I count five escape rooms now in Victoria. Which seems a lot for a small city. But I'm guessing there's the market out there, not least as once you've done a room, you can't go back to same place. And if being locked in rooms and solving puzzles is something you like, you'll want to repeat it.
I like solving puzzles. I also like discovering a story line through play and collaboration games.
Trapped - Wharf Street
The newest place in town, who have rooms across Canada, using the same set ups and puzzles. Slick graphics on the website, lots of clear branding, and easy enough to book. $28 per person, discounted by booking online and further so by becoming a member. Works out to under $25, and FREE if it's your birthday week.
I choose the Escape for the Ancient Pyramid room. I'm not going to give up any spoilers here, it's Egyptian tomb themed. Sand on the floor, simple story line about how we go there, and away we went. The room is the most atmospheric of the four I've visited, and is not crammed in with junk or red herrings. It felt spartan on the number of puzzles we saw. But it involved all five of us throughout. We needed to work as a team to try out various things and get through the puzzles.
We got out with nine minutes to spare. The very last puzzle disappointed me. The rest was logical, interesting and engaging, with nice little a-ha moments. We did radio-in for a hint, which was a little bit of a head slap when we got it, but we needed it.
I'd like to have seen one more challenge in the room. But it was getting out with plenty of time to spare (some teams have done it even faster) that made me feel that way. It was the only room I've ever escaped from, so I should take it as win and whine less.
I liked the clear instructions we were given. There was the minimum of fussing around, and maximum of getting in. It is a well run and organized set up there at Trapped. I want to go back and do the other three rooms (Hospital, Medieval Dungeon, Anime Killer).
Epic Escape - Bastion Square
I visited Epic Escape just after they opened in April 2017 (see review here). It's been almost two years, but a second room is now open, called 'Judge's Verdict'. The aim is to bust your friend out of jail for a crime they didn't commit. Again no spoilers, but the set up to the room, and instructions are very well done. There is a nice little surprise right at the start.
The rest of the room though kind of fell away. It's a good set up, with lots to explore, but there's no central story. Half the puzzles feel separated from the theme. The ones that do fit were excellent, but too often there was a bunch of stuff that -looked- like clues with nowhere to go from them. We had to get help once, and had the room operator help us as well as we were getting nowhere. We appreciated that they kept an eye on us. But overall, there was too many random locks with not enough (to us) places where we could try and work together. I'd like to have seen some more of the random objects used and less of the other stuff. And a little bit of discovery of a backstory.
I do like how friendly the staff are, and they called to let us know one of us left a coat behind. I'll visit their next room, if it's less than two years away.
I have also been to Victoria Escape Games in the past. To compare, they promise some great themes, but the delivery was lacking. With some areas where they could have sold the story line a wasted opportunity. If you've built a room based on the legendary Miskatonic University and defeating the Great Old Ones... dress like it, act like it, and don't spend too long on the mechanical stuff. Get in and playing, and don't explain the introduction to us. It either stand on its own, or needs re-writing. They run larger rooms, which does mean there are multiple routes to the same answer. This can be demoralizing for anyone who spends time on one puzzle to be beaten there by someone else.
I have not visited Horror Escape as jump scares are not my thing. I've heard good things from those who love that stuff. I am impressed at what I've seen on the owner's facebook pages on the build and construction. But the theme of dirty horror leaves me cold.
There is also Escape Warriors on Blanshard. I know nothing about them.
If you want a puzzle experience with actors, food and beer, I can suggest www.MurderOnTheAgenda.com. It runs 10/11 February 2017. It's an event I'm producing, which has been very well received in the first two weekends.