Don’t think too hard. Think strategically. Don’t wear yourself out. Be smart with your decisions. Time is of the essence. You only have an hour, 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds to make it out. Are you up for it?
Your mind isn’t playing tricks on you. At Escape Rooms Mesa, they provide customers with a unique entertainment experience. In 60 minutes or less, customers are put with others in a room of their choice and must work together to find clues and devise a strategy on how to escape the room.
Owners Danielle and Jason Tomerlin opened Escape Rooms Mesa in June 2016 with one room – the Captain’s Quarters. Danielle said she and her husband Jason went and played a few escape rooms in the Valley, which was a hobby for them and has grown into a business. There are many in Phoenix and Scottsdale, but few have been established in Mesa.
In order to participate, people can log onto Escape Rooms Mesa’s website and choose from eight rooms to book. The themes range from their original room (Captain’s Quarters) to Cabin in the Woods and their hardest room, Hansel and Gretel. The rooms can have a minimum of two and a maximum of 10 participating. Whether you come with friends or not, Escape Rooms Mesa will fill the room with other customers as well.
“It’s much more fun if you have your own with friends, but if you don’t, we pair you with new friends and you make instant relationships. It’s funny what a 60-minute timer and some puzzles will do for friendships,” Danielle said.
For example, in the Captain’s Quarters, Jason said there are specific directions the captain goes from point A to point G and they have to follow on a map and figure out what’s wrong. After the people are in the room, they must find clues that are hidden or in sight that will lead them to additional clues and eventually can escape the room in less than 60 minutes.
If you haven’t gone and played an escape room before, don’t worry, Danielle said about 90 percent of their customers are new players.
“How fast they can get out with or without clues, is how we gauge how hard our rooms are. Most of our rooms, the medium difficulty, about 50 percent of the players make it out. Our hardest room is Hansel and Gretel, with about a 10 percent escape rate,” Danielle said.
She said they are still tweaking what they call their original room (Captain’s Quarters) which is over six months old, they adjust based on customers’ feedback.
“We want them to have the best possible experience, so if there’s something they did or didn’t like, we of course try to change it to make it friendly for everybody,” Danielle said.
Escape Rooms Mesa has had not only groups of people wanting a fun experience or night out, but businesses have booked a room to encourage team building, as well as schools that utilize the rooms as a way to encourage developing communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills.
As a different kind of entertainment experience, Jason said people have to be active in their role as opposed to types of passive entertainment, such as watching a movie.
“This, you have to participate, think outside the box. A lot of people haven’t stretched their brain like that in years…Once they get into the groove, it’s hard to stop, they want to come back,” Jason said.
They have eight rooms currently, including the Mad Hatter’s Tea Room (an Alice and Wonderland-inspired room), the Captain’s Quarters, The Legend of the Lost Dutchman and Cabin in the Woods, Hansel and Gretel, along with a few in progress.
“That everyone will at least heard of escape rooms,” Danielle said is their future goal. “Our goal is to educate the public on what we are and how fun it can be and what a great experience it is for families and for team building.”
The husband and wife have different reasons why they enjoy owning and creating the puzzles for Escape Rooms Mesa.
“It’s the puzzle building for me,” said Jason. “It’s easy to make an impossible puzzle, but it’s really hard to make a just hard enough puzzle and getting that into a theme and making it enjoyable for people, that’s the fun for me.”
“I love that it’s something that opposites can find as common ground and love to do together,” Danielle said.
The reception has been positive since opening last June. Customers Rachel Lenz and Jordyn Lee both enjoyed their experience visiting and participating in one of the many rooms.
Lenz participated in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party room in January this year and went with her husband and in-laws. She said the eight of them bonded over the experience and though they were close already, she thought the room brought them together even more.
“I really enjoyed the hidden clues around the room. Some things were in plain sight and it was neat to find them and have one of those light bulb moments,” Lenz said. “The whole experience was incredible. It was something totally different. The group of people that went, we hang out all the time…this was something that every single one of us enjoyed and none of us had ever done before. I would recommend it just for the new experience factor that it has.”
Mesa resident Lee participated in the Lost Dutchman room and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party room last month. Lee said she completed the Lost Dutchman room in December with a group of friends and after having so much fun, booked the Mad Hatter room for her sister’s bachelorette party two weeks later.
“Both groups were very enthusiastic and used teamwork to complete the puzzles and tasks,” Lee said of the dynamic of the participants in each room. “It was interesting to see what roles every participant assumes when placed in a situation such as this. Some begin searching the room for additional clues, some start writing down everything that they hear and see, etc. The challenge has a way of affecting everyone differently.”
Lenz had a similar experience when she and her group participated, recalling they all took on a role while planning their escape.
“My husband undid all the locks, he seemed to be fastest at getting the codes right. Two of us kind of gathered all the clues together, one of us made helpful comments while standing in the corner, etc. The room made us all bring out our strengths and play to those.”
In addition to adjusting their rooms, the Tomerlins also pay attention to detail when it comes to decorating the rooms and ensuring the clues or facts within the rooms are accurate.
“The Lost Dutchman’s mine room was all historically accurate, which was very interesting. There was a lot of reading and decoding, which was challenging but rewarding as you worked through each one and experienced the thrill of getting to move on to the next task,” Lee said. “We escaped the Dutchman room with three seconds left to spare. Tossing the final key to an awaiting team member at the door. Talk about an adrenaline rush!”
This adrenaline rush at the satisfaction of completing a room is not without frustrations and some challenges. For some, the room can take the entire hour, for others, they can find the clues and solve the puzzles very quickly.
“Some of the most challenging elements of these experiences were puzzles that required you to use your brain in a way that you are not used to. As a person that deeply appreciates logic puzzles, these rooms required me to look at a puzzle or problem from every angle,” Lee said. “The two rooms did not feel the same in the least so it is well worth it to experience multiple rooms from the same company. These puzzles have been well developed and create a fun, intellectual experience for everyone involved. “
To learn more about Escape Rooms Mesa or to book a room, visit EscapeRoomsMesa.com.
Use Promo Code “MYNEWSMESA” to get a discount when calling to book a room at Escape Rooms Mesa, 86 W. University Drive, Suite 110.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.