How to Begin an Escape
In June, Team Bluefish travelled to New Orleans to meet up with 40ish other escape room enthusiasts for the “Escape Immerse Explore: NOLA” event put on by Room Escape Artists. We played some amazing rooms and got to hang out with some even more amazing people. If you have a chance to attend one of these events in the future, I highly recommend it. While we were there, we had a chance to play one of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen: Cutthroat Cavern. This game is at 13th Gate, which is mainly a haunted house in Baton Rouge. The game seriously blew the minds of everyone on the tour.
I could talk about this game for days but the Room Escape Artist review is way more eloquent (and concise) than my ramblings. Really, what it comes down to is that you should play this game; I can’t think of anyone that I wouldn’t recommend this to.That said, I wanted to talk about a tiny thing that I wish that 13th Gate would do differently, because I see it so often.
We walked into Cutthroat Cavern and the set was brilliant from the beginning; to say that it was larger than life is selling it short. I’ve played roughly 300 escape rooms at the time of this writing, and I’ve never seen one that even comes close to matching the set of Cutthroat Cavern.We were so excited that we were practically drooling and we couldn’t wait to start interacting with the game.
Only…it’s not time for that, apparently. We were instructed to not move while we listened to an audio log. BUT I WANNA PLAY THE GAME!!! AND NOW I FEEL LIKE I’M JUST BEING TEASED!!!
This is something that I see often, but never understand in escape rooms. The Game Master leads you into a really cool looking place that you’re going to manipulate in all kinds of ways*, and then they talk about story and rules for several minutes. That’s important information, but I’m 99% ignoring it, because I’m already looking around the room, planning what I’m going to do.
The pre-game process is super important, but it can be nearly worthless if you’re making the player live in both the real world and the game world at the same time. That’s too many worlds, man. It makes it difficult to believe that you’re in a cave, or a spaceship, or a laboratory or whatever if someone is standing in front of you explaining what a red dot sticker means, or how to work a directional lock. Even when the Game Master is talking about the story, they’re almost always idiosyncratic. They don’t belong in the game, so it feels weird having a mix of game and not game.
Anyway, my point is that I want to be transferred into my game immediately. I’m happy to listen to rules or story beforehand, but once I’m part of the set, I want to play. To illustrate how this can be done well, we’ve picked out a few games in our local market that really stand out in this area. These three games are great at getting you straight into the game without taking up time to actually remind you that you’re in a game.
Escape Narrative: Escape Narrative is pretty unique, at least in the Phoenix market. It’s intentionally very free-form, and there is almost zero introduction. When you arrive, you’re simply handed a letter that was apparently just delivered to you. The letter is from a missing friend, and you’re told to just check things out at the friend’s house, just like you would if you actually had a friend that you were worried about. Leave your expectations at the door, and prepare yourself for a really cool experience.
Theft, Lockdown Escape Rooms: Theft is another game that wastes absolutely zero time in getting you started. You need to crack your way through several security systems to complete the heist in Theft and the game starts with your team confined to a tiny space until you can disable the laser alarms. As soon as you step onto the set, you are actively part of Theft, and that adrenaline spike you feel as you worry about setting off alarms isn’t going away anytime soon.
Lit, Inferno Escape Rooms: Lit is an extremely smart game and it gets started almost as soon as you open the door to Inferno Escape Room. We don’t want to spoil any of the experience here, but we’ll just say that you will be immediately immersed and that you really have to play this game if you’re in the Tempe area and looking for a really cool challenge. In the interest of transparency: we played Lit during beta-testing, and some things may have changed slightly.