Those looking for an entertaining challenge — and something to do indoors as the coastal weather turns increasingly wet — have some new options in Newport with the opening of the Coastal Combat laser tag and escape rooms.
This new business, owned by Erik Arneson, is located at 256 E Olive St., in a space previously occupied by Encounter Community Church. Arneson said he spent about a month getting the space ready, and he opened to the public on Oct. 6.
For those who may not be familiar with the idea behind an escape room, also referred to as an escape game, it involves the players solving a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete an objective. Players must accomplish these tasks within a set time — in this case, 45 minutes. Each escape room has some sort of theme.
Coastal Combat offers two different escape rooms. One has a western theme, and the other features a horror/sci-fi motif. Arneson said the themes will be changing on a regular business in order to continue bringing the players new challenges.
“The western room, every month we’re rotating out the interior of it. This month is ‘Rob the Bank.’ Next month is going to be a continuation of that story,” said Arneson. “If somebody came opening day and did it, by the beginning of November they can come back and do a completely different room.”
The props and puzzles will be updated monthly, and then the themes themselves will be rotated out every three months. “If people want to keep coming back and solving puzzles every month, we’re going to have new ones for you,” Arneson said.
The degree of difficulty will also vary between the two escape rooms, to make the experience challenging for people on different levels of proficiency. “Sometimes people get really stuck on some of the puzzles,” Arneson said. “Some of the puzzles are meant to be a lot harder than others, specifically our Nightmare (horror/sci-fi room). The Nightmare is definitely the harder of the two to do, and I tell people up front about that.”
But people aren’t completely on their own if they become stumped by a particular puzzle. “I have a camera that has a live feed in there,” Arneson said. “I’ll sit down and have a tablet or a laptop and have headphones on, be able to hear where they’re at, what they’re thinking about, and then can properly nudge them along if they get stuck.”
The number of puzzles and challenges in a particular escape room will vary, depending on the degree of difficulty. Because players only have 45 minutes to complete all of the tasks, Arneson wants them to have a reasonable amount of time to solve each puzzle.
Those who are successful in “escaping” will earn bragging rights, and their picture will be featured on Coastal Combat’s Facebook page. So far, the top finisher “robbed the bank” in under 30 minutes. “She’s one of our more regular customers,” Arneson said.
As far as how many players can participate at a given time, “we recommend up to four,” said Arneson. “I’ve fit groups of five or six in there, but it tends to be almost too many bodies in the room at one time, and they end up missing more than they would if they had a smaller group.”
A good portion of the space inside Coastal Combat is devoted to the laser tag arena, which can accommodate anywhere from a single player up to 20.
“We usually have two people here, so we can always have someone watching the lobby and can send someone in here (to play the role of opponent),” Arneson said. “Somebody can come in and go one on one with me.”
Players have 20 minutes of time in the laser tag arena, and they can use that time however they want, whether they divide into teams for a face-off, or just have a free-for-all, with an every-person-for-himself/herself competition. “You can divide it up any which way you want,” Arneson said. “It’s mix and match, however you want. That 20 minutes is yours to play.”
The regular hours at Coastal Combat are Monday through Thursday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. People can also reserve space for parties. “We do party rentals from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. — we schedule two-hour blocks for them,” said Arneson. Those making reservations will have access to the party room, which can hold up to 20 people.
“We’re always looking to innovate on our escape rooms or our laser tag, even our party rentals,” Arneson said. “There’s lot’s of possibilities I have going through my mind on where I can improve, where I can give the community a better experience, even simple things like the merchandise we have here, T-shirts and hoodies, drinks and food.
“I’m trying to keep this open year-round,” he added. “Every business in town makes money off tourists. I don’t want to be the place that’s open for four months for tourists. I want to have this for the people in the community. I want something that the community can enjoy.”
People who want to learn more can find Coastal Combat online at CoastalCombat.net and on Facebook. Information is also available by calling 541-264-8788.