Bringing Bigfoot’s Lesser Known Cousin to Tampa
I have experienced my fair share of wilderness in my lifetime. I am an Eagle Scout who has lost count of the number of camping trips taken as a scout, on vacation with family, and with my roommates in college. I also am lucky enough to have worked throughout Florida as an archaeologist in my younger days. I’ve spent countless hours traipsing through the woods and have been on both the giving and the receiving end of the infamous ‘Snipe Hunt’. Needless to say, I’ve always had a fascination with the many creatures lurking in the woods, both real and imagined.
I was curious to see how Rabbit Hole Escape Games approached bringing Florida’s version of Bigfoot and Sasquatch and their combined mystique to Tampa. Would it be more House of 1000 Corpses or more Harry and the Hendersons. (Somewhat unrelated tangent: Is there anything John Lithgow can’t do well..? )
The Escape Junkie’s found themselves transported back in time to the fictitious Cabbage Lake State Park. The setting and decor were top notch from start to finish, starting with a briefing room staged as the Park Welcome Center and ending with a pretty unique finale. At least one of my fellow Junkies, Escape Junkie Neesa, who we have to remind quite often to wait to start until time officially begins, was surprised to find that the immersive room she had been scoping out for clues was not actually part of the puzzle solving experience.
Once our team moved on from the briefing room/Park Welcome Center, we were treated to equally well-executed scenes from the State Park Ranger Station and the depths and holdings of the surrounding wilderness. With one exception, the puzzles we encountered were enjoyable tasks that evolved to match the spaces we were inhabiting. For example, as the 2nd annual Cryptozoology Conference was occurring at the park, it was interesting to see a puzzle introducing us rangers in training to a variety of legendary creatures from around the USA.
The pace of the story and time spent per area flowed well, and even with seven Junkies, there was ample space to move around and plenty of puzzle solving ensured that everyone always had something to do. One of our Junkies even managed to solve a bonus puzzle of sorts, which granted us a bit of extra time (that thankfully we didn’t end up needing).
Lastly, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge our Game Master Kidany (pronounced tiny child-en-ee). The Junkies booked this room during what turned out to be an unnerving and fearful time in the Seminole Heights community and he went out of his way to make sure we felt safe and comfortable. Kidany was friendly, engaging, and even let us stay and help reset the room (which was a first for us). While it’s not usually the first thing you think of, a friendly and engaging staff does wonders for an experience.
The Not So Good
Having worked for an archaeology firm that’s done its fair share of work in the Everglades, I was one of the few Junkies well versed in the legend of the Skunk Ape prior to our outing. This was due in no small part to one of my coworkers being so enamored with the legend that he tracked down the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee Florida and returned with handwritten research materials. Having that prior exposure, I was hoping for more interaction with the creature, but was left feeling like so many others who only managed a fleeting glimpse before coming away with a blurry photograph.
We also had the small misfortune of running into a malfunctioning puzzle. This forced our Game Master to give us a solution verbally after an awkward pausing of our escape clock while they tried to resolve the technical issue. It’s a shame because it was a very unique puzzle, the sort I hadn’t experienced before. It would have given us a real sense of accomplishment if we had been given the opportunity to complete it.
Rabbit Hole Escape Games did an admirable job transporting the Escape Junkies into the wilds of South Florida to solve interesting puzzles with an unlikely (and largely unseen) ally. Other than Escape Junkie Kyle, who shudders at the very mention of the term Skunk Ape (even before partaking in this room), our group enjoyed the first half of this two-part tale. Unfortunately, a non-functioning puzzle can really halt the momentum of an escape experience, especially when there is a literal pause in the action. That being said, our interactions with Kidany before and after our escape cancelled that out for most of us. 4/5
- Location: Rabbit Hole Escape Games
- Time Limit: 60 Minutes
- Number of Players: 2-8
- Recommended Skill Level: Intermediate