You're a secret agent trapped in an enclosed room.
Using only your wits, you must solve a series of clues and puzzles, unveiling secret compartments and codes, to find a way out before time runs out in an hour.
That's the premise of Xscape Quest, the latest escape room to open in the Region. Escape rooms have emerged as a new and popular form of family entertainment both in Northwest Indiana and across the country, and have recently opened or are slated to open in Schererville, Valparaiso, Chesterton, Hobart and Crown Point.
The family-owned Xscape Quest business is at 301 W. U.S. 20, No. 5 near the Marquette Mall, and costs $25 per person for an hour's worth of entertainment. Operations Manager Joshua Wilkinson said it aims to lock down the Michigan City market and capitalize off all the visitors who come for the lakefront, the Blue Chip Casino and the Lighthouse Place outlet mall.
"My father and I used to play these on iPad apps, and then found out that a real-life game like this had opened in Valparaiso," he said. "We went for his birthday with the whole family, and we loved it. We went to about four or five of them and decided we wanted to open one of our own. So we looked for cities that didn't have one and started searching for rental properties."
They were only aware of a single escape room in Northwest Indiana in January, and now a half dozen have opened across the Region.
"They've been popping up like wildflowers," Wilkinson said. "We wanted to get on the bandwagon and grab this city before it was too late."
Best appreciated by kids at least 12 years old and adults of all ages, escape rooms have been a popular fad because they offer intellectual stimulation, fun and a sense of accomplishment that comes with finding clues and unlocking codes, Wilkinson said. They've proven especially popular with families and businesses, which often send employees on team-building exercises.
"It's interactive and relatively cheap," he said. "You can do it before or after going out to dinner, and it only takes an hour. You use your brain, and it's causal and family-friendly."
Xscape Quest is set up to be played from anywhere from two to eight people, though it's best with at least four. Though it accepts walk-ins, reservations are best made in advance and people can end up playing with strangers unless they elect to pay to reserve all eight slots in an hour time block.
"There are enough tasks and things to unlock where it takes several people," he said. "You shouldn't be able to get out of a good escape room too soon, or people will feel like they didn't get their money's worth. We don't give the game away. There isn't a 100 percent success rate. We do have some losers. At the end, we have fun and have people hold up winner or loser signs to pose for photos."
Xscape Quest hopes to add a second themed room around Christmas time, will change out clues other times and will replace the original spy theme after a year to give customers a reason to come back.
"There's not too much to do around here other than movies or the mall," he said. "This is something different that hasn't been around too long. Most of the escape rooms all have opened over the past two years. It's something to try, to tick off for the bucket list. It's mentally stimulating and fun to use your brain."
Xscape Quest is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information call, visit www.xscapequest.com or find Xscape Quest on Facebook or Twitter.