Journey To Save Christmas

7.6 Overall
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Journey To Save Christmas

  • Played December 2020
  • Mississauga, ON

  • 30 minutes
  • 1-4 players
  • $65-$85 CDN
  • Great for families

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2020 was a tough year for the escape room industry. Lockdowns across North America forced several companies to eventually close their doors or temporarily suspend operations until permitted to reopen. Through all the losses and hardships, there have been a couple positives to come out of this pandemic era however. In particular, the surge of in-home escape games. The market has rapidly flooded with new in-home games, so we decided to focus our time and effort on these forms of entertainment (it’s been challenging just to keep up with all the reviews). As an organization, the EscRoomAddict team has now played over 100+ different in-home escape games and we’re still amazed at all the creative experiences being offered. When combined with the flood of online ‘avatar’ escape experiences, it looked like these two forms of entertainment were destined to be the best choices for escape entertainment while pandemic restrictions are being enforced… that is until we received a unique invitation by Jestr Events in Mississauga, Ontario.

An event? Wait, we thought public events weren’t permitted and everyone was in lockdown. You can’t go to a building and congregate. Well… that’s true. But what if you could drive to an escape event and stay IN YOUR CAR throughout? Better yet, what if the event was designed to be… a DRIVE THROUGH ESCAPE! Yup, in what might be North America’s FIRST company to offer such an experience, Jestr Entertainment made a drive-through escape experience where you purchase tickets in advance, arrive at your appointed time, and drive through the game. How cool is that?!!

So after we had obtained our tickets and time slot, we took our two vehicles to the experience which was being held in Mississauga’s Square One Mall (one of Canada’s top three largest malls). The mall is about a 40 minute drive from downtown Toronto, and located centrally right off the neighbouring 403 highway. So far so good! When we arrived there was a fairly lengthy lineup of cars that didn’t seem to be moving so fast. We were wondering how so many cars had managed to be there if the time slots were booked, but it didn’t bother us too much (because who’s got anything more important to do during these pandemic times anyways?) We could see how those with a low level of patience might have wanted to bring something to do while waiting. So as we finally arrived at the bottom of the parking garage ramp (which also serves as the starting point for the experience), we were asked by the attendant if we had the online interface loaded up. We knew ahead of time the game offered two modes of play: Online and in-person. Trivia questions for the game are displayed throughout the experience, so we had one of our teams play with the online questions, and the other team play with the in-person questions. We were later told by a local group of enthusiasts there’s also a children and family version of the questions for younger kids to enjoy also.

As we approached the first set/stage of the game, we had to wait for the cars in front of us to advance. We could hear part of what was being said and experienced, but we chose to block it out with in-car chatter and music (who wants to ruin the experience for themselves?) Just before the first set, we noticed the rules clearly displayed on a big screen along with some pre-game decorations to set the Christmas / Santa’s North Pole scenery atmosphere. Into the first set we drove, and we meet Mrs.Claus. What? This thing has actors also?!! Yup, there were actors as well as drive through sets… a VERY impressive start. The set quality was also impressive (we literally felt like we were driving into a section of Santa’s home at the North Pole)! Once we were done with the questions and tasks here, it was onto the next stage…

Again we had to wait for the cars in front of us to move ahead, but when we finally progressed forward, we instantly left what seemed like a great immersive stage into another one… an outdoor winter wonderland, with more questions, tasks and fun things to do here also! It’s at this point some of our members said to each other, ‘’I feel like we’re at a theme park! This is crazy how much detail has gone into this!” We don’t want to give away much more of the experience, but needless to say there were several more impressive sets to drive through, with more questions and tasks. As we neared the end of the experience, we thankfully solved the game correctly and saved Christmas. As a thank you gift, we got to take a selfie pic with Santa while we were still in the car! Yep, the man himself was there to thank us for helping save Christmas and wanted to commemorate the occasion. Pretty cool ending right? But wait, there’s more! Santa had ONE MORE SURPRISE in store for us, and in our opinion the most impressive part of the whole experience (a definitely ‘’WOW!’’ moment). We’re not going to ruin it however because it’s better not knowing what it is exactly. Once that was done, we drove down the exit ramp of the garage, swapped notes on our two experiences, and headed home.

So in retrospect what did everyone think? Was the experience different for the group who played with the online questions (slightly more features and questions) vs. the at-location players? Yes, it does seem there was a bit of a difference. The at-location team experienced a bit of frustration because there was a need to keep moving slowly forward even If you didn’t get all the answers you needed to find. They were able to get it all in, but it created a bit of tension from time to time… This tension was greatly magnified for our team using the online version who had even more questions and tasks to do in the same amount of time. There’s a timer built into the web-game version which meant we were out of sync with the game at times because we didn’t always start each stage precisely on time. So the questions and story part of the game does have a bit of a rushed and tense feeling to it, but overall still wasn’t too bad. In fairness, the other team of enthusiasts who informed us about their experience (the good people from the EscKey Team), said the kids/family version was much more forgiving and they really enjoyed it.

Aside from being rushed to absorb the answers and story of the game, the price-point was the only other major concern. Prices are charged per car ranging from $65-$85 which is quite steep for a 30 minute experience (75 minutes if you include waiting time at the beginning and between stages). But the real question is whether we think it was something you should invest your money towards… And to that we say YES!!! We were incredibly impressed by all the things that went into this experience! The set quality was well beyond our expectations to the point we honestly felt like we were at the set’s locations and not inside a parking lot of a major North American mall. And the rule of thumb for all good escape room reviewers is, “If you forget where you really are, you’ve found above average set designs and immersion!’’ Two of our members even remarked that for a pop-up (temporary) experience, the set quality was even higher than some permanent escape rooms we’ve seen. The use of technology mixed with basic observation and puzzles was also impressive. If the Jestr Events team haven’t considered moving into the escape industry yet, we think they should give it strong consideration with how beautifully integrated this experience was. Naturally the immersion was also off the charts. It’s a shame there wasn’t some Christmas music (or thematic music) used throughout, but this can easily be custom catered to your personal Christmas playlist in your car. The interaction we had with the game’s characters, story development, and just about everything else was top notch. Some of our members felt that some stages of the game were more impressive than others, which is fair, but we all agreed that each stage of the game had its own impressive and immersive qualities.

Unfortunately, this experience has since been closed due to even tighter covid restrictions in Ontario, but assuming it comes back next holiday season, we can’t recommend this game highly enough! Who is it best suited for? Just about anyone with the following words of caution for our followers: If you’re the type who has zero patience for lineups, or prone to feeling anxious at the thought of being confined to a garage, it might be more uncomfortable than fun. The price-point may also limit some people from visiting this event. For those with budgetary constraints, we recommend approaching this as a special afternoon or evening out, and combining it with a cheap meal to make it a special occasion for everyone. Apart from those caveats, we hope as many people get to experience this event as possible, and we can’t wait to see whether Jestr Events decide to venture deeper into the immersive entertainment world. They’ve really impressed us with this first offering, and we’re excited to see what’s coming next!

We want to hear your thoughts on this experience! Be sure to comment in the section below or send us a message via ERA’s email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter… As always, happy escaping!

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