Back in the fall, I was tired of watching my son have his face buried in either his phone or his tablet.
I have a stressful job, and I need some sort of mental distraction after a long week.
I usually fall asleep during movies. And snore. My apologies to anyone who has ever sat next to me in a movie theater.
I had heard of escape rooms, but never tried one out. On a Friday night, my son was bored and engrossed in Minecraft or some other such e-drivel, so I got online and looked at the offerings in our local area.
I settled on The Castle at Mastermind Room Escape in downtown St. Louis. It seemed innocuous enough, and being a newbie, I wasn’t sure if it would be scary (the boy is a bit jumpy about haunted houses and such, and I don’t like having people jump out at me either) so I was shooting in the dark. Thankfully, there were no jump scares on this one.
This escape room has a medieval/Renaissance Faire type theme. The challenges usually go along with the theme.
We got to the location (word to the wise, you’re going to have to pay to park in one of the garages down there – no street parking) and went up the elevator.
Their waiting area is pleasant enough. A few games to pass the time while you wait and electronic tablets to sign the waiver. (They all make you sign a waiver, FYI).
They slid open the big barn door and off we went.
The gist of it is this – you solve and deduce your way through a series of puzzles, riddles, clues, red herrings, combination locks to… achieve whatever themed objective you have. This room’s goal was to escape with the King’s crown.
And it’s a tremendous amount of fun. And it definitely gets your mind off of whatever you’ve been stewing about.
You usually have hints made available to you. 3 is the most common number. If you use more than three then you haven’t officially “escaped.” Oh yeah, and you have an hour to accomplish your goal.
That hour goes pretty damn fast, let me tell you.
I’m not going to ruin anyone’s experience by describing the puzzles in any of the escape rooms. Sorry.
But I am going to rate the rooms, based on the qualities below:
First (most important) – Fun level. If it ain’t fun, the rest doesn’t matter, right?
2 – Environment. You will find varying degrees of quality and detail as far as storyline, decor, props, etc. They all play a role in the quality of the experience that you have.
3 – Staff. Each escape room has a game master or game host. These people are monitoring you as you play. Many rooms are equipped with surveillance equipment like cameras and microphones. For your protection and theirs. I can only imagine when drunken bachelor parties show up for their escape room and the havoc that might accompany them. But a good game staffer can make or break your escape room experience.
4 – Challenge. Some of this is HARD. It’s supposed to be. Expect your noggin to be pushed. If you bring a group, bring a variety of people. Everyone looks at things differently and what is impossible to one is shampoo-simple to another.
And I may discuss other things that seem pertinent, such as ease of booking (you have to book online for almost all of them, I’ve discovered) or room size or anything else I feel you might want to know about.
They all seem to cost between 25 and 30 bucks a person. BUT, you can find some deals on Groupon or LivingSocial for some escape rooms. Look there first and read the fine print. Sometimes the deals aren’t able to be redeemed on weekends, etc.
So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Mastermind Room Escape – The Castle (ratings on a 10 point/lock scale – 10 being Excellent)
Fun – 9 locks
Environment – 7 locks
Staff – 10 locks
Challenge – 8 locks
A great first escape room experience. The boy and I were in with three couples. We worked together and helped one another as we plowed through the challenges (it’s the best way to succeed, folks). And we escaped with time to spare!
I have since returned to Mastermind to do two of their other rooms (The Creepy Lair and The Secret Society) at the downtown location, and the scariest part about it was driving downtown with a newly licensed teenage girl.
Mastermind runs some quality escape rooms and I recommend that you give them a chance, especially if you are new to it. Mastermind Room Escape