Monday, October 5, 2015

Can You Escape The Beast?

I don't know if you heard, but being smart is fun and cool these days, as evidenced by the popularity of trivia nights and now escape rooms. We were offered the chance to try the Beast Escape Room last week, and like many people I have talked to, I was a bit apprehensive. For some reason "escape room" seems to conjure up images of those extreme haunted houses, especially this time of year, maybe because the first one we  heard of in St Louis (Can You Escape?) involves a zombie chained to the floor. So let me first say this: escape rooms are family friendly! It is not scary (unless you are claustrophobic) and escaping simply involves working together to solve puzzles. I have considered inventing a company just to do corporate team building ropes courses, so once I heard "team building activity", I was all in.

Our adventure started at a little office park off 159 in Glen Carbon, IL. You may think you have the wrong address, but it really is in the office park. When I saw the keypad on the front door, I checked my email to see if we had to start by figuring out to get into the building. The answer is no, the door is open. We went inside and met the owner, Kyle West, who gave us a run down of the rules, many of which are the result of previous teams' behavior. Some of the current ground rules include:

1. Everything you need is within arms reach and you don't need to stand on anything to find clues.

2. You do not need to unscrew anything.

3. There is nothing in the electrical sockets and you don't need to plug anything in or stick anything in the sockets.

The story of this escape room is that an alien race has taken over and all but a few humans have been captured. Half of your group has to get the other half out of a dungeon, and then you all have to work together to escape. Amy and Kevin were locked up in the "dungeon" and Francis and I (along with Lilly) were locked into a sort of lab/office. There is a TV screen in each room counting down to the Beast's return, and you are given absolutely no starting point whatsoever. You can talk to your friends through the connecting door, and you just have to start exploring and looking for keys or clues to unlock all the locks in the room.

One of the first things we said, as we were describing the room to each other through the door, was, "Do you think we can pass things under the door?" And Amy said, "I think that would be breaking the rules."  Kyle can give you hints on the countdown screen, and a message came across that we could exchange anything that fit under the door, so I'm not giving anything away. Just ask yourself, "Would I do this if I was literally trying to escape a dangerous beast? If they answer is yes, and it doesn't involve breaking things, climbing on things, or sticking a knife into an electrical socket, you're not breaking "rules".

I'm afraid that if I describe too much more of the experience, I will inadvertently give away puzzle hints, and there is no fun in that. I wish I could forget everything I saw so I can do it again, so the last thing I want to do is give you hints! I will say that we did NOT beat the clock, but we were really, really close. We knew what we needed and just needed to finish, so we only went over by about 5 minutes. There was no scary beast banging down the door when the clock ran out, just Kyle asking if we wanted to finish.

Family Friendliness: I have had a lot of people ask a lot of questions, trying to gauge if this is appropriate for their kids. As I said above, I did have Lilly, who is 11 weeks old, and I would call this "advanced baby wearing". I only brought her because I know she can sleep in the sling in any level of noise and light, as well as with me bending down, sitting on the floor, and getting up again. If your baby is not a hard sleeper, then no. Children who are between 1-9 would probably require too much supervision and would find the puzzles boring or frustrating. Ages 10+, it depends on the kid, but I think it's worth trying! Just remember that no matter the age of the kid, you will want them to be able to focus for an hour. All four of us have different skills and came out of it feeling like we had contributed in a meaningful way, so there's no particular type of intelligence required.

The Beast Escape Room is $25 per person and you can make reservations on their website. Have you tried it or any other escape room? I want to hear your reviews!

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