It was a little hard to see how the escape room phenomenon could blow up any bigger in Pittsburgh. There are few niches left among the jail room, zombie room and the like.
But partners Shawn Carr and Brian Colonna of Code Breakers in Ross Twp. saw one final frontier that hadn’t been explored: Aboard a spaceship. For kids. In their “Return To Planet Earth,” players are in the depths of space and must learn to set an alien spacecraft on a course back to planet earth.
The new Code Breakers For Kids is a variation on the same escape room theme, designed especially for ages 7-12. While kids will enjoy the challenge of working aboard a spacecraft, they will also employ math, problem solving, logical reasoning and more in the process. Each session is an hour long.
Carr, an inside sales rep for Vista Metals, and Colonna, a software engineer at Google, brainstormed a bunch of ideas and realized that a spaceship might work, and it wouldn’t make you feel like you were trapped in a horror movie.
Making a kid-friendly version, as it turns out, didn’t take much modification. Colonna has two kids, ages 7 and 11. He invited them and their friends to try it out. Carr’s wife, a teacher in the Butler School District, asked some of her students to give it a go.
“It worked better than anticipated,” says Colonna. “It’s more a matter of how much the parent intervenes. One adult has to go in. One employee is in the room. We tell the parents to give as much or as little help as they want. We try to keep them on-pace so they’re not falling behind. We don’t want anybody to go in and not make any progress.”
The difference in the escape between adults and children playing is mainly about giving some hints, he says.
“What we found is that some puzzles are a little harder for the younger kids—and they gravitate toward their age range. Kids kind of delegate who would be better suited for certain tasks. And they do it almost as well as adults do.”
Price is another way that “Code Breakers for Kids” hopes to set itself apart from other escape rooms with a package price designed for parties.
“We just charge $60 for the room whether you bring two kids or six kids,” says Colonna. “So if you can gather up your friends, it’s like $10 per child.”
He points out that other escape rooms charge up to $30 per person.
“We know that’s not reasonable for a family,” Colonna says. “We’re not out to get a ton of money from people. We have our day jobs. This is just for fun.”
“Code Breakers for Kids” is now open Fridays through Sundays in the Pines Plaza Shopping Center at 1130 Perry Highway. You can book times here.