On a recent visit to the in Orlando, my three boys joined forces to play an interactive secret agent game. Communicating by cell phone with Agent P – the secret identity of Perry the Platypus from the Disney show Phineas and Ferb
- they set off on a mission to thwart the evil plots of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Racing around Epcot’s World Showcase, tracking down leads and solving clues, my little super spies succeeded in saving the world. Not bad for a half hour adventure.
Back home in Austin, I stumbled upon a similar mobile, interactive scavenger hunt, and knew we had to give it a try. Billed as part game, part city tour, Urban Adventure Quest invites locals and tourists alike to explore downtown Austin, while following clues and solving puzzles. There is no Dr. Doofenshmirtz, but there are teams, tricky challenges, points, and a race to the finish!
All you need for this fun family outing – after paying online to participate - is an internet capable smart phone or tablet. At the starting point, you log in to the Urban Adventure Quest website and receive the first of 18 challenges. Each directive sends you in search of a new destination - finding it is part of the challenge - and requires your team to solve a complex puzzle. By the completion of your quest, you will have traveled two miles and seen a good deal of the city. You will also have learned several fun facts about the history of Austin.
Urban Adventure Quest is recommended for ages seven to 70. The most enthusiastic and helpful member of our team was my 11-year-old son. Having recently completed the 39 Clues
series, he was well versed in decoding with ciphers and unraveling word puzzles. He mentioned that our downtown quest was similar to the fast-paced books, but “without people trying to kill you.”
That’s not to say there isn’t an adrenaline factor. If you are a competitive sort, you will feel pressure to score big points in little time, ensuring that you rank high on the online Leader Board. There are hints available throughout the Quest, but they will cost you five points a pop. Bonus questions are also provided, offering the chance to gain 15 points per correct answer. My son got so into racking up points that when we were ready to head home he exclaimed, “Our car wasn’t towed! 15 points!”
Urban Adventure Quest is a nice motivator to get out of the house and take a turn as a tourist in your own city. Even as frequent visitors to the Capitol, my family discovered statues, mosaics, a memorial, and historical markers that we had never noticed before. If you can tamp down on your competitive spirit, you may even opt to extend your downtown exploration, with a little mid-Quest dining and local shop browsing. But, that’s not the way to dominate the Leader Board!