My husband has been interested in escape rooms since they first became popular. For his birthday this year, I not only gave him a Kickstarter tabletop escape room game but also booked an experience at Escapade 360 in Elgin, IL. We played it last week.
When I reserved the room, there was only one scenario available—a Sherlock Holmes-themed one. When we arrived, the couple who run Escapade 360 told us there were so many puzzles in that room it would be difficult for a couple to complete them all in the hour. Luckily, they had a second room available that might be a better match for us. It’s set in Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, and you have to find his hidden masterpiece before thieves come to steal it. We had the opportunity to switch, so we did.
I’m not going to give out spoilers for the room. I will say it was smaller than I expected, so it would feel crowded with a full group of eight people. The doors aren’t locked due to regulations, but there’s no time to leave either. There’s a monitor in the room where you can track your remaining time and get occasional hints. We probably got more hints than you normally would, but given it was our first time and it was late in the evening, I didn’t mind. It was still an intellectually stimulating experience. There were a variety of different puzzles to solve, and some of the ways to interact with the items were surprising. Ultimately, we managed to escape with eight minutes left. The owners were super-friendly and helpful. After we finished, we discussed specific aspects of the room before getting our picture taken.
As a writer, I find the escape room concept fascinating. You start anew with the same goal, setting, and obstacles each time, but the outcome depends on the teamwork of the characters. Eugene and I have known each other for 27 years. We have respect for each other’s abilities and are used to working together as a team. There was one point in the hour where we had different ideas on what to do with a particular object in the room. Thanks to a hint, we resolved that quickly and without fuss. If we’d been with other people, I’m sure the dynamic would have been different--and not in a helpful way. With bigger groups who don’t know each other well, I can imagine much more time is wasted on arguments or persuasion. Still, I’d like to go back with a few more friends and tackle the Sherlock room. The game’s afoot!