There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline that kicks in when you have to beat the clock in a faux-high-stakes game in order to complete a specific objective! It’s a thrill, a rush! And now it’s come to South County! Sure, you can experience the excitement and thrill of trying to defeat an escape room scenario just about anywhere in the country, but it’s only in South Kingstown’s own Curiosity Shop that you can try to beat the clock to defuse the bombs that Rhode Island’s self-proclaimed MacGyver, Ewan Watarmy, has set at the Narragansett Towers. Or at Riddle Room in East Greenwich, you can go undercover in the mob in 1970s Providence or unravel a mystery linked to the Ladd Center Asylum! Even though it’s a made-up scenario, the stakes are a bit higher and the game’s a little more fun when you’re trying to unravel a mystery within your community. And the best part? It encourages team building, problem solving and critical thinking. Oh yeah, and it’s crazy fun!
Curiosity Shop - 213 Robinson Street, Wakefield
This aptly named escape room, which opened on March 1, has two scenarios: the aforementioned bomb at the Towers in Narragansett that needs to be defused and a lab assistant that needs help figuring out what happened to the missing Dr. Popwell. From there, participants must solve puzzles and riddles to find more clues to solve the mystery in 60 minutes.
Owner Bambi Lukens said she offers hints, but if a group needs more than three hints, they won’t qualify to be on the leaderboard of fastest groups to solve the scenario.
“We see everything that goes on in the room,” she said. “At a certain point, a person will say they need a hint and we’ll give it to them, and a lot of times someone has said the answer so we try and lead them back to it so that we are actually giving out an answer to something. It’s really about problem solving.”
Sometimes, the smartest people can’t figure out the mysteries, Lukens said, which is why it is good to have people of all ages with all different skillsets working together.
“Sometimes kids will think outside the box more than the adults,” she said. “Or sometimes someone will say the answer or figure it out and we see or hear that but no one else in the room will listen to them. It’s really about working together and letting each person’s strengths shine through.”
Curiosity Shop got its start after Lukens was on a ski vacation this past winter with her husband and two kids in Vermont when it rained the whole time. They didn’t know what to do with their time, so they found an escape room and loved it so much they decided to start their own.
The best part of running an escape room? Seeing the “ah hah” moment that everyone experiences when they’ve figured a puzzle out or found a clue, Lukens said.
“It’s really fun to be the game master and watch them get really excited when they figure it out,” she said, adding that she plans to change the scenarios every four or five months. “There are franchises that exist, but our stories are completely original and so if we can fit in something local, we will, which is always fun.”
So whether it’s raining or cloudy or you just feel like challenging yourself, head to Curiosity Shop for an exciting time!
Riddle Room - 20 Water Street, East Greenwich
This fully immersive experience delves into a mixture of local history and folklore with a room based around 1970s undercover police operatives assigned to infiltrate the RI crime family and a woman who finds her fugitive husband, Dr. Richardson from the Ladd Center Asylum, murdered.
“Although it’s called an escape room, technically, you don’t have to escape, we don’t lock you in there,” Mike Casey, vice president of game management, said laughing. “It’s really objective based.”
Similar to the Curiosity Shop, Riddle Room staff create all of their games, puzzles and stories in-house. Even the paintings within the rooms are done by local artists.
“It’s Rhode Island made, through and through,” Casey said.
Within each room, there are word puzzles, cyphers, hands-on manipulation types of puzzles, using objects to open other objects, all kinds of things. It all requires thinking outside the box, he said. There’s something for every skill set and every age. They’ve had groups with players as young as six and as old as 94 play their games.
“Some of those kids end up being the best ones,” Casey said. “At the moment, one of our top-scoring teams is a group of 11-year-olds.”
And don’t feel bad if you don’t figure it out - only about 30 percent of teams complete the objective, he said. But even if a group is having a difficult time, they try and make it so that every team has a good experience. The game can be as difficult, or as easy as you’d like it to be, depending on how many clues you want.
“If the players want it to be more difficult then we’ll leave them alone,” he said. “But if they want to experience the entire scenario, start to finish, then we’ll give them more clues.”
Riddle Room specializes in birthday parties, so if you call in advance and share some info about the person whose birthday it is, they’ll integrate some of that into the escape room storyline if possible. So cool, right?
Soon, Riddle Room, which has been around for about two and a half years, will be opening a second location in Warwick with six escape rooms. The themes are in the works, but one will include Rocky Point and another will include a haunted Newport hotel.