Being trapped in a room is terrifying. Being trapped in a room with your coworkers? That's what some people's nightmares are made out of.
Luckily for me, I assembled together a group of writers, an editor and a designer who are all highly-skilled at working on tight deadlines under intense pressure... the exact kind of group you want to bring to the Great Room Escape San Diego.
Unfortunately, we still couldn't solve the puzzle in time.
Let me back up first and tell you how we all got here, in an underground room trying to free Houdini's spirit.
Great Room Escape San Diego
Address: 424 Market St., downtown
Phone: (619) 414-5459
The Great Room Escape San Diego is part of a growing trend of "escape rooms" in San Diego, essentially gathering a group into a room bursting with riddles and puzzles to solve in under one hour. Great Room Escape San Diego comes from the same masterminds as the Haunted Hotel San Diego (and the same location on Market St. and Fourth Ave. downtown), and offers three very different themed rooms.
The Lab challenges a group to unlock themselves in the presence of a zombie, and the newer Forbidden Aztec Temple must be outsmarted as the temple seems to be collapsing. Our room, Houdini's Hidden Workshop, brought the famed magician and Grand Master of Illusion to the scene as we were tasked to release his soul by using clues he'd left behind.
Aside from the six of us who are more versed in the intricacies of newspaper production than magic and mystery, Houdini's widow Bess joined us in the room to provide critical clues when we felt stuck. Our team was allowed to ask Bess three specific questions that we all agreed upon, which proved to be rather difficult when deciding exactly what we needed to know to keep the game moving forward.
Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers in this story. I can't just give away any secrets from the actual room itself, but here's what I can say. Teamwork is absolutely essential to solving one clue and moving to the next. The range of emotions runs the gamut, but breaks down something like this:
- Confusion. What on earth are we even looking for? And what does this thing do...
- Overwhelmed. So many clues, so little direction.
- Frustration. At some moments, we found ourselves standing around not sure where to look next.
- An adrenaline-rush! One clue unlocks another clue and things start looking up again.
- Heightened nerves. We have how much time left?
- Exhilaration. When clues start making sense, the game starts to take on a life of its own.
- Awe. The production value of the room is spectacular. From the thoughtfulness of décor to reflect Houdini's life to the special effects, one of the most impressive aspects of this game is the design itself.
- Hopeful. Are we actually geniuses? Probably. Thank God I brought my smartest coworkers.
- Disappointment. 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Time's up and Houdini's soul is still trapped for eternity. Sorry, dude. The Houdini Room has about a 20% success rate, a fact that did console our bruised egos.
- Embarrassment. At the end of the game, the staff of the Great Room Escape San Diego ask if you want to know how close you were to finishing the puzzle. We all self-assuredly thought that we made it to 90% by the time the hour passed. The reality? We still had a good 40% more to go.
Debriefing with your team is essential and somewhat cathartic upon release. Luckily, Great Room Escape is located in the heart of downtown, meaning that we were also a few steps away from some drinks, too.
A few other things to know: If you don't fill up a room completely, you will be paired with others booking the room at the same time, which might not be ideal. I suggest going with a large group (some rooms max at 10 people, some at 12). This also has date night written all over it, perfect for seeing just how your significant other handles the stress.
The Great Room Escape runs Thursday through Sundays at various hours. You are required to get there 30 minutes early to sign through some wavers and receive instructions. Participants are not allowed to use cell phones, and personal belongings are collected and stowed inside a trunk in the room.
Do you have a dare for me? Send an email to michelle.dederko@... with subject line "I dare you"
Or dare me in a Tweet! @michelledederko