Escape from the winter blues

With the hottest trend in game play

Mind Trap Escape Rooms in Montgomery
Mind Trap Escape Rooms in Montgomery (Provided photo)
CluedIn Escape  Rooms in Glen Ellyn
CluedIn Escape Rooms in Glen Ellyn (Provided photo)
Locked InFun in Carol Stream
Locked InFun in Carol Stream (Provided photo)

You may not believe that you could live your life without your cell phone, but do you think you could survive without it for at least an hour?

It’s often the first challenge for those who immerse themselves in the growing entertainment trend of escape rooms: the dare of doing something without the crutch of having a phone in their back pocket as well as access to other devices and computers to gather information.

In this widely spreading group activity, people are paying to be locked in a room where they must solve puzzles and discover clues in order to find the key to escape. These games provide a much-needed break from their real-world stresses – an electronic-free leisure activity for the tech-addicted population, albeit a brief one, for players to attempt to solve elaborate puzzles, usually before an hour transpires.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to the themes of these escape rooms with evil scientists, kidnappers, bank robbers, murderers, pirates and zombies are just a handful of the many villains one may encounter as they take on the daunting task of attempting to solve different puzzles, unlock boxes, discover hidden doors and find clues that ultimately hold the key that will open the door and allow them to escape before their time is up.

People are undeniably enjoying the experience, as escape rooms continue to gain popularity across the area. Brian Sommer, who owns CluedIn Escape Rooms in Glen Ellyn, was hooked right away.

“It was about two-and-a-half years ago that I first played and it was simply called ‘Trapped in a Room with a Zombie,’” he says. “I played a few times after that and just through a strange sequence of events, I decide on a career change, quit my full-time job and we just had our one-year anniversary here in November.”

Cluedin Escape Rooms features “The Asylum” for one to six players and “The Game Master” for two to eight players.

“It’s such a unique experience and people these days are looking more for that experience than they are for physical things,” Sommer says. “They get a sense of accomplishment even with the small little puzzles that you just don’t get playing a sport or watching a movie.”

And they can play with just about anybody.

“We’ve seen all sorts of different people,” Sommer says. “Boy scouts and girls scouts have come through, date nights with three or four couples and bachelor parties and especially bachelorette parties. I’ve been amazed with the amount of women that are planning these and enjoying such an experience.”

And once they experience an escape room they tend to return.

“When I first opened I’d say that 75 percent of the people who came through had never done an escape room before,” Sommer says. “After one year I’d say at least half of them have come back and more recently I think we’ve seen a drop in newer players with only about 30 percent having not played before, while 70 percent, give or take, actually played one before so the popularity is definitely increasing.”

Entry fees generally are between $24-$30 for 60-hour escape rooms while venues have select days of operation and hours, although most offer the convenience of making reservations online.

Challenge Accepted
314 Stratford Drive, Bloomingdale
www.challengeacceptedescape.com

Newbies often find themselves thinking, “Why would pay to go into a room and then have to figure out how to escape?” Afterward, though, many wonder, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Head into “The Office” to try to find Kelly or at least the thousands she embezzled. Check into “The Lab” only to be trapped and stuck trying to disarm a bomb and save the world. Or, if your time is limited or your group is small, visit the “Polar Express: The Living Room” and try to find a special hidden gift within 20 minutes.

CluedIn Escape Rooms
440 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn
www.cluedinescaperooms.com

Most people have seen countless adventure movies and played a variety of video games during their lifetime. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the star of some of those movies and characters in those video games? Now you can do it by taking on the challenge of CluedIn Escape Rooms, which offers a truly unique form on interactive entertainment. There’s the psychological study of “The Asylum” with easy/medium difficulty and “The Game Master,” where you have to attempt to save the life of the kidnapped mayor, which is considered more difficult than “The Asylum.”

Escape for Fun
314 S. Main Street, Wheaton
www.escapeforfun.com

The clock is running. Fortunately, you and your team can find clues, solve puzzles and decipher codes, but you only have 60 minutes to do it and beat the clock. Escape for Fun offers two escape room games. When you choose to be “In the Chamber,” you’ll need to unlock all the locks to find the final code to escape, while in “Mission Critical” the pressure mounts as you attempt to deactivate a bomb. If you’re looking to take a break from real-life stress to mentally challenge yourself for an hour and have a lot of fun, then Escape for Fun is a wonderful destination to get the adrenalin pumping and have some unique, challenging fun.

