Theme Park Review was invited this past week to experience a brand new and unique addition to the highest-ranked escape room company in Southern California. Cross Roads Escape Games sits a few miles east of the Disneyland Resort and now features three rooms with three completely different experiences. “The Fun House” is a traditional escape room, but is described as self-aware and pokes-fun at itself and other traditional escape rooms. “The Hex Room” is what put Cross Roads Escape Games on the map, having players take on one of six specific characters in the story. In addition, “The Hex Room” requires each player to fully participate, as everyone starts in an individual room. The creators ask: “Can you survive a horror film?” If you are thinking this sounds like they are rewriting what an escape room can be, you’re right.
We were invited to experience the newest addition to the Cross Roads Escape Games portfolio, The Psych Ward. We were told that The Psych Ward wasn’t an escape room, and we didn’t ask more questions as we wanted to be surprised. The five people in our group were comically institutionalized to get into the experience, complete with outer-layer hospital gowns and patient wristbands. The basics of the game:
After a brief talk down with our Orderly, we were privately given our individual diagnosis of “sane” or “insane”. We were lead into a room with walls consisting of endless puzzles and tasks like those which would be administered in a psychiatric institution. It was explained that our group was comprised of both sane and insane individuals. The individual’s goal was to complete as many tasks as possible to earn points. The group goal for those who were “insane” was to convincingly infiltrate the “sane” patients. The group goal for those who were “sane”, was to determine who the “insane” patients were, and prevent them from collecting points.Layers:
Wow, the layers of strategy for this seemingly simple experience are endless. Even with an hour of game time, it is nearly impossible to experience and complete all of the activities in the room, which is totally fine, because unlike traditional escape rooms, the “them vs. us” game play is more important than the actual completion of puzzles. Surprises:
1. Just when we thought we had settled into a rhythm about 10 minutes into the game, another element was introduced which made us question each other and caused doubt of sanity between our group members. This lead to a game-within-a-game, which brilliantly triggered a funny emotional rollercoaster.
2. A rather freaky mystery contraption.
3. An awesome “meltdown” finale.Back to Reality:
After our hour in The Psych Ward was complete, our group was in disbelief of what we had just experienced. They were right, this was *not* an escape room. It was something between immersive theater, an escape room, and something out of a SAW movie. One aspect that was blatantly obvious was how incredibly hard-working the game master (the Orderly) has to be, to create an environment where we can successfully complete puzzles, as well as focusing on the primary objective of determining each other’s sanity. The game master is there to offer hints but also to help you get secret points within the game. This helps to create doubt amongst the players. All the game master can do is nudge you in the right direction, but it is up to the players to actually complete the tasks. The game master has some way to influence the game and send players in a helpful direction, but it is ultimately in the players' hands. The Creators:
Cross Roads Escape Games owners/operators/designers Luke and Madison Rhoades, sat down with us after we experienced their most recent addition and we talked at length.
When asked what sets Cross Roads Escape Games apart they identified set design. They both come from a theater background, and when they played escape rooms early on, those rooms had almost no production value. Their lackluster experiences inspired them to open up their own rooms; they knew they could create rooms with high production value and incredibly immersive experiences.
They explained why The Psych Room isn’t a traditional escape room:
The Psych Room combines the best elements of each of the following -
o Board Games – Strategy: Werewolf / Mafia game with the “who is who” trust/betrayal
o Immersive Theater – In-game actor and the Meltdown finale
o Escape Room – Puzzles, and your team’s ability to complete the tasks and feel accomplish as you move through the game.How to succeed:
They are seeing that if participants “fight for their side” and do a great job of convincing others that you are sane, your side does well. People who are passive tend to lose. Occasionally you will have assertive “king pins” on each side, which will result in a close game. Other times you will have only one assertive person, and everyone else in the room will say “okay”, and that side will win. Sometimes that one assertive person will be controlling the game so long that everyone else turns against them in the last few minutes of the game. They say that so many variables exist which makes each game unique. You are the star:
Madison says: “We are trying to make people feel like the star of their own movie. Escape rooms can touch on, when 1 person may solve only one puzzle during the game, and they get excited with that solve, but it’s just not enough. When you are in the Hex Room, you have your own character, and you are the star. The Psych Ward is similar, where each person gets their own gown and diagnosis. There are choice to be made, it’s up to each player to decide what they want to do. Each time the game is played it’s totally different, because it depends on the type of people you have in your group.”Plan your experience:
, and pick the experience best for you!
Thank you to Luke and Madison for inviting us to experience their newest hit! We can't wait to see what the future has in store at Cross Roads Escape Games!