Universal’s New Escape Rooms Take You into Back to the Future and Jurassic World

Eric Goldman
Movies
Movies

In the past decade, as escape rooms have become popular, we’ve seen a horror movie series launch inspired by the concept and even a couple of officially licensed escape rooms based off popular movies such as Saw (that one’s located in Vegas). But Universal Orlando Resort is now bringing escape rooms into a theme park surrounding – or at least a theme park adjacent one – in a big way with the debut of Universal’s Great Movie Escape, which opened this past weekend.

The foyer at Universal's Great Movie Escape (image via Universal)

Great Movie Escape is located outside the gates of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure at the attached shopping and dining district, CityWalk. Made up of two entirely different scenarios (which are themselves made up of multiple rooms; more on that below), the experiences are based off two standout franchises in Universal’s history: Back to the Future and Jurassic Park / Jurassic World, respectively titled Back to the Future: OUTATIME and Jurassic World: Escape.

The foyer at Universal's Great Movie Escape

When you arrive, the foyer is a cool recreation of classic Hollywood, with a bar and lounge area, complete with themed drinks – I had the Gigawatt Glow (New Amsterdam Vodka, blue curacao, lime juice, Sprite), which was tasty. There are also costumes, props, photos, and posters on display culled both from the Back to the Future and Jursassic franchises and from Universal’s history as a studio and theme park destination..

As for the two escape rooms and how they are approached, read on for an overview and my initial thoughts…

INSIDE THE STORY

In recent years, immersion has become a key component to theme parks, leveling up in a massive way with Universal’s own The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and continuing through all manner of lands and attractions since. You’re not just seeing something based on a movie you love, you are experiencing being inside that world.

Jurassic World: Escape (image via Universal)

A similar approach was taken for Great Movie Escape, with Universal Orlando Resort’s Nate Stevenson (Show Director, Creative Development Group) noting that with Jurassic World: Escape, “That one runs right in tandem with the first Jurassic World film and it hits a lot of the same beats,” stressing how you are hearing about events from the movie like the Indominus rex’s escape or the aviary being destroyed as they happen, all while traveling through InGen laboratories that are located on Isla Nublar.

Stevenson continued, “When you’re going through these, it’s not ‘Oh, this is neat, [this is] InGen,’ but then here’s this random challenge. The challenges are woven into the story. So you got this really cool thing where you’re not only experiencing InGen, but it’s like you’re actually in the film, on the ground and moving the story forward.”

LEARNING CURVE

Back to the Future: OUTATIME (image via Universal)

Universal’s Great Movie Escape functions somewhat differently from a typical Escape Room in several ways. First off is simply the number of rooms within each experience. While plenty of Escape Rooms have a secondary room within them you need to gain access to (and some might even go to three), the Universal ones are made up of several rooms each, with you and your party traveling a particular story path throughout them. Essentially, you can’t outright fail these rooms – at a sure point, you will be allowed to continue to the next section so the story can continue – however, you can more genuinely complete the crucial tasks to feel you truly “beat” the room and also obtain to additional, more complicated components to try to best, depending on how quickly you master what is needed to be done in a given section.

My group figured out what we needed to do to accomplish some of the tasks much quicker than some of the other tasks, and as Stevenson explained, “Something that’s really unique about our [escape rooms] is that we have different stages to every challenge. So every stage that you unlock, you unlock a little bit more story. And sometimes you unlock whole new challenges that other individuals didn’t obtain to see if they didn’t obtain that far.”

Guests visit a familiar Cafe in Back to the Future: OUTATIME (image via Universal)

While I’ll keep matters purposely vague to not give away anything about what you need to do in each room, I can say that a lot of problem solving is involved and situations where different individuals should be given different tasks – someone reading something, for instance, while another carries out using that information in order to begin a device, open something, etc. Since the clock is ticking (like most escape rooms, the entire experience lasts an hour, but each little room within is broken into appropriately smaller time periods), you need to quickly figure out these roles and also hope you put the right person on each spot.

Each story is guided by a character seen throughout on video screens, speaking to you in filmed segments meant to help you along in the story. For Jurassic World, this is an InGen employee named Riley, while Doc Brown’s assistant, Nico, guides you through Back to the Future: OUTATIME. While you can’t ask for extra help like you would in a regular escape room, these characters will provide hints throughout and Stevenson noted repeat visitors might see extra content with these characters based on how far they obtain in a given section.

