Last week a friend of mine told me about a room escape game in the Toronto area called ESC-IT. I was so intrigued I had to try it out. It’s $20.00 a person BUT if you check-in on Facebook and pay with cash, the cost goes down to $12.00 a person. Good marketing!
Here’s a blurb about the concept from their website:
ESC-IT can offer our escapers a new perspective on what it means to develop critical thinking skills and have fun at the same time. Our room escape will push you to exercise your critical thinking, problem solving and brainstorming skills. The real challenge comes when the clock is counting down fast and you need to think outside the box, as well as work together as a team.
In teams of 2-5 you will have 45 minutes to physically escape the room of your choice. Using only your intellect, a bit of creativity and immense teamwork, every clue, riddle, puzzle and hint will lead you closer to escaping the room…
ESC-IT offers you stimulating and challenging experiences that you, your friends, coworkers and family will remember and talk about for days!
Currently there are 6 rooms including “Cursed Library”, “Storage of Secrets”, “Bedroom Nightmare”, “Cryptic Cellar”, “Code War” and their most recent addition “Escape with Vision.” Their most recent room is in partnership with World Vision and so partial proceeds of this room go towards the charity.
Each room has a background story and you have 45 minutes to escape the room by solving the puzzles, riddles and clues to make it out before the timer goes off. Each room also has a different difficulty rating, ranging from 2/5 to 4/5.
They only have enough space right now for 5 rooms, but they rotate them and come up with new ones regularly.
So, after reading the descriptions of each scenario and looking at the difficulty ratings we decided on “Bedroom Nightmare” for our first try.
Little did we realize that our first real test was locating the building… we live about 15 minutes away from it and gave ourselves 45 minutes (I always insist on leaving early). David, meanwhile, was laughing at me thinking we’d get there super early and be waiting unnecessarily.
Well, my friends, our booking was for 7:00pm and we did not make it in time. In fact, we had to drive home, recheck the address on Google (I stupidly left my phone at home, too) as I called and asked for further directions. We realized that we had, in fact, circled around it a couple times without seeing it. I blame the rain fogging up my windows.
David calmly and amusingly pointed out to me that this was not a good sign and we would probably fail miserably at escaping our room. Let’s just say I dropped a couple f-bombs in my frustration.
And we didn’t fail miserably…
Once we arrived at ESC-IT we got right to our room. One of the owners set up the scenario for us by telling us the back story. He also pointed to the spare key hanging on the door to escape should we panic or feel sick and there was a doorbell on the wall. We were allowed one free hint, which we could get by ringing the doorbell. We were given one small flashlight and then the door was locked. The room was completely dark except for our flashlight…
You woke up on an ordinary day; dressed, grabbed your things and you were ready to get washed. But just as you were about to head to the bathroom for a quick wash of the face, the door wouldn’t open. You could not recollect why you even locked the door or when you locked it. In an attempt to rush to school without being late, you discover a whole new truth.
We looked around the room and found numerous locks – all of which we seemingly had to open. There were small pieces of blank paper on the floor. We knew that they had to be important but there seemed to be nothing written on them. Anyway, we looked through some pillows and found a bunch of Styrofoam balls with coloured numbers on them. We also found a tiny key under a matt and some Sudoku-type boards with more Styrofoam balls and… a black light! There was something written on those pieces of paper after all! After unscrambling it read “GET THE MONEY AND MAKE PAYMENT.”
There was a safe on a shelf, and we had three tries to open it with the correct code. We also found secret messages with the black light on the Sudoku boards. We managed to open 1/4 locks (the one with the tiny key…) before getting stuck on the Sudoku. We solved them but weren’t sure what to do with them, so we decided to use our hint and rang the doorbell.
But, we were still stuck.
We managed to open another lock before our 45 minutes were up. They gave us a few more minutes to see if we could solve it, but to no avail. We managed to unlock 3/4 locks in about 50 minutes from the clues and riddles. Each lock we opened provided us with a puzzle piece, which appeared to be a list of expenses.
We failed, but we were kind of close…right? After opening all the locks, we had to do the math and figure out how to open the safe which would give us the key to the door… not sure if we would’ve been able to open the safe though. There were hidden messages everywhere! Several we missed. There was also one Sudoku block we didn’t find (hidden on the underside of the dresser). There was a mathematical equation under a desk which we didn’t fully understand until the owner explained it to us… and that was when we realized we seriously over thought that formula.
Overall, it was a really fantastic experience. It definitely forces you to work together – there was only one flashlight between two of us, one of whom is extremely domineering… need I say more?
It was a really well-thought story and the puzzles were challenging and interesting. I was really impressed, and it was so much fun to do a game like this in real life and not on a computer.
There’s a certain thrill about checking the clock every few minutes and realizing your time is quickly running out. At one point I checked the clock and we had 32 seconds left, which when you’re really into the game, makes you feel anxious, determined, and frustrated all at the same time.
The customer service was wonderful. I look forward to when they upgrade to a bigger (and more easily located!) space, which can accommodate more rooms. Definitely a place to try out. It was a great challenge, and I know we’ll be visiting them again!