By Brian Shane
Photos Provided By Odyssey Mobile Escape Rooms
When two longtime pals were brainstorming ideas for an events-based business that would be totally outside the box, they didn’t suspect that they’d decide on something that was quite literally an actual box.
Business partners Matt Handrick and Ryan D’Ambrosio have taken the still-sizzling trend of the escape room but tweaked the formula by making it mobile. Instead of you going to the escape room, the escape room comes to you.
For the uninitiated, here’s the basic concept: a group of people pay to get locked into a confined space to solve a series of clues, riddles, and puzzles, usually on a one-hour deadline. The core idea is a simple one, but escape rooms can be made very complex in their design and execution.
“You walk out of a fair or wedding or birthday party and you walk into something completely different – we want you to be in a different world,” Handrick said. “There are ambient noises, rats in the wall, there’s fire. It’s a very immersive thing.”
Handrick and D’Ambrosio forged their friendship more than 15 years ago as teammates on competitive national paintball teams. In 2017, they spent months spit-balling business ideas that hadn’t been done before on a large scale. They landed on the idea of going mobile with escape rooms, which until now usually could be found at brick-and-mortar locations like strip malls or shopping centers.
They started their company, Odyssey Mobile Adventures, with a single mobile escape room trailer. Today, the Huntingtown, Maryland–based operation has expanded into a full-fledged events service company, offering tent rentals, photo booths, and even axe throwing.
Odyssey’s escape room concepts have included motifs like the “torturer’s lair,” where players have to find an object hidden by a wizard in a prison cell. In another, players solve the mystery of what happened to an abandoned mining station on an asteroid.
Handrick said they’re interested in taking that aspect to the next level by making each challenge electronic.
“In one of our games, as you solve this puzzle,” he said, “a photo actually lifts on the wall to reveal the hidden gem behind it. It happens automatically. We have all the mechanical elements in there.”
Their mobile escape room is about 135 square feet, which can accommodate 2–5 participants per game. They also offer a more intimate experience that Handrick calls the “escape pod,” which is about 80 square feet and can be built on-site for 2–4 participants.
“We’ll generally take two of those to a location,” Handrick said of the pods. “A lot of kids, they have birthday parties in a hall somewhere, [and] we just wheel them inside and pop ‘em up. Most kids at birthday parties, they’ll play through 6 or 7 times.”
Once, they saw a mother go in with her three kids, and at first they were intimidated. But when the family figured things out, “they left that place just giddy,” Handrick said. “I got an email from the mom: ‘My kids, that’s all they talked about for a week. Can I book you guys for a birthday party?’”
The cost to book Odyssey Mobile Adventures ranges from $700 to $1,500, depending on how clients wish to customize their package, and on the time of rental.
While they plan to add at least one more escape room and another axe-throwing trailer, Odyssey is already working on an accoutrement that’s even farther off the beaten path: robot bartenders. Specifically, it’s an electronic device that can be built to pour a specific drink automatically, without a human pouring a drop.
Handrick said they’ve booked dozens of weddings in the last two years because people want their parties to create viral memories and water-cooler conversations after the fact. Their clients are seeking out something specialized and even zany, like axe-throwing, instead of expected or rote.
“Every wedding we’ve booked is from something who’s looking for something totally different and off-the-beaten-path. If you go to 6 or 7 weddings a year, it’s the same shtick at every wedding. People want something fresh, something they’ve never seen before, and that’s very much what we offer,” Handrick said.
For more information on Odyssey Mobile Adventures, you can find them on social media, visit their website at www.mobileaxethrow.com, or call 301-509-8305.