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Arts and Entertainment

Escape Games: More Rooms To Get Locked In For Fun

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Since our last post about real-life escape rooms popping up in Los Angeles, we've been getting wind of even more. In Eastern Europe, it's already a big thing to pay money for someone to lock you in a room, but the trend is taking off stateside, too. A real-life room escape makes you feel like you're an adventurer in a video game or movie. You and your teammates enter a room full of props—maybe a detective's office, a lab or a grungy basement. These props soon reveal themselves to be clues or riddles that, when solved, hold the keys—literal or figurative—to opening the rooms' many locked boxes, safes and doors. The games generally run about an hour and victorious teams either achieve a specific goal or open a door that lets them out of the room. (Note: You're never actually locked in the room, so don't panic.)

If you've become a fan like we have, you may have already played through the six rooms on our last list. And we know some of you have, because you've emailed us asking for more recommendations. Lucky for you (and us), they're popping up around L.A. rapidly. We even played a brief version of an escape game at Universal Studios celebrating the launch of Dig, a new USA Network thriller. Additionally, I will be moderating on a panel discussion in August with the folks at ScareLA—Los Angeles' summer convention of all things Halloween—on how real-life escape rooms are adding a new layer to Halloween entertainment. ScareLA will feature not only the panel, but an escape room for guests to try alongside a dozen other interactive haunts.

"With a rapidly growing audience in California and beyond, scare entertainment creators are jumping at the opportunity to produce highly immersive experiences and Angelinos are lining up for the challenge to find a way out. It's certainly a leading trend we see emerging for Halloween 2015 on the West Coast," Lora Ivanova, executive producer and co-founder of ScareLA, told us.

So, whether you've become an escape room junkie or you're looking for a first date that will show you really quickly how compatible you are or aren't, we've got you covered.

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RoomescapeLAThought we admit the names of the rooms are starting to get repetitive, this new Sunset Strip company is one of our favorites in the business.

Jovanna Manojlovic and her team hail from Serbia, but the company has games all around the world. "Instead of watching a hero in the movie, you get to be the hero," she said of the game. She said she considers it not just an "escape" game in the traditional sense, but a mental escape from reality. Players who enter the rooms, she observes, forget everything but how to get out. She thinks the U.S. is on the verge of reaching a critical mass and that soon, these once-strange games will be mainstream attractions, as they are in other parts of the world. So far, she says she's noticed Los Angeles has the most diverse selection of games than any other part of the country she's visited.

The two rooms available currently are The Cold War Bunker and The Bank. The Bunker puts your team in a military bunker where you must save the world from a devious mastermind. The staging here is excellent, and the puzzles vary in complexity and type. It's not just a bunch of unlocking boxes. At one point in the game, you'll be putting together a piece of technology that's the key to success. The game also isn't strictly about escaping; rather, you need to achieve a specific goal to get out.

The Bank opens with a puzzle we found legitimately hard. You're a team of bank robbers trying to access diamonds locked in a vault. While the game begins with many puzzles and a possibility for your team to split into smaller groups, you'll ultimately be following a very linear sequences of clues to get to the end. We liked this pacing and found it made our team feel like we'd all worked together as well as each done our individual parts.
Jovanna's team takes a hands-off approach, only offering hints when you want them. They do not have an actor in the room, and prefer the atmosphere created by that approach.

They have plans to bring two more games across the ocean: a zombie lab and one where you must break out of a prison.

Roomescape LA. 8255 Sunset Blvd., WeHo. (310) 869-7167

LogiQuitThis company hails from Hungary and also has games in other parts of the world. Located in a strip mall in East Hollywood, this company offers multiple rooms with plans for expansion.

We tried The Laboratory of Lev Pasted, in which you must investigate the findings of a mysterious scientist, first. We found this to be very similar to other Eastern European games we'd play, like Maze Room or RoomescapeLA. There are some neat tricks here, including how the door is opened, and several different types of puzzles.

We found this room to be much easier than the second room, The Office of John Monroe. The real difficulty here is that these two games are considerably different in terms of their rules. While most rooms caution you not to come in like a SWAT team, you'll need to search every nook and cranny for pieces of your escape or you will never get out. Here, don't be afraid to crawl around, climb up and ransack the joint.

