Vancouver Weekend: We're Thinking....Escape Rooms

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five escape-room centres where you can flex your brain power with a group of friends—all while taking cover from the rain.

      SmartyPantz, 100–289 Abbott Street

      For those who wish to be transported to a different place during cold and rainy days, we suggest checking out one of the most popular entertainment activities in the city right now: escape rooms. 

      Folks can benefit greatly from these timed puzzle and adventure games, not only because they make you utilize your problem-solving and logic skills, but also because they encourage teamwork (which is great, considering we live in an age when social-media interaction overshadows real-life encounters). One of the best places to play such a game is at SmartyPantz.

      Nestled in the heart of Gastown, it is home to five different themed rooms: Spies & Lies, Doomed Submarine, Dream’scape, Morning Never Comes, and Thirst for Murder. Each room is decked out in movie-set–quality props and décor (think antique bookshelves, a detective’s office, and an old-school hair salon), so you’ll really feel like you’ve travelled to a completely new era.

      Unlike other escape rooms around town, SmartyPantz greets players with hosts who are actors in costume and character—emphasizing the realness of solving a paranormal mystery or escaping from a psychotic murderer in order to win the game. You and your group (up to a maximum of eight players) have 45 minutes to crack the case, and you lose the game if you don’t.

      But it doesn’t really matter if you can’t figure out how to escape the room—it’s such a cool experience that you’ll actually want to stay trapped.


      Locked Canada

      Locked Canada, 200–1050 Kingsway

      So you’re into horror films, haunted houses, paranormal activity tours, and the like? Locked Canada is home to a couple of fearsome and hair-raising rooms that could rival the latest scary flick or haunted mansion that you’ve encountered.

      You and a couple of friends will be locked inside a themed room of your choice, and you’ll solve everything from puzzles to riddles to intricate problems in order to escape. This game concept isn’t anything new ever since it has become a mini phenomenon in the city, but what makes this specific escape-room venue different from others is that you actually get an unnerving thrill when you’re trapped—the music, props, and overall atmosphere can make even the bravest person scream like a small child.

      Themes that players can choose from include Z Apocalypse (find a cure for a zombie epidemic) and the Asylum (uncover the truth at an abandoned and creepy mental ward). Depending on which room you choose, you might start off being handcuffed or having to crawl through tight vents. If at any point you become scared shitless, just remember to tell yourself one thing: it isn’t real and will be over in 45 minutes.


      GUESS HQ

      Guess HQ, 150 West Hastings Street

      The fact that you need a secret access code to even enter Guess HQ should let you know how seriously this local joint takes the art of escape-rooming. In fact, with its expansive, multi-room spaces equipped with the latest tech and decked out to the last facet—check out the details on those floor-to-ceiling bookshelves!—Guess fancies itself as more of an “adventure room” spot.

      Offering two of the most challenging and well thought-out escape rooms in Vancouver, the folks at Guess have thought of everything to ensure you feel like a badass superhero on a journey to save the world. Both of Guess’s “missions” involve a detailed backstory that pits guests—members of the Gastown Underground Elite Secret Society (aka G.U.E.S.S., get it?!)—against the Umbra Group, an “evil corporation” that has been stealing valuable artifacts from ancient sites since the 1940s.

      Choose between the Heist, where you and your crew will attempt to hack security panels in an effort to recover a rare stone from a sinister billionaire’s personal museum, and Into the Depths, where you’ll work to crack a mystery surrounding an unearthed mine. Like any good escape room—or a three-hours-plus road trip—these puzzles will test your brainpower as well as your relationships with your teammates. Proceed with caution.


      Find + Seek

      Find + Seek, 2075–88 West Pender Street

      One of the newest escape room concepts to open up in Vancouver is Find + Seek: a puzzle-adventure room that has already racked up plenty of five-star ratings online by happy players. There’s only one room offered: the Majestic Theatre. The company is currently working on additional rooms, but so far it seems like customers are completely satisfied with the single option.

      The storyline of this game follows a professor who becomes a magician by way of powers gained from various artifacts. Players are tasked with finding the missing relics in order to win the game. With its high-quality props, music and sound effects, mechanical elements, and unlimited amount of hints, the rooms take players on a brain-crunching and thoroughly enjoyable ride.

      Reservations fill up for this spot fast, so be sure to book online or call in advance to avoid disappointment. Who knew that paying to be locked inside a room could be such high demand?


      EXIT Canada

      Exit, 309 West Broadway

      There comes a point in a person’s adult life when they realize that it’s suddenly not cool to spend every evening and weekend inside playing video games. Not only does subsisting in a darkened room spell the onset of a dangerous Vitamin D deficiency, we hear it makes it very hard to get laid.

      Embracing the world of showering regularly, however, can be a big step—so for those who are ready to throw off their pyjamas but are not quite prepared to quit the fantasy-land of online gaming, escape rooms provide a happy medium between playing Portal in your mom’s basement and becoming a fully functioning adult.

      And as one of the city’s premier escape-room venues, Exit on Broadway is a great place to start. The location has four puzzles of varying difficulty: the terrifying and tricky Butcher Shop, the flashlight-lit Transylvania, the psychedelic riddle Illusions, and the family-friendly Candy Coaster. Each room allows users 45 minutes to complete the brainteasers and unlock the final door, and—unlike a lot of venues, where the success rates can be as low as one percent—Exit allows a reasonable number of its players to leave with the satisfaction of solving the room’s mystery.

      Each challenge requires two to six players, and walk-ins are accepted, although reservations are advised. And for the very adventurous, Exit even offers the chance to rent out the whole facility to complete every riddle in turn. Which, we think you’ll agree, is worth turning off the Xbox for.

      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.