Three Duluthians have formed a business partnership to open a downtown storefront during the holiday season for a physical adventure game in which participants use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues and escape.
Silent Night: A Live-Action Adventure will open Nov. 28 in the Stanley Center, 408 W. Superior St. It’s the work of a new immersive event company, Solve Entertainment, aka SolveEnt. The partnership is comprised of Andy Bennett, Richard Hansen and Matthew Wagner.
The premise of the game:
It’s 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve. You have 60 minutes to save your city. In Silent Night you are a detective assigned to investigate the recently discovered lair of Mycroft, a madman who has placed four bombs across the city and rigged them to blow at midnight on Christmas Day. The clues to their locations, and possibly even their disarm codes, are somewhere in this room. Can you find them in time?
“It’s a holiday theme with a sinister angle,” Bennett said. “Participants have 60 minutes to find their way out. It’s like being the hero of an action movie. Very few people up here have done anything like this.”
Bennett said the game is typically played in groups of 10. Individuals and smaller groups are paired with strangers and must immediately become a team. The room is monitored with cameras and participants are not helplessly locked inside. If someone panics the doors will be opened, but the game is over for those who leave the room.
“It’s not scary,” Bennett said. “It’s not a haunted house.”
Bennett is responsible for creating the storylines and puzzles that make up the game, drawing on his experiences as a writer and actor, and his full-time job as creative director of Zeitgeist Arts and director of development for Renegade Theater Company. Hansen is the partnership’s business manager, best known in Duluth for his role as director of the Duluth Superior Film Festival. Wagner is Solve’s production designer. He has served as consultant for a series of haunted attractions across the country and is on faculty in the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Department of Theatre.
Their venture is thought to be Minnesota’s first escape room north of the Twin Cities.
The trend started in 2010, although a Silicon Valley escape room inspired by the works of Agatha Christie and created by a group of system programmers in 2006 is considered to be the first. There are now at least 2,800 escape rooms worldwide, according to MarketWatch. Examples in the Twin Cities include Escape MSP, Trapped Puzzle Rooms, Room Escape Adventures and Riddle Room.
Duluth’s version is a temporary setup, arranged through the Greater Downtown Council’s Pop-Up Downtown program. Solve Entertainment has been granted free rent for the space and will operate until Jan. 10. Based on the success of the trial run, the venture could continue on.
Games will happen every two hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Each game takes about an hour, but there are also debriefings. Time is also needed between games to reset the room.
Tickets are not yet available, but Bennett estimates prices will be in the $20 range. The typical cost in the Twin Cities is between $25 and $30.
Bennett said the hope is that at least 100 people per week will play the game. After six weeks the partnership will evaluate how it went and determine whether to continue.
“It helps that we’re located right around the corner from Rogue Robot,” he said, referring to the game and comic book store less than a block away. “Those people are going to love it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But if it doesn’t work, well, we all have jobs.”
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