WHAT: Escape Plan SC
WHERE: 151 Riverchase Way, Suite B, Lexington, just off Interstate 20 at U.S. 378
A team of four crowded around a rustic wooden box that ticked loudly, tucked away in a corner of a room befitting a 20-something-year-old professional who happened to fancy Soviet and Russian leaders.
The team’s mission: Decipher cryptic clues to find the correct order to pull the wires of the “bomb” inside, saving the city from doom.
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“Dude, my heart’s pumping right now,” said Harrison Cahill as he fiddled with the wires.
The team was from Go Columbia, and they were taking on this “mission” at Escape Plan, the first “escape room” in the Midlands.
After nearly an hour, with 54 seconds left, the team successfully disabled the device. The high-fives circulated.
“You’re welcome, Columbia,” said team member Sarah Ellis.
At Escape Plan in Lexington, owner Josh Brickey said groups of people work together to escape a room or accomplish an objective within an hour. He and his wife, Patty, decided to open one after trying it themselves in another city about six months ago.
“We went and did it, and it was a lot of fun,” Patty Brickey said. “I was like, ‘This is the most fun we’ve had as adults.’ ”
The trend started in Japan around 2007 and then became popular in Europe. Escape rooms hit the United States last year, where they have blown up in popularity, according to the Brickeys.
Escape Plan also features another room, in which participants investigate a situation where people from Columbia mysteriously vanish while a serial killer is on the loose. Josh Brickey said there is enough space for two more rooms, and he and his wife likely will start modifying the current rooms within the next year.
The Brickeys said their escape rooms are not necessarily scary, but being put in that mindset can be intense, consuming and require the utmost attention.
The rooms are not only entertaining but can even be useful for team building, Josh Brickey said.
“During the week, we expect to have a lot of businesses in and bring in corporate groups,” he added.
Each session can have groups as small as two and as large as 10, and participants can be paired with strangers unless they book an entire room.
“When you have 10, the whole new challenge is you have to communicate better,” Josh Brickey said. “… It’s easier in some ways, but then it’s more difficult in others.”
During the recent opening weekend, Josh Brickey said he had two groups who would probably have never hung out with each other, but they ended up bonding.
“They’re kind of hanging in their groups, but then they realize they have to work together or they’re not going to get through this,” he said. “… Before they left, they’re high-fiving and celebrating they actually escaped.”
THE VIBE: The Go Columbia team started off giggling and light-spirited, but the mood changed the more the clock ticked. The exercises were tense but still fun for the team, especially after accomplishing their goal.
“It would be a fun night outing for people to come and do this and then socialize afterward,” Ellis said.
THE VERDICT: The rooms are recommended for people ages 12 and older due to the complexity of finding some of the clues. They are complicated enough to stay interesting yet easy enough for adults and young adults to figure out. The exercises require teamwork and a keen eye for finding patterns and clues.
Cahill said he is not a thrill seeker, but the escape room had the perfect amount of intensity without being scary.
THE DETAILS: $28 per person for a 60-minute session, $280 to rent an entire room. Reservations at (803) 728-1555 or www.escapeplansc.com