The Resident Evil Escape Experience is the new gold standard in cross promotion
Earlier this year, Capcom released Resident Evil 7, a return to form for the survival horror series. I played the game (for fun, not to review), and it is easily one of my favorite in the series. So when I had the chance to try the Resident Evil Escape Experience, I jumped at it even though I didn’t have a clue what to expect.
Depending on where you live, you may have heard about the increasingly popular Escape Room physical adventure games. You choose a theme, sign up as a group or solo, then appear at the appointed location at the right time. You and your group then have a limited time – usually 60 minutes – to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape the room or rooms.
The concept was first introduced in 2006 in Japan and have since blossomed around the world. They have been used for team building, special events, and just a general experience for people looking for something a little unusual. As of 2015, there were over 2,800 escape room locations around the world.
In escape rooms you search for clues, figure out how they may fit together, then solve the puzzle to gain the piece of information you need in order to move on to the next area or puzzle. You may need to find the code to a lock or look for a hidden key. You may need to position something in exactly the right place or reassemble something that points you in the right direction. It’s basically like playing a real life video game, so it’s not that surprising to see the two worlds collide.
In honor of the recent release of Resident Evil 7, Capcom commissioned a touring escape room known as the “Resident Evil Escape Experience,” with the actual operation handled by the company iam8bit. It opened in San Francisco and Portland, then hit New York and Boston, with Chicago and Austin making up the last of the six planned cities. Tickets are limited and the event costs $35 per person for an hour, but if you have the opportunity, you should take advantage.
Full disclosure: I received a press ticket to the Portland room. Although I was familiar with the concept, I had never done an escape room before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was better that way, and I am going to go very, very light on details to avoid giving anything away.
If you have the chance to do this (or any escape), the first thing you need to know is that you do not want to be late. Escape events are based on time. You have a specific time limit to solve the puzzles and escape, or you and your team fail. Some rooms even pride themselves on a low success rate – it’s about the challenge, not making sure everyone is catered to. Be on time or you probably won’t be able to compete.
The other thing you should know going in is that you will need to talk to your team – a lot. If you go with a small group or solo, you are opening yourself up to the luck of the draw to fill the rest of the team. If you are paired with people that don’t really care about the game, you are screwed. Likewise, if you are an extreme introvert that gets nervous at the idea of having to work together with strangers, this may not be for you. That said, while the events aren’t too expensive, they are pricey enough (and popular enough) that people really have to go out of their way to book a time. You probably won’t end up with a jerk, because they want to be there.
Escape room team sizes vary based on the actual room; the Resident Evil Escape Experience capped the team at six, which was the proper size. The rooms in the Portland event were small – anything more than six people (seven with the “Umbrella researcher” that joins you and may offer hints if they like you) would be overcrowded.
For the record, my team completed the room with 1:36 seconds to go. We were told one team made it with two seconds left while another did it with 11 minutes to spare. Many failed to complete it altogether.
Again, I don’t want to go into any specifics, but the puzzles require you to be thorough and communicate constantly with your teammates. They are just hard enough that completing them gives you a sense of accomplishment, but not so tough as to be frustrating.
It’s a good balance, but the results may vary. Personally, I loved it and so did all the people that were in my group. I hope Capcom and iam8bit extend the run. Whether they do or not, this type of cross promotion is perfect for video games.
Events like this bring the gamer into the game. It’s also a good experience even if you aren’t a gamer. As the gaming industry grows, the cross promotions grow too. We need more like this. Gaming is all about immersion, and events like this expand the property beyond the confines of the TV. It makes it real and tangible. They challenge the mind and – to a degree – the body. Any new game releases with enough name recognition that have a puzzle element should consider following suit.