Planet Maze Still Evolving 15 Years After Opening

T.K. Dickerson

Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY – Outside of
the brightly colored building that is home to Planet Maze on 33rd
Street in Ocean City, there are several sets of tiny handprints set in to the
sidewalk, labeled with the year 1995. This was the year that the Thalers,
Albrights, and Gordons (all with children around the age of 3) realized that
there were almost no places in Ocean City for kids to have birthday parties,
and they decided to change that.

Now, 15 years later, the
children who left those handprints in the cement that would mark the foundation
of the now iconic Ocean City play place, work in the family owned and operated

Back when Planet Maze
was first starting out, it had the only laser tag arena in Ocean City.

“When we first opened we
had the newest system of Laser Storm,” said co-owner Rina Thaler. “After 15
years, the technology changes so much … that is why we upgraded to go to the
cutting edge of what is current and new right now.”

The new “Lasertron”
system at Planet Maze is already a huge hit. In the four weeks since it has
opened, a college fraternity, an army squad, bachelor parties and even girl
scouts have all played Lasertron.

“It’s for everybody,”
co-owner Jamie Albright.

Lasertron is more
advanced, as well as little bit more difficult than the former game, Laser
Storm. With Lasertron, the owners have the ability to customize the games. “It
keeps things interesting, it keeps things fresh,” said Thaler.

In addition to standard
format, there is also rapid fire, humans vs. zombies, invisibility mode
(invisible players cannot be hit), deflector mode, and virus mode (players can
infect each other with “viruses”).

“We had [high school]
seniors here last week,” Thaler said. “They played standard format, and the
second game we changed it up and did rapid fire mode.”

Though lines can
sometimes reach out the door on summer nights, the new arena holds 25 players
at a time, and 25 more sit in the holding room to get briefed on the rules, so
lines move quickly.

Children maneuver around
large bunkers in the new arena, some red and some blue, the two team colors.
Adrenaline-rush inducing music pervades the black-light lit arena as blinking
lights give off a futuristic, space travel feel. High tech “phasers” are used
to shoot the other teams players, and there are refueling stations in the back
of each team’s side, showing statistics and scores.

Like all of Planet Maze,
the Lasertron is space themed, and the game gives off the feeling of being in
the future. Including Lasertron, there are three parts to Planet Maze: the maze
(the original part of Planet Maze) and Lost Galaxy Golf, which was added last.

“It really changed the
whole aspect of everything because now you can have Grandma and Grandpa out
there on the golf course, the little kids in the maze, and the teenagers in
laser tag,” said Thaler. “We are the flagship family place.”

The owners say that most
of their business comes from tourists in Ocean City during the summer, but they
keep Planet Maze open year round to cater to the local population. For several
years now Planet Maze has been an active participant in the “Play It Safe”
program, which offers discounts and deals to high school graduates to help keep
them safe during senior week. Every Thursday for the first three weeks of June,
from 11 p.m.-1 a.m., Planet Maze offers free laser tag and mini golf.

“We are happy people
still want to come and play,” Albright says.
The owners have enjoyed the past 15 years of success, and say they are looking
forward to 15 more. For everyone looking to get in touch with both their
children and their inner child, the Albrights and Thalers of Planet Maze invite
you to “let the game begin”.