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Arts and Entertainment

A Zombie Will Eat You If You Don't Solve The Riddles In This Downtown Room In Time

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If you walk down a dark alley among the warehouses of Arts District, you will find your way to 'Trapped in a Room with a Zombie.' Here, you can be locked in a room with a hungry zombie on a chain. You must solve a series of riddles to get out, and every five minutes, the zombie's chain gets longer. 'Trapped in a Room with a Zombie' is a real-life room escape game. Room Escape games are pretty common and generally follow the same basic structure. You are stuck in a room, any kind of room, and there is a way to get out. However, it's not particularly simple. You need to figure out a passcode or find a key, but to do so, you must solve a series of problems. Some room escapes give you as much time as you need, while others have an impending danger for those who are not quick-witted. Most of these games are played on your phone or computer, but 'Trapped in a Room' is an interactive show where you and your teammates are real-life protagonists.

The games takes 12 people at a time and shuts them in a room occupied by the former Dr. Oxy. According to Dillon, our personable host, Dr. Oxy was working in a laboratory on some kind of elixir, but accidentally pricked herself with a needle. Before she turned into a zombie, she hid the key to escape the room in a locked box that requires a specific, five-part combination to get out. She then chained herself up, but her chain gets longer every five minutes. If the zombie touches you, you're donezo. You can still verbally participate, but you can no longer move around the room and look for clues. Marty Parker of Bucket List Productions, LLC, the company behind the game, describes the event as a "tough mudder for your mind."

You could buy tickets for you and your 11 cleverest friends, or you could get paired with strangers. When we went, it was just two of us paired with three separate groups. In the waiting area, we learned that one group was comprised of psych students, which ended up being particularly helpful as one of them attempted to use her skills to communicate with the zombie during the game.

The riddles are all logic-based, and do not require much previous knowledge of pop culture or other fields. What makes them difficult is how many clues there are and figuring out how to put them together. It's stressed numerous times that you must communicate with the rest of your group or you will be zombie meat and that is absolutely true. If you're not constantly relaying information, you might find yourself with half a puzzle piece while someone else has the solution across the room. Or, you might be working on something someone else has already figured out. With only an hour and your zombie-free space getting smaller, you don't have time for redundancy.

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This is one of the reasons why Parker touts it as a great 'team building exercise.' And frankly, we agree: we'd rather solve riddles to avoid getting our brains chomped on than participate in trust falls any day. As the game progresses, natural leaders emerge and you quickly learn that each person's skill set is valuable: someone might be more willing to get closer to the zombie, but another might be great at organizing and presenting information.

Across the country, there are 13 'Trapped' locations. Parker says the survival rate is about 30 percent. He says he can tell which groups have a good chance of surviving before they enter the room.

"You get a sense [for the groups] just by the way you see them interact," he said. "Types As introduce themselves." It's those groups that do well once the door is locked.

Parker also said that another value of the experience is the time the groups spend talking about it afterwards.

"During the show, it's high adrenaline. The show puts you on the edge of now. You're not thinking groceries or anything but how do I get out of this room," he said. "What happens after is [the groups] go out and eat together and for the next two hours, they're discussing [what happened]. The feedback has been good. It's this whole concept of, 'wow, I was living in the here and now, and I had to use every single bit of who I am to get out."

I know what you're wondering. Am I writing this as a zombie ghost?

The answer is no. Once we solved our first clue, the rest came together—some more quickly than others. With a few well-placed hints, we were able to close in on the combination. With one minute left on the clock, we had all five pieces and were able to open the box that contained the key and get out.

After the show, Dillon had us line up and told us things he had observed about us. Some of our teammates were daring; others stubbornly worked through solving one problem, while others darted all over the room. I seemed to do well at observing the minutiae in the room while my partner was good at visual riddles. Had any one person not pulled their weight, we would have been toast.

All in all, 'Trapped' is one of the most unique events in L.A. you can hit up. It's fun, but not too scary; it's challenging, but not impossible. It doesn't center around eating or drinking (though you can certainly hit up nearby Pizzanista and Tony's afterwards), and it's exhilarating without being unsafe.

Dillon informed us that if we had a great time, they'll be changing up all the clues in about three to four months so we can come do it again.

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Trapped in a Room with a Zombie. 2035 Bay Street, DTLA. $28. Show times vary. Buy tickets here.

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