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    Shaky in the entryway, unsure how I’ll fare, how I’m going to puzzle out of the seemingly impossible. Already 20 or so people in the lobby of Breakout Louisville Escape Games (1805 Cargo Court), building full of five themed “escape rooms” teams must solve their way out of. Folks are waiting to go into their challenge — with names like “The Kidnapping” or “The Museum Heist” — while others, fresh out, are buzzing, bewildered, saying, “That was so fun!” A group of six smile for a post-game picture, holding signs: “Casino Royale” and “So Close.” Didn’t find their missing agent in the hour allotted, couldn’t quite figure out the clues. Only 37 percent of groups do, so claims a chart on the wall. 

    Outta time. Bet that’ll be me, the overthinking slowpoke, stuck. Easily lost. Even today on my way here, all those turns past Hurstbourne Parkway, like the maze I’m about to enter. Soon to be a rat in a room. Volunteered myself as “Hostage.”

    “The games aren’t easy on purpose,” says Teddy, an employee at Breakout, which opened last May. The number-heavy, lock-combination-busting, letters-on-the-floor, mind-riddle, everything-is-connected-to-everything games are $24 per person and attract corporate team-builders, families (even six-year-olds!) and adventure-seeking friends. Eight people max per room. 

    My four gal pals are here, waivers signed (in case we go berserk?), then standing in a hallway hearing “game master” Nick, our room’s overseer who’ll guide us along, say like a God, “You can ask for up to three clues. No one has broken out without using at least one.” Then: a single-file line, blindfolds, darkness, door open, shuffling, door closed, handcuffs, an audio recording — “There’s been a hijacking on an international plane...” — and three beeps indicating the countdown has begun. 

    This article originally appeared in the February issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

    Photos by Amber Estes Thieneman

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