Mission: Escape

There is a whole slew of escape the room type puzzle games available in the App Store and I’ve enjoyed playing them. Some of them are really obscure in their solutions, but others have cool twists that tickle my puzzle-brain.

The first one I played was simply called Can You Escape by Kaarel Kirsipuu. I was confused at first because I hadn’t ever played this type of game before. There are very few things you can click on and it isn’t always obvious that you need to move a potted plant to find a red three, which helps you open up a color-coded lock elsewhere in the room. But as I started exploring these games, I really got into them.

It turns out, I’m not the only one. Many of these types of games are now available. Some are from the same creator as the original I played. I really like the challenges that are in Escape From Work. Also, there is a big difference in the art style. Some of the environments are gorgeous, and I can’t help but wonder if people actually work in such rooms — and why they’d want to escape them.

These certainly fit my penchant for puzzles. In some, you may notice a set of colored vases on a shelf. The order they exist on that shelf helps you put a series of numbers in order, if you line them up based on their colors, and that gives you a lock combination for a drawer. Open the drawer, find a screwdriver, and use that to pull off a grating on the wall. Behind the grating, you find a metal bar with prongs on the end. Oh wait, that’s a drawer handle for that nightstand you couldn’t open! Go for it!

The only thing that would make these games better is to be able to play them in real life. Well, guess what? You can. There are places popping up with various rooms that have these kinds of challenges scattered throughout and your goal is to work with a group of friends, coworkers, or strangers to solve all the puzzles and escape the room within the hour.

Mission Escape Games in New York City is one such site. Located at 55 Chrystie Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, this venue has four rooms available to play. We’ve done the Hydeout, which loosely follows the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We went to that one last year and it was just the two of us. We didn’t realize at the time that the room is meant for six players, so we were teamed up with four others. It was a ton of fun trying to figure out the mystery and keep track of elements of the story that were scattered throughout. And no, I’m not going to give away any spoilers for the puzzles, but it really made me feel like I was playing one of the iPad games.

This year, we opted to go through the horror-themed Darkest Hour room. And we went with people we know. It definitely improves the experience when you’re not wondering if other people in the group are planted to sabotage you, which we had wondered the first time. Nope, here we just all did our part and everyone pitched in and worked toward finding the solution. Aspects of it were a little gruesome if you let your mind believe the props were real, but it wasn’t something that gave me nightmares afterwards. We got stuck at one point and we asked for a hint from the Game Master, who was clearly possessed by the psychopath who had trapped us in the room in the first place. It was hard to hear him and that added to the creepiness of the experience, in a good way.

We are looking forward to our next excursion, which is already set for next week. We’ll have a new crew with us and so there will be a new dynamic to the experience. With any luck, we will be able to escape again!

There is one last room to try then, and it’s a sci-fi room. When I heard about it, I really wanted to go do that one–I’m personally not a horror fan–but knowing that the room is there is temptation enough to take a third trip back to Mission Escape Games and venture into outer space.

If you’re looking for a fun adventure that literally takes an hour and doesn’t break the bank in terms of cost, you should definitely give this a try. Go, explore, get into the moment, and see if you and your team can figure out the solutions on your own. You won’t regret it!

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