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Sports & Play

Real Escape Game Toronto a thrilling race against time

Posted by Martha Stortz / April 22, 2014

real escape game torontoThe Real Escape Game Toronto is an interactive live game located at The Foundery in Dundas West. Up to 11 people are locked in a room for one hour, and must find clues and solve puzzles to find the key and escape the room. The first Real Escape Game originated in Japan before heading to China, Taiwan, Singapore, and the U.S.; this edition is the first one held in Canada.

I arrived at the Foundery on a Saturday evening to test out the game; my companion and I were put on a team with seven strangers. I was feeling pretty confident about the game, due to my companion's master's degree in engineering (and my years of experience decoding meaningless garbage on Lost message boards). The rules were explained, waivers were signed, and the game began.

The hour we spent in the room was incredibly intense. We had to work together as a team to scour the room for clues, solve puzzles, find patterns and generally do all the things they do in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It felt like being inside Saw, but instead of being threatened with the death of loved ones, I was threatened with the possibilities of letting down strangers and putting to waste the hours I spent reading every Encyclopedia Brown published before 1996.

The same version of the game is currently being used for all sessions, so I won't spoil any actual details of the game for future escape artists. I will note that the game plays in a way that keeps you on a dizzying adrenaline high for 60 straight minutes. Clues are hidden in such a way that discoveries continually happen throughout the entire hour, the puzzles are complex but not impossible, and the way each part of the game comes together to lead to the next mystery was incredibly well-thought out and perfectly executed.

In the end, we didn't escape the room in time. Few do - only 1.8% of gamers in the Real Escape Game San Francisco, for example, actually managed to escape. Regardless of the outcome, it was an amazing, exhilarating hour.

After the time ran out, the event's game master came into the room and showed us the solutions, prompting lots of "THAT was important?" and "We were so close!" The entire process took about 75 minutes, including the introduction, game and post-game debrief.

It's safe to say that the Real Escape Game T.O. was the coolest way I've ever spent an hour with strangers in an enclosed space. The game's emphasis on communication makes it perfect for team-building or a family event, and the pure fun aspect guarantees a great afternoon activity for friends or a date.

The only downside is that once you've played, you have to wait for the next volume to come out, complete with new codes and puzzles, before you can play again. Until then, you can find me labouring over the Daily Jumble (there must be a hidden message within that terrible pun!) in hopes of become part of the elusive 1.8% next time.

The Real Escape Game T.O. is located at The Foundery (376 Bathurst St.), with sessions held Friday to Sunday, and admission is just under $35 per person with tax.

Discussion

35 Comments

Iksheeta / April 22, 2014 at 09:21 am
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Do I have to book? Also, can you choose to be in a room with a couple friends + the remaining strangers?
Sperg / April 22, 2014 at 09:35 am
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I have to leave my parents' basement to participate in this? That in itself is a puzzling challenge.
angelo / April 22, 2014 at 09:47 am
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There are other places like this in Canada. Especially in Vancouver. There is also another one in kitchener Ontario called Adventure Rooms with a similar game mechanics
Leanne / April 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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There are a few that's opened now. Other than the one in Kitchener, there is also one in Mississauga called De Code Adventures
Haley / April 22, 2014 at 01:31 pm
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Would be sweet if there different difficulty levels
gay guy / April 22, 2014 at 01:43 pm
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Check out 'esc it' in richmond hill for same concept but more difficulty levels.
Graeme / April 22, 2014 at 01:50 pm
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Nice! This is right around the corner from me! Definitely going to check it out!
Jay / April 22, 2014 at 05:37 pm
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There's a great place in Thornhill (http://www.esc-it.ca/) with different difficulty levels and they change up their rooms often. Reasonable prices as well.
Dex / April 22, 2014 at 06:09 pm
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Toronto opened one last year called ESC-it. From what I remember they have at least 4 different rooms with good challenges. I'm sure they changed up the rooms by now.
Lala / April 22, 2014 at 07:05 pm
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Obviously you have to book. There are tickets to buy, and 11 spots to be claimed.
Ken Li / April 23, 2014 at 11:26 am
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There's also a brand new one in North York, near Yonge and Finch, with 4 rooms for smaller groups. I went with a few friends to their grand opening. It was quite fun. http://www.greatescape-to.com/
momo / April 23, 2014 at 01:15 pm
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Try "De-code" in Mississauga instead if you are going to go to Esc-it. De-code is more expensive but the rooms are bigger and the puzzles are better. The staff are more professional and friendly and are SO into it, it helps get you into the whole scenario you are in. You also get to go to their boardgame cafe after with a drink.
Joyce Tsang replying to a comment from momo / April 23, 2014 at 06:36 pm
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Really? I think Esc-it's staff are really friendly and their puzzles are great! DeCode is fun too, but I personally like Esc-it more and their price is much more reasonable! haha :)
Jack Wong / April 24, 2014 at 12:23 am
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De Code is far better IMO. It's so pretty, very spacious, and not really more expensive with the ongoing discounts. The puzzles and room settings are more pro.
Esc-it is too small, stuffy and unclean. The experience was not as great because of that. If anyone in the crew has asthma, then forget about it.
Sarah Kiers / April 24, 2014 at 03:31 pm
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Theres one near yonge and finch? finally a place I can subway to!!
I've always wanted to try those games but the Richmond hill and Mississauga one are quite inaccessible for me coming from downtown and without a car..
Jenn / April 25, 2014 at 11:57 am
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The one in Kitchener is awesome. It's very challenging and the staff are great! It's totally worth the drive.
Thomas Jones / April 25, 2014 at 09:19 pm
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Does anyone know any promotions at any of the escape place, my friends and I are planning to go next weekend?
Todd / April 26, 2014 at 07:21 pm
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The Great Escape place in North York has a promo, 4 players for the price of 3, I found it on craiglists after searching their name. Decode also has a 30% discount for mississauga players
Steven replying to a comment from Todd / April 28, 2014 at 09:54 pm
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Thanks Todd!
Eva / May 7, 2014 at 07:09 pm
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There's actually a TeamBuy deal going on right now for De Code Adventures. :)

