Omescape – Defend the Magic Academy [Review]


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


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.


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.


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.


➕ 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.

OMEscape Canada – Joker’s Asylum [Review]

“Life’s a bowl of cherries and this is the pits.” – The Joker, Batman: The Killing Joke

Location: Markham, Ontario

Date played: April 28, 2016

Team size: 5-10; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $20 CAD per ticket

Image of a psychotic clown. It isn't Batman's Joker, but he looks very similar. Under his face read, "Joker's Asylum."
Why so serious?

Story & setting

Joker’s Asylum desperately wants to be a Batman story:

“The Joker was once the pride of his circus, but after troubles started, he left and locked himself away in a mysterious asylum created by him and his doctor. It became his paradise, slowly magnifying his insanity. One day, The Joker decided to leave the asylum to plan his revenge. Before his doctor could leave a diary with the Joker’s secrets, he vanished. Now you are tasked with unraveling the mystery before The Joker finds you.”

Our team began split between two rooms: the “control room” and the “game room.”

The control room was basically a closet that contained a lot of information. The game room was a large space with locks and puzzles. The group in the control room had to verbally guide those of us in the game room to complete the tasks. Eventually we all reunited.

It remained a mystery how we all ended up split between these spaces while investigating The Joker.

The setting had a dark, creepy, vaguely carnival feel to it.


Communication and observation were the twin keys to this escape room.

All escape rooms require communication; Joker’s Asylum required more than most.

All escape rooms require observation; Joker’s Asylum severely punished small oversights.

Nothing in the game was particularly challenging if you found all of the pieces and communicated them… but finding all of the pieces and communicating them was a big challenge.


Structurally, Joker’s Asylum was a truly different experience. It was a unique challenge to have two players effectively locked away with little to do other than attempt to puppet-master the game, while the rest of the team played at being semi-autonomous puppets.

We appreciated that this experimentation offered a variation on escape rooms.


Those players locked away in the control room had few puzzles to solve and mostly had to communicate what they could see in their space. Lisa was in the control room; for the first time since we’ve started writing reviews, she felt like she could not accurately describe the experience because her view into the game was so limited. If you’re volunteering for the control room, you’re volunteering for an incredibly limited experience.

The game room was frustrating because there were so many unknowns. If we hit a wall, it was painfully difficult for us to determine whether we were missing a detail or whether our teammates in the control room had failed to communicate something to us.

Additionally, the final puzzle offered far too little feedback. Without hints, there was no way to know if we were even on the right track.

Should I play OMEscape’s Joker’s Asylum?

The Joker forgot to bring the fun.

The setup was interesting and the setting had ambiance, but it didn’t come together in a satisfying way.

Joker’s Asylum required too much cooperation, which is an unusual statement about an escape room. The team locked away in the control room had too little to do and too much to communicate. The team in the game room had too much to do and too few things to solve.

I appreciate OMEscape’s experiment in Joker’s Asylum, but not every experiment works.

If you’re an experienced player looking to explore an unusual escape room that offers a different set of challenges than most, give this a go. Everyone else should consider exploring some of the other options that OMEscape has to offer.

Book your hour with OMEscape’s Joker’s Asylum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

OMEscape NYC – Room X [Review]

Time travel is tricky.

Location: New York, NY

Date played: May 7, 2016

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: $33 per ticket on weekdays, $38 per ticket on weekends and holidays

Story & setting

The gals started in Medieval Europe. The guys visited the European Western Front during World War II. Our journeys collided in the middle, in a timeless, time-traveler space where we had to escape back to the present.

The concept was neat.

The period rooms were sparsely decorated; the room decor didn’t contribute to the story.

As with many time travel books, movies, and games before it, this room escape struggled to tell a cohesive story through time and space.


Our team started split between two different rooms and time periods (we chose to split girls/guys.) We found puzzles that could be solved independently and puzzles that relied on trans-time communication.

In-game image of a partial suit of armor set against a coat of arms.
“None shall pass!”

When our groups converged in time’s no man’s land, we encountered puzzles relying on confounding associations. Yet, because these were based in words, they were quite hackable. We solved much of this room differently from how the designer intended.


The concept was really great.

This was a multi-room design. The rooms connected in a thematically appropriate way that cleverly defied standard multi-room escape game design.


We like hacking our own solutions, but in Room X, we circumvented too much of the design of the room escape. The logic leaps that we needed to make were frequently too large.

