We played two escape rooms in one visit to Mr. J’s Joker Room Escape Club. They were very different experiences, so you can expect me to write two reviews about this escape room company!
About Mr.J: Joker Room Escape Club
Location: Western Alexandra Road in Richmond, one of the suburbs just outside of Vancouver, B.C.
Players: 2-3, although Vampire Hunter has a puzzle that physically requires 3.
Duration: 50 minutes for Vampire Hunter.
Cost: $25-$30 CAD depending on the room. At the time of this writing, there was a Groupon available.
It was a dark and stormy night. Armed with only our wits and flashlights, we searched for clues between child-sized church pews. White wooden crosses and yellowed candles adorned the walls. The vampire’s laugh cut through the air, mocking us for our fragility.
My boyfriend Ben and I were playing Vampire Hunter, purportedly one of Mr. J’s hardest rooms (4 gears out of 5). Their website is flashy, boasting “the ultimate fun experience, creating the high-quality mechanical Room Escape” that are “custom-made and designed by Asia’s top room escape design team.”
The setting is a dark, cold castle decorated with swords, crystals, and a dusty replica of a knight in battle armor. For one section of the game, there was a chapel complete with child-size kneelers, holy symbols, and cobwebs, which I found quite creepy.
The set pieces and props were quite elaborate – up until a certain point. There was at least one section that seemed out-of-place. Maybe it was the light-colored wall paper or the fact that it had grandma-style lace draped over a table – but that section was definitely not creepy or theme-appropriate.
The soundtrack was made up of crackling lightning, heavy rain, and a ghostly organ. It struck me at the time as being a bit loud and even verging on corny-creepy.
Vampire Hunter might have been a new room in 2015 (sourced from the oldest reviews I could find about the place), but by the time that we rolled through, the room was showing some obvious signs of wear and tear.
Some props were broken, taped together, or took a bit longer to work. There was also an odd pillar and air conditioning unit inside this room, which spoiled some of the realism.
This was also one of those escape rooms that had a doorbell to call for help. If you’ve read my previous review of Krakit, you know how I feel about those kinds of hint systems and how disruptive they can be.
What was really strange about our experience at Mr. J’s was the fact that when we rang for help, a group of 4 people walked into the room. It seemed only 1-2 people were actually employees and the rest were their friends who just came to help – or hang out? I couldn’t help but notice that a couple of them were wearing house slippers.
What’s more, the game master proceeded to explain the logic behind the puzzles and how they were conceived – great if we were being given a “behind the scenes” tour but not exactly helpful if there’s a clock ticking down.
It seemed to me that the staff was not trained properly on how to give proper clues, even to the point when Ben had to explain how he wanted the clues to be given. As experienced players, this was a little frustrating.
Despite its shortcomings, there are some fun, unconventional activities in Vampire Hunter that might still be worth checking out. Some puzzles were very physical – pressing things into place, screaming at the top of our lungs, even a shooting gallery. The room has a puzzle that requires a minimum of three people to pull off, but overall the room is definitely possible to solve with just two players.
If you are used to a non-linear escape room experience (try everything in the room, solve puzzles in any order), Vampire Hunter is a little different. The room uses very story-driven clues, urging players to pick up on any subtle story thread or graphical clues that appear throughout the experience.
If you are given a cipher or a prop, you’re expected to hang onto it and refer to it constantly until just the right moment comes. This kind of puzzle-solving experience is very reminiscent of linear puzzle experiences like the Nancy Drew series.
If there was anything that really frustrated me about the room, it was one puzzle that required Ben and I standing in two different spots of the room. It produced random light patterns that were difficult to communicate to one another. We only managed to pass it with a combination of sheer luck and brute force.
In the end, we defeated the High Vampire and escaped just in the nick of time!
Vampire Hunter has some unusual puzzle-solving activities to offer, but depending on how you seriously you take the immersion experience, it might not be the best escape room experience that Vancouver B.C. has to offer.
Vampire Hunter has a lot of story-telling potential, but I don’t think it was successfully executed. Maybe it was the grandma lace. Maybe it was the creepy-corny soundtrack. With some updated changes, Vampire Hunter could truly be a theatrical experience but it definitely has some technical barriers to overcome.
To start, it has some malfunctioning and worn-out puzzles that will take longer to solve. The hint system is not the best and it seemed really strange that our game was disrupted by the staff’s friends.
If you are a new escape room player, Vampire Hunter would be a very frustrating experience. If you’re willing to accept Vampire Hunter’s technical flaws, it could still be a fun experience for more seasoned players who are playing in groups of 2-4.
Having solved the room with only 2 players, I don’t think it quite lives up to its difficulty level but some of the room’s puzzles can still be fun to solve because they were different from the usual combination lock-type puzzles.
Story Immersion: 3/5
- The props, set pieces, and soundtrack supported the theme, in some places better than others.
- The puzzles supported the main objective and even surprised us.
- Referring back to the same clues several times reinforced the story and the room’s theme.
- There was a worn-in look to most of the props and set pieces, not the attractive kind.
- Some things about the room were just simply not covered up and broke the immersion – like that air conditioning unit in the middle of the room and cleaning supplies stuck in the corner.
Player Experience: 3/5
- There were at least a couple of stand-out puzzles that made the experience fun.
- The hint system was inefficient and strange – it’s a doorbell system and the staff like to explain entire puzzles.
- The game’s momentum was stalled by the hint system and broken/stalled props/puzzles.
Technical Performance of Props/Sets: 3/5
- Several puzzles stalled, got stuck in place, or required outside help.
- This room is wheelchair-accessible.