ToysBulletin.com takes an adventure with a new type of game from Thinkfun.
Escape rooms have created a world wide phenomena over the past few years. In fact, there are said to be over 3,000 Escape Room venues in existence throughout the world today. Just to make sure all of our readers understand this concept, there are thousands of people that are paying admission to be locked in a room with friends or even strangers, then having to decipher clues left in the room, which will lead the group to a key that will allow them to unlock the door and “Escape the Room.” This is totally a cooperative effort, and all of this must be accomplished within a prearranged time limit, or the group fails, and they go home as losers. Obviously, the participants must be keen observers and possess superior critical thinking skills to come out as winners.
Keeping all of this in mind, Thinkfun, Inc., known for games that challenge the mind, has come up with a home version of “Escape the Room.” 3-8 players, with a suggested age of 10 years old and up, can actually tackle the “Mystery of the Stargazer’s Manor.” This game has all of the exact same ingredients that players would find at an actual off-site location, but now the fun and challenge can be experienced right at home.
The game contents include an instruction manual, an opening scene card describing the situation at the Manor, 5 specially sealed envelopes, each to be opened in a certain order and only after having solved the puzzle presented by a prior envelope. Each envelope contains clues, objects and other surprises that will help solve that puzzle, so that players can move closer to finding the solution to escaping the room. Lastly, there is the all-important Solution Wheel, a circular marvel with spinning rings that is used to confirm that a particular puzzle solution is indeed correct, or whether to try again.
To get things started, the game hosts can first access an online site at Thinkfun which provides a nifty personalized invitation, which is then sent out via e-mail (by Thinkfun) to invite the participants over to your house to help “Escape the Room.” There is also a list of music that can be accessed to enhance the atmosphere as the game is being played. Additionally, a large table is needed to seat all of the players and provide a good view of all of the game materials. A clock should be placed nearby the table to serve as a timer, and some pencils and paper might be needed for note taking.
Four members of the staff at Toys Bulletin played this game late one night complete with invitation and mood music. The game begins by reading the backstory and reviewing the game components, and then the story is presented in a bit more detail by reading the opening scene card. Next, the timer is set for 2 hours (3-5 players), or 1.5 hours (6-8 players). At this point, we cannot say too much else about the puzzles, envelope contents or solutions, as that would clearly ruin the experience.
Our crackerjack team did succeed in escaping the room before our two hour time limit expired, but just barely. We have to admit that we also took advantage of the online hints provided by Thinkfun, as one of the puzzles had slowed us down for more time than we could afford. The online hints are presented just in case players are really stumped and need a bit of help. The hints are provided as requested one at a time as they pertain to a specific puzzle, so you cannot see any hints to subsequent puzzles. The hints generally point you in the right direction, but do not give the final answer….just enough to provide a quick boost to the brain when needed.
We absolutely loved playing “Escape the Room.” The challenge was not easy, but it also was not hard, it provided just the right amount of thinking to keep everyone involved and participating. When the game was completed, we had quite a mess of items spread all over the table, and Thinkfun provides step by step instructions on how to reassemble the game.
The big question that came up was whether this game could indeed be played a second time? If any of the same players are involved, the answer is no. However, after reassembly, the game can be played by others. Keep in mind that those paying admission to a physical escape room site are paying up to $25-$30 each or more to play one time, so a retail price of $21.99 for the Thinkfun version of “Escape the Room” seems reasonable to us. In order to “Escape the Room,” yourself, purchase at Amazon.com. By the way, we almost forgot to mention that there is a sequel in the works called “Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.” We at Toys Bulletin are ready!