Standing near the closed door of a room with red walls, red carpet and red velvet curtains, Puzzle Master Alex explains the rules of the game to a new group at Escape the Room.
“There will be things to find in the first few minutes that will lead you to something else,” she says, before explaining that she’ll be watching from another room, ready to offer help if needed.
“We do have just as much fun as y’all do in here,” Alex laughs.
After a few words of encouragement, the game is afoot. A digital clock on the wall starts counting down from 60:00. Quickly, Scott and Syndi Beavers, along with their two granddaughters, shuffle around the room.
“Does the clock’s time change?” 11-year-old Alexis wonders aloud, staring at one of several decorations mounted to the wall.
She’s looking for clues that will help her accomplish what, on the surface, is a very simple goal: Escape the Room.
“All of this is working through puzzles and clues to try to find keys, locks and combinations to get out in 60 minutes or less,” says manager Mark Kopelman.
The escape room company opened its Houston location about two and a half years ago, followed by an expansion to The Woodlands. Kopelman says a lot of the groups that come through are coworkers, looking to strengthen their teams.
“It’ll be people from Shell or Exxon or some of the school systems,” he says, adding that interns also come in often. “Managers come in here to watch how their interns react - who takes the leadership roles, who’s more left-brained, who’s more right-brained - and try to make decisions after that.”
Syndi says she decided to give an escape room a go after downloading a similar game on her phone.
“My husband and I have been playing that game until 2 a.m. the past three nights, so I thought, ‘How awesome would it be to do it in person?’” she explained. “I brought along a couple really, really intellectual ladies and two very smart men. I think we’re going to do OK.”CLICK AND SEE: Inside Houston's Escape the Room photo gallery
Her family chose to try out The Theater, but the Houston location has six other rooms available, including the James Bond-esque The Agency, ‘80s throwback Rec Room, Egypt-themed The Dig and space-centric Mission Control.
“We’ve added more and more,” Kopelman says.
Back in The Theater, time is ticking off the clock as the family rushes to solve riddle after riddle.
“It would be this number, then that number, then that number,” Kaya, 10, says.
With less than four minutes to spare, they unlocked the final clue and managed to escape the room.
“I thought it was a blast. A little tricky at times,” Scott says, admitting that he worried several times that they wouldn’t be successful. “About 20 minutes left, I was thinking we weren’t going to make it.”
The youngest of the group appeared to enjoy the game as well.
“It’s a lot of fun and it makes you think,” says Alexis.
Echoes Kaya: “It was really fun, but also confusing.”
To book your trip to Escape the Room in Houston or The Woodlands, click here.