Haunted houses, move over; it’s all about interactive escape experiences now. Popularized in Asia, these “escape the room” games take the idea of haunted houses to the next level; instead of just passively walking through a scary house, you are the master of your own journey.
This is how it works: you’re given an allotted amount of time, and during that small window of time you have to find clues and crack codes in order to escape before time runs out. The idea behind these experiences is to create an atmosphere that mimics the sensation of being inside a video game or horror movie in a safe, secure environment.
Over the past few years the trend has slowly made its way to the U.S., with variations of the game popping up around New York and the West Coast. Now we’re being treated to the latest experience to join the thrilling fad. And the best part: it may be coming to a city near you! In promotion of “The Purge: Anarchy,” the sequel to last year’s surprise horror hit “The Purge,” Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions have created a little something called “The Purge: Breakout.”
Here's the event description:
“In The Purge: Breakout, it's the annual Purge Night, when citizens across the country exercise their right of anarchy. Your group is being held captive by a demented psychopath, 30 minutes before The Purge begins. Trapped in his house, groups must work together—solving a series of increasingly complicated, mind-bending puzzles and clues—to breakout from captivity and survive the most terrifying 12 hours of the year.”
I was lucky enough to take part in the experience before it was open to the public -- and that turned out to be very lucky indeed, now that the entire Miami tour is completely sold out. I went in with three other journalists (it’s a pretty cramped space, so the maximum group size is six). Before we started, we were told the ground rules: you have up to 30 minutes to escape; there’s a button you can press in case of emergencies; and things that are nailed or glued down are to stay that way. In other words, physical force is not necessary to come across any of the hidden clues.
Once it was clear that everyone in our party understood the rules, we were ushered into a pitch-black, box-like area. After about a minute of anxious/scared/excited murmuring among our group, a black curtain suddenly fell down to reveal a hysterical, restrained girl begging us for help. Once we set her free, she became a guide of sorts, helping in small ways to steer our group around the terrifying house of horrors.
The semi-trucks that are home to “The Purge: Breakout” may not look like much on the outside, but once you start exploring, you’ll be shocked at what they were able to create with such little space. The more clues you solve, the more rooms you get to experience. At one point we were exposed to a chilling DVD; at another we had to use a phone to help unlock a complex security system made by “Sandin Securities.” (Fans of "The Purge" will gleefully make the connection between the name of the system and the main character in the first film played by Ethan Hawke.)
30 minutes may seem like plenty of time, but it goes by in the blink of an eye. It takes real effort to find the clues, not to mention you better be ready to get your hands dirty. One moment was particularly memorable to me, in which our team wasted precious seconds contemplating the safety of sticking our hands into a garbage disposal. (And yes, it’s perfectly safe.)
The entire experience is done with minimal lighting, making it extremely difficult to see what’s going on and what you’re rummaging through. And while it’s a bit of an annoyance, especially since your vision is one of the few tools at your disposal here, the darkness, mixed with the eerie, flickering lights, definitely added to the overall aura of terror.
By the time we heard that dreaded voice come over the loudspeaker to announce the start of the annual Purge, it was clear that it was too late for us. But despite our untimely “demise,” I can’t recommend "The Purge: Breakout" enough. This is truly ingenious marketing, and unlike anything I had ever done before. It’s here in Miami until Sunday, and then it continues on its tour, traveling to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas, with a final stop in Los Angeles right on time for the July 18th release of “The Purge: Anarchy.”
We couldn't survive The Purge. Can you?
Tickets for "The Purge: Breakout" can be purchased here