How Playing Resident Evil Helped Me Beat an Escape Room

How many jump scares does it take to temper a coward's resolve?

I’ve had my eyes on the Resident Evil games for a while now. A self-proclaimed coward, I have wanted to play the series for a long time, but just could never get up the courage to do so. However, the Steam Halloween sale helped give me that extra nudge. I’ve been streaming more games lately for my friends, and after playing Layers of Fear 2, I discovered that I could play horror games-just not alone. There’s something oddly comforting about having people on the journey with you, even if they’re laughing at your misfortune. So I loaded up my Steam cart with two titles from the series: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and the new Resident Evil 2 remake. I was absolutely dreading Biohazard since it’s set in my home state of Louisiana, and the whole Hills Have Eyes vibes creeps me out more than any Deadspace title ever could. Nevertheless, my sadistic audience of friends prodded me forward.

I had intended on streaming horror games for them regardless, but what I didn’t realize is that the gameplay might have been preparing me for my friend’s upcoming bachelorette trip on the 6th. We had a full weekend of axe throwing, haunted houses, and a 13th Gate escape room planned out. I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in an escape room, so I was extremely excited, but nervous. I ended up streaming Resident Evil even after Halloween because I got so into the story and was determined to finish it before I left for my trip the following weekend.

An Introduction to the Resident Evil Series

I played the RE6 co-op campaign years ago and honestly can’t remember much about the gameplay, other than my boyfriend probably doing all the heavy lifting when it came to combat. Something I’ve learned about myself recently is that I panic fire, frequently, and you just absolutely cannot do that in a Resident Evil game. Ammo is precious, and silence is your friend, so I ended up carrying around my knife and getting a few panic stabs out of the way before I accidentally fired on an enemy.  I also learned to push through my fears and steel my nerves before diving into the unknown. There were several moments in the game that I had to sit there, frozen in fear, before forcing myself to continue forward into complete darkness when I knew there was bound to be a jump scare around the corner. Biohazard did wonders for introducing me to Resident Evil‘s basic mechanics, resource management, and jump scares, but Resident Evil 2  cranked that up to an 11.

A creepy door in Resident Evil: Biohazard's farmhouse. You know how this is going to end.

A creepy door in Resident Evil: Biohazard’s farmhouse. You know how this is going to end.

Check Every Drawer and Locker

Immediately after I finished Biohazard, I jumped right into Resident Evil 2, and that’s when I experienced a huge wake-up call in terms of resource management and puzzles. Several doors were often locked behind items that you needed to find or puzzles to solve in order to progress. To find those items, you would often need to retrace your footsteps in total darkness with only a flashlight to guide your way. This makes it incredibly easy to miss resources and hidden compartments if you aren’t paying attention.

Likewise, for those that are uninitiated to the world of escape rooms, they are essentially a room(s) filled with puzzles and challenges that are designed for groups to attempt to complete in a specified time limit. This requires a lot of cooperation and attention to detail, as well as a sense of urgency. Not all escape rooms are scary, but the one we picked just so happened to be named…Asylum. With a fear factor of “Extreme.” Go figure.

Asylum gave us flashlights to use to navigate through the rooms. I knew it was going to be dark, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how scary it was in real life. The atmosphere was extremely tense, and the air was just charged with panic and tension as we realized we had entered our first locked room when our gamemaster shut the door behind us. As soon as we entered the first room, my blood started pumping and I began to tear the room apart looking for clues. Something just clicked, and I found myself following the same methods of searching that I practiced in-game. I looked under the bed, in the pillow, in coat pockets, and paid special attention to any written clues. Finally, I found a clipboard with a subtle hint. I was surprised that none of my friends had bothered to read it. Maybe they thought it was just a prop? Something that I learned in Resident Evil, however, is that clues to combination locks and puzzles are often left on pieces of paper that further the narrative.

Many of the puzzles inside Asylum were similar to those found in Resident Evil. Several of these involved finding the codes to a variety of locks.

Many of the puzzles inside Asylum were similar to those found in Resident Evil. Several of these involved finding the codes to a variety of locks.

