June 1, 2018 (Flashback) – It’s about time for me to get back to the story of the journey across the Pacific Northwest, centered around a cruise from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC. The trip began with an overnight flight from Chicago to Anchorage, and after arriving in Anchorage well before the crack of dawn, I had a few hours to spend in town.
Most of the earliest hours were spent searching for Geocaches around town. Anchorage has quite a few caches scattered around its downtown areas, including a few fun mystery caches, such as one where the solver needs to identify a child in a photo from circa 1930.
After the businesses in town started to open, my dad and I headed to Alaska Escape Rooms for our reservation for the room “The Raven’s Eye.” The owner cautioned us that the room might be too difficult for a group of two to solve, but because of how my dad and I work together in escape rooms, I’ll usually still bet on us. The room’s difficulty is due to the expansive nature of the room, both in physical space and in volume of puzzles, not due to any kind of time-occupying busy-work, so we went in with the mentality to enjoy it regardless of how we’d do.
The theme of the room was to escape from a kidnapper, and depending on your choices, to try to rescue the kidnapper’s previous victim as well. The kidnapper, known only as The Raven, has an elaborate backstory of his own, introduced in the opening video, and each of the different spaces you progress through show you a little more of his psyche. The room was well-themed and ambitiously designed. The timer is set with an hour long video of the kidnapper’s previous victim, raising the stakes a little higher than an ordinary clock.
The element of choice in the room, to have an optional win condition for the most dedicated teams, is something I really liked about this room. In the few rooms I’ve done where there’s a non-puzzle decision to make (The Raven’s Eye marks only the third time I’ve had an element anything like this), it often leads to a fun communications exercise, especially if there’s a split opinion on how to proceed. My dad and I are usually on the same page and we were able to work through the problem without much issue, but I imagine larger groups might have some interesting conflicts arise in the decision making process.
The room was sprawling with a ton of exploration and a plethora of good, unique puzzles along the way. The room tests the solvers’ ability to think in a variety of different styles, and the mix means that a group can be charging through one section only to get stuck on another. The room also had many secret jokes and references that don’t detract from the overall atmosphere but add a fun element for puzzlers who recognize what they’re looking at.
Glad to say that my dad and I got the good ending and made it out even with taking a slightly more difficult path. The room was a ton of fun and afterwards we heard some great stories from the owner about how people tend to approach the different challenges in the room. The guys at Alaska Escape Rooms are clearly passionate about designing excellent games and getting people to think in different ways, and if I’m in town again I will definitely stop in to try their next room and potentially a puzzle challenge they’re setting up to be played across the city of Anchorage.
After solving the room, we picked up some souvenirs for my nephews (lots of squished penny machines in Anchorage), watched a film on the history of the area at a visitor center, and caught the bus to the cruise terminal in Seward. Though I didn’t spend much time in Anchorage, it was time well-spent, largely due to the excellent experience provided by Alaska Escape Rooms.
One final note about Anchorage- the scenery around town is amazing, with mountains everywhere, and there’s a remarkable amount of diverse wildlife in the area. A very neat place to explore!