Xscaper Arts (Mystery of Pyramids, Entrapment, The Lab, and Cecil Hotel

Xscaper Arts
50 Main Street, Side Entrance
Unionville, ON L3R 2G9
Cross Street: Kennedy Rd. and Carlton Rd.
Rooms: 4
Group Size: 2-6, (recommended sizes at 4 and 6)
Game Time: 45 minutes (and one 60 minute room)
Price: $25/person
Site: http://xscaper.com/
Phone number: 905-604-7066

Across 3 visits, I’ve been to every single room currently at Xscaper Arts. They are in the process of removing two rooms (I believe Mystery of the Pyramids and Cecil Hotel) to have an Inception themed room. On my first trip to Xscaper Arts, I did the Entrapment room and the Cecil Hotel. The Entrapment room was fun. You’re handcuffed in pairs, and there is a system of green lasers that act as a security system. If you touch one, you lose a minute out of your 60 minute time limit. At the time, it was the only place with an array of lasers. This room has an agility component, which is novel and interesting!

I had a very negative experience with the Cecil Hotel. It’s a horror-themed room that takes place in a hotel that has been torn apart. The first problem I had was with a a piece of faulty equipment. The technology used was very cool and I would have been impressed if it worked when it was supposed to. However, this is really a minor complaint compared to how the staff dealt with it. The puzzle itself wasn’t difficult, so my group was fairly certain that we were correct. We hear staff over the walke-talkie (who I later find out is the manager/designer) say to swap out our group members for the puzzle. It doesn’t work. We were then told to warm our hands up (not really a spoiler), but that doesn’t work either. This continues on for maybe 15 minutes before I ask the staff to just enter the room and do it for us. Two staff members enter, and attempt the portion of the puzzle themselves while repeating the same advice for 5 minutes. They then leave to fix the problem outside the room.
I feel like this was handled poorly. They clearly see us on the cameras in this scenario, and know something’s amiss. They watch us put in the correct answer for a puzzle over and over for 15 minutes, but don’t feel the need to assist until the group get completely exasperated and gives up.

So after my first trip, I thought, wow, I don’t really want to ever come back. But a few weeks later, other nearby places are booked, and I give in. I justify that maybe it’s just an isolated situation? People have crappy days afterall. I book the Mystery of the Pyramids, and off I go. I had a good time in there. I will certainly give this room an A+ for set and prop design. Once again they have some interesting technology used, and even a puzzle or two that felt thematic.

On my last trip, I’m onto the last room. I had a good time at the Mystery of the Pyramids (though I guess in retrospect its noteworthy that the manager/designer wasn’t there). The last room is the Lab, which is a Zombie-infection theme. We start the game, and we’re given one flashlight. That’s already strike one in my book. I’ve written about it before, but it’s a logistical bottleneck that doesn’t really serve a purpose. The next hiccup comes at the first puzzle.  The problem is that there is a glaring red herring in the room. It’s a “blue key for a blue door” problem, because another room features the exact same items, but they aren’t related in any way! My group spends 20 minutes on this problem debating it, all the while cursing the design of the room, before we agree to just take one course of action, which thankfully was the right one.
The third problem comes from the fact that we were supposed to have it explained to us how a certain electronic component is used. The staff did not inform us of how to use it at all. I don’t think difficulty inputting a puzzle answer should ever exist. All the difficulty should come from the puzzle itself.
The last major problem comes from where the speakers are. To explain why this would be a problem would entail a spoiler, but again, it created logistical difficulty rather than actual game difficulty.

I did e-mail the manager, and to my knowledge, he will fix the red herring in the room, but didn’t really budge on the other points. His reply felt very condescending, and it felt like he got increasingly hostile towards the end of the e-mail.

Summary

Rooms visited: All of them! Mystery of Pyramids, Entrapment, The Lab, and Cecil Hotel
Theming: Passable. There tends to be a small integration of the plot into the puzzles.
Puzzle Design:  Generally, Poor. In terms of puzzles,the best thematically integrated of the bunch was the Mystery of Pyramids room. There’s nothing technically wrong with the puzzles, it just felt like the rooms were very light on puzzles, and that my time was always being consumed by other parts of the game
Customer Service: Poor. However, all my negative experiences were with the same person, so you might have a better experience than I did.
Bonus: They use cool technology! If they integrated it into their theme better, it would be very impressive.
Would I go back? No. Well, I’ve been to all their rooms already, but I don’t really plan on going back once they have their new rooms either. The customer service was poor. As I’ve written before, it’s not a priority, but it can ruin an experience. Beyond that though, at $25 for 45 minutes, it’s actually THE priciest room escape in all of Toronto per minute!

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