You find yourself next in line on death row.
You’re innocent, wrongfully accused, and need to find a way to escape your cell before your time is up.
This is the premise for one of the themed rooms in Escape Manor, an interactive puzzle-solving experience that can be found downtown. Teams of six work together to figure out a series of clues while racing against the clock.
“It’s taking a real-life spin to escape room games that are done online,” said Chris Bisson, one of the cofounders and Keymasters of Escape Manor. “We’re taking you and five of your friends and sticking you in the middle of a drama where you are the main character.”
Visitors can choose to come together or begrouped with strangers. The experience lasts about an hour in total. Visitors are briefed and then locked in the room with a 45-minute time limit. There are currently two themed rooms to choose from: the prison break challenge and the wine cellar, which has a feel reminiscent to the Da Vinci Code.
After the escape, or failed escape attempt, visitors can spend time in a lounge full of mind challenge games and antique furniture to discuss how the session went.
“It’s certainly a concept that’s not our own,” said Bisson. “It developed in Asia, I’d say probably about 10 years ago and it’s taken a western sweep the last year and a half.”
Similar businesses to Escape Manor now exist in cities across North America such as Vancouver, San Francisco, Toronto and New York.
“We heard about it from a friend of ours whose family had done it in Bangkok Thailand,” said Bisson. “He came back to Ottawa and said ‘this is awesome, Ottawa needs something like this’.”
Escape Manor has proven formidable for visitors since its opening in November. While groups are allowed to use a hint if they get stuck, they are mostly on their own. Because they need to work together if they hope for escape, the experience can be great for team building.
“The success rate is about 10 to 15 per cent for the prison break and for the wine cellar it’s about 25 to 30 per cent,” said Billy Rogers, who along with Bisson, cofounded Escape Manor.
“We do have two more rooms in the pipe, in development,” said Rogers. “We’re looking to develop them with different success rates as well so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.”
A session in Escape Manor costs $21 for each participant. Because it is popular, those interested should consider booking in advance and can do so at escapemanor.ca.