You come home from work and your spouse has prepared the family’s favorite meal.
But to get the food you have to go through each room of the house solving puzzles and brain teasers, including some in which you have to work with your kids as a team to solve them. Correct answers lead you to passwords that you use to secure your chicken dinner.
That’s sort of the idea behind a new exhibit opening Jan. 28 and continuing through April 29 at Imagination Station in Downtown Toledo.
Adults and children will find the “Mindbender Mansion” exhibit to be a challenging series of brainteasers and interactive puzzles that will put anyone’s problem-solving skills to the test. There are a total 40 individual brainteasers and five group activities scattered about this house, which includes a disco room where you hopscotch spell and other thematic rooms that aren’t like those you’d find in a normal household. In the kitchen, for example, you must assemble dinner – using an assembly line conveyor belt process that is timed.
The goal is to get you to use noodle, both as an individual and as a team, to overcome challenges and gain clues and passwords scattered throughout. To accomplish this, you must “think outside the box” to get by obstacles such as a tilting table. Visitors must successfully complete eight to 11 brainteasers plus one large-scale group activity in order to become a member of the Mindbender Society.
The society’s wacky curator and master brainteaser, Mr. E, is introduced to visitors on a large screen as soon as they enter the mansion. He explains some of the unusual features of the house and how to unlock puzzle clues to become a member. Clue cards can be obtained in this entry so you can keep track of the clues. Clues are used to set the dials and open up the “vaults” in four main rooms: Parlor, Library, Kitchen and Map Room.
Once opened, a video featuring a short animation about real-life inventors is played. Mr. E. then appears to give you a password needed to unlock the Wall of Fame Vault at the end that determines whether you can join his secret society.
But it won’t be easy. These aren’t your typical “Parlor games” in the mansion parlor, and three of the individual brainteasers in this room offer critical clues toward the final eligibility challenge.
In the library, there will be plenty of study as visitors try to come up with three more clues toward the final challenge. Yet it will be anything but quiet trying to solve brainteasers like Horse & Rider and Take Away.
You can work up quite an appetite by the time you hit the kitchen, where two clues can be uncovered among the four individual brainteasers and one large group activity: that conveyor belt process mentioned earlier. Called “Feeding Frenzy,” visitors must put five kinds of food on a minimum of 10 TV dinner trays against a moving clock.
Mapping out clues requires a visit to the Map Room where three clues toward the final challenge can be found among four individual brainteasers and one group test. The latter involves tilting a table in different directions so that a ball goes into six holes under another clock deadline.
Once you’ve hopscotch spelled your way through the Disco Room to answer trivia questions – again with a time limit – you finally make it to the dining room. Unfortunately, you will be moving chairs into a required pattern by pushing off the walls or other players – but not sitting down then to eat.
Instead, you must press on into the Rec Room featuring a whopping 18 individual brainteasers like Take-Apart Cross, Handcuffs, Crossing the River and more. The group activity in the Rec Room is the “Flying Machine,” which requires teamwork to move a mechanical flying machine over a game board so that six targets are hit in sequence in a specified time. Visitors must enter at least three passwords to get into the final vault at the Wall of Fame.
Visitors who accomplish the task to become official problems are invited into the Mindbender Society. They have their pictures taken and personalize their portrait with a choice of unusual hair, hats and outfits. Portraits are displayed on one of the four Wall of Fame’s monitors.
Those who don’t come up with enough clues and passwords to solve the mansion’s puzzles? Well, they are welcome to try, try again. Until the run of the traveling house exhibition from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Ore., ends, that is.
Imagination Station is located at One Discovery Way off Summit and Adams streets along Toledo’s riverfront. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Though generally closed on Mondays, Imagination Station is open on Monday holidays including Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 and Presidents Day on Feb. 20.
Admission is $9 for age 13 and older, $7 for kids ages 7-12, $8 for seniors and free for children age two and under. Up to two Lucas County residents age 12 and under get free admission on Saturdays when accompanied by an adult with paid admission. Active military personnel receive free admission with proper military ID. Group discounts are available for parties of 15 or more.
For more information, call 419-244-2674.