While walking through a Paris neighbourhood, we were suddenly accosted by an armed man. A friend was grabbed and unless we could get our hands on a specific piece of artwork, the thug would kill her. Locked in the museum, our little band of eight had a mere forty-five minutes to crack a safe, find the painting and get ourselves out of there. At least… that was the given scenario.
For my husband’s 25th birthday, we gathered a group of eight friends and headed to Richmond to participate in an increasingly popular activity: Escape Rooms.
Huh? Did she just say escape room? What kind of medieval torture is that?
I assure you, an escape room doesn’t involve running through a Minotaur inhabited labyrinth or pulling some sort of underwater Houdini stunt. The object of the game is simple: find your way out of a locked room by solving a variety of challenging clues and puzzles.
When talking with friends, most individuals had one of two reactions to this activity: “Whoa! That sounds so cool, I want to try!” or “Uh… Who would ever want to do that?”
When I first stumbled across this new type of real-life adventure, I was eager to try it out. This came as no surprise being that I’ve always been a bit of a nerd at heart. As a child, I may have read too many kid detective novels and regularly asked my mom if she had any mysteries to solve. Nancy Drew made it seem romantic to be chloroformed and kidnapped, only to have to escape an abandoned warehouse by sawing through ropes with a rusty nail. (I promise you, I’m not crazy, just a mystery lover.)
Since the idea of an escape room appealed to both of our inner sleuths, Andreas and I decided that his birthday bash would be the perfect opportunity to test this new experience.
There are several different room escape companies in the Lower Mainland, all of whom offer slightly different escape experiences (actors, multiple rooms, non-linear puzzles, etc). After a recommendation from friends, we decided to check out Time Escape in Richmond, BC. While some companies cater to a more “frightening” experience, the rooms at Time Escape were thankfully tame, with the only pressure coming from the countdown of a rapidly ticking clock.
Despite the fact that we had several pretty smart cookies in our group, we found the puzzles to be sufficiently challenging. With a minute left on the timer, we stood, hints used, trying hopelessly to solve the numbered code to the last safe. We failed.
Ego’s deflated, a staff member hurriedly reassured us that we weren’t stupid – “This room has an 80% failure rate. No one passes on their first try!”
What I liked about the Escape Room:
1. It was a great group activity. To escape, you were required to brainstorm and work together. This mini-adventure would be perfect for a fun date night (or double date), a bonding experience for a family with teens, or a team building experience for a small group (birthday, work, youth group, etc).
2. There were a lot of options to choose from. (While other companies may differ) Time Escape offered eight different themed rooms. New themes are slowly introduced over time for a new experience each visit. Plus, with this much space, they’re able to accommodate several groups at a time. Even though I booked last minute, there was still space available.
3. It wasn’t easy. I loved the challenge of having to approach each puzzle in a completely new way. While my husband felt that some clues were a little too obscure, I enjoyed the fact that your brain got a thorough workout.
4. It was well done. I was pleasantly surprised by the design and quality of the room’s decorations and clues. The puzzles were well thought out and occasionally, solving one would trigger the event of something else (lights, lasers, etc.)
5. It’s a Vancouver friendly, indoor activity. Andreas and I are always trying to think of fun date options for a rainy night; this has definitely been added to the list.
What I didn’t like:
1. There were a few technical blips. My only real complaint with our specific escape room experience was due to a locked box that was accidentally left open from the previous players. This was obviously a simple miss by the staff during the turnover between games but it did throw off a bit of our momentum.
2. It was a little expensive. For 45 minutes of play, the price for these games can be quite steep ($18-$25 per person, depending on the company.) Keep an eye out for Groupon discounts and if you’re planning on becoming a frequent player, you may want to consider membership.
Escape Rooms are a unique experience that include a little mental stretching and a lot of fun. This activity is popping up in cities all across the country, so if you’re not in the Lower Mainland, check and see if there’s one nearby – I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit!