Two weeks ago at Gen Con 2016, five of my fellow GeekDads (including a spouse) and I were doing our best fast-walk through the corridors of the convention center as we rushed to make our 8:15 appointment with… Escape Room. I had received an email inviting the GeekDad crew to an after-hours running and, with the team assembled, we arrived right on time for our scheduled incarceration.
In a nutshell, the folks at Spin Master had set up an enclosure that held a prison cell and a laundry room. The goal was to look for clues to first escape from the cell into the laundry room and then from the laundry to freedom. Barring the way were two padlocks with combinations provided by props and visual clues painted on walls and hidden behind, underneath, and inside objects such as a (very nasty) toilet and a beat-up old dryer. The time limit was set to 15 minutes. On our fast-walk to the event, I made a comment to the team that this group would either set a record or fail miserably. My thinking was that when you throw this many geeks into a locked room and tell them to escape, we’re either going to work well together and succeed or try to take on all the tasks individually and fail.
I’ve done escape room events before–they are hugely popular these days, and popping up all over the place–and I know that sometimes you’ve got to let a leader emerge who can make decisions quickly and decisively. Too many cooks in the kitchen and, well… you know how it goes. I was quite impressed that Spin Master was able to create a mini-escape game that had the right amount of complexity for a 15-minute time limit… for mere mortals. For the GeekDads, however… no prison could hold us.
In we went to the cell… and the countdown clock on the wall started immediately. Four minutes later, we were out of the cell and into the laundry room. Three and a half minutes after that, we emerged from the laundry room and discovered a very strange device on the table with a digital counter counting down. Of course, we immediately saw a puzzle and began discussing how to shut down this odd device. It had 2+ minutes left on it. I ducked my head back into the laundry room and noticed that the countdown clock was at 8:30 seconds and realized this wasn’t part of the puzzle. The Spin Master crew at that point started grinning and let out a loud congrats on finishing–and for setting the record! Nicely played, Spin Master. We were all ready for this strange device counting down and it turned out it was for something entirely different… more on that in a moment.
Ready to shed our bright orange inmate jumpsuits, we were instead interviewed briefly about our experience and introduced to Spin Master’s current product, Escape Room: The Game.
Not everyone has access to real-world escape game events, but this box is readily available for groups of 3-5 players to take on a total of four different escape events, each with a 60-minute time limit. Inside the box, you’ll find the following:
- 1 Electronic Chrono Decoder
- 1 Hint Card Decoder
- 16 Keys
- 32 Hint Cards
- 4 Different Adventure Packs
- 1 Game Rules
What’s that Electronic Chrono Decoder thingy? Glad you asked. Running on 3xAA batteries, the Chrono Decoder displays the time left in your game. Each of the four games is broken into three parts; a code must be found by the players for each of the three parts of the mystery. A code will correspond to four (of 16 possible) plastic keys that must be properly inserted into the Chrono Decoder (from left to right). If you insert the correct keys, you get a confirmation sound and the counter will continue as you move to the next part of the mystery. Inserting an incorrect key (or keys) will result in an error sound and 1 minute will be deducted from the countdown timer. Finish all three parts and the final code and keys will stop the timer… and you win!
The four mysteries included with the game are Prison Break (2-star complexity), Virus (2-stars), Nuclear Countdown (3-stars), and Temple of the Aztec (4-stars and the most complex). It is recommended that you play the four games in order of simplest to hardest. One look at the 16 plastic keys will likely reinforce the need to start simple; each of the keys has a mix of visual clues on its face that include a number, a dot, an arrow, a letter, a shape, a numeral, and a unique shape at the bottom. Because solutions can reference any of these visual clues, you are encouraged to examine all the keys closely before starting a game so you’ll better understand what you’ll be looking for when you break a code and start matching it to keys. Oh, and there are five different cypher systems you’ll be using (including Polybius square and Rosicrucians secret code, which are printed on the left and right sides of the Chrono Decoder) as well as some visual resources on the actual Chrono Decoder itself (top and back).
Each mystery also comes with eight hint cards (numbered). At various times, the Chrono Decoder will beep to let you know it’s okay to take a hint card. You don’t have to use the hint cards, but doing so can confirm you are on the right track if the hint isn’t useful and you’ve already moved past the info that it offers.
But wait… there’s more! In addition to the contents of the box, Spin Master also offers the following:
- Because there are 16 keys, there are 43,680 combinations. What this means is expansions and lots of them. I saw two boxed expansions on display titled Funland and Murder Mystery.
- A free app is available for iOS and Android devices that provides background theme music while playing as well as a way to share your team’s photo with the world when done.
- The box’s website offers downloads that include solutions to the mysteries so you can read them when done and figure out what you did right (or wrong).
- If you wish to allow others to play a mystery, you can also download printable pieces to replace the parts used in the four mysteries. This is such an awesome way to share the game with friends who haven’t yet played, and I must give big props to Spin Master for offering these printable props to keep the mysteries replayable!
With the four included mysteries, each an hour in length, that’s a lot of entertainment for the price. Expansions will be available at a lower price because you’ll already have the Chrono Decoder device and plastic keys. And don’t forget that Spin Master offers printable props so mysteries can be played again and again by new players!
I’d like to thank Spin Master for inviting the GeekDad crew to come and play. I picked up a copy of Escape Room: The Game at Gen Con, but you’ll be able to get your own copy of Escape Room: The Game for $39.99.
Note: Escape Room is a bit hard to find right now, but Spin Master informed me that it will be sold by Walmart and Target. I’m not seeing it listed on either walmart.com or target.com, so if you do find it for sale somewhere, please let me know in the comments section.
Update 8/20 from Spin Masters: The game is available right now at Toys R Us locations and on Toysrus.com. It will be available later this fall in Walmart stores and on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com.