When I think of a fun day out, I think of going out with my family to eat somewhere, or hanging out at a friend’s place playing board games, eating junk food and just chatting the day away. Never in my wildest dreams would I think escaping a confined room within a set time limit “fun,” but that’s exactly how it went.
I had the opportunity to participate in a popular puzzle adventure game known as an escape room, which are basically life-sized puzzle rooms littered with clues and riddles. The overall goal of an escape room is simple enough and in the name itself; you need to escape the room. The idea is straightforward, but it’s the way escape rooms are presented and built that make them so exciting and mysterious. And trust me, once you’ve done an escape room, there’s nothing else like it.
Here in Bakersfield we have a few escape room attractions, but the one I participated in was the Bakersfield Escape Room.
There are dozen if not hundreds of escape rooms across the United States, all with their own unique themes, rules, level of difficulty and charm. But it’s the basic formula that all escape rooms follow which keep people interested.
Normally, an escape room consists of a single room outfitted with clues, riddles and puzzles that need to be solved or unlocked in a specific way or order.
Strategy is key when you’re confined in such a small space, and the room itself encourages players to coordinate and be as flexible as possible, because any one action or clue could change the entire dynamic of the room. Keeping a checklist of priorities, assigning roles to players, and focusing on a single task to complete before moving on can mean the difference between a successful escape or failure.
Another key component is teamwork, because let’s face it, if anyone of us were alone in a room we’d all probably fail the first time. All escape rooms require some level of teamwork and depending on the level of difficulty, you need more people all with different ways of thinking to help figure out how to escape. Some of the most outrageous and seemingly unrealistic ideas can be the key to solving the entire puzzle. To put it simply, the more people the better, and it makes the experience all the more fun!
Keeping an open mind and putting yourself in the mindset of your room’s location is also important. Most escape rooms have a specific theme or are set in a real-life or fictional locations, this effects the puzzles, what items or resources you have, how clues are presented, and the goal of escaping. They also provide players a story to engage themselves in and makes them that much more invested in escaping.
Most escape rooms are horror themed or involve some sort of deadline or threat that needs to be dealt with if you want to survive. Just remember to place yourself in the shoes of someone who might actually encounter the environment of the escape room, and be on the lookout of for clues on the lore of the room to help better understand how the room can be solved.
But the most crucial component of an escape room is time. All escape rooms incorporate a set time limit for players and it serves as both a motivation and a warning on how much time players have left in order to solve the puzzle. But don’t be too worried, because most rooms aren’t really “solved” until the second-half if the room’s time. The majority of your time will be spent finding clues, collecting information, identifying puzzles, exploring the room, and analyzing everything. It’s once you’ve found all the things you need to complete that you can actually start getting done to business. Also know that some puzzles will reveal more puzzles, so it’s important to be prepared for additional obstacles and prioritize the simpler task and work your way to the harder ones. Some advice, assign someone to occasionally check your time so that you’re never caught off guard!
And most important of all is to remember that, no idea is too silly or stupid! The whole point of the game is to have fun, and many rooms encourage players to be creative and throw around their thoughts and ideas on the room. Keeping an open line of communication is critical and helps ideas flow better among players. So if you find yourself short on time with only one puzzle left and you have an idea on how to solve it, try it! It could be the final move that carries you and your players to victory.
So now that we have down what an escape room is, it’s time to take about an actual escape room.
The Bakersfield Escape Room here in town has multiple rooms all with their own levels of difficulty and stories for players. From pirates, MI6 agents, to disarming a bomb, when I had to go online and actually chose a room, I couldn’t decide because I want to try all of them!
In the end I decided on the “Private Detective Agency: Knight and Rook Investigations” room, because who doesn’t love a classic detective mystery? The story behind the escape room was just as intriguing, with the players taking on the role of investigators trying to solve the case of a missing person. Roger Knight, a former investigator who’d gone missing trying to solve the same case, left clues all over the office room for someone else to find and solve.
Our goal was the find the clues, find the missing person’s location and contact the authorities to go rescue them. We were given an hour to crack the case, or else meet the same fate as Roger Knight. Spooky right?
While I was doing research on the room online, I saw that the room allowed up to six people and had a success rate of only 30 percent! It had me thinking that, “If six people have half a chance to escape, what chance did I have?”
Despite that the excitement drowned out the dread of the situation, and I and my fellow editor Karla, who would be taking pictures, ended up going to the Bakersfield Escape Room.
Because we would be reporting on the room and taking photos, I thought it would be wise to contact the business before booking to let them know we would be documenting our experiences. And boy am I so happy I did.
