Published on May 27th, 2016 | by Dean Love1
Fantasy Fridays: Water Park Escape
Welcome to the first in a weekly-until-I-run-out-of-ideas series alliteratively named “Fantasy Fridays”. In this series I’ll ramble about ideas for escape rooms that are utterly infeasible. The basic rule is they have to be something a billionaire could build for her own entertainment. Most ideas will be tantalisingly close to possible, held back only health and safety laws of most countries or the inability for them to ever make any money. Others will be ridiculous flights of pure fantasy.
The point is basically to explore the concept of what an escape room could be at its very limits. I had some discussions on Facebook recently about the idea of a trivia-centric escape room, and was one of the few that thought it could be awesome. Many don’t like the idea of a room built around anything but puzzles. Obviously people like different sorts of things, and I do also really love puzzle rooms. But I also love thinking about what else you could do with the basic concept of a ‘room escape’.
The first idea is one that could actually be done, it’s just safety issues would probably mean you’d have to take out everything about it that was awesome: an escape room at a water park. The basic idea stems from this classic Crystal Maze game:
It was one of the few games in the Crystal Maze where getting wet wasn’t used as a ‘punishment’ for being a bit rubbish. You just had to jump in the water and get on with it. Same idea here – except you’re in a water park, this is a water game, you’re playing in swimwear (side note: your social media team photos will likely get more attention!). The theme could be anything appropriate but finding a treasure in an ancient pirate cove or some such would be the obvious. You enter the first room and you have your usual puzzles (including some that spray/drop buckets of water on players to set the tone). At one the end of the room is a narrow but long pool, 4-5ft deep. There’s goggles and clues written on the bottom of the pool, and also a grated gate, sealed with a combination lock. Once you solve the first room, you unlock the grate and players can dive down, crawl/swim through the gate, and up into the adjoining room.
In the centre of this room, locked an a cage, is the treasure you’re after, and once you solve a few more puzzles you open it and remove the treasure, at which point your route back to the previous room is sealed off, and the room… springs a leak. You’re now racing against time to escape before the room fills with water – there’s a hatch in the ceiling you couldn’t reach before. You’re need to figure out how to get it open (no need to actually drown the players, the water would stop a foot or so before the ceiling, but that’d also be the lose condition). It’s going to involve getting to locks or items on the walls that only become reachable as the water level gets higher. You can write some clues on the floor that you can only read with a waterproof blacklight if you really must. Oh and if you want to escape with that really heavy relic you just found then you’ll need to figure out how to free those buoys/floats and clip them on to it…
What I really like about this idea is that it basically necessitates what should be good escape room design principles anyway. Every prop needs to be solid and unbreakable because it’s all going to be submerged in water. Your players are barefoot and in swimwear so nothing sharp, dangerous or dirty. Essentially it’d start by building two sealed and drainable wet rooms, so there wouldn’t be anything in the room that shouldn’t be there (plug sockets, etc).
I do think in time we’ll actually see an escape room at a water park- it’s a fairly solid up sell for what’s already a premium leisure activity. But it’s probably going to be more kid-friendly “here’s a small pool and there are some clues in and around it” for obvious safety and demographic reasons, not to mention the cost of bespoke construction.
Top image by John Phil