Adam Sandler’s latest movie, Pixels, wasn't just the kind of mediocre movie we've come to expect from the star, who churns out comedies the way Hostess spits out Twinkies. Pixels was particularly upsetting because we as a society allowed it to happen. Sandler didn’t do this to us. We did it to ourselves. We've let him make so many big-budget movies and they've exponentially gotten worse and worse, ultimately resulting in the atrocity that is Pixels. Because it's our fault, we are that much angrier.
However, there is one good thing to come out of that massive pile of 8-bit shit: the newest escape room from Xcape Adventures.
This small entertainment company tucked away in the corner of an office park in Mesquite isn’t the biggest escape room business in this budding entertainment trend, but they’re easily the most inventive in our corner of the universe. So far, they've built a "Steampunk"-themed puzzle room and a video game-themed escape room called "Game Over" that started as a tribute to the movie Pixels. Don’t let that deter you from giving "Game Over" a go. The only downside is that it reminds you Pixels exists.
The setup works just like any standard escape room. You and a group of friends and/or strangers are locked in a room for an hour and it’s up to you to solve a series of puzzles in order to get out in the fastest time possible. What makes Xcape Adventure’s “Game Over” room so unique is that it doesn't focus on gimmicks or try to turn the experience into a real-life video game. The focus is solely on the puzzles, which require lateral and logical thinking. There are no monsters waiting to pop out of the wall and throw you off your game. There are no rules requiring you to sit down for the rest of the hour if you "get injected with a mysterious bacteria." There are no tricks or distractions. It’s either puzzle or be puzzled.
It’s also an impressive build for such a small space. You and your team play a group of humans trapped on an alien spaceship who represent themselves as video game characters so humans can interact with them (look up Carl Sagan’s lessons on dimensions in Flatland for further explanation).
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You’ve got one hour to escape the ship by solving puzzles that lead to finding keys, codes and unlocked doors. It’s also themed to look a bit like a classic video game parlor room and the detail they’ve put into making it authentic is impressive. The ceiling is covered with what looks like something repurposed from Home Depot, but it serves well as an alien spacecraft’s interior. There’s a “Q*Bert” puzzle in one corner and a beautiful, giant “Pac-Man” mural on a wall. Xcape even worked some very interesting surprises into a very small space. These folks know what they're doing.
The most impressive part of their build are the mechanical touches. The folks who put it together came up with some very creative machines that spit out clues and react to buttons and joysticks in fun ways. Their designs would make MacGyver green with envy.
The escape room trend may soon get out of hand, but Xcape Adventure’s “Game Over” room shows how it could also be a budding art form. Their attention to detail and love for creative puzzles makes the room a joy to explore and discover, even when you’re tearing your hair out and feeling completely stupid for not seeing something obvious.
At the very least, Sandler and the people responsible for Pixels owe Xcape a thank you note for redeeming his terrible, terrible movie, however slightly.