
As of June 2018, this room is the reigning champ for my favorite room that I’ve played so far! I still had positives and negatives to discuss, but overall I thought this room was fantastic.
The Escape Game is a national chain, so it’s no surprise that their website was professional and easy to use. There was garage parking within a few minutes’ walk on Ohio Street for $10, and several other options nearby. There is another escape room company right next door on Ontario St called Escape House, which I’m sure has confused many customers. I wonder if whichever company opened first minds that the other company opened right next door… but as a customer, I kind of like it. If I ever wanted to play games at both places on the same day, it would make it very easy for me.
The lobby was a little smaller than I would have expected, but not too bad. There were a couple benches and chairs to sit on, merchandise for sale, and the front desk, but not much else.
When it was time to play we were walked back down through a long hallway to our room. For this game, teams start out by being split into two different cells where they can’t see each other, so we entered through two different doors. I was alone in one cell and the other two players were in the other cell.
This was another room where we brought our personal belongings in with us and used hooks on the back of the door to hang things. That was disappointing to me because I want as much immersion as possible in games, and that takes away from it. I was really surprised that such a professional and national company wouldn’t have a separate locker or coat area.
The Game Master came in the room with us and once we were all situated in the cells, he stood so everyone could see him and went over the rules. He also stayed in the room while an intro video played. I had a really hard time with this setup because generally once I’m in the room, I just want to start playing! I would MUCH rather leave my belongings in a locker, go over the rules and be shown a video in the lobby, and then be released into the room to start playing. Standing in the room and not being able to play goes against the whole nature of the game (and every fiber of my being.)
Also, this is a small detail, but once all of those introductory pieces were taken care of, the GM then exited back through my cell into the hallway… taking away one more slice of the immersion for me and providing another reminder that it was all “fake” before the game even began. I know these are small details, but adjusting this setup slightly could add so much more to the game. When I compare the beginning of this prison game to the one I experienced at Fox In A Box, there’s no question as to which company set up the game better. At FIAB I took off a blindfold to find myself already in a dark, foggy, locked cell, with the clock counting down. SO much more exciting! Hopefully The Escape Game will find a way to improve these small pieces to get things rolling in a more interesting way, since the rest of the game is very good.
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?”
We had 3 clues to use throughout the game, which we asked for by hitting a button in the room and which we received on a screen. We actually forgot about the button at first and asked for clues verbally, and thankfully our GM was paying attention enough to help us out and then remind us of the button.
First and foremost, the scenery/decor of this room was impeccable at every stage. I love that I live in a world where there are companies with enough money to devote solely to making very realistic-looking live action games like this. 🙂 Everything looked and felt like a real jail cell – the toilets were even taken from a real penitentiary, which is cool but also, ew. I loved the surprises they had in store along the way and was so, so impressed with all the detail they gave to everything. To think that someone’s job was to get to design all of that with probably not much of a limit on the budget, to have the funds to take an idea and really make it that cool, I am definitely jealous. It was basically everything I would want an escape room design to be.
One thing that may or may not have been a malfunction in our game: the intro video they showed us mentioned a thunderstorm, and how it would help cover the sound of our escape. I also thought I had seen a promo somewhere that showed special lighting effects in the room. Our room did not have any sound or lighting effects happening to make it seem like a thunderstorm was going on outside, and I thought this might have been something that normally happens but didn’t during our game. Or maybe that’s just something they say in the video that isn’t actually part of the game. Either way, it put the idea in my head and made me think about how cool it would have been to have those extra effects going on while we played. If that’s not something that’s normally part of the game, they should definitely add it!
UPDATE: After speaking with some other players, I confirmed that we WERE supposed to have sound and lighting effects in the room to make it seem like a thunderstorm was happening outside. I’m sad that we missed out on that because it would’ve been so cool!
There were also some GREAT puzzles in this room! I love, love, loved how they incorporated pieces of the set into the game, and how some puzzles were truly just challenges of physical skill/dexterity. To me those really made it feel like a true prison break, to not just be opening a combination lock but to really have to work at something with your hands. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but I just had so much fun with this room and the things they came up with. There were also a few puzzles where I felt that they had you think outside the box in cool ways, and I was just very impressed overall with the the things we had to solve.
The ending of our experience involved the only real issue I had with the game. We did not escape within 60 minutes, but we were close. After the time ran out and the GM came in to get us, we of course had some questions, but we were told that they couldn’t walk us through the remainder of the game. I was surprised, since I had never heard of an ER operating that way before. It made for a very abrupt ending, to go from working hard to try to solve things one minute to then just leaving the room without answers the next minute. The only plausible explanation I can come up with for this is that they thought there was a chance we would come back and play again in order to finish it, and if they spoiled everything, then we wouldn’t have to. 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! Is there another reason I’m overlooking? Do other escape rooms do this too?
There was no offer or opportunity for a group picture, but they did give us stickers that said “I almost escaped,” so that was nice. There could have been a little more done at the end of the game to wrap things up, but I still left feeling very excited about the game and the company.
Play This Room If…
-You want high-quality scenery
-You want an extra-challenging scenario
-You’re prepared to walk away without answers if you don’t escape
Skip This Room If…
-You want to play alone, as this is not possible in this room
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com