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We Went To ‘The Real Escape Game’ In Japantown

In Culture
This mysterious room is pretty messy.

This mysterious room is pretty messy.

“Hey, do you want to get locked in a room with nine strangers and solve puzzles for an hour?”

Surprisingly enough, very few of my friends answered “yes” to this question, but such is the fate of those who attend the “Real Escape Game” in San Jose’s Japantown.

I finally convinced someone to go with me, albeit reluctantly. But I’ll take it, because I sure as hell ain’t getting locked in a room with ten strangers to solve puzzles for an hour. The game was afoot.

We showed up to a crowd of exactly whom you’d expect at a real life, locked-door puzzle scenario. That is, nerds. (That is, software engineers.) We fit right in. There were even some lady software engineers! My friend, who is a lady, was relieved by this, because there was a strong chance of her being locked in a room with ten nerdy dudes solving puzzles for an hour. Not ideal. (Although real-life detectives do wear fedoras, if we’re to believe the depictions of private eyes in all those film noir flicks from the ’30s and ’40s.)


Sure enough, the guy facilitating the whole thing appeared wearing a black fedora and carrying three Smuckers Uncrustables. We did not take this as a good sign. He let us into the anonymous office building on N. 1st Street and left us in the lobby, where we milled around for a few minutes.

Then, the elevator doors opened by themselves—mysteriously. And then they did this several more times. It turns out they just open automatically whenever someone comes through the door.  This was considerably less mysterious.

Eventually, we were led up the elevator and into the briefing room. We were briefed. As a team we had an hour to find all the clues hidden in the room, solve the puzzles, and find the key that would let us unlock the door. Only one out of the twenty-two other teams had accomplished this. Luckily, they let you out after an hour whether you solve the puzzles or not.


I’ll avoid spoilers about the puzzles, but I will say that the whole “locked in a room” thing is more “locked in a room with two supervisors and an emergency exit.” So it’s less foreboding than it sounds. Because let’s be real, this whole deal is a good beginning to a horror movie. Which is exactly why nothing could possibly go wrong. Which is exactly why EVERYTHING WILL DEFINITELY GO HORRIBLY WRONG.  Or could it? I’ll admit I psyched myself out a bit. I guess I thought it was gonna go a little more like this:

Once the game began though, we were in the zone. Our team of strangers worked surprisingly well together, ransacking the room for clues and dividing up into puzzle solving committees. Ultimately, we got stuck without a particular tool, but had everything else in place to continue. With five minutes left we found the tool but were too late to finish it all. I swear we could’ve though.

Those who enjoy puzzle games of any kind—Rubik’s Cubes to crosswords—should definitely check this out. It doesn’t require anything beyond basic logic, word-play and general knowledge. Bring a couple of your nerdy puzzle friends and experience the satisfaction of destroying a strange apartment full of IKEA furniture. Just like Sherlock Holmes!

For more info and to buy tickets click here.

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