Escape Games Canada – Geist Manor VR Demo [Review]

Frightening, fast, and fun.

Location: played at the Chicago Room Escape Conference, but available in Toronto, Canada

Date played: August 13, 2016

Team size: 1

Price: Free at the conference, pricing TBD by hosting facility

 

Story & setting

Played via the HTC Vive, Geist Manor was a one-player virtual horror escape room experience. I played the 7-minute demo (of a 10-minute game) that was available at the Escape Games Canada booth at the Chicago Room Escape Conference.

This is a game that Escape Games Canada created in partnership with a EscapeVR. The game will be available for players to experience in Escape Games Canada’s facility, as well as a number of other escape room facilities that have purchased the rights to use the game.

Set in a haunted house, the game was dark, creepy, and a little bit freaky. Everything from the staging to the lighting to the sound pushed me deeper into the experience.

In a beautiful way, I felt like I was in a horror movie.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit haunted room.

Puzzles

The puzzles were your basic seek, observe, and input interactions that I’ve encountered in my previous Vive escape room experience.

Standouts

Escape Games Canada likes to toy with their players’ minds and this game was no exception.

It looked great and sounded even better.

Escape Games Canada did a masterful job of throwing off my equilibrium and playing with my senses.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit cabinet. A drawer is open and containing a cup of dice. Beside the dice the words "ROLL THE DICE" appear in blocky chalk writing.

The setting truly enhanced the experience. Lisa was a bit rattled by the horror; during her playthrough she had more trouble focusing on the tasks at hand.

The hinting was heavy handed, but well executed; it was clearly designed to keep the player moving.

Shortcomings

There were some physics problems, both those within the game and those inherent to the Vive.

It wasn’t particularly puzzley.

If you don’t like horror, then that’s going to be a deal-breaker.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit long spooky hallway. A small femine figure stands in the shadows at the opposite end.

Should I play Escape Games Canada’s Geist Manor?

Escape Games Canada put me in an experience that I knew wasn’t real and managed to make it feel intimidating.

This is only for folks who are open to a horror adventure and don’t get motion sick in a VR environment.

If you’re down for an excellent immersive experience that is light on puzzles and heavy on brain-tricking interactions, then this is your game.

It’s brief even at full length, which makes it a great add-on to a room escape outing at Escape Games Canada’s Toronto facility.

Contact Escape Games Canada to book your session with Geist Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Escape Games Canada – The Unknown [Review]

Shit got dark.

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Date played: May 1, 2016

Team size: they recommend 5-8 and require at least 4; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

“You may know nothing about this mission. You either do it or have it remain a mystery. WARNING: EXTREME CONTENT, 18+ ONLY Not recommended for those with heart conditions.”

Escape Games Canada makes a big deal about keeping this game a secret. Even after watching the introduction video, we didn’t really know what was about to happen.

The Unknown game logo

 

We won’t give you the scenario, but there was a story and an beautifully intricately designed, immersive set to convey the story. From the start, the story and set were cleverly intertwined.

There are only two ways to read a mysterious “18+ only” interactive experience… and this was not a sexually themed game. So, at this risk of pissing off the good people at Escape Games Canada, I have to explain that this is a horror game (more on that later).

Puzzles

The puzzles were not the star of this room escape. We had to solve them, but the game was about the immersive experience.

Unlike most escape rooms, it wasn’t the kind of game where you could be truly good at it. There were mechanisms in the experience to slow down or speed up the team’s ability to solve the puzzles, to force us to make the most out of the experience.

Standouts

The Unknown was dramatic, immersive, and captivating.

Escape Games Canada used technology brilliantly and paid attention to almost every detail.

This experience expanded the range of the industry. It was still an escape room, but it was miles from what we’ve come to expect from a puzzle-driven live action game.

Shortcomings

While I respect the lure of the unknown, Escape Games Canada doesn’t explain enough about this game up front to ensure that the right players choose to play it.

The Unknown was polarizing. Many will love it. I did not.

This game was not only an immersive experience and an escape room, it was also like being in a psych experiment. This should be made clear before the game. Escape Games Canada has no way of knowing what messed up experiences their customers have had and should allow them to make a more informed decision about playing this game.

Should I play Escape Games Canada’s The Unknown?

Bluntly, I hated The Unknown, but I appreciated it for what it was (after I left). David would have liked it if I hadn’t been in there, but he knew that I was miserable (even if I tried to hide that fact).

If you like the idea of an immersive horror experience with some puzzles, all designed to completely screw with your psyche, this is your game. It will be incredible.

If you don’t want to experience a horror game, stay away. Really.

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

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.