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Vol 19, no. 6
December 2016/ January 2017


Great Escapes 
Story By: James Charisma
Photo By: Matt Mallams

You and a few friends are trapped in a creepy hotel room in Waikiki and must get out. Or you have snuck into an international jewel thief’s mansion to recover some stolen diamonds and now you need to sneak off without getting caught. Or you’re locked in a prison for a crime you didn’t commit and have to mount a jailbreak. Whatever the case, your team must cooperate to find clues, crack codes, answer riddles and solve puzzles, word games and number problems to gain your freedom. And you have just one hour to do it.

Welcome to the world of escape rooms. Inspired by point-and-click digital adventure games, escape rooms have moved from virtual to physical reality. They are part of a global trend that began in Asia a few years ago then spread rapidly worldwide. There are now more than three thousand escape rooms in sixty-four countries. In Hawai‘i there are currently four companies running eleven escape rooms. Each room has its own theme, and more rooms are sure to come. Diamond Heist and Prison Break, described above are among the three rooms operated by Hawaii Escape Challenge at Pearlridge Center in ‘Aiea and at the Windward Mall in Kane‘ohe. Room With a Clue operates the Secret Agent Room and the Museum Robbery in Iwilei. In Lahaina, Maui Escape Rooms offers Bank Heist and another version of Prison Break. Breakout Waikiki, which in 2015 became the first company to bring escape rooms to Hawai‘i, has four rooms, including Room 13 (the creepy hotel room mentioned above) and a new room, Ala Moana Stock Exchange, in which your team must stop nefarious stockbrokers from destroying the economy.

With a solve rate of just 15 percent, Ala Moana Stock Exchange is currently the most challenging escape room in the Islands. Generally, fewer than half of those who enter any escape room succeed in solving all of the problems inside before their hour is up and the door opens automatically. But even when players leave defeated, says Casey Smith, a manager at Breakout Waikiki, they appear to be happy they played. “It seems like every customer comes out with a smile and sense of accomplishment,” he says, “whether they break out or not.”