Experience your own Amblin cinematic adventure at the Great Movie Escape at Universal Orlando Resort. io9 was invited to try out the new interactive escape rooms inspired by Jurassic World and Back to the Future at CityWalk and chat with Universal Creative about its collaboration with two of Universal Pictures’ biggest franchises.
“We work directly with the filmmakers,” shared Nate Stevenson, show director at Universal Orlando Resort’s Creative Development Group. “All the scripting that we wrote, a lot of the scenic things like that—they were very involved because these brands really are so iconic that we wanted the authenticity to be there. We wanted to make sure when you walk in, you feel like you’re walking into Jurassic World’s InGen [labs]. And same thing with Back to the Future.” While the Great Movie Escape is not inside Universal Studios Orlando or Islands of Adventure, but rather the adjacent CityWalk, it aims to cater to guests looking for more themed experiences to try out and is touted as highly adaptive to guests of all ages and can change up depending on the group size—each slot can fit up to eight people.
Both entrances are styled like an old-timey cinema with props from both films on display. It really evokes a sense of walking into the movie itself. Stevenson explained, “The team that [Universal Creative] have over at Art and Design is so creatively diverse. They not only love escape rooms, but they love these two brands. So it was really just fun for us all to get our hands on this.”
He continued, describing how the system works to identify the gameplay difficulty based on how much each team can accomplish within their given time in each of the room’s pods. “Every level is set up in a way that it just works right into the next stage of the challenge. They kind of flow one into the other, and we did that on purpose so [first-time guests] that come in can have a really cool experience and just be immersed in the movie and enjoy it. And then people who love escape rooms come in can unlock all these different stages and unlock other things.”
When asked if this would allow more seasoned interactive fans to come back for more configurations, Stevenson shared that they could inform upon check-in for a level of difficulty they’re more comfortable with, but recommended keeping note of the stages completed. “You wouldn’t really know unless we told you at the end, which we will—‘You did this many stages out of this many.’ And [you can] come back and try to get better at it.” After experiencing both, I’d recommend starting out with the standard difficulty; the style of escape room games took some getting used to.
This is the room I was most looking forward to. It’s been awhile since Back to the Future has had any major representation at the Universal theme parks since its ride was replaced by The Simpsons’ Springfield area (back before the Disney acquisition), and it’s been sorely missed. As a tribute to the Back to the Future: The Ride, this escape room took place at the theme park’s in-universe setting for the defunct attraction, Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology. If you’re a BTTF fan, it is your density to try the room out.
“When you go through Back to the Future, it’s more prop-based, ” Stevenson noted, pointing out the big difference between this room and Jurassic. In Outatime you’re enlisted on an adventure after Biff steals Doc Brown’s newest time travel device; you and your crew have to solve memory teasers related to each room filled with props or era-specific devices to stop Biff before it’s too late. They were relatively simple puzzles that don’t always depend on knowing movie specifics, but I found it took some getting used to and definitely involves a lot of communicating with your group. If you go in with strangers, it’s best to get to know them quick; it’s all hands on deck since most of the rooms require everyone’s participation. And for the movie fan, there’s definitely enough to take in and big moments that are experienced within the story, with a major surprise that hits all the nostalgia highs. “You got a lot of unique scenes because of all those different places in time that you’re going to go through,” Stevenson teased. There’s so much I’d like to say about it, but even more than Jurassic World—which centers on one movie moment—the Back to the Future room is just delightful reveal after reveal. This is one the one I can’t wait to do again.
I’m just going to say it: Escape is definitely for the younger crowd or the hardcore Jurassic franchise fan. It’s mostly tablet generation based, and that’s on purpose—which I totally get because while Outatime is more rooted in retro fun, this one is the modern movie spectacle. “When you go through Jurassic it’s very technically based, it’s very tech savvy, a lot of screens, things like that,” Stevenson said.
In Jurassic World: Escape, you find yourself in one of InGen’s secret genetics labs on the day the dinosaurs get loose at the theme park—and because all the professionals evacuated, it’s up to you and your team to help the park guests get to safety. The plot of this one is hilarious because it has “you’re the intern who has to fix it” energy, while you do things like configure dinosaur DNA, run security, and run from dinosaurs. Here it really felt more contemporary and more like a digital immersive experience, and it was more obvious the difficulty was orchestrated by tech. “It’s a really big computer brain. So it not only knows how many people you’re taking in—it’ll change what it’s doing based on the amount of people that go through,” Stevenson explained, referring to both rooms—but it’s more apparent in Escape. “There’s whole other challenges and rooms that if you unlock enough stages, you can do that by coming in and doing the challenge as quickly as possible. We wanted to the whole team do something, everybody has to participate, so that’s pretty cool.”
If there’s anything that will get me to stop for a snack or drinks, it’s if they’re themed after movies I love. And the Great Movie Escape has bars open to enjoy in-universe libations before and after experience or if you’re opting out to wait for your loved ones to be done.
The movie mixology features drinks inspired by both attractions like the Gigawatt Glow and the Raptor Bite, which colorfully evoke the vibe of the films. If you’re more into classic drinks (like me), there’s the Hill Valley Gin and Tonic and the coffee-infused Old Fashioned, aptly named Wake Up Juice. Additionally, there’s a full bar and movie theater snacks to enjoy.
The Great Movie Escape is now open at Citywalk at the Universal Orlando Resort. Book your tickets here.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.