Many moons ago, tabletop roleplaying and board games set the standard for imaginative, immersive nerdy experiences. Then came live-action roleplaying (LARP) communities, a whole new frontier for gamers with thirsts for intense adventure that only public dress-up and playacting could slake. Finally, the world was introduced several years ago to a less socially awkward evolution in LARP: escape rooms, commercial setups that chucked paying customers into a locked space together and challenged them to work out the solution to freeing themselves.
In retrospect, it was only a matter of time. Together, Spin Master and Identity Games chucked the roots of all these concepts into a blender and out poured “Escape Room: The Game,” a scaled-down set of four thrilling scenarios that implore players to “escape” their shared prison in under an hour by breaking down riddles and puzzles using ingenuity, creative thinking, logic, attention to detail, clear communication and teamwork.
Start by selecting your campaign: Virus, Prison Break, Nuclear Countdown or Temple of the Aztec. Each consists of three parts centered on feeding the Chrono Decoder a code comprised of four specific keys out of 16 possibilities. Deduce which keys you need by carefully pondering the clues inside each game’s envelope. Every turn explores a new element of the room in search of one or more valuable clues. You won’t believe how quickly 60 minutes can pass.
One last catch: when you occasionally stumble across the “ER” text or logo during the game, you must use the systems on either side of the Chrono Decoder to decipher vital information while the clock ticks down and alerts you when a potentially crucial hint becomes available.
Sounds intense, right? Here are a few helpful tips from the designers themselves to bolster your chances of making good a daring escape:
This is no time to embrace your inner introvert. Share any and all information in a timely fashion, including clearly reading the rules out loud before beginning the game and keeping them accessible throughout.
Feel free to write on or fold certain items to reveal clues where a “Print” icon suggests it, but there’s no need to go breaking stuff en route to the solution.
Take all the notes you like to make connections clearer, and remember that none of these adventures require any foreknowledge of the scenario to complete your getaway.
Your phone may come in handy. Some clues are easier to parse using accessories such as a flashlight or calculator in a pinch.
Yes, the game may frustrate you at times. This is supposed to mimic a real-life escape room, remember? People don’t pay for these experiences to conquer something simple. Keep everyone on the same page as you advance through the steps and don’t be afraid to backtrack and double-check for logical errors if you get stuck. Study everything closely, front and back. Compare notes and observations regularly, and you just might find that some riddles were far less complicated than you thought.