Steel Owl Room Adventures – Escape the 1980s [Review]

Another 1980s escape room! This one was in Philadelphia and it was created before the one in Washington, DC. Time travel is so complicated.

Photo of a gun-weilding, sunglasses-clad Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2, captioned,

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date played: February 7, 2016

Team size: 4-14; we recommend 4-8

Price: $28 per ticket

2016 Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Theme & story

This game was set in four different 1980s commercial spaces. There wasn’t really a story so much as there were a series of pop culture and nostalgia fueled puzzles.

Everything 80s

Everything in Steel Owl’s venue was 80s themed.

The game, the victory photos, the event/party room, the employees’ clothing, and even the bathroom were 1980s themed.

Intro video

We have a new champion for best intro video. Escape the 1980s begins with an incredible Max Headroom-y explanation of the game, its rules, and its objectives.

The video rental store

Escape the 1980s began in a video rental store, which was one of the most grin-inducing escape room locales I’ve visited. It was strange to realize that I haven’t set foot in a video rental store in over 10 years.

Video really was the beating heart of Escape the 1980s. If you don’t know how VHS works, you will by the end of Escape the 1980s.

A video rental shelf containing a variety of 1980s classics movies, and some that aren't quite so classic.
This one goes to 11.

Great technology

From Atari, to the Commodore 64, to a very funny pop culture interface, there was a lot of tech in Escape the 1980s and it all worked. These items weren’t just added for flavor; they were deeply integrated into the experience and they were wonderful.

Photo of a Commodore 64 keyboard

How helpful was 1980s knowledge?

A strong understanding of 1980s pop culture provided a strong edge in Escape the 1980s.

That being said, everything was perfectly solvable without any outside knowledge and the game never really became truly difficult.

The bubblegum pop of escape rooms

I don’t mean this as an insult.

Escape the 1980s wasn’t difficult. It was designed for the players to experience the entire game and win.

There was a two-tiered hinting system: The first was the rooms soundtrack. The songs changed depending upon what puzzle we were working on and the chorus of the song was a hint at the action that we needed to take.

Second, we could also buy a clue at the cost of a three minute penalty. However, there were a couple of opportunities to earn extra minutes through humorous side missions.

The game also included candy and free beer coupons for a local bar hidden throughout the game space.

Everything was easy to digest.

Should I play Steel Owl Room Adventures’ Escape the 1980s?

Escape the 1980s was a deceptively brilliant game. It was upbeat, player-friendly, and had no edge to it at all. That wasn’t bad.

Photo of an Atari with a paddle. There is a cartidge in the console that has had it's title redacted.

Escape rooms started as a very challenging form of entertainment. As the medium grows, expands, and evolves, one natural branch is a very friendly, softer experience. Escape the 1980s embodies this.

The puzzles were sound. The setting was fun. The game was funny. And the overall experience was very well thought out.

Some of the rooms in Escape the 1980s were stronger than others and the game relied too heavily on VHS tapes to the point of predictability, but overall, it was an incredibly pleasurable experience.

If you’re looking for a creative, technologically-driven experience that isn’t too difficult then you’re going to love Escape the 1980s.

If you’re seeking a serious challenge, or a gritty, intense environment, then you should look elsewhere.

Photo og a guy in a blue jackey covered in yellow chicks,
Mason “The Coding Designer” Wendell

I never stopped smiling in Escape the 1980s and that counts for quite a bit.

Dust off your Atari skills and book your hour with Steel Owl Room Adventures Escape the 1980s, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you by using the coupon code, Room_Escape_Artist to receive 10% off.

Full disclosure: Steel Owl Room Adventure comped our tickets for this game.


  1. Great review! Looking forward to playing this game one day.

  2. Great review!!! Can’t wait to try this out myself.

  3. Good review…nailed it. Escape the 80s was an AMAZING team outing. So much fun, even for the 20-somethings in our group…who weren’t even born in the 80s

  4. “I never stopped smiling in Escape the 1980s and that counts for quite a bit.” <- Yup! Escape the 1980's is a fantastic use of an hour! Highly recommended for anyone who likes fun!

  5. Awesome! An experience like no other in South Philadelphia.

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