When most people consider “puzzles,” the word conjures images of 100-piece jigsaws on grandma’s coffee table or the crosswords commonly found in the weekly paper. But several local businesses are throwing visitors for a curve by changing what it means to enjoy a puzzle game.
“Escape rooms,” a new phenomenon in the sphere of entertainment, promise visitors brain-teasing fun contingent on their ability to work in teams to find their way out of a room by solving puzzles and clearing objectives. Guests pick their poison – options run the gamut from film noir-inspired mystery to jail break and horror-themed rooms – and work to beat the clock to win the game. The rooms are a popular choice for friendly get togethers, family gatherings and corporate team-building for their collaborative nature.
Cropping up all over the First Coast are escape rooms stretching the challenge to nearly impossible heights – but whether a team wins or loses, the tests work as a time bomb of fun for all visitors.
Breakout Escape Games
7999 Philips Highway, Ste. 303
This escape establishment straddles the line between mystery and thriller-style adventures, offering four rooms – The Kidnapping, Museum Heist, Operation: Casino and Hostage – for interactive puzzle-solving. In these rooms, guests experience the full breadth of scenarios, from being handcuffed and blindfolded to taking on the alias of an agent missing-in-action. Soon, Breakout Jacksonville will offer yet another room with “Island Escape,” in which players must find their way off a tropical getaway before a volcano erupts.
Mind Bender Escape Rooms
1500 Beach Blvd., Ste. 212
Jacksonville Beach, Fla
Mind Bender is a Jacksonville Beach-based escape room experience that prides itself on the challenge of its attractions. With rooms as varied as a jewel heist and a vengeful pirate adventure, Mind Bender ratchets up the stakes – no live-gaming experience at the Beach Boulevard storefront dips below a difficulty rating of five out of a possible 10, with horror- and murder mystery-based rooms “The Wood Shed” and “Jack the Ripper” tipping the scales to a respective eight and nine.
525 FL-16, Ste. 104
St. Augustine, Fla
St. Augustine’s Escape U delivers a unique spin to escape rooms by localizing scenarios to immerse visitors in the Ancient City’s history through imagined events and engaging settings. In “Castillo De Matanzas,” guests acting as guards in a 1700s-style fort must figure out how to escape and warn the Castillo when a group of secret soldiers traps them within the captain’s quarters. “Save the Fleet” sees participants trying to find a way to the top of a 15-foot replica of the St. Augustine lighthouse in order to guide a fleet to safety before the onslaught of Hurricane San Zenon.
The Great Escape Room
11651 Central Pkwy., Ste. 103
The Great Escape Room’s success rates top out at just 35 percent in its Sherlock Holmes’ Library room; from there, the standings topple to just 18 percent for its most difficult setting, Dr. Watson’s infirmary, wherein guests must figure out how to perform a heart surgery before the death of a patient. With a blend of both live-gaming and scavenger hunts, The Great Escape Rooms’ Infirmary, Library and Gameroom see players through nefarious schemes, a nuclear crisis and leagues of villains.