Editor’s note: David Spira, co-creator of this website, was involved early on as a production consultant on the pilot episode for Create The Escape. He was not involved in the writing or editing of this review.
Create The Escape is a series on the Peacock network in which professional designers work with kids to plan and build a room for their parents to complete. Each half-hour episode consists of a creation segment and a playthrough segment. The creation segment focuses on set construction and puzzle prototyping, allowing the kids to contribute to the process. The playthrough segment reveals how all of the details come together and then follows the parents as they attempt to escape the room. Some of the kids watch the parents from a Control Room and deliver hints, while the others participate in jump scares and controlled set interactions. If the parents complete the room in under 30 minutes, they win a trophy and a mysterious prize box. Otherwise, the kids win these items.
My Family’s Reaction
My squad of two parents, one nine-year-old, and one six-year-old was thoroughly engaged and eager to binge-watch the whole series. Each episode was well paced to maintain our attention, alternating among diverse elements of escape room design and operation. The sets were gorgeous, the puzzles were approachable, and the playthroughs were entertaining. Considering our other reality show interests, the kids compared this favorably to Floor Is Lava, and it had some of the elements of Making It that I love.
Escape room enthusiasts would do well to share this with the children in their lives as an appealing introduction to the richness of escape rooms. Your biggest problem will be finding real kid-friendly rooms that live up to these expectations.
Why It Works for Kids
This show was effectively constructed to connect with young minds, judging from the elaborate, appealing sets all the way through the humor and writing. Although the jokes admittedly swung into “dad joke” territory, they connected with my kids 100%. This was most valuable during the creation segment of the show, where my kids were less interested in the actual content, but still riveted by the writing and the contestants themselves. My kids could see themselves in those kids; they truly bought into the conceit that the kids on tv were helping to design the room in meaningful ways. Now my kids have their own room ideas. They’re willing to consult on a Cat Paradise or Undead Beauty and the Beast room… I can put you in touch.
At a meta level, I was impressed with how the show’s editing and design elegantly supported the kids’ understanding throughout each episode. The creation segments did an excellent job of explaining what to expect from the room, previewing enough of the set and the puzzle logic for viewers to orient themselves. This preview enhanced the playthrough experience because it gave enough detail to successfully follow along with puzzles that may otherwise have been too fast-paced to process, especially for kids. Thankfully, these details avoided spoiling the playthroughs, which still had plenty of fun surprises. Also, the Control Room gimmick was a brilliant use of an escape room component to focus the audience throughout the playthrough. It struck me as a more robust and less obnoxious “laugh track” for the experience, tightly cuing our attention and reactions.
Why It Works for Parents
As a parent, I obviously want my children to follow their hearts without the burden of feigning interest in my favorite pastimes. I do share my interests with them, but only as long as they tolerate it.
On that foundation, it was delightful to see them connect with this show because it makes escape rooms utterly attractive. It did my evangelizing for me. At the end of the eleven episodes, my kids were ready to pack up and binge on rooms “RIGHT NOW, MOMMY!!!” We did not do that, but the seed was planted.
I was also pleased that my kids noticed that every member of the parent teams was helping to solve the puzzles. No one was left out, and everyone was contributing. The teams seemed to demonstrate an authentic, balanced version of teamwork. Unexpected role models FTW!
On a practical and possibly niche note, I found the set design segments to be surprisingly approachable as potential DIY projects. They were varied, ranging from smal-scale, kid-friendly activities to larger-scale efforts that could add a bit of decorative flair to a party. I’m positive that there’s a chicken-wire balloon wall somewhere in my future…
Our Wish List
There were two main issues that bothered us all, parents and children alike.
- We wanted the teams to finish. The show oddly presented the goal of each room as trying to defeat the parents. However, we had the opposite reaction. After the creation segment worked so hard to invest us in each room, we were deeply disappointed when a team didn’t get to experience the whole thing. There were some particular finales that devastated my kids when they didn’t happen.
- What’s in the prize box? For some reason, the show never revealed what the families actually won. Even though the prize box was itself quite beautiful, WE WANTED TO SEE PRIZES. Fortunately, David got to the bottom of this in the podcast episode, linked below.
The show did what one might hope: inspired kids to want to play escape rooms, ASAP. It left me in a paradox, though: the games in the show were designed for adults, making them likely too hard for the show’s target audience. Likewise, our home market lacks kid-appropriate rooms that also incorporate tv-level production values. I hear tell that these exist elsewhere in the universe, so I guess it’s time to take on that quest. Until then, we’ll just cross our fingers for Season 2 of Create The Escape.
For more about Create The Escape, we hope you’ll check out our interview with Puzzle Design Expert Hillary Manning on The Reality Escape Pod.