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.

Puzzles

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.

Standouts

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.

Shortcomings

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.

Escape From The 6 – Firefighter Rescue [Review]

Where the doors are your greatest nemesis.

Location: Oakville, Ontario

Date played: April 27, 2016

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 28 CAD per ticket

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story & setting

In Firefighter Rescue, we spent an hour as firefighters. In the middle of a mundane day at the station, we were dispatched to a call. And just like that, we landed in a search and rescue mission.

Firefighter Rescue took place in multiple settings, all custom designed and expertly constructed. The fire station was fun, but the “burning” building was practically a playground. We climbed through it and even manipulated it to complete our mission.

The rescue story was lighthearted and a little hokey. Yet, that didn’t dissuade us from the mission. In fact, it made the mission that much more approachable and fun.

Both the story and the setting were interactive and immersive without becoming serious.

An illustrated image of two fire fighers hosing down flames. Red text reads,
We didn’t get to discharge a hose or a fire extinguisher.

Puzzles

The early puzzles trained us for the dispatch call. They weren’t particularly challenging, but they relied on the set and served a greater purpose.

The later part of this escape room was scavenging heavy, but not in the typical sense. Instead of searching for bits and pieces of hidden puzzles, which can become annoying, we searched in order to rescue. This scavenging had purpose. It also culminated such that we knew when we’d completed the search.

Standouts

Escape From The 6 used simple practical effects brilliantly to enhance the drama of our firefighter dispatch.

This room escape did not rely on technologically driven interactions. The set and its puzzles were hands-on, which fit the theme and story.

Escape From The 6 added technological elements for atmospheric enhancements.

Firefighter Rescue incorporated a fun call back: information from the fire station became crucial later in the game. This was a clever, thematically appropriate design detail. Players who don’t pay attention will land in an amusingly difficult situation.

Shortcomings

Neither the fire station training nor the rescue mission were particularly challenging.

There was one room that felt a bit grimy; piles of clothes in escape rooms are generally gross.

Should I play Escape From The 6’s Firefighter Rescue?

Firefighter Rescue was beautifully designed and constructed. It provided a fully immersive set that enabled more physical interaction than most escape games. Yet, it also wove multiple stories into a coherent plot. This gave us a rare additional level of satisfaction in mission completion.

Furthermore, it was clear that the game designer had a deep knowledge and love of this theme.

This escape room was a rescue mission. It wasn’t scary, but it could prove intimidating to children. It would be an approachable game for all players, with the notable exception that firefighting requires physical mobility.

Book your hour with Escape From The 6’s Firefighter Rescue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Image via Escape From The 6

Escape Games Canada – Crossroads [Review]

A dark story, magnificently staged, with some serious consequences.

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Date played: May 1, 2016

Team size: they recommend 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

2016 RoomEscapeArtist.com Golden Lock-In Award - golden ring around the REA logo turned into a lock.
2016 Golden Lock-In Winner

Story & setting

We were a team of detectives tracking a serial killer before he reached his next victim.

The setting was beautifully foreboding, and deliberately crafted. It was well designed, solid, and polished. The atmosphere expertly sidestepped that raw vibe of many murder-themed escape rooms that is off-putting to some players, while still maintaining a creepy feel.

A close up of intricaately worn metal.
A teaser image from the set. Everything was this detailed.

Additionally, Crossroads included a crossroads decision game mechanism that elevated the drama of the story.

Puzzles

The puzzles unfolded linearly. At any given point in time, there wasn’t enough to keep a full and experienced team occupied simultaneously.

That said, Crossroads relied heavily on indexing puzzles. Throughout the game, these varied in complexity. Newer players will find additional minds beneficial for holding and sorting this type of information.

Standouts

As implied by the name Crossroads, we had to make a choice. Our team’s choice had consequences for both the story arc and the difficulty of the puzzles. This feature set the game apart from the standard room escape where are rarely consequences for player decisions.

Escape Games Canada designed some pretty cool tech to power this game.

Shortcomings

The puzzles in Crossroads weren’t particularly mind-bending. The game was far more about the experience. This could be a feature or a bug depending upon your perspective.

