Escape Games (ALL)

https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/WIXY2HW.jpg

Room(s) visited Le Voleur de Diamant, End of the Line, Mayan Curse, Counterops, Escape From Bleak Prison, The Haunting of Noriko, The Unknown
Decor Fantastic in most of their rooms. Counterops isn’t ugly, but it doesn’t
feel much like a bank vault.
Theming Depends on the room, but it ranges from Good to Great. Their later
rooms are better.
Puzzle Design Good to Great, again depending on the room.
Customer Service Good. I haven’t had reason to complain so far
Overall                    I’ve been to every game Escape Games has made, and will continue
to do so as they keep making them. I’m one of their biggest fans.

Escape Games
11 Kodiak Crescent
Toronto, ON M3J 0G7
Cross Street: Allen Rd. and Sheppard Ave. W
Rooms: 7
Group Size: Escape from Bleak Prison (4-6), Mayan Curse (4-6), Le Voleur de Diamant (4-8), Counterops (5-8), The End of the Line (4-9), Haunting of Noriko (5-12), The Unknown (4-8)
Game Time: 60 minutes
Price: $22.00/Person, $28.00/Person for The Unknown ($2 Weekday discount, 20% discount for students on weekdays)
Site: http://www.escapegames.ca/
Phone Number: 416-633-6868

I usually do these reviews in chronological order but I’m going to start off with The Unknown this time just because it’s got me really excited. Disclaimer: I got to beta test The Unknown for free. I love the Unknown. It’s actually my favourite room (of all rooms anywhere). When I was writing this review, I was a little divided on how I should approach the review. As I’m sure many readers know, there are no real details given about the Unknown. The Escape Games site warns players of EXTREME CONTENT, and that it has an 18+ requirement. Everything else is a mystery! I thought at first maybe I’d do a joke review of sorts, but I didn’t want to do the room an injustice.
In terms of theming, The Unknown has flat out the best I’ve seen so far. A large majority of the puzzles are embedded in the subject matter, which is the best way to do it. The game isn’t just puzzles in a room, with decor added – the decor is entwined with the puzzles. And the decor is also top notch! The room probably has the highest production value I’ve seen so far, and that’s even including Noriko. I also love the introduction to the game, which gives a little narrative. The Unknown doesn’t have a full blown story, but it does something innovative with the introduction which my whole team were big fans of.
Design-wise, the structure of the game isn’t something completely novel. However, I will say their execution of it is superior to other places that follow the same structure. It’s not something I’m normally a fan of either, so they did win me over.
That’s more or less all I can say about The Unknown. The price for the Unknown is $28.00/person, or $24 if you play back-to-back games. It would be a spoiler to explain why, but I think most people would easily understand why the increased price is justified after they’ve completed the room.

The very first room I did at Escape Games was Le Voleur De Diamant, which I refer to as the Diamond Heist in casual conversation. It was probably the first game I had done with nicer production value. It very much looks thematically like what you’d expect from a museum/art gallery. I originally had this room in my recommendations, but over time, it was bumped off. I suspect that I was a little shellshocked at the effort put into the decor, and I didnt have enough of an objective view of the puzzles and design. I just wasn’t a fan of some of the puzzles, and I feel that others would feel the same way. However, word is that they plan on replacing the room within a few weeks with a cyberpunk ‘Relic’ mission, which has me pretty excited.

End of the Line was the next mission I did. I was having a hard time booking Mayan Curse or Prison, and when they announced a new room, I thought ‘Sweet! No time slots to fight for’. The story of End of the Line is that your friend has been kidnapped. You have tracked the kidnapper to this abandoned subway tunnel. Once again, the decor is fantastic. There is a fake abandoned subway car, and I thought it was amazingly convincing. At the time, I actually asked  Shawn if I could take a picture of it, but he said no! The whole atmosphere in the mission was great, with the first appearance I had seen of interesting lighting effects. I’ve played rooms in other escape facilities with dim lighting, but End of the Line was the first time I had encountered dynamic and reactive lighting. There was apparently a little more story/narrative to the room that I had somehow missed.

Mayan Curse is one of my favourite rooms, although it wasn’t the most fun for me. I brought more than the recommended number of people. First off, as always, the decor was great. It really resembles an ancient temple, which is heads above other facilities that try to get by with wallpaper. The theming is great, with the puzzles very appropriate to Mayan culture. I think the design of the game is actually brilliant for beginners. The puzzles are such that beginners won’t be frustrated for very long (and that’s outside the hint system).
Mayan Curse was also the room that Escapes Games won me over with. I was always a fan, but this really won me over. As some of you can imagine, I get to talk to a lot of people who tell me about what kind of experience they’ve had. In one such instance, I was talking to someone about their experience at Mayan Curse, and they described a puzzle that I didn’t do (???). I enquired further and it seemed to me they replaced a puzzle with something new – And that’s what won me over. This facility put money in to improve an existing room. They have their own bar of quality they want to deliver, and that’s an attitude I can respect. At the time, I had done a crappy string of rooms where facilities should have spent money to fix existing broken components, so hearing about a facility that was spending money to improve gameplay for something that wasn’t broken just completely floored me.

Counterops is one of the few harder games I have on my recommendations list. It has a very low success rate. I’d argue that the decor and the theming for Counterops is probably the worst at this facility. However, I love the puzzles. There’s a good variety of them, and many are interesting. I also consider it a feat of design when puzzles can reward more intelligent approaches to problems.
My rationale with recommending it is simple – you wouldn’t be considering it if you weren’t up for a challenge. And if you’re up for a challenge, all you’re going to care about is the puzzles. I personally love the room, absolutely hate the blue lighting.

Escape from Bleak Prison is a split-team scenario and is very much a beginner room. The puzzles aren’t very hard, and it’s probably the room at Escape Games people could complain the least about. Certain rooms, like the Haunting of Noriko, I could see players not enjoying for one reason or another (be it scary theme or the type of puzzles), but this one is very universal in its enjoyment. It’s decor is quite prison-like, down to the prison bench and sink (thankfully no toilet). The theming of the puzzles isn’t great, but I don’t think it interferes with the enjoyment of the game very much.

The most striking thing about the Haunting of Noriko is that it’s themed beautifully. It really matches the aesthetic of what you’d expect from the scene of a Japanese horror film.The production value is stellar. There are two floors of scary effects. Notably, the lighting is dim but you never feel like you need a flashlight. A few of the puzzles are definitely distinctly unique to the theme, and not what you’d expect to see in any other theme. There are parts that I didn’t enjoy, but I can recognize that this is a matter of personal preference. The Haunting of Noriko is very much a beginner room – which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily easy. When I consider escape rooms, I break up room activities into puzzles and tasks. Puzzles require solving, while tasks are (usually) activities that are self-evident, but may be difficult to execute. I prefer solving puzzles over executing tasks. I went in with adecently sized group and by the time I was finished with a task, I had already missed much of the game! That would be my one piece of advice to reader – Take your time with this room. Don’t rush! Soak in the ambience and get scared. If I had a do-over, I probably would have brought a slightly smaller group so everyone would have participated more. I would strongly recommend the Haunting of Noriko if you’re a fan of horror, as the production value is heads above the other ‘scary’ escape rooms I’ve done.

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