Posted in Arts

Put your problem solving to the test at Smartypantz escape rooms

A seasoned escaper and first-timer try to solve their way out of an escape room in Gastown

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Real life escape rooms, a concept created by programmers in Silicon Valley, have now made their way to Richmond, Vancouver, and Burnaby. More than 10 escape rooms have popped up around the Lower Mainland, spurring a lot of local hype. The Peak got the chance to check out SmartyPantz in Gastown, conveniently located just half a block from SFU Woodward’s.

SmartyPantz has five different themed rooms: Dream’scape, Doomed Submarine, Spies and Lies, Thirst For Murder, and Morning Never Comes, which Priscilla and Monica tackled together.

Priscilla Skylar Lee:

I’ve done over 15 escape rooms now, all over the world. Smartypantz has the same concept as an escape room, but the objective is not to find an exit to the room, but to progress through the whole storyline. Monica and I had the chance to do Morning Never Comes; it’s the lowest difficulty level of the rooms that they offer, with a recommended minimum of four people to a maximum of eight people.

The decor of the lobby and waiting room had a vintage retro feel. With giant Jenga, and lots of puzzle books and other puzzles to fiddle with, a group would have no trouble killing time as they waited to get into the room and for the rest of their members to arrive.

The staff were very friendly, from arriving at the location to beginning the room. The staff helper was called a “host” who spoke and dressed the part being played. Once in the room, you get a walkie-talkie that allows you to communicate with the host, and they remain in character throughout. This is really awesome, as it adds to the atmosphere; however, it can also be extremely tedious as you have to ask specifically for the hint that you want.

As for the room, the decor is probably in the top three of all the rooms I’ve ever done. It was well-detailed, it fit the theme, and made you really feel like you were in the right setting. There were a couple of things that weren’t glued down (you could tell they were supposed to be), but other than that, the decor for Morning Never Comes was on point.

Upon entering the room, there was no real sense of where to start. The clues weren’t so difficult that they didn’t produce any leads; however, from the host’s words you didn’t really know what to do. The puzzles seemed linear, but they weren’t. The dim light in the room made it quite difficult to solve certain puzzles. There were quite a few red herrings as well, which were tedious compared to other escape rooms.

Overall, it was a good experience. Smartypantz has rooms that are more about the story than looking for items and finding combinations, which is a nice change of pace for the escape room scene. I for one will be returning shortly for a shot at their most difficult room with a larger group of people.

Monica Miller:

As a first-time escape room attendee, I certainly had apprehensions. I wasn’t sure how much I liked the idea of being locked in a small room, with or without company.

After signing safety wavers, a staff member arrived in character to give us our room orientation. The room, Morning Never Comes, is a paranormal investigation where a murdered woman is haunting her former home.

Priscilla, my fellow escapee, clarified that nothing would jump out at us, although I was still concerned about feeling claustrophobic. In the end, it was a moot point. The room in which we played, although not large, was spacious for two people.

Most of Smartypantz’s rooms (save for one larger room) are designed to hold up to eight players, but I would think even six would have felt crowded in Morning Never Comes.

Although the staff member’s characterization was well-done and fun, I felt the “mission” was a bit vague. Unlike what I’d been told about escape rooms — where you literally have to find the exit — this was more like solving a mystery.

We were given the room’s back-story so quickly that I felt I barely absorbed it before we were launched into searching the room. I was following Priscilla’s lead, but we both felt the puzzle was a bit vague, and maybe not intended for just two people.

We spent 20 minutes hunting for the first piece of the puzzle, and ended up contacting our Paranormal Investigator via walkie-talkie for a hint. He also used the line to broadcast mood-setting ‘paranormal’ noise as well as answer questions.

The atmosphere of the room was very well done, although poorly lit, and the puzzle was unique.

However, the price point of all these escape rooms is quite steep for a 45–60 minute game. Even though we failed to “put the ghost’s spirit to rest,” I enjoyed the experience and would like to try another escape room.

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