Adventure in the Valley of the Unknown (shortened to Adventure! In the rest of this write-up) is a 3.2 million dollar learning area in COSI, a science museum in Columbus, Ohio. Adventure! is an full-immersion puzzle-solving environment, pulling influence from everything between Transformers and Indiana Jones.

Guests who enter Adventure! are first taken aback by the scenery, the work of lead scenic architect Howard Jones of JPI Design and his team. The look of Adventure! is very much along the lines of Indiana Jones. Dark lighting, strange writing, soaring temples, dancing statures (designed by LifeFormations) and golden idols adorn the interior. Actors dressed in period costumes lead guests in their quest for the treasure of knowledge.

The adventure of Adventure! begins as guests enter the exhibit. An actor leads groups inside a dark, rocky hallway and into a small room decorated with all the trappings of an explorer's hut. "Outpost 41", as it is called, is only the starting point of the adventure. Each group is given a map, and treated to a tale of the "Valley of the Unknown" to which they have been transported. A short synopsis of the tale follows:

The year: 1937. The valley of the unknown has just been discovered. There is a mysterious observatory tower that had a locked door which was rumored to contain the treasure of knowledge. No one, however, can open the door. Four statues, which the explorers call "spirits", have been discovered in the valley. Each spirit represents a different aspect of learning. There is P'lunk, Spirit of Questions, B'ra-Zoa, Spirit of Reason, L'LaLa, Spirit of Inspiration, and T'em-Poa, Spirit of Perseverance. So far, no one has been able to figure out what the strange keypads (which contain animal symbols) next to each sprit do. However, the diary of the late Ms. Snodgras has given a new breakthrough.

At this point, the actor punches in three animal symbols into a keypad next to P'lunk, who comes to life and sings a song about the importance of asking questions. He then gives you the first part of the four part code needed for entrance into the observatory. The task is then set: find the animal symbols for the other spirits, hear three more songs, get three more parts of the code and obtain entrance into the observatory.

That's the easy part.

I want to maintain some of the sanctity of the puzzle and not give away much more, but I will tell you that the only "treasure of knowledge" one will find in the Observatory is the key to the strange writings found in the Valley, and this is the foundation of a very long, and very complicated puzzle-solving Adventure that requires a diverse range of skills.

Adventure! is great for young children who only want to see singing statues. They are satisfied with gaining entrance to the Observatory, which can be completed in .75-1.5 hours, even with small children. For older audiences, the harder part of Adventure can take several days, or weeks of visits. Those people who want a challenge, and who enjoyed such puzzle-solving adventures as the Myst or The 7th Guest series will be thrilled

Adventure! Quick facts:
  • Area: 8,500 square feet
  • Ceiling Height: around 25 feet
  • Construction Began: June 1997 (Along with the rest of the new COSI building)
  • Construction Ended: November 6, 1999
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