I glanced at the clock – there was less than one minute left. My pulse quickened as we all began talking excitedly, each of us trying to process the final clue aloud. We eventually came to a consensus that we trusted enough to act on.
It worked. We solved the puzzle and saved Christmas with 18 seconds to spare!
This was the culmination of our afternoon at Escape Joplin, where my daughters and I met my friend Carrie to experience an escape room together. We ranged widely in our levels of experience: my teenage daughter had been to three escape rooms before, my younger daughter had been to two, I had been to one, and Carrie had never been to one before – and had no clue (no pun intended) what she was getting herself into.
What is an escape room? In short, it’s an immersive adventure. The wordier answer is that it is a place where players work together to find clues that help solve puzzles in an effort to reach a common goal within a set amount of time.
At Escape Joplin, there are usually three to four games, or rooms, that you can choose from at any time. Don’t expect there to be new games every week; there’s a lot of planning and room design that goes into each game, and old games are rotated out and new ones are introduced several times a year.
Escape Joplin’s online booking system makes it easy to select a game that’s right for you. While players of all ages are welcome, the games are best suited for children age 10 and up. Each game is rated with a level of difficulty, so if you are a beginner or have many children playing with you, I’d recommend a game with a lower level of difficulty. Lastly, the number of players in each room ranges from 2 to 8. If you have an urge to play, but none of your friends are available, you can join a game that others have already signed up for
When I went with Carrie and my daughters, we signed up for a game with an “easy” rating called Saving Christmas. The backstory to this game is that someone stole Santa’s list on Christmas Eve, and our goal was to find the list and return it to Santa before Christmas Day so that Christmas could be saved.
After arriving at Escape Joplin, we put our belongings, including our phones, into a locker. Keeping phones locked up ensures that no photos of the game rooms (and their hidden clues) wind up being posted online
Our Room Master then led us to our room, reviewed the goal of our challenge, and offered some pointers. She assured us that, while the door to our room would remain closed, it would NOT be locked, causing Carrie to breathe a sigh of relief.
Our Room Master explained that there were cameras placed throughout the room that would allow her to observe us remotely, so that she could offer us guidance – if we wanted some. We could also ask her for clues at any time (more difficult games may have a limit on the number of clues that players can receive, but ours didn’t, thank goodness).
She said that we had one hour to find Santa’s list, and then she left. I glanced around, not knowing where to start. I expected clues to immediately jump out at me, but that was not the case. The room suddenly felt rather bare. How were we supposed to solve this puzzle? How could we possibly save Christmas?
While I had been having a mini panic attack, my teen had been systematically searching the room and had solved a clue before I had taken one step. She was entering a numeric code on a locked box with dizzying speed when I said, “Slow down and explain to me how you figured that out and what you’re doing now.”
Tip: When you are in a timed situation, do not stop the strongest player – the one who essentially determines your fate – to have her explain things to you because your brain is too slow.
Thankfully, Carrie brought me up to speed on the situation while my teenager searched for more clues. I eventually did solve a puzzle myself…or so I thought. It wasn’t until later that my younger daughter pointed out that I had transposed two letters, so my answer was actually wrong. We had a good laugh about that.
One thing that we did find helpful was writing down notes and numbers on the dry erase board that was hung in the room. Using it as a scratch pad allowed us to identify patterns that led us (okay, mainly my teenager) to uncover more clues. Did I mention that my teenager loves math and science? Clearly, her brain works differently than mine, and that is a good thing in this type of situation.
When we were finished, I asked her if she had any advice for people who have never been to an escape room. She said the first thing to do is analyze the room. Take note of anything that needs to be unlocked. Look for any numbers or patterns that could be combinations that will open the locks of the boxes containing further clues.
My tip – and this is for the, let’s say, more mature player – is to bring a pair of reading glasses. The lighting can be somewhat dim, and you might not be able to read clues very well.
And don’t hesitate to ask the Room Master for help or clarification on anything. We did so several times. While she didn’t give us answers outright, she did help guide us as we tried to solve various puzzles.
In the end, we did save Christmas, and we had a fun, memorable time doing so.
Escape Joplin is located at 2640 East 32nd Street. Click here to view its website, and here to follow Escape Joplin on Facebook.
Christine is a Chicago native and has lived in Joplin for almost two decades. Growing up in the Windy City, she loved to explore the wide variety of museums, restaurants, sports venues, theaters and parks. When she moved to Joplin her goal was to learn about the unique culture and attractions in the area. Now Christine discovers new things each week, whether it be a little-known park, a new restaurant or a community event. Joplin can be just as exciting as a major city if you dive in to all the community has to offer.