So, you might’ve walked by this place a few times on East Passyunk. It’s a strange, large building with formidable, contemporary architecture along a corridor known for great restaurants and retail shops. In retrospect, it’s perhaps the perfect building to house a 1980s themed “Escape the Room” game. It’s the first official game from Steel Owl Adventure Rooms and the largest room escape in the city.
Unfamiliar with this new kind of entertainment? Allow me to explain. You and a group of others are “locked” in a room and are tasked with putting together codes and clues to get through room after room until you’ve successfully escaped. There’s usually a time limit too. In this case, you’ve got 60 minutes to escape the 1980s. Puzzles take the form of many pop culture references from the era. Tonight, I joined a group of strangers for a press event and run through of the game. I had never done one of these before tonight. In fact, I was a little skeptical I’d have fun. The concepts of moving from room to room solving a series of puzzles is nothing new to me, but I often lose focus or become discouraged by puzzlers. This genre of game felt like dungeons in Zelda, mansions in Resident Evil or pretty much all of Myst.
My teammates were a completely random group of people, most of which I’d never met. We were all ages, men and women. The team leader we picked? Well, she wasn’t even alive in the 1980s. Luckily, the game doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of the decade. All the solutions to the clues are in the series of four rooms that make up the game.
Our group was successful. We managed to solve all the puzzles, get through all the rooms in about 55 minutes. We escaped the 1980s and safely made it back to today. In the end, I absolutely had fun, really more than I had expected. I’m told this game is set apart from the others through their use of technology, there’s all sorts of Arduinos, Rasberry Pis and other gadgets running things behind-the-scenes.
All this being said, I’d check this thing out. A sense of nostalgia and sharpness in trivia from the era would be helpful, but is totally not required. You don’t even need to bring a big group. As stated, the game lasts an hour. Bring your problem-solving skills and arrive fifteen minutes early. I’m looking forward to what the Steel Owl Adventure Rooms team cooks up next. There was A LOT excellent design, great uses of (old and new) technology, and for the interactive design-minded readers, A LOT of attention on UX. I’m told they’ll change up the theme every few months.
For tickets and more information about this game or Steel Room Adventure Rooms visit www.escapethe1980s.com