Date played: Sunday, August 20, 2017
Number of players: 3
Max number of players possible for this room: 6
Public or private game: Private
Outcome: Did not escape
Note: It looks like FIAB has since changed the name of this room to “The Prison.”
This room receives the special honor of being the very first escape room that I ever played. Normally on this website I will be writing reviews immediately after playing the rooms, but to begin with I am going to post reviews for a few rooms played in the past. This is because I would like to keep a record of all the rooms I’ve played and because I think there is still some value in the memories of these experiences. I will do my best to write this review with a reasonable mix of “how I felt then” vs “how I feel now” and I will try to focus on the things that made a lasting impact.
I chose this company for my first escape room because I wanted to ensure that we had a private booking, and would not be playing with strangers. This is still such a great selling point for FIAB and I wish more US companies would follow suit. (It is maddening that so many other counties have markets with only private bookings!) The website looked professional, the room themes were straightforward, and I felt confident that my group and I would have a good experience.
It was easy to find garage parking just 1-2 blocks away. FIAB Chicago is located in the basement of Dearborn Station. There were helpful signs to point the way and it was not hard at all to find the lobby. It did feel a little strange walking through the long white halls in the basement to get there, but it also made me hopeful that they would have plenty of room for their games down there.
The lobby has fun table games to play, and the tables have signs for each of their 4 rooms. (Their current rooms available to play are The Prison, The Lab, The Bank, and The Bunker.) Given that other places I’ve been to don’t try to help organize groups beforehand, I think this is a nice touch, especially if you happened to be mixed in with strangers. There are lockers that are also labeled for each room and they even had chargers available inside them for everyone’s devices, which was great.
When we arrived there was one other group there. Both groups were gathered together in the lobby and the general rules were given to all of us at once. This was done by one employee speaking to the whole group. Our personal belongings had to remain locked up in the aforementioned lockers in the lobby. This is my personal preference for an escape room, because I think leaving your belongings behind in a different room elevates the feeling of immersion. Bringing in my coat/purse just reminds me that I’m not really “there” in the story. So points to FIAB for keeping personal items out of the room.
We were also given orange “prison” t shirts to wear. I had no other escape rooms to compare this to, but I thought that was a fun element. There is a part of me that is grossed out by wearing a shirt that has been worn by many strangers before, but after each game I believe they go into a general laundry basket and are not used again until they’ve all been washed. So it’s slightly less gross. If that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, I think it makes the game feel more fun.
The story for The Cell/The Prison on the FIAB website is as follows:
“The justice system is flawed and imperfect. You discover this first-hand having been sentenced to life in prison, without chance of parole, for a crime you did not commit. All requests for appeals have been denied. The only path to freedom is to breakout, but you are in a maximum-security cell and are constantly monitored. Suddenly, a riot erupts in another prison block. Your guard has left his post. This is your only chance for liberty. Are you quick-witted and resourceful enough to escape?”
One of my favorite things about this room was the way it began. We waited in the lobby until the Game Master came to get us, and when she did, she had us stand in a line and put on blindfolds. (Afterwards I realized that this was because they needed to walk us through part of the room in order to reach the starting point, and they didn’t want us to see anything until we were in the game. But in the moment I just thought it was a way to add to the hype of the prison game. Even if it was only for practical purposes, I think it went a long way in setting the scene!)
We were marched into the room blindfolded, and when the game began we took them off. I won’t give any spoilers about the actual game, but I do want to say that I thought the scenery/decorations were great. It was dark and there was fog/smoke in the room when we began, which was disorienting in a very fun way. We were split up into two cells that faced each other, and because I had never played a room before, I wasn’t expecting that at all and thought it was awesome. I do think that beyond the actual prison cell itself, some of the decor was kind of basic and not of the highest quality, but it didn’t take away from the game for me.
We had 3 clues available to use, but I won’t go into the hint system for this room because it’s part of the game that isn’t revealed to you beforehand. The Game Master was able to communicate with us over a speaker system, where they could give us extra nudges by talking to us. This felt very personal and effective. I can see how the quality of these kinds of nudges would vary widely based on the GM, but I think we had an excellent Game Master for this room, and that really added to the experience. She knew how to give a vague hint that was helpful without giving things away, and it was great.
As far as the puzzles in the room, I think they were generally very satisfying. There was one puzzle in particular that remains one of my favorites to this day, so that gets them lots of points in my book. This was the first room anyone in my group had ever done, so we were fairly lost at some points, but it always felt enjoyable and not frustrating.
We did not escape in the allotted 60 minutes, which isn’t surprising given that we were all newbies. The GM walked us through the remaining things that we hadn’t solved, which I appreciated. Having played other games since then where we were not given this kind of information, I think it’s definitely a plus when you get it.
We had our picture taken by the GM and received it by email within the next couple of days, which was nice. They also gave us each a postcard with a picture the GM drew of us playing the game, with some action we took during the game called out. We had been asked to come up with code names for ourselves before the game, so these were written on the postcard above each of our pictures. I thought it was a fun touch, although there’s not much to do with it afterwards except throw it away, compared to a sticker or something more useful.
Play This Room If…
-You want a private game experience
-You don’t mind being slightly more physical when playing (getting on your hands and knees, etc)
-You don’t mind being disoriented (with blindfolds, fog, lighting, etc)
Skip This Room If…
-You think the prison theme is overused
-You want to play solo
-You will be with strangers (as communication is key when you are split up in different cells)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Company website: http://www.foxinaboxchicago.com