Thursday, July 24, 2014

CJ PLAYS: Escape Places!

So if you know us in real life, then you know that we are obsessed with this new interactive game that has been taking Toronto by storm. The basic premise behind these games is that they lock you in a room and you try to escape using clues from a variety of puzzles and obstacles. You know the iPhone/iPad games where you have to tap around to find clues to answer puzzles? Imagine that in a real life setting. It's SO much fun and definitely a new interactive experience!

We've been to quite a few of these games under different companies and decided why not give a brief review on each one? Here's quick run down on the escape games we've been to (We promise - no spoilers!)

CJ Plays: Escape Places Part 2

CJ Plays: LockQuest (Media preview)


Our Top 2 Favourites:
Escape Games
Address: 11 Kodiak Crescent, Toronto, ON (5 Minute Walk from Downsview Station)
Phone: 416-633-6868
Price: 
Walk-In & Pre-Booked Missions
Opening Special Tuesday - Thursday:               $15 per person
Opening Special Friday - Sunday:                     $17 per person
Regular Pricing Tuesday - Thursday:                 $17 per person
Regular Pricing Friday - Sunday:                       $17 per person
Grand Opening Multi-Pass (Same Day Use)
Tuesday - Thursday (2 Missions):                     $25 per person
Friday - Sunday (2 Missions):                           $29 per person
* For more details on their rates, check out their website.
In a snapshot: Thematic, technological, (really) large rooms, multiple rooms in one escape mission, board games available
Escaped Prison & Mayan!

Escape Games and Adventure Rooms (below) are easily our favorites so far. For one, they boast large rooms which gives them more freedom with puzzle development and design.

Escaped the Bleak Prison!

Escape Games take their themes very seriously. The Mayan Mystery Room had walls to look like we were in a Mayan temple. The Prison Break Room separated our team into two jail cells. The Diamond Thief Room was modeled to look exactly like a museum and the Counter Ops Room focuses on defusing a bomb (!!!). How cool is that!?  It's clear they spent a lot of time and money into creating an environment that fits the theme of the room.

Escaped Diamond & Counter Ops!!

The puzzles are VERY fair and have a good flow to them (aka. they made SENSE). The clues and hints require actual logic and common sense which is a lot more fun than technical questions. Like all escape locations, you will be introduced to the back story of the room as well as a briefing session to explain the room. The quality that we value that is probably not appreciated enough is that they run through everything you will need to know about the room, safety precautions, what we will need, and such. Rather than waste time focusing on whether we can do certain things in a room, we know ahead of time to avoid dangerous objects, what can be moved, and details about the room to pay attention to which helped when progressing through the puzzle.

J's favorite is the Diamond Thief Room and you really feel immersed in the theme!

With the large available space that they have to work with, they have more rooms currently in construction including a 3,400 sqft. room! The next upcoming room will be called The End of the Line with a focus on chasing a kidnapper down an abandoned subway tunnel. They're also planning  a haunted house themed on for October 2014!

Definitely one of the top locations we've been too and we're planning our next visit there already!

Did you escape? Yes
C escaped - Bleak Prison, Mayan, Diamond, Counter Ops ; J escaped - Bleak Prison, Mayan, Counter Ops, attempted Diamond

Would you recommend? Definitely! This was by far our favorite place to go for escape games.

Adventure Rooms
Address: 283 Duke St W. Unit 101, Kitchener, ON
Phone: N/A
Price: $100 flat rate (4 people, $28/pp)
In a snapshot: Technological, large rooms, multiple rooms in one escape mission
* For more details on their booking system or general questions, check out their Facebook page.

Adventure Rooms has a lot of fun technology that you can use - we won't give anything away but you get to use little gadgets that I only see in movies. It really adds to the whole environment and experience. The clues tied together really well although there was no story or theme to it.

Adventure Rooms only has two rooms and they do not change frequently. The passing rate of the first room (Game #1) is 20% and  the second room (Game #2) is 25%. So, not a high passing rate for either.

