You are in a room with your friends, surrounded by puzzles and clues. You are locked in and the only way out is by solving a series of puzzles. It is an experience you paid for. Welcome to an escape room.
There are three established escape room experiences in San Luis Obispo: The Locked Inn, Lock Boxx and The Puzzle Effect.
Some Cal Poly students are doing more than just participating in these escape rooms. Liberal arts and engineering studies senior Katie Breyman took on the task of designing and building a room as her senior project. With the help of The Locked Inn, she is making an Indiana Jones-inspired puzzle room.
“[Liberal arts and engineering studies] is very customizable. My concentrations are theater and general engineering,” Breyman said. “[The escape room] merges two of my favorite things: engineering and live theater. I see escape rooms as an interactive, theatrical experience.”
Breyman is working with The Locked Inn to collect items that will help make the room come to life. According to The Locked Inn’s co-owner Jessica Sawyer, one of the important factors to consider when designing a room is the level of difficulty of the puzzles.
“What may be hard for me, won’t necessarily be hard for someone else, and what is easy for me could be difficult for another person,” Sawyer said.
Breyman has echoed this piece of advice in how she has designed her puzzles. Working within a particular budget and space, she said she hopes to strike a balance between challenging the audience and entertaining them.
“People are trying to get outside of technology and they really like the fact that it’s this hands-on interaction where you’re dealing with other people and trying to problem-solve,” Will Ruoff, creator of Lock Boxx, said.
Lock Boxx is a short, 20-minute escape room located in a trailer. This gives Ruoff the ability to take his room around San Luis Obispo and to different audiences. He has been seen downtown during Thursday Farmer’s Markets, and even across the county. You can experience this escape room for $12 a person.
“Traditionally, I think escape rooms are for people who have the mindset to do them,” Ruoff said. “I wanted to see if I could bring that escape room to the average person.”
Locked Inn offers a longer escape room experience with sessions lasting as long as an hour, featuring multiple rooms with varying experiences throughout the year. For $35 per person, you and three to eight friends can privately book the experience. However, discounts are offered for military, first responders and other groups.
Currently, a Halloween room is on display at Locked Inn, but they will soon unveil a new room with Breyman’s design. Construction will begin in a few weeks.
Escape rooms are not necessarily horror-themed with jump scares, although some enjoy that aspect. The Locked Inn, Lock Boxx and the Puzzle Effect do not have scare-inducing experiences. Rather, they focus on the fun of problem-solving and clue-finding in a new environment.