September 7, 2021- For my 500th escape room, I wanted to do something special. Thankfully, I live less than two hours from one of the most ambitious and impressive escape room experiences out there- a four hour “Save the City” experience at City 13 Escape in Oak Creek, WI, touted as the world’s largest escape game.
The Save the City experience is branded as a “story mode.” You progress through the story in as many visits as it takes to complete the game, with an estimated completion time around four hours. You can purchase a time slot of one, two, or four hours to work toward this goal. It’s only $30 more total to increment from one hour up to four, so I’d highly recommend booking the biggest slot.
City 13’s facility is built as a bona fide city, with different buildings (armory, bank, train station, diner) serving as the individual escape room games. The Save the City experience utilizes all four rooms, plus the cityscape connecting the rooms, plus a fifth room (Rick’s Robot Garage) which is only used in the Save the City game.
In all four of the standalone games, plus Save the City, players take on the role of superheroes preventing a supervillain group called Steam from carrying out various heists or machinations throughout the city’s locations.
I can’t think of any other place with more than two different rooms that ties together all its rooms so cohesively. There have been a few with a loosely connected running story and others which tie together very different themes with a Doctor Who-esque plot device, but to go all in on making an impressive facility built around one core concept is unique and brilliant.
Save the City uses a very cool gameplay element in which you unlock various superpowers throughout the course of the four-hour game. When you unlock a superpower, it subtly affects your ability to interact with the city space and allows you to reach new areas.
As we got started with our game, I was immediately impressed with how much space we had to work with. I tackled Save the City with a group of five, and there was enough space for all five of us to fan out and explore. Having this much space in an escape room is a rare treat because it challenges coordination to an extreme degree.
I had solved each of City 13’s four standalone rooms in the past, and it came in handy here. Maybe a little too handy. In Save the City, teams are required to proceed through each of the standalone rooms in full, so having successfully navigated these rooms in the past meant I knew the answers to most of the puzzles. It had been almost three years since I solved two of the rooms, and almost two years on one of the others, so the memories weren’t fresh in my mind, but thankfully I have a good memory for puzzles. The good thing was that the rooms have plenty to work on and a lot of physical puzzles to interact with, so even knowing how to proceed didn’t hurt the experience too much.
Groups are allowed to take breaks throughout Save the City. I personally didn’t ever want to stop or pause, but the rest of my group appreciated the opportunity. It’s great that they provide the option, and it doesn’t count against your game time.
Rick’s Robot Garage was the smallest individual “escape room” within City 13, not nearly as big or complex as any of the four standalone games, but it was still a great way to add an extra twist to make the “city” come alive. Like each of the other four games, it had its own unique aesthetic and it played a big role in several of the climactic elements of the game.
I enjoyed each of the four standalone games, so it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed marathoning through all four plus the city streets and robot garage with a different group of friends and family. The puzzles are well-designed and varied (including many observational and physical puzzles) and the spaces are large with plenty to explore.
If I heard of any other experience of the same scope and quality of this one, it would be worth booking a long-distance trip solely for the purpose of solving this game. The experience was ambitious and unforgettable, and the rooms comes as close as possible to satisfying an unquenchable thirst for puzzles.
Note: When searching for the dates I had played City 13’s four standalone games, I found that I hadn’t tracked my visit to City 13’s Neon Light Diner, meaning that Save the City was actually my 501st escape room on record! Go figure.