By Kara Hallissey, Staff Writer
(April 12, 2018) A zombie carnival, Edgar Allen Poe and an apartment crime scene are few of the escape room options offered at Puzzle over This on Old Ocean City Boulevard in Berlin.
“It is a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun and something different,” owner Deborah Ennis said. “The main focus is on teamwork. Everyone is looking around and finding evidence. At the end, everyone comes together to make a decision and that is what this is all about.”
The interactive game tasks participants with finding clues and solving puzzles to unlock pieces before time runs out.
“Instead of just looking for keys to open locks, there is more thinking and piecing of evidence together,” Ennis said. “Our asylum room [for example] has you solving a science experiment.”
Currently, five rooms are open: “Tiki Torture,” “The Im’POE’sible Escape,” “Zombie Carnival,” “Brains vs. Braun” and the apartment crime scene.
In the ‘Tiki Torture’ room, participants have one hour to explore a Caribbean island looking for a pirate and his treasure.
“The tiki room is the easiest and for beginners,” Ennis said. “If you haven’t played before, this one is good to get your feet wet and see what an escape room is all about. It is also good for kids.”
Another room for beginners, but may scare younger children, is the zombie carnival room where participants have one hour to escape an amusement park.
“It was difficult to design, with the different games you play to find the clues,” Ennis said.
“Carnival music plays and there is a clown to give you the ambience of being there.”
In the Edgar Allen Poe room, participants must find their way out of a locked prop room before the show starts in an hour.
“You don’t need to know his stories, but you will recognize them,” Ennis said. “We also use five of his poems in the room.”
Up to 10 players can participate in the apartment crime scene room, which is the second-hardest room to figure out, Ennis said.
“It is similar to ‘Clue’ and other escape rooms,” Ennis said. “You collect and unlock all the clues and evidence to determine who did it. The larger rooms have more puzzles to keep everyone entertained.”
The most difficult room to figure out at Puzzle over This is the “Brains vs. Braun” rooms, where teams of up to seven race against each other and the clock during an undercover operative mission.
“The doors are never locked and each room has at least one camera,” Ennis said. “The game masters keep an eye on what is going on and can help with a clue at any time. They also check off where they are in the game from the control room. Not one group has come in and not asked for a clue yet.”
Four additional rooms will be available in the near future, including “Under the Sea” and “Seascape Asylum.” Ennis hopes to have them both open by this weekend.
The fire marshal was slated to come on Wednesday afternoon to check out “Seascape Asylum,” which has a 70-minute time limit, can accommodate up to 15 players and is difficult to figure out.
“It’s really neat and uses more of your cognitive skills,” Ennis said. “There are only six locks and the rest is using your brain to figure out a lot of little tasks.”
Under the Sea is designed for children 5-9 years old and an employee will stay in the room at all times.
In the near future, Ennis plans on unveiling her biohazard/industrial fallout and attic rooms in addition to three rooms in one: Africa, Egypt and Paris.
“There are three rooms in one game and they all have different themes,” Ennis said. “Clues in one room are needed for another room. We make all of our games up ourselves.”
Puzzle over This also offers a mobile game, which is 15 minutes long, has a grizzly bear escape theme and can be played at various events throughout the area.
“It looks like a log cabin and there is an air horn,” Ennis said. “We also offer 10 percent off any games they play in the future [after participating in the mobile game].”
Play the grizzly bear mobile game at Springfest from May 3-6, Relay For Life at Frontier Town on May 11, or during the Wicomico County Fair, Aug. 17-19.
“The mobile game is also available for company parties or picnics and fundraisers,” Ennis said.
Escape Rooms have been popular for team-building exercises, special events, birthday parties, youth groups, work events and even bachelorette and bachelor parties.
Ennis said Pocomoke High School is renting the space after prom this year.
Puzzle over This has a party room that can hold up to 18 people.
Ennis discovered escape rooms while on vacation and decided to open one close to home, last November.
“A lot of people play these games on their phones and this brings it to life,” Ennis said.
By summer, Ennis plans on having an apparel section with T-shirts, towels and water bottles for sale. In addition, employees take group pictures of participants and post them on Instagram after completing the game. Participants are also encouraged to write on the walls of the bathroom.
Visit Puzzle over This in Berlin on Friday or Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., or on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Summer hours are daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information or to make a reservation, call 410-641-0271 or visit www.puzzleoverthis.com.