The Attractions Magazine team was invited to check out Universal’s Great Movie Escape at Universal Orlando CityWalk and experience their two brand new escape adventures based on Back to The Future and Jurassic World. Here’s my unbiased, spoiler-free review.
The venue itself is located in the former Groove nightclub in CityWalk and is beautifully decorated in the style of an old movie house. Huge compared to some escape rooms, the lobby is spread over two floors with two bars, plenty of seating areas, and an indoor/outdoor balcony. While waiting our time to walk through the rooms, we were able to sample some of the drinks dedicated to the two experiences, including The Gigawatt Glow, The Raptor Bite, and The Hoverboard Highball. They were all great and were all available both as cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails. The lobby area offered plush chairs and, although the A/C was turned up a bit, was a nice place to relax (ha!) before and after each experience.
Let’s get that straight right away, these are not classic style escape rooms with one hour time limits, clues, locks, etc. In fact, the only real lock we saw the whole time was the “lock” in the attraction’s logo there. “Not just an escape room, but an escape adventure” is what the promotional materials call this attraction, and that’s not just clever marketing. It would be more accurate to think of these as interactive walkthrough attractions with puzzles. Both experiences feature a filmed actress as a video guide that appears on screens and as a voice in each room to help lead the way. I was impressed by the amount of dialogue recorded in each room, covering many different eventualities and clues a group might need. At no point was there a need for a live attendant to walk in or make an announcement to help us through anything when we were stuck.
Each experience offers eight different rooms/show scenes with one or more puzzles or puzzle-like tasks to be solved before the next room is opened. There is no backtracking and once you keep going the door will close behind you. This is probably to allow multiple groups to move through rooms at the same time, with a few rooms serving as a buffer between parties. The rooms are also designed in such a way that minimal staff movement is required. Many of the puzzles have different possible solutions, which we have cleverly identified in order to solve some rooms (e.g. put switches and levers in certain positions according to certain instructions) and leave them in that “solved” state, the next one group is given a different guide allowing them to re-solve the space. (The next group would receive different instructions, what was “solved” for the previous team is messed up for the new team.)
There didn’t seem to be a “fail” state for the experiences; If we were taking too long to solve a certain puzzle, the game would provide a reason for the room to be auto-solved, and we would witness the completion of that room before the doors opened to the next part of the story. Some rooms contained repeatable puzzles, while other rooms offered one and completed puzzles. This meant that sometimes when we were doing particularly well, we would get stuck in a room and repeat a puzzle with different variables all over again, or we could only solve a puzzle once and move on to the next room if we were behind. The puzzles also offered different difficulties and requirements depending on the number of players. It was clear that certain spaces might require more or fewer variables to be considered and manipulated for larger or smaller groups. I liked this mechanic because it meant that the maximum size groups (eight) had things to do for all players, and the minimum size groups (two) could still do any task. Of course, with that in mind, there was no escaping the time limit, and in fact each group is basically guaranteed to spend roughly the same hour completing the entire experience, regardless of skill level. This will be great for the typical clientele and the casual gamer looking to dip their toes into the escape experience, although it may not be exactly what escape room enthusiasts are looking for as the rooms can lose their sense of urgency.
As for the rooms, we were pleased to see that they weren’t just reskins of each other. While all of this applies to both experiences, the different themes gave each room a unique vibe and puzzle style. The puzzle types were varied and a pleasant mix of physical, digital and analogue. Each room offered an experience that was fun even without knowledge of the source material, but offered “Easter Eggs” and added enjoyment the more one knew about the films. Each game felt so different that guests who enjoyed one would surely enjoy the other without feeling like it was a repeat. Let me do my best to give some thoughts on each experience specifically, without revealing any spoilers.
Back to the Future: Outatime
In Back to the Future: Outatime (stylized like the license plate of the franchise’s famous DeLorean, which unexpectedly doesn’t appear once throughout the experience), your team is a guest at Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology (an homage to Universal’s earlier Back to The Future Ride) when Biff Tannen, the franchise’s villain, steals a new time travel device and begins wreaking havoc on the timeline.
Your guide through the experience is a whimsical Institute staff member, who is on video throughout, and Doc Brown himself, albeit hidden from view (although actually voiced by Christopher Lloyd, with all new dialogue taped for the attraction). Without spoiling the details, the experience cycles through several different times and places, some new to the franchise and several old favorites.
I felt this room did the most to best reward fans of the original trilogy, because the more familiar you are with the source material, the better. From flashy props and settings to incredibly small and obscure references to the films, superfans of the films will take a lot away from the experience.
The actress who served as the filmed guide for these rooms was my favorite of the two, partly because she was given the funnier script and could be quirky, but she was more animated throughout, which really added to the attraction.
Jurassic World: Escape
The other escape adventure available is Jurassic World: Escape. In this attraction, on their first day in Jurassic World, guests take on the role of new geneticists and complete some tasks when, wouldn’t you know, something goes wrong and dinosaurs start to flee. Not being as iconic as the almost 40-year-old Back to the Future franchise, Jurassic World was forced to rely more on its themes, atmosphere and puzzle design, and I think it really was the stronger of the both experiences.
It uses sounds, lights, and fog effects (it should be noted that both experiences included fog effects with the option to turn them off before starting) to create an atmosphere that was instantly recognizable from the various films. I want to make it clear that the showsets in both experiences were incredible and all credit should be given to the design teams that put them together, but I was really impressed by the themes of Jurassic World. Each room was uniquely designed and truly felt like it could have come straight out of the Jurassic World movies.
Overall I had a really good time participating in both of these experiences and would recommend them. As an escape room enthusiast, I feel that those looking for a classic escape room experience might be disappointed with the playstyle and the eventual lack of urgency as to whether or not the “escape” is a success. But I think the experiences are really top-notch for what they are, and when viewed as their own mix of escape room and theme park attraction rather than just an escape room, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Escape room elements like clue-hunting, lateral thinking, and logical guessing with trial and error still exist, and honestly, the puzzles were still fun to solve, even if repetitive ones were a little, well, repetitive. We had a few instances where props didn’t work properly (which really isn’t great in a preview, but was expected), and a few moments where we weren’t sure if we didn’t solve the puzzle correctly or something basic wasn’t right. It doesn’t work, although this isn’t an uncommon experience in escape rooms.
The price points are high compared to other escape rooms at the moment, although the structure of the attraction guarantees an immersive experience and the production values are excellent, so there it is. There’s a chance you’ll be paired with strangers as you make your way through the rooms, which is always a minus for me (especially with a certain puzzle in Back to the Future that requires all players to touch), but buyouts for Private rooms are available. Advance bookings are recommended and can be made through the website. For more information or to book your Great Movie Escape Adventure, visit universalorlando.com.