We Played Escape Room Z – And We Loved It!
First thing’s first, you should know that we’re veterans of the escape room world.
We’ve played, and beat, some of the top-rated escape rooms on the planet. Whenever we travel, we’re always on the lookout for escape rooms, leading to incredible experiences in Portland, Maine, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Orlando, and more (not to mention, countless forgettable escape room experiences pretty much everywhere!).
So understandably, we always love to find ourselves a new challenge. We needed something that would stretch our wits to the breaking point… and hopefully a little further!
Enter Escape Room Z, the world’s best zombie escape room game. Winning escape room Z requires securing the last pizza in existence (or at least in the building) and saving it from hordes of foul, smelly, and rather ugly zombies. You start the game with nothing but your wits. You hope those wits lead you to a pizza and a weapon. Otherwise, you’re a zombie’s next victim.
Given that this is Lock Paper Scissors’ hardest at-home escape room game, and we LOVE zombies, Escape Room Z seemed like the perfect fit for us! So we decided to set it up over the weekend and give it a go. Here’s how it went:
Escape Room Z sets up without hassle. Besides excellent training for the zombie apocalypse, the beauty of the game is in its total customizability. If you want to turn your house into a full-on zombie invasion, with mannequin zombies in every corner, blood splatter on the wall, and real pizzas in the oven, you can! Or, if you’re not feeling like going to all that effort you can just throw the cards on the table and get your adventure started.
We have an open living room/dining room/kitchen setup. We decided that this provided more than ample space for the six people playing the game. You will probably want a room that has a wall without breakables. You will see why later.
When decorating the room, we took a middle road, primarily because we lack mannequins, and because my wife would not allow blood splatter on the wall (shocking, I know). Fortunately, Escape Room Z comes with great posters. Print out the posters and place them around the room. We staged some on mirrors, some on the refrigerator, and some on the picture frames. After the game, we almost forgot to remove a zombie portrait from our daughter’s frame!
The game itself sets up quickly. Print out the clue cards and zombies (yes, zombies. Don’t worry, no AI is involved, and the zombies will not animate). Cut out where indicated. Assemble the zombies and bring them all to the game room.
You can either put the cards all on a table or hide them around the room. We spread them around the room, including putting some on the wall, to make the players move and think.
Finally, locate the Spotify playlist for the game. Escape Room Z features two playlists, a mellow, spooky list, and an upbeat, fun list. We went with mellow and spooky. Dancing while zombies lurked outside the door seemed foolhardy.
The Gamemaster (Yes, You)
One of the fun parts of setting up the game was not knowing what clues were needed first or in what order! Escape Room Z’s design allows everyone to play, including the people setting up the game. (Which was great news for me! I wanted to play too!)
The Escape Room Z website contains excellent instructions to set up the game. It also contains well-marked spoilers — do not click those links! You want to have as much fun as the players in the room. Therefore, you do not want to know the hints and solutions in advance.
If you need a hint during the game, you ask for it on the Escape Room Z website. You will need the site open during the game, as some clues only appear after you put in the right answer to another clue. Make sure you have a laptop or tablet available during the game.
We invited another family of escape room fanatics to the house for the zombie party game. This group also has several games and a few escapes under their belt. Our final tally was four adults and two college freshmen (engineering majors, so we figured we had it made. Oops).
While I craved an excellent cauliflower crust pizza, which goes well with the game’s theme, our friends had pizza the night before. I settled for fajitas with tortillas, queso, and guacamole. Maybe settled is not the right word.
We had a nice dinner and a good conversation. We relaxed over a few drinks and caught up with the college students (home and taking online classes due to the pandemic). Finally, we cleared the dining room table, put away the food, and finished the game setup (we needed the dining room table for the zombie game).
Before starting the zombie escape room game, make sure you have a good countdown timer. We used one we found here and cast it to the tv. It provided audible prompts every ten minutes. Problem solved.
Everyone sat down at the dining room table. We played the introductory video, giving everyone a sense of the zombie game. Everyone paid rapt attention. A sense of urgency filled the room. We started the timer and began the game.
As soon as the timer started ticking, everyone quickly gathered the clues hidden around the room (we decided against hiding them in lockboxes for this game). We sat down at the table, stared at the clues, and then at each other. The first question — where do we begin?
The website for the game listed several puzzles. It also offered hints and solutions. We did not bother with hints. Instead, we tried to find a relationship among the puzzles, using various techniques gleaned from prior experiences (there will be no spoilers here. However, if you’re looking for escape room tips and tricks, Lock Paper Scissors also has a great ‘how to beat an escape room’ guide here).
