Lifestyle

Calgary escape rooms allow you to choose your own adventure while summoning your inner Columbo

Escape the room.

That’s the basic instruction behind a concept – and now a successful business model – that started in Japan in 2007, with 35 year-old Takao Kato’s Real Escape Game. Since then, this simple (yet endlessly refined) idea has spread to North America – beginning in 2013 with Seattle’s Puzzle Break – and indeed, all over the world. Today, in Calgary, over a dozen of these escape rooms operate the ultimate in real-life adventure puzzles, bringing the dreams of a generation that grew up on Myst into reality. Here’s five different escape room companies that you can check out right now.

Confined Escape Rooms

confined.ca/

403-452-4441

Based in: Calgary

In operation in Calgary since: August 2016

Address: 2020 32 Ave. N.E.

Price: $25-35 (depending on the room) + GST/person

What makes them unique? Yvan Gale – partner, co-founder, aka The Alchemist: “Two of the co-founders, including myself, have a theatre background (Alberta Ballet, Cirque de Soleil, Wicked). We wanted people to have experiences with physical challenges. People would have to touch, hold hands … someone might have to do something and be coached by someone else. We also beta test our rooms for weeks, even months. Our Frankenstein room took us nine months to build … it’s pretty out there!”

The Locked Room

www.thelockedroom.ca/

587-387-2337

Based in: Calgary

In operation in Calgary since: June 2014 (the first escape room in Calgary)

Locations: 15 2015 32 Ave. N.E./5 9937 Fairmount Dr. S.E./191 5330 72 Ave. S.E.

Price: $24.95 + GST/person

What makes them unique? Adil Hooda, partner and co-founder: “We tailor our games to be fun and entertaining. We want to create an immersive experience; it should look the part aesthetically. Puzzles should be fun and enjoyable, but also an actual puzzle, not just a “find the object and place it here” type of thing. We want people of all ages to enjoy our puzzles; kids as young as eight, adults as old as 50, anyone and everyone.

SmartyPantz

calgary.smartypantz.ca/

587-318-5640

Based in: Vancouver, with additional rooms in Edmonton and Calgary, the newest to open

In operation in Calgary since: March 2017

Address: 1601 14 St. S.W.

Price: $25 + GST/person

What makes them unique? Melanie Ellyce, Calgary Branch Co-Manager: “We are all about immersion, aiming to send guests on a seemingly real-life adventure the moment they step in to one of our rooms. Local actors brimming with talent will set the tone of your experience in a character befitting your theme selection. Then teams are transported into a whole new world as they step into Hollywood movie-quality sets designed and built by an incredible team of professionals. As the timer starts teams are left to their own devices to achieve their relevant objective by outwitting some pretty neat and immersive puzzles.”

A/Maze Calgary Escape Game

http://www.amazecalgary.com/

587-583-5803

Based in: Montreal (partnering with A/Maze Montreal)

In operation in Calgary since: June 2017

Address: 102 206 11 Ave. S.E.

Price: $25 + GST/person

What makes them unique? Sean Lynch, Co-Founder with Khalid Omokanye, Co-Founder: “We operate in the Calgary Wine & Spirit Co. 1911, a Calgary Heritage Building. Our rooms are littered with period pieces from the actual 1900s, and genuine antiques including a rotary phone and an original switchboard. The design is built around the building itself – i.e. the Cabaret Voltaire – and we leverage what we have in the space, and what we have in our skill set. We wouldn’t, for instance, do an “Egypt” room, since the building isn’t a pyramid. We are constantly looking for things to add to the rooms on Kijiji, auction houses, antique stores … it’s all about putting in the time and effort.”

Trapped

https://trapped.ca/

587-356-4488

Based in: Markham, ON, rooms all across Canada

In operation in Calgary since: April 2017

Address: 1139 Kensington Rd. N.W.

Price: $23-28 + GST/person (Groups $23, Corporate $25)

What makes them unique? Darcy Anderson, owner Trapped Calgary: “At 7600 sq. feet across two floors, we’re the largest escape room facility in the city. Our rooms are designed by a game designer from Osaka. Since escape rooms started in Japan, we wanted to start with the people who know what works. We want to engage people’s senses. For example, in the medieval prison, we use straw, and, since people are brought in blindfolded, that scent is the first thing people sense. Being in Kensington makes us a destination people want to go to; we’re steps away from pubs and restaurants. Our upcoming sixth room will be our largest yet.”

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Tim Ford has written extensively for the horror blog Everything is Scary, and had fiction published in places such as Neo-Opsis Magazine and Crossed Genres Magazine.

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