First of all, happy Valentine’s Day, I hope you received much chocolate and the like. Second of all, my birthday was exactly a month ago today. And you know what the perfect thing to do a month after your birthday is?
And for this particular birthday party, I decided to do an escape room.
I have done one before, and completed it successfully. Maybe there were less than two minutes left on the clock, but I still made it out! Clutched the door combination at the last second, still pretty proud of it, even if I did get completely bamboozled by the ninja star cipher. All the rooms at the escape room place are stories, all connected in some way, and the one we did yesterday was chronologically the next after the one I completed previously.
But before we get to the story of that one.
We walk in, right, the absolute dream team of escape artists. Me. Jacob. Emily. Lilly. Rory. The game master comes in to the front room to greet us. She’s incredible, best beanie I’ve ever seen, complimented my earrings, was sarcastic and funny. 12/10. Would have given her all of my money. She puts on the orienteering video for Lilly and Rory, who haven’t been to one of these yet, while the rest of us attacked some little puzzle locks with every braincell we had. Which wasn’t many. We did not solve the puzzle locks.
Now comes the time when we are introduced to the game itself. We are plane crash survivors, lost in a storm and taking refuge in a cave on a lonely tropical island. It is eleven PM. At exactly midnight, the tide will fully go out, leaving a land bridge between us and the next island over. Residing on that island is a beast. Indescribable for no one has lived to tell its tale. All we know is that it is hungry, and that the deranged, bloodcurdling roar will be the last thing we hear before we are torn to shreds in its maw.
I’m already completely down for this challenge.
So into the room we go, the dark, mildly claustrophobic cave filled with etchings in the walls, old chests, and rocks. Lots of rocks. Armed with nothing but flashlights and a dubious knowledge of escape room logic, the countdown began. One hour.
Immediately I look at a big rock and know that it’s the door to a secret passage. But how to get to it? A magnet in the wall. Where’s the corresponding magnet? Nowhere to be seen. I instead go to the rocks on the walls and floor and find codes.
Now usually, when you do escape rooms, you go through the puzzles together, figure them out as a group.
We didn’t really do that.
Instead we sort of just each found something and zeroed in on it, tossing found clues and codes into the center of the cave as we came across them, then searching through them like absolute gremlins once our explorations were stopped by locks. I spent almost two minutes trying to take apart a stack of screwed-together wood after finding one piece that spun, before noticing a small hole near the bottom at the exact moment Jacob said “I found . . . a big match? I think?” I proceeded to take the big match and stick it in the hole.
The stack of wood turned into a glowing fake fire, with numbers clearly visible in front of the light.
I thought that detail was really cool, personally.
We found a journal (missing several pages, of course) written by Ed Ethrington, stranded on this island years before we were. From the odd and often oddly mundane contents of said journal, we learned several relevant facts; someone wanted us on this island. We would not be the beast’s first victims should we fail. The ones who brought people to this island may or may not be performing human experimentation. And we’re probably going to have to take some dead guy’s hands to open a door.
Again. Down for this challenge, all the way.
A magnetic stick of dynamite opened the secret passage (again, really cool detail) and we found ourselves in a tiny bunker with a computer counting down our time, a desk with every drawer locked, a soldier’s locker, and a cot. In the cot . . . well . . .
In the words of Jacob, “There’s . . . there’s just bones, actually.”
We found the dead guy. Unfortunately, somebody else got to his hands before we could. Poor fella.
I did immediately go through all of his pockets, as any good gamer would. No loot. Then I dove under the cot without explaining myself and found loot. (on the countdown computer, in the box where the gamemaster could give us hints, she did type ‘what is she doing’ when I did that and I am very proud of myself) In the locker were a camo coat and a helmet, which I put on immediately, along with codes that matched coordinates on a battleship board that Jacob took command of. By this time the timer was past the halfway point and we were getting nervous due to the sheer amount of locks in the tiny room.
Lilly cracked the Morse Code password. I used a blacklight to find patterns in the cave paintings, Rory figured out the order and relayed them to Jacob for the combination lock. Emily sat in the corner and drew a lovely portrait of the gamemaster while calling out helpful tips and making the skeleton as comfortable as possible and giving him a knife.
Eventually all map pieces were found. The battleship game was complete, giving the code to unlock the radio, giving us a walkie talkie. I hesitantly called, helmeted and clutching the skeleton’s knife, and relayed our position.
Only to be told that the rescue team had already checked there and hadn’t found anything.
Then Jacob took the walkie talkie (and the helmet) and relayed our actual position, and the other end told us to stay put, we were about to get rescued.
The timer stopped with twenty minutes and eight seconds left.
We nearly beat the record.
The gamemaster was actually pretty impressed, she told us we did fantastic and she was playing Pokemon most of the time because she didn’t need to give us hints and we made her laugh while she was listening to us. She let us hear the roar of the monster we would have been devoured by, had we not been GENIUSES. Jacob and I both said ‘DIPLADOPUS’ at the same time. Afterwards, since we had so much time, we just chatted and she and Jacob talked about the Hy-vee they both used to work at and crazy managers and Karens and Jacob’s very in-character attempts to do stupid things and being thwarted by actual focused workers.
It was a lovely time.
After that we had an actual party and played Bang wherein Jacob and Gavin crafted an epic love-to-betrayal arc between their characters, then watched Spiderverse and then ran around in the dark for a while for the heck of it. All in all?
Good birthday party.
Even if we didn’t get to use a dead guy’s hands to open a secret door and destroy an evil lab. We’ll do that next time.