The escape room phenomenon isn’t new. But I’d never done one before. It’s not that I was hesitant or scared to try it out—I just didn’t get the appeal. There were plenty of other ways that I’d rather spend an hour of my time. But when my friend asked me to try it out last night, I figured I might as well see what all the fuss has been about for the past year or two.
For those who don’t know what an escape room is, it’s not a haunted house. It can be a little creepy or adrenaline-inducing, but it’s not a place where actors jump out at you for the sole purpose of terrifying you. It’s a themed room (that can lead to other rooms) where you have to solve puzzles or mysteries to find out combinations to locks that lead to other problems that you must solve in order to successfully “escape.” That’s in quotes because they can’t legally lock you in a room, so you could technically leave at any time. But that would defeat the purpose.
There were four of us who walked into A Room with a Clue in Deep Ellum last night with the goal of escaping from The Ship room in under one hour, for 20 bucks each. (We did not opt for The Doll House room, which sounded entirely too Chucky-ish.) One of those people happened to be SideDish’s very own Catherine Downes, who was honestly a bit of a diva and kept getting distracted by shiny objects, but we’ll get to that. After the nice gentleman finished explaining the rules to us, he started our timer and left the room, which was outfitted like a state room from The Titanic. The premise was that Elizabeth and Remy, star-crossed lovers, were on a ship in 1902 that was attacked by pirates. Remy was kidnapped by the pirates, and we needed to save him. This being our first time in an escape room, we were a bit frenzied at first. There were chests with locks on them, boxes with locks on them, cabinets with locks on them. So many locks that we needed to find the combination or key to. We started with the maps on the wall and the books that seemed to provide clues. I and one of the others started trying to figure out these puzzles while Catherine “searched” through the fake jewelry and clothes. I think she was gathering ideas for her own personal wardrobe, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
We were allotted three hints, which we could request via Walkie Talkie. We phoned in for our first hint on our first puzzle. Not a great omen for us. But when we finally solved that and moved on to the next, we felt like we hit our stride. I am a very competitive person by nature, so I started to get pretty into it and tried my best to be polite while telling people what to do. Catherine sort of just stood in the background and acted interested. After a little more than half our time was up, we managed to unlock the door to the next room, which was decorated as the deck of the ship, complete with telescope and constellations on a wall. Of course, there were more locked things and puzzles that included tying a rope several ways, which turned out to be a herculean task. We had to use up all three hints, but when there were three minutes left on the clock, we received a clue that said it was our last before we could escape. The end was near! Well, the end was near for poor Remy. We didn’t manage to solve the final problem in time. It was a seriously defeating moment for all of us. Except for maybe Catherine. I think she just wanted to get out of there. But the nice gentleman assured us we did a good job and were very close to succeeding.
It was an interesting experience overall. But I can say that my failed escape attempt has only fueled the fire. Evidently, I’m going to have to keep trying new escape rooms around town until I successfully break free. Next time, though, I think I’ll leave Catherine back at the office.