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Outside the Box is for escape artists

By Janet Stoica

Located on Webster’s Main Street, next to Mapfre/Commerce, is a unique puzzle solver’s dream. Even the signage is mysterious, Outside the Box. If you consider yourself to be a cryptic riddle solver, then this place is definitely your style. Webster’s exclusive escape room has now officially become part of the town’s landscape.

Here’s your chance to use your brain power and skill at solving distinctive hidden clues while being locked in a series of three adjoining rooms. You must decipher clues in the first room to unlock the door to the next room until you are in the last room with the concluding evidence to unlock the door and exit to the lobby.

Computer video games have come full circle and now you can actually be in the game. So, shut down your tablets and get physical at your local escape room. This game is tangible, challenging, and uses your brain power to solve hints and to strategize how you’ll escape. You’ve got 60 minutes to solve the clues and advance to the exit. Escape teams range from 2-6 players comfortably. Players ages 8 to 88 are welcome, but those under the age of 16 require an adult or guardian.

Outside the Box owners Jeff Lorditch and Jennifer Harrington have known each other for 20 years, have graphic arts backgrounds, and have always enjoyed computer-activated scavenger hunts. The work they put into transforming the space into a post-apocalyptic game room is obvious. The renovations took three months. l

The game rooms’ atmosphere is stark, eerie, and as authentic as anything I’ve seen at a major theme park. The attention to detail, including sound effects, lighting, and furnishings look as real as what one might expect to see after a nuclear holocaust. “We took new furnishings and transformed them into a drastic scene of a destructed environment,” said Jennifer, “you wouldn’t believe the time it took for us to make this place look like the aftermath of a major catastrophe. We believe our detailed work really shows and our players will really appreciate the atmosphere. We’ve had people come in who’ve played over 200 rooms and they’ve told us our room was the best.”

“There are seven different endings per room,” Jeff stated, “with three rooms making up one game. Groups work at their own pace during their 60-minute game time. Players are monitored in each room through our camera and microphone system. Sometimes we can assist with hints, but most players are really into finding their own way.

“We’ve tried to be different than other game rooms in the area with our attention to detail. Jennifer and I visited and played a couple dozen game rooms and saw that we could make some additional and more challenging changes for players.”

All equipment is either period pieces or built from scratch and the couple states that this is the hardest they’ve ever worked on anything. They obtained equipment through Craigslist, the Salvation Army, and flea markets.

Lorditch and Harrington opened Outside the Box in late December. Traffic has been good, they say, and challenged. So far, only two groups have completed the entire mission and one was done by two 12-year olds accompanied by their mom and dad.

If Fallout 4 is one of your video game likes then you’ll really enjoy Outside the Box. Older gamers might remember playing Myst, which was a popular video adventure back in the 90s and the forerunner of many games that have expanded on that model today.

Here in Webster, you get to be in the game and make your own conclusions. “It’s a scavenger hunt with action elements,” says Jeff. “Ours is definitely more mentally challenging. We’ve tried to make the game as immersive as possible so that you’re really into it when you enter the first room.”

The new business is in early stages: “We have plans to use the entire floor of this level and hope to end up with four more rooms.” With Jen’s background in graphic design, furniture, and photography and Jeff’s background in furniture, trucking, and electronics while he was a U.S. Marine, they certainly appear to be in the right place at the right time. “We’re making our dream job come true right now,” said Jen.

Outside the Box is located at 251 Main Street (rear) in Webster. It has plenty of free parking. Phone for reservations (508) 640-0670.  $27/player with a $5 discount if you Facebook share. Hours: 12:30 p.m. -9:30 p.m. Wed-Mon. Closed on Tuesdays. www.outsidetheboxma.com