Once we finally made it out of the locked room, we found ourselves in the asylum restrooms where we were greeted with a series of puzzles: a stall in the center with markings on the walls, three locked lockers, missing fuses, and two more locked stalls. After solving the combination for one of the lockers, we were presented with a card that we could use to help unlock the first stall door. However, we needed a few more cards before we could even begin solving that puzzle. After finding the card, no one bothered to search the locker further, and as we split up I found myself digging into the pockets of the stale uniform hanging there ominously. Nothing. However, an old, rusty box was buried at the bottom of the locker, and if I knew anything about old rusty boxes you could interact with in Resident Evil, there was bound to be something of use in there. After cracking it open I found the pieces we would need to help turn the lights back on in the hallway.

Keeping Calm Under Stress

Halloween week brought me face to face with the famous Mr. X, and pushed me harder than ever to remain calm in stressful situations. When you can hear the heavy thud of footsteps following close behind you, it’s all you can think about, especially when you realize you’re running low on resources and won’t have any way to fend him off. Similarly, we had no idea if there were any live actors present in the Asylum escape room. The 13th Gate is known for their elaborate costumes and actors in their haunted house, but the escape rooms tend to be a mystery when you enter them. We asked our gamemaster if there would be actors inside before we began, and she only gave us a mischievous smile and said “Not at first.” That added a whole other layer of fear on top of what we were already experiencing; the fear that someone that could be present in the dark around the corner. Technically, they aren’t supposed to touch you, but they can definitely get up in your face or jump out and scare you, and that was unnerving. Similar to that ever-present fear of Mr. X stomping around the corner, we were constantly contending with the fear that someone would pop up and try to get a cheap jump scare out of us or bust out of a nearby asylum patient’s room to chase us down the hallway.

X gon' give it to ya.

X gon’ give it to ya.

When we finally navigated to the doctor’s office and found the code to enter the surgery room, my heart stopped as I realized that I was facing pitch black darkness once more. As my friends huddled behind me, I realized I would have to be the first person to step into the room. I remembered facing a room exactly like that in Biohazard, and told myself that in order to get past it I just had to take the first step and keep going-so that’s just what I did. When we emerged on the other side of the door, we saw an operating table with a mutilated body, a control panel, bloodied instruments, and vaults for storing bodies in the wall. With less than fifteen minutes to solve the room, panic started to set in within the group. Two left to go search the office again, another stayed with me in the operating room, and the last two went to search a previous room to see if we had missed a clue. Though I didn’t want to stay in the operating room, I knew there had to be something there that we were missing.

Moving around the room with my flashlight, I realized that there was a compartment labeled “X-rays.” After sticking my hand in, I confirmed that there were several sheets, and next to the compartment was an illuminator that was turned off. Feeling around in the darkness, I found a switch and flipped it, calling back excitedly when light sprang into the room. The next few minutes were a rush of adrenaline as the group reassembled in the operating room and moved through the various puzzles that followed. There were so many challenges that came in the form of process of elimination, context clues, riddles, that forced you to grapple with your own fear and anxiety.

Claire's look of panic and confusion in Resident Evil 2 was basically the same look plastered on my face throughout the escape room experience.

Claire’s look of panic and confusion in Resident Evil 2 was basically the same look plastered on my face throughout the escape room experience.

DIAGNOSIS: ESCAPED!

With only two minutes to spare, our group finished the escape room and practically fell out of the door on top of our gamemaster. I’ll keep the details vague so that anyone who might want to try it out won’t have the story or ending spoiled, but we were so relieved to have actually completed the room together. The 13th Gate has one of the highest rated escape room experiences in the country, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to experience that kind of quality or adrenaline ever again, but we had a fantastic time. The difficulty level of the room was Intermediate, and it definitely showed when we got to some of the more vague puzzles and riddles deeper in the asylum.

If I hadn’t played Resident Evil, and so recently, I’m almost certain that I would have been absolutely useless in that situation. I had almost been desensitized to some of the jump scares after spending hours crawling around to avoid lickers and Mr. X. The puzzles and clues on the other hand were fantastic, and something that could have been plucked out of the game itself. In fact, the more I think about it, the more Resident Evil 2 just feels like a huge escape room with guns and zombies. I haven’t picked Resident Evil 2  back up since we got home from our trip because I’m still kind of getting my energy back, but I can’t wait to dive back in as Claire. While I might not be able to head back to the 13th Gate till next October, I can still hunt down zombies, solve puzzles, and recreate that thrill in-game.

Written by
Avid lover of all things fantasy and stylesheets, Emily spends her spare time trying to balance her affection for both technical and creative writing. One day she'll get there, but until then, she'd rather lose herself in the wonderful stories to be found within tabletop games and rpgs.

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