Biz Beat

Escape rooms coming to Modesto

Brianna Hammerstrom, assistant manager of Laser Quest, opens the door to the facility’s new escape room attraction.
Brianna Hammerstrom, assistant manager of Laser Quest, opens the door to the facility’s new escape room attraction.

I had two big successes with this week’s column. The first was when someone left me a message about an “escape room” and I knew what it was.

An escape room is kind of a live-action video game in which you are locked in a room and have a set amount of time to discern the available clues, solve the puzzle and get out of the room. This is kind of a recent fad, and I heard this week from Modesto’s Laser Quest that one had opened there.

When I called assistant manager Briana Hammerstrom, I felt very hip that I was familiar with the concept. However, I only knew what it was because a young man who called me about a month ago about opening up an escape room business in downtown Modesto explained it.

These activities are popular in urban areas, and in some spots in Europe. There are different scenarios, so customers can keep returning for new mysteries.

On Friday, I visited Laser Quest to check out its escape room, which has a theme of “Vacation Vandals.” Basically, someone has broken into a travel agent’s office and hidden some expensive airline tickets. With a few common-sense rules – there aren’t any clues behind light switches, for instance – a team is let loose in the room to begin the hunt.

The game is aimed at those 12 and up, with most participants around the young adult range. However, Hammerstrom told me of a group that included a 6-year-old who helped with a very valuable clue.

Of course, I can’t tell you anything specific about the clues and the hunt. But I can tell you about my second success, which was completing the mission well within the 45-minute allotment. In the interest of journalistic integrity, however, I need to mention that Hammerstrom joined me in the hunt and more than once pointed me in the right direction.

You can get help, too, if you need it – a handy walkie-talkie is located inside the room in case you need a hint. I needed far more than one, and had she not helped me out, I am pretty sure I would still be in that room, trying to figure out the second clue.

Speaking of which, as a claustrophobe, I had to ask about the idea of a locked room. And, of course, I am sure the fire marshal would have something to say about that. Of course, you can get out at any time, but it kind of ruins the vibe of the game. Knowing that, I didn’t have any trouble staying in the room for the duration.

Laser Quest’s escape room is about to take a holiday turn, with the Halloween-themed “Basement” adventure taking over this week. I am not sure what all it entails, but it sounds a bit scarier than missing airline tickets.

“I can’t wait,” Hammerstrom said.

Cost is $15 per person, with a $3 discount available to those who also play in a laser tag game.

As for the downtown Modesto business, it looks as though it’s taking shape. Reservations, at $22 per person, are being accepted on the Facebook page. The owners promised to keep me posted on their opening, and I will pass along the information when I have it.

Laser Quest:, 209-526-0000

Escape Modesto:, 209-324-5190