Last weekend, what started out as a winter romantic getaway with my boyfriend quickly turned into horror, trapped by a maniacal cannibal in his hot, stewy basement. Crawling through a secret trapdoor, we came face to face with a set of iron bars and a heavy lock. The key is just out of arm’s reach! In the shimmering air above a smoldering cremation oven, we could hear a twisted cackle: “You have 30 minutes!”
If this setting sounds familiar, you may have experienced one of Vancouver B.C.’s escape rooms. (And if it sounds familiar for other reasons, I suggest you stop reading now and seek psychiatric care. For those you still curious, read on!)
There are roughly 15 escape rooms within Vancouver B.C.’s city limits. During my stay there, my boyfriend and I played five rooms over three days. Although neither of us claim to be expert escape artists, this experience has inspired me to write about the different rooms we’ve encountered and share our thoughts.
Now you may be asking, what is an escape room?
An escape room is a physical, real-life game in which players are typically locked in a room and have to solve a series of puzzles within a time limit. According to Wikipedia, the first modern escape room first appeared in Japan in 2006 and have enjoyed growing popularity in China, Europe, and lately the United States.
Most rooms are designed around themes taken from popular movies, video games, or books, such as House of 1000 Corpses, Sherlock Holmes, or Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Padlocks, trapdoors, riddles, logic puzzles, and hidden keys are common elements. Some companies employ costumed actors to shock players or emphasize a certain narrative – all creating a more immersive experience.
The appeal of escape rooms is unique in a time when most people spend their time in front of a screen. It’s an experience that is best enjoyed in the company of other people and creates intense, exciting situations that can’t happen in everyday life.
It’s still a relatively new form of entertainment. For instance, in my hometown, the oldest escape room opened in 2013 and the most recent one opened just three weeks ago.
Most of these rooms that I have experienced so far have high-star ratings on Yelp and Trip Advisor. While many people have enjoyed their experiences, just know that not all escape rooms are made equal. Due in part to their cheap start-up costs, not every escape room company will put the same thought and care into their rooms.
There are many ways to measure the quality of an escape room, such as puzzle complexity, quality of props and scenery, or scare factor. However, what I found to be most important are immersion, player experience, and technical performance (locks, doors, and other physical working parts of the room). It isn’t fun to be trapped in a poorly crafted room and realize that you’re never going to find all the pieces.
If you’re still curious, stay tuned as I report on all of my escape room adventures!