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Today's Family Magazine

Escape rooms growing as a popular entertainment option

May 22, 2018 11:30AM

An art heist escape room designed by Evilusions in Willoughby.

By Stacy Turner

While the concept is somewhat new to our area, escape rooms are a global phenomenon, with the first escape room introduced 10 years ago in Japan.  The concept didn’t travel to the US until 2012, when it hit the West Coast, and since then, the industry has seen phenomenal growth, according to Updraft Ventures, who estimates escape room market growth at around 300% year over year.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, basically, you’re locked inside a room with a group of family or friends. The room itself is part of the game, and the goal is to solve a series of puzzles, gathering clues within a set time limit (usually 60 minutes) to escape the room.  Typically, each room has a particular theme or narrative that sets the stage for this immersive experience, like a murder mystery, mummy’s tomb, bank heist, mad scientist lab, even a zombie apocalypse.

Each game typically requires a minimum of two to play, and the more minds you’ve got, the easier the puzzle-solving may be.  Many escape room experiences suggest a maximum number of players depending on the particular experience, although groups of four to eight seem to be ideal.

And don’t worry about being locked in -- either there’s an emergency exit or the escape room staff will be watching via video in case you get stumped by a puzzle or need to exit before your hour is over.  Part of what makes escape rooms so much fun is the challenges they present.  Along with the back story that sets the stage for the experience, most escape room companies assign a level of difficulty and success rate with each room‘s description.  If you’re unsure if a room is appropriate for each member of your group, they’ll be happy to advise you.  The cost of these experiences ranges, depending on each room’s complexity, but expect an average cost of around $25 to $30 per person.  Before you go, be sure to check Groupon or elsewhere for deals.

Local entrepreneurs Brian Warner and Chris Virilio have been designing and building escape rooms and components for the past three years at Willoughby-based Evilusions.  Their company, which they started by creating haunted house animatronics and props in their spare time, became their day job when demand for their escape room props and designs increased dramatically.

As in any good team, each member brings a distinct, complementary skills set.  Brian’s background as a machinist brings expertise in metal design and manufacturing, including pneumatics and electrical systems, allows their designs to be economical, efficient, and built to last.  Chris is a multi-talented set designer, sculptor, artist, actor and make-up artist.  His multi-faceted skills give him an edge, making his designs both functional and realistic looking. The two met while working at the Nightmare in Painesville Halloween attraction, eventually creating their own attraction.  Their attraction, Forsaken in Mentor, closed its doors when the fire that ravaged a neighboring business shut their doors three years ago.  Evilusions rose from the ashes and now use their unique skills to create mid- to high-end escape rooms and components for companies across the country. Nearby, they’ve designed rooms in Columbus, but most of their work is further flung in New Jersey, Michigan, and St. Louis.

Their most recent designs include an Indiana Jones-worthy temple escape, which contains three individual rooms, complete with a hidden passage, and a realistic-looking 1940s bank robbery room that features four rooms and a hidden tunnel. Each room they design immerses the player in a realistic-looking scene that includes around a dozen high-tech components, including RFID scanners, magnetic ID cards, magnetic locks, and James Bond-inspired lasers. Players solve clues and manipulate complex puzzles in order to reveal hidden passages, like a tunnel accessed behind the locked bank vault or the secret room accessed from the Mayan temple’s inner chamber, to successfully exit the experience.

Although Brian has visited about 60 escape rooms in order to analyze and gather data, the puzzler in him still tries to beat the room. He shared that escape room games are great for teens and adults, although the enthusiast can be more particular about the best puzzle play, game design, and immersion.

Cindy, a visitor to Perplexity Games in Cleveland, shared, “We were leery at first, all 10 of us in one small room, with no idea what to do.  But when we started finding things that went together and things started happening it was more and more fun as we went along.  It took everyone’s participation to solve it and we only had three minutes to spare!”

Elaine and Greg visited Trapped in Cleveland Heights.  “We were looking for something to do as a family.  We went for the Apocalypse room, where the plot, such as it is, relates to preventing a virus from escaping from a lab,” Elaine explained.  “Our group consisted of seven people of various backgrounds and ages.  This actually helped as everyone brought different skills that helped us to solve the puzzles.  Three people in our party had done a locked room before, while four of us were new.  The puzzles were challenging, but we solved most of them,” she continued.  “We did need some clues along the way, and they were quick to provide them upon request.  We did not quite solve the puzzle, but everyone still enjoyed themselves.  We all came away wanting to come back here to try a different room another time.”

Julie shared about her visit to Escape in 60.  “We went with another couple and had a great time.  We didn't make it in 60 minutes, but we were really so close.  I guess we are not as sharp as we thought!  We laughed a lot and now that we get it we will definitely go back to do another room.”

Brian didn’t share his local favorite, but acknowledged that any room will be fun for those who have only played a few.  “It’s an escape from reality for an hour in a fun and entertaining way,” he shared.  “Whether it’s a Mayan temple or a bank robbery, you’ll get to experience things that most people don’t get to see and do in their regular lives.”

Northeast Ohio Escape Rooms

Cleveland Area
Escape in 60
122 West 6th Street,  Suite 301, Cleveland
(216) 307-54444
[email protected]

Lockdown Cleveland
4860 Broadview Road, Cleveland
(216) 465-1464
[email protected]

Perplexity Games Escape Room
2515 Jay Avenue, Cleveland
(216) 273-8000
[email protected]

Trapped Escape Room
1796 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights
(216) 309-1796
[email protected]

Trapped! Ultimate Escape Challenge
3301 E Royalton Road, Broadview Heights
(216) 309-1796
[email protected]

The Escape Hunt Experience Cleveland
21639 Miles Road #4, Cleveland
(216) 581-HUNT (4868)
[email protected]

Trapped Escape Room
6749 Eastland Road, Middleburg Heights
(216) 309-1796
[email protected]

Escape Room Cleveland
23525 Lorain Road, North Olmsted
(440) 360-7750
[email protected]

Confined Escape Rooms
Southpark Mall
(Between JC Penney & Sears on the top level)
500 Southpark Center, Strongsville
(440) 879-1444

Escape Room Strongsville
14765 Pearl Road, Unit C, Strongsville
(216) 712-0333

Great Room Escape Cleveland
9000 Bank Street, Valley View
(440) 462-8859
[email protected]

Trapped Escape Room
38721 Mentor Ave #3, Willoughby
(216) 309-1796
[email protected]

Escapology Mentor
7300 Palisades Pkwy, Mentor
[email protected]