Sceptical and nervous were my primary feelings as I crossed the upscale piazza d’Azeglio with my colleagues one cold December day. For our holiday work celebration, we’d chosen an hour’s session at Game Over Escape Rooms.
The nondescript ground-floor entrance with black, white and red signage displays little curb appeal, despite the entertainment that awaits inside. Gamers can choose from five eclectic escape room experiences based on movies: Saw, Space Wars, The Temple of Doom, Walking Death and The Chocolate Factory. While my co-workers strapped on coroner-like coverings to protect their footwear during their Indiana Jones-esque adventure (inducing yet more anxiety!), our quartet were the first to tread the corridor leading to the spacious room containing the Willy Wonka-inspired scene. The resident game master explained the context: you are industrial spies trying to steal the secrets of this market-leading chocolate factory. Look around the room and find where to begin. He pointed out the game control screen, which shows the countdown as well as a button that can be pressed every ten minutes to receive a clue on how to solve the tasks, which culminate in the buzzing of the door, escape and success. (The claustrophobic need not worry as the door can be opened at any time: you are never really “locked” in the room.)
Confused, we survey our darkened surroundings: there are bars in varying pastel shades that invite press-ups (physical exercise is never required to solve the enigmas); several boxes secured with padlocks; a central feature enclasped in wires; saucepans attached to the walls; lightbulbs in several colours; and much more. Boss man Giovanni wastes no time in getting down to business and suggests we invoke the help button to have an idea of where to begin. It’s a good call since the options are myriad. Step by step (I’m not going to reveal the details of the room as I’m loath to ruin the experience), we figure out the puzzles. Some are easier than others. Some feature a curveball, others require certain abilities, and there’s the odd fluke. We work together, adapt and get to know the pitfalls and the vibe of the situation. The escape room scenario is logical and creative, frustrating and rewarding, plus there’s the occasional reminder that we are being observed as a disembodied voice suddenly booms into the ether, like The Wizard of Oz, when we come annoyingly close to unlocking the status quo. (At a certain point, we’d worked out the solution, but we had a technical issue with the padlock, hence the verbal cues over the loudspeaker.)
Down to just three minutes and 30 seconds, we reached the final conundrum. The pressure was on. We were so near and yet so far. Valeria and Deborah were literally tightening the screws, Giovanni was figuring out how he might use the jump leads we’d just acquired, and I was shining a torch while keeping an eye on the clock. Then the door buzzed and the latch was released. Never had we been closer as a team. The four of us anyway: our colleagues failed to escape in time, causing a bit of friendly jousting. Lunch at nearby Armenian restaurant Ararat soon revived our spirits and sense of togetherness.
Escape rooms in Florence
Florence has a variety of escape rooms to choose from and knowing Italian is never a requirement.
Cronos House (via Baracca 161A) offers three escape rooms with variations on the themes of a psychiatric hospital, magic school and Area 51, with two more in the works focused on Atlantis and Dante. Groups of 2-8 people, 60 minutes to escape.
Lost Space Florence (via San Zanobi 38R) also offers hour-long experiences for 2-8 people concentrating on two scenarios: “death of the special agent” and “the mysterious dinner”. Some TripAdvisor reviews indicate a few issues with things not making sense, although plenty of people seem to have had a good time.
Unlock the Zodiac Killer or the Tesla Mystery at Fox in a Box (via Ventisette Aprile 59R). Groups of two to six embrace this escape room experience, which enjoys some of the best reviews in Florence (613 five-stars out of 642 reviews in total on TripAdvisor).
The one remaining option are Adventure Rooms Firenze (via degli Alfani 47R). Opt for the standard game (2-6 people, where the whole group goes in together) or duel mode (8-12 people, where the group is split into two teams that race to escape). The scenarios are an ‘asylum’ room, which is considered a little scary, and a mafia-themed room.