“You did everything wrong and you managed to get out with the fastest time.”
We stood there staring at the clock with 12 minutes left. Maybe a hundred other teams crossed the threshold of this room and less than a quarter of those managed to decipher all the puzzles, unlock all the cabinets, and insert the test samples in the correct order. And we stood there a bit dazed and elated as our host, Bob Glouberman, walked us through each of the puzzles with a mixed sense of excitement and awe as we managed to stumble through nearly every one of them. Like he said, the only thing that matters is that we got out.
Not to sound like one of those announcers you catch late at night trying to shill out some new plastic novelty, but escape rooms are one of the newest things hitting the country by storm. Wherever you live, there’s probably one of these rooms just around the corner, waiting for you and a couple of your close friends. These rooms combine a bit of gaming, a bit of LARPing, and a bit of theater as you work your way through puzzle after puzzle to get to a goal. When they first started, the goal was to escape. Now these rooms contain not only a handful slightly nervous people, but also a story wrapped around the puzzles, linking them together.
The Virus, for instance, put us in a subterranean lab where we were humanity’s last hope to find a cure for a virus ravaging the land. Terrorists are trying to break in and use the cure for their own means, but the good doctor, portrayed in the introduction video by Bob, managed to lock up the virus samples with clues only we could figure out. The one crux of the problem is that if we become exposed (which *surprise surprise* we did), the team would only have an hour to solve the puzzle before dying a horrible death.
I wasn’t really scared of the virus, it’s was the people trapped in the room that worried me.
The Virus is a shining example of what an escape room experience can and should be. Every piece of the experience flowed together like a story with details peppered throughout that would later be clues to help us solve the puzzles. Instead of simply giving us a rundown of what’s going on, the team strapped on VR helmets that doled out the information we needed while giving us a little ride into the depths of the Earth. Even the puzzles themselves reflected the theme of science (we were scientist after all) as we played with the elements, heat, kinetic energy, and a little bit of biology. Listening to Bob move from each puzzle made it seem like a story where each of the puzzles gave you just enough plot to find the next.
For as beautiful and well put together rooms like The Virus come together, you still have to take in account that added bit of chaos that comes from a team of humans running wild in any given space. We all managed to work on separate puzzles and solved some before finding the clues needed to solve it. But in all the chaos, I think it was the final puzzle that brought everyone together. In those last few moments of calm, we found the clue we needed as a team and put together an answer. A door popped open, the antidote poured out, and we managed to survive another day.
Bob told us later that it was that last puzzle where we had our “ah-ha” moment that was one of the first ones they put together. And that’s the sign of a great escape room; those little moments of revelation that keep you going. We would like to thank Bob and the rest of the Get the F Out crew for letting us check out The Virus. And if you think you have what it takes to take on our time and you happen to be in the Burbank area, you can check out this great escape room yourself.