The concept of an “escape room” might seem a little unsettling at first: You’re locked in a small space with a puzzle to solve in a certain timeframe. If you don’t, you’ll meet your ultimate demise—or at least, that’s the idea. But given the fact that the rooms are never truly locked (that would be against fire code), and the only thing you’ll hurt by not solving the puzzle is your pride. It turns out these puzzle games—which have been popping up across the country—are not that scary after all. In fact, they can be an exciting, mentally stimulating experience.

When I heard that the Denver Escape Room was making its debut in Northglenn last month, I decided to give it a try, hoping that I would be able to find my way out of one of their three immersive puzzles—pride intact—before the allotted hour expired. The mental aspect of the game drew me in immediately. Although I’d imagined it would be similar to a haunted house, it’s more like a video game. My friend Jeni and I played the “Farewell” challenge. The premise is that we’re locked in a single apartment room that was once occupied by our deceased grandfather. Hidden in the one-room living area among the bed, kitchen, and desk, was his precious watch. We had just one hour to solve grandfather’s farewell puzzle and find the family heirloom before a demolition crew destroyed the building.

The puzzle theme may be a little hokey, but the challenge itself was no joke. Usually, the rooms are occupied by teams of four-to-six people. Jeni and I were left to our own devices, which meant we had a lot of ground to cover. As our hour began, Jeni meticulously scavenged the apartment for clues. I had a different strategy: I demolished everything, sure that there were clues hanging behind every picture or tucked away in each drawer. Between the two of us, we began to methodically uncover clues and unlock drawers, which slowed us into a steady and less destructive pace. Our skills complimented each other, with my mind searching messages for codes, while Jeni noticed color patterns. This identification of different skill sets fits into the Denver Escape Room’s strategy of using their puzzles as a platform that businesses and organizations can use for team building exercises.

After we found our groove, Jeni and I moved seamlessly through the challenge—until, after uncovering a vital clue in a locked drawer, I realized that I had destroyed the other piece of information we needed. Luckily, we were allowed several hints, and after giving a salute (our secret sign) to the camera mounted in the corner of the room, our attendant came in and reset the clue. Without being able to fix that mistake, we never would have escaped with the watch—or our pride.

To view the Denver Escape Room’s availability and book one of their three puzzles rooms—for $25 per person—visit their website.