Fun Time Game Show Challenge at Escape Factor is one of my favorite Escape Rooms in the Midwest. I happen to be slightly obsessed with escape rooms and being a game show contestant, so two of my worlds collided in this experience. I was lucky enough to be able to book a last minute game with three strangers and fit this in my Chicago weekend trip. They were a great team of experienced players. We were able to work together to escape in time. I love the set design and props. The bright colors and familiar themes made it even more like a real game show set. The puzzles were fun and creative. I especially enjoyed the word puzzles and physical challenges. There are a few activities that are especially good for new players such as doing simple tasks repeatedly, but nothing that I found annoying or frustrating as an experienced player (like excessive amounts of math or searching). The flow of the game was spot on. The game master is in the room with you as a character. Most importantly the game was very fun! I highly recommend this escape room for all experience levels.
I also played the 30 minute doctor’s office game alone. It’s a fun, logical, clever escape room. The theme is doctors waiting room, so the set isn’t anything especially spectacular compared to their hour games. I enjoyed the interaction of the game master in character. I would recommend the game be played with two people, but doable with one. Overall I had a fun time playing the game and thought the puzzles were enjoyable.
Before leaving for the day I played the 15 minute challenge in the lobby. It’s a fun little challenge game. They also take it to fairs and festivals if I understood correctly. It’s a quick, standard escape puzzle game. It’s fun.
Below is a list of the Escape Rooms I’ve played roughly in order of MY favorite to least favorite. Note: I prefer strong storytelling and immersion, especially in horror, paranormal & magic themed escape rooms, so my preferences may be different than yours. Feel free to write to me Twitter @christinebarger or Instagram @TheHauntGirl
Mind Trap – Storm Surge
I had the pleasure of checking out Vault Escape while in Chicago for the weekend. I didn’t plan ahead, so I was happy to book the small one player game in the front window of the location. It was a really clever idea and use of space. I like circuses so I quite enjoyed the theme. There aren’t as many puzzles as the hour long games and you don’t get hints on this one. I had a bit of trouble with some of the tech malfunctioning. Luckily one of the game masters realized it and stepped in to help. It’s a fun little game in the storefront. I had the opportunity to peak into one of the other games and that looked well done. Unfortunately I didn’t have time in my schedule to play any of the full length games at the location.
I love Six Flags Fright Fest in my home park of Magic Mountain, so I figured I’d attend Fright Fest at Great America while visiting the Chicago-land area. I was sorely disappointed. It’s nearly impossible not to try and compare the two parks, but they are so drastically different that they can’t really be compared. I came to Great America with the expectation of seeing professional haunted attractions like their sister park and what I found were teenagers running around in plywood mazes decorated with cheap props and hardly any set pieces. The Hell Fest maze was one of the best overall, it had a few visually impressive scenes. All of the mazed lacked scares. The actors didn’t seem to grasp the concept of setups for scares. The cast also seemed to lack motivation to remain actively in character. Almost all of the characters seemed to specifically avoid my camera while trying to catch them in action in the scare zones for social media and my youtube channel. The one stand-out exception is the Ring Master. The Ring Master seemed like a very well trained, talented performer among a cast that overall appeared like they didn’t even want to be there. I also noticed one female chainsaw actor that was working very hard in a scare zone while everyone else trudged along looking like overworked lumberjacks. I honestly can’t remember most of the mazes now as I write this only a few days later because they were that forgettable. I do remember the price tag…$50 for front of the line fright fest pass on top of park admission. I have an annual pass that allows me access to the park, but even so this event isn’t worth the general line cost of $35 unless you are a local that plans to attend multiple nights and just wants something to do in the evenings that’s Halloween related for the month of October. I made it through all of the mazes, but didn’t have the opportunity to see any of the shows. It does appear that there are some fun live performances on the schedule. Thank you to the Ring Master that turned around my night right at the end as I was leaving.
I also want to take a moment to point out that the guests at this Six Flags theme park seemed much less respectful than all other Six Flags parks I’ve visited. I saw kids in the mazes playing on a set piece, kicking walls, grabbing props and all around being jerks whether they were in groups with friends or with their parents. I imagine being part of the cast at this park can be especially difficult at times.
Overall I can’t really recommend Great America Fright Fest 2018, but want to reiterate that every Six Flags Fright Fest is unique so this doesn’t reflect my opinion of Fright Fests across the country.
Dead Rising is an intimate haunt located in the back area of a strip mall near a McDonald’s in Crestwood, Illinois. (The McDonald’s is key for anyone needing to use the restroom, as this haunt doesn’t provide restrooms.)
Dead Rising isn’t your typical walk through haunted attraction with winding dark corridors and monsters popping out with shaker cans, it is much more interactive. After purchasing my VIP ticket to bypass the 30 minute wait I was placed with 4 youth from the general line. The actor tried to split up the groups of friends and place one from each with me, however I do believe the entire line knew each other. I didn’t ask, but had the impression they were somehow a large group of classmates.
The groups are limited to around 5 people due to the immersive nature of the scenes and the space in the small rooms. I have been attending many haunts alone on my Midwest trip, so it was kind of fun to be placed with kids that were so excitable. At one point they nearly trampled me to escape a clown. I enjoyed watching the actors interact with them more than my personal experiences.
I felt like the opening elevator scene took an especially long time, but other than that the scenes were effective and timed perfectly. The actors did a great job of playing out their scenes. I personally found it to be more of a fun immersive, than a scary haunt. I won’t be in town for their adult event, but I spoke with someone about it and apparently it’s an even more immersive version including blood splatter, adult language and more. It’s a unique event and a good stepping stone for those interested in immersive haunts.
Undead Acres is known for their zombie paintball ride with several scenes and many zombies to shoot. They also have a walk thru haunt, paintball shooting gallery, food stand, photo ops, bonfire and GOATS! Yep, goats…you can feed ‘em.
Undead Acres was the third attraction I attended on the last Sunday of September 2018, so when I arrived at nearly closing time it wasn’t nearly as busy as I expect it will be later in the season. I was able to look around, but had no real wait to get on the haunted trail. A guide summoned me to follow. I walked alone behind the cloaked figure through several scenes. They didn’t tell an overall story as a whole, but individually they were recognizable as the staple haunt scenes including clowns, butchers, monsters and even a young person in a yellow raincoat spouting, “You’ll float too.”
The actors made very challenging physical choices for their characters from rapid crawling, falling and more. Their physical strength, flexibility and dedication impressed me. The overall creepiness of the location being outdoors in the open along a trail was effective. I like the use of the guide.
Overall, it is a haunted trail with a lot of heart. I did not participate in the paintball experience. If you are in the area, definitely stop by Undead Acres and shoot some zombies. Be sure to say hi to Lily the goat for me.
Midnight Terror Haunt in Oak Lawn Illinois is a wonderful story based haunted attraction. I was most impressed with the skill shown by the actors in this haunt. It’s rare to experience a walk through haunted attraction in which every character you encounter appears to be a theatrically trained actor. I am happy to give this cast and crew a standing ovation. The storytelling in Midnight Terror Haunt is wonderfully executed. The scares are plentiful. I enjoyed the use of levels and actual mazes aspects throughout. The sound and lighting effects were well done. The set and props at times were very impressive as well. I highly recommend checking out Midnight Terror Haunt if you find yourself in the Chicago-land area.