The Great Escape

When Michelle Rundbaken and Yacine Merzouk worked as a team to find an idol in the Lost Temple puzzle room in Montreal last year, they were instantly hooked.

They triggered the puzzle room’s hidden mechanism, found the idol and rushed to find another puzzle room game the next day.

“When we got back from trying our first few ones … we made a Halloween party for our friends and family,” said Rundbaken, co-owner with Merzouk of Kauai Escape room.

“Then they loved it so much that we made another escape game for them. We decided Kauai doesn’t have one and a lot of people don’t have the chance to experience it here, so why not open up?”

In July, the couple opened Kauai’s first escape room on Rice Street to the delight of puzzle solvers and gamers on the island.

“I came here, did The Missing Scientist, my first room, and I really enjoyed it. It was on par with the other five rooms I did which were on Asia, actually,” said Justin Uegawa, a gamemaster at Kauai Escape Room. “I was really impressed with all the rooms here, especially for a place on Kauai. It’s really a high-caliber place, which you don’t necessarily expect out of a business from Kauai.”

Escape rooms are themed challenges in which groups of two or more people find clues, solve riddles and other visual puzzles.

“Puzzle rooms really appeal to that side of you that really wants to solve something. When you’re stuck in a situation where you’re forced to deal with it until it’s solved, everyone has that inside of them,” Uegawa said. “There’s a big sense of satisfaction when you solve one puzzle.”

The Garden Island got a sneak peak of The Missing Scientist room.

“The player receives a letter letting them know that something strange is happening with the scientist and they’re asked to investigate the office of the scientist,” Merzouk. “You enter everything that looks like a normal office, but as soon as you start looking more closely, you find things hidden, you find secret messages.”

The rest of the details are top secret, Merzouk added. Once you know the details of the game, you cannot play it again.

“(Rooms) really geared to teens to adults,” Rundbaken said. “The puzzles are calibrated for the adult mindset. The thinking needed for a lot of the puzzles is not geared for kids. However, families come in and play. People do it as a date. People do it as team building. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about the experience.”

Games typically run between 45 to 60 minutes. Merzouk said the appeal of escape rooms is the difficulty level.

“We see a lot of smart people who don’t succeed, but we see others who think very practical and logical,” he said.

“You really never know who’s going to win or who’s not going to win. Everybody should come to the experience and enjoy it. … We make sure they are very challenging.”

Kauai Escape offers five games: The Missing Scientist; The Lost Record of Elvis; two fall and Halloween- themed rooms, Break The Spell and Tiki Lounge; and the Mobile Escape Room.

Success rates of completing the rooms range between 42 percent and 75 percent. Games run between $20 to $35 per player.

Kauai Escape Room is open on weekdays 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“We expect this will change once we have more employees and more demand,” he said. “We’ll try to be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday.”



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