"Beat the Bomb" Review

Some time back in January, I was overcome by my inner middle aged white mom and was lured in by a mysterious paid ad on Facebook. It brought me to the website for “Beat The Bomb,” a location in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The home screen read out:

“Your objective is simple: Disarm the paint bomb before time on the clock runs out. You will be be equipped with a state-of-the-art hazardous material handling suit for protection… just in case. Do you have what it takes to beat the bomb?” (Beat The Bomb).

As a girl who was desperately looking for the perfect 20th birthday gift for her huge geek-of-a-boyfriend, I was sold pretty quickly.

“Beat The Bomb” is “ a 1-hr team game to defuse a paint bomb… or get blasted! Mixing the best elements from escape rooms, immersive theater, and 80s action movie endings, players wearing hazmat suits must use intelligence, speed, and stealth to defeat high-tech “security systems” (multiplayer games) and defuse a paint bomb before it blasts them!” (Beat The Bomb). It’s basically a real-life video game. I was a bit skeptical at first, worrying that the ads were deceiving and that it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as it looked in the videos on their website. The minute we arrived, however, I knew I was wrong.

I set my boyfriend Nick's GPS to a random vet’s office in Dumbo to keep the actual location of his birthday gift a surprise as long as possible. My terrible estimation of travel time and traffic had us there a little less than an hour early, but the group before us canceled and we were able to take their time slot. Beat The Bomb accepts groups of 2-6 people. According to their website, they will sometimes combine smaller groups if necessary. However, Nick and I were able to play as just a duo.

After we signed the typical waver saying if we got hurt we wouldn’t sue them (etc.), they handed us our full-body, white, plastic hazmat suits and see-through fanny packs to keep our phones (yes, you’re allowed to keep your phones! I was so excited to take more photos inside the rooms, but I completely underestimated the chaos we were about to be thrown into). We put any extra things we had on us (purse, wallets, jackets, etc) in a locker that was included in the price of the tickets.

Photo by Jessica DiSibio

One of the workers, a really sweet girl who also offered to take silly photos of us in our hazmat suits while we waited, soon walked us into our first room where she explained the rules. There were five rooms: Hack Attack, Laser Maze, Echo Chamber, Floor Grid, and the Bomb Room. The first four rooms were different types of immersive arcade games with infinite levels. The goal was to keep playing and beat as many levels as you could. The more levels you passed, the more time you would have in the end to beat the bomb. The success rate, they told us, was about 4%.

The first game room, “Hack Attack” consisted of 4 big screens, two on one wall and two on the wall opposite. Each had a checklist of tasks and codes for things on other screens. For example, one screen might say “Enter code 2643 on *insert fancy generator name*.” You would then find that specific generator on a different screen and enter the code. This game requires excellent teamwork and communication skills. It’s fast-paced nature really set the tone for the rest of the night as we scrambled around the four different touchscreens. 

The next room was the Laser Maze. I was a little apprehensive about this one at first, since you might not call me the most athletic or coordinated individual out there, but this game actually ended up being my favorite. In the Laser Maze, you get to live out one of those cliche spy movies where the secret agents crawl and jump around laser beams to avoid setting off alarms. You limbo around lasers to get to the other side of the room where you both hit a button and trigger the next pattern of laser beams.This game is bound to make you sweat, and you will tear your hazmat suit. Like, a lot. It doesn’t matter though, because they will give you extra paint protection later on. My boyfriend might have been complaining about his knees the next day (we are both just horribly out of shape) but the physical toll was worth it. It was an absolute blast.

Once we got to the Echo Chamber, I stood against the wall and let Nick handle that one. This one was all about memorizing rhythmic patterns, listening closely to the tune played by the room and repeating it by hitting different buttons around the room that all play a different note. This wasn't my forte, so I let the music-minor boyfriend dominate this one. I imagine it's a ton of fun for someone with stronger auditory-learning skills. This was probably Nick’s favorite, or at least, it was the one he geeked out over the most at the end of the night when it came time to fill out those optional surveys.

The Floor Grid was the last room before the bomb. This one relies on all your childhood practice with Xbox Kinect and Wii games. The floor is a huge grid, but the lines of the grid are only displayed on the wall in front of you. Sensors in the room track your movement as you walk around the floor, and each person in the room is pictured as a different colored dot on the grid. The screen will tell give you two shapes of two different colors. Your job is to find those shapes on the grid and simultaneously stand over them. The shapes are only revealed when you stand in one square for a few seconds. If the shape isn't there, you have to hurry to other squares until you find the one you are looking for.  It seems easy at first, but that is until digital canons on the screen start shooting fireballs across the grid. You then have to multitask between finding the shapes, dodging the fireballs, and avoiding bumping into the other people in the room! I highly underestimated the difficulty of that last part. It takes a lot of coordination and spatial awareness to be able to move around efficiently while keeping track of the screen in front of you.

Then there was the grand finale: The Bomb Room. Throughout the last four rooms, we had collected a total of 6 minutes and 42 seconds to diffuse the paint bomb. Another employee came in and gave us extra plastic smocks and helmets to protect us completely from the potential paint explosion. He then brought us into the bomb room, where we were faced with yet another screen and a huge, complex looking “bomb” right underneath it. In order to defuse the bomb, we needed to control an army tank on the screen, moving it around a maze and shooting all the targets in a specific order noted on the bottom of the screen. The man handed us 5 different pumps, each controlling a different element of the tank (left, right, forward, aim, and shoot). Now, I don’t want to give away our technique, but we found a great method and were able to successfully defuse the bomb. We finished with barely any time left to spare! We felt pretty proud, but the win seemed a bit… anticlimactic. The employee from earlier came in to congratulate us, but quickly assumed that despite our win, we wanted to get splattered with paint anyway. We nodded eagerly. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to get drenched in paint? The employee set the timer. We counted down from ten and were blasted with neon green slime, kinda like what you would see at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. According to the website, the paint comes in a variety of different colors. 

As we carefully stripped off our slime-coated hazmat suits in the back room, I couldn’t help but think how everything went just as I had imagined. It’s easy for things to seem better than they really are in advertisements, but our Beat the Bomb experience exceeded our expectations. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of video games or puzzles, I believe that any one will love how immersive Beat the Bomb is. It truly feels like you are inside a video game, and that is an experience unlike any other. It is both mentally and physically invigorating.The staff were fun and interactive, and really seemed to love their job. Nick and I both wished we lived closer so we could work there too! I highly recommend this experience to anyone. It’s great for birthdays, girls’ nights, date nights, or any other type of social gathering you can think of. Nick and I already hope to return again soon, and maybe with a group of 6 this time. 

Photo Credit- Jessica DiSibio

Sources: Beat the Bomb, https://beatthebomb.com/