Escape games offer plenty of escapist fun, whether you’re trying to unlock treasure or flee from a sinister abandoned cabin, locked lab or strange museum. Here are three ways to play from home.
‘Ghosts of Craven Manor’ & ‘The Dark Tower’
The creation of Saratoga native Jack McCarthy, Fantasy Escape Games take you inside two immersive, family-friendly escape rooms, including the poltergeist-centric “Craven Manor” and magical “Dark Tower.” The ghostly game launched last month for Halloween but has proved so popular, it’s been extended indefinitely — because who wouldn’t enjoy playing a family of mischievous ghosts sparring with an exorcist?
We channeled our inner Hermione Granger for “Dark Tower,” battling hydras, spiders and fiendish puzzles to save the land of Seradel. Think Dungeons and Dragons meets escape room. The action unfolds on Zoom — so you can play with friends and family in other cities — as a series of illustrated storybook slides. A live game master narrates the action, poses puzzles and guides the game, D&D-style, as you decipher codes, cast humorous spells and attempt to save the day in 60 minutes or less. There’s one solution, but many paths to get there, and puzzle difficulty can be adjusted so kids can play, too.
Details: The 60-minute game ($15-$16) is designed for two to seven players. Book a game time at www.fantasyescapegames.com.
‘The Abandoned Cabin’
Escape room puzzles meet board game fun in Exit the Game, an award-winning line of games that include “The Abandoned Cabin,” “The Secret Lab” and a dozen other titles. These games, which vary in difficulty, won the Kennerspiel des Jahres, a division of the coveted Spiel des Jahres game awards, in 2017.
In each game, players are trapped in a sinister spot — a strange experimental lab, a mysterious museum or, in this case, an abandoned cabin. Your car has broken down in the middle of the woods, there’s no cell reception and it’s pouring rain. But when you awaken the next morning, you discover the cabin’s only exit requires a three-digit combination. Cue the puzzles!
There’s no game board and no real instructions, just a mysterious booklet with strange illustrations and codes — which you will likely destroy in your bid for freedom — plus stacks of riddle, answer and clue cards and a few mysterious objects, including a cypher wheel.
Details: The single-use game — you’ll use scissors to cut up the mysterious book and a handful of cards — takes one to two hours to play. It’s $15 at game shops and Amazon. Designed for one to four players, ages 12 and up.
‘The Ruby Palace’
The Houdini, Roosevelt and Edison-inspired escape rooms at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts may still be closed, but Palace Games has launched several virtual games during the shutdown, including this summer’s “Ruby Palace,” which you can play with a nearly limitless number of people, thanks to an online game portal that lets you set up teams for game play if you’re, say, a company looking for a team-building activity. Or you can make your own team of two and just play off one screen.
The game premise revolves around a long-lost relative, whose invitation to the 25-room Ruby Palace promises mysteries and treasure — and this being Palace Games, clever puzzles and challenges to find and solve in each room or suite to unlock the next. The game mechanics are similar to the company’s free Palace of Destiny game — you hunt your way through the image of an illustrated room, clicking on possible clues. But the graphics and puzzles are more elegant in this one, and when you get to the end, you discover there’s more to come. This is the first in a Jewel Palace series that will eventually include a Sapphire Palace, as well as Emerald and Diamond.
Details: The game ($20 per person) take one to two hours to play. Check it out at http://palacesphere.com.