The rooms are European style as well so you go through a house, basically. What made Adventure Rooms a lot of fun was the fact that it involved many little steps/puzzles that you had to solve to get out, rather than just one hard problem. This is one of our top places, and we can't wait to go back for Game #2!


Did you escape? Yes, we escaped Game#1! We received a trophy and medals.

Would you recommend? Definitely! This is our second favorite to Escape Games

For the first-timers: 
ESC-IT
Address: 5051 Highway 7, Unit 10 & 11 (across Markville Mall)
Phone: 905-604-3948
Price: $25..But you get 20% off for checking in and liking on Facebook and extra 20% off for paying with cash. If both discounts are used, price is $15.
In a snapshot: Inexpensive, small rooms (~20 square feet), board games available

Escaped the Bedroom of Nightmares!
Esc-It is great for groups looking for an introduction into the world of escaping. We were one of the first few customers to attend Esc-It prior to its relocation. We have not been to the new location at near Markville Mall because they have kept the same puzzles from their old location. From what we have heard, the rooms are more spacious.

The rooms we did were Code Wars, Cursed Library, and Bedroom of Nightmares. The titles do not replicate the thematic setting inside the rooms. Prior to entering each room, they will brief you with a story to introduce you to the setting of the room. However, the thematic experience was not as promising as it sounded when you enter the room. The goal here was to simply solve the puzzles and escape the room with little appreciation for the aesthetics and design.

One admirable aspect of Esc-It is that they partner with World Vision with one of their rooms that simulates homelessness in Toronto.

Did you escape? Escaped: Bedroom Nightmare, Code Wars  Failed: Cursed Library

Would you recommend? For beginners, yes.

Prison Breakers
Address: 4394 Steeles Ave E, Unit D222, Toronto, ON (North side of Market Village)
Phone: 905-604-0656
Price: $20 per person
In a snapshot: Inexpensive, small rooms (~20 square feet), darts, foosball table, board games

Prison Breakers is another great location for beginners. The physical space of the location is relatively small. In other words, you may feel a bit cramped when escaping these rooms with a larger group. Similar to Esc-It, you will be introduced to a story to get your mindset behind the theme of the room. The owners have full-time jobs so make sure you contact them ahead of time if you plan on testing out their rooms.



Escaped Cold Case!
The room we did was Cold Case. On the website, they mention that this room 'can be a scary and stressful experience for some players. This game will be played in a dark environment and is intended to scare the participants and challenge your ability to solve the puzzles in these stressful conditions. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!" The room is almost pitch black, but you will have a light given to you to work with. Don't worry, NOTHING pops out at you to intentionally scare you (but I don't know about your friends).

We actually really enjoyed Cold Case, the puzzles made sense and weren't just a series of math problems like other places included. Compared to Esc-It, the Cold Case room is definitely a bit more thematic. They have another room called Poker Face which is more difficult than Cold Case, but we have yet to plan a date to escape this room.

Did you escape? Yes we escaped Cold Case.

Would you recommend? For beginners, yes.

At Escape
Address:
173 Sheppard Ave W
Phone: 647-341-8989
Price: $30 ($18 if you check in and like on Facebook)
In a snapshot: Thematic, small rooms

I definitely have to comment At Escape for being able to transform a home into an Escape game room. The rooms were quite small - nearly the size of Esc-It rooms (~20 square feet) but they were much more thematic.

What we didn't particularly like about these rooms were that the clues did not really have a flow nor were the hints done very well. The clues did not involve any real reason behind it and some clues were just a math problem. Not a lot of thinking-outside-the-box. However, I went with my colleagues and they enjoyed it as a first time puzzle!

Escaped Prison Break!

Did you escape? Yes - we escaped Prison Break

Would you recommend? Yes - still involved fun puzzles but unfortunately, after Adventure Rooms and Escape Rooms, our bar of standards has been set pretty high!

