Escape rooms are phenomenal. In one, you are asked to believe you’re in a scenario which requires that you solve a series of intricate puzzles in order to leave within the allotted time. You scurry around like a dog at a deli, looking for anything that seems remotely interesting and straining to see how it fits into the bigger picture. It’s like a real life video game.
I was very excited to write about Mission Manor, a somewhat newish escape room destination in Northeast Minneapolis. When I reached out to them for a story I spoke with Logan Giannini, who’s in charge of the place and played a large role in the creation of its puzzles. Logan told me that an interview just wouldn’t do, and that I’d best come in and see about Mission Manor’s escape rooms for myself. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to receive such an invitation.
When I have to solve puzzles, I like to recruit the assistance of Gabe Gabino. I used to work with Gabe back when I was a bouncer downtown, and have witnessed his impeccable reasoning skills firsthand many times before. For instance, when Gabe is confronted with the particular challenge of an inebriate trying to punch him in the face, he cleverly deduces that tossing the guy out of the nightclub like a chef would an alley cat that he found in his pantry will solve the problem. It works every time, too.
Each of Mission Manor’s three escape rooms has its own theme, which you’re introduced to via a short video that plays before the timer starts counting down. In the first room we entered, called Inheritance, a rich fogey explained that he wasn’t fond of his children, and that if Gabe and I were able to locate and escape with his treasure it would be entirely ours to keep. (His probate attorneys must absolutely adore him.) Needless to say Mission Manor isn’t actually giving away rubies the size of tangerines, but the little introduction absorbs you into the scenario at once.
I’ll not spoil Mission Manor’s escape rooms with analyses of their actual workings — Logan wouldn’t let me if I wanted to, anyway. At least I can reveal that they’re incredibly fun. We wanted that codger’s treasure, and immediately started frantically flipping everything in the room around this way and that to see what clues they’d reveal. When we finally lined something up just right, and heard the click of a magnetic lock giving way to an entirely new area of the room, our hearts leapt into our throats.
As intelligent as we are, we occasionally found ourselves totally befuddled by the task at hand. Logan could perceive this through the cameras placed in each room, and chose those moments to chime in via walkie talkie with a subtle hint at what we ought to be doing next. We could also radio him with an admission that we felt aimless. In either circumstance Logan would put on his best Frank Gorshin voice and give us a nudge in the right direction — but not one so obvious that we felt deprived of the satisfaction of figuring the thing out for ourselves.
We found the treasure and escaped. Afterward Logan took us around the room, and with the pride of a creator pointed out some of its more interesting nuances. Everything in the room, even the stuff which had nothing directly to do with the puzzles, had been carefully thought out. Escape room design is tricky business.
Next Logan ushered us to Asylum, where we started out in a hellish little padded cell while music à la One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest played. (There was no water fountain to aid in our escape, but Gabe did try briefly to smother me to death with a pillow.) In stark contrast to the opulence of Inheritance, this room smacked of cold, medicinal desperation, with currents of Saw, Silent Hill, and Gothika running through it. Rather than treasure, the relief that would follow just from getting out of this spooky room was enough motivation to solve its riddles.
After Asylum, we went to Countdown. This room’s video introduction featured an eco-terrorist (the least controversial kind of terrorist, Logan later explained) rambling that, because mankind is so detrimental to nature, he had decided to blow up the Twin Cities. Of all the places one could choose to destroy, I couldn’t think of any less deserving of it than the Twin Cities, because they are where Shop.Dine.Live. Magazine is distributed and all of my stuff is there.
I don’t think Gabe and I would be the best people to have on the job in a real life bomb defusal situation. We bickered a bit, needed Logan’s help a few times, and I still haven’t figured out how to set the digital clock my girlfriend gave me for Christmas in 2017. In spite of all that we persevered, and saved the entire Twin Cities with only four minutes to spare. Please send your letters of gratitude to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The three escape rooms at Mission Manor are some of the best times I’ve ever had. The themes are well thought out and create a sense of tremendous realism, the puzzles are challenging without being obtuse, and the satisfaction you get from completing them, even if you need a little assistance from Logan or one of his droogs along the way, is palpable. Whether you’ve a special occasion to celebrate like a kid’s birthday party, have a date and want to see how your lover manages under pressure, or just want something to do with friends that’s better than practically anything else you could come up with, Mission Manor is where it’s at. Visit missionmanor.com to find out more.
By David Scheller