On the hunt for big, bountiful escape room experiences, we followed the treasure map to iExit’s Pirates on the Rocks escape room in downtown Vancouver, B.C.!
ABOUT iEXIT VANCOUVER
Location: Downtown Vancouver, Granville Street
Players: 2-6, recommend 2-3 for Pirates
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $30 CAD per person through online or phone bookings. At the time of this writing, a Groupon and rebooking discounts were available.
Pirates on the Rocks
Amid the nightclubs and neon signs of Granville Street, you’ll find iExit Vancouver tucked between a pawn shop and a bar, its presence marked only by a sandwich board sign. It’s down the street from the once-notorious peep show venue Movieland Arcade, which is now a retro video game arcade.
My boyfriend Ben and I climbed a flight of stairs to what might have been a re-purposed office suite with boldly striped walls and a mural of a ghostly figure phasing through a wall. Next to the front desk, we saw informal hall of fame placard where past escapees had scrawled their names in permanent marker – Would we join the lucky few?
Our game was joined by another couple, who had played only one escape room before. For those of you who are unfamiliar, some escape room companies allow “public” bookings, meaning that other people can join your game. Playing with strangers introduces an interesting dynamic to puzzle-solving. It can be hit-or-miss, because it’s hard to know if your collective personalities will mesh together or how they’ll react to the game’s intensity.
I guess we all had the same thing in mind by selecting iExit’s easiest room, Pirates on the Rocks, which has about a 68% escape rate. It has a simple premise, more along the lines of a “find and seek” type of escape room.
Our “story” orientation to the room was barely two minutes: “You are pirates, enemies have messed around with your ship, this is how many rooms you have to go through, and you have to turn the helm at the end to avoid crashing into rocks.” Honestly, they spent more time talking about how to ask for hints correctly or what not to touch in the room.
If the story was a little sparse, the room’s interior made up for it a little. There was just enough rigging, ropes, and navigational props to make me feel like I was inside a ship cabin…but only just. If there had been ambient sound – ocean waves, seagull cries, etc. – this would have made a big difference. However, compared to rooms like SmartyPantz or Find & Seek, the quality of props and sets were just a notch above basic.
We had four players in our group, which is normally considered to be minimal in most escape rooms. However, this was a rare case in which four players were too much. We fell into a common trap where players revisit puzzles that have already been solved, mull over red herrings, or simply stand around.
There were a couple of surprises that we enjoyed, especially one audio/code-breaking puzzle that required two people to work together while standing in different parts of the room. It wasn’t very challenging, but it was unique, fun, and involved some teamwork.
Most of the puzzles in Pirates are nonlinear and could be solved in any order as long as you found all the pieces to help you get to the next step. Some puzzles were appropriately themed, involving maps and navigation, though there were too many padlocks for my taste. There were a couple of large set pieces that required at least two people to move safely or were stuck in place (too many keys jammed too many times in the same lock?).
If there was anything that really frustrated us about the room, it was the fact that there were several purposeful red herrings that we carried with us the entire time and wasted precious minutes.
In the end, our team turned the helm together and escaped with 10+ minutes to spare!
iExit’s Pirates on the Rocks felt like a middle-of-the-road kind of escape room experience. It’s very lean on content and story interactions, though it did deliver a product that made sense and worked mechanically. It’s a room that seems more appropriate for a speedrun or players who are new to escape rooms. The theme is appropriate for those who might want to avoid less intense experiences or for younger participants.
Story Immersion: 2/5
- Staff was a little stand-offish and their orientation barely talked about the story of the room. They actually gave us a spoiler by telling us how many rooms there were!
- The props and set pieces supported the theme, but very basic.
- The room could have used ambient sound to support the theme.
- The puzzles supported the main objective, though could have experimented with puzzles that didn’t also involve finding keys for padlocks.
Player Experience: 3/5
- There were at least a couple of stand-out puzzles that made the experience fun.
- The hint system was efficient – Staff uses walkie talkies and helps keep the game going without disrupting play.
- The game’s momentum was stalled by useless red herrings and having too many players.
Technical Performance of Props/Sets: 3/5
- For the most part, the puzzles worked mechanically and worked functionally.
- There was at least one puzzle that stalled or got stuck in place.
- There are props and set pieces that require at least two people to move safely.
- This room is wheelchair-accessible.