We quickly started the two engineering students on a puzzle requiring matching shapes while the rest of us went to work on the word puzzles. Some of these struck more fear into our hearts than the zombies did! As we decided which one made the most sense to start with, we heard the ominous words “50 minutes remaining.”
Five minutes later, we decided that we needed our first hint. After all, we had zombies at the door, a pizza in the oven, and were running out of time to solve the first clue. We did break one of the cardinal rules of escape rooms — feast after the game, not before! A full belly can really slow down your thought process. Whether it was the food or our own poor imaginations, we needed help.
Fortunately, Escape Room Z offers its own help wizard (check it out here). Pictures of all puzzle cards sit on a single website. They offer 2-3 hints, which you take one at a time, and a solution. Not ready to concede, we unlocked the first hint. Of course, it triggered that glowing ‘aha!’ moment for all of us. In hindsight, the answer was staring us dead in the face, so we solved it and moved past the first puzzle.
While four of us toiled away at the next puzzle, and the engineering students continued their quest for the proper matches to unlock the oven, the ominous voice returned. “40 minutes remaining.” We all stared at it for a few seconds, as if that would add time back to the clock.
By this point, my phone had malfunctioned, and the spooky zombie music disappeared, but, with our heads deep in the puzzles, no one noticed. While it was on, it added to the vibe in the room. I highly recommend you use one of the playlists.
A few seconds later, the engineering students broke into an excited yell! They solved the puzzle that unlocked the oven. Woohoo! We’ve got the pizza! College students love pizza fresh out of the oven, even if it is just paper.
Now we just needed to take our pizza and escape the zombie horde. For that, we definitely needed a weapon. Remember, you want to fight zombies from a distance, not up close. (By the way, have you read our zombie survival tips yet? They may save your life…)
We unlocked another hint. It helped. We found the answer… or so we thought. When we put our answer into the link provided, it told us we had the wrong answer. It gave the same response for the next two.
Here is where I bestow upon you two vital hints. First, four people working on one puzzle leads to confusion. We should have split up into more groups. Second, don’t transpose numbers. Zombies are not smart. They don’t recognize typos. You need to input the numbers in the proper sequence to get the right answer and unlock the gun safe.
Finally, we unwrapped the answer to the puzzle and obtained the gun! Time to confront the zombies marching across the dining room table!
We bought a cheap nerf gun for our weapon. You pulled back on a lever to load the spring and pull the trigger to send the dart flying. Fortunately, for my health and my marriage, I tested the dart out on a sofa earlier in the day. It packed a punch! That meant that the zombie shooting gallery needed to stay away from all breakables. I planned accordingly.
You can buy a much less powerful gun for your game or even throw ping pong balls at the zombies. Ping pong balls will disintegrate a zombie on contact.
We backed about 10 feet away from the zombies and began shooting. Our weapon lacked accuracy. We probably missed six times for every hit. Finally, after passing the weapon to all six players (multiple times, I regret to say), the last zombie fell, leaving us victorious! The clock was stopped, high fives were exchanged, and puzzles relived!
Everyone agreed that Escape Room Z was a serious challenge. The puzzles were challenging, but not impossible, as you would want from an escape room. A room too difficult leaves everyone frustrated, while an easy room leaves the players unfulfilled.
We entertained serious doubts around 15 minutes in that we would finish. Without an excessive number of hints, we finished with a little time to spare. It took a few minutes to figure out the direction of the hints. Once we did that, we progressed quickly.
Setting up the game could not be easier. You decide how elaborate a setup you desire, and lay it out. You could be ready to play the game in about 20 minutes — the time it takes to print out the games, cut out the cards, and assemble the zombies. You could also spend a few hours setting it up to create a more realistic feel. You control the experience.
Our setup worked for our group. It created an excellent atmosphere to draw the players into the game. However, once we began solving puzzles in earnest, the wall posters faded into the background. We focused on the puzzles, as you might expect when facing death at the hands of pizza-eating zombies.
We had a night to remember. We will definitely return to these print-at-home escape room games for more epic game nights in future. They allow for a wonderful night of fun with friends, without the high cost of regular escape rooms. (Seriously, six people can play one of these games for the price of a single escape room ticket!)
Try a zombie party game for yourself. Print out Escape Room Z, decide on a setup, and invite some friends over. You and your friends will have a blast figuring out clues and solving the game! Afterward, serve refreshments as everyone discusses the red herrings they fell for and the puzzles that they solved with ease. You will have a fantastic night to remember and to repeat.