Escape My Room (New Orleans, LA, USA)
Words by Paul Oswell
"PRESS THE BUTTON! DON’T GO THROUGH THAT DOOR! STOP RIGHT THERE!"
A disembodied voice is yelling at us. We’re not even at the actual thing yet, but Escape My Room is located in a federal building (the Post Office) and if you miss certain signs on the way in, you really annoy the security guards, apparently.
This immediate lack of eagle-eyed-ness does not bode well for our group.
For those of you with even fewer powers of deduction, I’ll spell out for you what we’re doing. Escape My Room is (wait for it) an escape room attraction in downtown New Orleans. Although unique in its design, it is one of thousands of this type of facility, popping up as they are in an urban area near you with impressive regularity.
Escape rooms encompass myriad themes, but share some elements: they are live-action puzzles, whereby players are placed in a locked room and have to navigate a series of clues and tasks to win their escape, usually within a set amount of time.
The security guards thwarted (or pacified, at least), seven of us (you can play this room with 2-7 people) gather in a Victorian parlour replete with curiosities, somewhere between a museum and a rich, elderly hoarder’s house. Costumes are donned from a clothes hamper.
It’s a pleasingly random group formed from a cross-section of friends who don’t really know each other, but have (in my opinion) diverse enough skills to waltz through this, though some hangover levels are worrying. Perhaps the pain will free up a hitherto repressed level of lateral thought? We can only hope.
Our games mistress emerges and tells us more about the world we’re about to enter – the best escape rooms aren’t simply logic problems without context, they involve a narrative universe that gives you more of a sense of purpose. In this case, the meticulous back-story involves a local family, the DeLaportes and a reclusive matriarch.
A few practical rules apply so we don’t wreck the joint, and with that, we’re ushered into the room – even more cluttered and beguiling as the reception area – and given an hour to get out again.
The problem with describing Escape My Room is, of course, that you can’t really describe Escape My Room without revealing huge spoilers. So let’s skirt around the details but try and get a flavour.
First of all, I don’t know how two-person teams who aren’t made up of a civil engineer and a philosophy postgrad with a minor in logic win this game, but they do. As a seven, we’re scattered to the corners of the room, each finding our own threads and some of us flitting between pairs and shouting non-sequiturs like that was any help.
Perhaps pairs just focus more and can more calmly decipher things in order, but we’re scatter-gunning about half a dozen tasks at once. There are decoy trails, clues to be found under and in things, collections of objects to be organised and riddles to be solved.
Voices get raised in good-natured frustration, our mistress nudges us occasionally via an intercom and the rush of euphoria when clues come together and we open a new suitcase or complete a pattern is quite something, especially with the time bearing down on us. There’s a point half way through where we think we’ve actually won in record time, but it’s just moving up a level and there’s much work still to be done.
Throughout, more of the family’s story is revealed as clues are unearthed, and this will stand the company in good stead as they plan to expand into more rooms that add to the universe.
After a particularly frantic last few minutes which include shadows, dancing and a lot of shouting, we somehow sneak under the wire and make it out. You feel pretty good about yourselves, and we agree that the level of difficulty is pitched exactly perfectly between enticingly challenging and rewardingly accessible: nobody wants to waltz out after ten minutes nor do they want to just stare at the first clue, cursing their lack of imagination for an hour.
Delighted, we are snapped for posterity and make our way back down to again confuse ourselves with the post office security doors. I guess sometimes, every room is an escape room if you’re dumb enough.
ESCAPE MY ROOM WEBSITE_