Early in the game, a combination lock failed.* We spent a lot of time unable to solve anything else because our critical puzzle jammed. We called for a hint to confirm that the lock was dead. The time was credited, but our game master should have been able to figure out what was happening before we did.

*Escape Games Canada let David punish the offending lock with bolt cutters (and proper safety gear). This put a largely positive spin on a disappointment.

Should I play Escape Games Canada’s Crossroads?

Escape Games Canada targets an adult audience. Crossroads’ setting and story was intense and dramatic. The choice further complicated the disturbing plot.

Because of the style of puzzle design, newer players may prefer to play this game with a larger team. Because of the linear flow, this will be a smaller team game for more experienced players.

Bring the right number of players with the right sentiments and you’ll have a great time.

Book your hour with Escape Games Canada’s Crossroads, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Casa Loma – Escape from the Tower [Review]

A four-story escape room in the tower of an actual castle.

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Date played: April 30, 2016

Team size: 12; we recommend 8-10

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 36.00 CAD + HST per Ticket or 42.00 CAD + HST per Prime Time Ticket

Setting & story

Casa Loma is a historical Toronto landmark. This escape game was built into both the physical building and its history.

Escape from the Tower took place in the castle’s tower, up a few flights of stairs from the building’s entrance. The tower itself was a four-level set, ascended by spiral staircase as the game progressed.

This setting was unique and incredible; you can’t build a set like this.

Image of the Casa Loma castle in downtown Toronto. It's a beautiful gray stone castle with a magestic tower.
Seriously… it’s a real castle.

We were characters working for the Allied forces during World War II. Our team needed to find the coordinates of enemy U-boats, transmit these coordinates to allied forces, and escape before the tower was bombed.

The story was derived from the history of Casa Loma and designed around the existing building. Actors facilitated the game and enhanced the immersive experience. We were the heroes in our hour-long story.

Puzzles

Escape from the Tower unfolded in stages. On each floor, we completed multiple puzzles that collectively unlocked the next floor.

While Casa Loma packed a variety of puzzles into this game, each set of simultaneous puzzles required similar skills. This forced all players to tackle different types of thinking instead of gravitating toward their own strengths.

That said, the puzzles were both fair and challenging.

Early in the escape room, the story unfolded through the puzzles. As the game progressed, the relationship between story and puzzles became more abstract.

Standouts

This room escape used its space magnificently.

It also incorporated local history into a captivating and dramatic story.

Escape from the Tower came to life because we were the characters in a thrilling adventure that had to take place in this tower. And the tower was awesome.

Shortcomings

Half of our team showed up drunk. When asked to create a team name, David suggested “Tequila,” because our teammates stumbled into the lobby bragging about how much they had imbibed. They, of course, loved the name.

Our hammered teammates severely diminished our experience.

In Casa Loma’s games, players book individual tickets. If you want to play with your friends, you need to book all 12 tickets in the time slot, and book them far in advance. We don’t always have this luxury when we travel. Unfortunately, our schedule worked out such that we had two tickets for a Saturday evening with whomever else booked the same time slot.

With regard to drunk players, the Casa Loma website says “… you may be grouped with other players, so it’s important that you’re cooperative. Please note if you arrive intoxicated, our staff has the right of refusal, and no refunds will be given.”

The staff has the right to refuse drunk players, but they don’t do it.

Saturday tickets cost $42 each.

Is this escape room worth the steep price tag? Not if your teammates show up drunk.

Should I play Casa Loma’s Escape from the Tower?

Escape from the Tower is a cohesive game, brilliantly staged, and seeped in local history. Toronto is a saturated escape room market. This game stands apart as a must play.

Book out the whole room well in advance, and bring people you trust. We wish we had the opportunity to give Escape from the Tower a play-through with sober people.

Note that due to the nature of castle, this game is not handicapped accessible. Also, players will climb a few flights of stairs and should wear appropriate shoes.

Book your daytime ticket to Casa Loma’s Escape from the Tower, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Image via Wikipedia