You are one of a group of detectives who have been brought in an hour before midnight on Christmas Eve because a madman named Mycroft has placed four bombs around Duluth and rigged them to blow when the clock strikes twelve. Locked in a room, you have 60 minutes to find clues to the locations of the bombs and the codes to disarm them.
Silent Night: A Live-Action Adventure, Duluth’s first “escape room,” opened last November in the Stanley Center in the former location of the Occasions store. Escape room games require the group to use elements within the room to solve a puzzle and escape.
Photo by Richard Hansen/SolveEnt
Lawrance Bernabo (left) and a group from FOX solved the press night escape room with two minutes and 14 seconds to spare.
The beneficiary of the Greater Downtown Council’s Pop-Up Downtown program, the inaugural effort proved successful enough that Solve Entertainment (a.k.a., SolveEnt) has extended Silent Night’s run through February 28 and will debut a second adventure in March.
The game is played in groups of a maximum of 10 and takes about 90 minutes, including the introductory segment beforehand and a debriefing afterwards. Your efforts will be immortalized with a photograph—if you did well—in front of a clock that shows how close you cut it before the deadline (two minutes and 14 seconds, baby!).
There are some PG-13 elements, but this is not a haunted house. Some participants refused to believe these assurances going in (the personal injury waiver might have something to do with that), and they were always wary that someone or something was going to jump out and say, “BOO!” Never happened.
You are encouraged to investigate everything in the room, which means taking things off the walls, exploring mounds of objects, and remembering not to ignore things in plain sight. The room is large enough that, even with 10 people, it never really gets claustrophobic.
Without giving anything away, I can tell you there are a bunch of locks to unlock and a bunch of clues as to how to unlock the locked locks. The trick (and the fun) is to match up the various clues with the correct locks.
The first priority is to unlock access to the walkie-talkie that allows your boss—who is using cameras and audio to monitor your progress—to give advice as warranted by your puzzle-solving abilities, and also for you to call in the locations and codes to disarm the bombs.
One indication of how well this game is thought out is that with the most difficult puzzle to “solve” (notice what I did there? There are nuances to the way things are solved), there is an alternative way to get the clue.
Otherwise, the success rate would be as low as Jeb Bush’s poll numbers, instead of being about one-in-four.
Our press group was half the maximum size, and the other four were from FOX News. (No, I was not older than all four put together. I was not even older than any three of them put together, but it was probably close.)
Because we were a smaller group, we were given a lot of help over the walkie-talkie. After a while you start to dread the burst of static and unseen voice saying, “Detectives,” because it means you are messing up again. Usually, the first person to try and crack something is not the one who succeeds, and it takes somebody with a new and different perspective to figure out what to do next.
The trio behind SolveEnt is Richard Hansen, director of the Duluth-Superior Film Festival, and our host that particular afternoon was Andy Bennett from Renegade Theatre. UMD Theatre professor Matthew Wagner is the group’s production designer.
The game is not devised to accommodate return trips, and nobody has come back to play Silent Night a second time, but some have returned to sit in the control room and watch their friends play. Obviously, those people will be among the first to sign up for the new game next month. I know I am planning on going back again.
Silent Night runs through February 28 at 408 West Superior Street in Duluth, Fridays at 6, 8, and 10 p.m.; Saturdays at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 p.m.; and Sundays at 2, 4, 6, and 8 p.m. Cost is $20 per person.