Thursday, April 06, 2017

Animal Rescue

Between "ski day 1" and "ski day 2" of my Steamboat Springs trip, we decided to take a day away from the slopes. We had plenty of board games to pass the time, but we also planned one other particular activity.

For more than a year now, my friends and I have been saying how much we'd really like to try an "escape room." Always, the talk was about how we needed enough people to book a room to ourselves (so we wouldn't be sharing it with strangers), and that in turn meant coordinating a lot of schedules. So the cycle repeated again and again, every few months: "We should really do an escape room." "Yes, we should! Who's in?" "Should we just pick a date?" "Well, maybe once we know who wants to go." "Say, did we forget about doing that escape room thing?"

Finally, serendipity stepped in. We'd made plans to hit all the Steamboat Springs craft breweries while we were in town, and the one we picked first just so happened to be right next door to an escape room. We took this information back to the whole group and made our plans.

Five of us in total went to the Crooked Key, a place with two differently themed rooms. The story of one appealed to us more than the other -- and also happened to be the more difficult of the two. We were all firefighters starting off in our station. We had to prepare to go out on a call (escape the fire station), then go inside a "burning" house to rescue the eight animals hidden inside.

This. Was. A. Total. Blast.

There were satisfying puzzles that made you think in a wide variety of ways. Everyone in our group had at least one key moment where he or she figured out a major element that propelled the escape effort forward. The layout of the overall puzzle was smart, bringing us together in moments to focus on a single thing, and splitting us up at other times to work small tasks solo or in pairs.

We'd been given two walkie talkies to call in for a "hack" if we wanted one -- a way to bypass a puzzle we'd become stuck on, in order to keep going. After some brief talk early on about calling in, I'd actually forgotten the walkie talkies were there... until, as I felt the end coming up, the voice on the other end of the line called us. "You're two minutes from the record time," he told us. And indeed, I was right about the end being near, because 20 seconds later, we'd solved the final puzzle, opened the final door, and found a flashing camera on the other side:

The record was ours, which sweetened the victory. But I would have gushed about the experience regardless. We hadn't even left Crooked Key before we were talking about how we had to do more of these when we returned to Denver, getting our friends who hadn't traveled with us to Steamboat Springs in on the action. Indeed, if we'd started on the easier of Crooked Key's two rooms, I have no doubt we would have gone back on that same trip to try the other.

A dash of live action role-playing, a lot of teamwork, a game's sensibilities, and a pile of puzzles. What's not to like? I can't recommend the escape room experience highly enough (and the Crooked Key in particular, should you find yourself in Steamboat Springs).

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