B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

Cracked owners Andria and Paul Smith demonstrate the Date Night Disaster scenario, one of two puzzles currently available. Yes, you actually start off cuffed together.

Paul and Andria Smith are reluctant to use the term “escape room” to describe their business. While Cracked essentially is modeled after the increasingly popular, clue-solving escape rooms cropping up around the country, the idea here is that you go far beyond just trying to get yourself out. The players are put into a difficult scenario and must use their wits to work their way through the mystery-puzzle, with clues that involve more than just figuring out how to get out of a room.

“It’s challenging,” Paul Smith says. “There’s no book telling you how to solve the puzzle. You don’t know where to start — you’re put in a room and told to figure it out.”

Wausau area customers will have a chance to figure out what exactly that means, when Cracked opens March 1 at 4613 Camp Phillips Road in Weston.

Paul Smith says he and Andria worked hard to develop complex and interesting puzzles. While some escape room businesses use pre-made puzzles chosen as packages, all of the rooms at Cracked are developed in-house. Two rooms, Prohibition Mission and Date Night Disaster, are available now, and three more rooms are ready to be developed as the business grows, Paul says.

In Date Night Disaster, the story goes that you and your date accidentally sit in an ambassador’s chair at the opera and are kidnapped. You both wake up in a room handcuffed together and you have to figure out what happened and get yourself out. And yes, you and your date are actually cuffed together by one wrist.

In Prohibition Mission, you and your crew are prohibition-era mobsters who discover a rival mob’s moonshine distillery and need to break in and blow it up to show them who’s boss.

The sets are impressive, thanks to construction skills the duo learned while flipping a house. Many of the set pieces are from consignment and thrift stores around town. “When the Wausau community plays our games, they will find all the things we’ve purchased from them,” Paul Smith jokes.

The rooms are geared toward adults, with a minimum age of 15 to play. At certain times however, slots will be available for families to bring children as young as 9 years old, Andria says. They’re also planning to offer corporate team-building exercises.

Right now, potential visitors to the puzzle rooms can book a room through Facebook. Date Night Disaster can include between two and six people, while up to nine players can participate in a Prohibition Mission.

Check out Cracked Escape Room on Facebook or online at