The staging here isn't as elaborate as other rooms, but there is a certain cleverness to how seriously this room takes hiding things. There will always be something for every team member to do. They also have a cool method of feeding clues into the room: each room has a monitor where game masters can type hints to you or show you visual clues if you need them. If you're not fond of hints (we're not), we recommend telling the game masters before entering the room.

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LogiQuit. 6051 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 541-2227.

Enigma RoomAnother Sunset Strip location, this room's creators come from Russia. Similar to Maze Room and Roomescape LA, this room has a lot of gadgets up its sleeve.

Borrowing a bit from The DaVinci Code or Indiana Jones, the story here is that you're a team of explorers looking to unearth the truth behind Earth's secret societies. You'll begin in an office full of trinkets and boxes to unlock, but as the game progresses, there will be a lot of delightful surprises. This is the first game we've encountered that integrates virtual reality, for instance, but we won't give away more than that.

The game is relatively linear with lots of verbal riddles, a few gadgets and several things for you to find. We ended up accidentally solving a few riddles out of order, which caused something of a pause for us as we ran around scratching our heads. When we eventually figured it out, we ended up being very impressed by the second half of the game.

Enigma Escape Rooms. 7805 W. Sunset Blvd., WeHo. 323-770-3101.

CAPTVTCAPTVT is new company with high production values. While some rooms look like someone rented out an office space and filled it with crap from the thrift store, these rooms are thoughtfully designed and carefully lit for an immersive experience. You'll walk down dark corridor to get to your room, which feels especially appropriate if you choose their Spaceship room.

The Spaceship room, though made with salvaged materials, looks really cool. There are lots of buttons, levers and knobs to distract you if you let them. There are also some interesting locks here, as well as a number of clues that require hands-on puzzle solving and lots of teamwork. This room may be challenging for new players.

CAPTVT's second room is just as involved as the spaceship. In Psycho Room, you're the prisoners of a deranged serial killer. It's not as scary as The Basement, but it has a few well-placed jump scares and and a sinister atmosphere that only gets more macabre as it unfolds. Some of the locks here proved to be relatively tricky, even after we'd figured out the correct code. To be noted, we were probably one of the first teams to try the room out, so these things may change. We recommend this room for a team that's played before and has some experience with various types of locks, or a team that's not too shy to ask for a hint or two. This room had some really clever puzzles that, once again, required lots of teamwork. We especially liked one puzzle in Psycho Room that felt like it was straight out of an FBI thriller.

Hints can be delivered in these rooms via walkie-talkie. CAPTVT has plan for a 'Pharaoh's Tomb' room and that's pretty exciting news if it will look as spectacular as their other two. Note: these rooms, like the Basement, are 45-minute games rather than 60-minute games.

CAPTVT. 2284 S Figueroa St., Los Angeles. (213) 536-5079.

Captured LA

While some games try to scare you from within the confines of a benign office park, this one requires you to enter an industrial warehouse space right in downtown Los Angeles. Steps away from the Pershing Square Metro stop, Captured is another room that follows a serial killer theme. This guy's problem? He hates technology. He thinks all you kids are always looking at your phones and if someone took them away from you, you couldn't find your way out of a paper bag. Or a locked room.

You'll begin this room trapped in a small enclosure. If you can solve your way out of the enclosure, you'll find yourself in the killer's lair. There are many props to pore over and plenty of puzzles that will lead you deeper into your captor's deranged mind. This room has several multi-step, inventive puzzles that force your team to work together, and the darkness can be challenging. While the horror here is mostly atmospheric, you should expect at least one jump scare, and don't be surprised when the killer's labyrinth is bigger than you first thought.

Captured LA. 435 S Broadway, DTLA. (213) 986-5421.

Bonus RoundIn addition to these new rooms, some of the companies from our first roundup have added additional rooms. Maze Room now has an FBI-themed room. Escape Room LA just added The Cavern, which we checked out and liked even more than their first detective-themed room. This immersive room has plenty of clever puzzles, hidden gadgets and requires you to creatively MacGyver a thing or two.

Related: Get Locked In A Room For Fun: 6 Real-Life Escape Games In Los Angeles