ST. CHARLES – An immersive adventure for teens and adults that ratchets up the suspense as it tests people’s puzzle-solving skills under pressure is at the heart of the iPanic escape rooms experience.
Each game room has its own theme, ranging from a diamond heist to secret agent, pirate, witchcraft, magic and the particularly high-tech Alien Encounter that challenges people to escape fog-filled, laser beam-walled pods to gain entry to the bridge of the spaceship and stop a weapon about to annihilate Earth.
Suspenseful music, secret passageways, a 60-minute countdown clock, clues, codes and a series of mechanized set pieces awaiting teammates’ solutions to put them in motion heighten the entertainment. The game can be played by two to 12 participants, with the more minds attacking the brainteaser tasks the merrier. A “Game Master” who monitors the players will provide a number of clues to help keep the action ripping along.
The Miele family from Batavia is behind the enterprise, whose main location in St. Charles celebrated its first anniversary in May in the entertainment wing of The Quad (formerly Charlestowne Mall) near the movie theater. And nearby Pheasant Run Resort recently launched a voodoo-themed room fittingly part of its Bourbon Street attraction and about to be joined by a pirate storyline by iPanic called Shipwrecked.
Nic Miele, iPanic manager, told Kane County Chronicle reporter Renee Tomell that the company also designs escape rooms for clients around the globe. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
Renee Tomell: What’s your entertainment goal?
Nic Miele: To give people theme park quality in the suburbs [along a] Universal or Disney level.
Tomell: Explain the family operation.
Miele: I’ve been into set design for about 12 years. My dad – he’s a computer guy. When we mix technology with set design, awesome things come from that.
Tomell: How scary is the experience?
Miele: All of our rooms are really family friendly. The 20-minute room is for people who have never done an escape room before to get their toes wet and experience it. Our biggest room can hold up to 12 people. And then the best part about the room is everybody [any age] has the same odds of winning. Everything you need is inside the room. You have to be creative to figure out how to use the objects within the room to help you escape.
Tomell: And do you satisfy the curiosity of people who fail to solve it?
Miele: At the end of [the] game, we show them the final steps … the bigger the group the easier it is to escape. The more creative minds the better.
Tomell: Do you change up the themes?
Miele: We’re always adding new rooms. We do have a lot of property we can use. We’re adding new rooms and building new things. Everything is done in-house. We have 13 employees who work here, and we all contribute.
Tomell: You have a 90-minute package for corporate clients?
Miele: For team building, we are open during the weekdays. We’ve had tons of big companies, from people who work in warehouses to companies such as [a restaurant chain]. You really get to see how well your employees work together, and employees have a lot of fun. It makes the whole work relationship a lot closer.
Tomell: Who did the animated introductory video you show before the game and the video components in the escape rooms?
Miele: We have artists and illustrators and airbrush artists. We do all the custom video work in-house.
Tomell: If people don’t reserve the whole room, do you pair them with other folks?
Miele: Groups who never met before walk out best friends.
Tomell: Has anything surprised you?
Miele: We have had dozens of people propose in the rooms. They normally contact us a little bit in [advance]. We’ll hide the ring or whatever present. It’s a pretty cool proposal. You don’t expect it.
Tomell: How many Game Masters do you have keeping the momentum feverish?
Miele: We have nine different Game Masters. [One is my brother, Marc.]
Tomell: Marc, what do you think of your role and the whole concept?
Marc Miele: I just love the job. I do escape rooms [for enjoyment] with Nic all the time. A lot in Florida. They’re all fun.
If you go
WHAT: iPanic escape rooms
WHERE: West-end lower level of The Quad (formerly Charlestowne Mall), 3800 E. Main St., and Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., both in St. Charles
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday
COST: $30 per person for one-hour game; save $5 by using promo code: Kane County Chronicle
INFO: Advance reservations required; ipanicescaperoom.bookifyapp.com and ipanicescaperoom.com or 630-797-9099.