Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle–Official Escape Room

I don’t fail Escape Rooms often.  I think I’ve only failed one in the last year, and even then, we still got to the end with time to spare and just made a wrong choice, which I didn’t mind much because the format was a break from the normal room.  While they remain fun and exciting for me, they had lost a bit of the tension, the challenge, and the risk of not getting out.  Escaping seemed a fait accompli, and the surprises that remained were in the puzzle and set design.  Spoiler alert: My group failed Jumanji.



Better than the Average Promotional Room?

When I first heard about the Jumanji room, I had no reason to think it would be noteworthy.  Other promotional rooms for movies (like The Mummy and Tomb Raider) had been mediocre and felt a bit rushed. Although this room opened over 3 months after the movie was in theaters–and late enough for it to be on DVD/Blu-Ray!–so they certainly took their time.  I suspected the delay was due to technical problems, as this was intended to be their most ambitious room yet.  It seemed like a lot of effort for a promotional game, so I was intrigued at what they had cooked up.

The first good sign came before we were even in the room.  60 Out found a way to make entering the room unique, immersive, and thematic. Immediate brownie points.  It’s here I should mention I was with 2 rookies, a friend who’s done about 3 before, and Lacey, my colleague here at Media Geeks, who’s done nearly as many rooms as I, and certainly more than I have in the last 6 months. This initial room seemed a bit on the conventional side, although high quality.  Little did I know it was really just a prologue.

Lost in the Jungle

Jumanji EscapeFollowing the movie’s plot, the room takes a turn to the wild, introducing several innovative and exciting concepts in rapid succession.  As a fan, I was loving the suddenly (somewhat) individualized experience and as a reviewer, I was impressed by the design work it must have taken to accomplish this.  You see, the game can play 4-8 people, and the designers have cleverly come up with a way to make sure the right information is distributed no matter how many people there are.  It’s much more involved (and more fun) than just having everything laid out in the room–instead, it is integrated into a kind of role-playing system. As in the movie, each player takes on the skills of a video game character, and those skills are cleverly distributed to the appropriate characters as chosen by the players.

The jungle is packed with stuff to do.  I think maybe we did not realize that we were falling behind.  We were making slow but steady progress, sometimes kicking ourselves for missing things, sometimes thinking we were very clever for solving a puzzle quickly.  We were unanimously in awe of the incredible props and set. Lacey and I especially were appreciative of a few of the more technologically advanced puzzles.  No locks and keys here, hooray!  We even participated as a group in a rather silly exercise that was more like a game, but it fit the theme and was lots of fun.  After collecting all of the numerous medallions, only then did we see…that we were probably screwed.

The last few minutes were a frantic mix of gazing around in more wonder and trying to zip through the remainder of the Jumanji jungle.  We did not make it.  The door opened and the attendant informed us our time was up.  It was such a foreign feeling, the sense of not finishing.  I hated it.  Hearing the walkthrough of the final puzzles only made things worse–there was such a cool-sounding surprise at the end that we didn’t get to experience!  I started to feel angry and frustrated, replaying the room in my head. Where could we have saved 5 minutes?  We believed we were less than 10 minutes away from escaping and would have bought extra time if offered–just to get the satisfaction of seeing the room play out until the end.  I don’t care about time, or whether or not we “officially” escaped.  I just wanted the mental satisfaction of seeing the story end–I was immersed.

Don’t Make Me Leave

There was nothing to be done.  We shuffled out for the typical discussion on the sidewalk.  Everyone agreed that the room was stellar, and everyone agreed that we were bummed to not finish.  I was kicking myself for not solving puzzles faster, and also for not just asking point-blank “Hey, can you please give us 5 more minutes?  We’re so close!” If they didn’t have a group booked after us, I think they would have let us.  And that would have been a lot more viable than my only other option now–which is going back through the whole room again.  And I am, shockingly, considering that!  It’s like turning off a movie before it ends, and just having someone tell you what happens.  It may no longer be a surprise, but you still want to see it for yourself.

In any case, the room was exquisite.  The theme, technology, and immersion merge together to make this one of my top 5 rooms ever.  The production value is sky high, and the puzzles are varied and creative.  I feel bad for the 2 rookies that came with us–any room they do next is almost sure to be a step down.  This kind of immersive activity seems like great promotion for the movie too, despite the relatively small throughput.  How much of the budget was paid by Sony Pictures?  It does make me wonder about the escape room business.  If a bigger budget allows for better rooms, would people be willing to pay more for improved experiences?  And how can the companies prevent that frustrated feeling when people don’t get out?  Could they offer to sell additional time over the 1 hour?  All of these questions stem from the fact that this room is simply TONS of fun.

Our hippo friend couldn’t help us escape.

OK, but NEXT time…

Despite our group wasting a few minutes here and there, I think a couple of problems in the room contributed to our demise as well.  So I want to bring up a few tips for future explorers, or for 60 Out to improve the game.  They gave clock announcements every 15 minutes, which help, but you really lose track of time in there.  More warnings, like at the 15, 10, and 5 minute marks, might have instilled some urgency.

The other major problem is a direct result of one of the major benefits–the technology.  While it allows for fun and creative puzzles, it’s also not quite perfect.  That lack of perfection stymied us on more than one occasion. There is a targeting puzzle that has to be exact, so even though we solved it, the tech wouldn’t work. We had to ask for a hint because we couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening.  There was a later motion-sensitive puzzle that took us too many tries because the sensors were so finicky that even though we knew what to do, we were having trouble achieving it. I know employees are watching via camera, and I don’t think it’s against the spirit of the game to give a bit of a heads-up if a team has obviously solved a puzzle and are just stuck on the tech’s requirements. Finally was the odd decision to have the room’s McGuffin casually lying on a shelf, above eye level, so that none of us even saw it.  Had we actually gotten to the end, this would have been an issue. It’s not supposed to be a puzzle, so there’s no reason not to make this more prominent.

Those aspects don’t keep me from respecting what 60 Out has accomplished here. Future promotional/co-branded escape rooms, or any immersive experience for that matter, would do well to model themselves after Jumanji.  They got the details right, they made it feel like you were part of a story, not just a random collection of puzzles, and they got close to having it feel like real role-playing instead of everyone being the same.  They really broke some new ground here and I hope this room sticks around for a while as a model for other companies.

Jumanji is open every day of the week with the last booking at 11:30 each day.  Weekdays are $38 and weekends are $40.  Tickets and additional information can be found at their website here.

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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