THE DIFFERENCES

Jurassic World: Escape (image via Universal)

The Jurassic World and Back to the Future experiences have some notable differences in approach and style. First off is how Jurassic World: Escape is so connected to the events of the 2015 Jurassic World movie and what we saw occurring during that movie. Back to the Future: OUTATIME tells an original story, albeit one that allows you to revisit multiple familiar times and locations from the BTTF series.

OUTATIME also functions as a sequel of sorts to the gone but not forgotten Back to the Future: The Ride, which used to be located at Universal Studios Florida (along with Universal Studios Hollywood and Tokyo). The establish to OUTATIME involves traveling to Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology, which was introduced in that ride, while some of the dialogue and the overall scenario – involving Biff Tannen stealing Doc Brown’s time travel technology – both evokes BTTF: The Ride and indicates those events are canon to this experience. Indeed, you begin the story on November 15, 1993, two years after the 1991 events of that late, good ride.

The Institute of Future Technology returns in Back to the Future: OUTATIME (image via Universal)

Stevenson said they designed the two different rooms to feel distinct from the start, explaining, “If you go through Jurassic World, it’s very technical – lots of cool screens, very InGen, and so a lot of the challenges are based in that world. Whereas when you come down to Back to the Future, it’s a lot more prop based. And you obtain these really kind of intricate, detailed scenes that you got from the different [Back to the Future] films. So it gave us a really neat feel, to have these two very different franchises.”

THE FUTURE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT

As mentioned above, Great Movie Escape is not inside the actual theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort, so you could go to it without paying for a theme park ticket. Keep in mind that both escape room experiences cost $50.00 per person each, and if you are a little party, be prepared to likely be teamed with strangers (you can book a group experience for 7 or 8 people). So if you only select one, which should it be?

Traveling way back in Back to the Future: OUTATIME (image via Universal)

Obviously experiences will vary, but personally speaking, while both were enjoyable, Back to the Future: OUTATIME was definitely my favorite. A lot of this had to do with the variation it offers. In Jurassic World: Escape, you are mainly in very similar environments as you move through – different sections of the InGen lab that have an overall similar aesthetic to them, with a couple of exceptions, such as the cool and dark atmosphere of a power room you travel through, which clearly evokes Ellie Satler trying to restore power in the original Jurassic Park.

That overt reference to Jurassic Park aside though, you’re really focused on the first Jurassic World movie. OUTATIME meantime takes you through radically different environments the entire time as you go room to room, with each pulled from all across the entire Back to the Future trilogy. If you’re a big fan of either series, OUTATIME just feels like one with more of a true overview, given how much you obtain to see that will feel familiar. Also, the tasks in Jurassic World: Escape felt a bit more redundant and less complicated, though some may prefer that! We certainly got stuck more doing Back to the Future and a couple of times had just begun to figure out how we could complete a task when time was up for that section.

Jurassic World: Escape (image via Universal)

Of course, it’s also worth considering potential audiences and that Jurassic World: Escape perhaps is a bit simpler by design, meant to allow for children to better engage with it both because it’s based off of a much more current movie series kids are more likely to know and also because, hey, even if they don’t know the Jurassic movies, numerous kids just love dinosaurs! And while they seemingly can’t go too crazy within the physical space allotted, there are sowever some very clever ways dinos create their presence known as you travel through Escape.

Stevenson noted that for both experiences, “We randomize everything every time you come through,” meaning the solutions don’t stay the same for each task and you can’t, say, come in remembering a number you needed at one point last time and think it’ll work this time. He also noted that the way the tasks escalate and obtain more complicated meant younger guests would have a better possibility to accomplish the early components offered in each stage, which I could see especially being true for Jurassic World: Escape.

Costumes from Doc Brown's adventures on display in the foyer of Universal's Great Movie Escape

However, for this Back to the Future fanatic, OUTATIME had my heart. I got to see a Flux Capacitor fluxing, hear Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd returns to reprise his role, albeit doing voice work only), see a ton of familiar items – Hoverboard included – and experience a fateful night at a famous clock tower from a very different perspective, all while racing to help finish tasks in order to once more travel through time. Also, kudos to the actress who plays Nico for really going for it with her Doc Brown-esque persona and then getting to show a very different side to the character in one section.

OUTATIME envelopes you into the entire mythos of Back to the Future in a very engaging and fun manner, even as it was (impressively!) frustrating to not quite figure out a couple of the tasks in time… Which means, oh yes, I do want to return to this one again for sure.

Universal’s Great Movie Escape is now open at Universal Studios Orlando.


Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.