Omescape – Defend the Magic Academy [Review]

Confundus!

Location:  Scarborough, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $37.50 CAD per player (save $3 with a social media check in)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Some of my favorite games to write about are the ones that I simultaneously loved and hated. Buckle up because Omescape’s Defend The Magic Academy was one of those bumpy rides.

I truly enjoyed Defend The Magic Academy’s puzzles and gameplay (with one musical exception). Omescape concluded the experience with a boss battle that really shined. This final sequence kept our whole team energized, engaged, and collaborating.

In-game: A fenced in area with strange waterfall made of pots.

Omescape’s minimal gamemaster staffing combined with a tech failure to result in a significant potion of this experience utterly collapsing. I cover it in detail below, but the bottom line is that Omescape charged a premium price for this escape game, but provided bargain-basement service.

Defend The Magic Academy was a highly recommended game among the Toronto player community; I can absolutely see why. Our play-though was plagued with a number of problems that probably don’t happen all of the time, but they happened in such spectacular fashion that it’s impossible to parse them from the experience.

If you’re in the area and looking for a strong puzzle game in a nice set, Defend The Magic Academy is worth playing with 4 people, no more, no less. I’m not convinced that it’s worth the extra money relative to some of the other top-tier games in the region, but it still offers a lot to love.

Who is this for?

  • Harry Potter fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some strong puzzling moments
  • A great final sequence

Story

For ages, evil magical creatures had roamed the earth until they were sealed away with powerful magic. Centuries later the power containing that evil was weakening. As prime sorcerers of the academy, we had to gather our strength and spells to beat back the monsters and strengthen the seal that cast them out of our world.

In-game: The magic school's sign. You can see an array of glowing red LEDs below it.

Setting

We began our adventure in the Magic Academy’s courtyard and had to solve our way inside of the ancient building.

The set looked pretty good. It was large, well painted, and had a number of fun interactions. The overt technology stood out in a less-than-ideal way because it didn’t feel magical at all.

Gameplay

Omescape’s Defend the Magic Academy was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

Analysis

➕ There was a lot to like in Defend The Magic Academy’s set.

➕/➖ I enjoyed the use of technology to represent magic. Unfortunately too many of these interactions looked and felt like technology, not magic. Omescape put little to no effort into concealing buttons and LEDs.

➕ I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. It had a fantastic assortment of challenges, including some novel takes on classic puzzle types.

➖ There was a color puzzle where there were significant mismatches in the coloration of the clues and the inputs.

➖ There was a complex and unhintable sound puzzle in this game. We didn’t have anyone on the team who excelled at this kind of challenge and it was made more difficult by the layout of the inputs. In the end, we had to ask the gamemaster to come in and just do it for us. I can think of a few ways that hinting, simplifying, or bypassing could have been possible without completely stopping the game.

➖ We encountered a tech failure that halted the game for a long time. On its own, this should not have a problem. This was compounded, however, by Omescape’s gamemastering and hinting model.

➖ For hints, we received a walkie-talkie (not a great delivery system for a magic game, but that’s beside the point). When we needed a hint we had to call out and identify which room we were in. The gamemaster then gave us our hint. It was clear to us that the gamemaster was responsible for managing multiple rooms and not watching us at all… thus never noticing the tech fail.

When I called out for a hint, the gamemaster just kept talking at us and telling us things that we had already figured out but couldn’t execute on because we were missing items due to the malfunction. Because we were over a walkie-talkie, I couldn’t speak back.

As the “hint” droned on and on, I eventually had to yell to get the gamemaster to stop speaking and realize what was actually going on. I basically never yell, and this was the first time that I’ve ever done so at escape room staff.

To be clear, I do not hold the gamemaster accountable for this failure. This is a failure of design and management. This is emblematic of a systemic business problem, not underperforming personnel.

➖ Yes, this was a 90-minute game. No, it didn’t feel premium relative to other top tier games in Toronto. If a company is going to charge top dollar for a premium game, I expect a dedicated gamemaster. It’s either premium or it isn’t.

Defend The Magic Academy concluded with an energetic and engaging boss battle. I absolutely loved this puzzle and the collaborative dynamic that it fostered in our team.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Omescape has a parking lot.
  • Food: There are plenty of food options nearby.
  • Accessibility: There is a section that requires crawling, Omescape can bypass this segment for a player if needed.

Book your hour with Omescape’s Defend the Magic Academy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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