The Gallery

8.5 Overall
Room Quality
Puzzle Design
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ERA’s first visit to Ottawa was a weekend packed with several rooms, reviews, and consultation. The fear of course is how objective one can be when you do too many rooms in such a short time. So with The Gallery being our last stop before the long drive home, we wondered if this room would be treated like the kid who’s always picked last in a schoolyard game… mostly ignored with low expectations. Escape Manor’s Hintonburg location is somewhat viewed as the little brother to their downtown location, and seems to cater to a slightly different crowd. We noticed mostly adults out for a night on the town vs EM’s downtown location which had a lot of teens, young adults and organized groups coming through their doors. Would the different atmosphere and last review of our Ottawa run end up impacting our review? Read on…

As mentioned the pre-room experience had some notable differences from our earlier trip to Escape Manor’s downtown location. The Hintonburg location felt more calm and relaxed in its pace. The lobby of course was equally impressive as their downtown location and we could tell there was once again a strong emphasis on a solid first impression when you walk in their front door. Our host was friendly, attentive, and professional in every way we could’ve hoped for. Again there was a bit of a fun and dramatic intro into our room, which didn’t cost the company anything, but made a big difference in our experience. I find myself constantly reminding owners and enthusiasts alike, that these little things matter because they set the tone and lens of perception for the room. It might be an over generalization, but we couldn’t help but notice the companies we visited in Ottawa have a better understanding of customer service than many of their Ontario counterparts… It’s another great start!

So we’ve all but put those worries of being too fatigued to be objective behind us… but what about the room quality? Surely we’d see something here that would annoy or not sit well with us more than usual? Not at all! As of the date this review is being written, I can truly say that The Gallery might very well be one of Ontario’s most impressive rooms I’ve seen to date in room quality! The Gallery appeared, sounded, and smelled just like… a gallery! Incredibly high quality props, furnishings, room construction, and set design with absolutely nothing out of place save for one minor flaw (an exposed smoke machine). This room is fantastic and I often found myself enjoying the experience of occasionally not even playing the game and just sitting in awe of how impressive the rooms were. Again, it was obvious the smallest of details mattered to the design team here because there was an intentional absence of “do not touch” stickers, and even the puzzles perfectly fit the environment… but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The immersive experience we had naturally followed the impressive room quality. A common critique I have of most rooms is the story formula most companies use for their escape rooms (the full story and objective is shared at the beginning, making the in game experience merely playing out the objective knowing the end result). Instead I’m hoping to see more companies adopt a different formula where the pre-story reveals why you’ve arrived at this particular destination and what you think your objective is. Then, as you progress through the room you discover there’s far more interesting pieces of information you didn’t originally know that changes your perception. The conclusion would be a surprise ending or a choice which has to be made by the team. This is the formula I find myself more engaged in and hoping to see more of. It’s like watching a movie where you know the ending vs. watching a movie where you don’t know the ending. Both are enjoyable, but one experience keeps you slightly more engaged throughout… All in all the immersive experience was good for The Gallery even if a slight tweak could be employed.

What about the puzzles? It seems nowadays enthusiasts and new players take notice of the puzzle variety and quality like never before. Does this room stack up and provide the enjoyment needed through its puzzles? Definitely! What impressed us the most was how thematic and inclusive the puzzles were. There were no bottlenecks where only one person was relied upon to solve a puzzle that others couldn’t engage in. At the same time the manner in which the puzzles fit right into the surroundings and existing design of the room was incredible. Nothing was out of place in order to make a puzzle work (how many times have we seen a bright locked box in the middle of a room that shouldn’t be there? Or a pair of pants in the middle of a bank vault so that something could be hidden inside of them? or… etc) Everything had its place. If there were to be a critique here it would be the absence of team building tasks or puzzles, but this is overshadowed by the impressively intuitive, inclusive, and attractive puzzles.

So what can be said of this room and who should check it out? The level of complexity and difficulty is perfect for beginners and moderate players. Experienced players might find the puzzles a little easier, but it is compensated by the room quality, immersive game play, and for Gen-X’ers be sure to take note of the sound track used in the room (you won’t be disappointed – leave a comment below if you think you’ve got it). All this to say “Yes! Check out this room!” If there were an Ontario locations only section for our list of favourite rooms, this would easily make my top 10 favourites!

As always, happy escaping!

Final Verdict:


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