×

Easthampton business expands adventure games, puzzles

  • A window that is part of “The Lost Wand,” a new game at Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks in Easthampton, glows from within. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Allison Carr, left, of Easthampton, and Emery Henderson, of Southampton, play a board game in the new cafe at Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks in Easthampton, Jan. 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tom Dahl, who is the co-owner of Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks in Easthampton, manages the front desk as Allison Carr, left, of Easthampton, and Emery Henderson, of Southampton, play a board game in the new cafe. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tom Dahl, who is the co-owner of Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks in Easthampton, handles a prop in a room of a new game called "The Lost Wand", Jan. 18, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The exterior of Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Amelia Lederman, 4, of Springfield, left, Akzel Dahl, 3, of Chicopee, and Erik Dahl of Chicopee play in the board game lounge at Puzzled Escape Games at Eastworks. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Erik Dahl of Chicopee, left, and Brit Dahl of Blanford demonstrate use of the large magnet maze featured in Puzzled Escape Games' “The Lost Wand” setting March 1, 2018 at Eastworks in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Chess is featured in Puzzled Escape Games' “The Lost Wand” setting March 1, 2018 at Eastworks in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Tom Dahl and Lise Lawrence, co-owners of Puzzled Escape Games in Easthampton, are shown in front of large magnet maze used March 1, 2018 in the escape-room setting for “The Lost Wand” game in Eastworks. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Emily MacWilliams of Easthampton demonstrates play with the large magnet maze featured in Puzzled Escape Games' “The Lost Wand” setting March 1, 2018 at Eastworks in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Tom Dahl and Lise Lawrence, co-owners of Puzzled Escape Games in Easthampton, are shown March 1, 2018 in the escape-room setting for “The Lost Wand” game in Eastworks.

  • Emily MacWilliams of Easthampton demonstrates play with the large magnet maze featured in “The Lost Wand” game. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Several desks are used as props in Puzzled Escape Games' “The Lost Wand” setting March 1, 2018 at Eastworks in Easthampton.

  • A hologram of the “headmaster of the Massachusetts Academy of Magic” is featured in the intro room of Puzzled Escape Games’ “The Lost Wand” at Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFf/SARAH CROSBY



@kate_ashworth
Monday, March 05, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — Being locked in a room with no clear way out doesn’t sound like fun, but solving puzzles in so-called escape rooms is a growing trend that has made its way to the Valley.

The local company Puzzled Escape Games has expanded its location at Eastworks in Easthampton, opening up a board game lounge and a third escape room called “The Lost Wand.”

Before playing the game, players are given a copy of “The Wizard Current” with an article about how students and teachers of the Massachusetts Academy of Magic have vanished.

“Learn spells, do magic, and make sure you know who to trust,” the game description on the website states. Owners of Puzzled Escape Games, Lise Lawrence and Thomas Dahl, who are also siblings, are careful not to give away any secrets to the game.

Their business isn’t alone in the Valley. All in Adventures, an Atlanta company, opened locations at the Holyoke Mall and Hampshire Mall in Hadley in 2017. The escape room business started in Georgia in 2014 and has rapidly expanded across the east coast, expecting to have over 75 locations by the end of the year, according to its website.

Puzzled Escape Games opened in March 2016 with the escape room “Find the Professor of the Occult,” and later that year opened up “Escape from Escobar’s,” which involves players starting handcuffed to a wall.

The Puzzled sister-brother duo teamed up with friends Erik Rossavik and Florence Gaven-Rossavik, who work remotely in Canada, to open the business. Dahl and Lawrence said they invested at least $40,000 in the first two rooms, and around $70,000 in the new board game lounge and new escape room across the hall from their original location in Eastworks.

For the past year, Dahl and Lawrence have been working on designing the escape room, and creating all the props and puzzles by hand, including a hologram and a magnetic maze.

The board game lounge offers a hangout area for people after completing an escape room, or to simply play a board game and have a snack.

Players have an hour to try to complete the escape room. The games have a 25 percent success rate, and larger groups typically do better, Lawrence said. The Lost Wand, which is $30 per person to play, will be a little easier and will have a live actor in the room. The new room also has the option for a kids version of the game. The two older rooms cost $25 per person.

Advertising is more of word-of-mouth, Lawrence said, which goes with the “mysterious” nature of the business.

They do have one creative technique that’s worked in spreading the word. They’ve converted a wooden desk into an escape game, where the player is handcuffed to the table and must find their way out in a matter of minutes. Using the desk, they can take their business to large events such as the Big E and Cultural Chaos.

The business employs seven game masters who each monitor games, and give hints to players who are stuck or puzzled.

On a larger scale, Chetan Patel, vice president of All in Adventures, said each location has around six to 10 different themes, and those games change every 18 weeks. Patel said the company utilizes social media for advertising as well as radio advertisements.

The games at Puzzled can’t be changed because of the handmade props and puzzles. Dahl said people who have played the first two escape rooms have been on a wait list for the new escape room.

Both Puzzled and All in Adventures offer team-building events and say it has been popular with nearby businesses. Lawrence said playing an escape room, groups have a debriefing period to talk about communication, teamwork and other skills.

Patel said the escape room business has seen success over the years because it’s fun and brings people together, going back to the basics of board games. He said it’s a “true hands-on, engaging experience.”

For Dah l and Lawrence, creating each escape room has been like an art project, adding that they want to set the bar high for first-time escape game players.

“Our goal is to make the coolest escape game possible,” Lawrence said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.