It's no surprise, therefore, that I love puzzle-based games. My favorite puzzle games are of the "escape" genre, where your character is locked in a room and has to solve various types of puzzles to find clues that lead to your escape from the room. So when I heard that Pittsburgh was getting its very own REAL LIFE escape room, I couldn't wait to try it out.
If you have no idea what an escape room is, imagine a physical adventure game in which participants are trapped in an area and have to explore the space and use elements of the room (props, clothing, lighting, writing on the walls, found objects, etc.) to solve puzzles and find clues that will lead to your escape...Oh, and you only have 60 minutes to figure it all out!
Escape Room Pittsburgh is owned and operated by cousins Joe and Corey Deasy, born and bred Pittsburghers who first experienced an escape room in Budapest and quickly realized that they could re-create a similar concept in Pittsburgh. Joe and Corey know that the immersive nature of the Escape Room is so appealing because most people have never experienced anything like it. "Solving a puzzle and finding a clue gives you an instantaneous reward, it's a rush," Joe said.
I was super excited to visit Escape Room Pittsburgh and give this a try. After all, I had played these types of games for years--How different could it be in person as opposed to on my screen? So, I gathered three of my VisitPITTSBURGH coworkers and my husband to join me to make a group of 5. We got to try both rooms: Dr. Stein's Laboratory (max of 8 participants) and Prison Escape (max of 6).
Other than the room's name and a short story to set the scene, our group wasn't given much information to work with. We started with Dr. Stein's Laboratory and immediately began to search for clues and solve puzzles. The rooms are monitored through video cameras in the room so that the Escape Room Pittsburgh team can help out when necessary. The few times we got stuck, a clue would slide under the door to help get us back on track. We worked well as a team, and managed to figure out the code to the door fifteen minutes before our time was up! The only problem was, our code was wrong. We struggled for the remaining time trying to figure out where we went wrong, to no avail. When the red light flashed, and the door opened, Joe said "You guys were so close, I thought for sure you had it!" He showed us where our fatal flaw occurred, and we headed to the second room, Prison Escape, with even more motivation (and some frustration).
Prison was no joke...but we totally rocked it. Although we were handcuffed and locked in jail, we managed to escape from that room in 43 minutes and 21 seconds – setting the record for the quickest January escape!
Contrary to my expectation, escape rooms are much different in person than they are in a game on my Iphone. Physically being in the setting, touching clues, examining items, and figuring out how objects work together is so much more engaging and rewarding than simply tapping a screen. It certainly doesn't hurt that the Deasys have surprisingly awesome special effects that engage many of your senses.
The Deasys believe that what sets them apart from growing competition in the escape room arena is not only that they were the first and original Escape Room in Pittsburgh (and one of the first in the United States!) but that their rooms will always have local flair. This is especially evident in their new and larger location--a long-abandoned bank building in Homestead that is the setting for their new escape adventure "Carnegie's Millions". An opening date for the Homestead location has not been announced, but it is coming soon! The new space is nearly six times the current space in Greenfield and will include physical elements of the building as part of the experience. The other new room that has been announced is called "Tomb Explorer" and is set in an Egyptian tomb with even more intricate elements than the existing rooms in Greenfield.
All in all, I can't adequately express how much I enjoyed my time at Escape Room Pittsburgh. The puzzles and clues were fun, but working together with my coworkers and husband was a wonderful feeling of cooperation and teamwork. This is one of the more unique attractions Pittsburgh has to offer. This frustrating but ultimately satisfying immersive experience is a must do for visitors and locals alike. Escape Room Pittsburgh is also perfect for corporate outings --What better way to get to know your coworkers or build team spirit then escaping from prison together? It truly takes the logic, teamwork, creativity, and problem solving skills of a group to open that door in 60 minutes or less. I can't wait to gather my friends and get locked up again soon.
Molly Allwein loves traveling the world, her three rescue dogs, and indulging in brunch & happy hour. Her favorite things about living in Pittsburgh are the $10 opera tickets, the robust community and philanthropic organizations, and the amazing culinary scene.