With locations in Kitchener and Niagara Falls, Adventure Rooms Canada has ushered in a wave of escape rooms across southern Ontario. However, founder Lisa Thomas admits the first time she played it, “I was fairly terrible.”
“I had no idea what to expect,” she adds. “I was playing in Switzerland with a stranger who I met literally moments before playing. It was both our first experiences with an escape game, and there were some cultural differences and some misunderstandings through our game play. But, I loved every second of it!”
Pioneered in Japan in the mid-2000s as physical manifestations of escape-the-room computer games like Crimson Room, escape rooms locks a group of individuals into a room where they must solve puzzles and other challenges to find the key to get out, all within a certain time frame.
The genre has since spread across the world thanks to converted disciples like Thomas, who first encountered Adventure Rooms in 2012. With 38 locations across the world, Thomas brought the Swiss brand to Canada with the opening of its Kitchener branch in 2013.
“I knew that Canada did not have any escape games yet, and I figured that since I loved the game, others would as well,” she says. “It was a big risk, but thankfully others did love them.”
“The early response was great and we operate like a bit of a cult favorite. We don’t do any major advertising, we rely a lot on word of mouth, reviews and social media. Many people play and tell others about their fun experience. People can’t wait for us to build new games. It’s really exciting.”
While she admits “the first calls to obtain insurance, business and fire inspections were very interesting,” Thomas credits Adventure Room’s early success due to its Kitchener location.
“I live in Kitchener and we have a lot of industry leaders here in all sectors. It’s a fantastic community and a great location – not too far from Toronto or other popular cities. We also have many post-secondary institutions which have new students each year, as well as a good mix of general demographics.”
With four games in their Kitchener location and a second branch in Niagara Falls, Adventure Rooms Canada has spawned imitators, often created by fans of their games. Thomas is undeterred, noting “there is no one style or rule when it comes to escape games.”
“We hope that as more people play escape games and become fans of this genre, they can learn to appreciate the things that make each company unique – their style of puzzles, theming, or gaming experience,” she adds.
Awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence three years running, Adventure Rooms is currently ranked the number one thing to do for fun and games in both Kitchener and Niagara Falls on the popular travel website. However, Thomas notes “we always like to freshen things up.”
Its Kitchener location opened its latest game, The Mayor’s Office last summer and its new lobby space in November. She teases, “stay tuned for new games in the future and new locations!”
Despite our pleas for more details, Thomas notes that mystery is part of Adventure Rooms’ lore. Participants must sign a waiver that forbids them from giving spoilers (“The first rule of Fight Club applies to Adventure Rooms”). However, Thomas does relent noting that Adventure Rooms Canada does have some philosophies that make it distinct from others.
“We like to appeal to different senses, thinking styles and creativity levels. We also take into consideration any physical impairments and/or language barriers. You won’t find traditional riddles, math or logic puzzles in our games. Our games are unique in the escape room games genre because they focus on puzzles and experiments with real objects, rather than being based on a specific theme or story,” she says.
“All of our games are suitable for all ages. Ages 8 and up is recommended if kids are playing without adults, but younger kids have played with their family. As we use creative thinking, discovery and communication puzzles, they are great for everyone – kids are great at them too!”
Designed to be “equally challenging, achievable and suitable for 2-7 players on a team,” Adventure Rooms also offers duel and tournament formats for large groups up to 21 players – an exclusive for the brand. Thomas also boasts that “we have also had nine successful wedding proposals inside of games over the years!”
“We strive to challenge ourselves to be better than we were each time we create something new, while still maintaining the level of quality and experience that our fans have come to appreciate with our brand,” she adds.
“Adventure Rooms is a large international franchise. While some puzzles will be similar, each geographic location and owner is able to create their own adventures and atmosphere within their company, while still being a part of the Adventure Rooms family. That’s exciting for all of us.”
“It means that we are able to have the freedom to express our love for the games in a unique and interesting way each time – and that’s the best news for our fans. Each location will present them with a unique experience. How awesome is that?”