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There’s no escaping Sacramento’s ‘puzzle room’ boom

Video: Escape Sacramento opens

Escape Sacramento opened Thursday night. Players have one hour to solve riddles and puzzles, unlocking keys to exit the room.
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Escape Sacramento opened Thursday night. Players have one hour to solve riddles and puzzles, unlocking keys to exit the room.

Sacramento is about to get a lot more puzzling.

Joining a global proliferation of similar businesses, three entrepreneurs have opened or are set to open competing puzzle rooms in the Sacramento area in the coming weeks.

Escape Sacramento opened its doors Thursday.

Puzzle rooms – sometimes called escape rooms – challenge customers to solve a series of related, but varied puzzles within a set period of time to escape the room and win the game. By most accounts, these real-life puzzle rooms were inspired by “room escape” video games. Popularized in Japan in the last five years, hundreds of venues have opened internationally.

Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent, owner of Escape Sacramento, experienced his first puzzle room while visiting New York in 2014.

It’s exciting that those types of businesses are looking at the Sacramento market. It’s a sign of a growing economy.

Peter Tateishi, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber

“I thought it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” said Rodriguez-Torrent. In February, he opened his first puzzle room: “Escape New Haven.” He said he hopes his Sacramento offering will build on what he’s learned from his Connecticut operation.

Escape Sacramento (1831 I St.) opened with two different room challenges accommodating six to seven players. The ticket base price is $27.

The fact that three entertainment business are set to open says good things about the Sacramento economy, said Peter Tateishi, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s exciting that those types of businesses are looking at the Sacramento market,” said Tateishi. “It’s a sign of a growing economy.”

While puzzle rooms likely will appeal to all generations (think trivia nights), they seem especially targeted at millennials who, studies show, place a higher value on experiences than other generations.

“It’s kind of that Y.O.L.O. ‘You only live once’ mentality,” he said.

Hot on the heels of Escape Sacramento’s opening, Sacramento tavern owner Jason Yee is expected to open Golden Puzzle Rooms on Saturday. Located at 1011 10th St., Yee’s puzzle adventure is situated above his existing business, Pre Flite Lounge. Tickets start at $30.

No two puzzle rooms are the same at his spot, Yee said.

“They are all themed a little different. Some are themed with magic involved. Some are themed with history. Since we’re launching Oct. 31, (Golden Puzzle Rooms) has a slight haunted theme…. a little mystery.”

In one game in the Golden Puzzle Rooms challenge, the team must use clues from a journal and a chess set with letters on the board to discover a clue.

Matt Pyers, the Golden Puzzle Rooms puzzle master, said people of all ages and skill sets can participate.

“You don’t have to be a Sudoku master,” Pyers said.

The question is whether a team will melt under the pressure.

“You are constantly pressed for time. We remind them of that. The tension get higher and higher,” Pyres said.

Joe Messteri is racing to bring his “Enchambered” escape room to audiences by late November or early December.

Rather than having customers confined to one room as other establishments do, he said Enchambered guests will move through a series of rooms.

Some of those touches, trapdoors, secret passages add time to the permitting process.

“We wanted to do something different. We wanted to make it more theatrical,” Messteri said.

Some puzzle rooms, he said, force customers to step out of the experience as they interact with staff puzzle masters.

“We want to create a real immersive experience,” Messteri said.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

Puzzle room Q & A

What is a puzzle room?

Inspired by video games, puzzle rooms challenge participants to solve a series of linked physical and mental puzzles within a set period of time to win.

How often do teams beat the clock?

Around 20 to 30 percent of teams finish the set of rigorous puzzle challenges within the time limit.

What happen if you don’t finish?

Death. The door opens and you leave defeated.

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