THE PRISON ESCAPE ROOM
Played November 2017
Up to 6 players
$33 - 45 USD/person
Fox in a Box Chicago
47 W. Polk, Chicago
RATING: 8 / 10
Best time: they don't keep score - they claim it's "just for fun" 😏
Escape rate: they don't publish
Clues allowed: unlimited
Did we beat it?
Yes! With about 7 minutes to spare
If Orange is the New Black has taught us anything, being locked up means picking sides. The Prison takes these realities of the slammer to a whole new level in their game designed for beginner-level escape teams.
This escape game earns high marks for sensory engagement right from the beginning. As inmates recently sentenced to a stint in maximum security prison, players are blindfolded and led to two dark jail cells. After the perp walk, you're locked behind bars -- left with nothing but your own devices to uncover clues by carefully scavenging inside tiny, bare cells.
In one cell, there's just a cot and toilet. In the other, just a bench and scrawled graffiti. Dividing them - a set of empty metal lockers. That's it.
Players must rely heavily on discovery in the first 15 minutes of the game and only advance by completing tricky skills-based challenges. Meticulous attention to detail and patience is essential to discover and fashion everyday items into unconventional tools required to advance.
I won't spoil it, but the game has unique way of delivering clues that adds a modern element and enhances the story line. Clues are unlimited but past a certain number, time is added to your score -- a nice motivation to focus on problem solving over asking for help. Technology is used sparingly but in effective ways that tie to the setting -- including surveillance cameras and TV monitors. Good game design principles are used with a strong balance of analog and A/V clues.
This escape room has very few props and is sparsely staged, so close examination, patience, and persistence is a gratifying pay off when you discover clues. At the officer's post, there are just a few mug shots and pieces of furniture to examine, so you'll often feel like you're pouring over the same elements for a long time -- but it pays off. There's a good variety of key and combination-based locks, and a few key pads and a safe, for those who really like riddles and traditional lock and key puzzles.
Like most escape adventures, the game master can be the difference between an awesome experience or a disappointing one. When I played, our game master was awesome! When we needed help, she delivered hints that coaxed us in the right direction versus overtly giving away the answer. Even better? Her hints were delivered with a spoonful of sarcasm and a pinch of ridicule (in a fun way!) so that feeling of regret for needing the clue felt even stronger when you finally discovered the answer.
Overall, the game is fun to play and has a neat, sequence flow that hangs together nicely. Being locked in a prison is a fairly common escape room theme so there has to be a few unique, stand out elements to deliver a differentiated game. Fox in a Box delivers with a simple game that's perfect for beginners and two-person teams.
One big difference at Fox in a Box is that you get the room to yourself. For us frequent escapers, this is like Christmas every day! Having exclusive games means you can decide who you play with and how big your team is, which is a more intimate experience than being coupled with strangers.
The backstory for this game could use more emphasis in the opening narrative. The website gives a short backstory of why prisoners have landed in maximum security prison - you're wrongly convicted of a crime you didn't commit and have had several requests for parole denied. Escape is the only option now that a riot has erupted and the warden is away for 60 minutes. I'd love to hear more about this backstory when the game begins and more audio cues that there's a riot happening and time is running out as game play advances. This aside, it's well worth playing!
Local tip: take public transportation (CTA Blue Line has a nearby stop) or allow extra time to find parking near the building. Say 2Girls1Room sent you!