Early on, we could easily communicate across time without our communication devices. It was easier to shout than it was to use our walkie-talkies.

The build quality of the room was spotty, and the overall theming didn’t live up to the previous games we had played from OMEscape. This was a disappointment because the multi-era setup lent itself to really cool set design.

Should I play OMEscape’s Room X?

We enjoyed the time-period thematic nuances in Room X, but it didn’t live up to its promise.

We didn’t feel like time travelers on an adventure. We felt like players hacking at puzzles staged in loosely-themed eras. Room X started off shaky and never stabilized.

The folks at OMEscape offer excellent customer service. They are also continually iterating on their games.

At this time, we recommend both Laboratory of Biohazard and The Penitentiary over Room X for a more cohesive and exciting experience.

OMEscape Canada – Mysterious Study [Review]

Even after winning, the study remained a mystery.

Location: Markham, Ontario

Date played: April 30, 2016

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $20 CAD per ticket

Story & setting

We were escaping the office of some sort of researcher. In order to get out, we had to circumvent his security features. If there were any additional nuances to this story, we weren’t able to follow them.

As an office, this set had a pretty typical room feel.

Mysterious study logo - an intricately patterned pentagram.


The various puzzles in Mysterious Study relied on different types of logic and relied heavily scavenging. While some puzzles were harder than others, over all, this game was pretty balanced.

There was one task that required more substantial physical involvement from at least a few members of the team.


The best moments of Mysterious Study were driven by technological interactions. One was particularly well executed and surprising.


This room escape didn’t tell us a story. There were characters and they featured in some of the puzzles, but in the end, it was more a collection of puzzles than an immersive escape room experience.

A lot of the puzzles felt dramatically out of place in the difficult-to-follow narrative.

We encountered a bug in the final puzzle, requiring our gamemaster to enter the room to fix it.

Should I play OMEscape Canada’s Mysterious Study?

Mysterious Study was a standard escape room: It had a solid variety of puzzles, light story, and a few cool moments. It was not outstanding, but it was a fun game.

Ultimately Mysterious Study felt unfinished. There were fun interactions, and the setup was solid, but it didn’t build into anything more than a puzzle room.

It would be an enjoyable room escape for newer players, but it likely won’t offer the excitement that more experienced players seek.

Book your hour with OMEscape Canada’s Mysterious Study, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

OMEscape Canada – The Kingdom of Cats [Review]

A kung-fu movie with cats and puzzles.

Location: Markham, Ontario

Date played: April 28, 2016

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $20 CAD per ticket

Story & setting

We were humans attempting to avoid imprisonment in The Kingdom of Cats. To make our escape we had to battle the various members of the royal family by solving their puzzles. The story didn’t come through very strongly.

The setting, however, was both regal, and, well, cat-like. It was adorable and fun to climb through this feline kingdom, even if the story surrounding it didn’t make a ton of sense.

The Kingdom of Cats was bright and welcoming. It was not scary.


The best puzzles required cat-like interactions. Meow this was cute and fun.

OMEscape Canada incorporated some fun technologically driven interactions as well.

The puzzles drew on a variety of skills. They weren’t particularly difficult, but they were enjoyable.


This game was simply charming. The whole experience was weird, quirky and adorable. It was different than your run-of-the-mill escape room.

An adorable kitten rolled in paper, only its face is visible.


As with the other games at OMEscape Canada, we entered wearing blindfolds. However, there was no reveal in the first moments that warranted the hygiene hazard of the blindfold.

There were many generic puzzles that weren’t the cat’s meow.

Should I play OMEscape’s The Kingdom of Cats?

At its best, The Kingdom of Cats had wonderful cat-inspired interactions and puzzles set in quirky surroundings. At its worst, it slipped into generic escape room tropes and puzzles that could have been in any room. I truly wish that OMEscape fully committed to the bonkers theme and built absolutely every interaction around cats. It felt like they ran out of ideas before the room was finished.

If you are looking for a challenging escape room, this won’t be your game, but it was immeasurably family-friendly.

This game was not handicapped accessible. If you can’t move about an interactive set, this one isn’t for you.

If you can suspend your disbelief and are happy to embrace a different game environment, give this one a try. Enjoy it for the cute, feline-inspired set and the ingenuity behind that experience.

Book your hour with OMEscape’s The Kingdom of Cats, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.