What do you do when a thief steals some priceless artwork from a museum on the eve of a fancy gallery opening? You break into his home, solve the riddle of where he put the goods, and return the paintings to their rightful place before the show begins the next day, obviously.
This taste of sweet, sweet vigilante justice can be yours at Breakout Cincinnati, the host of a series of local escape rooms.
What’s an escape room? In the words of Breakout’s website FAQ, they are “real-life adventures where you and your fellow players have an hour to break out of a room by cracking codes, solving riddles, piecing together puzzles, and finding clues.”
Basically, you’re placed in a room and given clues about how to get back out. This involves opening locks, putting together puzzle pieces, and scouring the environment for the next step toward (metaphorically) unlocking the door again.
You work as a team to solve a riddle while under pressure from a 60-minute timer on a TV in the corner of the room. It's an imposing digital entity whose role straddles the line between encouragement and threat, and you fail if you can’t get out within the allotted time. During that time, thinking outside the box is encouraged; if you can’t figure something out, you’re given a total of three hints. A game master watching and listening to the group through surveillance cameras jumps in when needed.
I can’t tell you how to solve the Museum Heist scenario I outlined above because that would spoil the game. I can, however, tell you how it felt.
After grasping the game’s learning curve, a slow, steady understanding of what to do and where to look emerges. In the final 10 minutes, everything ramps up emotionally. Greater urgency pumps into the room and infects everyone, leading to elevated voice levels and heightened excitement. Our team was able to frantically cobble together the final pieces of the puzzle with barely a minute left, and seeing the door light up (signaling we’ve done it) was utterly satisfying on a visceral level.
Breakout Cincinnati is extremely fun. In addition to the room we did, it features four other scenarios for fans of the experience.
The only mystery now is when I’ll be able to escape the real world and go do one of those other rooms.
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Breakout Cincinnati is located at 3653 Michigan Ave #205b (45208). Pictured in the gallery is the Museum Heist scenario.