- Played March 2016
- 45 minutes
- 2-6 players
- $20, $15 with social media check-in
- What People Say
After 100 rooms or so, it’s easy to start seeing patterns and having an intuitive sense for what a room experience will be like. For example, when an owner enthusiastically contacts the ERA team and asks us to come in and review one of their rooms, it almost always tells us they’re well prepared and have a good understanding of their quality vs. the rest of the marketplace. We’re always happy to receive those type of invitations, because we know those owners are on top of their game (no pun intended). Conversely, when a company ignores several email and social media attempts to connect, we’ve been around long enough to know what this means… enter Great Escape.
From the moment we walked into their ‘lobby’ it was confirmed. Atop a flight of stairs you’ll find what looks like a formerly well used small hallway with a throw away metal desk as the front reception. Along with this you’ll find a wobbly metal coat rack, a few toddler sized stools to sit on, and doors surrounding you… lots and lots of doors. Each door is no more than 3-4 steps away from your stool and adorned with a paper printed symbol letting you know which small space lies beyond. Outside each of the doors are 4 different coloured light bulbs that light up when somebody needs a clue. Here’s our favourite part, the staff have a large metal key they use to turn off the lights by stretching up and tapping the light fixture each time they are finished giving a clue. Does it get better? Oh yes it does! The staff were a pair of relatively nice young adults, one of which was friendly & helpful, the other was far more interested in her music and texting than helping customers. At one point the more diligent of the two was helping one group with a clue leaving the other staff at the desk while she texted her heart away. Those of us waiting saw the hint light turn on for another room but the staff didn’t notice because she was distracted. If you’ve ever been inside a room where you’re wondering why your call for a hint is going unanswered, you know how annoying that is while you watch your time ticking down – obviously the other group waiting felt the same and collectively everyone in the lobby pointed out to the staff the obvious call for help. She looked at it, took a moment to finish her text, then eventually went in (2-3min after the hint was requested). I introduced myself and our team and asked for the young lady’s name but she declined to answer (remember our earlier point of intuitively knowing what a lack of response means?) We could go on here, but you get the picture. Onto the room itself…
The room quality was again as expected. About double the size of the bathroom at your local hotel, and just as presentable as the bathroom at a truck stop (now there’s an image). A radiator, an oversized window mounted air conditioner, and pull-down blinds mostly covering back alley windows are just some of the room decor you’ll notice before you even start (conveniently labeled “do not touch” just in case you thought it might be good set design). Electric wires and locked boxes were plentiful amidst the dollar store plastic body parts. A couple of the locks also didn’t work properly and some props were worn out. Again we could go on, but it wouldn’t serve anyone’s greater interests.
The puzzles were… yes, you guessed it, not good. However, we should point out they weren’t as bad as the other components of the room and therefore due some respect. Yes there were a couple puzzles that should’ve never been used even in beta testing (e.g. solving a 4 digit lock combo where one of the digits could be any one of 3 numbers according to the staff… combined with a lock that wasn’t working properly – grrr!!), but a few of the puzzles would be interesting for some newer players. Again, we got what we expected so it’d be misleading to say we were disappointed.
And finally immersion. Where were we supposed to be again? Oh right an attic, where we can hear the music from the lobby behind our thin door. In fairness they do provide a sound track in the room to help drown out the sounds from outside the room which is nice for atmosphere. But here’s what puzzled us, why would anyone put an audio clue INSIDE the room knowing you’re already trying to drown music from OUTSIDE the room? Sigh. So an attic with windows you can look out and see the back alleys in uptown Toronto, or a room filled with more plastic body parts than your local Halloween store… take your choice of non-immersive elements that will sadly remind you of where you are.
It should be fairly obvious by this point whether we’d recommend this, or any, room from Great Escape. The answer is a resounding “No!” We talked to a nice couple who exited their room the same time we did… their experience was identical to ours which is unfortunate, but provided a great bonding moment between us and two of ERA’s biggest fans! Final thoughts? Maybe the Great Escape team did make a wise decision by ignoring our multiple attempts to contact them… But seriously, (and we can’t stress this enough) to all of you would be owners reading this: remember that your goal should ALWAYS be to improve the quality of an escape room experience for both the sake of the company and the customers! Ignoring helpful insights from reviewers, industry insiders, and experienced beta-testers is never a good idea when customers are paying their hard earned money for these experiences. Our hope remains: 1st. That all owners and designers will understand there’s no shame in seeking help; 2nd. That it only hurts a company’s image when owners become defensive or angry at suggestions of needed improvement; and 3rd. The only shame that should be experienced is when a company takes a lot of money from their customers and delivers a product that needs to be, and can be, easily improved!
As always, happy escaping!