Here's a post I've been meaning to write for over a year. Initially, I didn't want to write it until I had tried all the places on the list so I could make a more fulsome report. The problem was, new places seemed to open up in town as soon as I had tried one! I suppose it still applies now though, since it's cold and miserable out and it's nice to find things to do to occupy your time and get you out of your pajama pants every now and then, if that's your thing.
I tried my first escape room last fall and pretty much became obsessed. I love them. They sound super weird - you get locked in a room for 60 minutes and have to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape the room. It's basically a live video game, and it's SO MUCH FUN. If you dig puzzles and critical thinking, then this is for you! I've tried four of the places on the list so far - and have escaped two rooms. I'm still hoping to try all of them on the list (come do a room with me!) so hopefully I can do an updated post with some better reviews later. In any event - check it out.
Adventure Rooms - This was the first room I tried, located in Kitchener. I don't know if it's because it was the first, or just because it was an engaging room, but this one is my favourite. I tried the second room, and managed to get about 80% through the room on a first attempt with a two-person team, which apparently is pretty good. This location didn't have themes or plots involved in the rooms, but I really enjoyed the puzzles and definitely want to go back to try a room again. They also have a location in Niagara Falls, which is a great idea. This location has cameras to watch you attempt the room, and they communicate with you on a tablet, which is great for getting hints.
Exodus - Is located beside Centennial Hall in London, and seems to be the most popular location in London. It's nice - the rooms have themes and are set up really well. I tried the Professor's Den in a four-person team and wasn't able to beat it. My biggest complaint with this location is that it's hard. Like, it seems unnecessarily difficult. The sweet spot for escape rooms seems to be an escape rate of about 20% and I think Exodus has a much lower rate. I'm not keen to try this one again.
Escape Canada - This one is also in London, located on York Street near Wortley Road. I really enjoyed this place - they seem to be opening new rooms all the time, and they had solid themes. I did the Lost room in a two-person team and this was the first room I escaped. My biggest complaint with the Lost room was that the puzzles were mostly opening things - a lot of "Open this case to get this so you can open another case." There were some cool puzzles, but it wasn't as impressive as Adventure Rooms. I would like to try their new Cabin Fever room, though.
Lost City - Located on Kipps Lane in London, this one is a bit of an outlier. I wanted to try this location because I got to go for free on my birthday. We attempted Castle in the Sky in a two-person team, and we beat it. This place was pretty fun - there was a puzzle right on the front door that had to be solved before you even got into the building. The room itself was okay - we were in the dark using flashlights though, which seemed to be unnecessary. The plots and themes of the room were a bit weird too - like, Castle in the Sky? What does that even mean? The worst part was that we had solved the final puzzle, which released the lock on the door, but we didn't even realize it. So we finally had to use the walkie-talkie to ask what we were supposed to do, and they told us we had actually unlocked the room and could just walk out. We still beat the room, but it was a little underwhelming at the end. It still had some cool puzzles that I hadn't seen before though.
Mystery Escape - I haven't yet tried this location, which is on Waterloo Street in London. It seems pretty cool though, since it's in one of those lovely old houses. They have a lot of different themes, which I dig, but a lot of the rooms seem to be geared towards larger groups, and I prefer a two-person team if possible. This one is the next location on my list that I would like to check out.
Escape Castle Dracula - Who knew there was actually an escape room in Strathroy? This one is apparently located very close to my house, which is super weird. I'm pretty sure that it's just in someone's basement, and I'm somewhat wary that it's just a trap and I'll end up in a new Saw movie or something. I've messaged back and forth with the owner a little bit though, and they seem pretty on top of their game.
Here's some tips if you try an Escape Room...
- Say things out loud. This is my number one - say things out loud. Even if it seems dumb, it can end up being useful. In one room, I noticed that a there was a thermometer on the wall, but it was broken. We later realized that it was fake and was holding a key. Had I said, "Hey, this doesn't work" out loud, it might have triggered something with someone else in the room. Just say what you find - you never know when someone else might know what to do with it.
- Don't panic. It's easy to get overwhelmed with nervous excitement and fumble or forget about things. Try to go slowly and if you're getting frustrated, try to just move to another puzzle.
- You know a clue when you see one. The first room I tried, we WAY overthought everything. Things like, "There's a production number on the bottom of this chair! It must be a code for something!" No. Clues are deliberate - you know them when you see them. Don't get caught up by red herrings.
- Don't be afraid to use the hints. Every location I've tried has had a system for help or hints. Adventure Rooms had tablets to send you messages, and every other location had walkie-talkies. At Adventure Rooms, we kept forgetting to use the tablet - to the point that the staff actually slid a note under the door to tell us to look at the damn tablet and get a hint so we could get on track.
- Pay attention to the layout. There was one room I tried (I won't say which one) that had a secret panel. I didn't immediately realize it, but if I had looked at the layout of the room, I would have realized that there was a wall where there shouldn't have been one.
- Try everything. I've had to roll up area rugs for clues, move pictures on hinges, read braille, fold origami, read music, and unlock a cellphone to solve puzzles. The puzzles seem to really vary wildly and play off a lot of different skill sets - just keep trying things out, and eventually something will click!
- Look for things that are unusual. Things are very deliberate in an escape room, that's kind of the whole point. See a clock that's stuck on a certain time? It's probably a code for something. A set of encyclopedias that's missing a volume? That's important. Put on your video game logic helmet and check out those unusual things.
I think that's about all the tips I can come up with - I'm far from an expert. Like I said, I've tried four rooms and escaped two. I definitely love trying them though - they're so weirdly addictive! It's pretty nerdy, but seriously so much fun.