Escape Quest
Interactive Game Rooms
757 McHenry Avenue, Crystal Lake
www.escapequestusa.com

You choose whether you want to be sent to a remote island in the South Pacific or travel back in time to 1920s New York. Crime is running rampant in New York and gangs have taken over. To avoid being locked up, you and your group will gain access to the most notorious mob boss’ speakeasy where you must find evidence that will lead to his arrest. Or, head to the South Pacific where your professor has gone missing after doing research on a volcano. Can you finish his research and stop the volcano from erupting?

Hidden Key Escapes
24W500 Maple Avenue, Suite 108, Naperville
www.hiddenkeyescapes.com

Do like games? Why not give a real-life one a shot? Hidden Key Escapes invites you to turn off the game show on the TV and give the computer, Play Station or Xbox a rest and challenge your senses, and especially your brain in one of its escape rooms. Based on a true story bout Charlie Ross’ kidnapping, “The Hideaway” has more than 15 locks to unlock and will challenge observational and organizational skills so note taking is required. More advanced players will welcome the challenges presented in “The Storage Room” and “The Victorian Room.”

iPanic Escape Room
1519 E. Main Street, Suite 900,
St. Charles
4051 E. Main Street, St. Charles
www.ipanicescaperoom.com

Now with two locations in St. Charles, guests have additional challenges of escaping rooms before their time runs out. Are you up for such an escape room challenge or will you panic as you nervously dig for clues, solve puzzles and utilize mechanical props to try to find answers? Can you reverse the curse in “VooDoo?” What about finding hidden treasure on “Shipwrecked!” before being fed to the sharks? There’s magic in “Illusionist,” a spaceship pod in “Alien Encounter,” priceless art to steal in “The Ultimate Heist,” and plenty of evil in “The Witching Hour” to try to thwart you from saving your friend.

Locked In Fun
255 Commonwealth Drive,
Carol Stream
www.lockedinfun.com

Looking for safe, clean adrenaline-filled fun that doesn’t involve having to cope with anything scary, gory or horror-like? There are no monster or unnecessary scares here. And, thanks to being a mobile entertainment company, Locked In Fun can bring its escape rooms on the road to you providing a unique option for those looking to bring people together for a fun, community event. Guests can choose their level of difficulty and theme and the length of an adventure can be shortened to accommodate the number of groups that wish to attempt to escape.

Mind Trap Escape Rooms
299 Montgomery Road, Montgomery
www.mindtrapescaperooms.com

If trying to “Escape Dr. Death,” in an abandoned medical center or get away from a deranged serial killer known as Helter Skelter in “Kidnapped,” or spending time trying to find the sacred scarab and escape before the curse of the pharaoh attacks in “Pharaoh’s Chamber” sound like a fun way to spend time with family, friends or co-workers, then book an evening at Mind Trap Escape Rooms. And, for those looked for an added scare to their challenge, an actor could be added to the thrill of the “Pharaoh’s Chamber” if you dare.

The Room Upstairs
152 N. York Street, Elmhurst
www.theroomupstairselmhurst.com

Are you ready to think outside the box when searching for the meaning of clues? If so, then it’s time to take a step ahead to The Room Upstairs where you truly can find out if you’re a word nerd. Well, are you? If so, you’ll have to give “Word Mania 30/30” or “Word Mania Extreme” a challenge as you enter a 4D-LIFESIZE word search room. And, who hasn’t ever dreamed of finding a hidden treasure? In “Captain’s Quarters” you’ll have to solve mysteries to try to find hidden treasure that has been stashed away on a pirate ship.

Twisted Limits
3735 W. Elm Street, McHenry
www.twistedlimits.com

Twisted Limits now offers three different escape room experiences, offering a unique challenge with different stories, settings and characters. If you’re looking to try something new during a night out with family, friends or co-workers, or for a special occasion, you can have a lot of fun trying to escape “Executive Disorder,” “Behind The Curtain” and “Omega Hour.” In the latter, you’ll attend an upscale New Year’s Eve party where an eccentric billionaire will entice you and your friends with quite the offer, but soon you’ll learn the host’s true intentions during the “Omega Hour.”