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Review: Playground

RATING: 6 Keys          RESULT: Win          REMAINING: 4:30

If school was this fun every day, I wouldn’t have spent most of it counting down the seconds towards graduation!


Today is the last day of the school year, which means it’s time for the annual Summer Kickoff Kickball Tournament! You’re playing against your arch rivals, the 5th Graders, and you want to win more than anything! However, you and your team are still stuck in class. In order to leave class, you’ll need to finish all of your assignments and get your final report card. The game starts in an hour and if you don’t make it in time, you’ll have to forfeit. So hurry up, work fast, and start your summer as champions!

It’s the age old saga of you and your 4th Grade buddies against those jerks from Ms. Libby’s 5th Grade class for the ultimate prize: the Golden Kickball. Ok – maybe it’s not quite a tale as old as time – after all – you’re only in the 4th grade – and maybe a kickball game is far from a saga in the grand scheme of life. But you know what? It’s the last day of school and you can’t tell me what to do anymore!

The problem is the entire class is a bit behind – and Ms. Clayton isn’t going to let any of us play in the big game until we complete all of our subjects and receive a passing report card for the 4th Grade. It’s time to cram like we’ve never crammed before and get all of our final assignments in. English, Geography, Art, and yes, even Math (but don’t worry – not really) need to be aced in order to maintain our spot in Coach Robbie’s Summer Kick-off tournament – which, by the way happens to be the second largest tournament in all of the Tri-County area (*unconfirmed)… So I think you all know what this means to us! (?)

And speaking of the Cooooooach – his personal introduction in Playground’s preshow video sets the mood perfectly – immediately teaching us kids that not only is this game going to be unique, but it’s going to be FUNNY.  This is a very different tone for The Escape Game – a venue who often focus on serious themes – but make no mistake, they kick it out of the park!


Appropriate to its narrative, Playground begins with us locked in Ms. Clayton’s 4th Grade classroom. Tiny desks with even tinier chairs are sure to instantly set the tone while bringing back memories some of us may have tried to forget from our childhood. The walls are lined with all of those colorful – and oftentimes uninspired – standard “teacher store graphics” (you know the type!) And as the ultimate recess tease, large windows look out to the adjacent playground (hey – just like in the name!) as a sort of candy bar dangling from a stick (come on – we’re kids here; nobody wants a carrot!)

An absolutely brilliant transition worthy of an A++ grade gets us out of the classroom and into the playground in a way so authentic that I guarantee you every one of us has unquestionably considered it at some point when we were kids, trapped in class on a beautiful spring day.

The playground is an expansive space that spans multiple levels thanks to a custom jungle gym, which, yes, even us big kids are allowed to climb. The grassy floors absolutely work to set the mood – and the building overhangs from the main schoolhouse adds an authenticity that make the space feel very real.

Naturally if we ace our tests, we’ll also make it into Coach Robbie’s gymnasium, stocked full of lockers and bags with athletic equipment jammed into every corner.


We often talk about how games are fun – and at their core, for sure all of them are. But here’s the thing – there’s fun, and then there’s FUN – like the kind of fun that legitimately makes you forget you’re a grown up with adult responsibilities.  Simply put, The Escape Game is so successful in the way they’ve designed Playground’s puzzle flow that it is a sure-fire guarantee to make each and every member of your group feel like a kid again – including one specific puzzle that resulted in me repeatedly shouting “I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST GOT TO [it’s a secret] IN AN ESCAPE GAME!”

Everything in Playground connects organically to a 4th Grade class. Puzzles link seamlessly to different subjects you can expect to study in elementary school – but here’s the thing – there’s not a single “kid’s puzzle” in here Now, to be clear, Playground is certainly a welcoming game, and would be quite appealing to a younger audience set – but make no mistake, this is a game for the grown-ups – and provided a very healthy challenge for our hyper-experienced team.

Playground is structured in a very free-form, non-linear style that’s different from many of The Escape Game’s other offerings. Using the over-sized, wall-mounted Report Card, students are able to earn their grades to many subjects in any order they choose. Once each course is completed, a grade is displayed indicating that individual puzzle track is complete.  Tasks connect to their school subject matters, but none require any form of prior knowledge that cannot be found somewhere in the classroom. And best of all, our courses are not always as literal as you may think at first glance. (No, there aren’t any giant equations to be solved here to earn your Math credit, nor lengthy reading to ace English – but there is one of the only storyworld-sensible uses of a crossword puzzle we’ve ever come across!) We may be back in school, but our assignments in Playground feel like anything but homework!


The Escape Game has long been home to some of our favorite story-driven, highly themed rooms. With past outings like Mission: Mars, they have raised their own bar for narrative-rich adventures, but Playground is truly their gold star. A completely different mood – not only from The Escape Game’s offerings, but of a vast majority of alternatives in the industry, Playground is a refreshing change of pace.

I feel we need to reiterate that contrary to it’s 4th Grade theme, Playground is NOT a children’s game. Again, kids who come will have a blast playing with their parents, but make no mistake that this game will be a genuine challenge to even experienced players. In fact, while it’s no secret that we ourselves prefer to play in somewhat smaller groups – a product of the sheer number of games we’ve played to this point – Playground is one of the only instances where we found ourselves admitting we would have benefited to have several additional members on our team. Sure, we won – but the truth is we’re not entirely sure how we pulled it off. There’s a LOT to do – every single bit of it fun, and something you’ll WANT to do – but a LOT just the same.

Needless to say, we quite literally ran more than a few laps in preparation for Coach Robbie’s Summer Kick-off – and frankly, had we not spent the majority of the hour sprinting back and forth, we would have stood zero chance of avoiding summer school. But just like preparing for a big test in our younger days, the effort absolutely paid off, delivering us not just the Golden Kickball, but a truly A++ escape game experience the likes of which we’ll be talking about long after this summer vacation ends.

Venue Details

Venue: The Escape Game

Location: Houston, TX

Number of Games: 4


Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 12 people

Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.

Cost: $31.99 per person

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EAR Disclaimer

We thank The Escape Game for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.

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