I ended up explaining our plans to one of the employees there, Christine, who was super helpful explaining the rules and what the room we’d be playing in was about. Eventually she passed me over to the manager, Jesús, who also gave me insight on the room and how we could document the room without revealing too much. In the end, we were given total control of what we took pictures of and what to talk about, as long as we don’t reveal anything about how to specifically reveal the puzzles. Fair enough!
But the real icing on the cake was how generous both Christine and Jesús were, because by the end of the conversation Jesús offered the entire room free of charge for both me and Karla to explore. So not only were we able to play at the escape room but had the entire room to ourselves. Major win.
We ended up booking a time and day over the weekend, and around 4:20 p.m. I arrived at the location ready to play. We actually ended up arriving only a minute before our appointment, so even before entering the room our we were nervous.
Christine greeted up when we arrived, and after signing some waivers and receiving a neat little bracelet for our participation, she gave us one last run-down of our goal: Find the location of the missing person before time runs out, or suffer the same fate as Mr. Knight.
I was absolutely pumped and anxious at the same time. What would happen if we failed? Would we be able to find all the clues? How would we know if we won?
Nevertheless, after being lead down a hallway to our room, I noticed all the other doors as we walked by. Behind them I could hear excited chatter and shouts, no doubt from other players who were facing similar challenges like the one we were about to face.
Finally, we made it to our room and as we entered, I was immediately overwhelmed. There were shelves filled with items, drawers and cabinets all locked with different numbered combinations, pictures and posters with images on them, a desk with a computer and a single safe at the end of the room. How in the world was I supposed to solve all of this?
But even before I could answer my own question, I hear the door behind me close and above us a TV monitor with 60 minutes began counting down. The escape room had begun.
Now I’ll be honest right now and say that I was pretty panicked, so panicked in fact that my first reaction was to shout in dismay, “What?!”
Most of my recollection of event is pretty jumbled together, with the adrenaline and anxiety of the situation, it made an hour feel more like 10 minutes. We started off just walking around the room, examining our options and counting the puzzles we could immediately see. Thankfully the escape room gods were merciful and we ended up finding some clues that were scattered around right away.
Inside the escape room there was a large board on the wall that had pins, so throughout the puzzle, I pinned any clues we found to the board so we wouldn’t lose track of anything we might’ve needed.
As we started finding more clues and laying them out, I stared to notice a pattern and realize that some clues were completely useless or didn’t make sense without more more information. Inside the room there were a number of locked cabinets and boxes that probably had the missing information we needed to make the clues we had make sense.
As we began piecing things together, we made our first breakthrough. One of the locked drawers on the desk had had a number combination lock which we were able to open with the clues we’d already found. As soon as we opened the drawer our moral was boosted to new heights, and the seemingly impossible escape room became possible to escape.
Probably one of our biggest hiccups was the computer in the room, which required a password to open. We ended up spending a good 15 minutes or so before the escape room gods graced us with a hint on the TV monitor to help guide us.
It was around 35 minutes into the escape room when we had run into another problem. One of the locks on the cabinets was a directional lock and we couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. With less than 25 minutes left, we wasted a good deal of our time trying and resetting the lock before we finally opened the cabinet.
At 10 minutes left, I began to falter in our chances of getting out of the room, but Karla and I made one final push and finally, after so many missteps and confusion, we able to find the final clue.
The safe, which held the whereabouts to the missing person and our success, needed a four-numbered combination to open. Over the course of the escape room we tried multiple times to open to safe to no avail. But after some trial and error, we found what we thought was the final combination. There was only one hiccup.
The safe had a number of attempts available before the going into a 30 second reset. As we ran up to the safe and began inputting the code, we realized that the safe wasn’t responding.
With only 5 minutes left, we had no choice but to wait for the safe to reset before inputting the code. It felt more like an eternity, time which was working against us the entire hour and slipping through our fingers so quickly, was now moving at a snail’s pace.
As I held the number code in my hands though, I began to realize that once we opened the safe, we would win. That alone made the agonizing wait much more bearable.
Finally, I inputted the code and screamed in joy as the light on the safe turned green and I head a “click” from inside. I swung the door open and grabbed the files inside just as the timer on the TV monitor froze. I looked up and saw out time, 4 minutes and 20 seconds left on the clock.
What happened next is just as blurred but I can assure you it was filled with jumping and screaming.
Christine came back to grab us and guiding us back to the front, where she congratulated us on escaping the escape room.
The experience was definitely worth it, and I can say with a hundred percent confidence that everyone need to do an escape room at least once. Nothing beats the pride you feel for yourself after solving what is essentially a life sized Rubik’s Cube, and I will definitely be making room in the future to go again.