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The Great Escape

The Great Escape

Dan Bernardi
[intro-text size=”25px”]As a Clevelander, there’s a good chance that you’ve already run the gamut of hometown activities. You’ve likely watched our sports teams duke it out in their respective arenas, rocked out at a multitude of concert venues, stopped by some board game bars, and maybe slipped into the casino for some risky business. These things never really get old, but if you’re looking for something to shake things up, Cleveland’s newest attraction, Escape in 60, is a total game changer.[/intro-text]

Starting in Japan and spreading quickly throughout Asia, the room escape business has become an extremely lucrative one, with new challenges popping up all over the US since 2012. When the crew at Pressure Life heard that a new escape spot opened on West 6th, we quickly made our reservation. Designed by Mo Abdallah and Ali Ibrahim, Escape in 60 consists of three interactive puzzle scenarios, each with a slightly different objective. Using nothing but your wits, your allies, and the contents of the room, for the next 60 minutes you have one goal: escape.

For Ibrahim and Abdallah, setting up shop in Cleveland was a no brainer. “It’s our hometown,” Ibrahim said. “We did the market research, and there’s around 600,000 Clevelanders between the ages of 15-45
with an interest in interactive games.” Since opening this past July, they’ve seen over 1,000 customers come through their doors, including birthday parties, family get-togethers, and even a couple of first dates.

So when it was finally our turn, seven of us shuffled downtown, fully prepared to dominate these rooms. We could choose from three scenarios: a jail cell, a bank heist, or the “fanatic”—an attic cluttered with Cleveland sports memorabilia. Each room holds two to six people, so we split up into teams; three slipped into the bank to snag some loot, and the remaining four hopped into bright orange jumpsuits, slapped on handcuffs, and got locked in the slammer.

When the cell door slammed shut, the heat was on. Our minds were racing. Surrounded by clues and unsure of where to begin, we started putting the pieces together. Now I won’t ruin the fun by dishing out spoilers, but I will say that for as long as we were in that room, it was a total rush.

Each group can have up to three hints, so if you’re totally stumped you can get some help. “There are two types of people—those who ask for help, and those who don’t,” Ibrahim told us. “To date, we’ve had only one group escape without any hints.” Around 30 minutes in, it seemed like our only hope of getting through the two locked jail doors was banging them down for more hints.

With only three rooms, it may seem like there isn’t much re-play value, however the individual challenges aren’t as static as they appear. “What you do now is likely going to be different in a week or two,” explained Abdallah. “We want it to be difficult, but we’re always tweaking things to find a balance.” Other rooms are in the planning phase as well, including something special in the works for the Halloween season.

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As the clock ticked down, we started to realize that the odds of us breaking out in record time were not in our favor. According to Abdallah, that’s a good thing. “You’re not coming here to walk in and walk out. What’s the fun in that?”

And fun we had, though sadly, neither of our teams walked out winners. Even with the final components in hand, and all hints exhausted, we didn’t escape in 60. Weeks later, we’re still kicking ourselves, but we’re also anxiously awaiting our return for a Shawshank-style redemption.

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