STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Suddenly, it’s like you’re in a scene out of “Ocean’s Eleven.”
You’re on a mission for The Shrouded Hand to solve a series of “meta-puzzles” and steal back the elegant Millennium Diamond from the clutches of the villainous Viper. Oh, and you have just one hour to do it.
You will be fully briefed when you arrive at 1495 Alan Wood Road, and you won’t be tackling this alone. In fact, this new escape room, which is close to Regal Cinemas Plymouth Meeting, needs at least one group of three people to be fun.
Although groups as large as a dozen people can come in and play, “eight is our magic number,” said Rick Mason, co-founder of Project Escape.
The escape success rate so far has been close to 100 percent, he said. Cooperating and working together is the key to you not getting caught by The Viper’s goons.
An ideal corporate team-building exercise, Project Escape is also something different to do with friends and family besides going out to eat, to the movies or bowling. “It’s great to do before the night’s over, and the rest of the night you spend talking about it,” Mason said.
“There might be three different paths you can take to get to the diamond,” he hinted, while walking across The Viper’s study to show the way to the Treasure Room.
The interactive, walk-through scenario includes sound effects and a walkie-talkie, where the boss of The Shrouded Hand guides you with instructions. “It’s like Doc talking to you in the ‘Back to the Future’ ride at Universal Studios,” said Mason.
When you arrive at Project Escape, the lobby is a hangout zone where you can play PS4 and other games, indulge in selfies/photo opps and see who’s escaped the room in the quickest times on the leader board.
So what happens if your crack team snatches the diamond well before the hour is up? There are bonus missions to challenge you to continue your winning ways.
The escape room phenomenon became a brain-flexing craze in 2009 in Japan and South Korea, and has only just made its way to the U.S. within the last two years, according to Mason. When he and business partner Dennis Du started checking out the various escape rooms in Philadelphia, the 31-year-old Mason realized: “Since I left college, I don’t use my brain anymore.”
The duo got their brains working, and had the “Heist of the Century” escape room designed and built in a span of three months.
Mason’s wife, Kim, commented: “It’s growing. Our goal was to branch (escape rooms) into the suburbs and open it up to people who don’t wanna go into Philadelphia.”
There are future plans to build additional escape rooms. Ideas Mason is kicking around are a space theme (think “Star Wars”) and a wizard theme (think Harry Potter).