Red Lantern Escape Rooms Frees Your Spirits at “Midnight on the Bayou”
Red Lantern Escape Rooms is a new company located in Brea, CA. Their first room, called “Midnight on the Bayou” has a beautiful atmosphere, challenging puzzles, and changes up the traditional “escape room” end goal. The story of Midnight is (taken from their website): “Midnight on the Bayou takes you to the swamps of Louisiana for a carnival-themed high school reunion. Though it’s all fun and games to begin, you’ll soon discover the decades old mystery of the Homecoming barn fire, and learn that the past is still very much alive in Cormier Parish. Can you follow the clues and solve the puzzles before the clock strikes midnight?”
Mike: When I first walked in to the “Midnight”, I made an audible “Whoa!”. As soon as the door opens from the lobby to this room, you are taken to another place. You are no longer in Orange County, California, you are on the bayou in New Orleans. The set is beautiful and spacious and may remind you of a certain restaurant, inside a certain pirate ride, inside a certain magical theme park.
Russell: Yeah, this is one of those escape rooms where you walk in and have that initial, “Wow, this is cool!” Mike’s use of the word spacious is very important. This is an environment to explore. The feel of a location appropriate to the high school reunion story is a factor in the success of this room. You probably won’t find your team piling up in one area, ever. The room lends itself to each player exploring and finding which part of the mystery they will tackle.
Mike: Right away, I was put in a different mentality. Because of how the room is laid out, it feels very wide open. Something interesting happened to me because of this. Usually in escape rooms, there’s a claustrophobic feel due to the size of the room, the looming countdown clock ticking away, and the frantic need to find every and all clues; but within “Midnight”, I did not feel any of this. I never once felt rushed, closed in, or in that “we NEED to pick up the pace or else we won’t escape!” mentality like I do in most escape rooms. It was such a “care free” feeling that I didn’t even notice how much time was left and never felt the panic to check it. I think this is a testament to the room itself and the fact that you feel like you’re in New Orleans….where things are taken a little bit slower than they are here in California. We escaped with a little over 3 minutes left, so there was definitely a reason for me to panic if this was in another more traditional space.
Russell: Yes, Mike has absolutely picked up on a strong point of the room. The emphasis here is not on creating a tense scenario where you feel the rush of beating the clock. The timer is very subtle… there if you need it but not looming in an overtly visual manner. The unfolding story of your lost classmates is where your attention goes and the story becomes the focus. Actually, the story of each individual character you are told about in the prologue deepens as you proceed. Because of these factors, you never care about focusing on the time.
Mike: Something else that sets this room apart from others is the objective. In most escape rooms, you need to solve puzzles in order to find that final key that allows you to unlock the exit door and escape. In “Midnight”, you solve puzzles in order to “free” trapped spirits. These spirits were your friends who unfortunately passed away. The story of your old classmates passing on really helps you become invested in their stories and feel the need to “help” them in any way you can. To me, this was more of an “complete the objectives” room rather than an escape room. It gives you a video game type of feel because of this. What I mean is, once you free a spirit, it’s obvious that part of the story is done and you can move onto another spirit to help. This is not a negative in any way. You will still have VERY challenging puzzles and clues, you just don’t have that mindset of “escaping”.
Russell: Since each character has a different “objective” that must be uncovered and dealt with, our entire team found ourselves making our own individual discoveries as we explored. Part of the fun here is to figure out how a clue or item in the room relates to a specific character.
Mike: Russell just mentioned “clues” and wanted to say that another thing I really liked was the clue system in this room. In escape rooms that offer clues, a lot will just give them to you when you ask, but within “Midnight”, you have to earn it. In order to get a clue, you need to solve another puzzle that’s given to you by the game master. The game master for our game was great! He would definitely nudge us when we needed it, but it didn’t feel like he was overtly helping us. It was the perfect amount of information and confirmation without telling us the answer, which is something we really appreciate. We never like feeling we are being led to an answer too quickly or straight out told an answer, and these things did not happen.
Russell: I agree with Mike that the clues were well-handled. Also, I would like to point out something that happened to me. I had several moments of feeling lost or confused – but not in the usual “escape room confusion” mindset. What happened here is that I made the mistake of trying to predict how the solutions would appear. It messed with me because numerous tasks within this room are similar to things I have seen before but led to different solutions. I spent a little too much time in my head pondering why something I did failed to open something up… only to realize I was jumping to a conclusion about the type of game we were playing. I bring this up as another compliment to this room… along with the story and the location, the puzzles and tasks required of us were also a different style and pace than many escape rooms we have seen.
Mike: I agree 100%! When you’ve done a few escape rooms, you seem to get in a rut thinking of how something is and should be solved. “Midnight” takes that and throws it out the window! It’s a great way to keep enthusiasts satisfied and challenged and to keep new people engaged. A reason for this is that the creator of the room imagined and created the puzzles as an author and not as an escape room fanatic. After hearing this and solving his puzzles, I can really see the distinction and it works.
Overall, this room offers a take on the escape room that is a welcome departure from many high-pressure scenarios we have played out.
Russell: You WILL feel the tension building, but NOT simply due a ticking clock. You become invested in the objective to help the “spirits” and your concern comes from knowing you must help them complete specific tasks. You might get frustrated and then revel in the solutions once you realize how to get there – more than likely, you will discover some fun surprises along the way. (One task in particular proved frustratingly fun because all four players have different personalities and we were forced to work together in a manner we have never encountered before.).
Mike: If you’re looking for a fun, bring the whole family, escape room, then this is it. Even though we mention “spirits”, this is not a horror or scary escape room. They recommend having ages 10 and above, but will cater to younger if you book the whole room.