Immersia – Circus of the Lost Souls [Review]

Puzzling in the Moonlight

Location:  Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Circus of the Lost Souls was one of those games that captured my attention as soon as I stepped through the door. The beautiful circus exterior felt magical and inspired me to want to play.

In-game: A woman posing in front of a target surrounded by knives.
Image via Immersia

The set and hint system were an utter delight. The hinting was so well executed that Lisa and I wanted to take hints simply to interact with the character… and it was good that the hinting was strong because it needed to support a few weak puzzles.

There was a puzzle that was among the most sloggy that we’ve seen, and another puzzle that had a great aesthetic, but the logical underpinning was noticeably broken. (It seemed like the folks at Immersia were aware and still trying to figure out how to revise it.)

Immersia is a fantastic company, and I have a feeling that this game will improve with time. In the state that we played it, Circus of the Lost Souls was a mixed bag. We loved so much, but found a lot of the play too tedious for the playful environment.

If you have time for one game at Immersia, make it The Grand Immersia Hotel. If you have room for a second game, Circus of the Lost Souls is worth playing. Take hints liberally when you get stuck on a puzzle and embrace all of the wonderful ambiance and character. That’s what Immersia does best.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A gorgeous set
  • Brilliant, tactile interactions
  • The hint system was overflowing with personality

Story

The Filioni Circus was once the greatest circus in the world, awing and tantalizing all who witnessed the talents of the performers… until the circus suddenly closed.

We went to the fairgrounds to have a look around and found that the circus and the souls of its lost performers were ensorcelled by Viviera, world-renowned mentalist… and she wanted our souls as well.

In-game: The citcus exterior with a large tent illuminated in the moonlight.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The grounds of the Circus of the Lost Souls were a beautiful moon-lit world filled with tents and carts.

This sprawling circus setting was ambitious and lots of fun to wander. Every nook and cranny had texture and personality, reflecting a different aspect of the circus.

In-game: The ticketbooth for the circus with a closed sign hanging from it.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s Circus of the Lost Souls was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The Circus of the Lost Souls’ opening gamespace was the circus’ midway, a beautiful exterior that left us clamoring to know what was inside of the various structures.

➕ The circus props were cute, fun, and interactive. We found the scaled-up props especially amusing.

➖ The second act felt under-designed. We were underwhelmed by the set, props, and puzzles within the space. One of these puzzles only allowed a single player to interact with it. A different puzzle sequence had fatally flawed cluing. It was clear that Immersia had tried to refine it, and the concept had merit, but it needed to be entirely reworked.

➕ Immersia created a thematic dexterity challenge. We enjoyed how one prop transformed to give this puzzle additional dimensions.

➖ In multiple puzzles, upon making a mistake, we had to go back to the beginning of what quickly became long and tedious sequences.

➕ Immersia created an adorable, playful hint system for Circus of Lost Souls. The gamemaster could adapt it to the team. It added so much charm to the experience.

➕/➖ The clock in the moon was a cool idea. That said, we wanted the moon to be more of a natural timer; there were ways to do it.

➖ Throughout the game, it appeared as though Immersia had defaced their sets with scribbles. Although we had fun resolving this oddity, we wished it had been executed more cleanly within the game’s aesthetic, and had been justified in the narrative.

Circus of Lost Souls had a tangible and satisfying meta puzzle. This was an unusual mechanic. It was chaotic, but also organized, and worked well in a circus.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Boisbriand location.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).

Book your hour with Immersia’s Circus of the Lost Souls, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Book Circus of the Lost Souls

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Immersia – Weekend at the Shack [Review]

Killer Party

Location:  Laval, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 25.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Weekend at the Shack was one of Immersia’s earlier games. While it wasn’t as impressive as the Circus of the Lost Souls or the Grand Immersia Hotel, this escape room was brimming with personality.

In-game: the kitchen of an AirBNB.
Image via Immersia

Immsersia committed to building a strikingly realistic set and infused the game with convincing audiovisual theatrics. The net effect was that we cared about the characters that we encountered over the screen.

Even a week after playing, I can barely remember any of the puzzles. They were adequate, old-school challenges. They weren’t the point.

