Love Without Late Fees
Love Without Late Fees
- Played July 2019
- 60 minutes
- up to 8 players
- What People Say
The Tape Escape are a brand new company on the Toronto scene who combine the best of the worlds of interactive theatre and escape rooms. They were started by an immersive theatre company who bought out a local neighbourhood video rental business on Bloor near Bathurst. While they’ve staged a number of interactive projects before, as far as we know this is their first attempt at combining theatre with the puzzles and gameplay of an escape room. Is this first effort worth a standing ovation or did it land with a resounding thud? Let’s find out!
First of all, the games available at Tape Escape (of which there are three) all take place in the year 1999 in a video rental store. From the moment you walk in the front door, you are instantly transported back to the late 90s, from the music playing, to the walls lined with VHS tapes (remember those?), to the toys and tchotchkes on the reception desk. The ambiance and atmosphere do a great job of getting you amped up for the adventure you’re about to begin. However, we did find a few points to critique; first of all, the lobby is on the small side and can quickly start to feel rather cramped. Some of the games use the lobby as gameplay space so that definitely doesn’t help. We got there a little early and were asked to come back in half an hour so as to free up a little space. Also, here’s very limited storage for personal effects and jackets which could be an issue in the winter when people are wearing bulky coats. However, as mentioned earlier the atmosphere is captivating and it just feels like a fun, nostalgic place to hang out. We even got to enjoy two little five-minute musical interludes between games which was another nice little touch.
The game we were there to play was called Love Without Late Fees. The story involves a dating service set up by two long-time patrons of the video store, where prospective couples are given six different movies to watch, during which time they can figure out whether or not they are a good match for each other. The intro video was presented on, you guessed it, a VHS tape, together with all the low-fi analog artifacts and noise of a well-used tape. From the beginning, the story is interesting and engaging; the intro video introduces us to the prospective couple, and as you play through the game, you get to see how their relationship plays out. The neat thing is that there are 32 possible endings to the story; however, apart from one choice near the beginning, the path the story takes is dictated not by your choices but by whether you succeed or fail at the associated puzzles. We felt this was a bit of a missed opportunity, and it would have been nice to give the players more of a say in how the story plays out. On the negative side, there was a random character who showed up in the middle who we felt was a little out of place, and it could sometimes be a little hard to hear the video snippets over background chatter, but overall we very much enjoyed and were engaged with the story.
The room quality likewise was pretty decent. There were a few places where it felt a little homemade and a little rough around the edges, but again that felt appropriate to a local neighbourhood late 90s video store. There was good use of old tech (VHS tapes, old-school TVs) and more more modern high-tech parts that were sufficiently well integrated that they didn’t feel at all out of place. We did run into one minor tech glitch, but the staff were prepared with a backup so kudos to them for planning ahead. Everything was very tactile and hands-on; there were no ‘do not touch’ stickers to be seen everywhere. And as mentioned before, stepping into the storefront felt like stepping into a time warp – everything just felt appropriate and felt like it belonged.
The puzzles likewise did a great job of being thematic and fitting the theme and story. There was a good mix of types, from memory to observation to math to tactile and hands-on, including some very unique and original ones. There wasn’t a huge number of puzzles, and they weren’t super hard, but those that were there were cleverly done. People who go to escape rooms solely for the puzzles might find this room slightly lacking, but our team of mixed experienced players and newbies was both challenged and had a good time. For those who are worried about the difficulty, our hosts stayed with us throughout the game and were always on hand to offer a hint if it looked like we were stuck.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we really enjoyed this room. It combined a thoroughly immersive environment, some clever puzzles, and an engaging story in a way that puts many other escape rooms to shame. The actors and hosts all did a great job and were very welcoming and hospitable. For those who have never done an escape room before and feel a little intimidated, this is a great one to start with as the hosts stay with you throughout the entire game and are always on hand to answer questions and give you a hint if you need it. And even if you’ve done a lot of escape rooms already, we feel confident also recommending this one due to its engaging story and atmosphere. Highly recommended.