Getting locked in a room causes a lot of anxiety. Getting locked in a room modelled after Resident Evil's Spencer Mansion? That's downright scary. The Resident Evil Escape Experience seeks to capture all the intrigue and puzzle solving from the famous horror series. I set out to solve its secrets last night and had an absolute blast.
I'd never done a room escape before and I hate haunted houses. I'm a scaredy-cat through and through, but the chance to get dropped into a real life version of Resident Evil was too much to pass up. I recruited my co-worker Gita Jackson as my partner for the experience, which will be ending a four month run in New York City at the end of the month. Responsible adults that we are, we steeled ourselves for puzzle solving by drinking a bottle of wine before arriving at a darkly lit theatre, where we got locked into a room.
We were given 45 minutes to find a way out. Alongside three other participants, we were also accompanied by a helper posing as an Umbrella Corporation scientist. They were there to provide some light guidance and help us if anything went wrong. It removed some of the tension but proved helpful on the few occasions when a lock didn't quite cooperate.
Our first room looked like it would be right at home in Resident Evil's Spencer Mansion or Resident Evil 7's Baker Plantation. It was packed with wide eyed taxidermy, distinguished family photos, and various floor tiles bearing crests such like a sword or shield. We determined a portion of a combination to a locked door using environmental clues that included stooping down to look at the room from the same viewpoint as a prominently placed statue. I was actually able to suss out the door code before the final clue was discovered and we proceeded to our next challenge.
This time, we found ourselves in a small portion of the Racoon City Police Department. The first room was atmospheric but lacked a certain degree of challenge that picked up here. There were multiple locked cabinets, a key-coded safe, and hidden items that could be assembled to reveal important clues. My teammates did a ton of high-quality sleuthing here and I was more than content to locate clues while they quickly put them together. I didn't know how the experience would go with strangers, but my teammates were both friendly and clever companions who would have made excellent members of STARS. We eventually unlocked a hidden doorway which took us to an Umbrella laboratory for our final stretch of sleuthing.
One thing I really enjoyed about my experience was the difficulty curve of the escape room. The laboratory section didn't hold our hands as much; it hardly left any spare notes around to guide us towards solutions. Instead, we focused on smaller details. The colours of virus samples and the information on their vials, images revealed when X-ray charts were examined. The room wasn't as lush or atmospheric at the initial mansion setting but made up for it with some of my favourite puzzles.
Much to my surprise, solving the laboratory's various tests didn't get us out of the room. The final sequence of puzzles actually required backtracking through locations for locks we'd missed, tasking us to find various emblems to place on a pedestal. Innocuous bit of set dressing that previously went ignored came into the forefront now, and we even needed get one final clue from a VHS tape. We finished with a final time of 31 minutes and nine seconds. It felt like a genuine accomplishment.
I can't say how the Resident Evil Escape Experience compares to other room escapes, but I had a great time working through the various rooms and their brain teasers. My team was great and the challenge curve just right. I definitely recommend it. If a scaredy-cat like me can escape the room, you should have no trouble at all beating my time. Right?