Date played: Saturday, December 22, 2018
Number of players: 8
Max number of players possible for this room: 8
Public or private game: Public
This review took an extra long amount of time to write, due to an incredibly frustrating laptop that badly needs replacing, and also some slow internet service. Please leave your recommendations for great laptops in the comments!
Since I’ve been to this location several times already, I had no new impressions of the company or lobby. I would like to mention that we used Spot Hero to reserve a spot in the parking garage at 33 W Ontario and we only BARELY got a spot. We drove through the whole garage several times and saw no empty spaces (even though we had prepaid to reserve a spot) and we were in very real danger of missing our game time. We saw 2 cars that looked like they were about to leave, and when we circled back around, someone was already taking one of those spots. We just happened to luck out that the other car was also leaving and we were able to take that spot. But needless to say, I would not recommend that garage to anyone coming to this location. In the past we have parked in the garage at 50 E Ohio and have always had plenty of spots to choose from there.
The rules explanation and the storing of personal items both took place inside the room, as is always the case with The Escape Game. I still think it would be better if they did this in another room or in the lobby, but maybe space is just limited at the Chicago location.
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?”
This was a new experience for me, in that it was the very first time I ever played the same escape room twice. I previously played Prison Break back in March 2018 (blog post here) and it became my top favorite game at the time. I never, ever expected to revisit the same room again, but I had such a great time playing it that I really wanted some of my friends to experience it too. And the first time I played this room, it was one of only 3 rooms to date that I did not escape from, since we only had 3 people playing and the other 2 had never done an escape room before. So there were some things that I hadn’t gotten to do before, and it seemed worth it to play it again. (I had some fun reading my previous post about this room, where I said: “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!” I guess you can never say never!)
This game begins with players split up into 2 different cells, and I made sure to ask that I be placed in the “left” cell, since that was the one I had not been in the last time. After now having played in both cells, I can definitively say that the “right” cell is more fun. 🙂
My team of 4 played with a group of 4 strangers. None of them had ever done an escape room before, so you can imagine how we felt going into the game. We decided to split up and put 2 of us in each cell and 2 of them in each cell, which I think was the best thing to do. I just have to repeat my constant refrain again: escape room companies in the US: PLEASE make all your rooms private! PLEASE! Don’t make customers have to pay to buy out 4 extra spaces just to have a private experience. Don’t be greedy. Those new players that don’t know what they’re signing up for? They will choose another open date and time and come back, and they won’t know any different. The first group of 4 that booked will LOVE that they get to play by themselves and it will make their experience, and their view of your company, SO much better. There is just nothing worse than finding out that a group of 4 newbies has added themselves to your room, especially when you know it’s not their fault. They saw 4 open spots and didn’t realize what that meant. (Why people don’t read more information and try to book their own private experience, I’ll never understand.) But please, for the sake of the customers and the experience they are paying for, MAKE ALL ROOMS PRIVATE.
Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out.
The first part of the game was just ok for us. I loved being able to compare and contrast between my 2 experiences playing the room, because some things were solved in vastly different ways and it was fascinating to me. You are able to pass items between the two cells, and we realized afterwards that our cell gave away too many things. Because of this, the other cell solved a few things and we were kind of left doing nothing. I’m glad that I had played before and knew that it didn’t have to be like that, otherwise my idea of the room would have been very different. But the beginning wasn’t great for our cell.
The intro video for the room mentions that there is a thunderstorm going on, and that it will help cover your sounds as you escape. When I played back in March, I thought that those effects weren’t working, since we had normal lighting and no sound. I confirmed beforehand that the effects would be working this time, but they let me know they were very subtle. I’m glad they said that, because this time I realized that the effects had been working before too, they are just basically nonexistent. It’s a shame because it could have been REALLY cool to have lightning effects and thunder crashing and the sound of rain, but the lights stayed normal and the only sounds we heard were prison noises like alarms. A missed opportunity for cool sound immersion, I think.
There were still the same cool puzzles I had enjoyed before, and I was happy to get to experience more of them this time around. I tried very hard not to give away things that I already knew or to say too much, but I don’t know how successful I was. I think there were a few moments that I probably could have stayed quieter, but overall I hope everyone else still felt like they got to experience the game as normal.
We had another problem with our group of strangers, where they wrangled a clue out of a location that was still locked. They kept referring to it and trying to solve it, even though we weren’t there yet. Our group tried fruitlessly to tell them to ignore that for the time being (or better yet, to just put it back where it belonged until we accessed it like we were supposed to), but they didn’t really get it. I know as new players you don’t really get what’s going on all the time, but that seemed over the line to me. They also stood on the furniture at one point, reminding me that Game Masters go over those seemingly ridiculous rules for a reason.
We escaped with I think 2-3 minutes left on the clock. I knew right away that this would no longer hold the spot for my top favorite room, and I was kind of sad that my friends hadn’t gotten to have the great first experience with the room that I did back in March. Having to play with strangers that didn’t know what they were doing definitely affected the whole experience for them, and for me. I had already been reconsidering my top 3 rooms for awhile, but this experience confirmed for me that I had to do some rearranging. Check out the Hall of Fame page to see the new rankings!
Our GM was really nice about answering questions after the room was over. The ending had happened so quickly that I had missed seeing some things, so I appreciated him taking the time to explain things.
Play This Room If…
-You can arrange to have a private experience
-You have a group of 4-6 people. I think 2 people per cell is ideal, but 3 could work.
-You like very immersive, realistic environments
Skip This Room If…
-You are a beginner and have not played any escape rooms before
-You will be playing with younger kids (I think Gold Rush would be a better fit)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Company website: http://www.theescapegamechicago.com