** It is intentionally hot in there so bring water if you overheat easily
** This is not a good place if you are highly claustrophobic
** Bring friends that are into problem solving. Have at least one friend that is really good at math!
I recently experienced my first escape room at Phenomenal Escape Room, located in the Convoy District in Kearny Mesa. I had a very vague idea of what escape rooms were all about besides that you are stuck in a room and trying to get out by solving a series of puzzles.
For the most part I didn't have any strong desire to try one out due to my fear of being stuck in tiny places until I had heard about this one which is horror-themed! For horror fans out there, it's always nice to have options to make it feel like Halloween all year long!
The location is in a business park, which looks normal enough, right? But you never know what may be lurking behind a door! I brought 4 of my friends and when we arrived we were separated into two groups.
We were then asked who would like to be handcuffed and who would like to be put in a cage. Ummm.....are those really our only two options?! Neither! I ended up opting to be stuffed in a cage with my friend. We were then all handcuffed and brought into our rooms.
I'm going to intentionally keep our experience vague so if you choose to visit you are brought with many unexpected surprises. I will say this though, if you are highly claustrophobic, this is not for you.
I myself am claustrophobic and really had to keep my mental state calm at the beginning because you are locked up, it is very warm and you are relying on your team to figure out how to get everyone out of their bondages.
Once we were free of our initial restrictions and could explore the room freely I felt sooooo much better and it became a lot of fun.
This experience was like a real-life video game. As a kid, I used to love horror games that also had a ton of puzzles that needed to be solved like Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark. Even though this is obviously not going to be as in-depth as an actual video game (can you imagine going through a house of horrors with like 30 rooms!) you will still get a great taste of what it would feel like.
I did a small interview with co-owner of Phenomenal Escape, Uliana, to learn more about what inspired them to create their company:
Me: What inspired you to create escape rooms?
Uliana: We have been to many escape rooms in Europe and we really enjoyed it. A few years later, we decided to open it in the USA, but the idea was to create some kind of a new experience for our customers.
Me: Were you into horror and the macabre as a child?
Uliana: Not really. I don't think we were fans of scary movies. It's just that many people like to be scared and like to scare others
Me: Nice! How many years have you been doing escape rooms?
Uliana: The escape room was ready to open in the summer of 2020, but since all businesses were closed due to Covid-19, we reopened a few months ago
Me: Do you create the concepts on your own? The puzzles are pretty complex to solve! It seems like it would require a lot of creativity and electrical engineering. How long does the process take from conceptualizing to the final product?
Uliana: We used help of professional engineers, no way to create it by myself). It took us 6 month to create 1st room and almost a year for 2nd one. 2nd one will be scary and more complicated.
Me: When will the next escape room premier?
Uliana: Around June
Please note that you have 60 minutes to try to solve the puzzle. There are 6 rooms total with puzzles to be solved in each. If you do not escape and would like to try again another day, your group will receive 20% off. There is an employee watching from video cameras the entire time who will communicate with you if you are freaking out, needs tips, etc. At the end of the day, it is a game, and you are free to leave at any time.
Also, if you are into speakeasies, I highly recommend grabbing a celebratory drink or meal at Realm of 52 Remedies afterwards which is nearby!
The photos below were after our escape room (no cell phones allowed inside) and obviously staged. Still, it gives you a tiny glimpse of what you will be in for!