Escape from the Haunted Ship
Everyone has at least heard of a scavenger hunt; most have even participated in at least one. What if a scavenger hunt added a fun theme and instead of finding objects, you had to find answers to riddles and puzzles? Such an experience exists! Commonly called a “puzzle hunt,” this activity is a great experience for those who enjoy mental thrills.
Escape from the Haunted Ship is the second Los Angeles experience from the Real Escape Game company, and after experiencing it, this author is kicking himself for not signing up for the first one. Real Escape Game is relatively new to California. San Francisco was the first location before Los Angeles, but this type of attraction started in Japan in 2007 and has been played in China, Taiwan, and Singapore as well.
Each Real Escape Game starts with a fun theme and gives you a time limit to solve a series of puzzles and challenges that will let you successfully escape. It is also a team activity, so you can arrive with your whole team or be assigned to a table with others when you arrive. Teams are a maximum of 6 people, and the 4 players I was teamed up with were friendly, smart, and worked well together. Not to mention the location was on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, in one of their ballrooms. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup.The premise of the Escape from the Haunted Ship was conveyed with an amusing animated video and a very charismatic MC who provided all of the backstory. Each team had been captured by a ghostly pirate with a mission that I won’t reveal here, but he was going to doom you to serve on his ship for eternity unless you could help him figure out the answers to his questions!
With that, we were off. We had exactly 60 minutes to get it all done. Our team divvied up the puzzles, frequently asking each other for help and receiving it. It was surprising how often the first person would get stumped and talk to another person who would have a great idea. There were puzzles scattered all over the ballroom, in addition to each team’s tables, so the atmosphere had a frantic energy of people scurrying this way and that. There were little touches that kept up the theme as well. Props and decorations added some flair to the event.
Near the end, our team had made some good work but had gotten stuck. So we did end up taking one small hint to help us progress. After the 60 minutes, the MC returned and closed out the story of the ghostly ship, revealing the answers we’d all been seeking. Alas, our team was close but ultimately failed and so we are now still stuck on that accursed ship until some other brave souls can free us.
The puzzles were generally excellent. A few were slightly easy, and a few were definitely hard, but none of them were TOO hard, and they were all fair. There was nothing that was impossible or illogical. I would say that anybody who enjoys puzzles of any kind would have a good time with this, and it’s highly likely that your teammates can fill in any knowledge gaps, if you are worried. Nobody will have to solve anything by themselves.
There were a couple of minor things that I thought could be improved. Mainly, the immersion into the theme. I don’t expect this to be a full-on haunted maze like Dark Harbor, but the atmosphere definitely could have been improved. More decorations, or perhaps more interactive areas that made it feel less like a ballroom and more like the cargo hold of a haunted ship would have improved the experience significantly. Maybe even a simple blue filter on the lights would have been sufficient, or eerie music playing in the background. There are lots of easy ways to improve the theatricality.
My other quibble is that the final puzzle was a bit vague. Again, I won’t give anything away, but the best puzzles have a moment where you know you’ve hit the right answer. Our team had AN answer, but we sat there for a good 3 minutes wondering if it was the final answer or not. A good puzzle shouldn’t leave you wondering. Then again, our answer was incorrect, so perhaps the fact that we were still wondering was an indication of that. :)
Overall, I highly recommend this experience and the Real Escape Game company to anybody who is looking for a fun mental challenge. It’s exciting, rewarding, and just all-around fun.
More information can be found at www.realescapegame.com. There are ongoing Escape challenges in San Francisco, and the company has announced they will be running a new event in Los Angeles later this year. You can bet I’ll be signing up. Let me know if you want to be on my team!