Tuscaloosa escape room offers thrills and chillsBy Ellen Johnson | 09/17/2017 11:21pm
By Ellen Johnson | Culture Editor
The thrill of escaping is one many of us will not actually experience, but maybe we seek that certain adrenaline rush and a chance to put our skills and critical thinking to the test just the same. In everyday life, we're usually not debunking intricate puzzles or solving murder cases. From this desire for excitement and adventure stems a new concept in leisure games: the escape room.
Perhaps a 2010s morphing of laser tag and virtual reality games, breakout rooms are a steadily growing enterprise in Alabama with places to play in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Huntsville, Dothan and Mobile. The University is in close proximity to two such escapeable destinations: All In Adventures in Midtown and Breakout Tuscaloosa, located on Resource Drive.
Breakout Tuscaloosa, coined a "challenging and fun way to get out of the house" on their Facebook page, offers four different themed breakout rooms. The life-size puzzles play out similarly to a rousing round of the board game "Clue," only instead of determining whether it was Mrs. Peacock or Colonel Mustard, players are tasked with solving the puzzle and breaking out of the chosen room in time.
Players are given only an hour to solve the game and break out in one of three rooms – "Horror Hotel," which holds ten people, and "DeRailed," and "Who Done It?", which each hold eight people. Owners Kim Parker, Candace Kizziah and Lorie White opened the business after visiting an escape room in Nashville and noting that the same model would succeed in Tuscaloosa.
"We went to an escape room in Nashville, Tennessee and we had a great time," Parker said. "When we got back to Tuscaloosa we thought 'You know what? Tuscaloosa deserves another something fun, being a university town," and so we came back and we just started it."
That "something fun" became Breakout Tuscaloosa, which also offers laser tag, group scavenger hunts and professional development days in addition to their breakout rooms. "Who Done It?" begins with players being given instructions and then locked in a room, armed only with their brains and what's around them.
While the rooms can hold eight people, fewer people can play, too. In "Who Done It?" a character, "Beatrice," has been murdered by a member of her staff. The players are tasked with determining whether it was the butler, the maid, the chauffeur or someone else entirely. The room is full of twists and turns, and one surprise at the end that'll send players for a major loop. Keys and codes, locks and clocks, furniture and even a few old copies of "The Hardy Boys" are all lying about in the room – it's then up to the players to put their heads together and solve Beatrice's murder.
With the 20 percent escape rate, "Who Done It?" is no walk in the park. Crimson White staffers fell into the 80 percent category, but let it be known that we almost had it.
The owners are constantly listening to customers and gaining new ideas for the rooms, tweaking them and adding new surprises along the way.
"Since we are a standalone company, we don't want to mock what another company has done," Parker said. "We looked to see what themes were out there, what themes seemed to be going well and find something similar or something that our customers – we do a lot of customer interaction, so if the customer says 'We want this kind of room or that kind of room,' then that's what we do. So we pick the themes according to what we hear, but we don't want to duplicate something that's already out there."
Breakout Tuscaloosa is located at 3711 Resource Drive, about two miles from campus. They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but also book special times for groups.