KELOWNA - I’m not sure if this counts as a spoiler but if you think playing a round of Exit, the real-time escape game trending large in Japan and the U.S, means you need the skills of a ninja or a Navy Seal, you would be dead wrong.
In fact, Exit is a game of brains over brawn, where successful escape artists work together to solve complex puzzles from random clues scattered around the dimly lit scenario rooms.
You won’t be smashing through windows or leaping down trap doors. Ripping pictures off the wall or trying to jimmy a lock is highly discouraged and will net you a real world fine.
Exit has touched down in Kelowna and I couldn’t wait to try it so I pushed my son and his friends to get a team together for a run at the Black Ops room.
The lobby is dimly lit, the staff dressed in black, with faintly foreboding music piped through the speakers. The team had to give up any cell phones, cameras and anything to write with while we were locked down.
We were given the rules of engagement; 45 minutes timed from the moment they close the door and only two hints you call on anytime. You get three mini-flashlights to help look for clues in the dimly lit rooms.
I say rooms because the Black Ops room was really three rooms, requiring increasingly complex punch codes to get through the door into the next room.
Inside, the first Black Ops room is done up in a mix of Cold War era computers, world clocks, military maps and plaques on the walls. A faint soundtrack of military style radio communications crackles in the background.
The team has come up with a plan to scour the walls for clues and report what they find in a calm, round-table fashion. The plan goes out the window as soon as the door closes.
For the first couple of minutes, everybody is running around the room, yelling out what they have found. It’s chaos and it takes the firm hand of the wise old sage in the room (me) to calm everybody down and begin an inventory of both physical items and possible clues.
We soon agree the only way forward is to open up a small locked box and the frenzy begins anew as everybody shouts out possible combinations for the lock. That’s when we decide to call for our first hint.
The game hosts re-enter the room and figure out how far we have made it (not very far in our case, although they reassure us we are on the right path), provide a clue and exit again.
Even with the the hint, we still struggle to open the locked box. Maybe they were inspired by my jokes about having to cannabilize one of the team members, but suddenly a new combination hits the mark and the lock clicks open to ecstatic cheers. Only to reveal more clues….
I don’t want to give it all away, but Exit is essentially a giant 3D mystery board game. It only obliquely resembles the video-game style introductory video on the company’s website.
Here’s my first bit of advice. Mix it up and put some variety on your team. The primary audience for Exit would seem to be young men, no surprise given the game’s similarity to a real life video game, but to stack your team with that demographic denies you the experience of others.
Tap into other ways of thinking. Bring your girlfriend. Bring your mom. They will surprise you with their contributions.
We never did make it out of the Black Ops room, although the hosts assure us we made it further than anyone else and that only about one per cent of teams make it through on their first try. Still, given the Kelowna location only opened Wednesday, April 22, that’s probably not as good as it sounds.
Would I go back? Probably. It was a stimulating way to spend 45 minutes and the hosts assure us they will be tweaking the clues and mixing up the mysteries on a regular basis to keep the four themed rooms fresh.
But maybe I’m the wrong one to ask. The rest of the team members were so stoked over the game, they went for a quick beer and then back to Exit Kelowna, this time to try the Mannequin Room.
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