Most of us have visited The Banks for one of three reasons: to enjoy a meal or drink, to hang out in Smale Park, or to attend a ball game. The Skystar Ferris Wheel, Freedom Center, and seasonal events do well to attract interest to the shoreline of the Ohio River as well, not to mention the area is one of the most attractive places for local photographers and Instagrammers to do their thing. And joining the myriad reasons to visit the area, The Escape Game, a new addition to Freedom Way, further enlivens The Banks with a whole new level of entertainment not found anywhere else in the city.
“Now wait, you’ve definitely featured escape rooms before on this site.” Yes, you’re not wrong. But The Escape Game is next-level, primarily because the high production value of each room—which, at times, feels more like a movie set than an escape room—elevates it above its competitors. When I say you can’t find an escape room like this in the city, I don’t mean you can’t find something like it. I mean you won’t find one dialed to this level of physical quality.
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical when I saw the marketing materials. Each photo depicts sets that look like they belong on a Hollywood stage instead of at The Banks. People scale stairs to a glowing, rustic cabin in the woods in one photo; two people, separated by a grisly set of iron-barred doors, reach for one another in a grungy jail cell block in another. A third photo features people examining a wooden door in a scene that resembles an exotic marketplace. I found it hard to believe that any of those previews accurately represented what the game would look like before getting into our room.
On TEG’s website, four games were available for play: The Heist (retrieving stolen art), Prison Break (self-explanatory), Gold Rush (find a mob hit’s secret stash), and Special Ops: Mysterious Market. That last one—the set with the marketplace—seemed most enticing. Our group signed up for the game, and I prepared myself to be disappointed by misleading advertising.
Our host led us through a bare hallway filled with matching doors toward our room. Its neutrality up to that point confirmed by preconceived notions. My mood teetered between smugly vindicated and barely disappointed.
We arrived at the Special Ops door and the host let us in. That’s when I realized I had totally underestimated the integrity of TEGs advertising. It really did look like a movie set inside.
It took me a moment to even remember I had to take photos for the image gallery at the top of this page. Gobsmacked, I did a slow 360 to take it all in. We weren’t in Joe’s Budget Get-Out Game; it was immediately apparent we were in the escape game equivalent of a Ferrari Testarossa.
The rules were explained to us and an actor on a TV performed their bit before the clock began ticking toward zero. We had 60 minutes—which all four TEG games give you—to figure out the mystery of the market and solve the puzzle.
The game pushed us to think critically in ways I hadn’t experienced before. It was fresh in its tactility to such a degree, I wondered why I hadn’t experienced it in other escape rooms already. And while looks aren’t everything, the cleverness of the game was undoubtedly enhanced by the room’s impressive decor and attention to detail. Though specificity is the soul of narrative, I won’t spoil the intricacies of the game here. You’ll just have to play it to understand why TEGs approach to a 60-minute adventure feels unlike anything else you’ve played in Cincinnati.
Special Ops: Mysterious Market was challenging. We didn’t manage to get out before the timer fully counted down, and the host showed us the remaining steps we hadn’t completed after we were through. Though we technically failed to escape, it was a roller coaster of an experience that successfully brought our group a genuine amount of fun. It was a little hard to move on with the rest of our night without attempting one of the other three games. If nothing else, I just wanted to enjoy the Hollywood-level sets I hadn’t yet seen.
- It’s $32.99 per person to play.
- Eight people can play at a time.
- You'll have 60 minutes to play.
- Book it and pay in advance on the website.
- No booze allowed.
- Show up AT LEAST 15 minutes prior to your game time.
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