Ozark Escape, which offers four escape rooms with varying difficulty levels, has a staff of all UCA students and boasts a 4.9-star Google review rating.

Manager Emily Hogue, a junior at UCA, recommended Bloodbath or Power Hungry for a group of students.

“Bloodbath is definitely one of our hardest rooms, and people like to go in there and give themselves a little bit of a challenge, and you have to work together to get that room done,” Hogue said.

“In Power Hungry, there are a bunch of different puzzles and clues that every person can do at the same time while they’re trying to complete the room.”

According to Ozark Escape’s website, Bloodbath is a high-difficulty escape room for 2-10 people inspired by serial killers. It describes Power Hungry as an easier or moderate room that takes 2-6 players. Both experiences take around an hour.

The owner, TJ Ross, said what makes Ozark Escape stand out from other escape rooms is the customer service role of his “experience curators,” or what most escape room companies call their game masters.

“From the start, we wanted to change that a little bit because really, anybody can put on a referee jersey and toss people in a room, and push play on a computer for an hour, and then say okay, you made it or you didn't make it and see you later.”

Hogue also said this aspect makes Ozark stand out.

“We make sure that even if they do struggle a little bit through the room, they don’t feel belittled in any way, and they still have fun.”

The company is in the process of replacing its Monsters in Training room.

Hogue, a creative writing major and art minor, said all the staff are UCA students and are involved in the creative process for designing rooms.

“[Ross] owns the company, and he builds everything, and he’ll come in, and he’ll be like ‘I’ve got these ideas for this, what do you guys think?’” she said.

Hogue said trying to get a room done is a whole company effort.

“We’ll have a couple of months’ worth of group meetings, where we just sit down and throw ideas out there of what the story could be, what puzzles we have in mind,” Hogue said.

Ross, who works full time at Hendrix College as the director of operations for maintenance, said he prefers not to dictate any part of the creative process for his team.

“I just feel like it’s better that way. Everybody has good ideas. We’ve got creative people. It’s a collaborative environment. In fact, two of our employees in Conway are film majors, and we just hired a young lady who is a music major and then we got a photography major, so all of those actually really fit in nicely with designing.”

“I got a background in construction and also low-voltage direct digital controls, and a little bit of computer coding and programming and those sorts of things, so that definitely helps, but we do all the stuff in-house,” Ross said.

According to the business’s Facebook, the Conway location opened its doors October 2018, over three years after its Fayetteville location.

Ross said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the business to close its doors for a couple of months in 2020.

“It was stressful. We kind of read between the lines in terms of shutting down, because they didn’t ever mandate that escape rooms shut down, exactly, but barber shops and other places like that were shutting down,” Ross said.

Over two years later, the business is going strong with a new room on the way, and it continues to employ and entertain UCA students.

According to its website, the escape rooms cost $28 per person including tax or $26 per person for groups of eight or larger.

Ozark Escape is at 505 E. Dave Ward Drive and groups can book experiences for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 4:30 to 8 p.m., or Friday, Saturday or Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

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