THE DIG ESCAPE ROOM
Played October 2016
Up to 8 players
Escape the Room
923 Nicollet Mall - Suite 375, Minneapolis, MN
RATING: 9 / 10
Escape rate: 50%
Best time: 28 minutes with 8 people
Average time: 53 minutes
Clues allowed: unlimited, as needed
Did we beat it?
Yes with only 2 people and :12 seconds to spare!
The Dig was a milestone room for me - it was my twentieth escape room and without a doubt, the most fun I've had yet in escape adventures. I don't say that lightly, either. I'm actually struggling not to make this entire post a spoiler-ridden love fest vividly describing every awesome element in the room so you can live vicariously through my experience. I'll try to contain myself, so here goes...
If Indiana Jones and DaVinci Code had a baby, it'd be The Dig. You start the adventure in a church complete with a pew, confessional, tithing box, and glowing stained glass. If you advance, you end up in an unfinished excavation digging your way through puzzles using numbers and hieroglyphics. Props and rooms were incredibly well-constructed.
The game designer paid a lot of attention to details - from realistic rock walls, blueprints, and shovels to an elaborate tomb and crates filled with urns and relics. There was music playing throughout that set the stage for the church and excavation settings, and the lights flickered periodically in the cave to make the threat of doom feel a bit more realistic.
This room ranks high on the enjoy-ability spectrum because of the variety of elements used and rooms within the room. It had plenty of typical key and combination locks, but also magnetic- and pressure-triggered clues that surprise and delighted us along the way. The room has a really creative use of binoculars on tripods and several other unique interactive elements you engage with to advance.
Most of the puzzles are mental challenges, with just one time-consuming skills based challenge. This is a big factor that makes the best rooms stand out because if a room has too many (or overly difficult) skills-based challenges, players can burn a ton of time despite all best attempts to solve them. The Dig's was appropriately challenging and took about 10 minutes to finish. The pieces we picked up along the way required a bit of thought or application to advance - which is a lot more challenging and fun than just collecting simple clues. The keys open one lock, which is pretty typical for the rooms I've played.
The difficulty level of the room is moderate, so it's ideal for a few advanced players or a larger team of less experienced escapers. I played the room with just one other person who was doing an escape room for the first time. I think we made a good team because I could coach him on what to look for along the way and he brought a fresh perspective to the game. One downfall of being a smaller team is the thoroughness with which we explored the room. We almost overlooked a really obvious clue in the excavation because we were too focused on solving the next puzzle. Given this, players should search rooms thoroughly and try not to focus only on the sequence of the game -- a general best practice, anyway.
One thing that Escape the Room does differently than most is allowing players to use their cell phone while in the room. You can't take photos or videos, but if you need the flashlight, want to search for an answer, or phone a friend -- you can. We didn't end up using our phone, and I'm torn on giving players this option. On one hand, it's more in line with the current way we live and function. But on the other hand, it could diminish the need for teamwork and dilute the problem solving rigor. Call me a purist, but when it comes to bragging rights, I want all the credit for my triumphs and prefer using only what's provided in the room.
Most of the puzzles work sequentially and you move through a pretty linear path to the solution. There are a couple places along the way where you find elements that come into play or can't be solved until later. Help from the game master is provided using a TV screen in the room with a little chime to notify you there's a new clue. Our game master (Rex) was a pro and complemented the natural pace we made through the game. He delivered clues as he saw that we needed them and did a nice job of nudging without completely giving us an answer. We never had to ask for a clue and they didn't pop in preemptively, so he was well-timed with his delivery.
The only minor snafu was one electronic element that didn't work as designed in the room. We were still able to advance, but were a little thrown for a bit on what was supposed to happen when we put a relic in place. Additionally, I think the room could benefit from a back story. ETR intentionally refrains from stage-setting before you enter the room because they want you to just experience it. For me, a story could get players in the mindset of the game, give context for the the time limit, and help transition players from the church to the excavation experience.
ABOUT ESCAPE THE ROOM MINNEAPOLIS
Full disclosure: Escape the Room let me to play The Dig gratis. I was in Minneapolis for work and contacted the manager to review the room.
I spent some time with Rex, the game master and manager of the location, before and after playing to get a bit more background on ETR and their room design process. I learned that the company started in New York many years before adventure games really caught on in the states. Escape the Room is currently in nine states and just opened their Minneapolis location four months ago. Their founder, Victor Blake, also designs all the rooms and seeks to emulate Disney in the way the rooms anticipate players' needs to make the experience really seamless, delightful, and memorable.
Overall, Escape the Room is leading the category on escape adventures. They pay a lot of attention to aesthetic details and the overall experience is polished, professional, and fun. Cant wait to try more of their rooms!