DERRY — The Mission Zone is an indoor entertainment business that recently opened at 16 Manning St. in Derry.
Owner Josh Rutstein says the concept is like the opposite of an escape room, with players following clues and solving problems to break into a series of rooms, and it uses a unique smartphone app system.
Rutstein says the players are taking on the role of secret agents. Two people must come with smartphones and use the app Rutstein designed to receive instructions and clues to proceed through a mission.
“One person is the intelligence operative and the other person runs operations. So it follows that secret agent theme,” Rutstein said.
So far, he’s invested about $85,000 in the business, and sales have grown since he opened 2 1/2 months ago.
This month is seeing a 40% increase in sales over last, and Rutstein said he sees an average of about eight to 10 customers a day, with weekends being the busiest.
The app is the proprietary innovation of the business, he said. He has a patent pending for the concept, which he calls “manipulated reality.”
“We’re manipulating the way a physical space reacts to a person moving through it,” he said.
The technology is easy to edit to create new missions more frequently than traditional escape rooms, which often require a complete redesign of props and themes. While escape rooms tend to keep the rooms the same for about six months or longer, Rutstein said he can add new missions every six weeks to keep things new and fresh.
Currently, the 1,200-square-foot space has a total of five rooms. Some missions use as few as two rooms, or as many as four.
Some missions are geared toward family; difficult missions require tools like screwdrivers, pliers and volt meters; smaller missions require players to defuse a fictional bomb; and some missions are meant to be educational, with sixth-grade math lessons woven into a high-stakes plot requiring players to calculate the volume of a gold brick.
The average mission lasts 20 to 30 minutes and costs $10 per person, Rutstein said. In the future, he says, he’d like to incorporate some longer missions.
If business does well, Rutstein said he has plans to grow into a bigger space, up to 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, with up to 30 rooms and multiple floors.