Things to Do

A New DC Escape Room Called Beat the Bomb Has a Messy Twist

It opens in Ivy City today. Don't worry: Protective suits are provided.

Photograph courtesy of Beat The Bomb.

If you ever secretly wished to be slimed on Nickelodeon as a kid, Beat the Bomb—an immersive team game that opens today in Ivy City—might be right up your alley. 

Here’s how Beat the Bomb’s hourlong missions work: A team of four to six players dresses up in protective suits and passes through four rooms—each featuring a different game. You might be solving interactive computer riddles together in one room, while evading red spy-like lasers in another. The better your team does in each room, the more time you’ll have to disarm what’s touted as the world’s largest paint bomb—an explosion of fluorescent paints—in the fifth and final room.

Photograph by Anthony Cunanan.

Only a small percentage of teams actually beat the bomb, according to Alex Patterson, who created the game and has opened prior Beat the Bomb outposts in Atlanta and New York. Should you be among them, your team will enter the Pro League, which comes with extra perks like swag, discounts, and invitations to tournaments where you can compete for money. (Oh, and don’t worry, even if your team beats the bomb, you can still opt to be blasted with the paint.)

An attorney by trade, Patterson founded the game in Brooklyn in 2017 after working for Tough Mudder—a popular mud run with immersive obstacles, which he helped design. “The best obstacles were the ones that made people work together,” he says. That made him want to create a new immersive game that was almost entirely collaborative and required participation from every person on the team in order to win. 

While Patterson liked the idea of escape rooms, he thought they needed a fun penalty to feel more high-stakes. “If you don’t figure out an escape room, they just let you out,” said Patterson. “There needs to be a fun penalty.” Hence the birth of the Bomb, a timed (and, in case it needs to be said, harmless) explosion that adds some adrenaline to the experience.

Photograph by Marcus Ingram.

Like its other two locations, DC’s Beat the Bomb features two Mission Impossible-style challenges, each with different set of games and a different bomb at the end. While one ends in colorful fluorescent paint, the other ends in an explosion of soapy foam.

Games can also be adjusted according to age—meaning kids can have a chance at cracking the code too—as well as difficulty. If your team does really well one round, the system can increase the difficulty next time you return, says Patterson.

Additionally, because the games are digitally based, Beat the Bomb can also swap out new games for each team, depending on which ones the players have completed in the past. “I thought, ‘If we made the games digital, it would be like going from a board game like Monopoly, which will always only be that, to something like Nintendo or Playstation, where the content could constantly change,’ ” says Patterson.

When not participating in one of the hourlong bomb missions, you and your friends can also play games in one of the arcade bays, which are equipped with a library of competitive video games. And the 10,300-square-foot venue also has a full bar featuring spiked slushees and arcade-style snacks, such as pizza, nachos, and hot dogs.

Gaming bays can be rented for $15 per hour and missions start at $45 a person.

Photograph courtesy of Beat The Bomb.


Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor