credit: Mission Escape Game / Facebook

Looking for a fun way to hang out with your friends? Bond with your colleagues? Entertain family from out-of-town? “Escape the Room” games give you the chance to stretch your wit and use every ounce of your powers of deduction to literally escape the room: participants are given a story, clues, and a time limit. Whether they make it out alive (so to speak) is utterly up to them. By Jessica Allen.

credit: Clue Chase

credit: Clue Chase

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Like most escape the room games, Clue Chase requires participants to figure out the solution to a quandary—and escape the room—in fewer than 60 minutes. You have a couple mysteries from which to choose: Egyptian Tomb takes you back, way back, to 1891, when you and your group discover a priceless tomb as well as an ancient curse –while the Ultimate Heist gives you the chance to rob the world’s best thief, or die trying. Do you have what it takes?

credit: Escape the Room NYC / Facebook

credit: Escape the Room NYC / Facebook

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As you enter Escape the Room’s room, you’ll be forgiven for thinking “what’s the big deal?” or “this won’t be too hard.” The room, after all, looks like a typical rec room, say, or theater, or office. But it isn’t. Instead, everything you see may, or may not, be an integral clue to the mystery. Once you’ve solved the mystery — in an hour or less — the room will open and you’ll be able to get on with your life. We particularly like the Victorian Home room, which traps you inside the 19th century. Hope you like hoop skirts and top hats.

credit: Mission Escape Game / Facebook

credit: Mission Escape Game / Facebook

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . . goes the old line. But it’s not a line at Mission Escape Games. Here, it’s a call to action. In Manhattan, the mysteries range from deciphering the curious case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (rated three stars, or somewhat challenging) to preventing a spaceship from crashing into our planet (rated five stars, or totally brain-busting). In Flushing, you and your group can enter the “Dungeon of Elements” and try to uncover hidden treasure (rated four stars, or rather head-scratching).

credit: Mystery Room / Facebook

credit: Mystery Room / Facebook

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Ok, so your brain isn’t a muscle, but it still needs a workout every now and then. Give your brain some exercise by booking a game at the Mystery Room. For example, after a mysterious illness shuts down a popular café, you and your group will need to figure exactly what happened, or risk getting sick yourselves. Another game gives you the opportunity to poke around the mysterious Biotech Labs. What are its scientists really up to? Can you find the missing data disk, or will you be trapped inside forever? If brains can sweat, yours will be drenched.

credit: Omescape

credit: Omescape

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If you like your mysteries with a side of technology, then Omescape is the escape the room game for you. The evil Dr. Snake is planning to release a terrible poison in New York City, and it’s up to you and your group to stop him and destroy his secret lab forever. Did we mention that the lab is located somewhere in the sewer? (Note: the experience is simulated; you won’t actually have to dig around the sewer.) Another game traps participants in a space/time warp, forcing them to contend with not one but two different eras. Creepy!

Jessica Allen is a New York-based writer.