Somewhere, hidden among the knicknacks, is the key to your escape from a locked room full of strangers. You have one hour to figure it out — sound fun?
If you answered yes, you might be just the type of customer Orlando’s escape rooms are made to please. These live, interactive puzzle experiences are based on the popular point-and-click adventure games of yore, through which users were placed within an environment and tasked with solving a puzzle using only items within the scene before they were allowed to continue.
The differences are that participants are stuck in a real room with a real group of living, breathing people, there’s a time limit — anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour — and failure is a definite, and likely, possibility.
“We have a success rate of 33 percent for our library and around 39 percent for the game room,” said Morgann Frazee, manager of The Great Escape Room located downtown. This specific attraction offers three theme rooms customers can choose from for their escape experience.
Given such a low success rate, one might question why customers choose to spend money, generally around $30 a person, to be stumped by a puzzle. However, Frazee said that the difficulty was part of the appeal.
“I think people are interested in doing something different,” she said. “A lot of the organizations in the area will come to us for team-building [exercises]. People feel a lot of pride when they’re able to work together to complete the puzzle.”
The Great Escape Room was one of the first escape rooms to come to Orlando, but several more have opened in its wake. While The Great Escape room caters to large groups and is able to accommodate groups of up to 28 people, escape rooms like It’s A Trap! focus on a smaller, more theatrical experience.
“Our two co-owners, Alex and Debra Beardsley, used to do a whole bunch of escape rooms together, but they felt that one of the things that was missing was an immersive theater element that could easily be brought to the games, like you’re stepping into your own personal movie or video game,” said Laura Young, events manager for It’s A Trap!.
Groups at It’s A Trap! are restricted to eight people, and each group is joined by an actor who provides the narrative underpinning for the theme of the room. In one scenario, you’re the henchman of a supervillian trying to break into the lair of his archnemesis, and in another, you take on the role of a group of villagers trying to free a magical creature from an evil wizard.
The narrative of the game even accounts for success or failure, with the story changing based on whether your group is able to escape the room or complete the puzzle before time runs out.
“We have lose scenarios with actors and special effects when you complete your story, but if you’re especially clever and you complete everything in the allotted amount of time, we also have a bonus puzzle in the room,” Young said. “It’s like playing a video game and unlocking another quest.”
Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but escape rooms appear to be a lucrative business. There are at least six escape rooms operating in Orlando, and many of the rooms are expanding to locations in other cities. Debra said her room was operating at no less than three-quarters capacity since it opened in November 2014.
“Everyone is realizing this is a relatively low start-up cost model with a high return potential,” Young said, “so they’re sprouting up everywhere now.”
Bernard Wilchusky is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.