You're locked in a room and have exactly 60 minutes to get out. Clues are hidden in plain sight, if you can decipher them with your teammates. But don't panic -- you've gone in voluntarily . . . in fact, you've paid money for the challenge.
This new interactive gaming concept has become a craze in the past year or so, with chains like Escape the Room opening locations in Washington, D.C., Boston and Atlanta. Now there's CryptIQ in Northport and Can You Escape? in Mineola.
After doing a few room escapes in Manhattan, CryptIQ owners Kelly and Jim Clark and co-creator Jason Dowski were hooked. Soon came "Secrets of Hollywood," the first in a planned series of escapes set up on the second floor of a small office building in Northport. (If you can't find it, you'll never get out of the room during the game, the Clarks reason.)
HOW IT WORKS
The plot at CryptIQ runs like this: Players have been invited to the office of movie director-producer Nicholas Van Orton, who's looking to hire a few good apprentices. The catch? To prove your worthiness, you must search the office for clues on how to escape the room. Do it in 60 minutes or you won't be hired.
"You don't need any outside information," says Kelly Clark. "We planted the answers."
Groups of up to 10 people can play as a team here -- six is ideal. Reservations are required.
SOLVING THE MYSTERY
On a recent Friday evening, two families of longtime friends are ready to play. Before they start, Kelly explains they'll need to be organized, take notes, separate and search.
"There's no need to climb on anything or anyone," she hints. Roughly 75 percent of the people who've come before them have failed to beat the game.
Despite the odds, John Brennan, 62, of Northport, is brimming with confidence. He saw a room escape on an episode of "The Big Bang Theory." "They did it in five minutes," he reasons. "We're going to do it in 41/2."
Once locked inside, the Brennans and the Kechejians race around, opening everything that can be opened, peering under objects, peeking behind things and -- little by little -- taking the room apart.
"Bingo, bingo!" yells Pete Kechejian, 54, of Fort Salonga, who mistakenly thinks he's found the key to get out of the room.
Jade Brennan, 20, plants herself on the floor to piece together a jigsaw puzzle. She's rewarded with a clue.
"What's back here?" Denise Brennan, 56, asks no one in particular as she pulls back a curtain.
Every so often, Kelly, who's watching the game unfold from another room, sends a clue that appears on a screen in Van Orton's office. Everyone stops, eager for a hint, like telling them to look in a certain direction.
Organized chaos ensues. The families work together in pairs or larger groups, and sometimes alone, periodically shouting when they've found something. Every 15 minutes or so, Kate yells out how much time they have left.
When the hour is up, the game-over buzzer sounds. Kelly opens the door and shows the players how close they came, where they messed up.
"It was absolute chaos," John, now chastened, admits.
Those who don't crack the code aren't likely to try again, but maybe they'll come back for another version of the game. That's why CryptIQ is already working on the next room escape. The theme -- unsurprisingly -- is anyone's guess. Says Dowski, "We're keeping it a secret."
WHEN | WHERE By reservation at 256 Main St., Suite 1205, Northport. Up to 10 people per group. Allow 90 minutes for the session. Recommended for adults and children 10 and older.
INFO 631-651-2622, cryptiqinc.com
COST $25 per person
OTHER ROOM ESCAPES
Can You Escape the Room Long Island
WHEN | WHERE By appointment at 44 Jericho Tpke., Mineola. For 2 to 12 people.
INFO 516-246-9939, canyouescapeli.com
COST $28 per person
This venue has four themes, such as "Back to Basics," in which you get locked in a children's playroom while baby-sitting, and "Escape the Subway," in which you're trapped in a hijacked subway car that's running on autopilot and will crash at the last stop.
"It's a great team-building experience," says owner Alissa Torres. Families get to work together and the kids stay off their phones for at least an hour. "That doesn't happen often nowadays," she says.
Room escapes are also great for businesses to help foster problem solving on a corporate level, adds Torres. "It's just good, clean fun."
Until September, Can You Escape the Room also has two 30-minute escapes for two to six people set up in a trailer in Long Beach at Riverside Boulevard and the boardwalk ($15 per person).