Paintball is like a production of Hamlet—it's exciting, demanding, and by the end everyone has pretend-died. Take paintball arms against a sea of troubles with today's Groupon: for $29, you get a mini rental pack for two, including admission, equipment rental, 200 paintballs, and lunch, at SplatterPark in Mount Gilead (a $60 value).
Digitized in the video game Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball, SplatterPark stands among the Midwest's foremost fields for tie-dyed conflict. Safely deposited in the park's drop zone, recruits receive their battlefield-equipment set, including semiautomatic rental guns with 200 paintballs each, protective masks and harnesses, and an inflatable decoy in the shape of former vice presidents. SplatterPark's mess tent provides combatants with a tactical lunch containing post-firefight sustenance in the form of hot dogs, chips, and a vial of truth serum for use on captured opponents. Skirmishes unfold across one of a dozen fields, including the forested Fort Buckeye, Snipers Hollow, and Hamburger Hole, where players must avoid open-field barrages and landmines shaped like cheeseburgers.
Young guns ages 10 and older can fire multicolored rounds during SplatterPark's open-play sessions, which run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Private weekday sessions are available for groups of 20 or more.
Your hands wrap around the grip of a Tippmann marker. Multicolored spheres fly past you, spattering the trees and cutting air inches from your mask. Through the foliage, you can see half a plane buried nose-first in a clearing, one of many obstacles concealing potential foes. At SplatterPark, this good-natured combat sprawls across the adrenaline-soaked turf of 12 outdoor fields and 40 wooded and open acres adjacent to a lake.
Warriors battle through capture-the-flag, base-defense, and other scenarios in themed arenas with adventurous names including Fort Buckeye, Snake Pit, and Dark Forest. Each field is suited to at least three types of play, but only the regular type of physics, and shouts of camaraderie echo off paint-flecked cover such as a broken-down school bus and a wooden-slat fort. SplatterPark also offers zombie-themed hayride shoots, in which a trailer is custom-fitted with 32 paintball guns, allowing participants to shoot live zombie targets. Prior to the hunt, visitors can test their skills on a target range.
The arena's surreal terrain was featured in the intense combat of Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball, a video game from Activision, but the real park caters to players of all abilities and ages. At an onsite café, hot dogs and energy drinks refuel warriors and allow them to tell if their nemeses are actually target dummies with no appetite.