“The Hardest Escape Room in the USA!”
“Hardest escape room in the USA is a very bold claim. An article in the New York Times from 2018 claims there are an estimated 2000 escape room companies in the U.S., not counting the multiple rooms each company operates with varying levels of difficulty. Boasting an escape rate of 8% on their website The Caretaker is the most difficult room that America’s Escape Game (AEG) offers by that metric (the Lost Tomb of Monthu had a 9% escape rate while The Asylum had a 10% rate of escape). So what did the Escape Junkies think when we learned that in our backyard was the:
Most of the games at AEG Orlando score well in the room design department and The Caretaker is no different. It’s not easy to make a believable outdoor space while indoors, but AEG’s designers did a masterful job in making the forest area feel real and alive. The little details in the props surrounding the cabin provide a sense of believability needed in a horror-themed room. Because this room was designed for smaller groups there was something for everyone to do to contribute to the escape effort. Personally, I believe 4 is the perfect number based on the amount of space to operate in, but 5 didn’t make me feel claustrophobic. The carrot at the end of the stick, a chance to conquer the “Hardest Escape Room in the USA”, kept the adrenaline pumping as every joyful moment of progress contrasted with the steady loss of clock.
The Not So Good
The elephant in the escape room needs to be addressed because America’s Escape Game made a point of putting it on the poster advertising the room -“Hardest Escape Room in the USA”. With that claim comes expectations of challenging and innovative puzzles that would put any reasonable group of players to a 1 of a kind test. Unfortunately, The Caretaker failed to live up to the hype. The Caretaker is a challenging room but not in the way one expected. The difficulty is artificially inflated because of poor lighting or tedious word search games that only serve as timesinks.
The most interesting puzzles in The Caretaker are the more mechanical ones but those are spread too far apart and too few to overcome the less interesting aspects of the room. The story was also somewhat of a letdown for the more narrative focused members of the group as we had pretty much figured out the ending before we made it through the 2nd room. Finally, this may sound strange, but the fact that we escaped this room with around 6 minutes on the clock was a bit of a letdown.
Having completed my fair share of challenging escape rooms, I never felt like the difficulty reached the level of hardest in the nation. In fact, I would argue that AEG’s own Lost Tomb of Monthu was more challenging by a pretty wide margin. We expected to be wowed by the difficulty of this room, and win or lose have a memorable test of wits that we could base all future escapes upon, instead the whole experience felt unsatisfying.
With all of this said, The Caretaker is not a bad escape room, it’s just a victim of its own hubris. The Caretaker is not the hardest escape room in the USA, its not even the hardest room in the building. This room started as a bucket list goal for the Escape Junkies but ultimately ended up as 1 of the biggest disappointments that we’ve experienced as a group. This isn’t an indictment of AEG as an escape room company because they have proven capable of delivering some truly memorable escape rooms, but The Caretaker just isn’t 1 for the record books. 3/5
- Location: America’s Escape Game Orlando
- Time Limit: 60 minutes
- Number of Players: 1-5
- Recommended Skill Level: Experienced