It’s been a long year of being stuck at home, and now that I’m vaccinated, I wanted to go somewhere fun (and safe) for a night out of the house. Cue Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space.
A place for puzzles since 2015, CU Adventures has provided Champaign-Urbana with escape room opportunities for a long time. Owners Chris and Anne Lukeman have found creative ways to bring their adventures into our homes this year, with virtual games and even an escape room on a shirt, but began offering in person games again in January.
My husband and I are escape room enthusiasts. We’ve played all the games at CU Adventures' old location in addition to the other rooms offered at the current location. We also like to play escape rooms wherever we travel. The only room we had yet to play was Revenge of the Cabin, CU Adventures in Time and Space’s spookiest escape room, and so that’s the room I’ll be sharing my experience about — no spoilers, of course, about the room, or any rooms, so you can read this without ruining the experience.
For your escape room adventure, make sure to book online in advance. You can select the room you want, and if you don’t know which room to pick, there are little descriptions about each room. I selected Revenge of the Cabin, and I picked a time that worked for us. When it was our scheduled day, we arrived ready to solve some puzzles.
In pre-pandemic times, your group may be paired with others interested in the same room, but now, if you book the room, it will be a private escape room experience with just your group. On the website, CU Adventures states, "We are asking all groups to only book experiences with members of their household," so this might be a fun time to utilize those togetherness skills from being stuck at home.
Parking is easy at this location with plenty of spots right in front of the building. When we walked in, we were the only customers, and the staff was masked. He asked us to wash our hands in the bathroom upon arrival, and I’ll say, it felt like a pretty smart idea as we would be touching everything in that room.
Photo by Anna Longworth.
Besides feeling clean and safe, the walk to the bathroom and back to the lobby set the vibe well because we were able to notice the posters and decorations throughout the place: lots of interesting doodads and Easter eggs.
When our hands were washed, the staff explained the rules. Don’t destroy things. Keep our masks on the entire time. He reiterated that we wouldn’t be truly locked in; we could open the door and leave at any time.
Then, he walked us down the hall, stopped at the door, and gave an in-character spiel about how we’ve come to this cabin in the woods and a teaser about our goal. He opened the door, and we walked in. He left us alone in the spooky room.
Photo from CU Adventures in Time and Space's website.
Revenge of the Cabin is a sequel to the original Cabin game that CU Adventures offered at their previous location in Downtown Urbana. We loved that room, so we were really excited to play the sequel. Standing in the room, it was as creepy as you’d expect. I don’t want to spoil the room, so I won’t tell you too many details. It was dark, so there were things in the shadows, locks with no keys in sight, and some frightening props. We were also provided paper and pens to write down clues which I thought was helpful — and not all escape rooms offer this.
In most escape room experiences, there is a visible timer, so you can know how much time has elapsed and how much time remains. The timer for this room wasn’t a digital clock; it was built into the room as part of the scenery. The room was dimly lit, and so the only way to see clues better was to use the lanterns we found in the room — and those lanterns were not strongly lit which made the tasks more difficult and scary.
If you are easily spooked or you are a child, this hair-raising room is not for you (but there are other games available). Revenge of the Cabin was not as scary as a haunted house with chainsaws, but it was unsettling and at times gorey — in a very fun way, of course.
We began by just looking for clues all around the room: looking up and down, under things, behind things, and we found many clues. There were some that didn’t make sense, some that later turned out to be red herrings, and some clues led us to a quick first success on a lock.
There were a variety of puzzles: some simpler and some pretty complicated. Some could be solved just with one person, but most needed us to work together to figure them out. Some of them were literally cooperative where we couldn’t solve it without having one of us in one spot and the other doing something else. At several points, we each had a task, and completing them together solved clues.
The items that are in CU Adventures’ escape rooms are realistic. In this room, the furniture was real and styled to the disturbing room we were solving. The art direction for this room was solid (and that has been my experience in all of CU Adventures' rooms). Everything in the Revenge of the Cabin had a nightmarish look from the walls to the props to the reveals. We kind of forgot that we were in a warehouse in Urbana. The creepy cabin felt totally immersive and real for those 60 minutes.
Photo by Anna Longworth.
In this room, there were standard locks with hidden keys and codes, but CU Adventures in Time and Space had some next level additions as well: custom, hand-drawn images and maps plus little devices and housemade set-ups, all integrated into the frightening room. It felt so realistic, like we were truly trapped at night in a cabin and needed to escape fast before something horrific happened.
In this room, we always felt like we were moving towards something. Often, we had the next step figured out pretty quickly — which was great because there were many steps to accomplish in only an hour. I never felt like we were standing there for too long because we were not shy to ask for clues. One great thing about CU Adventures in Time and Space is that they don’t limit the amount of clues you can receive in a game. The rule of thumb for escape rooms is three clues, but if you’ve had your three clues, and you're still stuck, you can ask for more.
Asking early for our first clue helped us, and we didn’t feel dumb having to use the help. Our first clue was the game master basically telling us where to use a key that we had found, and that was key to getting the next step of the puzzle solved.
The game master is the staff person who watches the game and stays aware of how much we know in the game. He (and every game master we’ve had at CU Adventures) was definitely part of this experience, acting as a character within the theme of the room. The clues given were organic to what we were doing, not written in advance. Our game master was helpful and clearly invested in our success.
There are parts of the room that were unexpected. I can’t tell you much more than that without spoiling. Every time we’ve played at CU Adventures, there’s always one hyper-personalized moment that feels like it’s worth the price of admission. There was an incredible moment in this game that blew our minds. We’re still talking about it; it was that freaking amazing.
Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
We solved the Revenge of the Cabin with two minutes to spare, and it was the perfect adventure from our perspective. We didn’t get out too early and feel like we “wasted” some of the room, or we didn’t take too long to solve that we failed. Two people are enough to solve this room, and the ominous theme made for lots of arm grabbing which was sort of romantic.
If you’re heading out to try an escape room at CU Adventures in Time and Space, let me share just two tips. The most important one is to ask your game master for hints. There is no leaderboard in the lobby; there are no trophies or awards for winning without hints. The hints help you have a good time. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for them. Whenever I’ve had a bad experience, it’s because we failed the room, and we were way off, usually trying to solve with no hints, and a hint would have certainly helped.
My last tip is be casual and have fun. Laugh when you realize you’ve been reading the clues wrong. Look under everything even if it seems silly. Keep calm and remember that it’s all just a puzzle — a puzzle they want you to be able to solve. Being stressed doesn’t help solve the puzzles, and often it can hamper progress. Go with a playful mindset instead of competitive, and you’ll have a great experience. If you can’t be playful outright, I suggest a drink at Bunny’s first and then walk over to CU Adventures.
If you like horror movies, Revenge of the Cabin will be up your alley. If you’re not into eerie cabin themes, there are other games available without the macabre theme. My husband and I find escape rooms to be a fun date night activity, something more interesting than just dinner out.
If you’re looking to escape some boredom, grab your partner or your roommates, and book an escape room experience at CU Adventures in Time and Space.