Great Escapes. Puzzle rooms offer engaging entertainment for all ages

You’ve probably heard of them — maybe your kids have attended parties there or you’ve attempted a virtual round or two online — but escape or puzzle room experiences are more than just fun and innovative birthday party ideas. They’re also extremely popular with adults, encouraging friends and co-workers to plan and strategize together solving puzzles creatively, while socializing and enjoying a stimulating few hours to “escape” the stresses of work and daily life.

Designed to employ a variety of senses while promoting co-operation and teambuilding, escape rooms provide a series of clues and puzzles that you and your teammates will need to solve during a set time limit in order to “escape.” Sounds challenging? It is, but it’s also highly entertaining and an experience that will engage you immediately.

“People want a new type of interactive entertainment,” says Stephen Kowalski, who co-founded Crypto Escape Rooms in Newmarket, together with his brother Chris. “Movies are great, and special effects have gone way up, but at the end of the day it’s a passive experience. This is an experience where you can get everyone in a room working together, and not only do you have something to talk about after, but you have a full experience together.”

Different exit room companies offer a variety of uniquely themed rooms of varying levels of difficulty, so if you’ve solved one, there are always more to try. “Every owner has their own distinct puzzle-making, set design and production ideas for what a good game should be. It’s one of those weird industries where there’s really no competition,” says Kowalski. “Once you play our product, we can refer you to another game that is equally as good.”

Crypto Escape Rooms currently has two rooms available for play: The Experiment, which presents a more difficult and cerebral experience, relying heavily on logic and puzzles; and then there’s Infiltration, which offers a theatrical, retro spy adventure. “Even with two rooms, we have a wide diversity of product offerings,” says Kowalski. The brothers are currently working on producing a third room called The Cursed Temple, which is “coming soon.”

Originally from Japan, escape rooms are now a popular entertainment experience across Ontario, designed to accommodate between two and 20 players at a time, with analytical thinking skills and logical thought patterns being challenged and utilized in ways many of us are not generally familiar with. Most rooms require a blend of teamwork, communication, problem-solving and a bit of dexterity. “People have these expectations about what a puzzle might be, or they look at something and completely sell themselves on the answer,” explains Kowlaski. “But communication is important because it allows someone to shift your perspective, which could bring you closer to solving that puzzle.” 

If you’re worried about the overall concept — or the name — rest assured: you don’t have to be extremely athletic to participate, and no, you’re not actually locked in the room. You can “escape” at any time if needed. But, once you’re in, you’ll probably feel compelled to solve the puzzle with your friends or co-workers, because it’s just that much fun.

You’ll begin your adventure by hearing a story, generally concerning a death or murder or who-done-it, which sets the tone for the puzzle solving. Depending on the level of difficulty you choose, you may receive only a few clues or hints to help you, or unlimited ones until your puzzle is solved. “Look around, be observant, but don’t read into things too much,” Kowalski advises. “With our rooms, we do our best to give you everything you need [to win]. But if you find yourself peeling off the wallpaper, you’re probably moving in the wrong direction.”

by Allison Dempsey & Charlotte Ottaway

Local Links

Crypto Escape Rooms, Newmarket

Trapped, Markham

Mr. Escape Room, Markham

Escape Games, North York

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