Players in play

Break the Crypt, 4302 E. Ray Rd, offers a puzzle room that participants need to figure out how to get out of the room after being locked into it. The group uses wooden blocks to figure out one of the puzzles. From left are, Kyle Wride, 16, Chantelle Hunt,17, Michele Flamm, Cassidy Schafer, 16, and Mikelle Henrichsen, 16.

60 minutes. Eight players. Multiple puzzles. One way out.

It may sound like an action movie, but it’s the premise of The Crypt, the latest addition to Ahwatukee’s entertainment scene.

“You are put into a room with a specific goal and a time limit to solve puzzles, riddles, find clues and arrive at the final solution,” said owner John Keating, who just opened an “escape room” three weeks ago at 4302 E. Ray Road.

Players pay $28 to be locked into one room with a group, preferably of eight people.  must solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to unlock the door, and do it within 60 minutes.

The Crypt is the newest addition to the growing escape room community, bringing the total to five in the East Valley.

At first glance, The Crypt seems like any normal room. Not much décor covers the small room. Yellow light reflects sharply off of the wooden floors, walls, and furniture.

It’s reminiscent of a quaint log cabin. The scorching, desert summer and strip mall that houses the facility melt from the mind as participants are immersed in the cool cabin.

Little do they know that puzzles and clues surround them, taunting anyone willing to look close enough.

Big Brother is taunting players as well; Keating supervises the teams from a monitor in an adjoining room.

The first, and currently only, room in The Crypt is called the Puzzles of Superstition Mountains.

“The idea of that room is that it is an abandoned gold miners cabin and it kind of ties in to the legendary lost Dutchman of Superstition Mountains and trying to find his lost gold mine,” said Keating.

Keating and his wife, Tammy, from Gilbert, delved into the concept of escape rooms after realizing it meshed their dream of owning their own business with something that is just plain fun. They opened Aug. 19.

“I found that this is seriously the best job that I’ve ever had,” said Keating.

Keating comes from 20 years of a corporate background, which he found lends well to escape rooms.

He said managers come for team-building exercises with their employees. This is especially fun for Keating, as most employees come from different backgrounds, and therefore bring a new insights and strategies to solving the puzzles.

Employees are not the only ones taking advantage of The Crypt. Teenagers, couples, families, even some younger kids, have come to experience the room, Keating said.

He is even planning on bringing his own kids to experience the room this month.

Keating believes that people enjoy escape rooms because not only is it fun, exciting, and challenging, but also because it lets you “escape from the rest of the world”.

The rest of the world seems to have experienced escape rooms before the United States. They popped up in Asia and made their way through Europe, and only recently have come to the states, according to Keating.

Keating believes that they have become popular because they are live versions of video games, which is helping the digital age become more interactive.

“There is some movement back towards that social interaction away from the ‘let’s all just sit in a room and play a video game’ back to ‘let’s all go experience something together,’” said Keating.

Eventually, people will be able to experience up to six rooms at The Crypt. As of now, one room is built out, but Keating hopes by the end of September to have another room completed, with another added every two months.

Once all six rooms are built, Keating will go back and either strip or revamp the existing rooms, following that same two-month pattern.

A huge aspect that Keating hoped to change was the hint system. He said other facilities let players fumble around for a while before the operator arbitrarily decides to give them a hint.  

“Having that decision based on somebody sending you a hint whether or not you really need one was a little bit frustrating,” Keating said.

What the Crypt does differently is simple: Add a button that players can push when they want a hint.

Keating also added a scoring system. Each team of eight gets a score depending on how fast they get out and how many hints they use. Keating said this helps level the playing field.

“If I’m playing a game and I win the game I want to know that I’ve won the game,” Keating said.

Not only are escape rooms competitive, challenging, and build camaraderie, Keating said, they’re also just really fun.

“There is a really fun adrenaline level those last five minutes. Where they’re just rushing around, ‘We’re almost there we’re almost there,” said Keating, “It’s fun. It’s challenging and rewarding.”

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