CINCINNATI -- The Tri-State is being held captive -- and captivated -- by escape rooms.
The rooms popping up around Greater Cincinnati offer participants a chance to feel like they're in a movie with no acting skills required. Escape games put participants in themed rooms for a set period of time -- usually an hour -- and challenge them to use clues and hints to find their way out. Common scenarios range from prison breaks to heists to graveyard escapes.
"It kind of gives people almost like a movie experience," said Breakout Games marketing associate Will Sweet.
Breakout Games, which recently added a new Mystery Mansion room at its Hyde Park location, is one of at least 10 escape challenge venues operating around Greater Cincinnati. Others include Ultimate Escape Game Rooms, Houdini's Room Escape, Escapology and The Web.
While Breakout Games' themed rooms are built around mystery rather than horror, the Mystery Mansion challenge incorporates a more supernatural element.
"This one has more of a creepy factor than a lot of our other rooms," Sweet said.
The emphasis on intrigue over scares is part of what sets Breakout Games apart for its family-friendly nature. The company, which has been described by founder Bryce Anderson as "more Disney than ‘Hunger Games,' " is driven by the desire for participants to succeed in escaping the room.
"We want eight out of eight people to break out of the room," Sweet said. "That's the driving force behind Breakout Games as a whole."
The increasing popularity of escape rooms in Cincinnati and around the world may be in part thanks to the problem-solving outlet they provide.
"People have always loved puzzles and riddles," said John Kennedy, creator and owner of Houdini's Room Escape.
The challenges emphasize problem-solving and teamwork more than intelligence, he said.
The relative newness of escape games also offers a break from the norm in terms of entertainment options.
"People just love to challenge themselves with something new," said Jerry Weber, owner of The Web. "People don't go out for entertainment nearly as much as they used to. When they do, they're looking for something that's different."
Because the challenges are designed for groups, they're as popular for entertainment as for corporate team-building.
"You're interacting with each other in a way that you don't normally interact because you're trying to solve problems together," Kennedy said.
Escape challenges are especially beneficial for breaking the ice prior to projects that bring together multiple departments in large organizations, he said.
"You have to communicate with people," Weber said. "You have to share information and share ideas."
Depending on the venue and theme, groups can vary in size from two to 20. For many challenges, an optimal number of participants is around 10.
While most are designed to be family-friendly and welcome participants of all ages, age recommendations can vary as well. The advised age for The Web is 10. Breakout Games and Houdini's Room Escape participants are recommended to be at least 13 for maximum engagement and enjoyment for all group members.
Greater Cincinnati escape rooms
Breakout Hyde Park - 3653 Michigan Ave, Ste 205B, Cincinnati, OH 45208
Breakout West Chester - 6066 West Chester Road, West Chester, OH 45069
Escape the Room Challenge - 7391 Squire Court, West Chester, Ohio 45069
Houdini's Room Escape - 9309 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242
The Web - 7172 Cincinnati Dayton Road West Chester, OH 45069
Room Escape Adventures - 4814 Peter PlaceWest Chester, Ohio 45425
Cincinnati Escape Room - 2300 Montana Ave, Suite 420 Cincinnati, OH 45211
Escapology - 9527 Fields Ertel Rd. Loveland, OH 45140
Sherlock's Escape Rooms - 7916 Connector Drive, Florence KY
Ultimate Escape Game Rooms - 8075 Reading Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45237