Halifax sees boom of escape room games opening

The popular trend of escape games has hit Nova Scotia. They're addictive and fun — and now there's four in the Halifax area.

They're addictive and fun — and now there's four in the Halifax area

Dimo Georgakakos says he spent nine months designing the storyboard and props for the Great Escape, a game based on the Halifax Explosion. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

The popular trend of escape games has hit Nova Scotia.

It's an idea that began in Japan back in 2007 and grew in popularity because they're addictive and fun. There are now four in the Halifax area: The Great Escape, Trapped, Escape Artists and Captured Escape Rooms.

Puzzles and riddles

The escape games are centred around a crime or a mystery story.

There are clues scattered around the rooms. They can be pictures, locks, combinations or 3D props. Your job is to figure out what clues are relevant to solve the mystery in order to get out of the room.

"Basically, you go in and solve the puzzles and riddles and manipulate 3D objects in order to escape," says Dimo Georgakakos, who opened Atlantic Canada's first such entertainment business, the Great Escape.

The countdown

Players, anywhere between two and 10 people, have one hour to solve the mystery.

It is a race against time. Players feel the adrenaline rush as the seconds tick down.

"It's a growing trend and a new activity that gives you a challenge and works your brain," says Colin Harrison from Trapped, a new game franchise that recently opened.

People who play the games only have one hour to solve the puzzle. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

It feels real

They are insanely popular because it feels real.

"People are so obsessed with digital and cellphones and we are all slaves to our cellphones," says Matt Simpson of Escape Artists in Lower Sackville. 

"It's almost like taking a step back and doing something in real life again. It's live action."

At the Great Escape, a mystery set in 1917 during the Halifax Explosion, Georgakakos says he is overwhelmed by the response.  

"It turned out to be extraordinary," he said.

He says he is already dreaming up his next storyboard and theme.

Trapped has painted hands on the walls in its contaminated hospital room. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

'You are in the story'

While there is lots of interaction with people in the virtual world and you can play with other people, the escape games are real. You are solving problems with your teammates. There is no pause button to hit.  

"It's 5D," says Harrison, who runs Trapped in Halifax. 

"You are in the story. You are hands on. You are touching things. You are in the environment."

Similar to a movie plot

From the plot lines and props and characters, it's set up to be like a live movie experience.

You are trying to solve all the puzzles before the building implodes, or the city blows up.  

Players have an adrenaline rush as they try to figure out the clues before the one hour deadline. They say anyone over the age of 14 can enjoy it as the puzzles and clues are complex.  

At Trapped, only four per cent of people can solve the clues and win the game, Harrison said.

About the Author

Colleen Jones

Reporter

World champion curler Colleen Jones has been reporting with CBC News for nearly three decades. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleenjones.

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