When it's warm and the sun is shining, there are so many outdoor adventures to enjoy in Pittsburgh. Kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, ziplining...the sky's the limit. On a gloomy day in late February, however, your options are somewhat different. I was determined to have an awesome Saturday so I gathered a group of friends together and we packed up and headed to Enter the Imaginarium, billed as "the ultimate immersive escape room in Pittsburgh". Can I just say – It definitely lives up to its name. Best. Saturday. Ever.
If you haven't heard of escape rooms, allow me to quickly explain the concept. Wikipedia defines escape rooms as "a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit, or having completed a mission." Pittsburgh is exploding with escape rooms at the moment, with at least eight different companies to choose from, including Enter the Imaginarium. Some of the other ones are: Escape Room Pittsburgh, Escape the Room Pittsburgh, Breakout Games, IQ Escape, Mystery Key Escape Room, Daring Escapes and Questburgh.
Jason Fisher, General Manager of Enter the Imaginarium stresses that, "Part of what makes the Imaginarium so incredibly unforgettable is the inaugural collaborative efforts of nationally renowned local creators Bricolage Production Company and ScareHouse. Their cumulative creative 'know-how' in designing immaculate sets, intricate storylines, and immersive sound and lighting effects, takes this experience to the next level when it comes to player immersion. Add in the braintrust of puzzle designers and you get "the ultimate escape room experience" in the region."
Knowing that Enter the Imaginarium is a project of both Bricolage and ScareHouse made me even more excited to try out these escape rooms. Bricolage is an intimate theater in downtown Pittsburgh with the mission to immerse the audience in adventurous theatrical experiences to alter perceptions. Theater isn't a passive experience with Bricolage, but a connection between the artist and the audience. ScareHouse, of course, is responsible for all things horrifying. Their haunted attractions are known for being elaborate, immersive, and terrifying. I couldn't wait to see what experience these two masters of excitement would cook up between them.
The first escape room we did was Chamber of Illusions. The theme of this room is magic and misdirection, and boy were there misdirections. There's nothing more frustratingly exhilarating then realizing that the lock you were sure held the secret to your escape actually didn't matter at all! This experience was our group's favorite of the two rooms. We escaped in time, but only just.
Something we quickly learned is that being "smart" isn't the key to conquering the Imaginarium – teamwork, strategy, and memory are. My group (including three strangers that we quickly got to know!) had a ton of fun as we worked together to battle the puzzles in each room. This would be a wonderful team-building experience to have with family members or coworkers.
My friend Jennie had this to say about Chamber of Illusions: "This is the first escape room I've participated in, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be, and more! The sets, the puzzles, the decor and ambiance, it was all so professional and truly immersive! Our group finished within the allotted time, but it wasn't easy! The rooms kept you guessing every step of the way. I would highly recommend this for an afternoon or evening outing!"
After a quick snack break, we returned to take on The Inventor's Paradox, where we challenged the clock and entered the lost memories of the Imaginarium’s creator. We explored the archives of his inventions and discovered his secret.
During the Chamber of Illusions I was marveling at the detail in the rooms but when we advanced through the trials of the Inventor's Paradox, I realized I hadn't seen anything yet. The sets were beyond anything I could have imagined and the attention to detail is spectacular. The Inventor's Paradox involved a lot more space and allowed for much more physical movement through a much larger play area. We escaped this room with much more time to spare, showing that we were getting a hang of this escape room thing!
The two different rooms are completely separate experiences and both are immersive in the best way possible. The rooms are lavishly beautiful, and designed down to the tiniest detail which makes you feel like you are on a movie set. Speaking of being filmed, you are being watched by cameras at all times and every so often "the voice of God" gently offers a hint to help when your team is stuck. This really comes in handy when you're in a tight spot!
Overall, I can't recommend Enter the Imaginarium enough. It is a next generation escape room concept. The puzzles are challenging, the sets are exceptional, and the soundscape is immersive. From start to finish, the experience is impressive. My friends and I had a wonderful Saturday and grew closer together through our time spent puzzling and escaping. Thanks, Order of the Imaginarium!