By MICHAELA RITCHIE
For most, the thought of being locked in a room, under threat of certain doom, with not the foggiest idea of how to escape is a nightmare, not a fantasy. But if you’ve got 60 minutes to kill and are looking for a reasonably-priced thrill, this exact scenario is offered for your entertainment at escape rooms all across Calgary.
The best thing to happen to live-action gaming since virtual reality enhancements became tangible, escape rooms typically consist of two or three themed spaces linked by a series of locks, clues, and a story that helps those puzzling out the pieces make sense of the adventure at hand. “Players” of these rooms—which usually accommodate anywhere from two to ten or more people during a single “game”—must follow along with the non-linear narrative of the space, cracking codes and unlocking new information in real time as they might if they were playing a video game on a screen. The difference? The props, the atmosphere, and the stakes, though all part of a fictional story, are completely real and available for players to interact with.
Though the design of these rooms means little heavy lifting for your imagination, they require no shortage of ingenuity and teamwork to make it out before your time is up. Whether you’re looking for a bit of an escape from reality, or just want to see if you can escape the confines of some seriously crazy riddles before the clock stops, our favourite escape games around the city are definitely worth checking out.
The Locked Room
Rooms: 13 total (3 locations)
Price: $25 per player
Player minimum/maximum: 3-10 players
Of all the escape adventures Calgary has to offer, The Locked Room boasts the greatest variety of room themes—unsurprising, as they manage three separate locations across the city, the most of any local escape company. The rooms themselves are as physically impressive as they are diverse, with an immersive selection of settings and props throughout. Each location offers rooms with varying difficulty and possible group sizes, and unlike many other escape rooms throughout the city, here you can book a room privately to ensure that you won’t be playing alongside strangers if your crew isn’t enough to push the room to capacity. Franchise favourites like video-game-themed Game Over, and the spooky Sinister Study thrive alongside newer additions: premium 70-minute room Hangar 403, and horror themed room Captivity. We recommend the Hipster Hangover for a laugh-out-loud, fun-filled romp with your friends, family, or coworkers.
• The Locked Room Northeast, 15 – 2015 32nd Ave NE, 403-455-0545, www.thelockedroom.ca/northeast-calgary
• The Locked Room Southland, 5 – 9937 Fairmount Drive SE, 403-454-4496, www.thelockedroom.ca/calgary-southland
• The Locked Room Southeast, 191 – 5330 72 AVE SE, (403) 271-9645, www.thelockedroom.ca/southeast-calgary
Price: $25 per player
Player minimum/maximum: 2-8 players
Get ready to step right out of this world and into the next when you visit the Exit franchise’s Calgary location. In their quest to offer the most immersive experience in town, Exit has brought in some of the most innovative environment details you can find in any Calgary escape facility to their rooms. Be prepared to get some sand in your shoes in Ancient Egypt, feel the spray of the sea in Buccaneer Bay, and reveal a rush of cabin pressure change aboard the X-17 Space Carrier. Visit the in-house board game café to unwind and debrief over themed drinks after your play-through.
• Exit Calgary, 60 – 880 16 Ave SW, 403-475-3948, e-exit.ca
Price: $28-32 per player
Player minimum/maximum: 3-11 players
Currently the only company in Calgary to offer hosted escape room experiences, this company provides an in-character guide to help you and your teammates through the narrative of each room with helpful hints, amusing dialogue, and even some wayward distractions to make gameplay more challenging. The company just gave a festive update to their much-beloved Maxim’s Dinner Party room in time for the holidays, and it remains a fair and rewarding challenge!
• Escape Capers, 4235 16 St SE, 403-903-9162, www.escapecapers.ca
Price: $28 per player
Player minimum/maximum: 2-10 players
Relatively new to Calgary, this company has hit the ground running, already offering a grand total of five room themes, designed by leading industry technicians from Osaka, Japan, and all homages to escape room essentials: Ancient Pyramid, Medieval Prison, Contaminated Hospital, and the surprisingly well-executed Death Note room, modeled after the popular manga series. The fifth room, Chaos Effect, is also available, but only Level 2 members are allowed to play it—another door to unlock during your visit here!
• Trapped Real Life Room Escape, 1139 Kensington Rd NW, 587-356-4488, trapped.ca
Player minimum/maximum: 2-6 players
One of the latest escape game facilities to pop up in our city, A/Maze is emerging as a strong contender in the local scene, and may soon become one of Calgary’s favourite escape rooms. Their Cabaret Voltaire room offers players a deep connection between puzzle, space, and story, and though this room is the only one offered at the moment, two more levels (Trapped in a Dream and Tesla’s Laboratory) are set to become playable in 2018.
• A/Maze Escape Game, 102 – 206 11 Ave SE, 587-583-5803, amazecalgary.com