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Can You Escape?

Test your smarts and logic with Richmonds real-life puzzle game, where you have to solve your way to the exit.


Courtesy of Omescape

The timer starts to tick down, second by second, and my sister and I frantically toss books off shelves and overturn potted plants. Professor Stanley, known for his theory of time travel, vanished in this room three days ago, and it’s up to us to discover the truth behind his disappearance before time runs out.

That’s the premise behind Room Omega, one of three real-life escape games you can play at Richmond’s Omescape. Each scenario begins with a background story before the timer starts, and then you have one hour to figure out clues scattered around your surroundings to solve the puzzle and escape your room.

My sister and I failed Professor Stanley miserably. Even though we uncovered hints using a black light, scoured our surroundings, and found hidden doorways, time marched mercilessly on. We knew we were doomed after we were locked out of a safe for entering the wrong combination for the umpteenth time, with 10 seconds left on the clock.  

Granted, the games are designed for teams of at least four, not two, and we got within a few steps of completion. But even after feeling the bitter sting of defeat, we still can’t stop talking about when we’ll go back and attempt the other two rooms—one a prison and the other involving buried treasure, both with even lower rates of completion.

The founders of Omescape—two of whom are Cal grads—counted on this kind of enthusiasm when they brought the idea to Richmond. Inspired by similar games they saw in China, they opened their space last year and began adapting Omescape—which has more than 20 franchises in Asian countries—for an American audience.

Their version focuses more on observation of the environment and logic than the math- and science-centered puzzles found overseas, and has drawn more than 8,000 players from as far as the East Coast. A second location is slated to open in the South Bay this summer, with new puzzles and advanced mechanics.

“We don’t want to focus too much only on the puzzles; we want to provide the whole experience, with the music and lights and surprises,” says Sarah Zhang, one of Omescape’s founders. “And we want people to leave with a feeling of achievement, whether they escape or not. It’s not only for geeks and gamers. It’s for everyone.”

$28 per person; online reservations required. 5327 Jacuzzi St., Ste. 3H, Richmond, (510) 969-0899, letsescapesf.com.

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