The concept of the escape room is turning into a new and interesting way for friends to get together for a day or evening of fun. Book a room at one of the many escape facilities in the city and get locked inside. The objective is to work together as a group to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape. The puzzles will range from word games and math problems to logic and process of elimination scenarios. In essence, use your abilities to think outside of the box, work together with your team, and you will be successful in escaping. Escape room games usually last around an hour and vary in level of difficulty.
Casa Loma, our city’s very own castle, is now known as a magnificent Toronto tourist attraction. But many people don’t know about the varied history of this landmark – as a speakeasy in the Roaring 20’s and a hub for Canadian spies during the Second World War, just to name a few. It seemed to be only a matter of time before the idea of the escape room met with the fascinating history of Toronto’s castle, a unique and highly immersive experience that will take visitors far beyond the standard touristy tour of the grounds.
Escape Casa Loma takes visitors to the little-known areas of the castle, areas that aren’t part of the standard tours, through the tunnels and basement rooms beneath the castle to the many stairs leading up to the towers.
Visitors have three distinctive games to choose from. King of the Bootleggers (ages 14+ includes guns) is set during the Prohibition era where an illegal speakeasy operates in secret under the castle. A notorious gangster, Rocco Perri, runs the game and everyone is gunning for the throne, including his wife Bessi who hires YOU (the participant) to join her gang in order to take Rocco out. Breaking into teams in separate rooms, the goal is to discover hidden clues that will reveal Rocco’s hidden wealth. But, you need to be fast as someone has alerted the cops and they’ll be breaking down the door in an hour.
Escape the Tower takes place near the start of the Second World War in 1941. You and your team are new recruits for an undercover Anti-Submarine Detection Research Centre in the Casa Loma tower. In 60 minutes, your goal is to find the coordinates of the enemies U-boats and communicate them to our allies. This game requires heavy stair use.
Station M (ages 11+) takes place after the war. In a time that should be meant for celebration, it appears the festivities may have to wait. Underneath Casa Loma, you and your team discover the soon to be decommissioned Station M – a secret manufacturing facility used to produce gadgets and covert material for Canadian and British spies in Nazi-occupied Europe – where one last mission remains to be completed.
My review partner and I chose King of the Bootleggers for our first Escape Casa Loma experience. We chose a very hot and stormy day which made the trek up the hill to the castle more arduous. That’s the thing about these games, not only do they require a quick and keen mind, they also require physical activity, be it walking or climbing stairs. Plenty of water is provided at the start of the game so stock up. Also, remember to use the washroom beforehand as there will not be access to one once the game has begun.
Once everyone has completed the sign in process, the group is lead to a theatre where Charlie, the host for the evening, explains the rules of the game before running a quick video establishing the history of the time. The group is then lead through a series of damp tunnels under the castle.
We meet Jack, a drunken word-slurring, dirty cop now employed by Rocco Perri. We also meet with Eddie, Perri’s large and intimidating right-hand man, who then introduces us to Bessie herself. All of them have their own personal agendas but a common goal of dethroning Rocco Perri. The group splits into teams led by Jack, Eddie, and Bessie, and enter different rooms to unearth different clues. We, along with a mixed group, follow Bessie into the study. We’re tasked with solving an aural puzzle involving a sequence of keys on a piano played to open a secret vault. Discovering the right keys to play in the right sequence is no easy task.
The best way to succeed in this particular escape game is to know the people you’re playing with well so that way you know what everyone’s key strengths are and then work cohesively. A good portion of our time near the start of our hour was spent blindly looking around, trying to find one thing that connected to another. Eventually, elements started to fall into place.
What I loved most about the game was how detailed the rooms were as well as the puzzles that need to be solved. I also loved the characters; the actors were entirely committed to playing their roles while interacting with each other and the participants. Most of all, I loved how the game is layered and once you think you’ve solved the mystery and you’re done …. you’re not. Far from it.
Escape Casa Loma games happen Wednesdays through Sundays. Ticket prices are $36 (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday) or $42 (Friday and Saturday) per person. The three games happen at different times during the evening, check the website for more details. Games book up fast and each game can accommodate a different number of players so be sure to plan ahead. Call 647 574 0037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about group rates. A VIP Experience is available that grants players access to the castle’s restored wine cellar.
For a unique celebratory experience with family and friends, Escape Casa Loma is a certainly a lot of fun and worth the price.
Review by Samantha Wu