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New downtown Hilo attraction teaches players about 19th century Hawaii

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A new attraction in downtown Hilo is easy to enter but difficult to leave.

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A new attraction in downtown Hilo is easy to enter but difficult to leave.

Escape Hilo, which opened on Kamehameha Avenue in late September, is the first escape room on the Big Island and one of less than a dozen in the state, said owner David Takeyama.

Escape rooms are interactive games wherein groups of people collaborate to solve a series of puzzles in a sealed room within a specified time limit. The attractions have significantly grown in popularity since the first escape room opened in 2007 in Tokyo, with thousands of locations opening around the globe.

“It’s such a physical type of game,” Takeyama said. “People are so into virtual games these days that might require some collaboration, but it’s not person-to-person. In escape rooms, you need to work together with people and I think that’s why people like them.”

Visitors to Escape Hilo are tasked with finding keys by deciphering clues and cracking codes. Players have one hour to solve the puzzles and escape the room.

Escape Hilo, like many escape rooms, is based on a theme. Unlike other rooms, however, Escape Hilo is meant to educate visitors as much as challenge them, Takeyama said.

Visitors to Escape Hilo will assume the role of Jiro, a first-generation Japanese immigrant and plantation worker, in a room based on 19th century Hawaii plantation life. As players uncover clues to escape the room, they learn the history of Hawaii plantations and Hawaiian culture.

“We didn’t want to follow a template,” Takeyama said. “We wanted to make something very specific to Hawaii.”

Takeyama said he wanted to create an activity that would be interesting for tourists and island residents alike and assured that people with little familiarity with Hawaiian history can still solve the room.

Even so, the odds are stacked against participants.

Takeyama said about a dozen groups have attempted to solve the room since it opened. Only about 30 percent of them were successful.

“We can tweak the difficulty if we need to,” Takeyama said. “We don’t want it to be so hard that nobody solves it, but we don’t want it to be too easy. I think a 30- to 40-percent success rate is good.”

While a group of two has been able to complete the room, Takeyama said larger groups will have an easier time — so long as they are able to work together. Escape Hilo is equipped for groups of up to eight.

Takeyama said he became an escape room enthusiast after he visited a room in Berkeley, Calif., with his family more than six years ago. After that experience, he said, he made sure to visit escape rooms wherever he traveled.

Takeyama negotiated with the Berkeley escape room in the hopes of opening Hawaii’s first escape room. Negotiations stalled, however, and Takeyama lost his chance to be the first when Breakout Waikiki in Honolulu opened in 2015.

After that setback, Takeyama turned his sights on the Big Island. After brief negotiations between Takeyama and a Los Angeles escape room operator, Takeyama’s son, Ethan, said they could build the room themselves.

“I gave him two weeks to come up with a plan,” Takeyama said. “And after two weeks, he had something that we could use.”

Takeyama said people who attempted the room prior to and after opening gave positive feedback, adding he already is planning changes to the room once the current room becomes too familiar.

Until then, Takeyama hopes to provide something new for residents to experience.

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“I want to try to diversify the entertainment options on the island,” Takeyama said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.

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New downtown Hilo attraction teaches players about 19th century Hawaii

  • Game master Forest Bardwell-Jones holds up props for the first escape room on the Big Island, called Escape Hilo, on Wednesday in the attraction’s downtown Hilo location.

    HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

A new attraction in downtown Hilo is easy to enter but difficult to leave.

Escape Hilo, which opened on Kamehameha Avenue in late September, is the first escape room on the Big Island and one of less than a dozen in the state, said owner David Takeyama.

ADVERTISING


Escape rooms are interactive games wherein groups of people collaborate to solve a series of puzzles in a sealed room within a specified time limit. The attractions have significantly grown in popularity since the first escape room opened in 2007 in Tokyo, with thousands of locations opening around the globe.

“It’s such a physical type of game,” Takeyama said. “People are so into virtual games these days that might require some collaboration, but it’s not person-to-person. In escape rooms, you need to work together with people and I think that’s why people like them.”

Visitors to Escape Hilo are tasked with finding keys by deciphering clues and cracking codes. Players have one hour to solve the puzzles and escape the room.

Escape Hilo, like many escape rooms, is based on a theme. Unlike other rooms, however, Escape Hilo is meant to educate visitors as much as challenge them, Takeyama said.

Visitors to Escape Hilo will assume the role of Jiro, a first-generation Japanese immigrant and plantation worker, in a room based on 19th century Hawaii plantation life. As players uncover clues to escape the room, they learn the history of Hawaii plantations and Hawaiian culture.

“We didn’t want to follow a template,” Takeyama said. “We wanted to make something very specific to Hawaii.”

Takeyama said he wanted to create an activity that would be interesting for tourists and island residents alike and assured that people with little familiarity with Hawaiian history can still solve the room.

Even so, the odds are stacked against participants.

Takeyama said about a dozen groups have attempted to solve the room since it opened. Only about 30 percent of them were successful.

“We can tweak the difficulty if we need to,” Takeyama said. “We don’t want it to be so hard that nobody solves it, but we don’t want it to be too easy. I think a 30- to 40-percent success rate is good.”

While a group of two has been able to complete the room, Takeyama said larger groups will have an easier time — so long as they are able to work together. Escape Hilo is equipped for groups of up to eight.

Takeyama said he became an escape room enthusiast after he visited a room in Berkeley, Calif., with his family more than six years ago. After that experience, he said, he made sure to visit escape rooms wherever he traveled.

Takeyama negotiated with the Berkeley escape room in the hopes of opening Hawaii’s first escape room. Negotiations stalled, however, and Takeyama lost his chance to be the first when Breakout Waikiki in Honolulu opened in 2015.

After that setback, Takeyama turned his sights on the Big Island. After brief negotiations between Takeyama and a Los Angeles escape room operator, Takeyama’s son, Ethan, said they could build the room themselves.

“I gave him two weeks to come up with a plan,” Takeyama said. “And after two weeks, he had something that we could use.”

Takeyama said people who attempted the room prior to and after opening gave positive feedback, adding he already is planning changes to the room once the current room becomes too familiar.

Until then, Takeyama hopes to provide something new for residents to experience.

ADVERTISING


“I want to try to diversify the entertainment options on the island,” Takeyama said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your email address will not be published. required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.

*

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