The Shadier Side of Room Escape

This is not a review. A long post ahead.

I’ve visited most of the escape games on the master list now. I haven’t been to any of the businesses outside of Toronto (Adventure Rooms in Kitchener, Escape Room Niagara Falls, and Escape Maze in Peterborough), but out of the 18 others in Toronto, I’m only missing NextRelic and The Great Escape Canada.

I like to talk to the business owners whenever I get the chance. I give feedback on what I liked and didn’t like, what I thought was done well, what I thought was unfair. I like to chat about what they have upcoming. In my conversations, the most striking thing has always been reports of underhanded business tactics. I’ve heard of people booking off large time slots, giving fake credit card numbers for reservations. I’ve heard of people going to places and wrecking their rooms intentionally. Of course, this is all second hand knowledge, so we should take it with a grain of salt, and I’ve purposefully left out the business names.

Online, I see other traces of shadier behaviour. It’s all circumstantial, but in some cases it seems pretty damning. There’s one place I’ve found that seems to continue to make fake accounts to promote themselves, and to disparage people from giving business to their direct competitor. I’ve seen fake yelp reviews. In one really damning case, Mystery Room seems to have plenty of circumstantial evidence against them.

The first thing that would catch your eye is that they have 6267 likes when I posted this, with 807 check-ins. This is a pretty big disparity! Mystery room gives an extra hint if you check-in on facebook, so I guess it’s possible the people of Toronto are pretty hardcore about their puzzle solving.

In their reviews, a huge portion of them seem to be from out of town. Mystery room seems to reply to reviews from people in Toronto, but not from these out-of-towners. Going through the reviews, right away we have people from San Francisco, California, Masachussets, New Jersey, Michigan, LA, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Tampa Bay, Houston, Nevada, somewhere in Australia, and so on. It keeps going! People are apparently coming from all over the United States to visit. It seems very implausible, but I guess there’ s an outside chance.

Across different reviews, they have the same strange punctuation error. One review refers to Satan¡¯s Lair. Another refers to Mummy¡¯s Curse.

All these accounts also seem to like the same things, and vote for the same things. A lot of these seem to be Chinese pages. Well that’s a strange a coincidence.

Hypothetically, if someone were to want to bolster their page with fake reviews and 5 star reviews, how much would it cost? Well, as it turns out, a few of these accounts coincidentally like a business called Instaviral. Instaviral talks about how people don’t trust places with 0 reviews. They provide businesses with 5 star reviews and ratings that come from ‘real’ USA accounts to help “strengthen your online credibility”

Wow! 5000 likes for $65, 10,000 for $80. That’s surprisingly affordable.

Ouch, apparently reviews and 5 star ratings are significantly more expensive. I hope the irony of increased online credibility isn’t lost on Mystery Room, since out of their 5 star ratings, the only ones I can really be sure are real are the highly negative reviews.

The thing that bothers me the most is how needless all of this is. Most places have four or less rooms. It means even if someone loved a place, they can only go back so many times. After they’re done, if they want to continue with the hobby, they’d go to another room escape business anyways. It’s the same base of customers, so the time, money, and effort spent could be spent on improving rooms! It’s come to the point where I don’t want to recommend certain places, even if they have otherwise fine rooms, because I don’t want to see them be rewarded for being so underhanded.



  1. I’ve noticed this too, its really sad to see these random accounts propping up business. The YELP reviews are really guilty of this.

    It’s hard to know who to trust, hopefully enough of us in the community will be able to give everyone some real reviews (even though we may conflict) to at least give them some perspective on things

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As the owner of an live room escape game (due to open in November in the UK) I really don’t understand this competitiveness between different companies. Yes, we are all fulfilling the same concept, but I don’t consider this to be a business that can have rivals. Each one is unique so the customers will generally visit all the ones in their area if they enjoy the experience. So there is no need to be competing for the customers.
    I personally have played all the games local to me and have enjoyed them all as much as I hope they would if they visit mine, and I will be recommending them to our customers too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s also the situation where (and i know you’ve experienced it because you’ve been to the same room), they discount your ticket price for checking in on Facebook and giving their page a Like. At the end of that game, after we had taken our team picture, the owners came up to us with two cheap-looking cardstock picture frames and said “we’ll give you one of these frames and print out your picture if you write a review of us on Facebook right now and we approve of it.”

    Gimme a break, guys! Add that to the fact that a number of new escape companies go directly to Groupon gives the whole business an air of skeeziness and desperation that drags down the integrity of the whole thing.

    There are good, high-quality rooms out there that legitimately deserve your business. i’m glad you’re blogging and reviewing. Keep it up!


  4. Whoops. i just checked the list of games you’ve played, and it turns out you *haven’t* been to the one i’m talking about. Oh well … you’ll see when you get there.

    Another fun exercise is to count the number of 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor that those members’ only reviews. i actually lodged a complaint with TripAdvisor against one company due to this. And when i see companies that have a conspicuous number of 5-star reviews on their Facebook pages, i drop a low review on them and call them out on it.


        1. That’s not the problem. You mentioned a legitimate issue, but didn’t say where. Now you’ve said West, but west of where? How west? there are a bunch of places that could fit the bill! Do you mean Adventure rooms out west in Waterloo?

          Don’t you think it would be generally more helpful to state it outright instead of being coy?


          1. It was at DeCode in Mississauga. Left a bad taste in my team’s mouths. That, and the ploy (i’m not sure if you’ve noticed?) of leaving an implausibly difficult task as the last puzzle, presumably to prevent more people from finishing. DeCode does it in all three of their rooms. Real Escape Game did in in both of their rooms that i’ve played. But that’s more of a game design concern than one about dodgy promotional practices.


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