Date played: Saturday, February 23, 2019
Number of players: 5
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game: Private
This company is set up inside Gurnee Mills mall. There’s always a small part of me that feels like an escape room in a mall will be sub-standard somehow, like they won’t have enough space to do it right or it will feel mass produced. That was certainly not the case in this instance. I was impressed by 60 To Escape right away, and pretty much every step of the way.
The main entrance was clean, well designed, and inviting. I liked how the front desk was right in the entryway, perfect for walk-up questions, and that the other part of the lobby was roped off. We checked in easily, and also added another member to our group easily, and then we were escorted beyond the ropes into the bigger area of the lobby. We signed our waivers there electronically and awaited our game master (a wait that was minimal, I might add.) The whole flow of the check in and the layout of the lobby was excellent, in my opinion. Especially with the company placed in a mall, it was a perfect setup to keep the front desk in its own area and to move people through the spaces in an organized way. I also thought just the general decor was simple and chic and perfect for an escape room company.
Let me also not forget to mention: 60 To Escape gives you the option of making your experience private when you’re booking the room, for an extra $2.00 per person. I still think all rooms should be private by default, or that you should get to choose a private experience for free, but this was at least a good halfway point. A ton of companies in the US don’t even offer this as an option, or they make you buy out the whole room, so 60 To Escape is ahead of the game on this point. (Also, the cost per person with the private option – about $31.50 with tax – was still basically the same as what other companies charge without that luxury, so it really wasn’t that bad at all.) Having the guarantee of a private room was a great plus for playing here!
Our game master escorted us into the room, where we hung up our coats and then watched a video explaining the rules. Even though I never like bringing my items into the room and ruining that part of the immersion, I didn’t mind it as much this time. I thought that the rules video went on for too long, but then again, we just played a room with people who pried open a filing cabinet, so…. I get it. Then the game master left and we watched another video giving us the story of the room. I will admit that I was really not paying much attention to the second video at all. I think I care a lot more about the story if it’s given to me before I enter the room, but once I’m there, I’m much more interested in searching the room and starting to work on solving the puzzles.
The story for this room on the website is as follows:
“A local arcade owner has gone missing and it is up to you to find out what happened. Rumors were all around town that the guy was trying to build some sort of “machine” and then one day – he vanished. The Feds say he was murdered but you don’t buy it. Find out what happened to the owner of the Blast from the Past arcade – who knows you might even be able to save him (and the world!)”
I want to start with the very basics of how this room was built. For some strange reason, the walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling! That meant that we got to hear another group yelling to each other loudly for the whole time we were working on the first part of the room. It was really distracting and annoying, and I didn’t want to hear anything about the other rooms because I knew I would eventually probably want to play them myself. That was a big downside. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe they were going for an outdoors feel, since the room begins outside the arcade, but that wasn’t the only part of the room like that. I can’t remember for sure but I think the whole room might have been missing full walls. So that unfortunately added a tally to the set-in-a-mall-mass-produced feel. And immersion is the main thing I’m looking for, so that did not help.
The decor of this room was great and right on theme. It was a nice touch to start outside the arcade, especially since that’s where you receive the rules and the story. So you’re in the room and beginning the transition, without really being “in” the room yet. They had all the old classic arcade games present and they did a good job of making it a realistic environment.
In general I liked the way they used screens to add to the story. I felt like they used the technology efficiently, showing different things on the same screen when needed, and it worked well. On the other hand, I felt like a lot of the puzzles were technology-based and I wasn’t a huge fan of that. I guess that’s to be expected in an arcade room, but pushing buttons and flipping switches isn’t super fun to me. They did include one tactile puzzle that I thought was so fun, and the hint in the room for how to solve it was great.
This might be considered a mini spoiler by some, even though it has nothing to do with any puzzles, but I had to note that one of the best things about this room was that there were multiple rooms within it. The worst thing to me is to have a single room escape room, and even just 2 rooms can sometimes be only ok. The best rooms in my opinion are the ones that have multiple reveals. Even if they only include a kind of “half” room or just a transition space between two rooms, I think the reveal of opening up a new space adds a lot to the excitement. And this room did that better than any other room I’ve played to date.
One thing I thought this room was missing was a puzzle that made you play an old arcade game. I don’t think adding a video game into an escape room would be a great idea, because you’re there to play the escape room and not just a video game, but I would have liked a short side puzzle where you had to beat one round of space invaders or pac man or something. Just a little taste to get to the heart of the room. But oh well.
As a general playing experience, this escape room was one of my least favorites. There weren’t a lot of “a-ha” or discovery moments in the game. There was little to no searching for clues, which removed the fun moment of finding an important piece to a puzzle, and I felt like our group never gained momentum. We would figure something out, move forward a tiny bit, get stuck for a long time, get a nudge, move forward a tiny bit, and then get stuck again. We didn’t get into the fun flow of a game where solving one thing leads to another, so it wasn’t as satisfying of an experience. Looking back afterwards, we thought if we had solved things in a different order, we would have had more information available to us sooner and then the game would have flowed a little better. And with that being the case, perhaps the game master should have nudged us towards solving the puzzles in a different order so as to make the experience unfold in that way. We did still end up solving everything, but it just wasn’t as enjoyable as I think it could have been.
Along those same lines, our lack of momentum also made me feel like I wasn’t contributing anything to the game for long stretches of time. There was lots of poking around and wondering what to do next. I also think having only 4 players instead of 5 might have been more ideal, since there was at least one part of the game where I felt like the group size hindered all of us being able to see/experience/enjoy something. It’s kind of a catch-22 because we might have played even worse with fewer brains working on the puzzles, but then at least everyone could be more involved in everything, so who knows. There was a logic puzzle I really enjoyed working on, so I’m glad I at least had that as part of my experience, but I would have liked to feel like I was contributing more to the whole room.
We escaped with about 5:00 left on the clock. That would never have happened without all the help and nudges from our game master!
Again, our game master was great. Every time we asked for a clue, she was ON IT. The hints were immediately available to us on the screen and they were tailored exactly to our situation. As I stated above, we really needed a lot of help in this game, so this made all the difference. I also liked that the game was set up so that you have access to a new hint every 10 minutes. That’s better than getting only 3 clues for the whole game and it sets up a great balance of trying to solve things on your own and having ample help if you need it.
We went back out into the lobby and were given little pins for escaping, and then we took a group picture. This is so simple but I have somehow not seen it done anywhere else yet – they had a photo booth in the lobby! We were able to choose the frame of our photo to correspond with the game we had played, stand in front of a backdrop with the company name on it, take as many pictures as we liked, and then put in our phone number and have the picture sent to us immediately. Genius! No waiting for the pictures to be posted on a Facebook page, no not being able to see the picture beforehand, just easy picture taking and sharing. The photo area was plenty large enough to accommodate a big group to all be in the picture at the same time, too. I feel silly for praising this so much, but it was just set up so well that I cannot believe that all escape room companies aren’t doing this.
Well done, 60 To Escape! I’m just now realizing that I assumed this was one location at a chain company, but I don’t think that’s actually the case. As far as I can tell, this is their one and only location. That makes the professional look and design of everything even more impressive. I think it also says something that even though my actual playing experience wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to going back and playing their other rooms. Mystery Manor and Hidden Temple, you are in my hopefully near future!
Play This Room If…
-You have nostalgia for the 1980s, since that’s a big part of the charm of the room.
-You like technology puzzles.
-You don’t enjoy shopping and the rest of your group is cruising around the mall. 🙂
Skip This Room If…
-You have young kids.
-You have a group with more than 5 people.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Company website: http://www.62escape.com