I have been there, and with friends who have also tried ESC-IT, it is apparently a LOT bigger. As mentioned, they do really get you into the game. Once you see the room, you know they've put a lot of work into making each one. Their board game cafe is pretty awesome, too, with a huge variety of games. It's a nice place to hang out before and/or after you escape your room.
Ryan Henson Creighton / May 8, 2014 at 09:03 pm
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It's interesting to me that none of these comments seem to be from real people - they're obviously planted by the various escape game companies around Toronto. Yet when i post a comment about my actual experiences with these games, it doesn't get approved. Hmm.

Also weird that the article talks about Scrap's Real Escape Game franchise, yet the image at the top is from Freeing Hong Kong, a competing company.
Johnson replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / May 12, 2014 at 02:04 pm
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LOL Yes I feel the same way, it's just the owners trying to promote themselves.

I see so many pop up now. The one in the article, one in Mississauga, one up in Thornhill, 3x in North York and one near Pacific Mall next to Market Village.

There's quite a few around now so you'll never need to worry about a place being fully booked anymore.
Ryan Henson Creighton replying to a comment from Johnson / May 12, 2014 at 02:30 pm
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The real difference is in the quality. So many of these games are cheaply built, and aren't designed by game developers.

One room i played was in an outdoor campground setting (staged inside a room in a serviced industrial building). The floor was carpeted with astroturf, but the ceiling was your typical drop-ceiling with fluorescent lighting panels, which were turned off.

When the owners asked if we had any suggestions to improve the game, i said "maybe do something about that ceiling to improve immersion? Like get rid of it, paint it black, drape some dark fabric across it to better simulate a night sky ... ?"

The owners stared blankly at us and said "... but that would cost money."

Too many of these games in the Toronto area are ultra cheap cash-ins filled with Ikea furniture and crossword puzzles. Check out the games in Prague for comparison, with their gorgeous antique props and art-directed style. Toronto deserves better!
Johnson replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / May 19, 2014 at 03:07 am
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Yeah I agree, they are very cheaply built. Honestly I don't mind cheap if the game or the puzzles were a bit more innovative. There was 1 good room I played in the thornhill one, but when I went again to try their new room, it felt like they lost heart in building the new ones and just wanted to place in another cash generator....

Granted I doubt it would make sense for anyone to built something you see in Europe though. I had a small renovation project myself at home one time and it costed so much more than I expected. So I can see why these young guys don't want to do that. Plus I bet their customers sometimes can be a bit rough so then any antiques etc. could be broken etc.

At the same time, at least make the games fun, not stupid puzzles from cheap material..... cheap doesn't mean it can't be fun, but that place in thornhill probably just lost interest in building new rooms. Hope the new competition spices things up, but not sure which one I would try next.
Ryan Henson Creighton / May 20, 2014 at 09:27 am
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i played the newest room in the Kitchener game this past weekend. i've read reviews where people complain that room is cheap and that they let the props degrade quickly without replacing them. The room i played was only a few months old, and while there were a couple of ragtag props, most stuff was in decent shape.

It seems like the Kitchener crew are re-investing their profits to improve with each romo. i would put the prop quality of that room halfway between el-cheapo and European antique quality. So far, it's the best room i've played in the Toronto area (out of the four i've tried). One drawback was that the staff were stone-faced and unfriendly, almost to the point of hostility. Really weird.

Which Thornhill room was good, and which one wasn't?
Ryan Henson Creighton / May 20, 2014 at 09:28 am
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(also, why is the image at the top of this article taken from the Freeing franchise in Hong Kong? This is the comment that BlogTO refuses to approve)
Ryan Henson Creighton / May 26, 2014 at 02:11 pm
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Ha! My mistake - they posted my comment earlier.
Pauline Lee / June 10, 2014 at 08:49 pm
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Went to Prison Breaker on Saturday at Pacific Mall. It's the cheapest one right now. Maybe I'm biased bc my friend knows the owners lol, but their rooms are pretty fun.
Lisa replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / July 17, 2014 at 12:27 am
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I'm sorry to hear that, Ryan - regarding staff. This has been addressed based on the person helping on your visit! We hope to see you again.
alex / July 19, 2014 at 12:16 pm
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I love escape games, and I solve one each day (on my computer). But I am afraid to go and try real life escape. There would be other people and what if I get stuck. That would be so embarrassing. What if I have a slow day? no thanks
Levi / July 26, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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Lia / August 1, 2014 at 10:45 pm
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How much is it for each player?
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Mario / September 11, 2014 at 04:56 pm
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I've been to a couple of escape rooms, but never sure where to go. I found this blog and its' been helpful, i hope it helps you like its helped me

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