Ultimately, Weekend at the Shack was far more than the sum of its parts. We attribute that to Immersia’s commitment to experience. If puzzling is what draws you to escape rooms, I will confidently recommend passing on Weekend at the Shack. However, if you’re willing to surrender to the experience and let the theatrics lead, then I recommend checking out Weekend at the Shack, if you’ve already played Circus of the Lost Souls or the Grand Immersia Hotel. This was a different game and we enjoyed it for what it was.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror fans
  • Searchers

Why play?

  • A believable set
  • Fantastic acting
  • Strong storytelling

Story

For our friend’s 30th birthday a group of us had decided to rent a shack up north for a weekend. It was going to be the best weekend ever! Nothing could wreck our amazing weekend!

In-game: a silly looking lamp with a van as its base.
Image via Immersia

Setting

Weekend at the Shack honestly looked like a rentable shack. The furniture, decor, and layout felt completely real.

The kitchen was the most realistic kitchen that we’ve ever seen in an escape room.

This may not have been the most complicated set to build, but Immersia nailed it and it helped sell the fiction.

In-game: closeup of a tilted lamp in a grim room.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s Weekend at the Shack was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Weekend at the Shack opened with a silly intro video that introduced us to the characters. In just a few minutes, Immersia made us care about these characters just enough to make them matter.

➕ The opening set looked genuine… like humans actually lived there.

➕ Immersia used video clips throughout Weekend at the Shack for character building and to add intensity. These were well produced and served the gameplay.

➕ Immersia created a backstory for their serial killer. Their character development made this more interesting than another SAW-knockoff murder basement.

➖ There was a cheap scare that didn’t make sense as a part of this story.

➕ Our hints came from another character who existed just outside of our experience. Immersia tailored the interactions with this individual to the tone of our group. They committed to making these interactions – whether we needed hints or not – an engaging and funny part of the experience. This was a thoughtful, integrated hint system that added to our experience in Weekend at the Shack regardless of our skill with the puzzles.

➖ Much of the gameplay in Weekend at the Shack felt dated. The escape room relied heavily on searching and paper-based cluing. The puzzles weren’t memorable.

➖ A few of the props were badly worn.

➕ Near the end of Weekend at the Shack, we encountered a decision point. The choices were clear and the fact that we were making a choice was as well. Immersia set us up for this decision from the opening moments of our experience. In this way, it was more meaningful than simply choosing to be brave or moral.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • While there are jump scares in this game, Immersia can intensify, lessen, or even remove them entirely, based on your comfort level. While we advocate for playing the escape room as designed, and believe that the jump scares add to the experience, Weekend at the Shack is far more than a collection of scares. It stands on its own even if the scares are removed from the experience.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Laval Location.

Book your hour with Immersia’s Weekend at the Shack, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Immersia – The Piccadilly Cabaret [Review]

A haunting performance.

Location:  Laval, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 25.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Piccadilly Cabaret was more than the sum of its parts.

The puzzles were completely forgettable, but the overall experience was so very memorable.

In-game: An old bar after closing time.
Image via Immersia

I have a longstanding fascination with simple things executed beautifully; The Piccadilly Cabaret really spoke to that.

With games like The Grand Immersia Hotel, Immersia has greatly advanced the complexity and intensity of their escape experience design. If you only have time for one game with Immersia, it probably should be The Grand Immersia Hotel. That said, their earlier lineup offered so much subtle beauty that I must recommend playing at least one or two of them. Immersia’s roots are strong and deserving of appreciation.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Phenomenal yet subtle atmospheric moments.
  • A brilliant approach to story and set design.

Story

It was the 1930 and we were devoted fans of the late diva Emma Albani. It was the anniversary of her death and the cabaret that she had made famous was scheduled for demolition. We’d decided to take a crack at sneaking into the old, condemned building to see if we could find her dressing room before everything was destroyed.

In-game: the piano and microphone on the stage of an old cabaret.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal yet effective. Everything in this game felt right, even when there wasn’t a lot of detail. This really speaks to how smart Immersia was when deciding upon the setting for The Piccadilly Cabaret.

Additionally, the most memorable moments of this game were born of Immersia’s set design.

In-game: Closeup of an old bar's cash register.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret was a standard escape room with an easier level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The story behind The Piccadilly Cabaret was original and clever.

