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Local Medina County News

Hinckley family runs escape room in Ohio City

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    The Molchan family from Hinckley Township — from left, Christina, 23; mother Diana; Bill, 24; Mike, 21; and father Bill — have opened an entertainment center, Perplexity Games, in Ohio City.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

  • 051717Escape05-jpg

    An old-fashioned telephone and a pulp magazine are vintage items used to bring the 1930s to life in the Eliot Ness game.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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You have 60 minutes to escape.

Escape from what?

Think of the board game "Clue." Your mission is to use the brain-teasing puzzles to solve the mystery behind each clue. If you solve the mystery within 60 minutes, you "escape" and win the game.

Ready ... set ... go!

The Molchan family of Hinckley Township - mother Diana, father Bill and their children Mike, Christina and Bill - are the brains behind Perplexity Games, an entertainment center that is a hobby for the family.

Located in Ohio City, the escape room features two different games - Eliot Ness Investigation and The Clockwork Caper.

Set in 1938, the Eliot Ness Investigation challenges guests to collect evidence against a corrupt city commissioner who has ties to illegal gambling.

The room is open to a group up to 12 players.

The Clockwork Caper room has hidden clues that lead to a new machine designed by clockmaker Patrick O'Malley.

The room is open to a group of up to eight players.

Visitors age 8 to 80

"We wanted to appeal to a wide variety of people and have really succeeded with that," Diana Molchan said. "We get a lot of corporate team-building groups, but also families and groups of friends. We've had guests ranging from (ages) 8 to 80 who all had a blast."

The Molchan siblings use their background in robotics and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs to develop puzzles and technology for the escape games.

Diana handles the marketing and their father Bill is "the boss."

"It's interesting working with your siblings because it's a change in dynamic," Christina said. "We know each other's strengths and we have to apply how each of us functions to the tasks."

"This is something that I enjoy doing," Mike said. "It brings us together as a family."

Bill, 24, is a recent graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology with a master's degree in data science and a bachelor's in applied mathematics. He graduated from Highland High School in 2011.

He also serves as project manager at the escape room. His typical week includes managing a work crew, programming puzzle props, analyzing data from the numerous games and filling in as game master moderating the room.

Christina, 23, a 2012 Highland grad, is wrapping up her fifth year at Ohio State University with a double major in electrical engineering and Chinese. She is on track to graduate in December.

Mike, 21, a 2014 Highland grad, is studying electrical engineering at University of Dayton. He is scheduled to graduate in the spring 2018.

Diana specializes in marketing. Bill is a management consultant for a Chicago-based firm.

In addition to the family, Perplexity Games has three part-time employees.

Idea born from NASA

In 2015, Mike and his father spent a weekend in Houston and visited a NASA-themed escape room. Mike said their task was to land the lunar module on the moon.

They solved the mission and escaped within 60 minutes.

"When we won, we came back we talked about how we could create something better," Mike said. "I liked the emerging experience."

It turned into a family brainstorm session to bring something similar to Northeast Ohio.

"We got a big sheet of brown paper and laid it across the kitchen table," Christina said with a laugh.

The family also played a number of escape rooms around the continent - including in Chicago, St. Louis and Toronto - to discover different features they thought they could incorporate.

"It drills down to how the puzzle ideas fit the theme of each room and what the game master's role is - if he/she gives you a lot of clues or if you have to ask for clues," Bill said.

Perplexity Games opened in April 2016. The Eliot Ness Investigation was its first game.

It started as a 3,000-square-foot facility and has since expanded to a 4,500-square-foot area, with the addition of Clockwork Caper game.

Diana said they are consistently generating new ideas to develop more rooms.

"We want to try to open an additional room every six months," Diana said. "We started constructing the third game that we're hoping to open this summer."

She said the theme of the third room is aimed to be similar to the movie "Terminator." A possible fourth game would be a Harry Potter-themed.

"We want the room to be full of magic," Diana said. "We're big on people feeling in the moment in the environment, like you're playing a role in a movie and you're the hero."

Escape rooms have seen a tremendous growth over the last three years.

According to a directory website called World of Escapes, there are more than 2,800 escape rooms worldwide with new ones popping up often. At the end of 2014, there were estimated to be about 200 escape rooms in the United States.

Bill attributes their popularity to giving people an hour of social interaction with no screens and the excitement and satisfaction of solving clever puzzles.

"They are games of brains, not brawn, but it's like stepping into the role of a movie where you have a mission and the clock is ticking," he said.

The center is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week, but participants must make a reservation 24 hours in advance. The cost is $30 per person for one hour. For more information about Perplexity Games or to book a game, visit www.perplexitygames.com.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.

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