Ever since Clint Sistrunk and wife Paulina Krakowska opened JXN Escape Room in February 2016, Jacksonians have been searching for lost treasure, escaping black holes and even solving murders.
“We started playing escape games in the summer of 2015, and we loved them,” Sistrunk says, “so when Paulina initiated the idea to open our own escape room, I ran with it.”
JXN Escape Room (916 Foley St.) was the second escape room in the state and first in Jackson when it opened. Recently, the couple opened a second location, ENTER/LOCKED (6718 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland).
“We design all our games in house,” Sistrunk says. He says their creative process consists of choosing a theme and then, with the help of friends and employees, figuring out puzzles to go along with it.
“We almost always argue on the details,” Sistrunk says, “but it just takes one idea to get us going.”
Players have one hour in each room, working together to solve clues and escape before time runs out. The rooms at the JXN Escape Room location include the Spaceship, the Historian and the Cellar, each ranging in difficulty. Their ENTER/LOCKED location has one room right now called the Murder Motel, and more rooms are in the works, including The Temple and one with a rooftop theme.
“We’ve had a great reaction from the community,” Sistrunk says. “Our goal is that everyone gets to solve a part of the puzzle and have a fun time.”
He says most of the escape-room participants are from the Jackson metro area, with about 70 percent being new players. But some drive from Louisiana or beyond to play at JXN Escape Room. Sistrunk describes the world as a “niche community,” where everyone pretty much knows each other: “Once people have played the rooms in their area, they go out and find more,” he says.
He says he and Krakowska have played more than 60 escape games in multiple states and even in Europe, and that they try to make their rooms unique by planting Easter eggs inside each one.
“We try to make them so that it’s personal and very interactive,” Sistrunk says.
He also says that they design the puzzles to make sense, but the majority of the experience is up to the players themselves. Each room has a game master who monitors the group and offers clues when needed. Sistrunk says that the rooms themselves aren’t scary, and players are able to leave at any point (though the clock keeps running).
“We make them challenging, but not so hard that it’s impossible,” Sistrunk says.
He says they often have businesses come play for corporate team building, but the majority of players are friends and family, millennial age and up. The rooms are catered to adults, but kids accompanied by adults are also welcome to play.
Sistrunk adds that the obsession with shows like “CSI” have perpetuated the escape room trend, but mostly that people are just looking for something different to do on a Friday night.
“It’s a chance for them to get out of their daily routine and be a character and solve a live puzzle,” he says.