Last Day of Summer. What to do with six 13-year old boys?
I know. How about working together to solve puzzles, crack codes, and decipher clues?
“That sounds like fun!”
“Can we all do it together?”
“What are we going to eat afterwards?”
“Wait, no! That’s too much like school!”
Six 13-year old boys have exactly one hour to escape from a room filled with clues, locks, secret passageways, and above all: mystery.
But they’re more excited about the ping-pong table in the waiting room, where we’re going to have lunch afterwards (I’m letting them choose …), and who’s the best PS4 player.
(I was planning on waiting outside for an hour, but the management said that, at this age, there needs to be an adult with them. I quickly realized why. I gave them no guidance, hints, and really my only help was the flashlight on my phone to read the small code on some of the messages and the tiny type in the encyclopedia.)
For the first 10 minutes inside the first room, they did their best to … goof off and make as much noise as possible while getting nowhere with any clues. In fact, if the Germans were right outside (as was the scene from this “Dutch Resistance” Escape Room in Utrecht), we would have been captured and the hideaways we were trying to protect would have been compromised.
How did they ever keep 13-year old boys quiet during the war? There’s just so much energy.
At some point, leaders were (silently) chosen, goof-offs were told to quiet down, and someone, no, not him, was asked to read the coded note on top of the fireplace.
But what did it mean? How did it help? There were two locks in the room. One with four numbers, one with three numbers and a final letter. I also had no idea where to start.
There was also an old typewriter, a periodic table of elements, a business card with braille, boxes, chests, magnifying glasses and other mysterious items.
We didn’t even have our phones with us! The horror!
Once they figured out their first clue and got the first padlock open, they were unstoppable. For the next 45 minutes, they read, screamed in victorious delight, deciphered codes, and worked together to … get us into the next room.
More locks, more enthusiasm, and more teamwork to get it done.
“Who has the flashlight?”
“Can anyone read braille?”
“Did anyone pay attention during the introduction video?”
Some took breaks on the comfy sofa. Others ran around with more enthusiasm than direction. Still others sat with the code and pen and paper until they cracked it. It was both a survival of the fittest and a team sport. They all didn’t have to work together, but they had to get the locks open to escape and everyone would be out.
In the end, we didn’t make it out. It was just too tough. The crew came in and, thankfully, showed us some of the last clues. One of them, crucial to getting into the next room, would have taken them another hour to figure out — or never. It was tricky.
But the boys weren’t discouraged. They jumped at each hint the guy working there gave us and finally escaped, albeit after an hour and a half and with the management’s help.
Their reward was to go to lunch of their choice. The unanimous vote? Arrived at much sooner than the first combination padlock. McDonald’s.
In all, I can highly recommend a visit to an escape room although I think 13 is probably the youngest I’d give it a go. It truly took some thinking, patience, and teamwork.