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Room Escape Ottawa opens its multi-room venue on Bank Street

Illustration: Courtesy of Sarouen Chith 

As we waited in the in the front lobby of Room Escape Ottawa, our anticipation slowly grew.

The five of us were led, with our eyes closed, into the first room of the Boom Room escape game, where we would have one hour to solve clues in order to make it through an undetermined amount of rooms.

Although the room appeared simple at first, after 20 minutes and barely any clues solved, we realized that escaping would be more difficult than we originally thought.

Real-life room escape games are among the biggest crazes in the gaming world at the moment. Participants are locked in a room and given an hour to figure out clues that will lead them to freedom.

Although variations of the games have been around since 2006, the industry has exploded over the past two years, with thousands of venues opening worldwide—seven in Ottawa alone.

“I was looking for a business that I could own that would be something that I would love doing, and I love playing board games, video games… when I heard about this new concept called escape rooms, where you’re locked in a room and you have an hour to get out, and there’s all these cool puzzles inside, it was a no-brainer,” said Qi Hu, one of the co-founders of Room Escape Ottawa, which opened on Oct. 2.

With the industry growing, competition is stiff. There is even a website, that reviews escape rooms around Ontario and in Montreal. The rooms are evaluated based on three key categories—design, creativity, and puzzles.

These categories are further broken down into different elements, such as “surprises” for the creativity category, and “logic” for the puzzle category.

Even with the growing rivals in Ottawa, Ramsay Jackson, one of the other co-founders of Room Escape Ottawa, believes that their venue can outshine the competition for their multi-room concept.

“Many of the escapes in Toronto and Ottawa are single room escapes,” said Jackson. “The advantage of having a multi-room escape is that you can tell a bit more of a story within the escape. There’s a really satisfying moment of going from one room into another and discovering a whole new look and series of puzzles to play with.”

“But really the great advantage is that you get to kind of continue building on a little narrative, a little story, while you’re inside those rooms,” he said.

Although the experience was fun, it was almost too challenging, and we’re not the only ones who thought so. Jackson said that none of the trial groups had succeeded as of yet, so it’s not ideal for those who aren’t avid gamers or puzzle solvers.

The Boom Room, which has you stuck in a bunker that is set to explode, is currently the only room at Room Escape Ottawa, but they are currently working on new rooms, with the Serial Killer Charade room opening in November. They are also hoping to get more creative with the technology in future rooms.

“As we go along, we want to advance the genre too,” said Hu, who added that they’re interested in hiring actors.

“We’re providing entertainment at the end of the day,” he said. “Our next room is going to be our best room every single time.”

With the creative stories, challenging puzzles, and a massive space, Room Escape Ottawa is sure to make itself stand out in the competitive escape room market.

Although we lost, here’s a tip if you decide to try out the escape room for themselves—everything can be a clue. No matter how ridiculous it may seem, try it.


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