The Tape Escape – Love Without Late Fees [Review]

Like A Telltale Game But Without All The Death

Location:  Toronto, ON

Date Played: July 12, 2019

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per player (plus tax and applicable fees)

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints 

REA Reaction

Before seeing Love Without Late Fees, one of three games offered by Outside the March’s The Tape Escape, I was not convinced that a long and loving relationship could be achieved merely by picking the right movie to watch. But after the experience, I am tempted to open up my own video store dating service.

Tape Escape exterior - a video store with the event logo.

The Tape Escape was an intriguing experiment. Part immersive theatre, part escape room, part art installation, and all nostalgia, it attempted to blend these elements together into three unique narrative-driven games. In some ways, it succeeded. In others, not so much.

We experienced two of the possible three shows at Tape Escape. Of the two we played, Love Without Late Fees was our favorite. Its clever use of branching narratives had us curious about all the ways we could affect a relationship.

Who is this for?

  • Immersive theatre lovers
  • 90’s kids and 90’s kids at heart
  • Escape enthusiasts who want something different
  • Scenery snobs

Why play?

  • Engaging narratives
  • Humor
  • Natural set
  • Immersive 90’s atmosphere

Story

We had been hired by the quirky Ray and Sheila, creators of the Six Movies to Love dating service. The dating service tried to match up couples through their movie rentals. Our goal: bring two potential soul mates together and select the perfect six movies to cement their love.

A person holding many movies reaching up for a movie on the shelf of a video store.
Photo by Neil Silcox

Setting

All three shows in The Tape Escape took place in the same set – a fully restored video rental store – and ran concurrently. Aside from the multiple shelves of videos, there were also small rooms set up for certain parts of each show. These were used to watch cutscenes on video with provided headphones to hear the audio.

Gameplay

The Tape Escape’s Love Without Late Fees was a narrative-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

The main mechanic was a branching narrative structure that resulted in a possible 64 scenes to witness and 32 unique endings. The puzzles we solved (or did not solve) determined which path we followed. Once the time limit for a puzzle was up, the gamemaster provided us with the movie the couple would watch on their next date.

A person with an eject symbol on his shirt in front of a shelf of movies.
Photo by Neil Silcox

Analysis

Love Without Late Fees did a fantastic job of evoking a 90’s atmosphere. (Bonus points to the video designer for the aged feel of all the recorded videos we watched!)

➕ The sight of a fully restored video rental store was alone worth the visit. I experienced a lot of giddiness looking at the multitude of 90’s movies lining the shelves. Occasionally, the cramped space of the video tape collection caused some minor traffic jams for players and game masters. This actually added to the atmosphere though.

➖ There were instances where we were unsure of where or how to interact with the space. Thankfully, we could always ask the gamemaster what we could and could not touch. That said, our hesitation to solve drained what limited time we had to complete the puzzles.

➕/➖ Our gamemasters did not portray characters but merely guided us through the puzzles. On the one hand, they were clear in their instructions. On the other, we were disappointed not to see more character interaction in an immersive theatre project.

➕/➖ Small vignettes performed between each show provided some humorous additional entertainment, but did not make sense in the world and jolted us out of the experience.

➕ Headphones ensured we did not overhear other shows going on around us.

➕ The two lead actors had great chemistry.

➕/➖ We did not have a lot of time to complete each puzzle, which was frustrating. Luckily if we did not complete a puzzle on time, instead of “failing” we were merely put down another narrative path. Better still, not completing a puzzle did not mean a negative outcome for the characters or the players.

➖ The puzzles were enjoyable, but sometimes did not tie in to the story. Since The Tape Escape markets itself as an immersive escape room, we expected to see the puzzles reflect this more consistently.

➖ The video vignettes between each puzzle tended to go on too long.

➕ Branching narrative paths led to some fun moments and left me curious of the other possibilities. Also, 32 endings! That is a ton of work and I was impressed with how well the different endings completed their story arcs.

Tips For Visiting

  • Transit: The venue is very close to the Bathurst subway station. Avoid the hell that is parking in downtown Toronto and take the subway instead.
  • Food: There are a lot of restaurants in the area to take advantage of. We recommend chimney cones at Eva’s Original Chimneys!
  • Accessibility: This venue is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Washrooms: The venue does not have washrooms. The nearby coffee shop agreed to allow players to use their washrooms, but if you are short for time, consider going further in advance.

Disclosure: The Tape Escape comped our tickets for this game.

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