If you go
What: Murder Mystery Night
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 29. The event will also be held once a month throughout the year with rotating themes.
Where: Escape Games Live, 147 W. Philadelphia St., York
Tickets go on sale: Noon on Tuesday, July 14, and they're expected to sell out quickly.
Parking: Free, on-site parking is available behind the Escape Games building.
More information: Visit escapegameslive.com .
The moment I walked through the doors of Escape Games Live in York Saturday night, the mood was set for an evening luau.
Flower petals lined the staircase leading to the event, and when I reached the top of the stairs, I was greeted with a lei and a flower for my hair.
The bright, colorful Hawaiian-themed décor, with coconut and pineapple decorations, a grass skirt table cloth and even Hawaiian music playing in the background, seemed too happy a place for a murder.
But nonetheless, that's why I was there. To solve Escape Games Live's first murder mystery.
Saturday night kicked off the company's Murder Mystery Series, which will be held once a month throughout the year with rotating themes.
This month's (and next month's) theme was "A Luau to Die For."
When I arrived, I was handed a name tag and a piece of paper with my first set of clues for the evening. And as the remaining 23 guests arrived, the game began.
The event felt remarkably similar to my favorite childhood board game, "Clue," but instead of Colonel Mustard, my character's name was Ano Haloa, a server at the Oceanside Palace Hotel. And rather than determining the killer, the murder weapon and the room where the murder occurred like you do in "Clue," our goal was to determine the killer and the motive.
I don't remember what I was expecting when I agreed to participate as a fill-in for a guest who couldn't make it. But if I thought I'd be sitting on the sidelines watching actors act out a murder mystery scene while I quietly took notes, I was mistaken.
Like Escape Games Live's other events, Murder Mystery Night is very interactive.
"When we were choosing a murder mystery, we wanted to make sure we chose one where the players could participate, not just choose a show," Escape Games Live co-owner Michelle Hill said. "We believe the future of entertainment is experiential. People want to do things, not just watch things."
Each of the 24 guests was assigned a character — either an employee or a guest of Oceanside Palace Hotel — and they had to stay in character throughout the evening. At the start of the game, all of the characters were mingling at the hotel's evening luau, and somewhere in the middle, someone wound up dead.
Whether your character ends up being the killer, the victim, a suspect or a witness, each one has an important role and an important story to tell. And the only way to find out who committed the crime is to ask each character the right questions and pay close attention to the answers.
If acting, improvisation and interaction with others is out of your comfort zone, Murder Mystery Night at Escape Games Live might not be the event for you. But if it is, the game is a blast.
If you go, here are a few things you should know about gameplay, how to prepare and what to expect.
Purchasing tickets: Tickets go on sale for Murder Mystery Nights about a month or more in advance, and they sell out quickly, Hill said. The first Murder Mystery Night sold out in six days. So, try to purchase tickets as early as possible, she said.
Your character: When purchasing tickets, guests must answer a few questions about their level of interest, their personality and if they want to play a big or small role. This helps organizers match them up with a character that works best for them. Within a week of purchasing tickets, guests will receive their character information and information on a suggested simple costume.
Costumes: Simple costumes are suggested for each character, but it's nothing that will break the bank. In addition to the Hawaiian-themed clothing that every guest was asked to wear, my character required an apron and a notebook because she was a server at a restaurant. Costumes and props for other characters included simple items like grass skirts, sunglasses, hats and a whistle.
Pre-play: About a week prior to the event, guests are asked to email or text another character and ask them a few questions like, "Where were you on Tuesday night?" This starts the fun early and gives participants some advance knowledge of the other characters. Because I was a last-minute fill-in, I didn't have this experience, so I was a little lost in the beginning. But, it didn't take long for me to catch on.
Food: Appetizers, snacks and drinks will be provided at each Murder Mystery Night, but you'll probably want to eat dinner beforehand. Food at the luau included hot dogs, chips and salsa, fruit, meats and cheese and a few desserts. No alcohol is served, but the event is BYOB, and mixers are provided.
Age requirement: Guests must be 21 or older to participate in Murder Mystery Nights. But Escape Games Live is also working on starting a murder mystery series for children and teens, Hill said.
Gameplay: The game includes three rounds and takes about two and a half hours to complete. In the first round, participants receive a list of clues that they should reveal to other characters and a list of clues that they should keep to themselves. Round two is when the murder happens, so pay attention! And round three is when participants make their guesses before the big reveal.
Winning: Four out of the 24 participants guessed the correct answer Saturday (and I was one of them!) So, the game isn't as easy to win as it might sound. Those who guess correctly win an Escape Games gift card.
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