Monday, March 9, 2015

We Escaped: Inside Tucson's First Live Escape Room

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge Those are the faces of people who got the last box open with just over a minute left on the clock.
  • Those are the faces of people who got the last box open with just over a minute left on the clock.


Last weekend, my friends and I had the opportunity to test our problem skills in Tucson's first live room escape game. The game was good, our skills were not.

Nicolette Cusick, who runs the operation on her own, opened Will You Escape? in February. She heard about the concept in August, visited a few live escape rooms in other states and thought Tucson would love it as much as she did. Cusick invited us to play after I posted about her website back in January.

Participants enter the room, which Cusick furnished as a '50s movie star's dressing room from thrift store finds. Cusick explains the story: There was an actress, she's been killed and you have to solve the murder (person, method, time) in under an hour. Otherwise, the murderer comes back and he's gonna get ya. 

There are so many locks. So. Many. Locks. You have to use clues hidden all throughout the room to find the combinations. There's no polite way to go about it, you're going to leave that room a mess.

click to enlarge She is the dead one!
  • She is the dead one!
Thankfully, Cusick is there if you need some assistance. She's watching as you move through the room. If she decides you need help (we needed so much help) an alarm sounds and she has a clue waiting for you on a screen. While you're busy being thankful for the assistance, Cusick is simply enjoying the show.

"I've seen families go through, couples, complete strangers—it is a blast to see the way they work together," she said. "I've seen a 13 year old become the boss of the entire family an the dad take the back seat. It's fun to see who works well together, who communicates and who is just chaotic."

The clues are primarily number based, and you can lose 'em as soon as you've used 'em. That's really the one criticism I heard from the group after we left. Did the story really matter? Was there a clear motive? If there was, none one remembered it.

Now, this is the first escape room I've been in—I don't know how they typically work. But I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed when we opened the last lock and the answer was just waiting for us inside. This game is less about solving a mystery than it is about identifying and applying clues. It's fair to say room is there to build teamwork and test problem solving skills—it won't satiate any need to try your hand as a police detective.

But, that kind of makes sense with the nature of the game. I don't think we we're in any condition to think back and piece together the mystery from clues we discovered at the beginning of the hour.

Our group finished with about a minute left on the clock. Cusick claims she didn't have to give us too many clues (she's clearly lying, none of us should be detectives), but it was fun for me to watch her clues go from vague, carefully typed hints to all caps instructions that were probably accompanied by heavy sighs and a few "they're never gonna make it"'s. I learned that my "team problem solving skills" are actually just celebrating other people's discoveries.

Cusick who, again, runs this show by herself, says she's keeping it to one room. "I definitely think there is a demand once people understand the concept," she said noting she'll probably give the room she has six months before changing it up. "I just want to go into this slowly and not try to expand too quickly."

If she does end up building another room, our group will definitely be back.

The best time so far is a truly astonishing 31 minutes. So, book your own game and let me know if (and, my god, how) you beat that time.

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