The Artist is Missing

5.5 Overall
Room Quality
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The Artist is Missing

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Picture this: amidst the backdrop of a rich, autumnal forest, you arrive at a resort that stands out amongst the reds, oranges, and yellows of the trees around you. A crisp breeze envelops you as you set your sights on the escape rooms that await your arrival just at the foot of a nearby hill. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, we at ERA couldn’t agree more! Excited to receive our invite from both Deerhurst Resort and Zig Zag Escape Rooms, we spent the day enjoying both what Muskoka had to offer while also living our autumn escape room dreams! Having played both unique, cabin-escape experiences we’re now ready to delve into the details, with this review covering The Artist is Missing.

Our pre-room experience started from the moment we pulled into Deerhurst Resort. With ample parking, Zig Zag Escape Rooms was located a short walk away from the resort’s main entrance, at the bottom of a relatively accessible hill. With both rooms taking place in cabins, the waiting area came in the form of an outdoor picnic table situated in between both rooms and the cabin containing the staff. Due to the pandemic, we thought this was a great feature as it not only allowed for social distancing but also made sure that any potentially high-traffic areas would be outdoors and that distance would be possible. Unfortunately, this also meant there was no room for storage of any kind, and also no refreshments, snacks or any sort of entertainment (other than the beautiful scenery) to keep us busy while we waited to be let in. However, after our brief wait, we were promptly greeted by staff who answered any potential questions we had and subsequently lead us to the room. Along the way, things did feel a bit rushed and we were only given very brief details regarding the backstory of the room amidst safety instructions, so naturally, we ended up finding ourselves feeling a bit confused and curious as to what exactly we were getting ourselves into (more on that shortly). That being said though, a little confusion and intrigue hasn’t stopped us eager ERA members before – so let’s get into the room quality!

The Artist is Missing is centered around famed Group of Seven painter, Tom Thomson (here named Thompson Seven) and you and your team’s mission is to solve the mystery behind his murder. Keeping this premise in mind, the room was filled with authentic art supplies and lots of nods to the artist’s life, including real paintings of Group of Seven-esque landscapes. Most of the props and technology our team used were of excellent quality, and it became easy to feel like we were in an actual art studio at various points throughout the game. However, as we moved around the space, we began to notice how the materials weren’t always consistent, and because some pieces were so genuinely impressive, some unfortunately fell short in comparison. On a similar note, we also found that many of the features weren’t used to their full potential (like lots of cupboards but virtually no use of their leftover space), and we would’ve loved to see some of these features either re-arranged or utilized differently in order to showcase the highlights of the room in a more coherent way. As such, the way we felt about the room quality almost became a slow-burn as we progressed through the game. Initially, it was very easy to feel whisked away and impressed at the quality of props we were interacting with. Then, we began to notice more and more discrepancies, and this left us feeling just a bit disheartened. Do we think these “issues” (we use that term very loosely here) could be solved with some material consistency and re-arranging though? Without a single doubt.

Now on to immersion! Though we at ERA were able to eventually understand how The Artist is Missing revolved around Tom Thompson, the bulk of our immersion had to come from the way the room felt versus any real story that was provided to us in advance. As we moved through the room, fragments of story were revealed to us through both audio and visual narrative fragments, and though some of these were difficult to fully read (due to the font size) or properly hear, they unfortunately became the pieces we relied on to substitute the story we felt we was missing. This contributed to making it a bit difficult to understand exactly what we were a part of throughout the entire game, and unfortunately, the full story was revealed to us afterwards through our own snooping on Zig Zag’s webpage, which provided deeper details regarding the story and our role in it. Though the art supplies and nods to the Group of Seven added a significant level of immersion to the bits of story we were able to feel a part of, we felt that those factors were some of the only coherent props in the room, and that we also couldn’t quite understand where we were situated because of a fair number of props (including music and ambience) felt separate from the story and setting altogether. With all this being said, we still felt as though Zig Zag had all the pieces there to resolve some of their shortcomings in terms of immersion. Whether it be an eventual adjustment in story-telling or the inclusion of more relevant historical figures to accompany a story that heavily relied on history, we just knew that The Artist is Missing is only a few steps away from a much more immersive experience.

As escape room enthusiasts, we at ERA love nothing more than a satisfying brain-teaser, mystery, or puzzle. If it requires some pondering, discussing, and a satisfying challenge along the way, we’ll probably welcome it with open arms. But – is there such thing as a bit too much of a challenge at the wrong time? Let us introduce to you the concept of a red herring to get that ball rolling (though we’re sure you already know). As any lover of the mystery genre can tell you, red herrings are intentionally misleading clues that can take what seems to be a straight-forward story and turn it on its head, keeping the audience on their toes and from getting too close to the truth. So how did The Artist is Missing play into this? Through a truly surprising number of red herrings! Though Zig Zag’s heart was certainly in the right place with the inclusion of them, we found their inclusion actually deterred from our experience and had us all feeling a bit baffled. Instead of focusing on all the real puzzles throughout the room, some of us spent hefty amounts of our time preoccupied by a variety of almost-puzzles that, upon discovering were essentially useless, really added to feelings of confusion and disappointment. Despite that, The Artist is Missing still had a decent mixture of puzzles and did give each of us at ERA something we eventually found thoroughly enjoyable! Most of the puzzles were unveiled and developed through a scavenger-hunt type of system, and though we found that the challenge level was pretty average, we thought that in order for everyone to feel engaged and involved groups of 2-3 or younger families would fare best with the overall structure. Now onto the hint system. In order to help minimize the spread of COVID, Zig Zag omitted the use of walkie-talkies and instead offered to check in on our progress every once in a while should we have needed help. Though we felt that sometimes we received more of a full-fledged solution versus any sort of nudging in the right direction, the hint system simply confirmed for us just how appropriate the room would be for families and first-time escapers who would likely appreciate the solutions. Overall, our experience with the puzzles was a bit of a mixed bag. Did all the puzzles fit into the overall theme? No. Were those that did genuinely impressive? Absolutely! Were we a bit underwhelmed when comparing them to the average puzzles we usually encounter? Sort of. Did The Artist is Missing still leave each one of us with something memorable to take away? Undoubtedly.

Now, the question we’re sure you’ve all been waiting for – did we have fun? Of course! In fact, most of the fun came from our post-game reflection where we realized just how important it was to note exactly who we thought this would be loads of fun for! Suddenly all of our post-game discussions painted a theme as clear as day for us. Let us take you through it. For Escape Room Addicts like us, there was a fair bit that The Artist is Missing left us unfortunately underwhelmed by – BUT it was Zig Zag’s presence in a resort filled with families and people who were potentially completing their first escape rooms that spelled one thing out for us – POTENTIAL! With a few tweaks to the story and game in general (as previously mentioned), The Artist is Missing had all the pieces in place to be a perfect first escape room for lots of resort guests, and even families with younger kids who could share their first escape experience together (and come on, what’s more fun than bonding through an escape room)! Because of that we just know The Artist is Missing will likely go down in many guests’ memories as a highlight of their stay at Deerhurst, and we can’t wait to see how the room fares in the future. Till then, stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the last of what autumn has to offer. As always – happy escaping!

Final Verdict:


1 response

  1. Leslie Hutcheson says:

    Thank you for the honest evaluation! We appreciate your comments and enthusiasm.

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