No way out
Chico Escape Rooms offers interactive, offbeat adventure
According to a popular anecdote that’s been circulating for the last 2,000 years or so, the mathematician Archimedes was once charged with determining whether a crown made for a Greek king contained all of the gold designated for the project. The great thinker ruminated over the mystery for some time, with the answer unexpectedly crystallizing when Archimedes noticed the water rising as he slipped into the bathtub, prompting him to run through the streets naked yelling, “Eureka! Eureka!”—Greek for “I’ve found it!”
I thought I’d had my own eureka moment a few weeks ago, as a group of friends and I frantically worked our way through a series of engineered conundrums at Chico Escape Rooms, trying to find a fortune hidden by our batty but genius—and entirely fictitious—Aunt Edna.
“A gopher! A gopher!” I yelled, convinced I’d cracked Edna’s enigma as one friend contemplated prying open a television set and others struggled to crack locks and solve puzzles scattered throughout the room. “Look for a gopher!”
Turns out I’m no Archimedes. My gopher moment only led our party to fish for another red herring as a digital timer counted down the hour we were given to find Edna’s stash. At least, I later found out, the people observing our progress by camera from another room found my outburst hilarious.
Aunt Edna’s Condo, as the room is called, is the first of what Chico Escape Rooms owners Dayle and Nicki Evenson plan to be several different adventures offered inside a nondescript suite on Cohasset Road. The Evensons were introduced to the escape room phenomenon a few years ago after a family visit to one in Lake Tahoe. They have since visited others in Reno, San Francisco and Yuba City. The Evensons live in Oroville, and decided Chico would be a good place to start their own, which opened here earlier this month.
Escape rooms are interactive, alternate reality games in which participants must solve a series of problems in a set amount of time in order to reach a specific goal—sometimes to escape the room, but in this case, locating Edna’s loot.
The trend has become so popular that there are companies that sell predesigned rooms. The scenario and basic design for Aunt Edna’s Condo, for example, was created by New Escape Room Designs Inc. (aka N.E.R.D.)—though Nicki notes that she incorporated some of her own flourishes and devised some of the puzzles to make the room unique.
Participants must hand over their cellphones and other electronic devices before entering the room, which Dayle said is part of the attraction: “People have to rely entirely on their own brains, cooperation and communication skills to figure everything out.”
The Evensons hope to make Chico Escape Rooms a go-to not just for mystery fans, gamers and people in search of offbeat entertainment, but also as a team-building tool for local companies and other groups.
The local iteration of Aunt Edna’s Condo tests participants’ shared knowledge of history and pop culture, use of language, and logic skills. Though several groups (consisting of two to eight people, the more the better) have tried in recent weeks, none have solved Edna’s mystery to date. The Evensons plan to open another, Sherlock Holmes-themed, room in the near future.
All told, though our group fell short of the goal, we came close through a mix of legitimate deductive reasoning and dumb luck. Most importantly, we had a great time trying. The room itself was an interesting and convincing mock-up of an old lady’s apartment, down to the smell of moth balls.
To avoid spoiling anything for those planning to give it a shot, I’ll offer just one hint: The answer doesn’t have a damned thing to do with gophers.