Escape Maze – A Complete Review – By Manda

We are happy to share this review from our friend and Expert Escaper, Manda Whitney (you can check out her blog here).  Manda is an expert in immersion and storytelling, so if she says something is immersive, you can bet it is top-notch.  If you plan on visiting Peterborough’s Finest Escape, you should definitely give this a read.


Tucked away on a farm near Peterborough, Ontario is Escape Maze, a family run escape facility

The family running the facility was kind enough to let us try all five of their rooms! I rarely get this opportunity, so this review is going to be a little different. Rather than do a separate review for each room, I am going to be looking at Escape Maze as a whole and talk about each of the rooms all in one review.

Pre-game and Customer Service

Escape Maze has some of the friendliest and helpful owners I’ve met so far. They were attentive to every guest including ourselves and were willing to go the extra mile to make the experience extra special. One man apparently proposed to his wife by having the last box in the room contain a ring! I now know how I want to be proposed to.

Those going to Escape Maze in the fall and winter months will immediately notice that the lobby lacks heating but luckily there is a heated waiting room nearby that made the wait for our friends far cozier.

There was one downside to the experience. A barn is still a barn after all, and there is a distinct lack of indoor plumbing. Instead, outhouses and outdoor sinks are provided to those with weaker bladders. It was not bad and wimpy city Manda got over it, but I can imagine the winter would be harder for customers to deal with.

Immersion

Escape Maze is a great example of owners using their surroundings to their greatest advantage. Every room in the facility centres around the 1866 gold rush in Ontario (I did not even know such a thing existed) and the barn along with the rural landscape provides the perfect pioneer atmosphere.

The immersion starts as soon as you enter the building. Antique furniture decorates the space and even the staff are dressed up in pioneer clothing to give a more authentic feel. Each of the rooms feel genuinely like travelling back in time thanks to the antique props and furniture. The degree to which each room tied together to support the overall theme was impressive to say the least.

The only thing missing overall was a backstory to each room. Story is not a requirement for escape rooms, but it would have made an already great experience even better. The owners seemed more than willing to consider that possibility so I am excited to see what they come up with!

Sheriff’s Office

Our first stop at Escape Maze was the Sheriff’s Office. It was a classic prison scenario in which our group was split up and put into separate cells. It goes without saying that communication is key in this room.

Searching is also a big element in the Sheriff’s office, much more so than any of the other rooms. Normally I am not the biggest fan of searching but this room had one of the most enjoyable and unique searching puzzle I have seen in a while. Anything that elicits a “OH WOW! THAT’S SO COOL!” with a searching puzzle from me is great in my books.

Puzzles flowed well which is also difficult to do with two teams. We were stuck a little longer in our cell and did not seem to have as much to do as the other team but that is partially because of our own stupidity when it came to using a combination lock. I used them for five years in highschool. The owners even provided instructions. You would think that would be enough to properly use one. Apparently not.

This was one of my favourite rooms of Escape Maze. If you are an intermediate player who is brave enough to be separated from your friends, this is definitely one to try out.

One Room School House

This is one of the more tactile rooms of Escape Maze and their easiest as well. A school room provides a perfect setting for an escape room. It’s the perfect excuse to have a series of random puzzles!

This room began to show some of Escape Maze’s patterns. Much like the Sheriff’s office, there is quite a bit of searching involved. The slightly easier puzzles are made up by the fact that there are quite a few of them. We were all easily occupied during the forty-five minutes we were in the room.

There was one red herring in the room. Thankfully it did not distract too much from our actual tasks. If I am going to be nitpicky about anything, it’s that there was one instance where we needed assumed knowledge. There were JUST enough clues given that we eventually got it but it did not stop us from running down our own rabbit trails.

Still, this is a very good room for newcomers and there is at least one puzzle in the room I have played often that has a unique twist.

Apple Orchard

Our third adventure involved going to an apple orchard and boy did I ever learn a lot about apples. There were baskets of apples, pictures of apples and signs for apples among other things.

In fact there was almost too much to take in all at once. The abundance of apple facts and clues made it difficult to determine which clue went with this puzzle. As a result this room was less straightforward than the others in escape maze. This made it the one of the weaker rooms in my opinion. Keep in mind though that it’s the weakest entry in a show of very strong rooms.

That does not mean that the actual puzzles are without mention. Ranging from novice to intermidiate level, this room still had it’s enjoyable moments. Much like the other rooms, there is a math problem involved. Unlike the other rooms, this one is a bit more complex and I was thankful for the chalk board to work out the problem.

Apple Orchard may have personally been my least favourite because of the lack of clarity in those beginning puzzles but it’s the least favourite in a show of very strong rooms. It’s still definitely worth the try if you have the chance.

Poker Room

Immersion wise, this was one of my favourite rooms. Upon entering, it truly felt like we were stumbling into a back alley gold rush poker room. Much like the other rooms, this one stuck to theme very well. The puzzles were all card based and we quickly set to tearing the room apart for clues.

As for puzzles, this was one of the weaker rooms. The room is still very new and there are a few more kinks to work out. In particular there was one puzzle that was simply too complex and time consuming for a forty-five minute room. Jake, the owner, seemed open to making it slightly easier though she was hesitant at the idea of making it too easy. It’s a fine line to walk between making puzzles challenging instead of easy. What has to be understood is that time consuming does not always equal challenging.

This puzzle also ended up creating a bottleneck in the room. Jesse and I fruitlessly searched the room while our teammates poured over the other puzzle. It soon became obvious that nothing would be solved until we solved that particular puzzle. By that point we did not want to interrupt their process. It got all my nervous nerves going.

Again, the room is a few days old. From what I hear, there will definitely be changes and adjustments to it. I’ll be interested to see where it goes! Regardless, a keen eye and a mind for numbers is good in this room.

Mine Shaft

Finally we reached our last stop. For a limited time during October and November, Escape Maze has a Halloween themed escape room in the bottom of the barn. And yes, it’s scary. So for those who are super easily scared (ie: me) just be prepared to cling to your friends.

Full disclosure: this was hands down my absolute favourite when it came to set and immersion. The barn made the perfect mine shaft setting: huge heavy doors that slammed shut behind; Old, machinery rusted from years of neglect; darkened corners where anything could pop out if you were not careful.

We had a blast going from room to room solving puzzles while at the same time trying to avoid the Shaft People.

Hint wise, this was a much more guided experience. Whereas the other rooms have the usual “ring the bell, get the hint” scenario, the Mine Shaft is meant to be more of a fun experience than a full escape room. There are mysterious voices who will occasionally give you a nudge in the right direction if teams are completely off track.

There is one math puzzle in the room that is a doozy to try and solve when you are scared out of your wits. I am honestly not sure how we did it. The end puzzle was also a punch to the gut as we realized we were not prepared for it at all. We learned afterwards though that we had completed the room. The last puzzle was more to keep people in the room while they organized other groups. That would have been nice to know before I began to despair.

Those are nitpicky notes though. This was a great room to play to get into the Halloween mood. If you are up for a good scare and some puzzle solving at the same time, try this limited time room out!

Final Thoughts

I was more than pleasantly surprised by my experience at Escape Maze. It has a beautiful location, friendly staff, great looking and solidly built rooms, and good puzzle flow though they do tend to follow a similar pattern room to room. Best still, at the end of it all you get to take an old timey photo in pioneer clothes!

If you find yourself in the Peterborough area, especially if you are new to escape rooms, I highly recommend you try out Escape Maze. It’s the best time warp you’ll take.


For more information check out:

http://www.escapemaze.com/
156 Cedar Bank Road,
Peterborough, Ontario

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