➕ The set for The Piccadilly Cabaret was minimal, but it felt right. It had enough details to sell the scene. The lighting was atmospheric and functional.

➕ Immersia created a character who doubled as a hinting and timekeeping mechanism. The set up made sense with the scenario. While not flashy, it was well-executed. It was also entertaining. Through our interactions with this character, Immersia could also deliver our team a more personalized experience, crafting the interactions to meet our needs.

➕ We enjoyed the transition from act 1 to act 2.

➕ In the second act, Immersia enhanced the atmosphere was a few well-timed interactions. These were subtle, but powerful moments.

➖ Many of the puzzles felt dated. These included multiple searching and counting puzzles that felt “set atop” rather than integrated into the experience.

➖ Although the gameplay worked, the puzzles were largely forgettable. This was in part because much of the cluing was paper-based, rather than a built into the set and props. The puzzles weren’t native to the gamespace.

➖ While The Piccadilly Cabaret didn’t require any outside knowledge, one key late game challenge would have been rough without it.

➕ The final sequence was illuminating.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is parking lot.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • For the full experience, players must be able to climb up and over a small obstacle.
  • Note that this game is at Immersia’s Laval Location.

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Piccadilly Cabaret, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Immersia – The Grand Immersia Hotel [Review]

Fantastic service. Shuttle bus included with your stay.

Location:  Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 2, 2020

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30.99 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Grand Immersia Hotel was different beast. It was big, narrative-driven, and incredibly compelling. With this escape room, Immersia has clearly established itself as one of Montreal’s must-play companies.

This ambitious escape game used many wonderful tactics to build intrigue and excitement.

In-game: closeup of the hotel's key display.
Image via Immersia

As you’ll see below, we noticed a few rough edges and opportunities for refinement. That said, they didn’t get in the way of the intensity of this adventure. That’s really what you’re paying for in The Grand Immersia Hotel.

If you’re anywhere near Montreal, check into the The Grand Immersia Hotel. You’re doing Montreal wrong if you skip it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Heist fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Size and scale
  • Some gorgeous setpieces
  • Brilliant delivery of narrative & adventure

Story

It had been years, but the Grand Immersia Hotel was finally reopening. The opening bash would be the party of the century.

We had been abducted by a man obsessed with revenge. Before he dropped us off at the hotel, he had blackmailed us and given us explicit instructions to follow. He wanted the celebrities and politicians to suffer and we were his instrument.

In-game: The front desk of the hotel.
Image via Immersia

Setting

The Grand Immersia Hotel was expansive, with multiple scene changes among vastly different spaces.

As with any hotel, The Grand Immersia Hotel was impressive in the common areas… and the rooms… less so. These were maybe a touch too unimpressive for the purported grandeur of the newly reopening hotel.

The grand parts of the The Grand Immersia Hotel really leaned into the grandeur.

In-game: The hotel bathroom.
Image via Immersia

Gameplay

Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, and light actor engagement.

Analysis

➕ The Grand Immersia Hotel built excitement and momentum. From the opening moments of this thrilling ride, through each scene change, it kept our hearts racing, and our solving energetic.

➕/➖ Immersia built an incredible juxtaposition into The Grand Immersia Hotel. We entered through the scene of a stereotypically bad escape room, but pretty soon, we could glimpse a later scene, even before we could reach it. Each scene was justified in the story and the collections of scenes worked together beautifully. In a couple of instances, however, that juxtaposition was a little too strong.

➕ The acting in The Grand Immersia Hotel was a lot of fun. We could play into it as much or as little as we wanted. Whether we chose to avoid or engage, it added excitement and the threat of consequence.

➕ We loved one elegant late-game puzzle. Although it was process-y, it was tangible and thematic. The moment we keyed into the aha, we were impressed. 

➖ At times, Immersia leaned heavily on standard escape room tropes.

➖ One late-game puzzle lacked feedback.

➕ We encountered a clear decision point in The Grand Immersia Hotel. We understood our choices and their consequences.

➖ We read much of the narrative cluing from papers rather than felt it through the gameplay.

➕ The plot twist – albeit short – added to the experience. We enjoyed how the final scene played out to wrap up our story.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Immersia’s The Grand Immersia Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Immersia provided media discounted tickets for this game.