Game Time: Escape Rooms in New York City

Play detective at escape-game venues, latest rage in urban entertainment, popping up in cities as near as Philadelphia and as far away as Bangkok. Here are some of the best our city has to offer.

The press touts it as being part of the new “experience economy,” the idea that people now prefer to spend their money on creating memories and experiencing something new as opposed to just consuming. While we are not sure we agree with that (in New York, our love of escape games is completely rivaled by our love to eat, drink and shop), one thing we do know: A good escape room is a spirited, fun way to spend an evening in NYC.

A costumed host locks your group in a room for a set time limit (usually an hour). Your mission is to escape, using your wits to solve riddles, unlock boxes and uncover clues hidden throughout the space. The clock is ticking, so you better think quick and communicate effectively. You never know what far-fetched idea might get you the key to your release. Book tickets online as far in advance as possible.

Hoodwinked Escape’s Spirit of Harlem

Hoodwinked Escape

Unlike other escape venues, Harlem’s Hoodwinked Escape doesn’t sacrifice design. Each of its four rooms has a distinctive personality brought to life by theme decor, like the jukebox in the Spirit of Harlem room, authentic vintage army gear in the Military Mission room, disco lights in the Hangover room and a creepy body in the Asylum room. If players get stumped, they can use a walkie-talkie to ask for a clue from the staff, who are watching everything from the control room. Successful players can snap a photo with props related to the room after escaping. hoodwinkedescape.com

Hoodwinked Escape’s Spirit of Harlem

Escape the Room

What started as a single pop-up game in New York has grown to 11 locations across the country. Escape the Room now has two NYC locations that host five distinct games. At 107 Suffolk St., amateur sleuths have 60 minutes to find their way out of a 1980s “Rec Room” or a theater, while the Midtown location (31st St. & Fifth Ave.) traps detectives in one of three environments: the office, the secret agency or the Victorian home. escapetheroomnyc.com

I Survived the Room

The escape-room experience gets a theatrical upgrade at I Survived the Room in Long Island City, Queens, complete with professional actors in the room who make immersive experiences feel all the more real. The attraction features three escapes: Club Escape, a nightlife hot spot corrupted by the Russian Bratva crime operation; The Sanatorium, which handcuffs and shackles the audience in an asylum; and Zombie Experience, an “action shooter” game that unleashes hordes of zombies onto players desperate to escape. These games test more than your mental skills, incorporating physical challenges that get the adrenaline pumping. isurvivedtheroom.com

Mission Escape Games

Mission Escape Games focuses on story-driven adventure rooms at locations in Manhattan and Queens, where players try to join secret societies, outsmart a kidnapper in a dark room lit only by flashlights and divert a spaceship from crashing to Earth. Blogger Room Escape Artist (roomescapeartist.com), which has reviewed dozens of escape rooms, ranks the Hydeout room as one of the top games in New York City for its challenging—yet solvable—puzzles, nonlinear structure (keeping all players busy throughout the hour) and symbolic scenery. missionescapegames.com

Omescape

Omescape has been called the “second generation” of escape games for rigging its rooms with high-tech components, like laser lights, robots and other props. The Manhattan location features 15 rooms for its three games, which include a time-travel room and a biohazard game that forces players to enter a sewer system and find a cure for a neurotoxin. omescapeus.com