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DIVERSIONS: REVIEW Escape Reality: Expect fun, challenges
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-09-27

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Want to do something different with a group of friends, business colleagues or even your significant other?

Well, Escape Reality ( 158 W. Erie St.; EscapeReality.com/chicago/ ) is now in Chicago after opening its flagship location in Las Vegas ( the first in the United States ) this past spring. Providing what a press release called "the ultimate adrenaline rush," the UK-based company's Chicago facility is a multi-level area encompassing more than 6,000 square feet, Escape Reality Chicago features six escape experiences that are rated by genre ( horror or adventure ) and difficulty level.

Groups of two to six people will have a certain amount of time to use a mix of problem-solving skills, logic, communication and general teamwork to solve various clues, riddles and puzzles—and the rooms here have such intriguing names as Machina, Down the Rabbit Hole ( rated the most difficult ), Iron Kingdom ( a Game of Thrones-type adventure ), Enigmista, Tortuga Pirates and Despair ( and some come with props you can wear/carry ).

( By the way, each player may choose one of four charities for Escape Reality to donate $1 of his, her or their admission ( $32 each ); non-profits for the first quarter include Chicago Scholars, PAWS Chicago, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Friends in the City Foundation. )

On the day my friend and I went, we were given Despair, which has a medium level of difficulty. ( However, those who order online can choose their own rooms. ) Despair relies on the Stephen King novel/film Misery as its inspiration—and you have 60 minutes to escape the rooms before discovering how far Nurse Emily will go to keep you here.

Without revealing too much about the two-unit Despair, I'll just say the name's well-earned. Thanks to a few clues that could drive the most patient person in the world to drink, we sought help—and were promptly penalized five minutes for each extra clue we got from either the iPad that we were loaned for the adventure or from the guide who waited outside. We got into the groove after a while—and just believed that Emily got stuck in traffic, which is why she didn't get us after 80 minutes.

However, despite the mounting frustration, this adventure was definitely fun ( and the haunting music played over the speakers definitely added to the spookiness ). Also, this experience had the element of being a barometer of social interaction in seeing how strong one's bonds with friends, business associates or partners/spouses actually are.


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