Not a beginner? Try these ones:
Mr. Escape Room
Address: 7500 Woodbine Avenue, Unit 108 Markham, ON, L3R 1A8
Phone: 289-469-5339
Price: $24 per person
In a snapshot: Thematic, technological, medium sized rooms, multiple rooms in one escape mission

Mr Escape is great for larger sized groups as it you may benefit from having more opinions and teamwork to get through the rooms. We recommend a group of at least five people. The story introduced for the room is fairly short and straightforward. Some of the puzzles were confusing as they didn't seem to have a flow or direction connection between the clue and the actual puzzle itself.

One issue we had was that many of the rooms were faulty and had little bits that wouldn't work. Thus, having us call the owners to come into fix it before we could continue on. Not a big deal but it does put a little damper in our experience. Their customer service is on point though because we received a free game because our rooms were not working the way they should have been.

Did you escape? We didn't escape Ancient Egypt but escaped Kitchen of Hell, Bloody Moonlight, and Stringer Requiem

Would you recommend? The rooms are thematic but the faulty pieces of equipment did slightly ruin our experience. We will return in the late future to see if these problems are still occurring.



Xscaper Arts
Address:
150 Main Street (Side entrance of the church)
Unionville, ON
L3R 2G9
Phone: 905-604-7066
Price: $26 (1 person free in a group of 4 people; original price: $34)
In a snapshot: Thematic, technological, small rooms

Xscaper Arts currently has four rooms that are relatively small. Similar to Prison Breakers, you may feel cramped if you do attempt the rooms with a large group. Like all the other locations, you will be briefed with the story to align with the theme of the room.

At Xscaper we did two rooms: The Lab and Entrapment. Without spoiling too much, the lab room was by far the most traumatizing. I'm not even exaggerating. There are a couple of scares in the room that really get you! On the website, they indicate a scary level of 90% and it is accurate. Unlike other escape locations that focus on small steps and puzzles, Xscaper focuses on one or two big puzzles and a bombardment of clues that need to be tied together. The cool feature of Xscaper is that the rooms are technologically driven and fully automatic. Pushing buttons, turning on switches, and such will automatically activate other areas of the room. The Entrapment room utilizes lasers as part of the puzzle which was a fun and interactive experience!

We have yet to decide whether we want to try out the other two rooms (Cecil Hotel and Mystery of Pyramids).

Did you escape? Did not escape either room

Would you recommend? It is not for price-sensitive customers as they charge $34 per person. However, we would recommend doing Entrapment over The Lab.

Entrapment!

Would not recommend:

Mystery Room
Address:
1140 Sheppard Avenue W, Unit 18
Toronto, ON
M3K 2A2
Phone: 416-398-2020
Price: $20 per person (However, the prices are cheaper the larger the group)
In a snapshot: Thematic, technological, small rooms

I would not recommend this location at all to anyone , but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt because I only did one room. I highly doubt we will come back for numerous reasons. 

The room we did was the Haunted Hospital. The only great aspect to this location is that it has multiple rooms (similar to Escape Games), but the similarities end there, the rooms completely lack direction and flow. 

Let me quickly break down why we do not recommend it. First of all, the setup of the rooms is disorganized, there are a lot of things in the room (including clues) that are completely irrelevant and added little to no value to the experience. When we wanted a hint, there is supposed to be a telephone in the room so you can call the front desk. However, the phone itself did not work and we had to run outside to tell them to come help us. This wasted a lot of our game time. Finally, the devices that were supposed to be used in the room, did not even work. This completely takes away from the experience and no, they did not even offer to compensate for the disappointing experience we had.

The whole experience was just a disappointment. Expectations were high as they had multiple rooms in one escape game so we were hoping for a similar experience to Adventure Rooms or Escape Games but they were completely shot down because the puzzles made absolutely NO sense, there was no flow and no logic behind them. And nothing worked either!!

Honestly, I am actually astounded as to how this location managed to get five stars on Yelp .



-------------------------------------------------

So there we are, a brief snap shot of all the games we've played. If you haven't already, we strongly urge you to try on these games! They are very different from anything we've ever played and such a great activity to do with a group of friends.


24 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your review of Adventure Rooms Canada! We are thrilled to be in your top 2. We hope you also join us in Niagara Falls for Game 3.

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