NATICK – Anthony Valleau jumped from a narrow beam into the hold of a pirate ship Thursday afternoon.
As dramatic music played over him and lights cleverly mimicked water, he spun to grab his wife’s hand and successfully got her to safety just as she lost her balance as the plank twitched beneath her feet.
The couple played through one of 43 challenge rooms in Level99, an adult entertainment complex that opened at Natick Mall last week.
Using the space previously occupied by Sears, the creators of Level99 designed a 48,000-square-foot wonderland of food, drink, art, and hands-on entertainment that would pop even the Cheshire Cat’s jaws.
“This is, to some extent, the fulfillment of 100 different childhood fantasies,” said CEO Matt DuPlessie.
Doors of any kind open into rooms at every corner without any instructions. Players sometimes only have a minute to solve and solve the puzzle of a room. Some challenges are more physical while others are mental exercises.
A snake of light glides across the floor of an Aztec temple while a timer expires and stone-like totems with glowing red eyes scowl. In another room, players scurry over obstacles, avoiding spinning, sweeping poles, trying to press as many lighted buttons as possible. Another is full of floating white lights, the soft light of which is enhanced by mirror-like walls, while clear domes in the ceiling funnel a unique sound to the person directly below.
Laughter, cheers and shouts, both from the triumphant and the currently defeated, could be heard from the rooms on Thursday. DuPlessie said he’s already been interested in dozens of companies looking to use the space for team building.
“None of this is off the shelf,” he said, gesturing around himself. “It’s all special for this location.”
Outside of the rooms, roughly a quarter of a million dollars invested in art – mostly by Massachusetts artists – is also a treat. A pair of giant carrots creates the shadow of a rabbit on the floor, the Mona Lisa’s eyes literally follow people from their place on the wall, hot air balloons collide with lightning clouds near the ceiling, and little monkeys and other creatures hang inside astronaut suits at the bar.
In the forest:Large exhibition of Mel Kendrick sculptures at the Addison Gallery in Phillips Andover
Scavenger hunt and spectacle
“You can walk around with a glass of wine or beer in your hand and take it all in,” said DuPlessie.
Or, he added, you can join the complex-wide scavenger hunt.
In addition to the rooms, there are seven “arena” games in which the players face individual challenges with a clear view of the open ground. Some of them look like works of art themselves.
“They should be a spectacle in the middle of the room,” said DuPlessie.
The whole idea is at least three years in development, said the CEO, with challenges designed by his Norwood firm, Box Fort. The 43 rooms grew from paper to prototypes to field tests before they materialized in Natick.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said DuPlessie on Thursday about the final masterpiece. “Since many of them were still an artist’s impression three years ago, they are here now.”
Then there is food and drink.
Tap on Space and ‘Elevated Menu’
“We really wanted to make an upscale menu where people would come to eat,” said DuPlessie. “Where we’d stand out from a food court in a shopping mall.”
The Night Shift Brewing Taproom, Kitchen and Beer Hall, a separate and large restaurant, is near the entrance, and another table area is a little further down the complex. Little Branch Hospitality, the company behind Boston’s Shy Bird, Eastern Standard and Branch Line, creates the food that restaurateur Andrew Holden describes as “familiar made fantastic.”
“(These are) not categories of foods that are not brand new to anyone,” Holden said of the pizza, sandwich and salads menu. “But it’s … to give them a real culinary touch.”
Hungry players can try dishes made with chili butter, tajine seasoning, lime zest and roasted farro. There’s a coffee-rubbed short rib sandwich, Korean fried chicken, rosemary and truffle fries, and pizza toppings like wild mushrooms, honey, tomato and fig jam, and rocket pesto.
“When people read it, they are a little intrigued,” said Chef Nemo Bolin.
Where and when?
Level99 is located at 1235 Worcester St., Ste # 3330 in Natick and is open Sunday through Thursday 11am to 10pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to midnight. Admission is $ 29.99 for 2 hours, $ 39.99 for 4 hours, and $ 49.99 for the full day per person.
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or email@example.com. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.
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