Escape Room: real life fun, in a world ruled by virtual games

By on August 31, 2016

You and your friends have exactly 60 minutes to escape the planet Qurus IV before it explodes!

Using problem-solving skills of many kinds, your objective is to complete various puzzles and unlock clues that will eventually reboot your spaceship and propel you safely into orbit.

Does your team have what it takes?

No, this isn’t the plot of a 1950s sci-fi movie. It’s all part of the recently-opened Escape Room, right here in Lititz. Amid a world of cell phones and video games, this real-life group challenge is sweeping the nation.

So what exactly is an Escape Room?

First created by Takao Kato of Japan, this gaming concept is fairly new, with the very first room of its kind opening about 10 years ago. Teams are formed (up to eight persons in the Lititz location), and have exactly one hour to solve all of the clues within a room. Inside, you’ll find a host of locks to open, word puzzles to solve, and various other challenges for the mind.

Story lines vary from location to location, and these attractions are quickly becoming more and more popular. In 2015, there were over 2,500 Escape Rooms around the world.

Recently I had the chance to talk via email with Lititz owner James Munro, to learn out what drove him to open this unique business.

“Puzzles and games are something that have always interested me. I have designed them for magazines in the past, as well as for the worldwide web, computers, and phones,” Munro says. “I love providing entertainment opportunities for others. I own an amusement company and have bounce houses, slides, portable miniature golf, and laser tag. This Escape Room was originally going to be designed to be mobile, but it really fits better as a permanent attraction.”

He also shared some behind-the-scenes information on Qurus IV.

“The spaceship theme was chosen eight months ago. The puzzles took six months to design and are of many different styles and require different strengths to solve,” he said. “Word puzzles, logic puzzles, math puzzles, and thinking out-of-the-box are all included, so everyone can find a way to contribute. When a group completes the entire room, they recognize that it was because they solved many different puzzles. It really feels like a victory for them.”

 

Hail the conquering heroes! Well, not really. Shown, front row (left to right) are Dave Kauffman, Jennifer Seymour, Michelle Zepp, Gretchen McKinley, and Cory Van Brookhoven; back (l-r) Terry Smythe, Jen Frymoyer, and Melissa Hunnefield. This “brain trust” didn’t escape from Qurus IV in time. Will you? (Photos by James Munro)

Hail the conquering heroes! Well, not really. Shown, front row (left to right) are Dave Kauffman, Jennifer Seymour, Michelle Zepp, Gretchen McKinley, and Cory Van Brookhoven; back (l-r) Terry Smythe, Jen Frymoyer, and Melissa Hunnefield. This “brain trust” didn’t escape from Qurus IV in time. Will you? (Photos by James Munro)

 

On a recent Friday evening, I, along with seven of my friends, formed a team and put our thinking caps to the test. Some of us knew each other beforehand, but many others were meeting their team mates for the very first time, moments before the game started. We all made quick friends, knowing that working in unison would only be to our advantage.

After arriving, Munro greeted us and went over a few rules. He also noted that candy and bottled water (which were on the house) awaited us inside the room in case we needed a quick respite.

A few moments later we entered, and the door was shut behind us.

The digital clock began to tick down from 59:59.

Then, over the next hour, we tried our best to escape Qurus IV.

Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that although we put forth a valiant effort, we fell short. We got very close to completing the room in the allotted time, but no cigar.

I won’t discuss any of the challenges that awaited us on the other side of the door — the whole mystery of the game is the excitement as well as the thrill and the elements of surprise you discover as you and your friends try to escape the planet in time.

I will say this: the game itself was tough, but lots of fun! And with the pressure on, as the clock ticks down before your eyes, the importance of teamwork becomes more and more crucial. Quick decisions must be made, and arguing back and forth, debating your team’s next move, idea, or strategy will only cost you precious minutes.

Dave Kauffman of York was one of the members in our party, and gives the room high marks.

“It was amazing. It was a great group effort. You had to understand each person’s way of thinking,” Kauffman said. “Everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses.”

Also on the team was Jennifer Seymour of Lancaster, who agreed with Kauffman.

“It was a thrilling amount of pressure, but a great sense of accomplishment even though we didn’t win,” she said. “Knowing that the game was timed only added to the stress. The whole thing was very mysterious. I would absolutely recommend it. It was also great to meet other people, too!”

And a great time is exactly what Munro wants to provide to each and every patron.

“We want our customers to have a fun evening out with friends or family,” says Munro. “For some players, it’s the friendly competition, the challenge of exercising the brain, or the thrill of victory. For others, it’s the laughing and joking. Either way, we want people to enjoy themselves.”

And don’t worry. If you get stuck, a button can be pressed and Munro will come to your rescue, offering some helpful hints to keep the game moving along.

And even if you manage to escape from Qurus IV, you’ll still have a reason to come back in the future.

“We’re going to be opening our second room in October. It will be called The Lost Temple,” Munro stated. “Players will explore the temple ruins and solve the puzzles to reveal its secrets.”

The Escape Room Lititz is located at 52 Copperfield Circle in Warwick Center. For more information, or to book a room, visit escaperoomlititz.com or call 715-1638.

Cory Van Brookhoven is president of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books on topics involving Lancaster County history, including Lititz. He welcomes your comments at coryvb@hotmail.com.

 

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